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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.

Read more at Asharq Al-Awsat

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

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy