Has Donald Trump Lost Syria to Iran?

Nov. 13 2017

Three weeks ago, the White House released an official strategy for checking the Islamic Republic’s growing influence in the Middle East. A key aspect of any such plan is to prevent Iran and its allies, after Islamic State (IS) has been driven out, from seizing control of the area of Syria east of the Euphrates. Thus far, forces backed by both Russia and Iran itself seem poised to do just that. John Hannah urges the president to act before it is too late:

Iran and its allies are . . . convinced that, while full of tough talk and bluster, the Trump administration does not have the stomach for an extended military faceoff in Syria. Already, Iran, the Assad regime, and Russia are signaling to the [American-backed and Kurdish-led] Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that they cannot rely on the United States to stand by them once Islamic State is defeated. Instead, the SDF should cut its own deal with the Assad regime and its backers now rather than wait to confront them alone after the United States abandons the battlefield—as, they insist, it inevitably will. . . .

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in tandem with the Syrian regime, Russian air power, and multiple Iranian-controlled Shiite militias (including Lebanese Hizballah), is determined to seize control of the entire area that IS vacates. With that terrain secured, the Islamic Republic’s strategic objective of a contiguous ground corridor stretching across Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon would be largely complete—underwritten by powerful pro-Iranian proxies in Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut. Iran’s ability to project power across the Levant would be dangerously enhanced, dramatically escalating its long-term ability to threaten critical U.S. allies in Israel, Jordan, and beyond.

Someone needs to tell President Trump sooner rather than later: sir, you cannot declare war on the IRGC in October only to turn around and cede the Middle East’s northern tier to the IRGC in November. Sir, without a serious ground game that consciously works to block Iranian hegemony in Iraq and Syria, you do not have a serious strategy to counter the Iranian threat to U.S. interests. The new get-tough approach that you announced toward Iran last month would be reduced to nothing but empty talk and bluster—paper-tiger territory. And when it comes to the hard men commanding the IRGC, that would be a very dangerous place to be—for America, the Middle East, and the world.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Donald Trump, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy


In Pursuing Peace with Saudi Arabia, Israel Must Demand Reciprocity and Keep the Palestinian Question off the Table

Nov. 22 2017

The recent, unprecedented interview given by the IDF chief of staff to a major Arabic news outlet has fed the growing enthusiasm in Israel about the prospects of a peace treaty and mutual recognition between Jerusalem and Riyadh. Mordechai Kedar urges level heads and caution, and puts forward ten principles that should guide any negotiations. Most importantly, he argues that the two countries normalize relations before coming to any agreements about the Palestinians. To this he adds:

The most basic rule in dealing with the Saudis and their friends is that Israel must not feel that it has to pay anything for peace. . . . If the Saudis want to live in peace with us, we will stretch out our hands to offer them peace in return. But that is all they will get. Israel [has] been a state for 70 years without peace with Saudi Arabia and can continue being a state for another 7,000 years without it. Any desire for a quick peace (as expressed in the disastrous slogan “Peace Now”) will raise the price of that peace. . . .

[As part of any agreement], Israel will recognize the House of Saud’s rule in Mecca and Medina—even though the family does not originate from the Hejaz [where the holy cities are located] but from the Najd highland—in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel’s right to Jerusalem as its historic and eternal capital city. Israel will recognize Saudi Arabia as an Islamic state in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel as the Jewish state or a state belonging to the Jewish people. . . .

Israel will not allow incitement against Saudi Arabia in its media. In return, the Saudis will not allow anti-Israel incitement in Saudi media. . . .

It is important to keep the Americans and Europeans away from the negotiating table, since they will not be party to the agreement and will not have to suffer the results of its not being honored—and since their interests are not necessarily those of Israel, especially when it comes to the speed at which the negotiations move forward. The Americans want to cut a deal, even a bad deal, and if they are allowed into the negotiation rooms, they will pressure Israel to give in, mainly on the Palestinian issue.

Read more at Israel National News

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia