Daily Briefing: Is Iran Losing Its Struggle Against The US?

British Purpose – Crud oil tanker (Source: Flickr)


Table of Content


Leading Israeli Security Analyst Says Iran Is Losing Confrontation With West, Will Eventually Negotiate New Nuclear Deal:  Benjamin Kerstein,Algemeiner, July 21, 2019

When Will the Snake Finally Lose its Head?:  Vic Rosenthal, Jewish Press, July 8, 2019

Behind Iran’s New Aggressiveness:  Michael Doran, WSJ, July 2, 2019

Iran and the Levers of Global Power:  Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, July 2, 2019



Leading Israeli Security Analyst Says Iran Is Losing Confrontation With West, Will Eventually Negotiate New Nuclear Deal
Benjamin Kerstein
Algemeiner, July 21, 2019

Despite appearances, Iran is losing its struggle against the West and will eventually come back to the negotiating table, a top Israeli security analyst estimated on Sunday.
Tensions in the Gulf have skyrocketed in recent days over the downing of an American drone by Iranian forces and the seizure of a British cargo ship, following the British seizure of an Iranian vessel near Gibraltar.

In a column for Israeli news website Mako, veteran Israeli journalist Ehud Ya’ari said that “no one wants a war in the Persian Gulf,” including President Donald Trump, the Europeans, and the Arab states.
However, he added, “Iran also has left no room for doubt that it has no desire to absorb military blows — it threatens to respond with force but not to initiate a deterioration.”

As a result, Ya’ari said, the region is likely to see a series of small gestures, aggressions, pushbacks, and other forms of brinkmanship. Iran, however, will not take action that could bring down Western retaliation in force. “It is true that the Iranians are heating the waters of the Persian Gulf as they groan under the weight of the sanctions, but they will not bring things to a boiling point,” Ya’ari declared.

In fact, Ya’ari stated, “the wave of warnings against escalation ignores what is really happening: the opposite of escalation.” Iran, he noted, has stopped attacks on Saudi Arabia by the Yemenite militias it controls, and has done the same in Iraq. It has also pulled back on its provocations along Israel’s northern border.

In the same manner, the US has not sent the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln into the Gulf itself, and even a symbolic deployment to Saudi Arabia amounted to only 500 troops.

Moreover, channels of communication still exist between Iran and the US, which will be used to prevent unwanted escalation. At the same time, US sanctions are having a major impact, and there is no way for the Europeans to successfully circumvent them, even if they wanted to.
As a result, said Ya’ari, “The Iranians know — and they are already stuttering in this direction — that they will have to sit at the negotiating table [for talks on] improving the nuclear agreement from 2015. This is exactly what Trump wants and in this regard the Europeans support him.”

Such a situation, Ya’ari said, is “precisely the point that Israel wants to achieve: to keep Iran bound by the restrictions imposed by the nuclear accord, while striving to fill the gaps in Obama’s agreement.” Although it “will not be immediate, it will not be simple,” Ya’ari said, this strategy will bear fruit for both Israel and the West.[LINK]

When Will the Snake Finally Lose its Head?
Vic Rosenthal
Jewish Press, July 8, 2019

Nine out of 10 of the Democratic presidential contenders in the first debate raised their hands when asked if they would return to the JCPOA, the nuclear deal with Iran that Donald Trump removed the US from in May. At more or less the same time, there was an announcement of the creation of a new “think tank” called the Quincy Institute (after John Quincy Adams, who said that America “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy”). The organization received pledges of half a million dollars each from George Soros on the left, and Charles Koch on the right. Apparently, these politically diverse billionaires agree with Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian-American Council and one of the founders of the institute, that the Iranian revolutionary Islamic regime is not a monster that the US should destroy.

Another voice calling for a return to “engagement” with Iran as opposed to the policy of economic sanctions followed by the Trump administration is National Security Action (NSA), the foreign policy lobby of the former Obama Administration. NSA is co-chaired by Ben Rhodes, one of the architects of “engagement” (which in practice meant payoffs, appeasement, and a guaranteed path to nuclear weapons).

One of the pillars of the Rhodes policy, which was detailed in the 2006 Iraq Study Group proposal of which he was one of the authors (my 2006 analysis is here), is the trading of Israel’s security for concessions from Syria and Iran. At that time, Syria was facilitating the transit of insurgents and Iranian weapons, including advanced roadside bombs that were killing US soldiers, across its border with Iraq. The idea was that the US would force Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria (as well as create a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria), and in return, Syria would close its border with Iraq.

Although Israel’s worst (or second-worst) Prime Minister ever, Ehud Olmert, made an overture to Syria in 2007, almost certainly at US prompting. But Bashar al-Assad wasn’t interested, preferring his alliance with Iran. The idea of trading Israel’s security for the friendship of Iran continued through the Obama Administration. The Iranians reacted cynically, taking what they could get while still chanting “Death to America.” Obama’s Defense Department applied pressure to the Israeli defense establishment in 2012 to scuttle a plan to bomb the centers of Iranian nuclear development, at a time when the window of opportunity to seriously set back the program was significantly wider than it is today. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


Behind Iran’s New Aggressiveness
Michael Doran
WSJ, July 2, 2019

Tehran announced Monday it had breached the uranium-enrichment limits of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a week after shooting down a U.S. drone. What prompted Iran’s new aggressiveness, and what does it seek to achieve? Its policy combines two components: noncompliance with aspects of the JCPOA and so-called gray-zone activities, such as unconventional attacks through proxies, sabotage of tankers and oil pipelines, and the attack on the drone. The common view is that Iran’s goal is to pressure the U.S. to relieve economic sanctions. While this view is not entirely wrong, it misses Tehran’s most urgent priority.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, is provoking a crisis to imbue European leaders with fear of war and economic disruption so that they will lobby the U.S. to give Iran what it wants. Mr. Khamenei timed the pressure campaign so that the European lobbying would begin at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, last weekend. Specifically, Mr. Khamenei wants seven waivers by Aug. 1. They pertain not to banking and the sale of oil—that is, economic sanctions—but instead to Iran’s international partnerships at its nuclear sites.

The JCPOA gave Iran two big concessions: economic sanctions relief and an international blessing for its “peaceful” nuclear program. Last November the U.S. Treasury fulfilled President Trump’s order to end the JCPOA by taking away Iran’s economic sanctions relief. But the State Department, in response to European lobbying, issued seven waivers whose purpose was to support international partnerships on the nuclear projects generated by the JCPOA.

These partnerships include, to give one example, a Russian-led initiative to help produce stable isotopes, ostensibly for medical purposes, inside the Fordow facility. A fortified bunker under a mountain, Fordow’s original purpose was to camouflage and protect centrifuges that would produce weapons-grade uranium. The Russian partnership preserves the facility so it can later be used in the production of nuclear weapons.

On May 3, 2019, the State Department revoked two of the seven waivers, pertaining to the export of enriched uranium to Russia and heavy water to Oman. It was that action, not the tightening of economic sanctions in April, that led Iran to adopt an aggressive strategy. For Mr. Khamenei, the waivers constitute a fortress of international protection for programs that are anything but “peaceful” and “civilian.” Simply put, the fight over the waivers is a fight for Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which Mr. Khamenei has always valued more than any practical economic consideration. …[To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


Iran and the Levers of Global Power
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review, July 2, 2019

In the current American–Iran stand-off are a number of global players. That is hardly new, but what is novel is that, for the first time in decades, there’s almost no power that can obstruct or alter U.S. efforts to confront Iranian aggressions in America’s own time and fashion.

In other words, the United States is almost immune from the sort of pressures that usually coalesce to dictate, modify, or thwart U.S. decision-making in the Middle East. Such liberation from outside coercion is singularly unusual in the post-war American overseas experience.

The Muslim World

Usually, in any showdown with a Muslim state of the Middle East, especially a large, theocratic country like Iran, the United States would be subject to the usual Islamic boilerplate slurs of Islamophobia, racism, imperialism, and colonialism, and we’d see popular anti-American unrest. But in the Muslim world, Iran is probably more unpopular than even the Trump administration. Renegade allies such as Hezbollah, Bashar al-Assad’s rump remains of Syria, and Hamas are reminders that Iran has no friends. Hatred for Tehran in the Middle East transcends the ancient Persian–Arab and Shiite–Sunni fault lines, and it’s fueled by 40 years of Iran-backed terrorism, bullying, and backing of insurgent movements throughout the Middle East.


Usually, even the whiff of an impending crisis in the shipping lanes or oil fields of the Middle East sparks a run on oil, higher prices, and dire warnings of OPEC price hikes, embargoes, and gas lines. Not now. The U.S. today is the world’s largest producer of gas and oil. It may soon become the greatest exporter of these fuels as well. America’s strategic interest in Iran as either an oil producer or an adjudicator of oil shipping traffic is mostly the interest of a paternalistic global power that traditionally invests its blood and treasure for the supposedly higher good of “post-war order.” Translated, that means there is nothing Iran can do to the energy supplies of the United States. Any damage it does through spiking prices or curtailing global reserves will either function as a minor irritant, retard somewhat the global economy, or boost prices.


Usually, when the U.S. has intervened in the Middle East, pressure is applied to Israel. America then plays a wink-and-nod game by trying to “restrain” the Israelis to prevent any anti-American blow back from the reopened Israeli–Palestinian sore. But that is hardly the case in the present dispute. One, Israel also is now energy-independent and does not need Middle East–imported oil. Two, it is far more powerful, both in an economic and military sense, and both absolutely and relatively to other Middle East nations. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


On Topic Links

The Three Myths of the Iran Deal:  Michael Oren, The Atlantic, July 18, 2019 — The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the nuclear deal with Iran—and its renewal of sanctions, the rise of Iran’s provocations in the Gulf and Iran’s enrichment of uranium have together reignited the debate over how best to meet the multiple threats posed by Iran.

Iran’s Poking At West Heightens Risks Of Military Missteps:  Robert Burns, AP, July 20, 2019 — There will be furious embarrassment in the British government this evening over Iran’s seizure of two British oil tankers today. One of those tankers is British-flagged, and the other is British-owned.

Iran Seizes Two British Tankers And Makes A Huge Mistake:  Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner, July 19, 2019 — There will be furious embarrassment in the British government this evening over Iran’s seizure of two British oil tankers today. One of those tankers is British-flagged, and the other is British-owned.

Source: Iran FM met Rand Paul to feel out possible US-Iran talksLaura Rozen,Al-Monitor,  July 19, 2019 – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) in New York July 18 to feel out prospects for possible discussions between Iran and the United States, a non-government expert in contact with the Iranian team told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.


Giuliani: We Could do Serious Damage to Iran’s Nuclear Program Fox News, July 19, 2019, YouTube


Senate Rejects Curb on Trump’s Authority to Strike Iran:  Catie Edmondson and Nicholas FandosNYT, June 28, 2019 — The Senate on Friday voted down a bipartisan measure that would have required President Trump to get Congress’s permission before striking Iran, after Republicans balked at infringing on the president’s war-making powers at a time of escalating tensions with the Islamic republic.