America’s Disingenuous Criticism of Its Middle Eastern Allies

April 1 2022

Earlier this month, the State Department declared that it was “profoundly disappointed and troubled” by the United Arab Emirates’ decision to invite the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad—Iran’s closest ally—for an official visit. Shortly thereafter, when Qatar hosted Iranian military officers at an arms exhibition, the State Department again announced that it was “deeply disappointed and troubled.” Michael Doran argues that such condemnations would be deserved, if Washington weren’t guilty of even worse:

If it had been sincere, then the Biden administration would be deeply or even profoundly disappointed and troubled by its own behavior, starting with its reported willingness to consider removing [Iran’s] Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. “We are very concerned about the United States’ intention to give in to Iran’s outrageous demand and remove the IRGC from the list of terrorist organizations,” the Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said at a recent cabinet meeting.

Bennett had good reason to be outraged, but the willingness to consider de-listing the IRGC is not the main reason why. The Israelis are witnessing a region-wide shift in the balance of power in favor of Iran—a shift of which the Emirati and Qatari embrace of Iran and Syria is part. The cause of the shift is the decision of the Biden administration to return to the Iran nuclear deal. Not only does the deal put an international stamp of approval on Iran’s military nuclear program, but it also channels tens of billions of dollars to Iran’s coffers in the short term, hundreds of billions over the next decade. The IRGC’s power will increase exponentially, and the Assad regime will benefit substantially from its success.

As if to drive the point home, the American military has remained largely supine over the last year as Iran has repeatedly used its proxies or its own forces to subject Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, and Iraq to attacks from drones and ballistic missiles. On at least one occasion, an Iranian-backed group in Iraq conducted a direct attack on American forces—in al-Tanf, Syria. These provocations neither triggered a meaningful American military countermeasure nor prompted the White House to consider breaking off the negotiations in Vienna.

Consequently, the deterrent power of the United States eroded significantly. . . . If the White House truly expects the allies to take a harder line, it must start by taking a harder line itself.

Read more at Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East

More about: Iran, Middle East, Naftali Bennett, U.S. Foreign policy, United Arab Emirates


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy