Lebanon Needs U.S. Leadership, Rather Than French Appeasement

Following the blast that devastated a Beirut neighborhood, leaving scores dead, France’s President Emmanuel Macron visited the city, and has since spearheaded an effort to raise funds from other countries to provide humanitarian aid. Macron has also stepped into the ensuing political crisis—the country’s prime minister and cabinet, widely blamed for the disaster, have resigned—by trying to encourage the formation of a unity government. Such measures, argues Hanin Ghaddar, will at best prove to be futile, if not downright counterproductive:

First, the Beirut port explosion was not a natural disaster, and should not be treated as such. Therefore, as much as humanitarian aid is vital to help the Lebanese stand back on their feet, accountability is much more significant in the long term, and this is exactly what Lebanese protesters in the streets are calling for. Second, the Lebanese people no longer trust their government, whose incompetence was one of the possible causes of the explosion. Therefore, assistance should not by any means go through government institutions or political organizations and charities.

If Lebanon’s government is asking for international assistance, then it should accept an international investigation. . . . The Lebanese president Michel Aoun has already refused this suggestion, as expected. Not only could an international investigative team hold many in the political establishment accountable, but it could also reveal Hizballah’s control, presence, and storage facilities at the city’s port—even if the group had nothing to do with the 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate stockpiled at the port, . . . where [it] had temporarily stored its missiles since approximately 2008.

The Trump administration should take advantage of this situation. Washington has lately been focused on applying maximum pressure on Iran; therefore, it would make sense to recognize that the horror and tragedy of the Beirut blast presents an opportunity to trim the sails of Iran’s most effective regional proxy, Hizballah.

There are many hard-power reasons for Washington to get more deeply involved in Lebanon right now: to burnish its regional leadership credentials, to beat the Chinese and Russians to it, and to ensure supply lines into Syria. But taking advantage of the moment to give the Lebanese a chance to create a new political system in which Hizballah is cut down to size is certainly high on the list.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Emmanuel Macron, Hizballah, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy

 

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy