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The U.S. Can Still Act in Syria Before It’s Too Late

March 14 2018

As of tomorrow, the civil war in Syria will have lasted for seven years, with no end in sight. James Stavridis, a retired American admiral and the former supreme commander of NATO, explains why and how the U.S. can help end the war while protecting its interests against Iran and Russia:

The small contingent of U.S. troops present in eastern Syria only marginally stabilizes territory liberated from Islamic State (IS) while preventing Iranian and Syrian government forces from seizing the region. The Trump administration has ended the CIA’s arm-and-equip program for the Syrian moderate opposition, a program that was created under President Obama [and] was never sustainable or substantial. In effect, the U.S. has allowed whatever leverage it had on the ground to atrophy significantly.

This is a mistake. . . . It cedes the region to Russia and Iran; puts at risk our closest ally in the region, Israel; discourages our friends in the Sunni world (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states); and continues the drift of Turkey out of the trans-Atlantic sphere, weakening NATO significantly. After Bashar al-Assad, the big winner of the civil war is Vladimir Putin, who has gained greater power at minimal actual cost. Because he has employed proxies, there have been few Russian casualties. The Russian public sees Putin as a strong global actor who gets things done. Meanwhile, they see the U.S. as weak and distracted by its daily domestic drama. We must get into the game or risk being permanently marginalized in a crucial region of the world. . . .

First, [the] U.S. must work with the international community to find an effective means of getting resources [and humanitarian aid] to the region. . . . Second: repair relations with Turkey. In the end, U.S. policy in Syria rests on the U.S. and Turkey working together. . . . While the campaign against IS proved successful, it is not sustainable to stabilize former IS-held areas with a Kurdish ground force that is not credible to Syrian Arabs and is vehemently opposed by a NATO ally. . . .

Third, [the U.S. should] threaten additional, immediate sanctions of Russia. Putin is directly responsible for the Syrian government’s actions. Options at the UN have been exhausted. . . .

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More about: Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, 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