Experience Suggests That Renewed Sanctions on Iran Are the Best Course of Action

Nov. 16 2018

Despite the many flaws in the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran, most of the West has declined to support Washington’s decision to reinstate the sanctions that the deal suspended. Emily Landau explains why they are mistaken:

When assessing the potential effectiveness of sanctions as a means of getting Iran back to the [negotiating] table, it is important to keep in mind that they are not a perfect tool, and that they have a mixed record on compelling states to comply with the demands [of the sanctioners]. But of the tools available at . . . the current juncture, imposing harsh pressure on Iran is the best hope that the Trump administration has for turning things around so far as Iran’s nuclear [program] and regional [troublemaking] are concerned.

Indeed, empirical evidence shows that in the specific history of dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions since 2003, pressure is the only strategy that has led to a positive change in Iran’s decision-making in the nuclear realm, namely, one that is in line with the goals of the international community. Inducements—or “carrots”—have always been regarded by the regime as a sign of weakness to be exploited, and never as a goodwill gesture that should be answered in kind. Various carrots and expressions of diplomatic cooperation have never convinced the regime of the benefits of adopting a similarly cooperative stance toward the international actors trying to alter its behavior.

Unfortunately, and despite clear evidence to the contrary, the belief that goodwill will beget goodwill remains a steadfast hope among many—especially in Europe—who cling to the assessment that cooperative dialogue is the only route to success. Against all evidence, they continue to hold that pressure will only cause Iran to be more hardline, not recognizing that the hardliners—or basically one hardliner, the supreme leader—have always called the shots.

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More about: Europe, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela