Daily Briefing: IRAN INTENSIFIES ITS MILITARY CAPABILITIES (September 22,2020)

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

Table of Contents:

Iran’s Missile Violations: Where is the International Community?: Majid Rafizadeh, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 19, 2020
Iran’s Space Program Is Key to Its Quest for Global Power:  Dr. Uzi Rubin, Israel Hayom, Sept. 18, 2020
Israel’s Vulnerable New Friends:  Martin Kramer, Martin Kramer on the Middle East, Sept. 18, 2020

How the U.S. Can Finally Cut Off Tehran’s Financial Oxygen:  Mark Dubowitz and Richard Goldberg, WSJ, Aug. 25, 2020

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Iran’s Missile Violations: Where is the International Community?
Majid Rafizadeh
Gatestone Institute, Sept. 19, 2020

Not even a word of condemnation has been issued by either the United Nations or the European Union on the Iranian regime’s latest violations and acceleration of its threatening ballistic missile program. Instead, the UN and the EU are still committed to lifting the arms embargo on Tehran and keeping global sanctions removed from the ruling mullahs.

The regime, meanwhile, has been focusing on the proliferation of long-range precision-guided ballistic missiles. It recently unveiled several new missiles — the Haj Qasem surface-to-surface ballistic missile and the Abu Mahdi long-range naval cruise missile — as well as several reportedly high-quality jet engines.

Iran’s theocratic regime currently possesses the largest and most diverse ballistic missile program in the Middle East. It is worth noting that no country other than Iran has acquired long-range ballistic missiles before obtaining nuclear weapons. While ballistic missiles can be used for either offensive or defensive purposes, the sophisticated missiles are mainly developed as delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons.

The regime has fired several ballistic missiles in the past few months and Iran’s Navy chief, Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, bragged on Iran’s state television:

“The important point about these missiles is that they are fully equipped with homing. It means they are of the fire-and-forget type. We fire the missile and the data is on the missile itself, it has various navigation systems built in.”

The Iranian regime is in clear violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The resolution calls on the Islamic Republic of Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

In addition, as Iran and the P4+1 (Germany, the UK, Russia, China and France) still contend that the nuclear deal (which Iran never signed) remains effective, Tehran is even violating the nuclear deal due to the fact that it indicates that Iran should not undertake any ballistic missile activity “until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day (Oct. 18, 2015) or until the date on which the IAEA submits a report confirming the broader conclusion, whichever is earlier.”

The regime’s expansion of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the stability of the region and the national interests of other countries. For one thing, the beneficiaries of Iran’s expanding ballistic missile arsenal are basically terror and militia groups. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, previously admitted:

“We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Iran has also ratcheted up its efforts to advance the missile technology of Yemen’s Houthis. As a UN panel of experts previously acknowledged when the Houthis fired missiles into Saudi Arabia, it is extremely unlikely that the Houthis could manufacture such missiles on their own: … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Iran’s Space Program Is Key to Its Quest for Global Power
Dr. Uzi Rubin
Israel Hayom, Sept. 18, 2020

Compared to the attention paid worldwide to Iran’s missile program, Iran’s space programs attract scant notice. Occasionally, Western leaders protest weakly against an Iranian space launch, arguing that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers forbids Tehran from developing, manufacturing, and launching long-range missiles, space launchers included. Iran invariably replies that its space launches do not violate the deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Alas, Iran’s interpretation of the nuclear agreement is accurate. The drafters of the agreement intentionally obfuscated the language relating to Iran’s missile obligations to the point where Iran is basically free to do as it pleases in this regard.

The West tends to regard Iran’s space program as a minor appendix of its missile program, itself viewed by the West as far less significant than the Ayatollahs’ military nuclear program. But this trivialization of Iran’s space ambitions dangerously misses its true essence. Iran’s space program is one of the cornerstones upon which the entire edifice of Iran’s strategic concept is built.

Iran aspires to leverage itself from a regional power to a regional hegemon, thence a leader of the Islamic World, and ultimately to a global power on par with Russia and China. A precondition for achieving global power are the ultimate status symbols: nuclear ICBMS backed by space-based early-warning satellites to ensure a credible second-strike capability.

Whether Iran ever will achieve global superpower stature is far from certain. But the Islamic regime is patiently and persistently pursuing the building blocks for such a posture. Iran’s space program is one of the more significant building blocks in its overall scheme for global dominance.

This Aug. 9, 2019 satellite image from Planet Labs shows activity at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran’s Semnan province (AP via Planet Labs, Middlebury Institute of International Studies.)

It stands to reason that the founders of Iran’s missile industries had a space program in mind when the missile industry was established towards the end of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Statements to this effect were made concurrently with the unveiling of the first successful “Shahab 3” missile test in July 1998. Among the numerous enthusiastic statements made by Iranian officials on the occasion were the calls to develop a space launcher based on the newly proven missile. This is not surprising. All the early space launches of the US, the USSR and China were made by suitably adapted military ballistic missiles. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Israel’s Vulnerable New Friends
Martin Kramer
Martin Kramer on the Middle East, Sept. 18, 2020

Most Israelis, if they know anything about the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, know that they’re rich, vulnerable, far from the conflict with Israel, and dangerously close to Iran. It’s this combination of factors that made possible this past week’s White House ceremony.
 
What many don’t realize is the source of that vulnerability. Just as Israel frets over demography, so too do the Emirates and Bahrain. And any problem that Israel has pales in comparison to theirs.

The United Arab Emirates has a population only slightly larger than Israel’s, about 9.8 million people. But Arab citizens of the country form only about 12 percent—around a million-plus. The rest are migrants who’ve come to work, but don’t have Emirati citizenship or any prospect of getting it. About 60 percent of the country’s inhabitants are South Asians (Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis); the rest are a mix of Filipinos, Nepalese, Egyptians, and others.

In most Arab countries, zealous nationalist regimes oppressed or threw out religious or ethnic minorities, many of them sources of initiative and wealth. In the UAE, by contrast, the Arabs turned themselves into a small minority. They needed migrants to leverage their massive oil wealth into fast-paced development. Otherwise, their huge resources would have languished in distant banks.

So they imported working hands in the millions, confident that they could manage the influx and preserve their own identity and solidarity. So far, it’s worked.

Bahrain is a smaller-scale version of the same dynamic. The population is only about 1.7 million, of whom less than half are Bahraini citizens. The majority are expatriates, although a substantial portion is Arab.

Bahrain’s citizens are divided between a Sunni ruling minority and a Shiite majority. The latter share religion and sometimes ethnicity with Iranians, and constitute the source of most opposition in the kingdom. So far, the monarchy has held its own against opponents, although it relied heavily on Saudi (and UAE) backing to fend off a popular challenge during the “Arab Spring.”
Both countries look stable, but demography is an abiding concern. The combined citizen populations of the UAE and Bahrain probably don’t come to two million, less than that of greater Tel Aviv. The Jewish population of Israel is three times the Arab populations of the UAE and Bahrain combined. Likewise, there are as many Arab citizens of Israel proper as there are of the UAE and Bahrain. The Arabs of these two countries form only half a percent of the 400 million Arabs in the world. And Emiratis and Bahrainis are but a drop as compared to the 82 million Iranians next door.

The very rich are different from you and me

They’d have reason enough to feel vulnerable if those were the only numbers in the game. But there are more.

Thanks to Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth, the UAE has a gross domestic product of over $400 billion. Much of this flows to the resident expatriates, but it primarily sustains the affluence of the citizen minority across the seven emirates that make up the union. Bahrain, which also relies heavily on oil (as well as banking and finance), isn’t that far behind the UAE. Just for proportions, the combined gross domestic product of the UAE and Bahrain is equal to Iran’s—and Iran has a population of 82 million. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK– Ed.]
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How the U.S. Can Finally Cut Off Tehran’s Financial Oxygen
Mark Dubowitz and Richard Goldberg
WSJ, Aug. 25, 2020

The Islamic Republic of Iran is entering the late rounds of an increasingly desperate fight to stave off economic collapse amid President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign. To land a 12th-round economic knockout, it’s time for Mr. Trump to throw one more punch: Blacklist the entire Iranian financial industry.

While the U.S. Treasury has imposed sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran and many other Iranian financial institutions—and forced their disconnection from the Swift financial messaging network—at least 14 Iranian banks remain open for business with foreign customers. These banks are Tehran’s financial lifeline.

They are also capitalized by the central bank, which was designated by Treasury in 2019 for its role as a chief financial sponsor of terrorism in the world. The American Financial Crimes Enforcement Network declared Iran’s entire financial industry a primary jurisdiction for money laundering. Even the Financial Action Task Force—an international watchdog—unanimously urged institutions to protect the global financial system from Iran’s financial industry and its terror-financing risk. If these determinations have any meaning, all Iranian banks need to be banned from global finance.

Iran’s leaders are burning through their available cash reserves to cope with the compounded economic stress of U.S. sanctions, the novel coronavirus and the crash of global oil prices. For the first time since 1998, Tehran is running a current-account deficit, which is forecast for 2020 to be minus-4.1% of gross domestic product. Its foreign exchange reserves have dropped by almost 40% to roughly $70 billion, much of which is inaccessible due to American sanctions locking funds in foreign-held escrow accounts. The market has responded to this liquidity crisis by driving the rial-dollar exchange rate from 38,400 when Mr. Trump took office to 234,500 as of Aug. 25.

But despite its overwhelming loss of oil revenue and a 40% drop in petrochemical and other non-oil exports, Iran has managed to stay afloat—barely. Tehran has the financial oxygen it needs to survive because of the Trump administration’s decision to leave the last 14 or so Iranian banks connected to Swift available for sanctions-free transactions with China, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, India and Germany. These banks act as fronts for the central bank, which is otherwise cut off from the global financial system.
Fortunately, the White House can close this loophole in U.S. sanctions law. In January, Mr. Trump issued an executive order authorizing the Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury to impose sanctions on any part of Iran’s economy—at any time and for any reason. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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For Further Reference:

The Return of UN Sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran:  Press Statement Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State, U.S. Dept. of State, Sept. 19, 2020 — The Trump Administration has always understood that the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East comes from Islamic Republic of Iran, whose violent efforts to spread revolution have killed thousands and upended the lives of millions of innocent people. History shows appeasement only emboldens such regimes. Thus today, the United States welcomes the return of virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and anti-Semitism.

Iran Could Have Material For Nuke By End Of Year: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 20, 2020 — As Iran counts down the minutes to the end of an arms embargo so that it can begin importing much-needed technology and dual-use equipment for weapons, a senior US official alleged that it is resuming work with North Korea on long-range missiles.

Iran Won’t Have Nuke In 2020 Despite US Official’s Claim – Analysis Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 21, 2020 — Iran could have a nuclear weapon by the end of 2020, an anonymous US official warned in a Reuters article over the weekend. For good measure, the anonymous US official tossed in the words “North Korea” without offering any evidence.

Israel Busts Iranian-Hezbollah Terror Cell in Jerusalem United With Israel, Sept. 17, 2020 — The Shin Bet revealed on Thursday the existence of a joint effort by the Iranian Quds Force and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to recruit Israeli and Palestinian civilians and residents to carry out terrorist activities in Israel.

Iran Says 1,044 Centrifuges Active at Underground Plant:  Radio Farda, Sept. 13, 2020 — The head of Iran’s atomic agency said Sunday that 1,044 centrifuges were active at the Fordow uranium enrichment plant, in line with steps to reduce its commitments to the nuclear deal.