Obama Just Made Iran’s Brutal Regime Stronger: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Jan. 24, 2016 — “Evident victory!” This is how Iranian President Hassan Rouhani describes the diplomatic swindle, known as the “Iran nuclear deal.”
Israel Sees Short and Long-term Repercussions in Iranian Sanctions Relief: Yaakov Lappin, IPT, Jan. 25, 2016— Away from the vociferous disputes that continue to rage around the Iranian nuclear deal, the Israel's Military Intelligence Directorate and General Staff have been engaged in detached analysis of the short and long-term effects, and they have come away with three central conclusions.
Cartoons as a Symbol of Defiance: Hillel Newman, Times of Israel, Feb. 1, 2016 — The director of the cartoon and caricature House in Tehran, Massoud Tabatabai, announced … that Iran will once again hold an international cartoon contest that scoffs at the Holocaust.
Italian-Iranian Hall of Mirrors: Roger Cohen, New York Times, Feb. 1, 2016— Italy’s decision to cover up the nudes at the Capitoline Museum in deference to the sensibilities of the visiting Glasgow-educated Iranian president has been widely interpreted as final proof of the capitulation of Western civilization to theocratic Islam.
In-Fighting in Iran: Neville Teller, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 1, 2016
The Iranian Penetration of Iraqi Kurdistan: Lazar Berman, JCPA, Jan. 21, 2016
‘The Iran-Iraq War,’ by Pierre Razoux: New York Times, Dec. 29, 2016
North Korea Did It Again: Dr. Alon Levkowitz, BESA, Feb. 2, 2016
New York Post, Jan. 24, 2016
“Evident victory!” This is how Iranian President Hassan Rouhani describes the diplomatic swindle, known as the “Iran nuclear deal.” The Koranic term (in Arabic Fatah al-Mobin) refers to one of Prophet Mohammed’s successful guerrilla raids on a Meccan caravan in the early days of Islam. Rouhani claims the “deal” represents “the greatest diplomatic victory in Islamic history.” Leaving aside the hyperbole, a fixture of the mullahs’ rhetorical arsenal, Rouhani has reason to crow.
If not quite moribund as some analysts claim, the Islamic Republic had been in a rough patch for years. For more than a year, the government was unable to pay some of the 5.2 million public sector employees, notably teachers, petrochemical workers and students on bursaries, triggering numerous strikes. Deprived of urgently needed investment, the Iranian oil industry was pushed to the edge with its biggest oil fields, notably Bibi Hakimeh and Maroun, producing less than half their capacity.
Between 2012 and 2015, Iran lost 25% of its share in the global oil market. Sanctions and lack of investment also meant that large chunks of Iranian industry, dependent on imported parts, went under. In 2015 Iran lost an average of 1,000 jobs a day.
Last month, the nation’s currency, the rial, fell to an all-time record low while negative economic growth was forecast for the third consecutive year. Having increased the military budget by 21%, Rouhani was forced to delay presentation of his new budget for the Iranian New Year starting March 21. Against that background that Obama rode to the rescue by pushing through a “deal” designed to ease pressure on Iran in exchange for nothing but verbal promises from Tehran. Here is some of what Obama did:
Dropped demands that Iran reshape its nuclear program to make sure it can never acquire a military dimension. As head of Iranian Atomic Energy Agency Ali Akbar Salehi has said: “Our nuclear project remains intact. The ‘deal’ does not prevent us from doing what we were doing.”
He suspended a raft of sanctions and pressured the European Union and the United Nations to do the same. He injected a badly needed $1.7 billion into Iranian economy by releasing assets frozen under President Jimmy Carter and kept as possible compensation for Americans held hostage at different times. The cash enabled Rouhani to start paying some unpaid salaries in Iran while financing Hezbollah branches and helping the Assad regime in Syria.
Obama released another tranche of $30 billion, enabling Rouhani to present his new budget with a reduced deficit at 14% while increasing the military-security budget yet again, by 4.2%. Banking sanctions were set aside to let Iran import 19,000 tons of American rice to meet shortages on the eve of Iranian New Year when consumption reaches its peak. Obama’s lovefest with the mullahs helped mollify the Khomeinist regime’s image as a sponsor of international terror and a diplomatic pariah.
What is the rationale behind Obama’s dogged determination to help the mullahs out of the ditch they have dug? Some cite Obama’s alleged belief that the US has been an “imperialist power,” bullying weaker nations and must make amends. Others suggest a tactic to strengthen “moderates” within the Iranian regime who, if assured that the US does into seek regime change might lead the nation towards a change of behavior.
Whatever the reasons, what Obama has done could best described as appeasement-plus. In classical appeasement you promise an adversary not to oppose some of his moves, for example the annexation of Czechoslovakia, but you do not offer him actual financial or diplomatic support.
Obama has gone beyond that. In addition to saving Iran from running out of money, on the diplomatic front he has endorsed Tehran’s scenario for Syria, is campaigning to help Iran choose the next Lebanese president, and has given the mullahs an open field in Afghanistan and Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry talks of Iran as “the regional power,” to the chagrin of Washington’s Middle East allies.
What if the “deal” actually weakens the “moderates” that Obama wants to support, supposing they do exist? Obama’s imaginary “moderates” are not in good shape. The Council of Guardians that decides who could run for election next month has disqualified 99% of the so-called “moderate” wannabes, ensuring the emergence of a new Islamic parliament and Assembly of Experts dominated by radicals as never before. Meanwhile, the annual “End of America” festival, Feb. 1 to 10, is to be held with greater pomp.
With more resources at its disposal, Tehran is intensifying its “exporting the revolution” campaign. Last week it announced the creation of a new Hezbollah branch in Turkey and, for the first time, made the existence of a branch in Iraq public. Tajikistan was also publicly added to the markets where Khomeinist revolution should be exported. There are no “moderates” in Tehran, and the Islamic Republic cannot be reformed out of its nature. For the remainder of Obama’s term least, expect a more aggressive Islamic Republic. Did the mullahs deceive Obama? No, this was all his idea.
IPT, Jan. 25, 2016
Away from the vociferous disputes that continue to rage around the Iranian nuclear deal, the Israel's Military Intelligence Directorate and General Staff have been engaged in detached analysis of the short and long-term effects, and they have come away with three central conclusions. Details of their assessments, though shared with defense reporters over recent months, were publicly presented for the first last week by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot during a conference in Tel Aviv, organized by the Institute for National Security Studies.
The most immediate consequence of the nuclear deal will be felt in the realm of expanding Iranian regional influence, and the looming increase in the trafficking of weapons and funds to terror organizations, made possible by sanctions relief. Iran now sends Hizballah between $800 million to $1 billion every year, according to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) assessments. There is every reason to expect Hizballah's funding to significantly increase in the next two years, as Iran stands to earn many billions of dollars in oil and gas sales, and receives access to $100 billion in previously frozen assets.
Iran sends Hamas in the Gaza Strip tens of millions of dollars per year, instructs it on how to mass produce rockets, and tries to smuggle weapons into Gaza. Iran's budget for Hamas will grow, too. Additionally, the Iranian military industry, already considered to be an advanced stage of development by Israel, will receive much more investment, allowing Iran to design and produce more accurate missiles, rockets, drones, and other types of weaponry that it can then traffic to its regional proxies through its Revolutionary Guard-Quds Force (IRGC) networks, or point at Israel directly from Iranian missile bases.
IRGC-Quds Force activities in Syria, where Iran oversees and participates in battles to save its ally, the Assad regime (Iran has lost between 300 to 400 of its security forces in Syria's battles), and seeks to convert its presence on the Syrian Golan into terrorist bases against Israel, can also be expected to be expand. "The assessment is that as the economic situation in Iran improves, bigger assets will be diverted [to these things]," Eisenkot said Jan. 18.
Regarding the Iranian nuclear program itself, the military divides its view between the short and long-term. Since the end of 2005, Iran topped the list of strategic threats to Israel due to its military nuclear program. With Iran inching toward nuclear breakout capabilities, the IDF had to be ready to respond to any potential imminent developments. The nuclear deal changes that situation, at least for the next five years. Although Israel will make every effort to monitor and scrutinize Iran's activities, the expectation within the defense establishment is that the risk of an imminent Iranian breakout to the bomb has substantially decreased for the next few years.
The thinking in Israel's military establishment is that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has not forfeited his ambition to build nuclear weapons. Far from it. He has, however, taken a tactical 'pause' to achieve sanctions relief and assure the future of his regime. After the five-year mark passes, the next decade carries increased risks of Iran secretly developing nuclear weapons.
Alternatively, Iran can wait out the agreement's sunset clause, and reactivate its nuclear program in 10 to 15 years, after it has amassed far greater regional influence, military capabilities, wealth, and international legitimacy. This is one reason why Eisenkot has said that whoever is in his position a decade from now will face significantly more complex challenges. Iran then will be a significantly more formidable enemy than it is today.
In the meantime, Iran will continue its proxy war against Israel, and Hizballah armed with over 100,000 surface to surface rockets and missiles, will work with Iran to make some of those projectiles accurate, satellite-guided threats, which it can try to direct against strategic sites in Israel. Israel, for its part, is developing an advanced multi-layer rocket and missile defense system to counter this…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Times of Israel, Feb. 1, 2016
The director of the cartoon and caricature House in Tehran, Massoud Tabatabai, announced … that Iran will once again hold an international cartoon contest that scoffs at the Holocaust. This contest offers an extra special cherry in the creation of a new category primarily designed to deride the Prime Minister of Israel. It is scheduled to take place in June 2016, with the assistance and support of the municipality of Tehran. The contest carries significant cash prizes, with the promise of a special prize of $50,000, a first place prize of $12,000, second place of $8,000, and third place prize of $5,000. It would seem that due to the promised relief of sanctions — the result of the nuclear agreement (JCPOA) — Iran expects its coffers to fill. So the powers that be have found something “useful” to do with their excess cash flow.
This is not the first time they are holding such a contest. They held such a contest in April 2015, and according to the site managing the contest, more than 300 people from approximately 50 countries submitted entries. Illuminating the contest’s date of the first of April, the submission date then, the director of the caricature house explained, “As the first of April is the day of lies, it is appropriate to hold a caricature contest ridiculing the Holocaust, which is one of the biggest lies.” Thus, this contest is not just for fun, but purposely carries political and ideological undertones. Holocaust denial and the ridiculing of Israel’s Prime Minister are part and parcel of the political and ideological connotations.
Iran knows very well how cartoons can be used for political messages. Ms. Atena Farghadani, an Iranian citizen, was sentenced in May 2015 to 12 years in prison. Evidence against her included satirical cartoons she had drawn, depicting Iranian officials with disdain. She has been termed a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International. Recently, according to news reports, she was charged with illegitimate sexual relations and forced to undergo a “virginity and pregnancy test,” because she shook hands with her attorney. Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program was quoted stating: “It is shocking that on top of imposing a ludicrous charge on Atena Farghadani for the ‘crime’ of shaking hands with her lawyer, the Iranian authorities have forced her to undergo a virginity and pregnancy test.”
This case highlights the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime. It sponsors cartoons against the Holocaust on the one hand, yet arrests Iranian citizens for oppositionist cartoons on the other. It also highlights how seriously the Iranian authorities take satirical cartoons: seriously enough to impose 12 years in prison. Clearly, significant differences should be noted between the two issues. Atena’s cartoons were a private initiative of an oppositionist, protesting horrendous acts by the Iranian regime. The Holocaust caricature contest is governmental, institutional, international, and in clear violation of international accords. It is also an offense to the innocent victims of the Holocaust.
Iran’s intolerance for oppositionist cartoons calls into question the Iranian leaders’ attempts to excuse themselves with false claims of not understanding the significance of convening this detestable contest. This issue is not, and should not be, an Israeli or Jewish issue. This act of insolence should awaken the negotiators of the P5+1 and the leaders of the tolerant world to the true character of the Iranian regime. It is just one additional act of defiance among many.
Over the past few months, Iran has been ballooning different types of defiant acts, testing the waters, to see the reaction of the international community. So far, things have gone well for them. The international community has locked itself into a position of extreme weakness, in fear that reacting to these acts of defiance would uproot the nuclear agreement (JCPOA) that they have toiled so long to achieve.
In October, Iran provocatively launched a ballistic missile test, the second that year, which was determined to violate the UN sanctions. The Iranians continue to smuggle arms and support proxy terror groups, in violation of Security Council resolutions. They continue to execute juvenile offenders, in violation of the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). They continue to detain American dual nationals on what observers denounce as trumped up espionage charges. They continue their subversive activity unabated. In the nuclear context, as Michael Singh and Simond de Galbert report in their Wall Street Journal article of December 14, 2015: “Iran has refused to take either of the two steps that could provide real assurance that it has forsaken its desire for nuclear weapons: abandoning uranium enrichment altogether and providing a full disclosure of past nuclear activities.”
Inaction in the face of Iranian violations and misbehavior will only lead to further insolence, defiance and audacity. It will also lead to further erosion of the integrity and credibility of the international community. It will eat at the essence of the deterrence threat, and pave the way for increased disrespect of international norms and UN sanctions. Meaningful responses to Iranian provocations are needed. Let us start by tackling the moral issue of the Holocaust cartoon contest, which is just a symbol of Iranian deep rooted disregard for our values.
New York Times, Feb. 1, 2016
Italy’s decision to cover up the nudes at the Capitoline Museum in deference to the sensibilities of the visiting Glasgow-educated Iranian president has been widely interpreted as final proof of the capitulation of Western civilization to theocratic Islam. It was, Hisham Melhem, a columnist for Al Arabiya English, suggested, a “brazen act of self-emasculation and obeisance.”
If Italy, inheritor of the glories of the Roman Empire, boxes up some of its finest works of art just in case the eye of President Hassan Rouhani should fall on the plum-like breast of a marble goddess, then nobody should be surprised if Islamic fanatics (Sunni, not Shiite, but still) choose to destroy the glorious Greco-Roman legacy at Palmyra. Or so the reasoning goes.
As a consequence of Boxgate, Italy has suffered ridicule. Nothing is worse than ridicule. Here it is merited. Not so much, I would argue, for Italy’s clumsy attempt at courtesy, for courtesy is important and has become an undervalued virtue. Reading the fall of the West into the concealment of a nude is going too far. Mistakes happen. No, the ridicule is merited because the decision to hide the works of art was, it seems, made by nobody. In Rome, the buck stops nowhere. The Capitoline Venus just boxed herself up one night because she was bored and took a few deities along with her.
The Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, did not know. The foreign minister did not know. The culture minister called the decision “incomprehensible.” They were, they insist (perhaps too much), as surprised as anyone to find all those white cubes — none, incidentally, provided by the prestigious White Cube gallery in London.
One account has it that a woman named Ilva Sapora who works at Palazzo Chigi, where Renzi’s office is located, made the decision after visiting the Capitoline with Iranian Embassy officials. “Nonsense,” Jas Gawronski, a former Italian member of the European Parliament, told me. The notion that a midlevel Chigi official in charge of ceremonial matters could have made the decision does seem far-fetched. Gawronski believes it is more likely to have been officials at the Farnesina, home to the Foreign Ministry.
One thing can be safely said: Nobody will ever know. I was a correspondent in Rome for some years in the 1980s. Periodically there would be developments in terrorist cases — the Piazza Fontana bombing of 1969 or the Brescia bombing of 1974. Trials, verdicts, appeals followed one another. Facts grew murkier, not clearer. It would take decades to arrive at convictions that did not resolve doubts. Italy has never had much time for the notion that justice delayed is justice denied.
Renzi has wanted to break with this Italy of murky secrets, modernize it, bring stable government and install accountability. He’s made significant changes in electoral and labor law. But he has a problem. At the same time as the Boxgate scandal was unfolding he was telling my colleague Jim Yardley in an interview, “I’m the leader of a great country.”
A great country doesn’t have statues that box themselves up all by themselves. Truth in Italy is elastic. A much-conquered country learned the wisdom of ambiguous expression, as for that matter did much-conquered Persia. The Italians say, “Se non è vero, è ben trovato” — roughly, if it’s not true it ought to be.
If art is the truth, we should not charge the people for the truth. If art is not the truth, is it just a lie? The very moment art is…
At bottom, this story is one of an Iranian-Italian hall of mirrors with a pot of gold sitting in the middle of the hall valued at about $18 billion in new trade deals. The Iranians insist nobody asked for those masterpieces of Classical humanism to be hidden: another case of nobody’s decision. Iran, too, distrusts clarity. It is a nation whose conventions include the charming ceremonial insincerity known as “taarof” and “tagieh,” which amounts to the sacrifice of truth to higher religious imperative.
Speaking of truth denial, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has again questioned the existence of the Holocaust. He chose to do so in a video uploaded to his website on Holocaust Remembrance Day. There is to be another “Holocaust Cartoon and Caricature Contest” in June. Needless to say this Holocaust denial is odious, the regime at its worst. It is also a sign of desperation among the hard-liners determined to block Rouhani’s opening to the world. They reckon Holocaust denial will derail any détente. The buzzword of the hard-liners is “nufuz,” or infiltration by the West. Iranians are being warned to guard against it in this month’s parliamentary elections.
You can hide a few statues in the Capitoline Museum, but you can’t hide the deep rifts between an Iranian society overwhelmingly in favor of opening to the West and a theocratic regime determined to ensure the nuclear deal does not lead to wider cooperation with the United States and Europe. Far from finding itself in a state of capitulation, the West exerts a very powerful cultural magnetism, evident in the rabid desperation of its opponents.
In-Fighting in Iran: Neville Teller, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 1, 2016— Iran’s élite are at loggerheads. Situation normal, one might say, except that the in-fighting is becoming more vicious by the day, exacerbated by the forthcoming elections. As Iran prepares for the vote, scheduled for February 26, the power struggle between the hardliners on the one hand, and the moderates and reformists – the pro-Rouhanis – on the other, is intensifying.
The Iranian Penetration of Iraqi Kurdistan: Lazar Berman, JCPA, Jan. 21, 2016 —Iran’s influence grows across the Middle East. Its armed proxies, and often Iranian soldiers themselves, advance Tehran’s interests in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Iran’s activities in those countries have caught the attention of states in the region and beyond, and rival Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia continue to ramp up their diplomatic and rhetorical campaigns to counter Tehran’s ambitions.
‘The Iran-Iraq War,’ by Pierre Razoux: New York Times, Dec. 29, 2016—The war between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Ruhollah Khomeini’s Iran ended 27 years ago, before most of today’s Iraqis and Iranians were alive. Many of today’s Americans were pretty young then, too — certainly too young to remember the glee with which United States policy makers watched the war, an eight-year storm of steel that killed as many as a million people and exhausted two unsavory regimes.
North Korea Did It Again: Dr. Alon Levkowitz, BESA, Feb. 2, 2016—On January 6, 2016, North Korea held its fourth nuclear test, proclaiming it as Pyongyang's first hydrogen (H) bomb. Intelligence communities and scientists in South Korea and the US have raised doubts concerning North Korea's capabilities to develop and test the H-bomb. By doing so, South Korea and the US question Pyongyang's credibility and in turn, minimize the importance of the fourth nuclear test.