Making Sense of Iranian Threats to Attack Israeli Cities

In a recent press conference, the commander of the Islamic Republic’s regular army, General Kioumars Heydari, announced the introduction of a new model of drone, which, he said, was developed with “attacks on Tel Aviv and Haifa” in mind. Amir Taheri questions the prudence of such saber-rattling, examining both its unusual character and its possible causes:

To start with, the general made no mention of the “supreme guide” Ali Khamenei, who is supposed to be the ultimate decision-maker on all major issues, especially war and peace. Khamenei has always said he would love to see Israel “wiped from the face of existence.” But he has never said that his own Islamic Republic is going to launch a direct war to destroy the “Zionist entity.” Almost ten years ago, he prophesized that Israel would disappear within 25 years. In the meantime, however, his Islamic Republic won’t take any direct action against Israel, instead using Lebanese and Palestinian surrogates in a low-intensity proxy war.

For the past six years, Israel has been attacking Iranian positions in Syria and even hitting targets inside Iran without being attacked in response. The question now is simple: has the “grin and bear it” policy changed? Should we assume the Iranian military is now in the driver’s seat on such high-risk issues? Traditionally, the military in Iran was required to obey the “silence is golden” rule. Even after the mullahs seized power, that tradition was largely observed. The military did make boastful speeches but never threatened any country with any specific course of action.

The irresponsible boast also comes at a critical point in the dicey negotiations to revive Barack Obama’s nuclear deal and to recognize the Islamic Republic’s supposedly peaceful intentions.

Did part of the Khomeinist establishment write the Heydari puppet-show script to derail President Joe Biden’s efforts to undo Donald Trump’s policy on Iran? Is the same faction not aware of the fact that there is not, and will not be, Iranian popular support for any war waged on purely ideological grounds? Or is the beating of war drums a ploy to divert attention from the regime’s economic, diplomatic, and social failures?

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Syria


Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood