Three recent events, two of them from the past week, haven’t gotten the news coverage they deserve as the Biden administration desperately pursues a rapprochement with Iran.
The first is the U.S. Navy’s seizure over the weekend of a significant weapons shipment. It contained “dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, thousands of Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, and hundreds of PKM machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenades launchers … [and] advanced optical sights,” the Fifth Fleet said in a statement.
The cache was destined for Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, whom the Biden administration recently delisted as a terrorist organization. No serious person believes the arms didn’t originate in Iran, though for obviously political reasons the United States Navy prefers not to state the obvious.
In neighboring Iraq, a prominent Iraqi political activist and critic of Iranian influence in his country, particularly the arming and funding of pro-Tehran militias, was gunned down—the latest in a series of Iran critics to turn up dead. The early reporting suggests an Iranian militia is to blame.
Finally, there is the escalating security situation in the Persian Gulf. After several years of tranquility along one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, Iran has returned to harassing American ships. In early April, one IRGC Navy boat harassed U.S. Navy and Coast Guard boats; weeks later, three IRGC boats got so close that the United States fired warning shots for the first time in years. Thirteen IRGC armed speedboats harassed U.S. ships on Monday again forcing them to fire warning shots.
In response, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said yesterday that “harassment by the IRGC Navy is not a new phenomenon.” That depends on the definition of the word “new”: This round of antagonistic behavior began a few weeks ago, after several years of comparative Iranian good behavior in the Gulf.
These events make clear that Tehran feels no pressure to demonstrate goodwill to the Biden administration, preferring confrontation and violence. It cannot be a coincidence that these events are unfolding in the midst of the administration’s campaign to reenter the nuclear deal.
No matter how many times the pattern repeats itself, JCPOA supporters refuse to learn that Iran repays engagement with contempt, not good behavior, and that the Iranians know a dupe when they see one. Looking at you, Rob Malley.
Elsewhere in the region, the Hamas terrorist organization is demonstrating the same astute appreciation for weakness. A month after Team Biden announced its intention to restore U.S. aid programs to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and resume funding for UNRWA, Hamas rockets are raining down on Israel. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is glorifying the behavior and encouraging the attacks.
The Biden administration pledged to revive aid to the Palestinians—and to jump back into the nuclear deal—to advance peace.
In both cases, the administration has been repaid with violence and humiliation.
Israeli leaders have agreed to a framework for a Palestinian state that would see the new country more than double in size with its capital located in Eastern Jerusalem, according to information provided by the White House.
The Trump administration unveiled on Tuesday its long-anticipated plan to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The plan, which White House officials say has already been agreed to by Israel, would see the Jewish state freezing for four years all construction in contested territories that could be used to form a new Palestinian state.
Under Trump’s plan, a Palestinian state “will more than double the size of the land currently used by the Palestinians” and include areas in Eastern Jerusalem. Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital city and under its control, according to the White House.
“Israel has now agreed to terms for a future Palestinian State,” the White House announced in informational materials outlining the peace framework. “Israel has agreed to a four-year land freeze to secure the possibility of a two-state solution.”
“President Trump secured agreement from both Prime Minister Netanyahu and opposition leader Lieutenant General Benny Gantz to come to Washington, where they agreed to use this Vision as a basis for negotiation,” the White House wrote in the latest materials outlining the new plan. “For the first time in this conflict, President Trump has reached an understanding with Israel regarding a map setting forth borders for a two-state solution.”
Under the plan, which has already been dubbed dead on arrival by leading Palestinian factions, “Jerusalem will stay united and remain the capital of Israel, while the capital of the State of Palestine will be Al-Quds and include areas of East Jerusalem.”
“Beyond territory, the Vision provides for Palestinian use and management of facilities at the Haifa and Ashdod ports, Palestinian development of a resort area on the north shore of the Dead Sea, and continued Palestinian agricultural activity in the Jordan Valley,” the White House materials continue.
The plan envisions a scenario where “neither Palestinians nor Israelis will be uprooted from their homes,” though it remains unclear how this goal will be achieved on the ground.
The White House emphasized portions of the plan that focus on protecting Israeli security interests. To this end, unlike past proposals, the plan “does not ask Israel to take additional security risks and enables Israel to defend itself by itself against any threats.”
U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman told reporters the plan marks “a huge advancement in the peace process.”
Maps showing a future Palestinian state in detail will soon be released by the White House, Friedman said. He described the plan as “a realistic two-state solution.”
Friedman said the plan is unique in that it “mitigates many of the risks that were never solved in past negotiations” between the two sides by enhancing “the territorial footprint of [the] Gaza [Strip]” without impacting Israeli security concerns.
The Palestinian state will be demilitarized and Israel will maintain security responsibility west of the Jordan River, a key area.
“Over time, the Palestinians will work with United States and Israel to assume more security responsibility as Israel reduces its security footprint,” the White House said.
Major religious sites in and around Jerusalem will continue to be maintained by Israel with the longstanding carve outs for Muslim holy sites remaining in place.
“The special and historic role of the King of Jordan with regard to the Muslim Holy Shrines in Jerusalem will be preserved,” the White House said. “All Muslims are welcome to peacefully visit al-Aqsa Mosque.”
By Shawn Macomber • Lawfare Tyranny
Over at the Daily Beast Andrew Novak lays out a persuasive list of reasons why Palestine is “unlikely to see results from an [International Criminal Court] prosecution for many years, if ever.”
“Palestine’s referral to the ICC is fraught with risks,” Novak writes. “The ICC may prosecute all parties to a conflict, and that includes Palestinian crimes as well as Israeli ones. The allegations that Hamas fighters used human shields and fired unstable rockets at civilian areas, if proven, almost certainly constitute war crimes. By contrast, allegations against Israel are much more complex, and largely matters of proportion: for instance, whether the Israeli military provided sufficient warning before attacking residential buildings or caused excessive collateral damage pursuing low-level Hamas fighters. The legality of Israeli settlements is the most complex question of all — and not one that the ICC Prosecutor or judges are well-placed to answer as experts in criminal law. This would be a mess.”
A mess? Business as usual for the ICC then!
Obviously Fatah leadership must have gamed out something approximating these scenarios.
So why proceed?
By Shawn Macomber • Lawfare Tyranny
Over at Foreign Affairs today Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Timothy William Waters explores in disquieting detail the ways all involved parties — and many parties that would expressly prefer to remain uninvolved — are about to become painfully, seriously reacquainted with the law of unintended consequences as the world’s most ineffective, politicized court sashays its way into the world’s most intractable, tragic conundrum.
There many macros and micro ideas to parse and explore in future posts, but to begin here are Waters’ thumbnail sketches of a few of the dangers that lie ahead for…