Palestinian Leaders Must Recognize That Salvation Comes from Within

Feb. 18 2021

Analyzing the current realities of the Middle East, and acknowledging that the Arab-Israeli conflict has come to an end, two Anglo-Palestinian scholars—Hussein Agha and Ahmad Samih Khalidi—call for a major rethinking of Palestinian national goals and priorities. While Agha and Khalidi make some dubious assertions, such as the claim that “each credible ‘peace’ formula ends up . . . offering less [!] to the Palestinians than the one before,” they also put forth such concrete proposals as the formal restructuring of Palestinian national institutions and the pursuit of “soft” rather than “hard sovereignty.” But most importantly they urge a fundamental change in attitude:

Palestinian diplomacy has failed massively. . . . Whatever Israel’s responsibility for the Palestinians’ plight, the Palestinian leadership must bear its own share of responsibility for its people’s safety and welfare. . . . Palestinian leaders promised their people a path to freedom and empowerment. Yet in the last two decades, they developed a culture of dependency rather than resourcefulness, an expectation of external salvation rather than self-reliance. This sapped their will to build and develop their society and stymied their willingness to explore new thinking.

Palestinians of the post-Oslo generation have lacked valid and viable political outlets, torn between parroting worn-out slogans they no longer believe in and waiting for overseas charity to bail them out. National assertion and independence have given way to nagging, complaining, sulking, and a sense of entitlement, with Palestinian leaders frequently looking to outside powers for succor. This deterioration has undermined and corrupted Palestinian politics, deflated popular action, and encouraged political drift. It has also alienated foreign supporters, who have become exasperated with Palestinian conduct.

[The Palestinian leadership] must recognize that salvation comes from within while reexamining relations with the United States, leveraging the Arab normalization processes to Palestinian advantage, and involving Egypt and Jordan in any new talks. It must redefine the Palestinian notion of sovereignty, review Palestinian views of security, and refrain from shirking responsibility or indulging in threats that are not credible.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian Authority, Peace Process

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