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

Mahmoud Abbas’s Appointment of a New Deputy Chairman Won’t Prevent a Violent Succession Struggle

Feb. 24 2017

Last week, amid ongoing concern over his refusal to choose a successor, the aging president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) elevated two of his associates to important positions within his Fatah party. Mahmoud al-Aloul, a PLO veteran who was close to Yasir Arafat’s inner circle, was named deputy party chairman, and Jibril Rajoub, who served as the head of Arafat’s Preventive Security Force in the West Bank, became the secretary general. The move, writes Yoni Ben Menachem, has calmed some of the internal tensions within Fatah, but only in the short run:

Both . . . Aloul and Rajoub, are unacceptable to the Fatah Central Committee as possible successors to Abbas as PA president or Fatah chairman. As soon as Abbas is in a state of incapacity, a harsh and violent succession struggle will ensue. . . .

Aloul and Rajoub are already making the most of their promotions to try and clear their path to the PA leadership and remove any obstacle in their way. . . . [The two] are themselves keen political rivals. But, although each sees himself as Abbas’s [rightful] successor, they appear to have a common interest in getting rid of [the current PA prime minister, Rami] Hamdallah, as quickly as possible. He does not belong to the Fatah movement and was appointed to the post because of his personal ties with Abbas. . . .

Abbas will have to contend as soon as possible with a pack of Fatah figures who want to succeed him. The pound of flesh he tossed to Aloul and Rajoub in the form of senior positions in the movement’s leadership will only satisfy them for a very short time. They will not stop trying to undermine him—especially Rajoub who is known to be a tireless subversive in Palestinian politics. Also involved in the effort will be [Abbas’s longtime rival Mahmoud] Dahlan and Marwan Barghouti, [the mastermind of the second intifada, who is currently in an Israeli prison], who are likely to join forces, and General Majid Freij, who has already forged ties with the new CIA chief Mike Pompeo.

The current calm in the Fatah leadership is only temporary. Despite Abbas’s new appointments last week, it could collapse at any moment.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs