An Arms-Control Foundation’s Efforts to Buy Support for the Iran Deal

According to a recent report by the Associated Press, the Ploughshares Fund, a supposedly nonpartisan arms-control-advocacy organization, gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to various think tanks, journalists, lobbying groups (including the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” J Street), and media outlets as part of its efforts to promote the nuclear agreement with Iran. Lee Smith comments:

In [Ploughsares’] 2015 annual report, board chairwoman Mary Lloyd Estrin wrote of “the absolutely critical role that civil society played in tipping the scales toward this extraordinary policy victory [i.e., the Iran deal].” It’s perhaps not surprising that Ploughshares confuses the people and institutions it supports with the public sphere, but in this case at least precisely the opposite is the case.

Civil society is the assortment of institutions, like the media, the academy, non-governmental organizations, etc. that exist apart from and frequently in opposition to the government in order to express the will of the citizens of a free society. Its purpose is to inform those citizens so they are better equipped to make decisions about their lives and the life of the nation and thereby hold their government accountable.

But Ploughshares conscripted journalists, researchers, and NGOs to do the opposite. . . . What Ploughshares did was to pollute the public sphere with self-validated and self-validating noise for the purpose of deceiving the public on behalf of the state. . . .

[While] the White House threatened to punish Democrats tempted to challenge the deal, Ploughshares helped lawmakers feel better about caving in. They paid for think tanks to produce incomplete or erroneous factsheets, they paid for journalists to publish it, and they paid for lobbyists to carry it to Capitol Hill.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran nuclear program, J Street, Journalism, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy