Daily Briefing: Iran Escalates its Violations of JCPOA (November 14,2019)

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei at the 28th anniversary of the demise of Imam Khomeini (Source:Wikipedia)

Table Of Contents:

 Iran’s Nuclear Escalation Editorial Board, WSJ, Nov. 6, 2019

Is Iran Winning or Losing?:  Caroline B. Glick, Israel Hayom, Nov. 8, 2019

Iran’s IRGC Has Long Kept Khamenei in Power:  Alex Vatanka, Foreign Policy, Oct. 29, 2019

Foreign-policy Experts Predict That An Iranian Attack On Israel Is Just A Matter Of Time:  Israel Kasnett, JNS, Nov. 11, 2019


Iran’s Nuclear Escalation
Editorial Board
WSJ, Nov. 6, 2019

President Hassan Rouhani has announced that Iran will violate restrictions on the Fordow underground nuclear facility starting Wednesday. President Trump’s detractors will say this proves that leaving the 2015 nuclear deal was a mistake, but this is one more sign of the defects in the deal that Europe should be helping the U.S. to address.

In a speech Tuesday the Iranian leader said the regime would begin injecting gas into the 1,044 centrifuges at Fordow, an open violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This follows news on Monday that Iran is running new and advanced centrifuges, which shortens its path to a nuclear weapon. The regime already has been openly violating the deal for months by enriching uranium at higher concentrations and storing more of it.
 “When they uphold their commitments we will cut off the gas,” said Mr. Rouhani. “So it is possible to reverse this step.” The Iranian strategy has been to escalate its violations of the deal step by step, hoping to intimidate Mr. Trump and divide the U.S. from Europe.

The strategy worked for a time, but then Iran attacked Saudi oil fields. German, French and British leaders responded in a statement that Iran should “accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear programme as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles programme and other means of delivery.”

It was a fine statement—and no small feat that Europe called for a new deal—but now Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson have to do more than talk. On Monday the Trump Administration announced fresh sanctions against advisers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the latest pressure against the country’s authoritarian ruling class. Nothing would focus minds in Tehran more than Berlin, Paris, London and Washington coming together to reimpose the so-called snap-back sanctions that were supposed to be the response to Iranian nuclear escalation.

The U.S. wants a revised deal to limit Iranian ballistic missile development, allow unlimited inspections of suspect nuclear sites, and remove the sunset clauses that allow restrictions on Iran to expire. Recall that Barack Obama initially wanted the Fordow facility closed in the deal but was unable to get the Iranians to agree to anything beyond the limited restrictions they are now reversing. President Trump’s pressure campaign is meant to bring the regime back to the negotiating table with more leverage than Mr. Obama had.

One risk is that the mercurial Mr. Trump loses patience with his own strategy and tries to cut a deal favorable to Tehran ahead of his re-election campaign. That’s why you can expect more Iranian threats to break out of the deal and perhaps more attacks on U.S. allies in the Middle East. The best response is for Europe and the U.S. to reforge a common front toward Iran that shows it will have to return to the negotiating table to have any hope of sanctions being eased.

Is Iran Winning or Losing?
Caroline B. Glick
Israel Hayom, Nov. 8, 2019

There’s an old Jewish joke where a young man walks up to his grandfather and asks him how he’s doing.

The grandfather answers, “In a word, good.”

“And in two words?” the grandson presses.

“Not good,” his grandfather replies.

The events of the week call the joke to mind in relation to Iran and its war against Israel and the United States. On Sunday, a crowd of thousands gathered outside the US embassy building in Tehran and chanted, “Death to America, Death to Israel.” The Iranians sounded their customary death chants to mark the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy and the hostage crisis it precipitated.

Sunday’s demonstration was the opening shot in a week of hostile actions by Iran. On Monday and Tuesday, senior Iranian officials announced they are abandoning key limitations set on their nuclear activities as per the deal they concluded with the Obama administration, the EU, Russia and France in 2015. On Monday, Iran announced it expanded its uranium enrichment at the Natanz nuclear installation with advanced IR-6 centrifuges, and that it is doubling the number of IR-6 centrifuges presently being used.

Tuesday Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran is renewing enrichment activities at its Fordo nuclear installation, built inside of a mountain outside Qom. According to Rouhani, beginning Wednesday, Iran would begin enriching uranium at Fordo to 5% by injecting its centrifuges with uranium gas.

Many commentators responded to Iran’s announcements by declaring that the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy for scaling back Iranian aggression and thwarting its nuclear program has failed.
President Donald Trump’s campaign, which is enthusiastically supported by Israel and the Sunni Arab states, is comprised of continuously escalating US economic sanctions against Iran. Those sanctions are reinforced by US-supported military operations by US allies – primarily Israel and Saudi Arabia – against Iranian forces and Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.

There are three legs to the claim that the maximum pressure campaign has failed. First, its critics note, the US sanctions have failed to destroy Iran’s economy. This week Foreign Affairs proclaimed that Iran has survived its sanction-induced recession. Its economy, now at zero growth, is no longer shrinking. Iran’s economic survival, Henry Rome, an expert on Iranian foreign policy, said is proof that economic pressure is insufficient to bring down the regime.

The second basis of the claim that the maximum pressure campaign has failed is that Trump ordered the removal of US forces from the Syrian border with Turkey. Trump’s action, his critics say, gave Iran and Russia control over the border with Syria, which has allowed them to consolidate their control over Syria. This, in turn, emboldened Iran to rachet up its nuclear operations.

Third, the critics say, the Iranian regime’s willingness to openly intervene in quelling the mass anti-government protests in Iraq and Lebanon, as exemplified by General Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force direct involvement in attempts to repress the protests in Iraq, and by Hezbollah’s open efforts to stymie the protesters in Lebanon. These shameless moves by Iran and its foreign legion to dictate the outcome of political unrest in foreign countries, it is argued, means that Iran has consolidated its power and has no compunctions about flaunting it.
There are a few problems with these claims. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Iran’s IRGC Has Long Kept Khamenei in Power
Alex Vatanka
Foreign Policy, Oct. 29, 2019

In an Oct. 2 speech to the top commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asked them to be ready for “big events.” In characteristically vague language, Khamenei was issuing a warning to his domestic opponents, President Hassan Rouhani, and the country’s foreign foes. His choice of speaking to the IRGC bosses was anything but coincidental.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Khamenei ascending to the top job. His reign began on slippery ground. But he was quick to reach a bargain with the IRGC, which had up to that point looked at him suspiciously. The 80-year-old Khamenei is now looking for the second generation of the IRGC to safeguard the regime after he is gone. But giving a carte blanche to the generals—risk-taking by nature and these days more concerned with proxy wars in the region than the fate of ordinary Iranians—has a big chance of backfiring.

In Iran, there are those who say Khamenei’s picking up the baton from the regime’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989 was heavenly preordained. In reality, the elders of the regime chose to put their collective survival above all else and found in Khamenei, a mid-ranking cleric and former president, a candidate a majority could back as a stopgap transitionary leader.

For their plan to work, the requirement that a supreme leader be a “grand ayatollah” had to be dropped. A constitutional amendment was swiftly arranged, which was adopted following a referendum on July 28, 1989, several weeks after Khomeini’s death. An impossible 97.6 percent of voters backed the initiative. But the real task was to control the streets and to convince the Iranian public that the young new leader was made of durable material. That’s when and why Khamenei turned to the IRGC for help. He offered the guards a pact. They would protect his supreme leadership, and he would give the IRGC political cover to pursue its interests, including priority access to funds from the national budget, a major stake in the Iranian economy, a separate and powerful intelligence branch to rival the Intelligence Ministry, and a veto on key foreign-policy matters.

Their alliance was not particularly natural. Throughout the 1980s, the IRGC had been suspicious of Khamenei, who was serving as president of Iran at the time. Throughout the 1980s, the IRGC had been suspicious of Khamenei, who was serving as president of Iran at the time. The guards regarded him as a free marketeer on matters of the economy and not among the regime’s most trustworthy firebrands on questions pertaining to foreign policy.
At one point during the war with Iraq, the IRGC had even forbidden the president from visiting the front line. In another case, when Mojtaba Khamenei, Khamenei’s second-born and conscripted son, arrived at his IRGC regiment, the amount of abuse he heard about his father left him with no choice but to ask for a transfer.

But the end of the war had also deprived the guards of a purpose in life. They had joined the revolution exactly a decade earlier and in their own minds sacrificed greatly in the war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. After the war and Khomeini’s death, the guards wanted to remain relevant. And Khamenei offered them a leading role: Khamenei would dictate what course the “revolution” would take, and the IRGC would ensure that his ideas were implemented. The offer was seemingly impossible to dismiss out of hand.

Khamenei, meanwhile, wanted the guards help him reinforce the shaky scaffolding of institutions built up around the person of Khomeini. To him, there was no other alternative. And so, he held his first public appearance as supreme leader at a gathering of IRGC officers. Here, in the midst of mostly young men eager to hear what the future would hold, Khamenei did not have the same misgivings as only a few days earlier at the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that appointed him but which had deep doubts about him and viewed him as politically expedient but lacking religious qualifications. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


Foreign-policy Experts Predict That An Iranian Attack On Israel Is Just A Matter Of Time
Israel Kasnett
JNS, Nov. 11, 2019

As Iranians took to the streets this week to commemorate 40 years since the U.S. embassy takeover in 1979, Iran announced new violations of the nuclear deal it signed in 2015. The rogue Islamic Republic admitted that it now operates 60 advanced IR-6 centrifuges and is working on a new type of centrifuge that will work 50 times faster than what is currently permitted under the deal.

This announcement comes after Iran has engaged in attacks on oil tankers and Saudi oil facilities, shooting down an American drone, and, of course, its ongoing and aggressive efforts to build a war machine against Israel in Syria and elsewhere.

For its part, on Monday the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions against nine Iranian military commanders and officials. U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018 and reimposed tough sanctions in an effort to curb the regime’s destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and around the globe. Regardless, Tehran has continued to engage in destabilization efforts and heavily supports terror activity and weapons buildup in the Middle East.

Yaakov Amidror, a former national security advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and currently an analyst at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and a fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, told JNS that the Iranians want to remain far away from the Jewish state, but at the same time build “a ring of fire” around it. Iran supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and the terror organization is estimated to have as many as 100,000 missiles. Iran is also trying hard to create an independent war machine in Syria, which Israel has been working to dismantle. According to foreign and some Israeli reports, Israel has struck 300 targets in Syria so far.
According to Amidror, Iran realized that Israel has been succeeding in Syria, so it began to build a branch of its independent war machine in Iraq, taking advantage of the fact that the Iraqis don’t have total control of some parts of their land. For Iran, the idea is to have a military capability close to Israel, while it itself remains at a distance. “An interesting question,” Amidror said, “is what should Israel’s reaction be in such a situation? We know the head of the snake is in Iran. Will Israel go after targets in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Yemen? Or will we go directly to the head of the snake?”

Iran has the capability to attack Israel from multiple locations, including Lebanon and Syria—and now Iraq and possibly Yemen—as Netanyahu mentioned recently.

Eytan Gilboa, professor and director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, told JNS that a number of elements have changed recently that impact Israel’s preparedness and decision-making.

First, Iran attacked the Saudi oil fields. Second, the United States withdrew from Syria. And third, Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf were not met with any aggressive American answer. “We also see Islamic Jihad in Gaza, on orders from Iran, trying to sabotage and undermine the situation there,” he said.

Like Amidror, Gilboa noted that Israel has been trying to prevent Iran from building another front in Syria, saying “this strategy has been extended to Iraq.”

He laid out the current state of affairs from Israel’s perspective. According to Gilboa, “it is obvious, for all kinds of reasons, that Iran would not attack Israel directly from its own territory. Iran lost some of the surprise that could have been inflicted on Israel had it not used cruise missiles against Saudi Arabia.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

IAEA: Uranium Traces Found at Undeclared Iranian Site:  Times of Israel, Nov. 11, 2019 –– The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said it has detected uranium particles at an undeclared site in Iran in its latest report on the country’s nuclear program issued on Monday.

Israel’s F-35 Stealth Fighters Can Strike Iran At Any Moment:  Sebastien Roblin, The National Interest, Nov. 9, 2019 — On May 22, 2018 Israeli Air Force commander Amikam Norkin announced that its F-35I stealth fighters had flown on two combat missions on “different fronts,” showing as proof a photograph of an F-35 overflying Beirut.

Iraqis Rise Against a Reviled Occupier: Iran:  Alissa J. Rubin, NYT, Nov. 4, 2019 — It started quietly a month or so ago with scattered protests. Those steadily expanded until last week more than 200,000 Iraqis marched in Baghdad, raging against the Iraqi government and a foreign occupier — not the United States this time, but Iran.

Iran Has ‘Military Advantage Over US and Allies in Middle East’:  Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, Nov. 7, 2019 –– Iran now has an effective military advantage over the US and its allies in the Middle East because of its ability to wage war using third parties such as Shia militias and insurgents, according to a military thinktank.

A Ray of Light in the Mysterious Case of an American Missing in Iran: Jason Rezaian, Washington Post, Nov. 8, 2019 — This week marks the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Iran hostage crisis.