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Inaction in Syria Hurts U.S. Interests

Feb. 28 2018

Bashar al-Assad’s army, together with its Iranian and Russian allies, has for several days subjected Eastern Ghouta—a rebel-held area outside Damascus that contains about 400,000 people—to intensive and indiscriminate bombardment. As has been the case repeatedly over the past few years, the Moscow-backed ceasefires and “humanitarian pauses” have done little to ease the suffering of Ghouta’s civilians. By relying mainly on diplomacy alone, argues Jennifer Cafarella, Washington is undermining its national interests.

The U.S. has repeatedly hoped in vain that diplomacy will stop or contain the slaughter. . . . Assad, [however], has hijacked this diplomatic approach, and the U.S. and United Nations have become complicit in the use of starvation as a weapon of war. Aid organizations route their deliveries through the Assad regime, which continues to block deliveries or redirect supplies to regime clients. The effect has been to give Assad’s sieges diplomatic cover. . . .

[This] diplomatic approach undermines other strategic interests. A successful “freeze” of the Syrian conflict, even if it occurred, would leave in place Iranian forces and Iran’s proxies, including Hizballah. It would prevent future military operations against al-Qaeda, which is embedded in opposition-held areas. These outcomes have already occurred on local levels in southern Syria, where Iran’s proxies and al-Qaeda are entrenched beneath the cover of the U.S.-backed “de-escalation” zone. . . .

American diplomats dealing with the Syrian crisis lack the leverage and credibility necessary to conduct effective diplomacy. The U.S. has used few other tools of national power to support them and has refused to contemplate using military force beyond self-defense, [as it did after the attack on American-backed forces two weeks ago], or tactical retaliation for the use of chemical weapons. Assad will continue to pursue all-out military victory as long the U.S. remains thus on the sidelines, and all diplomatic efforts except surrender will fail.

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More about: Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations