Princeton’s Failed Iran Policy

In the past few weeks, Mosaic, like many other publications, has paid a lot of attention to the universities: their abandonment of their educational mission, their pusillanimity in the face of violent and disruptive anti-Israel protests, their penchant for radical indoctrination, and their increasingly hostile environments for Jewish students. Princeton’s efforts to form relations with the Iranian government, and its callousness toward two students taken hostage by Iranian agents, may be even worse. Jay Solomon writes:

Princeton entered the Iran debate in a significant way in 2009, when it agreed to host Hossein Mousavian, a top regime diplomat and former nuclear negotiator, in New Jersey. Mousavian fled Tehran that year after being charged with espionage. . . . Mousavian was no dissident, though, and used his perch at Princeton to advocate Iran’s positions on its nuclear program and other key national-security issues. . . . Many of Mousavian’s dictums on the nuclear file would be adopted by the Iranian government.

The Princeton scholar was a prolific producer of opinion pieces and commentary during this period who liaised, at times, with Iranian diplomats, including Mostafa Zahrani and then-Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, to promote their messaging and engagements in the West.

In other words, Princeton had given a cushy and prestigious appointment to a de-facto propagandist for a government that had, in the previous decade, killed hundreds of U.S. servicemen and thousands of Iraqis, and was just getting started on racking up a much larger butcher’s bill in Syria. But it got worse, following the creation of a center for Iran and Persian Gulf studies in 2012:

Princeton’s student-exchange program first took off in 2014, when a prominent Iranian American scholar and future Biden administration official, Ariane Tabatabai, connected the Iran center’s then-associate director to Mostafa Zahrani, a senior Iranian foreign-ministry diplomat with strong ties to his country’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). . . . The follow-up took time, but by early 2015, Princeton welcomed its first candidate for the Iran program: a Chinese-American graduate student named Wang Xiyue.

The center’s associate director and other Princeton officials assured Wang that his worries about his safety were misplaced, and off he went to Iran. Seven months later he was arrested and held hostage for three years in the notorious Evin prison.

Following his arrest in August 2016, these connections to Tehran proved of little use. . . . The university advised Wang’s wife to stay quiet and not publicly criticize the Iranian government, he says. And Mousavian told Princeton’s leadership that his outreach to Zahrani, Zarif, and other Iranian officials would be counterproductive for Wang, given the Princeton scholar’s own sparring with Tehran’s security state. [One of Wang’s academic advisers, Mona] Rahmani, meanwhile, also declined to lobby the regime.

Now another Princeton graduate student, Elizabeth Tsurkov, is being held hostage by an Iranian proxy in Iraq, and the university has been no more helpful.

The center’s scholarship should also raise some eyebrows. Take, for instance, its director, who, according to Solomon, “has been outspoken while at Princeton in highlighting what he views as some of the Islamic Revolution’s accomplishments, including the empowerment of women.”

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran, U.S. Foreign policy, University


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict