To Overcome Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Reagan

Dec. 27 2016

The next American president should push hard to revise the nuclear deal with Iran, writes Ray Takeyh. But he should not stop there:

The Islamic Republic was never a typical totalitarian state, as its electoral procedures and elected institutions provided the public with at least impressions of democratic representation. That republican element of the regime provided it with a veneer of legitimacy—[but with the violent repression of the democratic opposition] in 2009, that legitimacy vanished. The clerical regime lingers on, but a state that relies on a terror apparatus cannot forever stifle the forces of change.

Trump’s task is similar to the one Ronald Reagan faced in combating the Soviet Union: not just renegotiating a better arms-control agreement but devising a comprehensive policy that undermines the already wobbly foundation of the regime. In this regard, there is nothing as powerful as the presidential bully pulpit. . . .

Pushing back on Iran in the Middle East [should also be] the order of the day in Washington, and shrinking the Islamic Republic’s imperial frontiers should be an important priority of the incoming Trump administration. . . . The best arena in which to achieve this objective is Iran’s periphery in the Persian Gulf region. The Gulf sheikhdoms, led by Saudi Arabia, are already locked into a region-wide rivalry with Iran. The Sunni states have taken it upon themselves to contest Iran’s gains in the Gulf and the Levant. Washington should not only buttress these efforts but press all Arab states to embark on a serious attempt to lessen their commercial and diplomatic ties to Tehran. . . .

The enmity that Saudi Arabia and Israel share toward Iran should be the basis for bringing these two countries closer together. Instead of lecturing the Saudis to share the Middle East with Iran and hectoring Israelis about settlements, as the Obama White House has done, the Trump administration should focus on imaginative ways of institutionalizing the nascent cooperation that is already taking place between Riyadh and Jerusalem. The U.S. should press both countries to move beyond intelligence sharing and perhaps forge complementary trade ties, with Saudi oil being exchanged for Israel’s technological products. History rarely offers opportunities to realign the politics of the Middle East; a truculent Iran has presented this chance.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran, Israel, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

 

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy