Western Europe Stands Up for Iran

July 12 2018

Last week, the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, and Iran met to devise a way to protect the last-named country from the recently renewed U.S. sanctions. Clifford May comments:

French, British, and German leaders . . . continue to insist that the nuclear deal is a reasonable bargain. In exchange for economic benefits, Iran’s theocrats have promised to slow—not end—their illicit nuclear-weapons program. [Although] Iran’s theocrats don’t actually acknowledge having a nuclear-weapons program, . . . they are threatening to accelerate it if the Europeans don’t fully compensate them for economic losses caused by the re-imposition of American sanctions.

Just prior to last week’s meeting, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani phoned France’s President Emmanuel Macron and told him that the [proposal being considered by the Europeans] “does not meet all our demands.” . . . In what kind of negotiation does one side make “demands” of the other? . . .

On Sunday, the German publication Bild reported that Germany’s central bank plans to turn over to Iranian officials 300 million euros in cash that will then be flown to Iran. That Iran’s rulers are in need of bundles of cash only highlights how weak their economy has become. Decades of mismanagement and corruption are the primary reasons. But re-imposed American sanctions—with new rounds to hit in August and November—are taking a toll. . . .

Meanwhile, . . . Belgian authorities have detained an Iranian diplomat in connection with a plot to bomb a rally in France organized by an Iranian opposition group. . . . At present, however, British, French, and German leaders appear loath to offend Iran’s rulers and anxious to accommodate them. Which raises this question: if appeasement is the European policy toward the Islamic Republic now, what will it be if the regime achieves its ambition of becoming the nuclear-armed hegemon of the Middle East?

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More about: France, Germany, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, United Kingdom

By Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan, the U.S. Has Freed Israel from “Land for Peace”

March 25 2019

In the 52 years since Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate their return in exchange for Damascus ending its continuous war against the Jewish state. Shmuel Rosner argues that, with his announcement on Thursday acknowledging the legitimacy of Jerusalem’s claim to the Golan, Donald Trump has finally decoupled territorial concessions from peacemaking:

[With] the takeover of much of Syria by Iran and its proxies, . . . Israel had no choice but to give up on the idea of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But this reality involves a complete overhaul of the way the international community thinks not just about the Golan Heights but also about all of the lands Israel occupied in 1967. . . .

Withdrawal worked for Israel once, in 1979, when it signed a peace agreement with Egypt and left the Sinai Peninsula, which had also been occupied in 1967. But that also set a problematic precedent. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt insisted that Israel hand back the entire peninsula to the last inch. Israel decided that the reward was worth the price, as a major Arab country agreed to break with other Arab states and accept Israel’s legitimacy.

But there was a hidden, unanticipated cost: Israel’s adversaries, in future negotiations, would demand the same kind of compensation. The 1967 line—what Israel controlled before the war—became the starting point for all Arab countries, including Syria. It became a sacred formula, worshiped by the international community.

What President Trump is doing extends far beyond the ability of Israel to control the Golan Heights, to settle it, and to invest in it. The American president is setting the clock back to before the peace deal with Egypt, to a time when Israel could argue that the reward for peace is peace—not land. Syria, of course, is unlikely to accept this. At least not in the short term. But maybe someday, a Syrian leader will come along who doesn’t entertain the thought that Israel might agree to return to the pre-1967 line and who will accept a different formula for achieving peace.

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More about: Donald Trump, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionis, Peace Process, Sinai Peninsula, Syria