Contain Iran by Sanctioning Its Misbehavior

Feb. 16 2017

Despite the nuclear deal, both U.S. and international non-nuclear sanctions against the Islamic Republic are still in place, as are mechanisms for introducing new sanctions without violating the terms of the agreement. Katherine Bauer, Patrick Clawson, and Matthew Levitt urge the Trump administration to make use of these to check Tehran’s support for terror, human-rights offenses, and ballistic-missile testing. They write:

Sanctions . . . will work best if they are accompanied by diplomatic, military, and intelligence measures in a coordinated campaign against Iran’s destabilizing activities. Likewise, sanctions are most effective when they are adopted by an international coalition. . . . Focusing on Iranian conduct that violates international norms will thus be most likely to draw multilateral support. Relatedly, demonstrating international resolve on non-nuclear issues is more apt to garner Iranian respect for the constraints of the deal itself. . . .

[First], the U.S. government should resume engagements with private- and public-sector actors around the world to highlight evidence that Iran continues to pose a threat to the global financial system. Rather than reassuring banks that doing business with Iran can help enshrine the nuclear deal, U.S. government officials at every level should emphasize that Iran bears the onus of demonstrating its adherence to the same requirements imposed on every other country by reining in illicit financial activity and conforming with international norms for its financial system. U.S. officials should also highlight the UN Security Council restrictions that Iran continues to violate, including the embargo on Iranian arms exports . . . and the UN embargo on arming Hizballah in Syria and the Houthis in Yemen. . . .

The second element of the multipronged strategy is to intensify implementation of existing sanctions, since, on a number of fronts, the Obama administration had been soft-pedaling [this]. . . .

Under the Obama administration, [moreover,] investigations [into Hizballah’s vast network of illicit business dealings] were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal. Now, the Trump administration should aggressively target Hizballah’s financial, logistical, and procurement networks, including resurrecting the Drug Enforcement Agency’s now-defunct Project Cassandra, which targeted “a global Hizballah network responsible for the movement of large quantities of cocaine in the United States and Europe.”

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

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

Winning Islam’s War of Ideas, Saudi-Style

March 19 2018

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. policymakers have understood the need to confront jihadism not only militarily but also ideologically; yet, writes John Hannah, they have had little success. Now Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’ reformist crown prince, appears willing and able to take up the fight, and Hannah urges Washington to support his efforts:

By an order of magnitude, al-Qaeda in 2018 enjoys a larger presence in more countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia than it did the day the Twin Towers were felled. . . . What’s consistently been missing from America’s strategy have been powerful partners in the Muslim world who can reliably be counted on to speak out authoritatively on matters of Islamic theology in ways that the United States simply cannot. That’s where Saudi Arabia comes in. It’s the birthplace of Islam and host to the faith’s two holiest mosques. Combined with abundant oil wealth, these assets bestow on the Saudis a measure of soft-power influence unrivaled in the Muslim world. . . .

For months, the crown prince and his closest advisers have relentlessly hammered the theme that Saudi Arabia’s modernization requires an embrace of “moderate Islam.” He’s slammed the extremist ideology that the kingdom did so much to empower after the Iranian revolution and acknowledges that “the problem spread all over the world.” . . . At home, the powers of the kingdom’s notorious religious police have been scaled back. Prominent hardline clerics have been jailed. On the all-important issue of female empowerment, the pace of change has been breathtaking. . . .

Now the U.S. imperative should be pressing Mohammed bin Salman to take his campaign for moderate Islam on the road. . . . There should be multiple elements to such an effort, but some immediate tasks come to mind. First, school textbooks. The Saudis promised to eliminate the hate-filled passages a decade ago. Progress has slowly been made, but the job’s still not done. Mohammed bin Salman should order it finished—this year. Behind the scenes, U.S. experts should provide verification.

Second, working with trusted partners in indigenous communities known for their religious moderation, the Saudis should conduct a thorough audit of the global network of mosques, schools, and charitable organizations that they’ve backed with an eye toward weeding out radical staff and content. Third, [they should] initiate a worldwide buyback of Saudi-distributed mistranslations of the Quran and other religious materials notorious for propagating extremist narratives.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Moderate Islam, Politics & Current Affairs, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, War on Terror