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Iran will continue to be a pest until they become a real problem

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Iran will continue to be a pest until they become a real problem

Today, Iran is an annoying little dog barking like crazy but unable to penetrate the pant leg of western powers operating in the Middle East. But even an annoying little dog can be very dangerous if they sink their jaws into someone’s jugular, and at this stage they may be seeking a jugular to go after.

Their desperation is clear. Nobody in the west can know for sure how crucial the supertanker full of crude oil captured by British forces earlier this month was to the Iranians, but they made the unprecedented move of admitting their subterfuge and demanding their tanker back. The pretended it was a Panama ship managed by a Singapore company with Iraqi oil in it that they took all the way around Africa instead of cutting through the Suez Canal, so we can assume by the great lengths they went to in order to try to deliver it to Syria that this was important to them. Was it crucial? Was this a last gasp attempt to jumpstart their economy after having it crushed by U.S. sanctions?

Their willingness to try to seize a British tanker may mean their losses were, indeed, backbreaking.

Five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday but backed off after a British warship approached, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News.

The British warship was said to have been less than 5 miles behind the tanker but soon intercepted the Iranian boats and threatened to open fire. A manned U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was above as well, the official said, adding that Iranian forces left without opening fire.

But this embarrassment in front of the international audience will not be a lesson learned. If anything, Iran and their “Twelver” mentality will feel the need to escalate their actions and do real damage. At some point in the near future, they’re going to open fire and kill someone. That’s the only thing they haven’t done yet during their recent rise in aggressive activities. And when they do take a life, it will almost certainly be American.

Iran needs to be the victim

There are two conflicting narratives the Iranian government needs to perpetuate in order to be successful, at least in their own minds. First, they must put up a front of strength to their people and allies. Their military may be relatively small compared to western military forces, China, or Russia, but they’re significant enough to pose a threat to anyone in the region. The second narrative is one of victimhood in the eyes of the international community. They need the United Nations generally to view them as being bullied by the west, and while a case can be made that the United States is provoking them by slapping on sanctions and leaving the nuclear deal, it’s hard to make a case that the United Kingdom did anything wrong by enforcing EU sanctions on Syria.

Their victimhood narrative is hard to push when they’re sending gunboats to capture civilian ships.

The United States is positioned well by being out of this particular conflict. Other than supporting the British with intelligence and reconnaissance, we haven’t gotten involved in either tanker incident between the U.K. and Iran. Sure, Iran and even Spain can point to the U.K. acting as American proxies, but it’s a hard case to make when it was their waters off Gibraltar where the British seized the Iranian tanker, as well as it being a British tanker that was attacked by Iran.

With or without the U.S. proxy label, the U.K. was right to enforce EU sanctions and to defend their own boats.

Whatever move Iran wants to make next, it’s unlikely to be as muted as a few small gunboats running away from a British battleship.

Underestimating Iran would be a huge mistake, but treating them as equals would be an even bigger one. They are pests and should be handled as such. But when they become more than pests, we need to be ready to act.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Foreign Affairs

The Israel elections, explained for Americans

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The Israel elections explained for Americans

Many Americans are unfamiliar with how the Israeli elections work and what it takes to “win” them. Today’s election is no exception with many Americans simply waiting for the end results (which technically could be weeks away) or not having a concern about them at all. As noted before, these elections will have as big of an impact on our foreign policy as any foreign elections can have.

So, how do they work? Who won? What happens next? Let’s take a look at some answers…

Israelis vote for parties, not candidates

The first big deviation from America’s system of government is that Members of the Knesset (MKs) are selected by the parties, not the people. The people vote for the parties, and those parties are given seats in the Knesset based on their percentage of the vote. The threshold is currently 3.25% to get some of the 120 Knesset seats. Those below the threshold do not get a seat, which is important for the last election in April and Tuesday’s election. More on that later.

The two major parties – the conservative Likud Party and the center-left Blue and White Party – only make up about one-fourth to one-third of the voting population. The next tier of parties are the centrist Yisrael Beitenu Party and the Israeli-Arab coalition of parties, the United Arab List, which is considered to be generally to the left in policies despite holding conservative Muslim values socially. The other parties fight to get whatever seats are left over.

Party leaders are chosen to fill the MK seats as well as cabinet positions, with the party most likely to form a coalition government chosen by the President.

Forming a coalition government

61 MKs are necessary to support a Prime Minister and form a government. Since no single party has every had more than 50% of the vote, a coalition of like-minded parties join together to recommend one leader as Prime Minister.

In April, Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition because Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu Party refused to stay in the conservative coalition because they wanted to pull protections for orthodox Jews from having to serve in the military. Other members of the coalition wouldn’t budge. Instead of risking the baton being passed to Benny Gantz and the center-left Blue and White Party, Netanyahu called for new elections, which is what happened Tuesday.

Exit polls indicate they’re in the same boat with neither Likud nor Blue and White able to form a government without Yisrael Beitenu, which seems to have expanded their seat count. Netanyahu had hopes the smaller conservative parties could have broken the threshold and given him a few extra votes for a conservative government. Gantz hoped the Blue and White would have a decisive victory and claim more seats than Likud, potentially giving them the floor even if his coalition was smaller. It looks as if neither happened.

Liberman is calling for a centrist unity government, but there are challenges that may prevent this. Likud would have to abandon the members of their conservative Zionist coalition by removing the protections against military service requirements for ultra-orthodox Jews. Blue and White has indicated they would not form a unity government as long as Netanyahu was leading Likud.

Unless things are very different from the exit polls, some very tenacious negotiations are ahead behind the scenes.

One way to avoid stalemate

With Likud and Blue and White both needing Yisrael Beitenu’s seats to form a government, it would seem likely that both sides will be making offers. But there’s another option. If Likud’s coalition is close enough, they can go to individual MKs and seek defections in exchange for positions. This may seem like a hard option for conservatives as it would mean inserting progress-minded people into positions of power, but their coalition is insufficient to form a government otherwise.

It’s inconceivable that a single issue about protections for the ultra-orthodox would make the militant Lieberman essentially crown Gantz as Prime Minister, but that may be the case. This is why it’s important for Netanyahu, if he’s chosen to form the government, to act quickly. There will be pressure on members of his own party to dump him and form a unity government with Gantz and Lieberman, and while they have claimed to be loyal to their leader, the risk of losing power overall may sway them.

It’s time for Netanyahu to take decisive action and pull together 61 MKs before his grasp of his party and his nation slips away. It could be disastrous for Israel with an aggressive Iran, emboldened, Hezbollah, and unruly Gaza if Gantz is put in charge.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Netanyahu’s last-minute endorsement: Ilhan Omar wants him out as PM

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Netanyahus last-minute endorsement Ilhan Omar wants him out as PM

It will be incumbent on the people of Israel to decide Tuesday who will lead their government. Outsiders are discouraged from trying to influence foreign elections, but there’s nothing wrong with people expressing their preference, especially as it pertains to such as strong ally like Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is against the ropes, but he should get at least a symbolic boost from his latest outspoken detractor: Representative Ilhan Omar. The anti-Semitic Congresswoman has made her perspectives on Israel very clear, siding very heavily with “Palestine” and even declaring in her attempted visit there last month that she was traveling to Palestine, not Israel, in her itinerary.

She has insinuated at times she believes Israel should not exist as a Jewish state. She also often sides with Islamic terrorists, running cover for them while saying 9/11 was a matter of “some people did something.”

Now, she’s clear about her opposition to Netanyahu:

Omar: Netanyahu’s ‘existence’ contradictory to peace

“I certainly hope that the people of Israel make a different decision and my hope is that they recognize that [Netanyahu’s] existence, his policies, his rhetoric really is contradictory to the peace that we are all hoping that region receives and receives soon,” the Minnesota Democrat told Face the Nation on Sunday.

The problem with her statement is that Netanyahu’s policies have been the only thing keeping Israel at relative peace the last decade. Her remarks were meant as a rebuke against the Prime Minister, but it’s not going to be received well by those who understand her politics. Of course she wants Netanyahu out. She wants Israel to be as weak and defenseless as possible.

Considering Iran is rearing its ugly head, demonstrating a willingness to attack its enemies, it’s difficult to see Israel remaining strong and safe without Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm. Now is not the time for cultural experimentation. Stick with Bibi.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Foreign Affairs

Israel’s election has immense implications for the United States

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Israels election has immense implications for the United States

Is Israel a Jewish state powered by its conservative, religious base or is it a secular state that pushes aside tradition? Is it the unabashed ally of the United States or are they hoping to move forward without input from Washington DC? Those two answers are really what will be decided in Tuesday’s election, and things will change between the United States and its best ally in the Middle East if there’s a major shakeup in the Israel government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life as his Likud Party seeks to not only get the most seats in the Knesset but also help their allies on the right win enough seats to allow the conservatives to form a coalition government. Both obstacles must be overcome in order for his pro-Israel and pro-America agenda to stay intact.

If Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party are victorious (they tied with Likud in April), then Gantz will likely be tasked with forming a government that is center-left. He’ll need some help from the center-right to form his government, but it will almost certainly be made with an understanding that the policies protecting the ultra-orthodox Jews, which represent around 10% of the population, will be removed. It would also change the direction of any Middle East peace plan the White House may present.

Even if Likud wins but does no have enough seats won by conservative parties, Netanyahu will still have to look to Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu Party to form a coalition. Lieberman refused to side with Netanyahu in April without the ultra-orthodox Jewish protections removed, which forced Israel to have this second round of 2019 elections. Yisrael Beitenu is expected to win even more seats this time, and unless there’s a surge for conservative parties, the new government will be center-right at best as Netanyahu will be forced to form a unity coalition with Lieberman and Gantz.

America needs Netanyahu to stay in power, but we also need his government to be built on a conservative platform. Neither Gantz nor Lieberman are anti-American, but they will not work as diligently on behalf of Israeli and American interests against Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas. This will compel the United States to take a more active role in the region; currently, a strong Israel allows the United States to be much less aggressive when it comes to preventing catastrophes like a nuclear Iran or the expansion of threats to our interests in the Middle East.

Israelis will decide Tuesday if they like the direction the nation is going or if they want to explore other options. Unfortunately, those “other options” will likely include less engagement with their greatest ally, the United States.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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