Donate

The Case for a New Red Line on the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

March 9 2018

According to available estimates, over 500 people have been killed by Bashar al-Assad and his allies in the bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, an area close to Damascus. Besides artillery and barrel bombs, Syrian forces have also been using chlorine gas on the civilian population there. The editors of Bloomberg urge the U.S., and its Western allies, to take a stand:

The moral responsibility for Eastern Ghouta clearly belongs to the Syrian government and its primary sponsors, Iran and Russia. But the West has hardly covered itself in glory with its efforts to stop the atrocities.

First, it failed to get any serious sanctions against Syria at the United Nations Security Council. And then, of course, there was President Barack Obama’s infamous “red line” warning that the U.S. would respond militarily if Assad used chemical weapons on his people. The dictator called Obama’s bluff, one of the worst humiliations for U.S. foreign policy in the post-cold-war era. . . .

But the West hasn’t been [entirely] spineless. Last April, after a sarin-gas assault, President Donald Trump authorized a large-scale cruise-missile attack on a Syrian air base. At the time, many scoffed that this was a token effort that did relatively little harm to Syria’s military. But there has been no verified use of sarin in Syria since the U.S. struck back.

It’s time for another red line, one that the U.S. won’t back away from. Trump should tell Assad and his Russian backers that any more proved use of any chemical weapon, including chlorine, will be met with even greater retaliation than what happened in April. It certainly won’t end the fighting in Eastern Ghouta or across the country, but it may take away one of Assad’s most unconscionable methods of terrifying his citizens.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Chemical weapons, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

 

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