The Administration’s National Security Strategy Shares Much, but Not Everything, with the Israeli Outlook

December’s official document outlining the overall U.S. approach to matters of security and international relations incudes a relatively short section on the Middle East. Shimon Arad analyzes the section and its implications for Israel:

In a distinct deparure from the perspective of the Obama administration, the document does not view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a major cause of the region’s problems. Nevertheless, the strategy reaffirms the Trump administration’s commitment to facilitating a comprehensive peace agreement, which it believes can serve the wider interest of promoting a favorable regional balance of power by increasing Israeli-Arab cooperation in confronting common threats. . . . [It also] breaks from the previous administration’s perception of Iran as part of the solution to regional instability, instead squarely defining Tehran as a major contributor to the region’s problems. American leadership is [now] working to contain and roll back Iran’s malign influence and nuclear ambitions. This is a primary Israeli interest. . . .

The strategy also marks a clear change in the way the U.S. administration understands Israel’s place in the region. Gone are the assumptions held by previous administrations that support for Israel comes with high costs from the Arab world, and that resolving the Palestinian conflict is key to improving U.S. standing in the region. This opens the way for Israel to play a more substantial role in advancing American interests in the Middle East. . . .

The Trump administration’s perception of Russia and China as global power rivals [also] needs to be appreciated by Israel at the regional level. While this perception is not far off from Israel’s own assessment of Russian and Chinese involvement in the region, Jerusalem must ensure that its dealings with these powers are transparent to, and coordinated with, the U.S. administration.

From Israel’s perspective, a major gap in the strategy is the lack of any reference to Hizballah. Though [it is a key instrument of] Iranian influence, Hizballah has developed into a significant regional player in its own right. The U.S. needs a clear policy toward Lebanon that explicitly addresses Hizballah’s domestic power and foreign interference.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

Toward an Iran Policy That Looks at the Big Picture

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech outlining a new U.S. approach to the Islamic Republic. Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz explain why it constitutes an important and much-needed rejection of past errors:

For too long, a peculiar consensus has suggested that it is possible to isolate the nuclear issue from all other areas of contention and resolve it in a satisfactory manner. The subsidiary [assumption] embedded in this logic is that despite the bluster of Iran’s rulers, it is governed by cautious men, who if offered sufficient incentives and soothing language would respond with pragmatism. No one embraced this notion more ardently than the former secretary of state, John Kerry, who crafted an accord whose deficiencies are apparent to all but the most hardened partisans. . . .

A regime as dangerous as the Iranian one requires no less than a comprehensive strategy to counter it. This means exploiting all of its vulnerabilities, increasing the costs of its foreign adventures, draining its economy, and aiding our allies. Most importantly, the United States must find a way of connecting itself to domestic opposition that continuously haunts the mullahs.

Washington should no longer settle for an arms-control agreement that paves Iran’s path to a bomb but rather a restrictive accord that ends its nuclear aspirations. The United States should not implore its allies to share the Middle East with Iran, as Barack Obama did, but partner with them in defeating the clerical imperialists. And most importantly, the United States should never forget that its most indispensable ally is the Iranian people.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, Mike Pompeo, U.S. Foreign policy