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 Danger of Hollow Fixes to the Iran Deal

March 20 2018

In January, the Trump administration announced a 120-day deadline for the so-called “E3”—Britain, France, and Germany—to agree to solutions for certain specific flaws in the 2015 agreement to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Omri Ceren explains why it’s necessary to get these fixes right:

[Already in October], the administration made clear that it considered the deal fatally flawed for at least three reasons: a weak inspections regime in which the UN’s nuclear watchdog can’t access Iranian military facilities, an unacceptable arrangement whereby the U.S. had to give up its most powerful sanctions against ballistic missiles even as Iran was allowed to develop ballistic missiles, and the fact that the deal’s eventual expiration dates mean Iran will legally be allowed to get within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear weapon. . . .

A team of American negotiators has been working on getting the E3 to agree to a range of fixes, and is testing whether there is overlap between the maximum that the Europeans can give and the minimum that President Trump will accept. The Europeans in turn are testing the Iranians to gauge their reactions and will likely not accept any fixes that would cause Iran to bolt.

The negotiations are problematic. The New York Times reported that, as far as the Europeans are concerned, the exercise requires convincing Trump they’ve “changed the deal without actually changing it.” Public reports about the inspection fix suggest that the Europeans are loath to go beyond urging the International Atomic Energy Commission to request inspections, which the agency may be too intimidated to do. The ballistic-missile fix is shaping up to be a political disaster, with the Europeans refusing to incorporate anything but long-range missiles in the deal. That would leave us with inadequate tools to counter Iran’s development of ballistic missiles that could be used to wipe Israel, the Saudis, and U.S. regional bases off the map. . . .

There is a [significant] risk the Trump administration may be pushed to accept the hollow fixes acceptable to the Europeans. Fixing the deal in this way would be the worst of all worlds. It would functionally enshrine the deal under a Republican administration. Iran would be open for business, and this time there would be certainty that a future president will not act to reverse the inevitable gold rush. Just as no deal would have been better than a bad deal, so no fix would be better than a bad fix.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Europe, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy