Donate

Why Is the U.S. State Department Backing a Lebanese Land (and Sea) Grab?

March 6 2018

In recent weeks, high-ranking State Department officials have involved themselves in mediating territorial disputes between Israel and Lebanon. One of these disputes, writes Evelyn Gordon, is based on a real problem—the lack of a recognized international maritime boundary between the two countries—although the State Department’s proposed solution tilts unreasonably in Beirut’s favor. The other, however, is the result of a spurious Lebanese claim:

[According to Beirut], Israel’s planned new border wall encroaches on Lebanese territory in thirteen places. And on this, there should be no question whatsoever, because a recognized international border, known as the Blue Line, already exists and the UN has twice affirmed that Israel isn’t violating it. . . .

Given the existence of both a recognized international border and unequivocal UN confirmation that Israel hasn’t violated it, the only proper response to Beirut’s protest over a new fence would be to tell it politely that it has no case whatsoever. The territory in question is unarguably Israel’s, and Israel is free to build whatever it pleases there.

Instead, the State Department has treated Lebanon’s claim as legitimate. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanded that Israel halt construction until it reaches an agreement with Lebanon on the border, while Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield proposed land swaps to satisfy Lebanon’s claims. In other words, the State Department is asking Israel to cede land that the UN Security Council unanimously recognized as sovereign Israeli territory just because a thuggish neighbor covets it and has threatened war if its demands aren’t satisfied.

Needless to say, this is an excellent way to encourage aggression. If Lebanon can get Washington to pressure Israel to cede internationally recognized Israeli territory merely by claiming land to which it lacks any vestige of right and then threatening war if its demands aren’t met, why wouldn’t Lebanon—or any other country interested in grabbing Israeli land—keep repeating this tactic?

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Israel & Zionism, Lebanon, Rex Tillerson, State Department, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

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