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Will Reconciliation with Fatah Cripple Hamas’s Finances?

For years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) paid for healthcare, electricity, and other basic civilian needs in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas raised funds through heavy taxes (often leveled on top of PA taxes) that it could then devote largely to its military needs. The PA recently brought an end to this arrangement, as part of last month’s reconciliation deal. Evelyn Gordon explains how the new situation will affect the terrorist group’s bottom line:

Hamas for the first time has to spend some of its own money on [public services], causing its military budget to plummet from an estimated $200 million in 2014 to just $50 million this year (not counting the extra money it gets from Iran, which is solely for military spending). . . .

[I]mplementation of the reconciliation deal got off on the right foot on Wednesday when Hamas formally handed over Gaza’s border crossings to the PA. This isn’t because of the handover itself, which was largely meaningless, but because Hamas also agreed to dismantle the tax-collection checkpoints it erected near the crossings with Israel. . . . [These] checkpoints were major revenue sources for Hamas, since almost all imports to Gaza passed through them. . . . Thus the removal of these checkpoints will severely dent Hamas’s revenue stream.

Of course, it will still have the money it gets from Iran, estimated at $60-70 million this year, and that money will continue going straight to its military wing. But that’s far below what it was spending on its military in 2014 when it was getting less money from a cash-strapped Tehran but had a steady stream of Gazan tax revenue. . . .

[However], it’s not clear how anyone could stop [Hamas] from using its guns to resume extorting taxes once it has gotten what it wants out of the deal, which is to cease being responsible for civilian affairs. [And] the more money Hamas has to spend on its military build-up, the sooner it will reach the point where it feels it can afford to start another war. Hence if the PA, Egypt, and the international community want to avoid such a war, they must start thinking now about how to keep Hamas away from Gazan revenues if and when the reconciliation deal is fully implemented.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Egypt, Fatah, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs

The Future of a Free Iran May Lie with a Restoration of the Shah

June 25 2018

Examining the recent waves of protest and political unrest in the Islamic Republic—from women shunning the hijab to truckers going out on strike—Sohrab Ahmari considers what would happen in the event of an actual collapse of the regime. Through an analysis of Iranian history, he concludes that the country would best be served by placing Reza Pahlavi, the son and heir of its last shah, at the head of a constitutional monarchy:

The end of Islamist rule in Iran would be a world-historical event and an unalloyed good for the country and its neighbors, marking a return to normalcy four decades after the Ayatollah Khomeini founded his regime. . . . But what exactly is that normalcy? . . .

First, Iranian political culture demands a living source of authority to embody the will of the nation and stand above a fractious and ethnically heterogenous society. Put another way, Iranians need a “shah” of some sort. They have never lived collectively without one, and their political imagination has always been directed toward a throne. The constitutionalist experiment of the early 20th century coexisted (badly) with monarchic authority, and the current Islamic Republic has a supreme leader—which is to say, a shah by another name. It is the height of utopianism to imagine that a 2,500-year-old tradition can be wiped away. The presence of a shah, [however], needn’t mean the absence of rule of law, deliberative politics, or any of the other elements of ordered liberty that the West cherishes in its own systems. . . .

Second, Iranian political culture demands a source of continuity with Persian history. The anxieties associated with modernity and centuries of historical discontinuity drove Iranians into the arms of Khomeini and his bearded minions, who promised a connection to Shiite tradition. Khomeinism turned out to be a bloody failure, but there is scant reason to imagine the thirst for continuity has been quenched. . . . Iranian nationalism . . . could be the answer, and, to judge by the nationalist tone of the current upheaval, it is the one the people have already hit upon.

When protestors chant “We Will Die to Get Iran Back,” “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, My Life Only for Iran,” and “Let Syria Be, Do Something for Me,” they are expressing a positive vision of Iranian nationhood: no longer do they wish to pay the price for the regime’s Shiite hegemonic ambitions. Iranian blood should be spilled for Iran, not Gaza, which for most Iranians is little more than a geographical abstraction. It is precisely its nationalist dimension that makes the current revolt the most potent the mullahs have yet faced. Nationalism, after all, is a much stronger force and in Iran the longing for historical continuity runs much deeper than liberal-democratic aspiration. Westerners who wish to see a replay of Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 in today’s Iran will find the lessons of Iranian history hard and distasteful, but Iranians and their friends who wish to see past the Islamic Republic must pay heed.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Iran, Nationalism, Politics & Current Affairs, Shah