Why Neither Sticks nor Carrots Are Effective against the Iranian Theocracy

During his presidency, George H.W. Bush stated that his relations with the Islamic Republic would be governed by the principle of “goodwill begets goodwill,” one that he sought to employ in backchannel negotiations for the release of American hostages. Similar policies were pursued by his successors from both parties, all to no avail. Amir Taheri explains why:

If you help the Islamic Republic improve its economy, the bulk of the proceeds will go to strengthening the apparatus of repression, with the people receiving mere crumbs to keep their mouths shut. At the same time, regime propaganda will spread the tale that it was thanks to its “revolutionary ardor” that the evil foreigners had to offer a few concessions. The “arrogant powers” were retreating under the blows of the new rising power of Islam destined to conquer the whole world.

Worse still, regime propaganda would claim that what the “evil foreigner” was offering presented only a fraction of what he had stolen from the Islamic Republic and that greater struggle against the enemy would force him to offer even more concessions.

Well, if offering help is useless what about doing harm as a means of changing the situation? That, too, wouldn’t work.

Pinprick attacks are easily ducked and any damage they might do is directed away from the regime toward the people. After all, the eight-year war with Iraq didn’t shake the regime but claimed over a million lives, wrecked four Iranian provinces, and produced 3.5 million displaced persons. In April 1988, the U.S. Navy sank the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps navy after an eighteen-hour sea battle in which the latter played sitting ducks. But that didn’t prevent the regime from claiming it had won the greatest naval victory in Iran’s history and driven the Americans out of “sacred Islamic waters.”

Read more at Asharq Al-Awsat

More about: George H. W. Bush, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy