Trump Against Iran

The image of an oil tanker burning in the Gulf of Oman is a stern warning of the potential for war in the Middle East, as tensions continue to rise between the UnitedS States and Iran.

While few want a confrontation, those that do — including elements in the administration of Donald Trump, and significant parts of the leaderships in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel, as well as some Iranian hardliners — are well-positioned to make one happen.

After the US rushed to blame Iran for the latest attacks on tankers in the Gulf, the European Union issued a statement calling for “maximum restraint” from all parties.

The phrase was a deliberate jab at Washington and its “maximum pressure” strategy with Iran, a failing policy with potentially grave consequences.

Whether or not Iran was behind these attacks, as well as the previous acts of sabotage in May, Europe is striking the right tone in pressing for calm to avoid a third Gulf war. Read more at The Battleground

What To Do In Syria

There are no good options left in Syria. The recent chemical attack in Douma and the response by the United States, United Kingdom, and France to that attack highlighted this point. The attack by the three Western powers raised many questions. In the United States, we are rightly debating the legality of the use of force in Syria without congressional approval. We are also debating the goals of such action, both what they are and what they should be. Read more at LobeLog

Avoiding Another Mistake In Lebanon

No one has ever complained that the United States doesn’t pay enough attention to the Middle East. In recent years, however, one country that hasn’t gotten much attention in Washington is Lebanon. But on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee’s Sub Committee On Near East, South, and Central Asian Affairs and Counterterrorism held a hearing on Lebanon. The hearing focused on US aid to Lebanon, and whether the outsized presence of Hezbollah in the Lebanese government meant that aid should be cut.

Elliott Abrams, a leading neoconservative ideologue and senior fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations, spoke in favor of reducing aid to Lebanon. Rob Malley, president of the International Crisis Group and former lead diplomat in the Clinton and Obama administrations, spoke against such measures. Read more at LobeLog

Regime Change in Iran By Other Means

While the Iran nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) is far from safe from attacks by Donald Trump, it is becoming clear that a Plan B is being put in motion. The United States is clearly a part of it, but this time Saudi Arabia is driving the agenda.

The events of the past week – the sudden resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the massive purge of key political, security, and business figures in Saudi Arabia, a missile heading toward Riyadh from Yemen which the Saudis called an act of war – are all part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MbS) drive to consolidate power. His radical grab, which started in the spring, has dramatically altered the nature of Saudi politics, alienating many in the ruling family, breaking with established norms of quietly dealing with political rivalries within that family, and removing a system of checks on autocratic power that, though weak, were not meaningless.

It is impossible to know how all of this will end, but here are some initial thoughts: Read more at LobeLog

Trump’s Policy On Iran…Or Total Absence Thereof

Donald Trump’s long-awaited strategy on Iran is here. It should surprise no one that it is nothing but an empty vessel.

There is no strategy in it. There is no policy in it. And yet, it is proudly presented as “the culmination of nine months of deliberation with Congress and our allies on how to best protect American security.” If this represents nine months of work, it really shows just how much time Trump spends on the golf course.

Even by Trump’s very low standards, this is an insult to his audience. The paper is just a screed, a rehashing of accusations and grievances that we’ve heard before, not only from Trump, but also from other figures, including his predecessors.

Here are the “Core Elements of the President’s New Iran Strategy:” Continue reading

Israel and Russia: A Crisis Brews for Trump

On March 16, Israeli planes struck several targets in Syria. Israel said that it had targeted shipments of “advanced weapons” meant for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

These strikes occur from time to time, and there is usually little but fist-waving and statements from Syria in response. This time was different. Assad’s forces launched several missiles at the Israeli jets, none of which found their mark. More importantly, the next day, the new Israeli Ambassador to Russia was summoned by the Russian government for clarification of the incident. Read more at LobeLog

Netanyahu Hits New Low In His Campaign Of Fear

I just got this tweet from Benjamin Netanyahu’s Twitter account:
שוב נחשף אופיו האמיתי של המחנה האנטי-ציוני בראשות בוז’י וציפי. כאשר ח”כ עתידי ברשימת “העבודה” משבח סוכן של חיזבאללה – מה יש עוד 6915863535_dbfef3f7f4_zלהוסיף?
It says: “Again, the true face of the ‘anti-Zionist’ camp headed by Buji (Herzog) and Tzipi (Livni) is revealed. When a future member of the Knesset from the Labor list praises a Hezbollah agent, what more is there to say?”

I submit, these are the ravings of a lunatic mind.

Bibi is referring to testimony given by Zuhair Bahloul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who is #17 on the joint Labor/Ha’Tnuah list, dubbed “The Zionist Camp.” Bahloul is a well-known figure in Israel, a soccer and basketball broadcaster for Israel’s Channel 1. He is also known for his efforts in bringing Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel together to promote co-existence and equality, which has generally been the sum total of his political activity.

In this case, Bahloul was testifying on behalf of the family of a man who was convicted of aiding a Hezbollah plot to attack Shimon Peres in Turkey. The man, Milad Khatib, accepted a plea bargain and is serving a seven-year sentence. Bahloul’s testimony was offered in defense of Khatib’s family, not Milad himself. (It’s worth noting that such scrutiny is not generally focused on families of Jewish radicals, even the ones sometimes labelled “terrorists” after so-called “price tag” attacks). 
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