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Inaction in Syria Hurts U.S. Interests

Feb. 28 2018

Bashar al-Assad’s army, together with its Iranian and Russian allies, has for several days subjected Eastern Ghouta—a rebel-held area outside Damascus that contains about 400,000 people—to intensive and indiscriminate bombardment. As has been the case repeatedly over the past few years, the Moscow-backed ceasefires and “humanitarian pauses” have done little to ease the suffering of Ghouta’s civilians. By relying mainly on diplomacy alone, argues Jennifer Cafarella, Washington is undermining its national interests.

The U.S. has repeatedly hoped in vain that diplomacy will stop or contain the slaughter. . . . Assad, [however], has hijacked this diplomatic approach, and the U.S. and United Nations have become complicit in the use of starvation as a weapon of war. Aid organizations route their deliveries through the Assad regime, which continues to block deliveries or redirect supplies to regime clients. The effect has been to give Assad’s sieges diplomatic cover. . . .

[This] diplomatic approach undermines other strategic interests. A successful “freeze” of the Syrian conflict, even if it occurred, would leave in place Iranian forces and Iran’s proxies, including Hizballah. It would prevent future military operations against al-Qaeda, which is embedded in opposition-held areas. These outcomes have already occurred on local levels in southern Syria, where Iran’s proxies and al-Qaeda are entrenched beneath the cover of the U.S.-backed “de-escalation” zone. . . .

American diplomats dealing with the Syrian crisis lack the leverage and credibility necessary to conduct effective diplomacy. The U.S. has used few other tools of national power to support them and has refused to contemplate using military force beyond self-defense, [as it did after the attack on American-backed forces two weeks ago], or tactical retaliation for the use of chemical weapons. Assad will continue to pursue all-out military victory as long the U.S. remains thus on the sidelines, and all diplomatic efforts except surrender will fail.

Read more at Fox News

More about: Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations

 

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