Ten Commandments for American Middle East Policy

Taking stock of the effects of eight years of attempted U.S. disengagement from the Middle East, and the current lack of strategic clarity, Russell A. Berman and Charles Hill propose some guidelines for shaping coherent and effective policies. On the danger posed by the Islamic Republic, they write:

Iran is a de-facto caliphate without declaring itself to be such. It is both a recognized legitimate state in the established international state system and a dedicated religious-ideological enemy of the established world order; it continues to play successfully on one side or the other as best suits its interests on any given issue. The U.S. government does not appear to be aware of this double game, or simply accepts it. Iran is not a polity of moderates and hard-liners; it is a revolutionary theocracy that controls and makes use of governmental and diplomatic functions to appear to a deceived outside world as a legitimate regime.

The [nuclear agreement] is the linchpin of U.S. policy. It emerged as a one-sided “deal” under which the United States has provided legitimacy and substantial support for the regime, while leaving the regime free to take steps that exacerbate the Arab world’s instability and to employ a variety of anti-U.S. acts and statements which are seen around the region as humiliations to the Americans. . . . [The deal] is seen from within the Iranian hierarchy as providing it with needed time to advance its centrifuge capability and to provide the United States with a face-saving timeframe during which to extricate itself from the region. Yet U.S. interests require ongoing presence in the region. . . .

[Meanwhile], Russia has used military power to replace the United States as the most employable, potent, and credible outside force in the region. Current U.S. trends toward cooperating with Russia and Assad’s military operations (nominally) against Islamic State, while declaring American opposition to Vladimir Putin’s international actions and ambitions—and simultaneously enabling Iran’s rise to hegemony—amount to a web of contradictions. If the United States attempts to recover some of the influence it has lost over the past several years, it is likely to find itself nearly checkmated from several directions. Russia can become a significant structural obstacle to the pursuit of U.S. interests and could develop substantial relations with traditional U.S. allies Egypt and Turkey, reducing or possibly displacing U.S. influence. U.S. strategy should limit Russian power by preventing the stabilization of the Assad regime as a Russian client state.

Read more at Hoover

More about: Iran, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC