The Dangers of Holding the IDF to an Impossible Standard

Dec. 17 2015

A group consisting of senior military figures from several countries recently released a report detailing its extensive investigation of Israel’s conduct of the 2014 war in Gaza. It finds that, contrary to evaluations issued by the UN and Human Rights Watch, not only was the war justified under international law but Israel’s conduct also went above and beyond accepted legal and ethical requirements. From this, however, the authors draw a disturbing conclusion, as Tom Wilson notes:

[They] point out that if [the] new, rigorous level of humanitarian concern adopted by Israel comes to be accepted as the norm in the international community, then it will become impossible for other militaries to fight future wars effectively. . . .

Israel’s experience in Gaza has very profound implications for other democracies seeking to wage war against terrorist non-state actors. Terror groups who not only have no regard for international human-rights law but that also have no fear of their international standing being tarnished . . . do not need to worry about condemnation at the UN having repercussions such as the imposition of sanctions. In fact, these groups are clearly learning from Hamas tactics and seeing that it is possible to gain an advantage over western armies that restrain themselves in accordance with the stipulations of international law. . . .

They know that by hiding behind civilians, they can achieve a wide range of strategic objectives. . . . [They] know full well how a high civilian casualty rate can be made to play out in the court of public opinion. Journalists, international observers, campaigners, and many in government—all apparently suffer from having an incredibly poor grasp of where international law and, particularly, the laws of armed conflict, stand on a whole range of issues. As we’ve seen with Israel’s wars, world opinion now expects Israel to conduct its wars without anyone being harmed.

Read more at Commentary

More about: IDF, International Law, Israel & Zionism, Laws of war, Protective Edge, Terrorism

Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy