With the Return of Sanctions, the U.S. Must Be Prepared for the Iranian Response

As of yesterday, the U.S. has re-imposed in their entirety the economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic that were in force on the eve of the 2015 nuclear deal. Tehran has previously responded to intense sanctions by ratcheting up its enrichment of uranium, as if to prove that it would not be cowed; in other instances it has attacked American forces in the Middle East or Israeli targets in Europe. But the current situation is different: Iran has so far responded to the American withdrawal from the nuclear deal by insisting that it will continue to abide by its terms, in the hope that Europe will continue to want to trade with it. If it now publicly resumes its nuclear activities, Europe will likely cease to provide cover. The situation, writes Michael Eisenstadt, puts the ayatollahs in a bind Washington ought to take advantage of:

Iran’s response to the U.S. withdrawal from the [nuclear deal] will largely depend . . . on how deeply renewed U.S. sanctions bite. If Iran is able to muddle through—because it sells enough oil, repatriates sufficient funds from foreign customers, benefits from higher oil prices, or some combination of these—it may continue to observe the deal’s limits and try to wait President Trump out, hoping for a different U.S. president in January 2021. Meanwhile, it may push back against U.S. efforts by largely symbolic means—in order to avoid a military confrontation with the United States, while lashing out however it can against U.S. allies, partners, and perceived proxies.

This is not necessarily a bad place for the U.S. government to be, with the Iranian leadership contained by the deal’s limits and rigorous sanctions. . . . .

Should sanctions cut deeply and exacerbate ongoing domestic unrest, Iran will face a choice: agree to a new round of negotiations with the United States in which it offers concessions in return for sanctions relief, or undertake various destabilizing activities—violating the nuclear deal’s limits, intensifying proxy attacks on U.S. allies, or even conducting proxy operations against U.S. interests and personnel—so that it can re-engage Washington from a position of strength. If hardliners in Tehran win the day, destabilization efforts could even include waging a low-level, open-ended struggle to oust the United States from the region. . . . Preserving the credibility of U.S. deterrence will therefore be key to avoiding escalation.

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

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy