Why the U.S. Must Assume a More Direct Approach to Rolling Back Iranian Power

Dec. 18 2017

Although the Trump administration has abandoned its predecessor’s commitment to partnering with Iran and respecting Tehran’s so-called “strategic equities” in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere, it still follows an indirect approach to countering Hizballah. Tony Badran argues that Washington must start confronting the terrorist organization and other Iranian proxies more aggressively, and abandon its commitment to an illusory stability in Lebanon:

The area between Damascus, south Lebanon, and the Golan Heights is now an Iranian zone. And, most recently, Hizballah and Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have connected with their Iraqi units on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border.

These developments represent a strategic setback for the United States and its allies. . . . But the overriding U.S. interest in Syria has not changed: to disrupt this Iranian territorial link [with Lebanon via Iraq and Syria] and to degrade Hizballah, the IRGC, and their weapons capabilities in Syria and Lebanon. This is a priority that the United States still can, and should, pursue, even if it requires a more direct involvement today than it would have done a few years ago.

Iranian forces are vulnerable. They are overstretched and, in certain cases, they are operating in exposed terrain. The new military structures they are building are equally exposed. Israel has been exploiting these vulnerabilities to target military installations, bases, and weapons shipments, as well as senior IRGC and Hizballah cadres. The Russian presence has not deterred the Israelis. The United States should reinforce this Israeli policy by adopting Israeli red lines as its own. And, using the considerable elements of U.S. power in the region, it can expand this campaign against Iran’s and Hizballah’s military infrastructure, arms shipments, logistical routes, and senior cadres. Local Syrian groups in eastern and southern Syria, and their sponsors, should also be empowered to take part in this endeavor.

Having the United States behind this policy strengthens Israel’s position vis-à-vis the Russians and provides it with more room to maneuver, especially in the case of a conflagration with Hizballah that expands to Lebanon. Throughout the Syrian war, the U.S. position has held Lebanese stability sacrosanct, even as Lebanon was the launching pad for Hizballah’s war effort in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and even as the group multiplied its stockpile of missiles aimed at Israel. Should the targeting of IRGC and Hizballah assets lead to an escalation that encompasses Lebanon, the United States should offer full backing to Israel as it destroys Iran’s infrastructure in Lebanon and degrades its long arm on the Mediterranean. Lebanon’s stability, insofar as it means the stability of the Iranian order and forward missile base there, is not, in fact, a U.S. interest.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria, 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.”

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

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