After Mahmoud Abbas: A Bloodbath in the West Bank?

March 5 2018

The day after his February 20 address to the UN, the Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas checked himself into Johns Hopkins Hospital for what his spokesmen say was a routine checkup. Despite these official assurances, Abbas’s hospital visit set off much speculation about his health, which in turn revived conjectures as to who would replace him in the event of his death. Benny Avni comments:

It’s . . . possible that, . . . as Israelis fear most, in lieu of a clear line of succession, a Palestinian bloodbath will determine the winner.

Abbas has never named a successor. Yes, he recently crowned a deputy Fatah chairman. But the man, Mahmoud al-Aloul, is almost unknown outside Ramallah and thus is a weak contender: as in much of the Arab world, would-be Palestinian leaders must be backed by armed men. Gray apparatchiks are at a distinct disadvantage.

Which brings us to Hamas, the uncontested ruler of Gaza. According to the Palestinian constitution, once the current president can no longer function, the speaker of the legislative council becomes interim leader. That position is held by a Hamas politician, Aziz Duwaik. As is shown by Abbas’s twelve years as president after being elected for four, temporary can last forever.

So Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, may end up taking over West Bank politics, burying any hope of better Israeli-Palestinian relations. Washington, as yet, has been mostly mum, but if America wants to remain relevant in the Mideast, it must draw some red lines and clarify our interests: avoid a bloody succession battle; make sure Hamas stays out of power; ensure the next leader continues security coordination with our allies Jordan, Egypt and, most crucially, Israel.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, West Bank

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