What Opponents of Sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Get Wrong

April 10 2019

In addition to being responsible for much of the worst domestic repression, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) manages Hizballah and similar terrorist proxies and sends its troops to fight in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. On Monday, the White House officially designated the IRGC as a terrorist group—a move, Eli Lake writes, with real consequences:

There is a difference between saying a state is a sponsor of terrorism and calling an arm of a state an actual terrorist organization. . . . The threshold is now lower for proving that someone is providing material support to the IRGC. The designation also makes any non-Iranians who wittingly or unwittingly do business with the IRGC vulnerable to having their U.S. visas revoked. This is [a] powerful disincentive for Europeans [investing] in Iran, . . . because the IRGC’s tentacles reach into most aspects of Iran’s economy.

[T]here are two basic objections to this move. The first is that the designation may provoke Iran to target U.S. forces. . . . Already, Iranian government officials have promised a response to the designation. The mistake is thinking that pressure is any more provocative to Tehran than entreaties. In the days leading up to the final implementation of the nuclear deal in 2016, for example, the IRGC briefly took U.S. sailors hostage and released a humiliating video of the incident after they were released.

The second objection is that the designation further undermines the 2015 nuclear deal. A progressive group chaired by alumni of the Obama administration made this point; however, some see this objection as a point in the Trump administration’s favor. “It makes it much more difficult for a Democratic president to go back into the Iran deal in 2021,” says the Iran-sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz, who favors the designation. Any future administration would have to make [an official] determination that the IRGC was out of the terrorism business [before removing the sanctions].

Determining that the IRGC is no longer engaged in terrorism is about as likely as determining that the IRS is no longer engaged in collecting taxes. It’s in the organization’s nature. . . . Donald Trump’s strategy, unlike his predecessor’s, begins with the premise that Iran is an outlaw state—and treats it as such until it changes its behavior.

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More about: Donald Trump, Iran, Iran sanctions, Revolutionary Guard, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat