Why the U.S., or Any Third Party, Will Fail at Solving the Israel–Palestinian Conflict

March 13 2018

In the coming days the Trump administration is reportedly poised to release its plan aimed at reviving the moribund peace process. Noting that, since 1948, Western leaders from Clement Atlee to John Kerry have attempted to negotiate a lasting agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and have failed every time, Amir Taheri suggests their experience should serve as a warning:

There are many reasons why so many prospective dealmakers have failed. The first is that peace is [almost] always imposed by the side that wins a war. There is scarcely an instance in history, which is primarily a narrative of countless wars, in which an outsider has imposed peace on unwilling belligerents. The second reason is that outside dealmakers have their own interests and agendas, which make an already tangled web even more complicated. . . . The third reason is that wannabe dealmakers do not fully appreciate the importance of the status quo, the reality on the ground.

Whenever a status quo is at least tolerable for both belligerents, the desire to risk it in the hope of an ill-defined peace is diminished. Many people in the world live with a status quo they don’t regard as ideal. . . .

Finally, and more importantly, there could be no deal and no peace unless and until those involved in a conflict desire it. . . . My bet is that, at this moment, . . . both [sides] are happier with the status quo than with the prolongation of a “peace process” that could never lead to peace and now is no longer even a process.

Read more at Asharq Al-Awsat

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, John Kerry, Peace Process

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