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

 

As the Situation in Syria Changes, the Risks for Israel Increase

March 27 2017

On March 17, the Israeli Air Force struck a weapons convoy near Palmyra that was most likely bringing precision missiles to Hizballah in Lebanon. Syria responded with surface-to-air missiles, in turn triggering Israeli anti-missile missiles that successfully intercepted the counterattack. Yoav Limor comments on what is becoming an increasingly volatile situation:

[A series of military] successes in Syria have led the Russians, [who are fighting to prop up the Assad regime] to expand their campaign, and there is no doubt that Raqqa, Islamic State’s “capital” in Syria, as well as Palmyra and Deir el-Zor are next on Moscow’s list. Seizing control of these strategic areas will significantly increase Russia’s scope of operations, hence the increased risk factors in the regional theater, which includes Israel.

This was most likely the reason for Russia’s ire over the Israeli strike [on the Hizballah-bound convoy] in Syria, which led the Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov to summon, very publicly, the Israeli ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, to provide clarifications. . . . The area struck near Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, is home to a Russian base and it is possible the Russian troops felt threatened, or that someone in the Kremlin wanted to draw clear operational parameters for Israel.

To be clear: Russia has no interest in a clash with Israel or in a fresh Israeli-Syrian conflict. But if until now Moscow was conspicuously uninterested in the covert blows Israel has been dealing Hizballah and Syria, the latest signal from the Kremlin is at the very least a warning sign to remind anyone who might have forgotten that the only interest Russia cares about is its own. . . .

[T]he tensions on the northern border do not spell an inevitable Israeli-Syrian conflict, as all regional actors have a clear interest to avoid one. Assad wants to re-establish his rule and he does not want to endanger it with an unplanned escalation against Israel, the strongest regional entity; Iran and Hizballah currently prefer to expand their regional sphere of influence quietly; and Israel wants peace and quiet as long as its two main interests—preventing advanced weapons from reaching Hizballah and avoiding war on the Golan Heights—are maintained. However, . . . recent events increase the risk that the parties could find themselves in a situation that might rapidly spiral out of control and result in a full-blown conflict.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war