Iran and Russia May Have Won the War in Syria, but the U.S. Can Still Prevent Them from Winning the Peace

March 1 2019

The U.S. and its allies have defeated Islamic State in Syria, and the Damascus-Moscow-Tehran axis has recaptured much of the country from rebel forces. But the Syrian economy has been devastated, and much of the infrastructure has been physically destroyed. Bashar al-Assad’s need for financial assistance in rebuilding gives Washington important leverage, argues Jomana Qaddour:

Despite the allure of lucrative new projects in a financially stagnant region, investors are not biting—not even Assad’s closest allies. Iran has signed several memorandums of understanding with Damascus on issues such as combating money-laundering and encouraging joint investment, but these agreements are more symbolic than financially significant. The uptick in sanctions since Washington withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last year have limited the Islamic Republic’s spending power in Syria. . . .

Another ally, Moscow, has publicly insisted on being the primary broker of reconstruction after spending around $1.2 billion per year on military operations in Syria, according to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti. Yet the Kremlin faces its own financial challenges and cannot afford to subsidize such large-scale redevelopment. Instead, Russian firms have signed numerous contracts focused on extracting Syria’s resources. . . .

By contrast, EU member states have insisted that they will not commit reconstruction funds to Syria without tangible political progress. Indeed, they have gone further than the United States in sanctioning many of the corrupt Syrian businessmen on whom the regime is counting to secure foreign funding. . . . The prospect of securing funds from international financial institutions is currently unrealistic as well. . . .

To make progress, then, Washington should not only leverage reconstruction dollars, but also increase Assad’s budgetary costs—for example, keeping oil and gas beyond his reach, which would create an acute necessity to make concessions. By bringing regional allies on board and further pressuring the regime, the United States may yet be able to achieve some of its objectives in Syria.

Qaddour urges the U.S. to demand, inter alia, the release of political prisoners and American hostages, as well as national elections.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Iran, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

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Read more at Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media