To Counter Iran Effectively, the U.S. Must Beat It at Its Own Game

Dec. 21 2017

Tehran’s success at turning the upheavals that followed the Arab Spring to its benefit is attributable not just to its military might but to its political savvy, writes Samuel Tadros. To prevent Iran from consolidating and expanding its power in the Middle East, the U.S. must use political tools of its own:

The [primary source] of Iran’s strength is its masterful ability to play internal fissures and grievances across the region to its advantage. Unlike American policymakers, who remain fixated on the nation state, Iranian policymakers see a map of ethnic, political, and sectarian divides. With the political foundation of the broader Middle East—the nation state—crumbling, Iran has been able to utilize minority communities and create replicas of Hizballah across the region.

A U.S. strategy designed to confront Iran’s regional hegemony should forgo the traditional mindset of nation states and deal with the region as it truly is. . . . Such a new mindset would require the United States to develop a Kurdistan strategy that acknowledges the Kurdistan Regional Government [in Iraq] as an important ally with potential influence among all Kurdish speakers, including inside the Islamic Republic. Such a mindset would also forgo attempts at shoring up Lebanon’s Hizballah-controlled government and military and instead focus on building alternative competing forces within the country.

The second source of Iranian strength has been its ability to monopolize Shiite religious authority. The Arab Shiites’ gaze will remain on Tehran so long as the main dividing line in the region is the Sunni-Shiite conflict and so long as Arab Shiites feel threatened by Sunnis and fearful of Sunni hegemony. The United States should therefore help strengthen Arab Shiite religious and secular actors who reject the Iranian model and who take pride in their Arab or [national] identities. Such figures exist in Iraq among both its religious authorities and its politicians. The United States should help them develop an effective counterstrategy to Iranian infiltration.

Third, Iran has mastered the propaganda game in the Middle East. Iran’s Arabic-language channel and media are highly effective in spreading Iranian propaganda, undermining American influence, and extending conspiracy theories about the West and Israel. . . . Any effective U.S. strategy should seek to undermine and counter its message.

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

 

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon