The U.S. Says It Wants to Stand Up to Russia, While Trusting It in Negotiations with Iran

Aug. 19 2022

Just yesterday, CNBC reported that the revival of the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic “appears closer than ever.” Since the Iranian negotiators have refused to meet directly with their American counterparts, Russia—one of seven parties to the deal—has played a key role as an intermediary. Emanuele Ottolenghi details the close economic, diplomatic, and military relations between Moscow and Tehran, which have been evident since at least 2012, and have only been growing stronger. In fact, the two countries’ presidents met in person twice this year. Ottolenghi writes:

The problem for the Biden administration is that, for more than eighteen months now, it has expressed unwavering faith in the power of multilateral diplomacy, which includes the Russians, to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The White House is negotiating with Russia and Iran as if there were no war in Ukraine; no Russian criminal negligence regarding nuclear safety in Ukraine’s occupied areas; no Russian nuclear saber-rattling against the West; and no ongoing, documented violations by Iran [of the 2015 deal]—to say nothing of a Kremlin with zero credibility in upholding any agreement it signs. Yet when it comes to questions of nuclear war or peace, Putin is suddenly a trustworthy partner.

Washington needs to confront the deepening relationship between two paranoid dictatorships for what it is: an emerging coalition of totalitarian rogue states, backed by China, which is hellbent on reshaping the world and overturning the Western democratic rules-based order. This order, imperfect though it is, promotes human rights, democracy, free trade, open societies, and good governance. It rejects the use of force for conquest, and believes in the power of diplomacy, goodwill, and good faith cooperation between nations. This is the order that Iran and Russia, whether or not the White House considers them good-faith diplomatic partners, wish to subvert.

As far as strategic convergence goes, look no further than the respective Russian and Iranian echo chambers and the content of their disinformation ops, which are so aligned that their stated policies toward the United States have become virtually indistinguishable.

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

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy