U.S. Iran Policy Must Look Beyond Nuclear Weapons

Since negotiations between Washington and Tehran became public in 2013, most discussion of American policy toward the Islamic Republic revolved around the latter’s quest to acquire nuclear weapons. Now that the U.S. has rejected the 2015 nuclear deal, writes Michael Singh, it is high time that policymakers concern themselves with issues outside of arms control, most importantly Iran’s growing power, and malign influence, throughout the Middle East:

[E]ffectively countering Iran will require that the United States reach more deeply into its policy tool kit, beyond economic sanctions alone. These should be buttressed both by the low-level use of military force—for example, retaining a small American presence in Syria, empowering local allies, and using the threat of U.S. airpower to prevent entrenchment in Syria by Iran and its proxies—and by continued U.S.-Iranian engagement. The former is often regarded as escalatory and the latter as appeasement or legitimation of the Iranian regime, but in reality both are essential elements of a strategy of deterrence. Diplomacy is necessary to convey redlines, to explain the U.S. agenda in the region, and to understand Iran’s intentions; a willingness to use limited force is necessary to lend credibility to that engagement.

In addition, the United States should not only impose costs on Iran for threatening U.S. interests but erect obstacles to Iran’s doing so in the first place. This calls for ensuring that there are no further easy opportunities for Iranian intervention around the region, by promoting the resilience of regional states in the face of the sort of political and economic meddling that features heavily in the Iranian playbook. Success would also be aided by the development of more functional regional security organizations—one need only look at the current rift within the region’s most coherent multilateral group, the Gulf Cooperation Council, to understand that Iran hardly faces a united regional opposition. . . .

Success will require not just a plan for reinstating sanctions in hopes of one day bringing Iran back to the negotiating table but a strategy that tackles with urgency the broad and growing set of challenges in the Middle East in which Iran plays a role.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Gulf Cooperation Council, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat