New Age Islam Edit Bureau
11 August 2017
How US Confusion Facilitates the
Taliban’s Control over Afghanistan
By Huda Al-Husseini
Does It Really Matter If Netanyahu
Ends Up Behind Bars?
By Neve Gordon
Prospects for the Upcoming Astana
Talks on Syria
By Maria Dubovikova
Pakistan’s Judiciary and the Trial of
By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
A Response to the New York Times and
the Washington Post
By Ali Al-Shihabi
Yes, Watch North Korea, But Don’t
Take Your Eyes off Iran
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
By Huda al-Husseini
10 August 2017
Kabul is politically crippled while the
Taliban is fiercely progressing on several fronts.
If Afghanistan falls, it will represent a
new terrorist problem to the world. A few months ago, American generals
proposed to American President Donald Trump to increase the number of American
troops there by at least 5,000. It seems he refused because he thinks all the
old approaches have failed especially that the US spent around $718 billion on
a war that it continues to lose. The current number of American troops there is
8,400 while in 2011, it was 100,000.
Afghanistan suffers from Taliban’s vigorous
return. Meanwhile, the government feels it is weak. Kabul is slowly losing its
control over the country. The Afghan authorities control 52% of territories.
Two years ago they controlled 72%. The state has lost control over 15% of its
territories since September 2016 and until March 2017. Meanwhile, other
provinces suffer under Taliban’s rule where around 500 soldiers get killed each
week. All this indicates that the government is on its path towards a dead end
in Kabul as security and developmental challenges confronting the country are
tough and they require coordinated efforts and state funds. However, there is
no hope on the horizon.
Ashraf Ghani’s government and Abdullah
Abdullah, the Chief Executive of Afghanistan, who were presidential rivals in
2014, control the country’s political scene. They decided to join a national
unity government to avoid a short-term political crisis but instead they sowed
the seeds of a long-term crisis by undermining the fragile Afghan constitution.
Corrupt military groups that only care about protecting their interests have
controlled politics in Afghanistan since 2014. It’s a sick environment. There’s
little hope that the situation may change with the parliamentary elections next
year or with the presidential elections in 2019. Considering the state’s
decreased control over all provinces, there may not even be a state by the
election date in 2018.
Security, military and presidential
meetings are being held in Washington to discuss Afghanistan and aim to
convince Trump to maintain American activity there. They think this is the more
secure option even if it’s not the most efficient. Like North Korea,
Afghanistan represents a security problem that’s impossible to solve and
Trump’s administration must find a way out of it. An American source told me:
“The president may choose the safe way and commit to the common logic of
maintaining the money flow and increasing the number of American troops. The
best he can expect out of this approach is to prevent the Afghan state from
losing more territories. However this will not divert the path of the civil war
and it will not defeat Taliban. Afghanistan represents clear failure of
American policy. Trump does not want to bear its responsibility as in the end he’s
a president from outside the institution and he proposed himself as someone who
wants to improve American policy on the local and foreign levels. Therefore, it
will be no surprise if Afghanistan is the matter which raises disagreements
between him and the generals he commends.”
American media reports said the president
proposed dismissing John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, and
argued that the US should get a share of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth. The Wall
Street Journal reported that the American administration is looking into
reducing US’ commitment and decreasing losses “in the longest war in America’s
history.” However, decreasing American financial and military support to Kabul
may make the end of the civil government near as the country will further
plunge in civil war and foreign sponsors, like Pakistan, India, Russia and the
US, may interfere in favor of their proxies. Afghanistan’s situation will be
similar to the Syrian civil war with two possibilities: permanent deadlock as a
result of conflicts which will lead to sectarian clashes or Taliban’s complete
victory and resumption of its Islamic-like governance which it has adopted
What’s interesting are the recent meetings
between Tajik and Hazara leaders and Uzbek former warlord and current vice
president Abdul Rashid Dostum who “fled” to Turkey claiming he seeks medical
treatment. According to media reports, they said in a statement that they seek
to establish “a coalition to save Afghanistan.” This recent meeting in Turkey
either aims to establish an opposition movement and paralyze the government or
seeks to solidify the basis to form a new alliance that consists of several
ethnicities shall the US withdraws from Afghanistan and hostilities resurface.
My source added: “It’s difficult to blame
Trump’s administration if it considers withdrawing. Trump thinks he has nothing
to do with getting to this point. However he will be blamed more if he chooses
to drastically reduce American intervention in Afghanistan. Therefore, he must
specify his Afghan policy amid Taliban’s uproar. It will be Trump’s war after
any decision he makes. President George W. Bush sowed, and Barack Obama and
Trump will reap after him. If Trump chooses to withdraw, then this will happen
very soon because Trump is still new and he still blames those who preceded
A Failed State
An American official told Reuters that
despite Trump’s hesitancy, he may order increasing the number of troops as this
is the least bad option and he may also order full withdrawal. There are claims
that Trump granted absolute power to US Secretary of Defence James Mattis to
increase the number of troops in Afghanistan but the latter does not want to do
so without the president’s approval. Senator John McCain recently said he may
introduce an amendment to the annual defence policy bill to provide a strategy
for the war in Afghanistan noting that: “Eight years of a ‘don’t lose’ strategy
has cost us lives and treasure in Afghanistan.” He added: “"Our troops
Taliban however is in no mood to negotiate.
Strategies and intentions are some of the reasons behind the failure of
American policy in Afghanistan. The US also does not have influence over
Taliban. Therefore, they must increase the number of US troops so Taliban
becomes more inclined to negotiate. However, the only problem is that Taliban
did not sit for negotiations and the chances that it will sit today are less.
It’s not military superiority that will prevent Taliban from negotiating as the
movement is always demanding the complete withdrawal of NATO forces. To
Americans, this request does not mark the beginning of negotiations. There’s
also the issue of integrating Taliban in the political process. The movement’s
commanders insist to have guarantees that sharia will govern the constitution.
Integrating Taliban politicians in the current regime will be a nightmare
though. Taliban is also confronting challenges due to groups linked to ISIS.
The movement is winning in the Afghan arena now, and it’s unlikely that its
commanders will give up their extremist ideology and accept to reinforce the
peace process with Kabul and its allies in the NATO.
Is Afghanistan a failed state? Yes. Is it a
failed cause that must be abandoned? No. The statement “America First” will not
succeed if American policy fails in all tense regions across the world.
Does It Really Matter If Netanyahu Ends
Up Behind Bars?
"Background noise" was the way
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterised the decision of his
former chief of staff, Ari Harow, to become a state witness. The following day,
the prime minister's press officer declared - for the 100th time - that
"Nothing will happen, because nothing happened." Despite his
relentless effort to paint a business-as-usual atmosphere, this time it looks
as if Netanyahu is actually going down.
At least two probes dealing with serious
allegations of bribery, breach of trust and fraud seem likely to end with an
indictment against Israel's premier. In "Case 1,000", police suspect
Netanyahu accepted lavish gifts from wealthy businessmen, while, in certain
instances, he even provided services in return.
"Harow is the game changer," as
one prominent Israeli columnist explained. Before becoming chief of staff, he
was responsible for maintaining Netanyahu's connections with several
billionaires, and is likely to possess incriminating information about his
former boss's relations with these affluent figures.
But even before Harow flipped, the police
divulged that Netanyahu had intervened on behalf of Hollywood producer Arnon
Milchan who, for years, had given Netanyahu and his family presents worth
hundreds of thousands of shekels. According to the police, the prime minister
had approached both former US Ambassador Dan Shapiro and Secretary of State
John Kerry to help procure a ten-year visa to the US for Milchan. The police
also noted that Milchan holds a 9.8 percent stake in Israel's Channel 10, which
is subject to regulation by Israel's Ministry of Communications, headed until
recently by Netanyahu.
The second probe, called "Case 2,000",
focuses on recordings the police obtained after confiscating Harow's personal
computer and phone. Capturing conversations between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes,
the publisher of the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and the popular
Ynet News website, the recordings reveal that just before the 2015 Israeli
elections, Mozes offered to help Netanyahu to stay in power "for as long
as [he] want[s]". In a quid pro quo deal, the publisher requested that
Netanyahu pass legislation limiting the ability of Yedioth Ahronoth's main
competitor, the pro-Netanyahu Israel HaYom newspaper, to distribute papers free
According to the transcripts, the two went
so far as to discuss which pro-Netanyahu columnists Yedioth Ahronoth would
hire. Netanyahu then said he would discuss the legislation with the
"redhead" - referring to Israel HaYom's publisher, the American
billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is also a Republican kingmaker and known
contributor to Donald Trump's presidential campaign. In fact, during a recent
police interrogation, Adelson confirmed that Netanyahu had asked him to
consider cancelling the paper's weekend edition.
These probes are perhaps the most
incriminating, but, as the noose tightens, Netanyahu will have to deal with a
number of other legal inquiries as well. The prime minister's personal attorney
is one of the major suspects in "Case 3,000", which is looking at
suspicious acquisitions on the part of the Israeli military involving alleged
bribes and fraud. According to Ha'aretz, "Netanyahu's personal lawyer was
due to earn tens of millions of shekels from an agreement, since suspended, to
buy three submarines from Germany." The personal lawyer, however, is not
the only link between Netanyahu and the corrupt transaction, since the deal
seems to have been supported by the prime minister and approved behind the back
of the previous defence minister, who had opposed the procurement of the
Lastly, the police have recommended
pressing charges against Sarah Netanyahu, the prime minister's wife, for
misusing state funds, including the movement of furniture from the prime
minister's official residence to her private home and paying an electrician to
rewire her private abode at the taxpayers' expense. Israeli newspapers suggest
that she is likely to be indicted soon.
Netanyahu's 11-year rule thus appears to be
fast approaching an inglorious end. The more interesting question now, however,
is what the significance of these developments will be. Two points are worth
First, Netanyahu is not really an outlier.
Many leaders and politicians across the globe, particularly those who, like
Netanyahu, have managed to stay in power for many years, have also become
corrupt by abusing the privileges and responsibilities bestowed upon them by their
office. Yet what is unusual about the Israeli case is that some of the corrupt
protagonists actually end up in jail.
Indeed, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
was recently released from prison after serving 16 months for corruption, and,
over the past two decades, several ministers have also sat in prison cells, at
times for years on end. Even though the circumstances are quite different, the
fact that former President Moshe Katsav sat several years behind bars for rape
is yet another sign that in Israel top-ranking individuals are not immune from
judicial review. The relative autonomy of the judicial system from the
executive institutions alongside the ability - and willingness - to imprison
high-power individuals is not something to take lightly.
The second point has to do with the impact
of Netanyahu's potential collapse on Israel's colonial project. In this regard,
there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Politically, those in a position to replace
Netanyahu at the helm of Israel's government - whether from within the Likud's
ranks or from other parties - are either even more extreme than the prime
minister (eg, Likud prince Gideon Sa'ar or Jewish Home party leader Naftali
Bennett), hold nearly identical views (Labor party leader Avi Gabbay), or, as
we say in Hebrew, are made of Teflon, meaning that they have no backbone at all
(Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid). None of these political leaders will challenge
Israel's colonial project, needless to say to "acquiesce" to the
Palestinian demand of self-determination and the establishment of a viable
Ideologically, the problem is even more
severe. As the public and political response to the Elor Azaria murder trial
reveals, the Palestinians are considered by many in Israel to be subhuman and
thus killable subjects. These sentiments - as the court's sentence of a mere
year and a half for murder and the widespread call for a pardon for Azaria
reveal - are part of Israel's dominant ideology and common sense, which
Netanyahu has actively encouraged over the years through his hate speeches
towards Palestinians. Even the same judicial system that imprisons politicians
is the handmaiden to settler colonialism when it comes to Palestinians.
To create an ideological shift, it is
insufficient to cut off the king's head; rather, what is needed is a sea change
in public opinion. Tragically, even if Netanyahu ends up behind bars, it
appears that the colonial common sense will continue to reign for many years to
Prospects for the Upcoming Astana Talks
The agenda for the next round of Syria
talks in the Kazakh capital Astana was determined in an Aug. 7 meeting in
Tehran of the three guarantor countries — Turkey, Iran and Russia — amid
expectations that the Astana conference will be held in the last week of
August. What is expected from this meeting between the Syrian government and
The answers lie in the two de-escalation
zones that have been effective so far. The first was announced in early July in
the southwest, covering Daraa, Suwaida and Qunaitra. The second was announced
on Aug. 2, covering northern Homs, including Al-Waer neighbourhood. The
expectation is that there will be a push for de-escalation zones in other parts
Negotiators will also discuss a proposal
shared by UN envoy Staffan de Mistura. It contains the “four baskets” of
transitional governance, a constitutional process, elections and
counterterrorism. The conference will discuss which topic to handle first; the
Syrian government insists on counterterrorism.
The outcome will have a long-term impact on
regional stability, particularly in neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon,
which host the largest numbers of Syrian refugees. The meeting could help stop
the spill-over from Syria into these countries, provided that Russia and the US
continue to cooperate to expand de-escalation zones. The Astana meeting will also
call on all countries not to interfere in Syrian internal affairs and focus on
how to rebuild the country.
Despite the failure of previous Geneva
talks to stop fighting in various parts of Syria, the government and opposition
have agreed 15 evacuation deals that have allowed opposition fighters to safely
leave besieged cities and towns for Idlib.
A cease-fire in three south-western
governorates was announced on July 10 shortly after long meetings between
Russians and Americans in Jordan, which helped bridge the gap between them.
Under the deal, Russian officers are monitoring the cease-fire.
To many analysts, things are moving faster
than expected in Syria due to coordination between both superpowers, and a
belief among the government and opposition that there has been more than enough
fighting. Both parties acknowledge that now is the time to stop the war and
open a new page for all Syrians to rebuild their country.
Some opposition leaders have started
echoing the government in saying a solution cannot be imposed on Syrians by
other countries, particularly since the US said it will no longer push for
Bashar Assad to be removed from power. Previous Astana meetings have
successfully bridged some gaps between the Syrian government and the
opposition. Let us hope that the upcoming one will do the same.
The trial of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and the
verdict to disqualify him from holding public office as Pakistan’s prime
minister have sparked controversy in various circles. There are some people who
welcomed the court’s landmark ruling. They are of the view that this was a
significant step in securing justice and fighting corruption in the higher
echelons of government. Those who expressed joy over this verdict, which forced
the head of the country’s executive to quit the post after his election as
prime minister for a third time, considered that it was in line with the theory
of the late Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew, who believed that fighting
corruption is just like cleaning staircases and as such that it should start
from the top to the bottom.
However, there are others who see this
verdict as one that is doubtful, lacking in clarity and seeming more like a
desire for revenge. This was obvious from remarks made by a judge of Pakistan’s
Supreme Court suggesting that Sharif and his family were like members of the
mafia as depicted in the famous American film The Godfather. I do not know
whether this judge was accurate in making a comparison between the mafia and a
prime minister who was elected three times by the people of Pakistan. However,
it is a fact that Sharif is very popular, whether we agree with him or not.
The name of Nawaz Sharif did not figure in
what was known as the Panama Papers leak, but it was said that the names of his
sons and the names of other Pakistanis appeared in the leaks, and that it was
his political opponents, who were unable to defeat him through the ballot box
who lodged the lawsuit against him. After their election debacle, these
opponents made attempts to overthrow him by organizing demonstrations on the
pretext that the elections were rigged, but they were unable to do so.
Eventually, they reportedly attempted to use their proximity to the military
establishment, which ruled Pakistan for nearly half of the country’s history.
In most cases, the military establishment
is allied with judicial authorities not only in Pakistan, but also in other
parts of the world. However, the trend of military coups has subsided as a
result of their failure in governance all around the world whether in Latin
America, the Middle East, Asia or even Europe.
The countries ruled by military junta are
among the least developed and most heavily indebted nations across the world.
It is unfortunate that in many countries, including Pakistan, the military
establishment still imposes itself on civilian rule with its intermittent
interventions. There have been rare instances when the judiciary has put on
trial military officials who were responsible for such interventions that have
nothing to do with their basic functions.
The Pakistani Supreme Court judges took a
unanimous decision to the effect that Sharif was not eligible to be prime
minister besides barring him from holding any public office for life after
denying him a fair trial that fulfills all legal procedures. If there had been
any such a trial, he would have been given the right to defend himself. On the
other hand, the entire exercise seemed to be designed to deny him justice.
The integrity of the team, carefully formed
by the Court to investigate the leak case, was also doubtful. One of its
members is close to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party leader Imran Khan, the
archrival of Sharif. Khan lodged the case against Sharif after he failed defeat
him in the election. More than one member of the team was chosen by military
intelligence and, hence, the outcome was almost predictable. It was also
evident from the difficulties faced by the lawyers of Sharif.
The guilt of Sharif was not because of the
Panama Papers leak. It was also not because of corruption. Instead, his
apparent “fault” was that he wanted politics to be handled only by politicians
and wanted the military to concern itself with its own responsibilities. His
initiative to find a political solution to the long-standing issues with India
and Afghanistan angered the military establishment as it felt that it had a
role to play in such decisions.
At the same time, the military found that
it was no longer appropriate for it to involve itself in a political
intervention in the country. In the past, the military did not hesitate to
ratify all the coups that overthrew elected governments, the latest of which
was that of Pervez Musharraf that toppled the government of Sharif in 1999.
However, the judiciary has a long history
of alliance with the military and this time it took charge of the mission of
isolating the elected prime minister through a trial that lacked many legal
requirements and procedures. In this way, the Supreme Court has set a dangerous
precedent that will not serve the interests of democracy in Pakistan.
A Response to the New York Times and the
By Ali al-Shihabi
On August 3 and 5 respectively, the New
York Times and the Washington Post published editorials condemning the decision
by Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court to uphold death sentences for fourteen Shia’a
citizens, including the then-seventeen-year old prospective Western Michigan
University student Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat. In response to these convictions, the
Times and the Post issued their own judgments; the Kingdom, they wrote,
continues to make a “mockery” of due process and “demonize” its Shia’a
minority, signs of “backwardness” that are “entirely out of sync with ambitions
to create a thriving and modern state.”
This writer freely admits that Saudi
Arabia’s legal system is not a paragon of international best practices.
However, if the Times and the Post wish to maintain their credibility in the
eyes of a global audience, they should make an earnest effort not only to
comprehend the extraordinary geopolitical challenges the Kingdom currently
faces but also to consider how any state under such stress, including the most
developed Western nations, has responded under similar circumstances.
They would also recognize that Saudi Arabia
remains a developing country. For any developing state, the legal system is
among the most difficult system to modernize; the rule of law can be applied
unevenly, the judiciary can be opaque, and rulings can appear arbitrary. I
would challenge the Times and the Post to identify how, in comparison to most
other developing states, the Kingdom is exceptional in any one of these areas.
And yet, Saudi Arabia’s legal and judicial systems seem to receive considerably
more scrutiny and be spoken of in far more hyperbolic terms than those of its
A key example is the Islamic Republic of
Iran, which executes more people per capita than any other country and is
thought to execute more nonviolent political dissidents than any other country.
Cornell University Law School’s Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide reported
that Iran’s 2015 per capita execution rate was nearly two and a half times that
of Saudi Arabia. In 2014, it was three times as high. The gravity of Iran’s
human rights abuses does not absolve Saudi Arabia from any criticism of its own
practices. It does, however, raise questions about fairness and impartiality.
Since 2012, the Times has printed at least five editorials directly criticizing
Saudi Arabia’s record on executions. The Post has published at least four.
During that same time frame, Iran’s wholesale execution of its political
opponents, including the Islamic Republic’s brutal persecution and killing of
its ethnic Arab minority in Ahvaz, is barely mentioned in their editorials. Why
Unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia did not condemn
fourteen men to die for voicing a dissenting viewpoint or, as the Times and the
Post suggest in the case of al-Sweikat, “attending political protests,” but for
violent crimes—in this case, specifically, the wounding and killing of security
personnel. Even in instances of overt violence against the state and its
people, the Saudi government goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid shedding
its citizens’ blood. The reasoning is practical; in a tribal society, execution
can inflame a much wider constituency of people, which can sometimes invite
retaliation and, consequently, cause more bloodshed. This applies to Shia’a as
well as Sunni citizens. This is, however, a system with limits.
Saudi Arabia is a country under severe
geopolitical stress. For decades, the Kingdom has been targeted by both Sunni
jihadist and radical Shia’a groups backed by Iran. It is important to remember
that between 2003 and 2006, Saudi Arabia’s security forces fought an
existential battle against the Sunni extremists of al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda’s
successor, ISIS, continues to target the Kingdom. For all of the press coverage
Saudi Arabia’s January 2016 conviction of five Iranian-backed Shia’a
extremists, including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, received, it is forgotten that these
individuals were executed alongside forty-three Sunni jihadists.
Severe stress can have a deleterious impact
on even the strongest judicial systems in the most advanced countries. In the
1980s, a wave of attacks by the Irish Republican Army against the British
government led the latter to suspend jury trials, target Irish Catholics for
mass arrests, and ban prominent Sinn Féin leaders from the airwaves. In the aftermath
of the horrors of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration detained nearly
eight hundred suspected enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay, a detention
facility structured specifically to exist outside the formal national
boundaries of the United States and outside US standards of due process.
As has been well-documented by both the
Times and the Post, many of Guantanamo’s “enemy combatants” were detained under
questionable circumstances, kidnapped by Afghan bounty hunters targeting any
Arabic speaker they could locate. Once turned over to the United States, these
individuals were subjected to “harsh interrogation techniques” or transferred
via illegal renditions to other countries, where they were subjected to torture
and often death by the security services of allied governments. Most of those
imprisoned languished for years despite never being formally charged. In all,
just five men have been put on trial for crimes related to the planning and/or
execution of the 9/11 attacks.
Saudi Arabia has not faced an attack on the
scale of 9/11. We have, however, been fighting a war on our home soil for the
better part of two decades. This war has claimed the lives of hundreds of
citizens, expatriates, and security personnel, and may yet claim many more.
When the United States was attacked, it
threw its rule book out the window. It took many years to put that rule book
back together (even today, forty-one prisoners remain in Guantanamo). Saudi
Arabia is not as advanced as the United States. Our rule book would still be a
work in progress even if we were not currently caught in the crosshairs of both
Sunni jihadists and Iran and its extremist allies.
Given that we are fighting a war on two
fronts, our legal and judicial shortcomings are unique neither among developing
states nor among advanced nations that have faced similar extraordinary
challenges. The Post and the Times would do well to consider that before
singling out Saudi Arabia for the harshest condemnation in their editorials.
Yes, Watch North Korea, But Don’t Take
Your Eyes off Iran
North Korea is in the international news
spotlight because of its mutual sabre-rattling with Donald Trump, and the
widely publicized test of a long-range ballistic missile. But it is critical to
point out that these events are equally significant in relation to Iran and the
threat it poses to peace and stability.
Iran is North Korea’s major partner in the
sale, transfer and proliferation of ballistic missile technology. Iran’s
missiles are copies of North Korea’s. Both countries flout international law,
sponsor terrorism and employ military hardware such as ballistic missiles to
threaten the security and interests of other nations.
Tehran already has long-range ballistic
missiles that can hit any country in the Middle East and US bases in the
region. Iran’s generals have frequently boasted about these capabilities and
have test-fired missiles carrying provocative messages such as “Death to
But Iran is not satisfied with what it has.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which oversees the program, is
aggressively pursuing technology that could lead to the development of an
intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korean engineers are in Iran helping
the IRGC to advance its ballistic missile arsenal and develop nuclear warheads.
With ICBMs, Iran would have the ability to
strike anywhere in the world, and a major reason for acquiring them is as a
delivery tool for nuclear weapons. In addition, an Iranian ICBM could easily
fall into the hands of Tehran’s militias and proxies across the region, a
significant threat to peace and security.
Iran recently launched another missile on
the pretext of advancing its “space and satellite program.” The launch received
scant attention because the eyes off the world are on North Korea, but the US
and three of its European allies nevertheless described the test as provocative
and urged Iran to stop all its ballistic missile activity.
A joint statement by Britain, France,
Germany and the US said Iran’s ballistic missile program was inconsistent with
a UN Security Council resolution and had a destabilizing effect in the region.
“We call on Iran not to conduct any further ballistic missile launches and
related activities … We condemn this action,” the four countries said.
Supporters of Iran’s clerical establishment
and of the July 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
Agreement (JCPOA) between six world powers and Iran, justify Tehran’s ballistic
missile program on the grounds that it is defensive and aimed at deterrence.
This argument has already been debunked,
since Iran has used ballistic missiles offensively outside its borders. In the
latest incident, a missile launch into Syria violated international law and the
sovereignty of the Syrian state.
Iran’s so-called moderates and hard-liners
both support advancing Tehran’s ballistic missile program. President Hassan
Rouhani has said Iran “will have a new ballistic missile test in the near
future that will be a thorn in the eyes of our enemies.”
Iran’s cheerleaders also try to persuade
the world that in pursuing ballistic missile capabilities, Tehran is not
violating any legal framework. This argument is misleading, unsophisticated and
simplistic. Iran is not only in clear breach of UN Security Council Resolution
2231, which prohibits ballistic missile activity until eight years after
nuclear deal adoption day in October 2015, but is also violating the spirit of
the nuclear deal itself.
The Trump administration should lead a much
more robust effort in response to Iran’s aggressive ballistic missile
proliferation. This could include condemnation, as well as economic and
political sanctions on the Iranian government and non-US entities that deal
with Tehran. Since regional countries and EU nations are on the same page as
Washington with regard to Tehran’s aggressive ballistic missile activities, the
US should seek the assistance of the EU and regional powers.
A coalition of regional nations, such as
the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), should also condemn pressure, isolate or
sanction Tehran economically and politically if needed. This can be more
efficiently accomplished with a united front between the US and Arab nations.
Inaction from the Trump administration, the
international community and regional powers will be seen by Tehran as weakness
and a continuation of Barack Obama’s appeasement policies. Iran will be further
emboldened, and will ratchet up its unlawful activities.
An Iranian ICBM armed with a nuclear
warhead would be one of the most serious threats to the stability of the region
and the world.