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


Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy