U.S. Pressure on Iran Is Curbing the Mullahs’ Ability to Shed Blood

March 9 2020

During the past 40 years, American experts and policymakers have claimed that the rulers of the Islamic Republic are divided between “moderates” and “hardliners,” and therefore that a conciliatory U.S. posture will strengthen the hand of the moderates while confrontation will only make the hardliners even more aggressive. This theory was used to justify the 2015 nuclear deal, and has likewise been cited by critics of Washington’s current policy of “maximum pressure.” But the nuclear deal was followed by years of brutal Iranian adventurism throughout the Middle East, while the present course, as Amir Taheri explains, seems to be bringing out the opposite result:

[B]adly hit by cash-flow problems, the [Iranian] regime has been forced to cut down payments to regional clients in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Gaza. This has led to a reduction in Lebanese Hizballah’s military presence in Syria while the Houthis in Yemen have also gone into slow-motion mode. Almost all offices in 30 Iranian towns and cities recruiting “volunteers” to fight in Syria, ostensibly to protect Shiite shrines, have been closed or downgraded into a symbolic presence.

The Islamic Republic has also stopped raising new fighting units of Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries. . . . At the same time, Tehran has taken no new hostages and even released three, including an American. In his meeting in Zurich with Brian Hook, Trump’s point-man on Iran, the Iranian foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif relayed the message that Tehran was prepared for further releases.

The daily Kayhan, believed to reflect Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s views, claimed last Tuesday that, in a letter transmitted through the Swiss ambassador, Tehran had “indicated agreement” to return to a de-facto recognition of “the Zionist regime,” disarming of the Lebanese branch of Hizballah, and ending support for Hamas.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Iranian nuclear program, U.S. Foreign policy

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount