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The Iran Deal’s Destructive Legacy for U.S.-Russia Relations

March 1 2018

Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s former foreign-policy guru, recently announced that he—along with other former Obama-administration officials and former Hillary Clinton staffers—is starting an organization to campaign against candidates for office whose national-security platforms they disagree with. No doubt, writes Noah Rothman, it will attack the Trump administration for its conduct toward Moscow. But Rhodes and his colleagues have a credibility problem:

The challenges the West now faces from Moscow are directly attributable to the last administration’s Iran policy. [It] entered office determined to shift the balance of power in the Middle East toward Tehran to achieve a variety of utilitarian ends. Such a shift would allow the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq secure in the belief that Baghdad’s security, if not autonomy, would be preserved within a Shiite-dominated sphere of influence. A nuclear accord would also stave off the prospect of conflict with Iran over its burgeoning atomic-weapons program for the time President Obama was in the White House. Those objectives informed policy toward Moscow—one of Iran’s most influential allies.

Absent Russian diplomatic and material cooperation, there would have been no Iran deal. Thus, no concession for Moscow was too much. The desire to preserve the prospects of an Iran deal led the administration to pursue a cloying “reset” with Russia just months after its invasion and dismemberment of neighboring Georgia. It compelled Barack Obama to withdraw his self-set “red line” for action against Syria, another Russian ally. . . .

The administration’s dreams of détente with Iran compelled John Kerry’s State Department to elevate Moscow to the role of chief power broker in the region, facilitating Russia’s diplomatic offensives elsewhere in the Middle East. . . . The crisis in Syria, where Americans and Russians are [now] coming into dangerous proximity, was inflamed by Iran as Democrats did their best to look the other way. . . . In concert with their Russian allies, Iran and its proxy Hizballah have been implicated in grotesque crimes against humanity. The whole time, Russia and Iran coordinated their actions in Syria openly. The Kremlin has, for example, played host to General Qassem Soleimani, a sanctioned Iranian figure believed to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. military personnel in Iraq. . . .

[T]he claim [Rhodes’s] organization will peddle—that the United States has done nothing to correct for the Obama administration’s craven leniency toward Iran and Russia—is contemptible. That absurd claim is likely a byproduct of the Democratic foreign-policy establishment’s justified insecurity over its dubious record.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iran nuclear program, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

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