Putin Is No Partner in the War on Terror

Although Russia claims to be fighting Islamic State alongside the U.S. and its allies, David Satter argues that nothing could be farther from the truth. Moscow’s brutal bombings of civilians and support for Iran and Syria run contrary to American interests, and Russian intelligence may even be abetting terrorists when it finds them useful. (Free registration required.)

Ayman al-Zawahiri, [now] the head of al-Qaeda, was arrested in Dagestan in 1996 while en route to Chechnya to survey the possibility that it could be used as a safe haven for Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the terrorist organization that he [then] headed which became famous for its role in the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. At the time of his arrest, Zawahiri was one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. . . . He arrived in Russia on a phony passport and claimed to be working for an Azeri trading company. . . . Zawahiri ended up spending six months in jail, . . . spent another ten days meeting with Islamists in Dagestan, and then left Russia for Afghanistan, where he joined Osama bin Laden and began to plan the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Something similar happened with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston-marathon bomber. Then there are Russia’s ties to IS:

With the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, there is evidence that Russia is facilitating the transfer of dangerous radicals from the North Caucasus to the war zone, where they fight for IS. . . . Among those showing up in IS-controlled territory are radical preachers from Dagestan, [who have become the organization’s main recruiters in Iraq]. . . . In the meantime, the number of casualties in armed clashes between insurgent forces and security forces in the North Caucasus has declined by about 50 percent since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, a sign that many members of the Islamist underground in the North Caucasus are now fighting in the Middle East.

[But beyond such malign activities], the most important reason why Russia cannot be a U.S. ally in the war on terrorism is that its geopolitical goals are fundamentally different from, and often opposed to, those of the United States.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Al Qaeda, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin, War on Terror

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Must Make the Best of a Bad Deal

Jan. 23 2017

Were Donald Trump to tear up the nuclear deal with Tehran, Washington would gain little leverage while Iran would still have pocketed enormous sums of money, would continue to benefit from the lifting of international sanctions, and could continue work on its nuclear program unimpeded. Therefore, argue Emily Landau and Shimon Stein, U.S. interests would best be served by working to constrain the Islamic Republic within the parameters of the agreement:

[M]uch can be achieved simply by changing the U.S. approach to the deal and to Iran, and by altering the rhetoric. Given the strong reservations voiced by Donald Trump and his administration toward Iran, the new president should send an unequivocal message, . . . warning it against any erosion of the deal and the consequences that will follow from any violation. The next step will be to work with the [the other parties to the deal] to clear up [its] ambiguities—especially regarding inspections at suspicious military facilities and looking for unknown facilities—and set clear guidelines for responding to every type of Iranian violation.

The Trump administration should press to end the secrecy surrounding many of Iran’s nuclear activities and plans. . . . But the Trump administration must also carve out a more comprehensive approach to the Islamic Republic, taking into account the dynamics between the United States and Iran that have unfolded over the past eighteen months since the nuclear deal was presented and that underscore the absence of any convergence of interests between the two states. . . .

New policies that reflect the Trump administration’s determination to pursue an uncompromising course in dealing with Iran—both on the nuclear front and with regard to its regional behavior—could in the long run help to reduce the likelihood of an Iranian breakout, and contain Iran from further destabilizing the region in its drive to realize its hegemonic ambitions.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Donald Trump, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy