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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 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