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

 

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat