US Policy Changes Vol.36 (Foreign Policy Vol.5 – Israel-Palestine, Russia, Iran, Syria)

Here are @BrookingsInst’s articles on foreign policy (Israel-Palestine, Russia, Iran and Syria). Excerpts are on our own.

President Trump’s options for Israeli-Palestinian dealmaking (12/1/2016) | @Martin_Indyk @BrookingsFP (Big Ideas For America)
…three possible approaches to negotiations—a provocative, high-risk “top-down” approach that would focus on the contested status of Jerusalem; a more measured “bottom-up” approach that would work with regional players to change the situation on the ground; and a summit-driven “outside-in” approach that would establish internationally supported terms of reference for negotiating a two-state solution. …
INTRODUCTION
…but he would be the first real estate developer to try to reach for the “brass ring,” and his experience with making land deals as well as his unconventional, disruptive approach to diplomacy might just generate new possibilities when all other efforts have failed. However, President Trump would be taking on the task at a uniquely difficult moment when neither side trusts in the peaceful intentions of the other or believes in the possibility of a peace deal based on the establishment of a viable Palestinian state living alongside the Jewish state of Israel in peace and security.
This “two-state solution” has been thwarted by two abiding realities… The first is the power of the Israeli settler movement and its supporters in…right-wing coalition government. They regard all West Bank territory as part of the Land of Israel and firmly reject the two-state solution. Consequently, they are pursuing apace an effort to annex the 60 percent of the West Bank that remains under complete Israeli control (known as “Area C” in the Oslo Accords…)… attempting to legalize some 50 outposts that are illegal under Israeli law, and preventing any Palestinian development of the land.
The second reality is a politically and physically divided Palestinian polity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip… Hamas remains dedicated to the destruction of Israel and is consolidating its grip on Gaza while building its influence in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Fatah…has left its leadership preoccupied…
… The alternative of forming a more flexible centrist coalition with the Labor Party would leave him dependent on parties to his left while his rivals to his right robbed him of the support of his natural constituency. Meanwhile, Abbas’s electoral mandate expired some six years ago, and he no longer feels he has the legitimacy to make compromises over what his people believe are their inalienable rights. …
…current circumstances do not permit the achievement of a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and yet failure to pursue that resolution now will make it even less possible to achieve it in the future. …
1. “Jerusalem first”
… One of the basic rules of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be left until all the other issues are resolved. …
…neither side accepts the legitimacy of the other’s claims. Arab east Jerusalem was annexed to Israel in 1967, and since then every Israeli government has claimed undivided Jerusalem as “the eternal capital of Israel.” … Conversely, Palestinians claim all the area of east Jerusalem that Israel occupied in 1967, including the Old City, as the capital for their state, and view the Jewish suburbs built there as illegal. …
… The area bounded by the walls of the Old City, which contains the sites holiest to the three great religions…would be declared a special zone where neither side would exercise their claims to sovereignty… However, such rational compromises have not proven remotely acceptable to either side.
… Hamas might resume rocket attacks from Gaza, but because of fear of an Israeli response they would more likely seek to stoke the fires of violent resistance in the West Bank and Jerusalem. …
Alternatively, in parallel with moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the president could also announce that he has decided to establish a U.S. embassy to the state of Palestine in east Jerusalem…
To ensure that both sides negotiated in good faith, President Trump could declare that if they fail to turn up or fail to reach agreement, the Quartet, Egypt, and Jordan would resort to a UN Security Council resolution setting out the parameters of the rational solution on Jerusalem, in effect threatening to impose it on the two sides. …
2. Bottom-up
… In his first two years, he would instead focus on arresting the negative dynamics on the ground in the West Bank and work with Egypt and Jordan to promote a united Palestinian leadership with a mandate to negotiate peace with Israel.
Under this option, he would need to insist at the outset that Israel stop all construction east of the security barrier… Construction in east Jerusalem could also continue but on a 1:1 basis for building in Arab as well as Jewish suburbs. There could be no construction in E1 or other sensitive areas…
… In return, the building of state institutions and the development…should be boosted by a new injection of funds from the United States, the Arab states, and the international community.
3. Outside-in
…might consider taking up “outside in” approach, which would involve Trump convening the leaders of the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the EU, and the UN) and the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates)… …to draw on the collective will of the international community to jumpstart direct negotiations based on these agreed principles.
-…end the conflict, end all claims, and establish two states living side by side in peace and security.
-…the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.
-…ensure that Israel can defend itself against any threat…
-…the shared capital…
-…UN General Assembly resolution 181…
NO PAIN, NO GAIN
… Neither Israelis nor Palestinians at this moment believe that peace is either possible or desirable because the costs seem too high and the benefits too small. For both leaders, the status quo is quite sustainable, even as outside parties fret that the two-state solution is being buried in the process. …
… Likewise, Palestinian weakness makes it particularly difficult to move them since, like a business venture that is close to bankruptcy, they can always threaten collapse if they are forced to compromise. Meanwhile, the Arab states are all preoccupied with other more serious threats to their security and stability. They will be reluctant to risk Palestinian ire or, for Egypt and Jordan, the unhappiness of their Israeli security partner, to assist the president…
President Trump will therefore have to be prepared to overcome all the local resistance that is now baked into the situation. He will also need to resist the advice of his experts…
… Despite all the friction with the Obama administration, Russia has been fully supportive of Secretary Kerry’s efforts, so President Trump can easily find common ground with President Vladimir Putin. Similarly, he will find a willing partner in the EU, which believes that the failure to solve the Palestinian problem exacerbates the other Middle Eastern conflicts that threaten stability in Europe. While the Arab states will be more reluctant to take risks, President Sissi and King Abdullah both strongly believe in the importance of a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for their own well-being. The Gulf Arabs are less persuadable, but will be attracted by the ability to engage openly with Israel…

Draw red lines on Russia (11/30/2016) | @steven_pifer @TheNatlInterest @BrookingsFP
… Part of the problem is that domestic political factors drive much of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy. With a stagnant economy, he cannot base regime legitimacy on rising living standards, as he did in 2000–2008. He instead has turned to nationalism at home and the restoration of Russia as a power-player abroad. …
– Reaffirmation of NATO’s decision to modestly boost its military presence in the Baltic states and Poland in the face of Russia’s more aggressive stance, coupled with an offer to explore ways to reduce tensions between the alliance and Moscow. …
– Support for Ukraine and the German-led effort to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine. …
– Readiness to cooperate on areas where U.S. and Russian interests converge. …beyond the New START treaty.

Why small steps on Russia are better than attempts at a grand bargain (11/30/2016) | Angela Stent @TheNatlInterest (@CarnegieCorp) @BrookingsFP
… First, every U.S. administration since 1991 has come into office seeking to improve ties with Russia and each of these resets has ended in disappointment… Second…a reprise of the Yalta agreement that divides the world into spheres of influence and does not challenge what he considers are Russia’s legitimate interests. …
… It might involve recognizing Crimea as part of Russia and lifting the economic sanctions on Russia imposed after the launch of a war in the Donbass that has claimed 10,000 lives so far. …

Trump could gut the Iran deal—but it was vulnerable all along (11/17/2016) | @MaloneySuzanne @BrookingsFP
TRUMP’S IRAN OPTIONS
…@RNephewCGEP…described Trump’s election as “the end game for the deal,” noting the centrality of the executive branch in implementing American obligations—specifically, waivers that provide for U.S. sanctions relief that is required by the JCPOA. …
On the other side of the spectrum are those—including the Iranians themselves—who highlight that the deal was negotiated by seven states and the European Union (not to mention endorsed by the U.N. Security Council)…
ESCALATION AHEAD?
… Serious Republican national security figures such as Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker…recognize the dangers of alienating U.S. allies, most of whom are deeply committed to preserving the nuclear deal (with initial opponents like Israel and Saudi Arabia grudgingly accepting its utility). …
… Senior Republicans on the Hill have pledged to reverse Obama’s contentious efforts to go above and beyond the deal’s requirements for sanctions relief in hopes of preserving support for the deal within Iran. …
… New sanctions could stymie Iran’s efforts to attract foreign investment and rebuild trade ties with Europe and Asia. Even better, from the standpoint of the Republicans, they might prompt Tehran to abrogate the deal, since the Iranian leadership maintains—inaccurately, but with a voluble echo chamber in Europe and the United States—that any American sanctions contravene the nuclear deal.
… Finally, he has pledged to respond forcefully to any future Iranian provocation, such as harassment of American naval forces in the Gulf…
… With an impulsive and unschooled American president, counseled by a constellation of trigger-happy ideologues, the prospect of a military confrontation between Washington and Tehran…
A LEGACY IN PERIL
… Since last week, a range of Iranian officials have insisted that the JCPOA—and its more important byproduct, Iran’s international rehabilitation—are “irreversible.”
… Many of the red flags of the Iranian nuclear program—the Arak plutonium reactor, the stockpiles of near 20 percent enriched uranium, the industrial-sized enrichment capability—have been demobilized in a fashion that will take time to reconstitute. …
HOUSE OF CARDS
… However, the deal’s architects failed in one difficult but vital task: ensuring the agreement’s sustainability beyond the administration’s lifespan. …
…the deal incorporated sufficient ambiguity on sanctions to ensure that every future application of American pressure on Iran would be strenuously contested by Tehran—and that concerns about eroding Iranian commitment to the deal would compromise Washington’s vigilance in enforcing the residual measures. …
…the deal’s success never really rested on the terms and provisions…but rather in the ambitions that the agreement embodied.
This is in large part a consequence of the way that leaders on both sides framed the deal to generate domestic support. …
…the influx of capital remains sluggish—in part because of residual American sanctions as well as low oil prices…

Should we work with the devil we know against the Islamic State? (11/21/2016) | @dbyman @lawfareblog @BrookingsFP
…Ryan Crocker…
… Bashar Assad and his father before him imposed a brutal order on the country in the past. Assad the elder killed thousands during a civil war from 1978-1982, leveling parts of the city of Hama, a key opposition hotbed, as a lesson to those he defied him, particular Islamists tied to Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood. Both he and his son ruled as dictators, where torture and other human rights abuses were common. But say what you will, the jihadist problem in Syria was largely contained…
…Assad is pragmatic—for example, in 2013 he agreed to rid himself of chemical weapons in a successful effort to avoid U.S. air strikes (though…his regime reportedly used chemical weapons in the battle for Aleppo earlier this fall). …
… Diplomatically, U.S. allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia would strongly oppose this policy and would probably work to undermine it. … Saudi Arabia has proven a major source of terrorist recruits and financing, while the Syria-Turkey border was a major crossing point for Islamic State recruits. …
… Russia and Iran are loathed in the Arab world because of their embrace of Assad, and a U.S. alliance with Syria and these powers would “prove” to already-suspicious Sunnis that the United States seeks to subvert their traditional dominance of the Arab world and encourage Iranian influence to spread. …terrorism is justified because the United States is at war with Sunni Muslims.
Additionally, although U.S. air power and other support would help Assad’s forces advance, the regime would be unlikely to pacify all of the country, at least in the near-term, given the size of the opposition. …even with support from the Lebanese Hezbollah and Shiite fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan…
…an Assad victory would be widely, and correctly, seen as a triumph for its biggest friend—the clerical regime in Iran.
Most important, morality matters. It is one thing to ally with Stalin against Hitler when engaged in a total war; it is another to make such a devil’s bargain in a lesser conflict when the U.S. enjoys overwhelming power. …
… The United States can continue the incremental but steady efforts to work with local factions in Iraq and Syria to shrink the Islamic State’s haven and put pressure on the group. It can continue the global intelligence effort…