President Trump Shouldn’t Meet with Iranian Leaders

In a press conference on Monday, Donald Trump stated that he “would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet,” adding: “No preconditions. If they want to meet, I’ll meet.” To do so, writes Eli Lake, would be a grave mistake:

There was a time in Washington when the establishments in both major parties believed that a meeting with a U.S. president was something a foreign adversary had to earn. Unless concessions are offered and conditions are met, the leader of the free world should avoid parleys with rogues. Think of George W. Bush’s refusal for America to enter nuclear talks with Iran until it stopped uranium enrichment. . . .

This was a hot-button issue back in 2007 and 2008 when an upstart Democratic senator named Barack Obama proposed that if elected president, he would meet with leaders of Iran, Cuba, and North Korea in his first year. In his recent memoir, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser and speechwriter, Ben Rhodes, described [the then-senator’s] reaction [when] Madeleine Albright, formerly Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, criticized his naïve offer. Obama responded, according to Rhodes, by pounding his open palm on a table to emphasize every syllable: “It is not a reward to talk to folks!” . . .

Now the president says he is open to talks with Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, without preconditions. . . . [While Obama] pressed Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, in 2013 for a face-to-face meeting at the United Nations, he had to settle for a phone call. Now Obama’s successor, who withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal, wants a meeting with the man who denied one to Obama.

Given the Tehran regime’s current legitimacy crisis, it’s a possibility. Rouhani is desperate. Even before severe sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and banking system formally kick in, the value of the rial is in free fall. The demonstrations and strikes that began late last year continue to roil Iran’s ruling class. A meeting with Trump could be a lifeline to an Iranian president who has failed to deliver the prosperity and reforms he promised in his campaigns in 2013 and 2017.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Hassan Rouhani, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs


Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden