Why Netanyahu’s Trip to Latin America Matters

Sept. 14 2017

Today Benjamin Netanyahu concludes his stay in Argentina and flies to Colombia as part of the first-ever official visit by an Israeli prime minister to Latin America. Emmanuel Navon recounts the many ups and downs of the Jewish state’s relations with the region, and explains why improving these relations is important:

While most Latin American countries voted in favor of partition at the UN in 1947, their voting patterns at the General Assembly became unfavorable to Israel from the 1960s onward. In 1964, a voting bloc of Third World countries (known as the “Group of 77”) was formed at the General Assembly. Latin American countries were part of this bloc, which was very much influenced by its Arab and Muslim members. . . . [However], Latin America became the last bastion of Israel’s presence in the Third World after 1973: Israel was isolated from Africa, and it had no diplomatic relations with China and India. . . .

Except for Nicaragua after the 1979 Sandinista Revolution, all Central American countries, as well as Argentina, bought weapons from Israel. This was a win-win relationship since Latin America needed Israel’s weapons as much as Israel needed Latin America’s oil (especially after the 1979 Iranian revolution). Communist guerrillas [trying to overthrow these regimes] also happened to have close ties with the PLO and with anti-Western Arab leaders. The Sandinistas [who eventually seized power] in Nicaragua, for example, had been cooperating with the PLO since 1969, and they enjoyed the military and financial support of the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

In recent years, relations between Israel and Latin America have been overshadowed by the influence of Iran and Hizballah. On July 18, 1994, the Jewish community center of Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 85 people. It was revealed in October 2006 that Iran had ordered the bombing and that Hizballah had carried it out. . . . Hizballah’s presence in Latin America has since then been growing through the expansion of Iran’s diplomatic and intelligence missions, businesses, and investments. . . .

Argentina’s previous president, Cristina Kirchner, had developed strong ties with Iran. Her successor and political opponent, Mauricio Macri (elected in December 2015), has rectified Argentina’s foreign policy. He is well-disposed toward the West and toward Israel, and Netanyahu is right to build a personal relationship with him as well as with other like-minded Latin American leaders. The prime minister’s trip to Latin America is timely, and his diplomatic initiative praiseworthy.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Argentina, Benjamin Netanyahu, Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen