Start Deterring Iran Now

Feb. 14 2018

The Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace over the weekend was reportedly designed in imitation of an American unmanned aircraft captured by Iran in 2011; at the time, the U.S neglected to destroy it, which could have prevented its reverse engineering. To Richard Goldberg, such failures to deter Tehran—this was only one of many during Barack Obama’s presidency—have helped create the current situation where Iran’s forces are stationed across the Middle East and in a position, for instance, to menace Israel. He urges Washington to reverse course:

Now is the time for President Trump to re-establish robust military deterrence toward Iranian expansionism in close collaboration with regional allies. His administration declared [Iran’s] Revolutionary Guard a terrorist entity in October, and he should target key Guard bases and weapons in Syria accordingly. Such an approach could help prevent a larger-scale conflict.

Iran’s leaders tend to avoid direct military confrontation against a superior military power. . . . Furthermore, the mullahs know that if they direct more money into extraterritorial operations, their economic and political situation at home will deteriorate. The Iranian people are already chanting, “Let go of Syria, think about us.” Raising the cost for Iran in Syria would exacerbate internal tensions.

Trump will certainly need to prepare for a range of potential responses from Iran, particularly via proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. But these proxy threats aren’t new—and the benefits far outweigh potential costs. First, Tehran’s strategic calculus would start to change, curtailing risk-taking in the region, enhancing security for U.S. allies over the long run and potentially changing regime behavior in other illicit activities. Second, a U.S. military deterrent would close the so-called “land bridge” that gives Iran an uninterrupted line of influence to the Mediterranean. And that deterrent would undergird Trump’s threats to exit the nuclear deal, which could dramatically increase the likelihood that attempts to fix the deal succeed while significantly reducing the risks of an Iranian escalation should he decide to nix it.

Finally, the United States would reclaim diplomatic leverage over Russia in Syria. If Vladimir Putin wants to maintain a long-term presence and to profit off the country’s reconstruction, he’ll have to clear Iranian forces out of Syria or America and its allies will do it for him.

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More about: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times