Thursday, January 23, 2020

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

“…the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses.” – the will of Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize for Peace has been awarded several times for accomplishments in Middle East peacemaking. It’s been given to some truly deserving people, like Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, to some undeserving ones, like Shimon Peres, and to some who – if there were such a thing – in truth deserved the Hitler/Stalin Prize for evil, like Yasser Arafat.

Because of its anti-nationalist and anti-Western bias, the chance that the Nobel Committee will award the prize to US President Trump is microscopically small. But I think that an dispassionate examination will show that they ought to think about it.

Before I explain what I suppose will be considered my contrarian position, I should note that Nobel said nothing about ethical business practices, avoidance of conflict of interest, or general likeability. He did not require monogamy, or insist that a Nobel Laureate refrain from vulgarity in expression, or other unsavory things that Trump could be credibly charged with. The prize is awarded to those who have “conferred the greatest benefit to humankind” by promoting peace; and as I will argue, nobody has done more in recent years to reduce Middle Eastern conflict than Donald Trump.

The biggest threat to peace in the Middle East today comes from the Iranian regime: its expansionism, support for terrorism, and of course its nuclear weapons program. Less serious, but still relevant, is the ever-ongoing Arab war against Israel. Trump has acted in a way that promotes peace in both of these areas.

The Obama Administration agreed to a deal (the JCPOA) which removed painful sanctions from Iran in return for an agreement which – in the best case – would have merely delayed Iran’s breakout as a nuclear weapons state for a decade. In fact, the agreement was full of holes relating to inspections and verification, so it is doubtful that even the hoped-for delay would have been realized.

The removal of sanctions mandated by the deal enabled Iran to invest its newly available funds in training and arming terrorist militias in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, in missile development, in undercover terror cells around the world, and in its nuclear program, taking advantage of the various loopholes in the agreement.

Trump exited from the deal, re-imposed sanctions, and took other actions – for example, the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani – which have greatly weakened the Iranian regime and thrown a monkey wrench into its plans, at least temporarily.

The Iranian regime wants a nuclear umbrella to protect it against the US and Israel, while it implements its plan to dominate the region and its oil resources, to push out all American influence, to destroy Israel, and to establish a Shiite caliphate that will replace Saudi Arabia as the center of the Islamic world.

Apparently, the Obama Administration believed that the interests of the US would be served by aligning itself with the Iranian regime against former American allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, even if this meant providing Iran a safe path to acquire nuclear arms. On the face of it, this seems absurd, but the administration’s actions throughout the eight years of its tenure can’t be interpreted in any other way. The deeper motivations of Obama and his people remain a matter of (dark) speculation. But Trump’s leaving the JCPOA and his killing of Soleimani unambiguously mark the repudiation of this policy.

The Iranian regime’s Hezbollah subsidiary has been exporting terrorism, particularly against Jewish targets on every continent except perhaps Antarctica. Arch-terrorist Soleimani was pulling the strings at the center of this web, and his elimination was a serious blow to it. He was in the process of setting up proxy militias similar to Hezbollah in Iraq and Syria when he received his 72-virgin salute.

Soleimani was in charge of foreign operations for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), but was also considered one of the three most powerful men in the regime, who might even become the successor to Ali Khamenei. The IRGC is also responsible for suppressing dissent and protests within the country, and Iranian dissidents cheered the death of Soleimani, which they saw as greatly weakening the regime.

Trump’s tweets of support in Farsi to the Iranian people (as opposed to the lack of support shown to Iran’s Green Movement in 2009 by the Obama Administration) also bolstered popular opposition. Although the regime is highly oppressive and not loath to shoot protesters, the present unrest is its most serious challenge since the 1979 revolution.

Trump hasn’t limited his activism to the problem of Iran. It used to be fashionable to claim that the “plight of the Palestinians” was the primary source of instability in the Middle East, and that when it was “solved” (always at Israel’s expense), all of the various players in the region would lie down together in peace. And while this theory ignored things like the Sunni/Shiite conflict, Iranian expansionism, and radical Sunni groups like ISIS, it is nevertheless true that the Palestinian Arabs created chaos for decades, leveraging the Cold War, and now the Iranian-American conflict, to keep their anti-Israel war going.

In 1970, the PLO fought a mini-war against Jordan. Then it moved to Lebanon, where it started a vicious civil war whose embers still smolder and threaten to flare up. In 1982, it provoked Israel into a destructive war in Lebanon. During the 1980s, Palestinian terrorists brought their murderous activity to Europe as well as the Middle East, hijacking planes and even a cruise ship, and murdering Jewish athletes.

Part of the Obama/Ben Rhodes plan mentioned above to realign US interests included “solving” the Palestinian problem by weakening Israel and creating a Palestinian state. The idea was originally enunciated in the Iraq Study Report that Rhodes contributed to in 2006. Forcing Israel back to pre-1967 lines was part of the plan.

Obama and his people ignored the fact that Palestinian objectives didn’t stop at the Green Line (maybe they were aware of this and thought that the original creation of a Jewish state was a mistake anyway). They ignored the Iranian regime’s oft-stated intent to “wipe Israel off the map.” They followed a course that would reinforce the belief of both the ayatollahs and the PLO/Hamas that they would be given Israel on a platter, a dangerous tactic that could bring about a regional war that might dwarf the “big wars” of 1967 and 1973.

Trump short-circuited all of this. He cut funding to UNRWA, the UN agency dedicated to building an army of stateless “Palestinian refugees” to use as both a diplomatic and military weapon against Israel. He rectified the embarrassing failure of the US to admit reality, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and move the US Embassy there. He signed the Taylor Force Act to keep American taxpayers from subsidizing Palestinian terrorism. He recognized Israel’s possession of the Golan Heights, essential for her security. His State Department rejected the idea that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria were automatically illegal. In short, he took steps to put an end to the decades-long policy of encouraging the PLO and Hamas in their belief that a combination of terrorism and diplomacy would ultimately evict the Jews from the land of Israel.

Trump may have cut the Gordian Knot in the Middle East. If the American voters give him time to follow through, he may be able to prevent Iran from going nuclear, and perhaps help the Iranian people throw off the oppressive revolutionary Islamic regime. He might even end the Arab war against Israel, after some 100-odd years.

And if he succeeds, nothing could be more fitting than Donald Trump becoming the fifth American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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