By Displaying Weakness, the U.S. Undermines Its Negotiating Position with Iran

In May, two Iranian naval ships rounded the Cape of Good Hope and entered the southern Atlantic, likely heading toward Venezuela or Cuba—the Islamic Republic’s key allies in the Western hemisphere. As one of the vessels appears to be carrying military craft, and there is reason to suspect they carry other armaments as well, Washington has warned the two Latin American countries not to allow the ships to dock. Emanuele Ottolenghi explains what’s at stake:

Because it thinks Washington will not push back, Iran is trying to provoke the United States in its own backyard, even at a time when the two sides appear close to a deal in Vienna to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord. . . . The Biden administration has done everything in its power to make Iran think the U.S. is in retreat. It has done so in the hope of mollifying Iran and persuading it to negotiate. . . . And so the new administration has dusted off the old policy playbook from the Obama administration.

Within weeks of taking office, the president authorized the unfreezing of billions of dollars of Iranian oil money that sanctions had blocked in Iraq and South Korea. This move eased the financial squeeze Iran was feeling—its oil sales in 2020 had all but collapsed—and gave it breathing space even before it made any concessions.

The Biden administration [likewise] chose to react to multiple Iranian attacks through Iraqi proxy militias by first downplaying Iran’s role and then by launching only a limited symbolic strike in Syria in response. U.S. diplomats have also declined to press Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog in charge of policing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [to which Tehran is a signatory], despite piling evidence of multiple instances of suspicious, unexplained, and troubling nuclear activity.

But while Washington thinks that the key to détente with Tehran is constraint and concessions, these actions indicate weakness in Tehran’s eyes. A military convoy dispatched to the U.S. backyard is more than a test of seafaring capacity. It is a statement. Iran is provoking the U.S. because it can.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran, Latin America, U.S. Foreign policy

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf