Most Americans are unaware of the phrase “War Between the Wars.” It describes Israel’s low-grade war with Iran, Hezbollah and Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria to stop Iran from transforming “Syria and Iraq into missile-launching pads,” as it has in Lebanon. The goal is to prevent a permanent Iranian presence on Israel’s doorstep with advanced weaponry that could tip the scales against Israel’s qualitative military edge.
The 24/7 coverage of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has neglected to focus on four key points that will have lasting consequences and need to be addressed.
The first is the arsenal of weapons left behind for the Taliban and other jihadist organizations by America’s hasty exit and the disintegration of the Afghan armed forces.
The second is the underreported danger from releasing five thousand “high-value” al-Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban terrorists into the hands of the Taliban from Bagram prison.
The third is America’s mistaken notion that American itself can decide to end its forever wars on terror simply by leaving Afghanistan. They should ask the Israelis how well unilateral disengagements worked for them in Gaza and Lebanon.
Finally, is the need to recognize how compromised American intelligence will be going forward to prevent another major terror attack. There will be no human intelligence or any ally left in Afghanistan going forward.
Not only have we given the terrorists another failed state to plan regional and international attacks, but we have armed them too. According to an article in Forbes magazine, the US left behind a massive treasure trove of weapons that could sustain not just a terrorist force but even a real army for a decade.
“America left behind 75,000 war vehicles… Humvees, mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles and armored personnel carriers… 1,000 mine-resistant vehicles cost up to $767,000 each – 208 airplanes and helicopters, including 20 A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft. The A-29’s cost $21.3 million each. Black Hawk helicopters… costing up to $21m. Six hundred thousand rifles, machine guns…25,000 grenade launchers and 2,500 howitzers – the modern-day canon.”
The war on terror is not over just because President Biden says it is. According to Matthew Continetti, writing in the National Review, “Afghanistan is just one front in a global conflict that the United States did not initiate and cannot wish away… When participants in the worldwide Salafist-jihadist movement look at the developments of the last week, they don’t see reasons to quit their mayhem. They see the chaos, panic, violence, disorder and American retreat as a vindication of their ideology and a spur to further action.”
With the American withdrawal, American intelligence is blind, lacking HUMINT, human intelligence, a key component of effective prevention against terrorist attacks. The newly created Afghan terror sanctuary will challenge our analysts to get ahead of any new terror threats emanating from the region.
Unless you are an isolationist, American security interests extend worldwide. Our careful surveillance has prevented attacks on our friends and homeland for the last 20 years, something underappreciated, as preventing attacks receives much less news coverage than successful terror attacks.
Today’s al-Qaeda, Islamic State and every jihadist non-state terror variant are all transnational groups who have mastered social media for recruitment and planning. They will move wherever states fail, to plot their next attack. All these Islamist groups hate the US and want to bring medieval Islamic rule in one form or another everywhere.
International terrorist organizations will continue to probe and poke at the lion to see just how far they can go. The terrorists are counting on the lack of America reacting to attacks on regional allies like India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Israel is the only player in the region that acts effectively and repeatedly against jihadists, whether in Syria, Iran or Lebanon. When Israel strikes Islamists, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, Hamas or Hezbollah, the moderate Sunni states quietly cheer.
The administration needs to learn quickly that jihadists are now empowered to act against what they perceive to be a weak American President who talks but won’t act against terrorism. His choice not to respond to Iran’s recent confirmed terror attacks in international waters has only reinforced their case.
In his press conferences, Joe Biden has doubled down that America has no national security interest in remaining in Afghanistan. But Islamists, whether of the Sunni or Shi’ite variety, will have the last say. They have been reenergized and given a significant morale boost knowing America is in retreat and won’t act in response. Terrorism is alive and well throughout the Middle East.
Is President Biden up to the task?
Tevi Troy points out in a Wall Street Journal article, that President Biden seems to have surrounded himself with yes men. If Troy is correct, his remedy is for Biden to act like JFK after the Bay of Pigs disaster to create a mechanism within his policy teams that encourages dissenting opinions.
Biden needs to listen, because his instincts on foreign policy have been more wrong than right despite decades on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Even back in 1992, according to The New York Times, Senator Joe Biden wanted to outsource American security to the United Nations. The United States should pursue “the next big advance in civilization… collective power through the United Nations.” You can imagine how that would have worked out.
It is challenging for any president to realize that there have been profound mistakes. The great ones like Abraham Lincoln had humility and were open to new ideas, even if they were not popular. That is what a President is supposed to do. His predecessor was rightly criticized for not listening to his advisers or contrary opinions. Will Biden continue to make the same mistake?
What a difference a month makes. In July, Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, met with his military, security and intelligence advisers to plan for his Aug. 26 summit with President Biden. Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid were considering a less confrontational approach than the previous Israeli administration, trying to work more closely with the United States regarding Iran’s aggression while not raising the ire of the Biden administration about Israel’s actions in the West Bank. National security advisers from both countries also met to lay the groundwork for the summit.
Now, the Biden administration is dealing with the repercussions to America’s reputation from its Afghanistan withdrawal, and allies including Israel are uncertain about trusting U.S. assurances going forward.
I had already started writing this article when I stumbled upon an article in The Atlantic, “The Week the Left Stopped Caring About Human Rights. It’s remarkable how quickly liberals abandoned the women of Afghanistan.” The initial impetus was U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks earlier this year when he said the “administration will stand against human-rights abuses wherever they occur, regardless of whether the perpetrators are adversaries or partners.”
It needs to be pointed out that The Atlantic is not some right-wing outlet but is a leading light for the Democrat Party. So kudos to them for publishing this article.
“Get the hell out has … been the liberal position for two decades, until about 72 hours ago, when Democrats suddenly became so concerned about the fate of Afghanistan. … You can call for American troop withdrawal for 20 years. … But you need to be ready to take it on the chin when you get what you ask for, and the inevitable happens: girls being forced into child marriage and forbidden to go to school or to leave the house without a male relative. Is your conscience prickling. … It’s remarkable how quickly the left took up the cold calculus of realpolitik. How quickly it forgot its love for Malala, the young Pakistani girl who survived a Taliban bullet to the head, her only crime getting an education and trying to help other girls get one too. The White House must have known she’d give Biden a bad news cycle or two, and indeed, she appealed to the president to take ‘a bold step’ to stave off disaster.”
Anyone who has paid attention to Afghanistan over the last 20 years knows that the Taliban are horrific abusers of women, minorities and anyone else who stands in their way. They also knew that millions of those people’s lives were profoundly changed for the better after the Taliban were supposedly defeated by the United States 20 years ago.
Yet the leading proponents of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan were liberals and progressives, including supposed interventionists like Joe Biden.
Republican isolationists like Rand Paul also represent a minority viewpoint to end all American entanglements, caring little for the well-being of anyone beyond American borders. I wish my fellow ophthalmologist had a bit of compassion for the other and realized that history proves more times than not that American withdrawals lead to harmful consequences at home as well as abroad. America’s retreat after World War I was one of the reasons for World War II and the rise of fascism.
But liberal Democrats, unlike many non-isolationist Republicans, have championed the complete American withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan while paying lip service condemning human-rights abuses. They didn’t want to have any more skin in the game but still wanted to virtue signal their fight against misogyny and genocide.
Biden’s old boss also talked the talk on human rights but often didn’t walk the walk. One example was when his Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power revealed in her 2019 memoir that she defied his orders and blocked Russia from joining the U.N. human rights council. Power, who made a name for herself with her book on genocide, couldn’t stomach voting for a regime that directly helped Syria’s genocidal dictator Bashar Assad.
So let’s be honest: Biden helped cause a human-rights disaster in Afghanistan, weakened America’s ability to prevent the next 9/11 and feels little regret about the move. As a candidate in 2020, when asked whether the United States had a responsibility to Afghan women and girls in light of a possible Taliban takeover, he said: “No, I don’t!” So much for his trumpeted empathy. The emperor has no clothes and makes no bones about it.
As Peter Baker of The New York Times wrote: “The president who won the White House on a promise of competence and compassion has had trouble demonstrating much of either … seemingly more intent on washing his hands of Afghanistan than expressing concern over the humanitarian tragedy unfolding on the ground.”
This brings us to Biden’s next Middle East foreign-policy decision, involving human rights and realpolitik. The decision to appease Iranian misogynists, terrorists and human-rights abuses with enough cash so they will want to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal.
Biden is still gung-ho and happy to engage the revolutionary anti-Western despots in Iran, despite ignoring that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has nominated former Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi to become Iran’s next interior minister. Vahidi has an outstanding warrant for his arrest by Interpol for his role in bombing the AMIA Jewish Center in Argentina in 1994. Not a peep of condemnation from the administration, yet they rightly condemned former President Donald Trump for engaging with the Taliban two years ago in its negotiations in Doha.
The Iranian apologists from pro-peace organizations remain mute on calling out the actual war crimes committed by Iranians. There has been no public censure from the administration about Iran’s new president—a man responsible for the deaths of thousands. Not even a call to demand that a killer president elected in a rigged election be denied a visa to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Raisi’s previous position was as the head of Iran’s judiciary; it’s not every day that do you see a war criminal as a nation’s chief justice.
Yet Biden was willing to meet with Raisi, which would have offered a form of legitimization. Raisi saved Biden when he refused to meet with him. According to White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, “The president’s view … is that the decision leader is the Supreme Leader.” Memo to the White House: Khamenei oversees the apparatus that tortures, imprisons and kills gays, journalists, minorities and opposition members.
As for Afghanistan, Michael O’Hanlon, writing for the Brookings Institute, said: “The decision to leave when we had a reasonably stable if indefinite presence of only 3,000 or so U.S. troops was a poor strategic calculation. … The uncertain status of so many friends of the United States who are still stuck in Afghanistan brings a poignant human-rights dimension to the miscalculation as well.”
America cannot intervene in every humanitarian crisis, but this was one of our making, and we should be ashamed of how we left.
An earthquake has hit the Israeli political scene. Its longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, now leads the opposition after 12 years. For an America that counts on a strong and stable Israel as part of its core security interests, this profound change in Israeli politics is a moment of both potential and vulnerability.
Walter Meed Russell, writing in The Wall Street Journal, sees the glass of America’s 20-year presence in the Middle East as half full. He believes we bolstered our interests, if not advancing democracy abroad. One of the most important accomplishments that we take for granted is that our presence has prevented any “major new international terrorist attacks” on American soil over the last two decades. In addition, he points out the unprecedented accomplishment of the Abraham Accords where today “neighboring Arab states now consider Israel an ally to be cultivated” instead of a pariah to be annihilated.
But are these gains sustainable without a continued American presence in the region? What will be the consequences without an American security blanket?
The American withdrawal from the region, promised by US presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, now has a September target date in Afghanistan. In Iraq and Syria, the US presence is also on life support. The long-anticipated departure from the Middle East will end a fragile status quo for all the players in the region.
The Sunni states, which have counted on the US as a final level of defense, are in uncharted territory. America is not only leaving the region but as a parting gift is returning to the Iran nuclear agreement, which will provide Iran with tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief. The Sunni states know this will encourage Iran to test the waters of how far it can push its influence before it suffers any repercussions. Consequently, all of the region’s nation-states are recalibrating their strategies and contemplating new alliances for their survival, even with their current enemy Iran.
So when Saudi Intelligence Chief Khalid al-Humaidan secretly met with Saeed Iravani, Iran’s deputy secretary of its Supreme National Security Council, it represented a possible tipping point between the Islamic world’s bitterest of rivals as a direct result of America’s retreat from the region. Kirsten Fontenrose of the Atlantic Council offered a positive spin, advancing the possibility of an Ishmael Track (Sunni-Shi’ite) between the bitter rivals to pursue détente. Pushing America’s longtime Saudi ally into the arms of the region’s most dangerous actor only serves Russian, Chinese and Iranian interests.
The most dangerous consequence of the American turn from the region will be the nuclear arms race left in its wake. The Sunni world will play catch-up, knowing they or anyone else cannot count on UN nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency who are not permitted to visit clandestine Iranian nuclear sites, the very places weaponization is likely to occur. If Iran continues to enrich uranium, develops more precise ballistic and cruise missiles and achieves the compartmentalization of a nuclear warhead, a nuclear Middle East is inevitable. The Saudis, Egyptians and the Emiratis will join the race for their own nuclear bomb as a counterweight to Iran’s adventurism and intimidation. The Saudis have already contracted with Pakistan for nuclear technology and possibly a completed weapon.
So what happens when the US leaves the Middle East? Here are 10 possible outcomes that American politicians, the military and intelligence services will have to grapple with in the coming years.
1. Islamist terrorism will find both new and old havens from which to plot mayhem against the US and Israel. 2. Iran will increase its military activity at the region’s two strategic choke-hold points at the Straits of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb, threatening international shipping lanes. 3. With America’s retreat, allies worldwide will know that American security commitments can be expected to have expiration dates. 4. Iran, Russia and China will be the new superpowers of the Middle East. 5. Israel will be more isolated if Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states move toward Iran out of desperation. Still, Israel hopes they decide to continue normalization (Abraham Accords), seeing them as the better choice of ally. 6. Iran will feel less inhibited in risk-taking, knowing the US will not want to challenge the Islamic regime, lest it withdraw from the nuclear agreement. 7. Iran will set its sights on Jordan, the next domino to fall, after Iraq and Lebanon, under Iranian influence. 8. The Taliban will retake Afghanistan, making all the gains achieved for women and minorities disappear instantly. 9. The chance for regional conflicts will grow. 10. Nuclear proliferation will arrive sooner or later in the Sunni world, to nobody’s benefit.
Are any of these outcomes in America’s national security interest? Will America be forced to return to the region as it did after Obama’s hasty retreat from Iraq in 2011, but under less favorable conditions? As former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren told Yaroslav Trofimov of the Journal in October 2019, “If you think the United States as a global power can pull out of the Middle East and not endanger itself, you are deluding yourselves.”
Previously published in the Jerusalem Report. Written with Sarit Zehavi.
Does the US fully understand Iran’s grand designs for the Middle East?
The Iranian regime presents its long-term strategic plan to export the Islamic revolution as a religious duty. Establishing civilian communities and loyal fighters in surrounding lands to further its sphere of influence and exert control is an integral part of their plan.
The goal is to make these tribal communities financially dependent on the Islamic Republic while proselytizing Shi’ism and increasing the respect for their brand of Shi’ism in these vulnerable populations. Israel watched this strategy play out in Lebanon and is now seeing it implemented in Syria and Iraq.
In 2018, after Syria’s President Bashir Assad regained control of southern Syria with Iran and Russia’s help, Iran began cultivating and investing in the local Syrian population. It used a strategy that helped civic organizations along with economic investment. Iran planned to turn southern Syria into a dependent front line against Israel, mimicking the infrastructure and populace under Hezbollah’s control in Lebanon.
The research and educational think tank Alma (co-writer Sarit Zehavi is the founder and CEO) has uncovered civic foundations under Iranian control in Syria, receiving direct funding from Hezbollah and Iran. At the same time, their combatants are embedded within the civilian Sunni population.
According to Alma’s research, after the reconquest of southern Syria, there was a concerted effort to take over mosques and establish Hussainiyas (Shi’ite religious gathering sites). The goal was to ingratiate themselves with the population who would become dependent on Iran for all aspects of their economies, education, and religion.
The Iranian-controlled axis from Tehran to Beirut includes Shi’ite brethren, and co-opted Sunnis, Druze, and Alawites. Iran’s imperialistic ambition is always on the lookout for opportunities to embed itself within local populations to exert new influence. Whether it was the instability of the Arab Winter in 2011 or the chaos that followed in the Syrian civil war, Iran has a single-minded focus on perpetuating its revolutionary plans and dominating the Middle East and beyond.
To understand what is happening in Syria, you need to understand Lebanon. Since Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government with cabinet ministries, it allows them to transfer monies to themselves. The estimated amount of financial support Hezbollah sent to the Lebanese provinces of Tyre, Bint Jbeil, and Marjayoun in 2020 was twenty-two billion, one hundred thirty million Lebanese pounds for health, education, and social services. Unfortunately, there is little counterweight from the Lebanese government to oppose Iranian influence as it provides few public services to its people, especially in Hezbollah-dominated regions.
Iranian-controlled Hezbollah fills the void, providing the daily necessities, a terrorist organization masquerading as a social movement to create dependency and willing soldiers. Hezbollah is also the dominant political organization that effectively controls an impotent Lebanese government. Shockingly, there are still European nations that treat Hezbollah as a legitimate political entity, making a disingenuous moral distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wings.
The Achilles heel of American foreign policy is that it changes every four years with a presidential election. The US is profoundly disadvantaged in creating long-term planning to oppose Iranian influence. In contrast, authoritarian regimes like Iran, Turkey, and Russia can remain in place for decades, knowing they can strategize for the long term.
Today, Israel’s north is in the hands of the Iranians. Israel knows it, but the US doesn’t fully appreciate it, minimizing the Supreme Leader’s and his Revolutionary Guards’ apocalyptical words as hyperbole and rhetoric. The US incorrectly believes that sending one hundred forty million dollars a year to the Lebanese Armed Forces provides an effective counterweight to Hezbollah. When Iranian and Hezbollah leaders deliberately lie (taddiyah), it is part of a grand strategy to defeat the greater and lesser Satans – the US and Israel. What all American administrations since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 have in common is a difficult time fully comprehending the Iranian Twelver Shi’ite mindset that prioritizes Islamist imperial desires over its people’s well-being.
US Democratic Party administrations’ single-minded focus on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal) in dealing with Iran serves them poorly in understanding Iran’s goals. In particular, it distracts from what is likely to be the arena for the next major Middle East War on Israel’s northern border, with Iran calling the shots.
For decades, US Congress members have visited Kofi (café) Annan, a coffee shop at an old Israeli fortification on Mount Bental that looks into Syria’s Golan. In plain sight is the abandoned old city of Quneitra that seems just a stone’s throw away. They were told that this was Israel’s quietest border, at least until the start of the Syrian civil war. Today Iran has created and controls civilian life in the Quneitra, Daraa, and Suwayda districts of southern Syria, in plain sight of Cafe Annan. The civilian establishment solidifies the long-sought-after Shi’ite Crescent across the Middle East, an Islamist conduit for the transfer of precision-guided weapons systems and military personal, as part of an extended-range plan to destroy Israel.
In March 2021, Hezbollah chief Nasrallah looked directly into the camera and told the world that if we had “accurate (precision-guided) missile factories, we would tell everyone with “pride.” But “we don’t have anything of the kind.” On the contrary, Alma has overwhelming documentation of weapons depots, launching pads, and missile factories throughout Lebanon and Syria.
It should make everyone pause because they are embedded in civilian neighborhoods. Especially in Beirut, Hezbollah hides missile launching sites and rockets within heavily populated civilian areas. Using Wikimapia, an open-content collaborative mapping project site on the internet, Alma exposed rocket launching sites next to Al Rassoul Al Azam Hospital. Another production site for Iranian Fatah-110 missiles is located in the Ghobeiry neighborhood, near the Lebanese Ministry of Labor, another civilian facility. Prime Minister Netanyahu also exposed missile factories in the Alelichi neighborhood under four seven-story residential buildings’ housing foundations, next to a medical center and church. In the Shuifat area, a missile factory is hidden under civilian housing and is next to a mosque.
Can you imagine the international uproar if Israel, in retaliation for a Hezbollah attack against Israeli civilians, struck a mosque or apartment house from where the missiles were fired?
In January, Alma Research and Education Center published a connection between two military facilities and a Lebanese charity. The Islamic Shi’ite Waqf Committee in Burj al Barajneh is complicit in hiding Hezbollah’s Fatah 110 missile launch sites within Beirut. The Hussein Maktabi High School and the Burj al Barjneh-America Football Stadium are situated next to missile sites. Launchers and missiles were found not only next to the hospital but next to the Al Aytam petroleum facility, many restaurants, and the Ansar football (soccer) field.
The local Lebanese council members demanded the Lebanon Armed Forces investigate the use of a hospital by Hezbollah, but the LAF claimed there was nothing there. They are simply intimidated by Hezbollah. The local council members resigned in protest, not wanting to be blamed if another massive Beirut port explosion occurred under their watch.
Iran and Hezbollah have taken notice of Alma’s embarrassing exposés. The research center in Galilee is now in the Islamist’s crosshairs, literally. Hezbollah made public the exact coordinates of Alma’s research and educational facility in Galilee, where Congress members often visit. Alma has been cyber-at-tacked multiple times by Iran and its proxies.
This is what Hezbollah posted on its page: “Who is Alma? The Zionist Alma Center is an educational and research center dedicated to fabricating security lies on the northern borders of occupied Palestine and educating Zionist opinion-makers, research centers, academia, and others on how to make innocent civilians a military target in war.”
Nasrallah said, “Hezbollah points the finger of blame and repeated claims, that Alma is nothing more than a branch of the Israeli government.” In reality, Alma is independent and receives no funding from the IDF. Scapegoating to deflect your deficiencies is a tried and true formula of Islamist regimes. Facts are inconvenient problems when you have brainwashed those who have trusted you to protect them, and you not only fail to deliver but put them in harm’s way by using your people as human shields.
Why is Hezbollah taking this so seriously? In part, the information Alma exposes is damaging, as it justifies Israel’s repeated attacks to thwart the Iranian missile threat. But even more critical is that Hezbollah’s strength is that it receives the support of the Shiite population. If it loses the people’s help, its legitimacy could crumble. Exposing missiles and launchers next to schools, hospitals, residential neighborhoods, and sports facilities have struck a nerve with Hezbollah. They know that this is a line in the sand that the local population may not stand for as it purposely endangers their families and neighborhoods.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi has made clear that Hezbollah’s human shield strategy doesn’t grant Iran’s Hezbollah proxy immunity against future attacks. Israel will attack legitimate military targets as long as the military advantage outweighs the civilian loss. And yes, this is according to international law. In response, Nasrallah has said there is no difference between Israeli civilians and soldiers, an old story first told by the Palestinians to justify terrorist attacks on Israeli innocents.
Hezbollah and Iran are banking on winning a propaganda war against Israel. The global community would judge Israel harshly if more Lebanese are killed than Israeli civilians, a cynical battle of moral equivalence.
In a future Israeli northern war, Iranian-controlled militias that have partially withdrawn from Syria could quickly return to Israel’s Golan border in great numbers if the border gets hot. Missiles could fly this time from not only Lebanon but Syria, Iraq, and even Yemen.
Israel knows it will have to strike fast before the diplomatic fallout constrains its efforts, as the Israeli people who will suffer terribly will demand an overwhelming response, knowing the Lebanese and Syrian human shields will be paying the price.
Israel is worried that if the US rejoins the JCPOA, sanctions relief will directly flow to Iran’s proxies. That will increase the chance for war. The Biden administration should hold fast to sanctions no matter how immovable the Iranians are on the JCPOA, especially if they want to minimize the chances for a northern Israeli war with Iran and its proxies. At the very least, the sanctions against Iran for missiles and terror will be maintained.
If I were them—and with Iran in mind—I would conclude that all the misbehavior that the Biden administration wants to punish me for would evaporate if I only had a nuclear-weapons program that I could use as leverage to extract whatever concessions I wish.
While the Biden administration offers sanctions relief to Tehran in exchange for temporarily limiting uranium enrichment to less than 20 percent, it is fulfilling another promise, to “recalibrate”—i.e., punish—longtime American ally Saudi Arabia. As the Saudis sustain Iranian-directed missile and drone attacks from Yemen and Iraq, the Biden administration chose to remove Patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia, as well as redeploy an aircraft carrier and surveillance systems away from the region. The clear message to Iran is: We will abandon our ally Saudi Arabia, your arch-enemy, if you will only rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal.
If I were the Saudis, I would conclude that all the misbehavior that the Biden administration wants to punish me for would evaporate if I only had a nuclear-weapons program that I could use as leverage to extract whatever concessions I wish from the Americans. I could do like the Iranians—threaten, intimidate and take over neighboring states—and be absolved if I would just slow down my nuclear-development program.
The Saudis might open their Rolodex and call Pakistan. According to the BBC, in 2013, “a senior NATO decision-maker … had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.” This is the logical conclusion. The way we are headed, the Biden administration is about to start a nuclear arms race in the region with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, among others learning the lessons of the Iranian nuclear agreement. The formula is to develop a secret nuclear program, lie about it, engage in disruptive behavior and then trade some of that for a nuclear deal in your favor or foreign aid.
Saudi Arabia is no angel. The stain of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the country’s exporting radical Sunni Islamist ideology in the late 20th century has ramifications that we live with to this day. ISIS was the worst permutation yet of radical Sunni ideology. But after 9/11, the Saudis turned a page and began to align more closely with American interests. In the 21st century, they have been a moderating and stabilizing force in Sunni Islam.
Their support of the Abraham Accords, which allowed the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco to recognize Israel with diplomatic relations, is groundbreaking. Previous administrations did not even contemplate its possibility. If nurtured for regional stability, it is a path to suppress the Saudi need for a nuclear-weapons program. It also ended the fiction that the Israeli-Arab conflict needs to wait until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ends. That is excellent news for those who believe Palestinian intransigence has been the roadblock to peace.
Instead of building on the game-changing Abraham Accords and pulling Saudi Arabia to the finish line by recognizing Israel, the Biden administration has chosen to make the Saudis a pariah, while begging the Iranian revolutionary regime to return to a deal that was created in their favor. As a reminder, it was created to give Iran international legitimacy for an industrial-size nuclear program within the decade. Stipulated within the nuclear agreement is Iran’s ability to buy an unlimited number of conventional weapons right now. No wonder that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei allowed his minions to sign it.
Like the Obama team, the Biden administration still believes that you can appease Iran by acquiescing in their nuclear blackmail. Obama’s policy was to distance the United States from its Gulf state allies and Israel while ingratiating his administration with the Iranians, who have never ceased undermining U.S. security interests worldwide. The only good to come out of this mistaken policy is the increased willingness of the Saudis and others in the region to be friendlier to Israel as the only nation willing to take on the Iranians. This has been especially evident as Israel continues to impede Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapon, most recently with its alleged attack this week on the Natanz enrichment facility.
Kowtowing to a third-rate military that supports terror sends a poor message to American allies around the world. The administration seems intent on settling for merely slowing down Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons while ignoring and, in effect, funding with sanctions relief the Islamic Republic’s decades-long worldwide campaign of terrorism. The false hope offered to the American people that the administration will be able to negotiate a new agreement dealing with Tehran’s malign activities after the resumption of a deal would be laughable if it were not so dangerous.
Hopefully, the administration will reflect on the potential consequences of its actions and change course to avoid turning the Middle East into a nuclear Wild West. The Saudis and the rest of the Sunni Muslim world are watching.
In 2017, Congress passed the bipartisan Taylor Force Act (TFA) to put an end to the Palestinian Authority (PA) practice of using US taxpayers’ dollars to finance “Pay for Slay,” a policy rewarding terrorists and family members of imprisoned and deceased terrorists. The legislation’s clearly expressed goal is to deny the PA funding until it stops their program of incentivizing and paying for the murder of civilians.
The bill was named after an American Army veteran who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was killed by a Palestinian terrorist while visiting Israel. The PA media called his killer a “martyr,” and he was venerated throughout the Palestinian territories.
The Taylor Force Act requires the Biden State Department to issue a report to Congress for Acts of Terrorism. Despite the report’s conclusion that the PA “has not terminated payments for acts of terrorism to any individual (and) has also not taken proactive steps to counter incitement to violence against Israel,” the administration’s report states that the “Biden-Harris Administration has made clear its intent to restart assistance to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.”
Which is to say, they intend to ignore the continued support of terrorism and resume supplying the money.
The Biden administration claims it can restore funding to the PA without violating the TFA. It claims its goal is to provide humanitarian assistance, rebuild trust with the Palestinians that was undermined by the Trump administration, economically stabilize the government while advancing the moribund peace process with Israel.
The Trump administration cut off funding to the PA and UNWRA, the UN agency that financially supports descendants of Palestinian refugees. The Biden administration is also planning as a goodwill gesture to reverse Trump’s decision to close the PLO / PA office in Washington, which was done to give more consequence to their continuing to incite and pay for terrorism.
The State Department report is clear enough; it says the “PA expressed its intention to expend approximately $151.6 million in payments to convicted prisoners, administrative detainees, and former prisoners (and) expressed its intention to expend approximately $191 million in support of families of deceased Palestinians referred to as ‘martyrs’ by the PA.” In November 2020, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said they would “remain loyal to the souls of martyrs, the blood of injured, and the sufferings of prisoners… we will not abandon them.”
The perverse incentive used by the PA is that the more gruesome and worse the attack, the more money the imprisoned “martyr” and his family receive through the PA’s Martyr’s Fund. The PA spends nearly $350 million per year on Pay for Slay, but just $220 million for its other welfare programs for the rest of its citizens.
In Washington today, everything is seen through a political lens. In 2017, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said, “Abbas has to stop making payments to terrorists and their families, and all elected officials should call them out.” Will Schumer, now majority leader, challenge the president of his party to keep the pressure on the Abbas and enforce the law? Or will he go along with spinning some words to fashion a legal loophole to allow money to flow to the PA? The PA would like to create a legal fiction by distributing the money through the PLO, Abbas being both the president of the PA and head of the PLO.
For the first time in 16 years, the Palestinian people will be voting for a new president and parliament. The list of potential candidates is not promising if you are looking for moderation. The leading candidates try to outdo one another with their non-conciliatory rhetoric and incitement of violence.
The Biden administration should learn from prior administrations’ failures. America giving the PA carrots without reciprocal concessions has never been fruitful. As surely as the sun rises in the east, giving up leverage for nothing gets you nowhere with the PA/PLO.
The administration needs to uphold the Taylor Force Act.