The European Union’s Nonsensical Quest to Preserve the Iran Deal

April 17 2018

In recent weeks, the EU’s foreign minister Frederica Mogherini has been engaged in a campaign—traveling as far afield as Burma—to pressure the U.S. not to jettison the nuclear agreement with Iran. Current and former German, French, and British diplomats have joined in. Surveying the arguments put forth in favor of maintaining the deal, Amir Taheri finds them, to say the least, lacking:

The first [argument] is that discarding the “deal” could damage the credibility of “major powers”—that is, Britain, France, Germany, and the U.S., which signed it along with China and Russia. . . . However, the EU’s argument about “respecting signatures” [is unconvincing] because nobody signed anything. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), [as the agreement is formally known], is no more than a press release stating a set of desirable moves by Iran and the other parties—which, incidentally, didn’t include the EU as such. Moreover, there are significant differences between the JCPOA’s English and Persian versions, making various imaginative re-readings, à la Roland Barthes or Jacques Derrida, possible. . . .

The second argument is that the deal is working and, thus, the dictum “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” applies. That assumption is not borne out by the facts. Iran and the other parties have either tried to circumvent or have brazenly broken their promises. [For instance], the Germans and the French still refuse to issue export guarantees to firms seeking trade with Iran. Huge memorandums of understanding are signed but put on the back-burner as Iran remains subject to sanctions by the United Nations, the EU, and U.S. . . .

Ironically, the only [country] that has partially complied with the deal is the U.S., including through the mafia-style smuggling of $1.7 billion in cash to Tehran and the transfer of $700 million a month since August 2015. Iran, for its part, asserts that there has been no change in its nuclear project. . . . More importantly, Iran has managed to block international inspection of key research and development centers by claiming they are military sites and thus off limits.

The good news, to Taheri, is that the Iranian economy is now so weak that Tehran might be vulnerable to additional economic pressures.

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More about: Europe, European Union, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy