Allies’ Trust for America Has Sunk in the Gulf
William A. Galston
Wall St. Journal, June 18, 2019During the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy sent former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to brief French President Charles de Gaulle on America’s findings and intentions. This was not an altogether easy assignment. De Gaulle was already on the path of assertive national independence that later led him to withdraw France from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s integrated military command.When Acheson began to show de Gaulle surveillance photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba, the French president waved him off. “No, no,” he insisted, “The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me”—this even though he did not support Kennedy’s confrontation with Moscow over the missile emplacements.That was then. Today, after a sequence of events beginning with Vietnam, continuing through the Iraq war, and culminating in President Trump’s intelligence-denying embrace of Vladimir Putin, America’s allies no longer trust the word of the president of the United States, nor of his senior officials.In recent days, both Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have insisted that Iran was responsible for attacks on two tankers—one Japanese, the other Norwegian—in the Gulf of Oman. In response, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas requested additional information. What he had seen so far, he said, was “not enough.” Norway’s government has also expressed doubts about the U.S. account. The Japanese government, which Mr. Trump used as an intermediary with Iran, took a similar position. “The U.S. explanation has not helped us go beyond speculation,” said a senior government foreign-policy adviser. The head of the Japanese shipping company that was attacked questioned the U.S. allegation that mines were responsible for the damage.A senior adviser to the European Union’s chief diplomat said, “Before we blame someone, we need credible evidence.” A spokesman for the EU’s foreign service urged caution: “The region doesn’t need further escalation, it doesn’t need destabilization, it doesn’t need further tension, and therefore we call for maximum restraint.”When it comes to Iran, U.S. allies distrust Washington’s motives. They vigorously opposed Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama administration and argue that the U.S. shift is at least partly responsible for Iran’s latest moves, including the Islamic Republic’s threatened breach of parts of the nuclear accord. Allies resent U.S. pressure to force them to break economic ties with Tehran. They believe that the Trump administration’s most senior advisers—though perhaps not the president himself—are eager for a military confrontation with Iran. And they are fearful that ambiguous intelligence will be spun into a predicate for war.There’s another side to the story. A not-insubstantial portion of Europe’s reaction to the attacks reflects reluctance among their governments to abandon business in Iran. And with the exceptions of France and the U.K., European countries have no alternative to conciliatory diplomacy because they lack the capacity to project force, or even defend themselves. As former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel once put it, Europe is “a vegetarian in a world of carnivores,” dependent on the U.S. to avoid being eaten alive, resentful of its dependence, and in turn, resented for what Mr. Trump is hardly the first American president to castigate as free-riding. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
______________________________________________________Israel and the New European Parliament: No Spring in the Offing
Oded Eran and Shimon Stein
INSS Insight No. 1172, June 3, 2019
For some years, the European Union has faced developments that threaten its cohesiveness and ability to fulfill its role as a supranational organization that brings together the continent’s nations in aspects of law, economy, policy, and security. These developments have included popular disappointment with the EU’s economic success; the acceptance of former Soviet bloc countries, a decision that was politically bold but created a heavy economic burden on the founding members; strengthened centrifugal forces within member states that prefer the primacy of the nation-state over a supranational organization; and the end of the EU founding generation that rehabilitated Europe after World Wat II, guided the organization during the Cold War years against the Soviet neighbor, and set about gradually building a political bloc that is not solely an economic one.
Since its founding, the EU’s top body has been the forum of the heads of the member states. The European Council sets overall policy and major guidelines; under it are ministerial councils in charge of various areas, including agriculture, trade and economic competition, education, culture, and youth affairs. The European Commission is in charge of routine management, legislation, and appointments, and the European Central Bank is in charge of monetary matters. The challenges besetting the EU are evident in the difficulty that these institutions have in functioning – including the European Parliament, which suffers from inferior clout relative to the other institutions, as well as from its unwieldy size – 751 members.
The European Parliament elections in late May 2019 reflect two antithetical trends that are at the heart of the European crisis. On the one hand, the political center that leans on two parties – the European People’s Party (conservative) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats – was weakened. On the other hand, the overall voter turnout rose from 42.5 percent in 2014 to 51 percent. In other words, contrary to the impression that the citizens are indifferent at the supranational level, greater interest on this level is evident.
Despite the ideological distance between them, the two aforementioned parties were partners in realizing the idea of a united Europe. Helmut Kohl, the conservative German chancellor (1982-1998), and François Mitterand, the socialist French president (1981-1995), guided the EU together during the crucial years of expansion and the disintegration of the Soviet bloc. While in the European Parliament election of 2014 these two parties won 412 seats, in 2019 these parties took only 331 seats, and will thus be hard-put to agree on who should head the main bodies, i.e., the European Council presidency, European Commission presidency, Central Bank presidency, Parliament presidency, and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Europe is the New Front in the Israel-Palestine Conflict
The Spectator, May 18, 2019
Gaza has a galvanising effect on Europeans. Jeremy Corbyn, for example, appeared to have no consolatory words for France after last week’s Islamist knife attack in Paris, yet on Monday he posted messages on Twitter and Facebook expressing his disgust with Israel. Likewise in France, the far-left, curiously quiet whenever there’s a terrorist attack on their patch, have this week staged protests in Lyon, Marseille, Rouen, Paris, and Bordeaux to voice their opposition to Israel’s killing of 62 Palestinians, the victims including several children and fifty members of Hamas, an EU-designated terror organization.
But what do the protestors in France hope to achieve? Emmanuel Macron reportedly “condemned the violence and underlined the importance of protecting civilian populations” in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In addition, France has expressed its disapproval of America’s decision to relocate their embassy to Jerusalem.
One should at least be grateful that the demonstrations in France passed off peacefully. That wasn’t the case in the summer of 2014 after Israel launched an offensive in retaliation for the kidnap and murder by Hamas of three teenage boys. The military action angered thousands of French and the protests, spread over several weeks, grew increasingly violent with the worst scenes in Sarcelles, a suburb in northern Paris known as ‘Little Jerusalem’ because of its large Jewish community. Shops and synagogues were attacked by a mob chanting ‘Kill the Jews’, and overall in 2014 anti-Semitic attacks in France increased by 130 percent.
That explains why Jews in Paris have a foreboding about this latest violence in the Middle East. They know the likely consequences: more attacks in a city that is becoming a dangerous place in which to be a Jew. The unease will be felt to a lesser extent in the Élysée Palace because French presidents know that whenever trouble erupts in Gaza, the tremors are felt at home.
Marc Hecker, the author of a ‘French Intifada’, told Le Figaro in July 2014 that “the importation of conflict into our country dates from the Second Intifada in 2000”. Many young French Muslims see in Gaza the same oppression that they experience every day – or so they’re led to believe in fiery YouTube videos, and radical mosques – and so they identify with the Palestinians’ cause in a way previous generations of French Muslims never did.
The nervousness Macron feels will also be furrowing the brows of his counterparts in Germany, Holland, Britain and Belgium, countries that are also experiencing a worrying rise in anti-Semitism.
In contrast, Donald Trump doesn’t need to worry about how Israel’s actions in Gaza might play out at home. America’s Muslim population is minuscule: 3.3m in a country of 323m (one percent), and there isn’t the Islamification of inner-cities that is happening across western Europe. Only this week, a paper in France reported that one district south of Paris is now largely controlled by Salafists, with a “religious police” patrolling the area to enforce Islamic law. The next day in Le Figaro, an anti-terrorist lawyer warned that France is in a period of “false calm” and “the worst is yet to come”. Scores of Islamists are scheduled to be released from prison in the next two years, he explained, and the growing fear in France is that there will be attacks similar in scale and organisation to the Bataclan slaughter of 2015. Some of those due for release were imprisoned for participating in the 2014 pro-Palestine riots. France experienced the most serious violence but there were also ugly scenes in Belgium and Germany, the latter including chants of “Jews to the gas” and “Allahu Akbar”. The trouble prompted the New York Times to comment that: … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
A Framework For European-Russian Cooperation In Syria
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 17, 2019
After more than eight years of conflict in Syria, it is now clear that there won’t be a near-term political transition away from Bashar al-Assad. This is a reality that Europeans, by and large, now accept. This does not mean, however, that Europeans are prepared to re-engage with Syria’s new landscape without conditions. On the contrary, European policy remains focused on the need to secure still meaningful gains and European tools, including sanctions, reconstruction funding and any political legitimation remain tied to this end. Key European governments continue to hope that these cards can be used to extract compromises out of Damascus.
For some European governments, the path to possible progress also depends on Russia, which is seen as being the only player that can force Assad to shift position. But while European officials are encouraged by recent US-Russian re-engagement on Syria, they remain cautious about what Moscow is willing to deliver. Until Europeans see some movement from Moscow towards delivering tangible progress on the ground, they will continue to believe that there is no justifiable reason to soften their position. There is some belief that Russia will only act once the costly burden of the longer-term management of Syria becomes more apparent, increasing Russia’s desire to lock in European financial and political support.
To this backdrop, it remains hard to envisage space to forge a middle ground position which could still shape more constructive European-Russian cooperation in Syria. But while hope for progress is slim, it may be possible to outline the contours of an arrangement that could still prove mutually beneficial, delivering both ground improvements sought by Europeans and the European engagement sought by Russia. Ultimately, though, this pathway can only move forward if both sides shift position, accepting an outcome that delivers less than they currently seek.
Shared European-Russian interests in Syria?
Europeans believe that they share a number of key interests with Russia in Syria. Most fundamentally, the two are seen as wanting to secure stability, one that ensures that Syria is not a source of ongoing regional instability and terrorism threats that could impact both Europe and Russia. This necessitates the sustained defeat of ISIS and the closing down of space for other similar groups to emerge. For Europeans, the desire to secure a stable Syria is linked to the possibility of seeing Syrian refugees return home, from both within the region but also European states (though there is less domestic political pressure on this issue within Europe than Russia appears to believe). This is an outcome that Russia claims to support. Finally, there seems to be some shared desire to decrease Iranian influence in Syria, albeit in a more managed, diplomatically engaged and less zero-sum fashion that is now being advanced by the US administration.
If these broad principles are shared, there are nonetheless deep and critical differences over the mutual interpretation of meaningful stability. Europeans have no confidence that the Assad order – as it is currently being reconstituted – can secure real stability able to guarantee European interests. Whereas Russia appears to be betting on the Assad-led Syrian government to recement stability, Europeans see the current system as the fundamental source of ongoing instability. Assad’s ruthless ongoing policies towards detainees and returnees are seen as prime examples, with current government policies likely to feed ongoing polarisation and block any pathway to national reconciliation.
While most Europeans have given up on insisting on Assad’s departure, they broadly share the belief that the Syrian government has to change approach and establish a new national contract capable of holding the population together. This process could conceivably be led by Damascus, though few have any confidence in Assad, but needs to be meaningful and institutionalised in a fashion that has hitherto wholly not been the case. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
On Topic Links:
Hezbollah Said To Bypass US Sanctions By Entering Drug Trade Into Europe: Michael Bachner, Times of Israel, June 11, 2019 — The Hezbollah terror group bypasses US sanctions against Iran and launders many millions of dollars by playing a key role in the global drug trade into Europe, Israeli researchers said Monday.
ALACO DISPATCHES: Europe’s Bid To Salvage Iran Nuclear Deal Under Threat: Yigal Chazan, BNE IntelliNews, Mar. 8, 2019 — Europe’s attempts to enable European companies to continue trading with Iran following the reimposition of US sanctions are being jeopardized by Iranian hardliners’ opposition to the implementation of global financial transparency standards.
Germany’s Russia Lobby: Richard Herzinger, The American Interest, May 14, 2019 — In Germany, prominent Russia advocates abound.
The End of Monogamy in Europe?: Susi Dennison, European Council on Foreign Relations, May 29, 2019 — The official results of the European Parliament election have been rolling in for more than a day now, and the chances are that you will have already read one or two pieces exploring the three key takeaways from this election.