Daily Briefing: Iran’s Strategic Policy: Harass the International Community and Israel (September 3,2019)

 

A starboard bow view of ships of tanker convoy No. 12 underway in the Persian Gulf. Included in the convoy are the guided-missile frigate USS HAWES (FFG-53), the reflagged tanker GAS KING, the guided-missile cruiser USS WILLIAM H. STANDLEY (CG-32) and the amphibious assault ship USS GUADALCANAL (LPH-7). Service Depicted: Navy, Command Shown: N0769 (Source: Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:

Why America Must Confront Power-Hungry Iran:  Mark Wallace Fred Zeidman, The National Interest, Aug. 29, 2019


The US and Iran Struggle over the Terms of Future Negotiations:  Sima Shine, Eldad Shavit, INSS Insight No. 1197, July 2, 2019


Stop Indulging Javad Zarif:  Mark Dubowitz and Reuel Marc Gerecht, Wall St. Journal, Aug. 29, 2019


Iran and Hizbullah Prepare to Confront Israel in Response to Its Actions in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Aug. 28, 2019

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Why America Must Confront Power-Hungry Iran
Mark Wallace and Fred Zeidman
The National Interest, Aug. 29, 2019

With each passing week, Iran’s strategy comes into sharper focus: harass the international community and try to sow concern in energy markets without taking action that would prompt a kinetic response. Iran is a radical force, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and a cheat that counts on weak-kneed countries to give in to extortion. Regime leaders are trying to project strength, but their strategy is resulting in just the opposite.

Iran looks small. It has been illegally boarding ships transiting international waters and seizing them for political, diplomatic, or financial ransom. That’s the same tactic that Somali pirates have been perpetrating for years before an international naval task force put an end to their operations.

Some may argue that U.S. energy dominance precludes the need for U.S. presence in the region. But they’re wrong. A multilateral effort to deter further illegal behavior must be led by the United States because freedom of navigation, geopolitical primacy, and stable energy markets are core components of U.S. national security. Iran’s behavior imperils all.

Few things are as important to U.S. national security as freedom of navigation. President Donald Trump understands that, which is why he has repeatedly dispatched U.S. Navy ships to the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, where Beijing has raised eyebrows with territorial claims and activities that challenge the global order. Similarly, if the United States does not lead this effort, it sends the signal to illiberal states that America’s policies are not universal. The effects would be severe and long-term.

China and Russia will rush to fill the vacuum of leadership, which will benefit their partner—Iran—and make the world less safe. Our allies in the region, like Israel, would be vulnerable due to Washington lacking the resolve to lead. The U.S. intelligence community warned in the latest Worldwide Threat Assessment that Beijing and Moscow are involved in a “race for technological and military superiority” and “are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.” U.S. absence from the region would act as a force multiplier for Chinese and Russian ambitions.

Oil and gas markets would likewise be subject to sudden shock. President Trump and his team know that a U.S.-led effort would keep energy markets stable and secure, resulting in a net positive for the U.S. economy, consumers and businesses alike. And they also know that eliminating the threat of a disruption that could roil markets would free investment for U.S. energy companies to continue growing our share of the global energy markets. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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The US and Iran Struggle over the Terms of Future Negotiations
Sima Shine, Eldad Shavit 
INSS Insight No. 1197, July 2, 2019

The increased severity in the confrontation between Iran and international elements, chiefly the United States, is an outcome of Iran’s decision to demonstrate its determination to respond to the maximum-pressure policy employed against it. In practice, the US administration and Iran are taking parallel steps on the level of force, as well as on the level of diplomacy, which would appear to contradict each other. But the steps along the two tracks are in fact designed to produce bargaining chips in anticipation of the next stages in the contest.

The United States continues to increase the pressure. All the waivers on oil purchases from Iran granted previously have been canceled, and according to recent reports, Iranian oil exports have dropped to less than 500,000 barrels a day – a grave development given the Iranian economy’s low tolerance for reduced revenues. The waivers in the nuclear realm, which were part of the nuclear deal regarding Iran’s ability to export enriched uranium and heavy water, have also been canceled, and sanctions have been imposed on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his monetary resources. For its part, Iran has gradually withdrawn from some of its commitments under the deal: in the first stage, enriched uranium was stockpiled beyond the 300 kg allowance; the enrichment level was raised to around 4.5 percent, beyond what is permitted by the deal; and Iran is threatening that in less than two months it will take additional steps, including a possible increase of enrichment to 20 percent.

Meanwhile, for several weeks the sides have seen increased friction in the Gulf. Following several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf that involved Iran, the downing of an American spy plane, and the launching of rockets at areas in Iraq where American forces are deployed, the United States launched a cyber attack on Iran (the resulting damage is unclear), heightened its naval presence in the Gulf, began to increase its deployment in outlying countries, and is trying to create an international coalition to protect Gulf waterways. More recently, an Iranian tanker transporting oil to Syria was detained in Gibraltar; in clear retribution, and in accordance with the policy announced by Supreme Leader Khamenei, Iran seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Furthermore, dual nationals in Iran – holders of British and French passports – have been arrested.

Against the backdrop of tensions, mediation attempts continue with the active encouragement of US President Donald Trump; the two most recent efforts are by French President Emmanuel Macron and Republican Senator Rand Paul; Trump confirmed approving Paul’s meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Zarif when Zarif was at the United Nations. President Macron, who recently held several conversations with President Trump, including one face-to-face exchange at the G20 summit in Osaka, as well as protracted phone conversations with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, dispatched his political adviser to Tehran in a bid to assess the possibility of opening negotiations between the United States and Iran. President Macron is reportedly examining the possibility of a “freeze-for-freeze” deal that would entail, inter alia, approval of Iranian oil exports on a scale of around a million barrels a day in exchange for Iran walking back its steps that strayed from the deal. In parallel to President Macron’s direct efforts, the European effort to prevent a total collapse of the nuclear deal, and escalation in the Gulf that would be liable to spiral into military confrontation, continues. A statement issued by the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs avoided designating Iran’s steps in the nuclear realm as a significant violation of the deal, and emphasized the importance of continuing to preserve the agreement.

Apparently there are differences of opinion in both the United States and Iran as to the policy that should be pursued in the coming months: … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Stop Indulging Javad Zarif
Mark Dubowitz and Reuel Marc Gerecht
Wall St. Journal, Aug. 29, 2019

Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has often found itself on the regime’s sidelines. To be sure, its diplomats have done their part: They tirelessly distribute anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda, provide diplomatic pouches and logistical assistance to Iranian operatives, and deny and whitewash deadly operations. Yet Westerners have usually been willing to exempt Iranian diplomats from damning censure if they seem “moderate” in manner. Shaking a woman’s hand, a smile, a bit of wit, a willingness to be in the presence of alcohol—Americans and Europeans appreciate it when Islamists behave.

That forgiving disposition has never been more egregiously on display than in the way Western VIPs treat Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who has proved a faithful factotum of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and a handmaiden to terrorism. Typical was Mr. Zarif’s response to French accusations that a thwarted bombing of an Iranian opposition group’s large June 2018 rally in a Paris suburb had been planned in Tehran. Mr. Zarif claimed the regime “unequivocally condemns all violence and terror anywhere, and is ready to work with all concerned to uncover what is a sinister false flag ploy.” This after an Iranian intelligence officer under diplomatic cover had been arrested for complicity and European security officials pinpointed the Internal Security Directorate of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry as headquarters for the operation.

Now we find ourselves in Mr. Zarif’s sights. The Foreign Ministry declared on Saturday that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Mark Dubowitz personally, are guilty of “designing, imposing and intensifying the impacts of economic terrorism against Iran” and “seriously and actively trying to harm the Iranian people’s security and vital interests through measures such as fabricating and spreading lies, encouraging, providing consultations, lobbying, and launching a smear campaign.” FDD is “subject to the penalties that are allowed by the ‘Law on Countering the Violation of Human Rights and Adventurous and Terrorist Activities of the United States in the Region.’ ” On Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry threatened sanctions against people of “various nationalities who are “working with FDD.” It declared that “this foundation is in fact the designing and executing arm of the U.S. administration.”

The penalties are unspecified, but the ministry’s first statement adds: “Needless to say this measure will be without prejudice to any further legal measures that the other administrative, judicial or security institutions and organizations may take in order to counter, prosecute or punish the above-mentioned persons or their other Iranian and non-Iranian collaborators and accomplices.” We don’t think Mr. Zarif plans to sue FDD or send a letter to Interpol. Technically, according to the law cited against us, Mr. Zarif has already coordinated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s Intelligence Ministry in developing sanctions against FDD.

The Islamic Republic isn’t the first dictatorship to try to intimidate think tanks and scholars. And Mr. Zarif is hardly an all-powerful figure at home. We suspect his decision to threaten FDD was to show some revolutionary rectitude to those in the ruling elite who aren’t enamored of him. Many are angered by his failure to understand the American political system, which knocked down President Obama’s nuclear deal. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Iran and Hizbullah Prepare to Confront Israel in Response to Its Actions in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq
Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Aug. 28, 2019

Tensions between Iran and Israel have reached new heights after three events:

 

  1. Israel’s thwarting of the “killer drone” attack on the Golan Heights and the attack on the staging base for which Israel took responsibility;
  2. the drones that hit Beirut’s Dahiyeh suburb;
  3. and the continued attacks attributed to Israel on the weapons warehouses of the Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria.

Hizbullah’s High Motivation to Respond

Hizbullah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah threatened to react to two Israeli actions against Hizbullah: the attack against the drone launchers on the Golan and the launch of bomb drones against the Dahiyeh suburb in southwest Beirut.

Nasrallah stressed that two Hizbullah fighters, Hassan Yousef Zabeeb and Yasser Ahmad Daher, were killed in the attack in a civilian structure in Syria – not an Iranian Quds Force facility, as Israel claims. “If Israel kills any of our members in Syria, we’ll respond from Lebanon and not in the Shabaa Farms, and we tell the Israeli army on the border to be very cautious and to wait for us for a day, or two, three or four. Just wait for us,” Nasrallah warned.
Hassan Yousef Zabeeb and Yasser Ahmad Daher, flying between Iran and Syria, were “working in recent weeks in Shiite militias under the command of the Quds Forces to carry out drone attacks against targets in Israel,” the IDF said.

At the same time, Hizbullah announced the results of the investigation of the two Beirut drones attributed to Israel. According to the Hizbullah experts, the drones carried bombs containing 5.5 kilograms of C4 explosives.  The experts concluded that the drones’ mission was to carry out suicide attacks. The first drone fell because of a technical glitch, and the second exploded. A Times of London analysis claimed the attack targeted machinery to mix high-grade propellant for precision-guided missiles, a critical component of a missile factory in the Dahiyeh suburb manufacturing precision-guided missiles. Sources told the Times that the facility was used to a store high-end “industrial planetary mixer,” an essential component in high-grade precision missiles’ propellant production.

Two trucks seen in flames after the explosion had been carrying crates with machinery to mix high-grade propellant for precision-guided missiles, according to news accounts. An Iranian-made industrial mixer was seriously damaged, and its computerized control mechanism was destroyed.
The machine is manufactured in Iran and is used for its ballistic missile industry (Iran may also have succeeded in delivering similar equipment to the Houthis in Yemen given their dramatic improvement their capabilities to launch missiles and explosive drones towards Saudi Arabia). Transferring the equipment to Lebanon contradicts the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) prohibiting the transfer of ballistic missile production equipment (Iran is not a signatory to the treaty)ץ the machine is very heavy and delicate and packed in heavy wooden crates (without marking and special inscription) and anchored to them to prevent shocks. In any case, it’s a complex and expensive process to deliver the equipment. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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For Further Reference:

U.N. Atomic Watchdog: Iran Still In Violation Of Nuclear Deal:  Kiyoko Metzler, The Washington Times, Aug. 30, 2019 — The U.N. atomic watchdog reported Friday that Iran remains in violation of limitations set by the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and that its stockpile of low-enriched uranium are increasing.

EU Ministers Seek to Preserve Iran Deal in Helsinki, Says U.K.:  Jess Shankleman, Bloomberg, Aug. 29, 2019 — European Union foreign ministers will meet Friday in Helsinki to find ways to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive and protect commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf, the U.K. said.

US Labels Lebanon Bank with Hezbollah Ties a Global terrorist,’ sanctions Iranian networks linked to regime Melissa Leon, Fox News, Aug. 31, 2019 — The U.S. designated Lebanon-based Jammal Trust Bank a “global terrorist” Thursday over its ties to the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, one day after it slapped sanctions on Iranian networks it claimed facilitated “tens of millions of dollars’ worth” of activities that benefited Iran’s military and regime.

Reporter’s Notebook: Here’s How Iran Is Functioning In The Face Of Sanctions Steve Inskeep, NPR, Aug. 27, 2019 — Is Iran anywhere near collapse? Amir Mohebbian doesn’t think so.