Abolish UNRWA

By John Bolton

The world undoubtedly was startled to learn that staffers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency participated in Hamas’s barbaric Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged a full investigation, and several countries, including the United States, suspended funding to UNRWA.

Washington should demand far more than just further revelations about UNRWA involvement in Oct. 7’s tragic events.

The larger, more complex truth about UNRWA is its decadeslong performance less as a U.N. agency and more as a bulwark of Palestinian resistance to reality, especially in the Gaza Strip. This larger UNRWA history has contributed significantly to making Palestinians a pariah people, unwanted even by fellow Arabs. And it is UNRWA, along with Hamas, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Palestinian Authority, that embodies the myth of Palestinians’ perpetual refugee status until Israel disappears. UNRWA has been a witting participant in weaponizing the Palestinian people against Israel, ultimately to their own severe detriment.

The answer to the UNRWA problem requires abolishing and dismantling the agency and its philosophy, which runs contrary to international refugee principles derived after World War II. Until the treatment of Palestinians, particularly Gazans, comes into conformity with the more humane approach institutionalized by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, there is little long-term hope that Palestinians will be deweaponized.

Basic UNHCR doctrine originated in the post-1945 mass movements of refugees and displaced persons. Its two main goals are providing protection and assistance for refugees. One form of protection, highly difficult but critical to attempt, is isolating refugees from the politics of the violent conflicts that made them refugees to begin with. UNRWA does the opposite, fanning the flames of discontent even in its basic education programs and cooperating closely with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. On assistance, UNHCR worries not only about refugees’ immediate needs but also their long-term prospects, either returning to their original homes or resettlement elsewhere. This, too, is dramatically different from UNRWA’s uniform focus on the “right of return” to Israeli territory.

UNHCR believes refugees should either return to their country of origin or, if that is impossible for whatever reason, be resettled in third countries. UNHCR often looks to the “country of first asylum,” typically a country bordering the one from which the refugees fled, but there are, at times, capacity and other restraints justifying resettlement elsewhere. One thing clear to all refugee agencies and experts, except UNRWA, is that long-term subsistence in refugee camps is the least desirable alternative. In the mind-deadening camps, there is no hope for viable economic activity or long-term prospects. Yet, to promote the larger political objective of using Palestinians as a wedge against Israel’s very legitimacy, that is exactly what UNRWA does.

The truly humanitarian strategy for Palestinians is to settle them in locations with sustainable economies. To that end, we should realize that Gaza is very different from the West Bank, and the futures of Palestinians should be separated accordingly. On the West Bank, there may well be prospects for long-term stability with the cooperation of Israel and Jordan. That possibility does not exist in Gaza. Assuming Israel and Jordan can agree on a political solution, circumstances on the West Bank are far better for long-term settlement of the existing Palestinian population than in Gaza, which is merely a high-rise, long-stay refugee camp.

Ironically, precisely because of the way prior enemies of Israel abused the Palestinians, there is enormous reluctance to accept them for resettlement. Egypt and Jordan, the real countries of first asylum, are the most vocal in rejecting the option. Indeed, no country in the Middle East has shown interest in permanent refugee resettlement. Surely, however, all can see that simply rebuilding Gaza is a guaranteed failure, perhaps leading quickly to a repetition of Oct. 7.

In any case, Israel is physically reshaping Gaza to ensure its own security, and new Israeli buffer zones and strong points are not going away soon. All parties with a stake in the conflict must accept that the two-state solution is dead. Not only is there no viable economic future in Gaza alone, but connecting it with an archipelago of Palestinian islands on the West Bank won’t improve prospects.

Abolishing UNRWA and replacing it with UNHCR will be difficult, but UNRWA may be collapsing under its own weight. Firing all UNRWA’s roughly 40,000 employees, well over 90% of whom are Palestinians, may be impossible, but whoever is reemployed must be vetted carefully and supervised for a probationary period before receiving job security. UNRWA’s mindset must be eliminated and replaced with UNHCR’s.

There must be a dramatic shift in expectations and policy objectives for the Palestinians as a matter of humanitarian priority, no matter how wrenching and disappointing. For decades, the two-state policy has been tried and failed. It’s time for a new direction.

This article was first published in The Washington Examiner on February 2, 2024. Click here to read the original article.


As Iran-backed militias attack Americans, Biden tries to save Tehran terrorists

By John Bolton

Many words describe President Biden’s Iran policy. “Craven,” “weak,” “obsequious” and “embarrassing,” among others, come readily to mind.

But there are no words to describe adequately the recent White House decision, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, to warn Tehran about a possible terrorist attack.

Sunday’s serious American casualties in Jordan, at the hands of an Iran-backed militia, tragically underscore Biden’s folly.

Anonymous administration sources justified sharing intelligence with a US enemy by citing a “duty to warn” policy applicable to both citizens and noncitizens.

Although the Journal story mentions “exceptions” to this policy, its administration sources were less than candid.

I have experienced duty-to-warn personally.

Starting in 2020, the FBI, pursuant to the policy, has warned me of Iran’s efforts to assassinate me and other current and former American officials.

I’m sure Tehran is pleased to know President Biden nonetheless still has its best interests at heart.

The origins of duty-to-warn lie in the Libyan-ordered 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Information about terrorist threats had earlier been sent to US embassies but without comparable warning to the general public.

Combined with reports of other preferential treatment for government officials, the post-Lockerbie outcry produced federal legislation creating a “no double standard” policy.

Broadly stated, the State Department shares threat-related information to both official and non-official Americans, which is especially important for our citizens living or traveling abroad.

US law-enforcement and intelligence agencies were contemporaneously considering how to deal with information regarding American citizens facing specific terrorist threats.

The “duty to warn” evolved over decades, adjusting the scope and extent of threats considered and the categories of people to be warned.

Elements of the policy remain classified, but Intelligence Community Directive 191, largely unclassified, is likely the authority the anonymous administration sources cited.

Claiming Biden officials had no choice but to disclose threat intelligence to Iran is flatly wrong.

It is nearly inconceivable US policymakers could believe it wise to disclose sensitive material to an enemy state currently taking numerous hostile steps against Americans.

The Journal gave only one example of sharing intelligence with an adversary: in December 2019 when Donald Trump provided information to Vladimir Putin, hardly an inspiring precedent.

ICD 191 is limited in significant respects.

It is merely a policy statement, not a legislative requirement, and therefore subject to adaptation as circumstances require.

Indeed, it already provides two justifications for not disclosing threat information that emphatically apply to Iran.

The terrorists’ target here was memorial services for Qassem Soleimani, former head of Iran’s Quds Force, sent to his Maker courtesy of the United States in January 2020.

These memorials were Iranian government events, attended by large numbers of government officials, especially from the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards (of which the force is a component) and others.

ICD 191 authorizes waiving disclosure where the target is at risk because of its “participation in an insurgency, insurrection or other armed conflict” or where there is reason to believe the target “is a terrorist, a direct supporter of terrorists, an assassin” or commits other criminal activity.

These exemptions define attendees at the Soleimani memorial services to a T.

The White House decision to proceed anyway is an entirely unforced error.

It comes even while the administration is treating US military and civilian personnel in Syria and Iraq as little more than tethered goats, inviting targets for Iran-backed-militia attacks.

With the Houthis’ efforts to strike American naval vessels in the Red Sea, these attacks are now unambiguous, notwithstanding US and UK retaliation against the Yemeni terrorist group for firing on commercial ships.

And, as noted, Iran is directing an active assassination campaign against current and former government officials and private citizens like Masih Alinejad and Salman Rushdie.

Iran’s reaction to receiving intelligence about a possible terrorist attack is unknown, but Tehran obviously failed to defend against the threat, which manifested itself Jan. 3.

Thus, not only was Biden’s tip to the mullahs misguided, it failed, thereby proving it was a mistake to begin with.

There is no doubt ICD 191’s current text, written during the Obama years, is inadequate and needs strengthening, especially in light of Biden’s palpable misjudgment.

Duty-to-warn should not apply, for example, if the persons or state being targeted are themselves trying to murder US citizens.

That’s Iran.

Duty-to-warn should not apply to any person or state arming, training or financing terrorist groups threatening or attacking American personnel overseas.

That’s Iran.

This article was first published in The New York Post on January 28, 2024. Click here to read the original article.


Face reality, ‘democracy advocate’ Biden: Taiwan is already independent

Taking advantage of a split opposition, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party won an unprecedented third straight presidential victory in Saturday’s elections.

President-elect William Lai and his vice-presidential running mate, Bi-khim Hsiao, are savvy and experienced, capable of leading Taiwan through potentially perilous times ahead.

On domestic issues, the DPP is generally to the left of its largest opponent, the Kuomintang, once led by Chiang Kai-shek, who brought the Republic of China government to Taiwan in 1949 after repeated defeats by Mao Zedong’s Communists.

nternationally, however, the DPP view of Taipei’s place in the world is comfortable with Reagan-style Republicanism.

Given the threats Lai’s incoming administration will face, it needs full support from its American friends and across the global West.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is undoubtedly outraged that Beijing’s latest effort to subvert free elections failed once more, likely again backfiring and increasing DPP support.

Through political and military threats and intimidation, media influence operations and outright efforts at subversion and corruption, China worked hard to prevent another DPP presidential victory.

Thwarted by the voters, Xi will undoubtedly turn to far more dangerous methods to gain control over Taiwan.

He has already stressed to President Biden that’s his objective.

He is serious.

And since the opposition holds a small majority in Taiwan’s incoming Legislative Yuan, the Lai administration will face political constraints that outgoing DPP President Tsai Ing-wen did not.

Beijing and its Western sympathizers endlessly argue — they continue after the campaign — that Lai and the DPP are reckless, risking war across the Taiwan Strait, and, in any case, America long ago agreed that Taiwan is part of China.

This is entirely wrong, but even many Americans, including the Biden administration, accept this disingenuous rendering of the “One-China” policy.

In the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué, President Richard Nixon agreed that America “acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.”

Translated from diplo-speak, this means we recognized the reality that, in 1972, Chiang and Mao each still believed in ultimately prevailing over the other in China’s civil war.

Those days are gone. Also gone are any ideas of what “all Chinese” in Taiwan believe.

Its citizens have come to see themselves as a different people, not unlike Americans transitioning from seeing themselves as English, pointedly so in 1776.

After 30-plus years of Taiwan opinion surveys, the latest results are that only 2.5% consider themselves Chinese; 62.8% Taiwanese; and 30.5% Taiwanese-Chinese.

Taiwan meets the key tests of international “state” status: defined territory and population and a fully functioning government.

This reality constitutes de facto Taiwanese independence, whether China likes it or not.

President-elect Lai doesn’t have to declare independence since Taiwan already has it. Only if China succeeds in conquest will that change.

Standing firm for Taiwan’s freedoms is provocative only to Beijing’s Communist authoritarians, who fear the spread of ideas totally antithetical to the autocracy they desperately hope to preserve.

The right policy for America here is to recognize reality: Taiwan is independent.

I recommended as far back as 2000 that Washington extend full diplomatic relations to Taipei, unsuccessfully so far.

Unfortunately, we already have Biden’s knee-jerk reaction to Saturday’s elections: “We do not support independence.”

Making Xi’s day, that Biden, a real democracy advocate!

Whatever Taiwan’s abstract political status, it is critical to American national security for many reasons, from geopolitics (the “unsinkable aircraft carrier” in Douglas MacArthur’s words) to economics, as a key American trading partner, particularly in vital semiconductor chips.

These US national interests have been consistently reaffirmed ever since the guarantees embodied in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

Today, Taiwan is more threatened by China than ever.

Following Russia’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine in February 2022, many rightly saw Taiwan’s increased precariousness.

With the Iranian-backed aggression in the Middle East now consuming Washington decision-makers, Beijing may be irresistibly tempted to take advantage of Taipei’s incoming government.

What Biden should do, with allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia, is make clear that we expect China to keep hands off, period.

America’s November elections are also problematic because Taiwan may be at greater risk in a second Trump term.

Donald Trump never said he fell in love with Xi, as he did with Kim Jong Un, but it’s close.

Trump’s view of national security focuses invariably on what brings the greatest attention to himself, not US national interests.

This will not be an easy year for Taiwan’s new government.

This article was first published in New York Post on January 16, 2024. Click here to read the original article.


Oct. 7 was the opening attack in Iran’s ‘ring of fire’ war against Israel

When Hamas launched its blitzkrieg from Gaza on Oct. 7, it did not mark the onset of yet another Arab-Israeli war. Nor was it a war of Palestinians against Israel. Instead, the barbaric onslaught marked the beginning of an Iranian war against Israel, carried out by Tehran’s terrorist proxies. The war’s future course and duration are murky, but the ayatollahs’ underlying strategy is clear: close their long-envisioned “ring of fire” around Israel, permanently weakening or even paralyzing the Jewish State.

Jerusalem’s leaders and most neighboring Arab rulers grasp this reality. Sadly, however, the threat has not fully registered throughout the West. Instead, too many decisionmakers see only unrelated regional crises. They worry about an imminent “wider war,” heedless that the wider war began Oct. 7. The West is not thinking strategically about defeating Iran’s coalition, but is distracted by criticisms, often implicitly or explicitly antisemitic, purportedly expressing “humanitarian” concern for Gazans or the hostages Hamas kidnapped.

Also unclear is whether Israel has sufficient resolve to persevere until achieving true peace and security for its people. What Thomas Paine wrote of America now applies to Israel: “these are the times that try men’s souls.”

Consider the politico-military battlefield as it now stands.

Gaza remains the most active front in this multi-front war. Since the Oct. 7 surprise, timed almost exactly to the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, which also caught Israel off-guard, Israel Defense Forces have made steady progress. Right after Oct. 7, U.S. military advisers cautioned the IDF to proceed prudently, minimizing its own and Gazan civilian casualties.

Ironically, given current White House pressure to conclude major Gaza operations quickly, Americans stressed that their campaigns in Iraq to subdue Fallujah and Mosul took between nine and 12 months. This counsel proved wise, especially given the extraordinary tunnel system Hamas had spent 15 years digging under the Gaza Strip, not to benefit Gazans economically but to enable Hamas and its patron Iran to wage war against Israel. Accordingly, diversionary arguments like whether Hamas had command operations under the al-Shifa hospital, which it did, are beside the point. Al-Shifa hospital management and many others undoubtedly knew about Hamas’s activities and intentions.

The continuing debate over whether Iran “ordered” Hamas to attack on Oct. 7, or whether Hamas acted independently, obviously implicates Iran’s role in the broader conflict. Initially, Iran and Hamas vehemently denied Tehran’s leading role, awkwardly coupled with fervent pleas of mutual support. Now, even this pretense is gone.

Iran’s foreign minister recently threatened that, “if the U.S. continues its military, political and financial support of Israel and helps manage Israel’s military attacks on Palestinian civilians, then it must face its consequences.” Qassem Soleimani and his Quds Force worked for years to bring Iran’s terrorist proxies across the Middle East into closer alignment, arguing correctly that greater coordination and joint strategies would increase their collective threat to Israel. That has now come to pass.

Moreover, debate about Iran “ordering” Hamas is misplaced. Politico-military alliances rarely have rigid hierarchical structures. America leads NATO, but no one seriously believes Washington “orders” the other allies. Extensive planning and coordination precede most NATO decisions. Doubtless, senior political and military leaders in Tehran are frustrated with Hamas and others not seeing things exactly as they do, but friction and contention among coalition members cannot obscure the ultimate locus of power.

The other belligerent terrorist groups also act at Iran’s behest. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, for example, could not endanger commercial shipping or Western naval vessels in the Red Sea without Iranian arming, equipping, training and financing. The Houthis’ geographical location affords them enormous leverage over the southern Red Sea, and therefore the Suez Canal, through which 12 to 15 percent of the world’s trade (and some 30 percent of container-shipping traffic) passes. Insurance rates and prices on a wide variety of goods are rising and will increase as the conflict continues.

In recent years, Houthis launched Iranian drones and missiles against civilian airfields and oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, giving Iran launching platforms in the backyards of its Gulf Arab foes. The Houthis are a threat because of what Iran provides. Iran is not doing so as charity for Houthis, but to advance Tehran’s own interests. On January 11-12, after months of inaction, a U.S.-led coalition finally struck at Houthis targets in Yemen. Whether this long-delayed military response will suffice to deter further Iran-Houthi depredations remains to be seen.


Iran’s growing aggression against America shows Biden’s weakness

John R. Bolton was national security adviser under President Donald Trump and is the author of “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” which will soon be published in paperback with a new foreword.

President Biden’s justifiable focus on the Hamas-Israel conflict is perilously diverting his attention from acts of war by other Iranian proxies against American targets in the Middle East. We must answer Iran’s belligerence with more than words, thus demonstrating plainly that these acts must cease.

For two months, hostile acts have accumulated. Since Oct. 17, when the attacks began, Shiite militias have struck U.S. military and civilian targets in Syria and Iraq more than 100 times, most recently rocketing our Baghdad embassy for the first time in over a year. Thus far, there have been at least 66 casualties. Yemen-based Houthi terrorists have made numerous attacks against commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea. A U.S. destroyer recently shot down a suspected Houthi drone headed its way during one such attack on a commercial vessel.

Only the credulous doubt that Iran’s regional surrogates are acting in concert in the current crisis. Iran’s surrogates explicitly see these disparate attacks as retaliation for Israel’s efforts to eliminate Hamas in Gaza. Senior Biden administration officials have unambiguously stated that Iran is not only financially supporting but also directing and helping plan Houthi attacks. And Iran’s foreign minister was even more blunt, recently telling the New York Times that “if the U.S. continues its military, political and financial support of Israel and helps manage Israel’s military attacks on Palestinian civilians, then it must face its consequences.”

To date, Biden’s responses have been minimal and inadequate. Infrequent, pinprick attacks against Shiite militia positions in Iraq signal weakness, not resolve. They have failed to reduce militia attacks. While it’s true that these Iranian attacks have yet to produce mass casualties among our armed forces, it’s not for lack of Iran trying. “They are aiming to kill,” one defense official recently remarked. “We have just been lucky.” And as former Central Command head Frank McKenzie put it recently, “we’ve given them no reason not to continue” attacking.

The Biden administration is not only failing to establish even minimal deterrence; it seems incapable of thinking strategically about U.S. interests in the region, dismaying friends and allies alike.

Protecting freedom of navigation has always been a core U.S. security priority. Ships transiting the Red Sea, from the Suez Canal to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, have proved to be convenient targets for the Houthis. Roughly 12 percent of global trade, amounting to as much as 30 percent of global container traffic, sails this route. The 2021 blockage of the Suez Canal by a ship that ran aground severely disrupted global markets.

The persistent attacks have already spiked maritime insurance rates. Four of the world’s largest shippers, after direct hits or near misses on their vessels, have “paused” entries into the Red Sea. Oil giant BP has followed suit with its fleet of tankers. Smaller shipping companies won’t be far behind. Ships will be sent around Africa, adding costs and delays to a still fragile international supply chain. Oil prices are already rising because of the uncertainty.

The Biden administration has sought to set up a multinational force to escort commercial traffic. But this is a purely defensive measure and therefore insufficient. Like the pinprick attacks against Shiite militias, it will not deter the land-based, mobile Houthis or their Iranian weapons suppliers. The administration has asked Houthis to stop their attacks and imposed limited sanctions. That, too, will not do much.

Biden delisted the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization within a month of taking office in 2021. For starters, he should immediately redesignate them as such. And he should overcome any compunction within his team about striking the Houthis directly.

But he should also think more broadly. Iran is incontrovertibly behind all these escalations, and it needs to receive a strong signal that its behavior is unacceptable. Washington must establish clear deterrence, including through using force. By imposing costs on Iran now, it will lessen the odds of more extensive escalation later.

Iranian military assets in the Red Sea or naval bases along the Persian Gulf are logical deterrence-establishing targets. Even attacks against Iranian territorial air defenses or Quds Force bases in Iran would signal resolve but not regime-threatening intentions. Let Iran worry for now whether its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs are also at risk.

Iran is not looking for ways to live with America in the Middle East. Tehran wants us out, particularly from our gulf military bases. Tehran also wants Israel further isolated and ultimately eliminated. None of this should be acceptable to the United States.

To the mullahs, U.S. restraint shows not good faith but civilizational decline. We never strike Iran, and the mullahs draw the appropriate conclusions. Powerful retaliatory strikes against Iran’s surrogates alone might establish deterrence, but Washington is not even trying that.

Deterrence is based not on rhetoric but on power and performance. Time is running out for Biden to get the point.

This article was first published in The Washington Post on December 20, 2023. Click Here to read the original article.


Biden’s weakness is bringing war to South America

The Essequibo crisis is further evidence, if the world needed it, of why dethroning Nicolas Maduro is desirable

Is war about to erupt in South America? Last week, Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro took provocative steps toward forcibly annexing Essequibo, a region comprising almost three-quarters of neighbouring Guyana. “Experts” promptly downplayed the possibility of hostilities, but they may have spoken too soon.

Maduro’s pretext is a 19th-century dispute, once thought resolved, but periodically reopened by Venezuela. The real spark, however, is his regime’s ongoing collapse, financially crippled by decades of mismanaging Venezuela’s vast oil reserves; massive regime corruption; and repression of domestic political opposition. If Guyana’s huge offshore oil deposits, discovered in 2015, continue to be developed, Venezuela’s chance to rejuvenate its own oil industry drops to near-zero. Why deal with a failed state when Guyana, eager for foreign investment, offers a seemingly uncomplicated alternative?

Joe Biden’s 2024 electoral vulnerability is also key here. Just months ago, Maduro suckered Biden into lifting economic sanctions imposed after Maduro stole Venezuela’s 2018 presidential election. Desperate to lower US petrol prices, Biden effectively betrayed Venezuela’s democratic opposition. Maduro’s promise to hold free and fair elections lasted just weeks, disappearing once sanctions were removed, proving that only mad dogs and the Biden administration negotiate with him.

Biden’s fear that international crises will raise oil prices, and the perception that the Ukraine and Middle East wars are overwhelming Washington’s bandwidth, reinforce Maduro’s conclusion that now may be an ideal moment to strike. Inadequate US responses so far underscore the absence of a deterrent sufficient to dissuade even Venezuela’s dilapidated military from using force against much-smaller Guyana.

Ironically, Washington had a key role in the 1899 arbitration award Caracas now rejects. Faced with a boundary dispute between British Guyana and Venezuela, the US advocated arbitrating the competing claims.

Secretary of State Richard Olney cited the Monroe Doctrine, brushing back UK imperial ambitions: “Today the United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition.” Although British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain bridled at the Monroe Doctrine’s invocation, he agreed to arbitrate, declaring Britain and America were “more closely aligned in sentiment and in interest than any other nations on the face of the earth.”

During the ensuing proceedings, two US Supreme Court justices served as arbitrators, in effect representing Venezuela’s claims. The 1899 award should have ended the controversy, but Caracas has repeatedly rejected it, not seeing the Monroe Doctrine so benignly later. The Organization of American States, however, supports the award to this day.

The current Essequibo crisis did not arise overnight. As the extent of Guyana’s offshore oil resources became apparent, Venezuela’s worries grew, and provocations began. In 2018, Venezuelan navy vessels sought to land a military helicopter on one of three Exxon-chartered oil-exploration ships, contending they were in Venezuelan waters. The vessels, in fact in Guyanese waters, moved away from the sea border, effectively ending the incident, but Venezuela’s hostile intent was clear.

To bolster his current threats, Maduro staged a December 3 “referendum”, which endorsed annexing Essequibo. This vote was as rigged, and the outcome as predetermined, as every Venezuelan election in the past 20-plus years.

Maduro ordered the arrest of opposition figures immediately thereafter, and took further steps to advance his territorial claims, such as mobilising the army. He does not need to conquer all of Essequibo to achieve his objectives. Simply seizing key coastal territories could buttress Caracas’s claims to the offshore oil deposits, while occupying inland areas could give it control of extensive deposits of gold, copper, other minerals and possibly hydrocarbons. In either case, military action would intensify the crisis, and enhance Maduro’s bargaining position.

But the Essequibo crisis also poses risks to Maduro, and further evidence, if the world needed it, of why dethroning him is desirable. His opponents should use Maduro’s belligerent behaviour to generate additional pressure on his government, domestically and internationally, thereby opening new possibilities for Venezuela’s citizens then to do the rest.

This article was first published in The Telegraph on December 13, 2023. Click Here to read the original article.


Israel Faces Pressure to Yield to the ‘Terrorist Veto’

The strategic consequence of any pause, truce or cease-fire is to increase Hamas’s odds of survival.

There is a tension between Israel’s two objectives of eliminating Hamas as a political and military force and recovering the innocent civilians kidnapped on Oct. 7. Weighing these competing priorities, Israel decided to pause its anti-Hamas military campaign in exchange for the return of some hostages. This policy’s wisdom is debatable.

A greater hazard, however, imperils Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense. I call it the “terrorist veto,” and with every passing day, Israel’s chances of escaping it diminish, notwithstanding Friday’s resumption of hostilities. For many people, the not-so-hidden goal of the hostage negotiations is to focus international attention—and emotions—on pausing hostilities indefinitely and tying Israel’s hands militarily. Whether labeled a pause, truce or cease-fire, the strategic consequences are objectively pro-Hamas. Using human bargaining chips and fellow Gazans as shields, Hamas seeks to prevent Israel from eliminating its terrorist threat.

Success for Hamas means merely surviving with a limited presence in Gaza, particularly a Gaza rebuilt as it was before Oct. 7. This result is a terrorist veto, even if military-pause supporters resist this painful but accurate term.

If the Hamas veto succeeds, other barbarians such as Hezbollah and Tehran’s mullahs (the ultimate enemy here) can insulate themselves from the consequences of their terrorism. Even worse, the terrorist veto can be copied by barbaric nation-states, with victims of aggression rendered unable to vindicate their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ukraine and Taiwan come to mind as potential victims of this new paradigm.

President Biden and others deny trying to block further military action, but that is precisely the effect of their policies. On Wednesday CNN said Mr. Biden’s policy rests on three pillars: releasing the hostages, stepping up aid into Gaza, and figuring out what happens after the war. No mention of eliminating Hamas. Meantime, some Democratic senators are pressing for conditions on aid to Israel to restrict its military operations, to which Mr. Biden has alluded positively.

However the arguments for prolonging the initial or subsequent pauses are made, Israel will face three potentially debilitating consequences if it ceases or limits its military campaign. First, despite strong statements by many Israelis, in government and out, the country’s resolve is weakening. Right after Oct. 7, Jerusalem perhaps was prepared to hear U.S. military advisers caution that subduing resistance in Mosul and Fallujah took between nine months and a year. Then, Israelis might have been committed to a long struggle, but it seems unlikely they still are after this initial pause. Declining Israeli resolve guarantees that Hamas won’t be eliminated.

Cease-fire advocates argue that because Israel persuaded a million Gazans to move south before its initial campaign, Gazan “civilian” casualties in further operations in the south will dwarf previous casualties. Although Hamas and Iran initially placed Gazans in harm’s way, international recrimination will unfairly fall on Israelis, further sapping their resolve.

Second, because Hamas, Iran and their allies likely gain more militarily from the pause than Israel, the human costs to Israeli’s military will rise, as will domestic opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s objectives. It may be impossible to count incremental Israel Defense Forces casualties due to the pause, but the tally could exceed the number of hostages released.

Third, the greater the pauses or limitations, the more time Hamas’s surrogates worldwide have to increase anti-Israel pressure on their governments. In turn, many governments will lean on Israel to accept less, probably far less, than Mr. Netanyahu’s stated objectives.

The White House is urging, post-hostilities, turning over responsibility for Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. That utterly ignores its dismal performance in the West Bank, where the authority has been ineffective, corrupt and covertly supportive of terrorism. By some accounts Hamas is now more popular in the West Bank than Gaza. Extending Palestinian Authority control would put Israel back under the threat that surged on Oct. 7. The only long-term solution is to deny Hamas access to concentrated, hereditary refugee populations by resettling Gazans in places where they can enjoy normal lives.

Winston Churchill’s observation that “without victory, there is no survival” directly applies to Israel’s crisis. Victory for Israel means achieving its self-defense goal of eliminating Hamas. Anything less means continuing life under threat, with Tehran and its terrorist surrogates confident that when Westerners say “never again” they don’t really mean it.

This article was first published in the Wall Street Journal on December 1, 2023. Click Here to read the original article.


US should support India’s emerging global role

Two recent, seemingly unconnected events involving India highlight its growing global role. Both were largely unreported in the United States media. One involves a combined U.S.-Indian effort to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, and the other is a murky Qatari prosecution of former Indian naval officers allegedly spying for Israel. Together, they demonstrate New Delhi’s steadily growing importance to Washington and underline why we should pay more attention to the world’s most populous country. Prospects for closer bilateral cooperation are plentiful and important, notwithstanding continuing different perspectives on key topics such as trade and relations with Russia.

Beyond doubt, India will be a pivotal player in containing China’s hegemonic aspirations along its vast Indo-Pacific perimeter. Moreover, India’s already considerable Middle Eastern role will inevitably grow. The ramifications for India from Israel’s current war to eliminate Hamas’s terrorism and constrain its Iranian puppet masters are significant, opening opportunities for both countries. But the situation also presents risks in a complex and difficult region.


Major economic news with obvious geopolitical implications came in early November when the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation announced it would loan $553 million for a deep-water container terminal project in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital and largest port. The Adani Group, one of India’s biggest industrial conglomerates, with deep expertise in port construction and management, is the project’s majority owner in this the first significant cooperative effort between India’s private sector and America’s government, one directly competitive with China.

Colombo’s port was an early target of China’s BRI, a program aimed at ensnaring developing countries in complex financial arrangements for major infrastructure projects. China ultimately took full control of its port facility, which many fear will ultimately serve military purposes.

Contesting China’s economic and influence operations across the global south, especially the BRI, must be a U.S. strategic priority. Teaming with a pathbreaking private Indian firm in the Colombo venture is a dramatic example of leveraging U.S.-Indian resources to mutual advantage. The Development Finance Corporation advances American interests by financing a major project potentially benefiting U.S. firms, and thereby vividly contrasts with China’s corrupt and ultimately subversive BRI approach. Sri Lanka also gains significantly. Since the Adani project is almost entirely private sector-owned (as opposed to BRI’s government-to-government matrix), Sri Lanka’s sovereign debt will not grow. There is no guarantee that additional projects or joint ventures with the Adani Group or other Indian firms will be easy, but the template is at least now in place.

In a separate development, Qatar arrested and charged eight former Indian naval officers (doing consulting work with Qatar’s military) as Israeli spies in August 2022. The specifics are unclear, and little was heard about the men until after Hamas’s brutal Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Declaring a dramatic shift in position, India announced support for Israel’s right to self-defense, whereupon Doha revealed on Oct. 26 that the prisoners had received death sentences. India greeted this news, tied in the public mind to its support for Israel, with outrage and dismay. Ironically, New Delhi had been trying to increase defense cooperation with Doha, and approximately 600,000 of its citizens work in Qatar (out of Qatar’s total population of about 2.5 million). India has insisted that Qatar release the men or at least commute their sentences; Qatari legal proceedings to that end are now underway.

Qatar has a lot riding on finding the right answer on the Indian prisoners, especially given the current war against Israel. Moreover, Qatar will not want to disrupt the promising initiative, announced at this year’s G20 meeting to link South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe more closely together through an “Economic Corridor.” In some ways, more is at stake here for Doha than for New Delhi. With China’s population declining, its internal socioeconomic problems growing, and its place in the world declining steadily relative to India’s, this is no time for Qatar to stay on board a sinking ship. India’s already voluminous demand for oil will only grow, while China’s will shrink as its economy slowly declines.

The Qatar-India imbroglio could figure significantly in U.S. efforts to counter the China-Russia axis (including its outliers such as North Korea, Iran, and Syria) in the Middle East and South Asia. Washington cannot by itself end tensions among the Gulf’s oil-producing Arab states, nor can it resolve all disagreements between the Gulf monarchies and the wider world. But America is hardly indifferent to regional dynamics, especially those weakening the common front against Iran’s support for international terrorism and its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Just as the Adani Group’s Colombo port project, bolstered by U.S. financial connections, is geostrategically important to counter China’s hegemonic aspirations, so is increasing greater unity among America’s Arab partners. A wider Indian role and cooperation with the U.S. globally will serve both countries’ national interests.

This article was first published in The Washington Examiner on December 1, 2023. Click here to read the original article.


Resettlement from Gaza must be an option

Israel is far from eliminating Hamas’s terrorist threat, but what becomes of Gaza Strip residents thereafter? One viable long-term solution that receives little attention is resettling substantial numbers of Gazans. Rejecting this idea reflexively risks dooming the Middle East to continuing terrorism and instability.

For decades after Israel’s creation, Arab states, particularly radical regimes like Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt, insisted that Palestinians had been forcibly displaced. Only return to their “country of origin,” namely Israel, was acceptable. Perhaps back then people didn’t chant “from the river to the sea,” but anti-Israel Arab governments used Palestinians as political and military weapons against Israel. Allowing resettlement elsewhere meant acknowledging Israel’s permanent existence, which was then unacceptable.

Times have changed. Israel isn’t going away. Muslim governments have recognized Israel and, before October 7, more were coming. Moreover, the two-state solution is definitively dead: Israel will never recognize a “Palestine” that could become another Hamas-stan. Besides, Gaza is not a viable economic entity, and neither would a “state” consisting of Gaza and an archipelago of Palestinian dots on the West Bank be viable. Israel has made clear it rejects any “right of return” for Palestinians, and has announced it will no longer even grant work visas to Gazans seeking employment.

Western peace processors trying to create a Palestinian state under the “Gaza-Jericho first” model made a cruel mistake, the victims of which were its intended beneficiaries. The real future for Gazans is to live somewhere integrated into functioning economies. That is the only way to realize the promise of a decent life and stability for a people who have been weaponized for far too long. The sooner the Biden administration realizes it, the better.

Refugee status is not hereditary. International policy is clear that the least desirable outcome for those displaced by conflict is life in a refugee camp, which is essentially what all of Gaza is. This has been orthodoxy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees since its inception. Central to its basic mission of refugee protection and assistance is that the two legitimate outcomes are returning refugees to their home country or resettling them in countries willing to grant them asylum. UNHCR is not a permanent welfare agency.

The UN Relief and Works Agency, by contrast, is an aberration from the return-or-resettlement doctrine. For decades, UNRWA has served as the Palestinian department of health, education, welfare, housing and more; it would close up shop if resettlement became a reality. What a surprise that UNRWA does little resettlement, and functions within the UN system as a surrogate for Palestinian demands.

The answer is to abolish UNRWA, and transfer its responsibilities to UNHCR, which understands that resettlement is far better humanitarian policy than permanent refugee life. If allowed to speak for themselves rather than through Hamas’s distorted prism, Gazans would likely agree in large numbers.

Gaza’s governance after the war could be accomplished by partitioning it, perhaps along the Wadi Gaza, Israel’s dividing line for its incursion, with a UN trusteeship for Israel to the north and one for Egypt to the south. The UN Charter’s Article 77 arguably provides authority for such arrangements, since Gaza is an unsettled remainder of the League of Nations Palestinian mandate. Given legitimate Israeli and Egyptian security concerns, they could administer their respective trusteeships under Charter Articles 82 and 83, as America handled its Pacific trusteeship after World War II.

Where could Gaza’s population be resettled? Having previously weaponized Palestinians against Israel, Arab governments now see Palestinians as threatening themselves. Hence, post–October 7, Jordan and Egypt immediately declared they would not accept any Gazans into their countries. That isn’t Israel’s fault, but Israel’s plain self-interest also lies in resettlement away from Gaza. At least for now, the West Bank is a different question, unless Hamas and other terrorists have greater strength there than is immediately apparent.

Iran, Hamas’s principal benefactor, should certainly be willing to accept large numbers of people in whom it has long shown such an interest. Most other Gazans should be resettled in the regional countries that previously weaponized them. Although members of Congress have introduced legislation barring Gazan resettlement, America could grant refugee status to Gazans with a proven record of opposing Hamas, which our media reports is a large number.

Resettlement raises substantial practical questions, and would be difficult and contentious, but this is not a convincing objection — so are all the alternatives. Recreating the status quo ante October 7 is clearly impossible, totally unacceptable to Israel. Having the Palestinian Authority govern Gaza is almost as bad. Who can seriously argue that Mahmoud Abbas’s corrupt, dysfunctional regime, which barely governs the West Bank, will improve by expanding?

Resettlement may be unpalatable to many, but it needs to be on the table.

This article was first published in The Hill on November 16, 2023. Click here to read the original article.


Biden’s foolish reward for Venezuela

Venezuela today vividly represents the collapse of effective American foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere. Receiving unfortunately little attention, President Joe Biden’s misguided, dangerous efforts to lift economic sanctions against this oppressive regime will undermine Venezuela’s democratic opposition and entrench the criminal syndicate now in power.

The United States and a solid phalanx of Latin American and European countries issued sanctions, particularly on the international sale of petroleum and related products, following Nicolas Maduro’s successful effort to steal Venezuela’s 2018 presidential elections and many other measures to suppress dissent. As foreshadowed by earlier Biden attempts to negotiate a deal, any deal, with Caracas, the White House is now effectively abandoning even the pretense of supporting the opposition coalition and toppling the heirs of Hugo Chavez.

This article was first published in The Washington Examiner on October 31, 2023.  Click Here to read the original article.


Ambassador John Bolton, a diplomat and a lawyer, has spent many years in public service. He served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 2005-2006. He was Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001 to 2005. In the Reagan Administration, he was an Assistant Attorney General.