Daily Briefing: Will The US Cut Short Its”Maximum Pressure”Campaign On Iran too Soon?

Disputing about the location of Iran shooting down an RQ-9 drone by the IRGC on June 20, 2019. (Source: Wikipedia)

Danger Ahead: A US-Iran ‘Deal of the Century’:  David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Aug. 4, 2019


What the Smuggled Archive Tells Us About Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Project: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, BESA, July 22, 2019


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


The Iranian Conquest of Syria Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Aug. 14, 2019

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Danger Ahead: A US-Iran ‘Deal of the Century’
David M. Weinberg
Israel Hayom, Aug. 4, 2019

Until now, the Trump administration has acted with wisdom and tenaciousness against Iran, crashing the disastrous nuclear deal that President Obama signed with the ayatollahs in 2015 and forcefully sanctioning Iran’s terror apparatus and oil exports.

Alas, there are signs that President Trump is getting ready to ease the pressure and bargain for a new deal with Iran. My fear is twofold: That Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign will be cut short before Iran’s leaders truly have no choice but to capitulate to Western demands, and that the Iranians will bamboozle the West into another bad deal.

As Iran expert, Prof. Ze’ev Maghen has said, “The Iranians win the moment you enter the negotiating room with them.” Unlike the eager negotiators of the West, Iran’s resolute front men always know how to weasel their way into a sweet deal on their terms.

This is not the time to back away from the press-ganging of Iran. Because of US sanctions, Iranian oil exports have fallen by at least 400,000 barrels per day since May of this year, and by two million BPD since April 2018, leading to a whopping drop of $50 billion in the regime’s income.

The ayatollahs are feeling the strain, which explains their recent threats and provocations. These include the downing a US drone in the Gulf, the seizing of a British oil tanker and the targeting of other ships, renewed uranium enrichment at forbidden levels, and ballistic missile launches in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

It seems that Iran can no longer afford to “wait out Trump” on the assumption that he will be replaced as US president in 2020 by a more accommodating Democratic leader. Ayatollah Khamenei needs to get Trump to lay off, now.

Trump mustn’t do so. There is much more that can and must be done to truly bring Iran to its knees. Dr. Udi Levi, a former Israeli government official and top expert on financial sanctions, last week published a study via the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, which details the necessary next steps. These include blocking Iran’s sanctions-busting export routes through Turkey and Qatar and hitting at Iran’s foreign currency reserves by enforcing civil court rulings that award terror victims billions of dollars in damages.

The goal is to force Iran to relent on all five key issues in dispute: First, a complete end to the Iranian nuclear military program, including all uranium enrichment and plutonium production – with no sunset, ever; second, a truly intrusive international inspections regime – not the jokingly weak to non-existent regime stipulated in the JCPOA; third, an end to Iran’s ballistic missile development program; fourth, an Iranian retreat from the forward bases in Syria it is building to challenge Israel; and fifth, the complete cessation of Iranian financing of Hamas and Hezbollah military capabilities.

Short of this, a deal with Iran will be dangerous and unsustainable. Yet, the Iranians already are playing their usual games, offering up-front phony concessions, like an end to oil tanker interceptions, in exchange for up-front American concessions, like an end to most oil export sanctions. “This how the Iranians play the game,” warns Iran expert Dr. Emily Landau of the Institute for National Security Studies. “This is how they twist things, making it seem there are concessions when there are absolutely no concessions at all.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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What the Smuggled Archive Tells Us About Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Project
Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek
BESA, July 22, 2019

On July 7, 2019, Iran announced that in light of Western countries’ reluctance to support it against the newly imposed US sanctions, it will enrich uranium above the maximum 3.67% level agreed upon in the 2015 nuclear agreement (the JCPOA). According to Ayatollah Khamenei aide Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran will enrich uranium to 5% from now on, which is the level of enrichment of nuclear fuel at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Iranian officials have since signaled that their country might in fact increase uranium enrichment to 20% (the level in the fuel of Tehran’s research reactor).

This would represent Iran’s second violation of the JCPOA. On July 1, it crossed the maximum amount of 300 kg UF6 (uranium hexafluoride), which, according to the agreement, is allowed to be enriched to 3.67%.

Furthermore, on July 11 – ten months after PM Benjamin Netanyahu identified the “secret atomic warehouse” at Turquzabad in Tehran – it was reported that soil samples taken from the site by IAEA inspectors were found to contain traces of radioactive material. This proves that the warehouse was indeed a nuclear storage facility and that Iran’s failure to report it to the IAEA was a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which it is a signatory.

Despite all this, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced at the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on July 15 that Iran’s recent breaches of the JCPOA are insignificant and can be reversed. The EU ministers, scrambling to salvage the nuclear deal, stressed that it is the only option available by which to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Although Tehran can theoretically break out to produce nuclear weapons within six months or so, it is more inclined to take slow, measured steps to withdraw from the agreement. It threatens Western Europe with its intentions while being careful not to categorically break the rules in the hope that Europe will circumvent Trump’s sanctions. This form of brinksmanship is reminiscent of Iran’s conduct in 2003 after its military nuclear program was exposed: it cooperated with the IAEA with regard to nuclear facilities that could be presented for civilian purposes, such as the uranium enrichment facilities and the Arak heavy water reactor, while at the same time concealing activities of a nuclear-military nature.

The Iranian nuclear archive that Israel seized at the beginning of 2018 proves that by 2003, Iran had a well-planned and advanced program of developing nuclear weapons capable of launch via ballistic missile. The bottleneck since then has been to accumulate enough fissile material, high-enriched uranium or plutonium, for nuclear weapons.

The nuclear archive contains a wealth of new information about Iran’s accelerated efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Investigation of the information suggests that Iran’s nuclear capability had progressed far beyond what the Western intelligence services and the IAEA had estimated so far. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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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 aggression 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.

Oil

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.

Israel

Usually, when the U.S. has intervened in the Middle East, the pressure is applied to Israel. America then plays a wink-and-nod game by trying to “restrain” the Israelis to prevent an anti-American blowback 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 relative to other Middle East nations. Three, an unspoken reality is that most Arab nations trust nuclear Tel Aviv more than they do would-be-nuclear Tehran, and they’d be only too happy to see the Jewish state confront Iran. In sum, the U.S. has few worries that Iran might do any major damage to Israel or galvanize a Middle East jihad against it. Nor, in the present crisis, do we fear that our own support for Israel might erode a common anti-Iranian Middle East front. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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The Iranian Conquest of Syria
Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Aug. 14, 2019

When Iran first came to the rescue of Bashar Assad’s disintegrating regime in Syria, its primary goal was to contain the rebels who had almost defeated the regime by controlling more than 60 percent of Syrian territory. With the active involvement of Russia beginning in September 2015, the Syrian regime not only stabilized but succeeded, together with its allies, to recover most of the territory lost to the rebels, with the exception of the northeastern territories held by the Kurds, and the northwestern Idlib enclave held by the Turkish assisted rebels and Al-Qa’eda/Jabhat al Nusra/ISIS operatives. However, the actual state of affairs is still problematic, and the regime is still fighting for its survival, a situation that demands an ongoing military involvement of Iran and Russia in the long process of consolidation.

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah presented Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei with a Koran as Revolutionary Guard Al Qods Commander Qasem Suleimani watches approvingly. (Iranian press after Hizbullah’s 2000 “victory” of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon.)1

While Russia’s role has been a purely military, political, and economic one, Iran has looked at the conflict since the beginning of its intervention in Syri as an opportunity to take over the country. In fact, the germ of Iran’s involvement in Syria began around mid-April 2013, when Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, paid a secret visit to Tehran. There he met with the top Iranian officials headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Gen. Qasem Suleimani, in charge – among other things – of Iranian policy in Lebanon and Syria. Soleimani’s involvement in the meeting with Nasrallah was significant. He had been the spearhead of Iranian military activism across the Middle East.2

At that meeting, the Iranian leaders presented an operational plan that included three elements: The establishment of a popular sectarian army made up of Shiites and Alawites, to be backed by forces from Iran, Iraq, Hizbullah, and symbolic contingents from the Persian Gulf. This force was supposed to reach 150,000 fighters.

The plan was to give preference to importing forces from Iran, Iraq, and, only afterward, other Shiite elements. This regional force was to be integrated with the Syrian army.

Suleimani himself visited Syria in late February-early March 2013 to prepare for the implementation of this plan. The Iranians expressed their ambition to turn Syria into a lynchpin of its Middle Eastern policy, in general, and of leading the jihad and the Islamic resistance to Israel, in particular. Hizbullah’s inclusion in the armed struggle in Syria was intended, primarily, to serve the Iranian strategy, which has been setting new goals apart from military assistance to the Syrian regime.

Mehdi Taeb, head of the Supreme Leader Khamenei’s think tank, voiced a critical expression of Syria’s centrality in Iranian strategy at that time. He stated that Syria was the “35th district of Iran” and it had greater strategic importance for Iran than Khuzestan [an Arab-populated district inside Iran]: “By preserving Syria we will be able to get back Khuzestan, but if we lose Syria we will not even be able to keep Tehran.” Significantly, Taeb was drawing a comparison between Syria and a district that is under full Iranian sovereignty.3 What was also clear from his remarks was that Iran could not afford to lose Syria. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Further Readings:

 

German Amb. Set To Run Eu-Iran Trade Resigns, Linked To Holocaust Denier: Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 11, 2019 — Germany’s former ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Bernd Erbel, will not oversee the European Union’s mechanism to conduct trade with Tehran because he appeared on a radio show with a virulently antisemitic radio host who allegedly denied the Holocaust.

 

An English Misunderstanding of Iran: Amir Taheri, GatestoneInstitute, July 26, 2019 — The subtitle of Jack Straw’s new book promises to help the reader in “understanding Iran”.

 

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.

 

US and Iran: What is NOT a Smart Policy: Majid Rafizadeh, Gatestone Institute, July 6, 2019 — There are policy analysts, scholars or politicians I have come across who say, “I hope Trump fails.”