IRAN’S MISSILE ATTACKS AND ENTRENCHMENT IN SYRIA RISK CONFRONTATION WITH ISRAEL AND U.S.

Iran Is Ready to Take Risks in its Struggle with Israel: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Jan. 21, 2019 — In response to an attack on qualitative Iranian targets in the Damascus, Syria, region, which was carried out on January 20, 2019, the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guard fired a medium-range surface-to-surface missile at the Hermon Region.

John Bolton Is Threatening Iran. Good.: Ray Takeyh, Politico, Jan. 15, 2019— The latest news to rattle the Washington establishment is that John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has asked the Pentagon for military options against Iran.

It’s Time to Ramp up the Pressure on Iran. Here’s How: Kaveh Shahrooz, National Post, Jan. 16, 2019 — Once they reconvene in February, Canada’s senators will be presented with a unique opportunity to pursue human rights in Iran in a new and effective way…

On MLK Day, the Future of African-American and Jewish Relations Hangs in the Balance: Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman, Algemeiner, Jan. 21, 2019 — On this Martin Luther King Day, the future of African-American and Jewish relations hangs in the balance.

On Topic Links

Arbor Day (Tu Bishvat) Guide for the Perplexed, 2019: Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 20, 2019

Arafat and the Ayatollahs: Tony Badran, Tablet, Jan. 16, 2019

Why They Stay: Roya Hakakian, Tablet, Jan. 14, 2019

A Forbidden Story Makes its Way Into Iran: Peter O’Brien, Globe and Mail, Jan. 4, 2019

 

IRAN IS READY TO TAKE RISKS IN ITS STRUGGLE WITH ISRAEL

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira

JCPA, Jan. 21, 2019

In response to an attack on qualitative Iranian targets in the Damascus, Syria, region, which was carried out on January 20, 2019, the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guard fired a medium-range surface-to-surface missile at the Hermon Region. Apparently, the attack had been planned for a long time and approved by the Iranian regime in Tehran. The missile was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system.

This is not the first time that Iran has reacted to an Israeli aerial attack on Iranian targets in Syria. On May 10, 2018, the Qods Force fired more than 30 Grad and Fajr rockets toward Israel. Most of them fell inside Syrian territory, and some of them were intercepted by Israel without causing any casualties. However, this time, the Qods Force fired a more accurate surface-to-surface missile toward the Hermon region, rather than at the outskirts of the Golan Heights. Moreover, this missile attack occurred during daylight hours. The significance of firing the missile during the day was that it was clear to the Qods Force that there were hundreds of Israeli tourists visiting the area and a ski resort.

This attack indicated Iran’s readiness to ratchet up the level of violence and take greater risks of a strong Israeli reaction, thereby leading to a military deterioration with Israel. If reports that some of the targets attacked by Israel were close to the Qods Force command building in the Damascus region are true, from the viewpoint of Iran, it can no longer tolerate Israeli attacks. This is certainly the case after the end of Israel’s ambiguous policy of claiming the military actions and its readiness to take direct responsibility for attacks on Iranian targets in Syria.

Therefore, it would seem that at this stage, we are facing a new strategic situation with regard to Israel’s dealing with Iran in Syria. At its foundation lies the risk that Iran, through the Qods Force, will intensify its reactions to Israeli attacks on Syria and is even prepared to enter into a limited conflict with Israel. By no coincidence, the Iranian press released this statement by Iran’s Air Force commander Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh: “The young people in the air force are fully ready and impatient to confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the Earth.”        Contents

   

JOHN BOLTON IS THREATENING IRAN. GOOD.

Ray Takeyh

Politico, Jan. 15, 2019

The latest news to rattle the Washington establishment is that John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has asked the Pentagon for military options against Iran. The commentariat and the Democrats in exile are aghast and insist that such bellicosity will only invite belligerence from Iran. Many former Obama administration officials fear that Bolton’s truculence may lead Iran to resume its nuclear program. But the truth is that when dealing with Iran, threats usually work while blandishments only whet the appetite of the mullahs who run the country.

No president was more concerned with the Islamic revolutionaries’ sensibilities than Jimmy Carter. Even after Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostages, Carter hoped to resolve the crisis in a manner that did not jeopardize the possibility of resuming ties with the theocracy. Such deference helped prolong the crisis for 444 days and essentially doomed Carter’s presidency. However, during the long hostage saga, on one occasion, Carter took forceful action and his policy actually worked. After the storming of the embassy, there was much loose talk in Tehran that the U.S. officials would be put on trial. The administration sent a private note to Iran that any harm done to the hostages would provoke American military retaliation. Soon, all the talk of public trial was quietly shelved. This proved to be a lesson not learned, not just by Carter but by many other American statesmen who would go on to deal with Iran.

The Reagan administration may best be known for the Iran-Contra affair, whereby it traded arms for the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Iran’s Hezbollah proxy. However, the tragic and accidental shooting down of an Iranian commercial airliner in July 1988 was actually critical to ending the Iran-Iraq war. For eight years, Iran had rebuffed all entreaties and offers of diplomatic mediation, as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini held tight to his goal of deposing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein irrespective of the conflict’s human toll. By the summer of 1988, there was an ongoing conflict between American naval ships and Iranian speed boats laying down mines in the Gulf waters. As the confrontation on the high seas was taking place, an Iranian passenger plane was making its way to Dubai. As the aircraft approached, the USS Vincennes mistook it for a hostile vessel and shot it down, killing 290 passengers.

Despite days of mourning and incendiary speeches, Iran’s reaction was basically subdued, as Tehran appreciated that the asymmetry of power militated against escalation of the conflict. The one dramatic consequence of downing the passenger plane was that it finally persuaded the clerical elite that it was time to abandon the war with Iraq—they mistakenly believed the shooting down of the Airbus was a prelude to America entering the war on Saddam’s behalf with the purpose of overthrowing the Islamic Republic. Even Khomeini, who was indifferent to the loss of human life, proved too respectful of American power to persist with a war that he felt might now include the United States. So Khomeini opted for an armistice, which he famously compared to drinking a “poisoned chalice.”

The world’s handling of Iran’s nuclear ambitions is also instructive. For much of its tenure in power, the Islamic Republic has maintained a nuclear apparatus. And by late 1990s, it was busy establishing an elaborate and clandestine facility in Natanz, approximately 200 miles south of Tehran. Iran was also active in developing plutonium capabilities. The uranium conversion facility in Isfahan and the nearly completed heavy-water production plant in Arak demonstrated the scope of a program that had been effectively concealed from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Islamic Republic had carefully constructed a nuclear infrastructure that offered it multiple paths to the bomb.

All this came crashing down in 2002, when an opposition group revealed Tehran’s secrets. Ali Khamenei, Khomeini’s successor as supreme leader, immediately understood that he had a serious problem on his hands. The revelations came at a time when America was feeling shock-and-awe confidence in the wake of its rapid displacement of the Taliban in Afghanistan and on the cusp of destruction of the Baathist regime in Iraq in three weeks. The latter campaign shocked an Iranian political establishment that had been confidently told by its military leaders that America could not discharge that task with such ease and speed. The fear in Tehran was that America would next turn its gaze on the Islamic Republic.

So what happened next? President George W. Bush’s inclusion of Iran in his “axis of evil” speech alarmed Iranian leaders. It was time for the clerical state to buy time and wait for the storm to pass. It was at this juncture that Iran cut a deal with the so-called EU-3—Britain, France and Germany—to suspend all aspects of its nuclear program. This suspension would last for two years. By then, America found itself in a sectarian civil war in Iraq that was inflamed by Iran and its proxies. Once America became distracted in Iraq, Iran resumed its enrichment activities. Still, the lesson of 2003 is that threats work in compelling Iran to abandon its nuclear program far more than all the diplomacy that ensued in the coming decade.

Trump and Bolton are the latest American policymakers to unsettle the Islamic Republic. The signs coming out of the White House may at times be ambiguous, but the tough talk and the tough actions have had an impact in Tehran. The U.S. has withdrawn from the flawed Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran that have knocked off nearly a million barrels from its oil exports and crippled its economy. And yet the U.S. has faced no retaliatory Iranian response. The Islamic Republic has maintained its compliance with the nuclear agreement and will likely do so during the duration of the Trump presidency. Why? Because it respects and fears the power of the United States when wielded appropriately. The lesson: American determination, forcefully expressed, usually yields Iranian retreat.

The American strategist who seems to have internalized the right lessons in dealing with Iran is John Bolton. He appreciates Iran’s history of creating chaos in the Middle East and the fallacy of an arms control agreement that was paving its way toward the bomb. More important, he seems to appreciate that threats work better than soothing words in tempering a theocratic regime destined for the ash heap of history.

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IT’S TIME TO RAMP UP THE PRESSURE ON IRAN. HERE’S HOW

Kaveh Shahrooz

National Post, Jan. 16, 2019

Once they reconvene in February, Canada’s senators will be presented with a unique opportunity to pursue human rights in Iran in a new and effective way — through a new Iran-focused motion tabled by Conservative Sen. Linda Frum, condemning the Iranian regime’s human rights violations. The motion calls for the use of Canada’s Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (the Sergei Magnitsky law) to “sanction Iranian government … entities and individuals involved in egregious human rights abuses.”

While its language is largely consistent with an earlier opposition motion adopted in the House of Commons in June 2018 (with the surprise backing of the Trudeau Liberals), the new motion’s call for the application of Magnitsky sanctions is novel. Magnitsky laws — recently adopted by a number of Western countries and named after a Russian lawyer killed by Vladimir Putin’s government — are designed to sanction foreign officials implicated in widespread corruption and human rights abuses. Once subject to Magnitsky sanctions, the assets of the listed official are frozen and the person is barred from travelling to the sanctioning jurisdiction. Such sanctions are narrowly tailored and avoid the harmful collateral damage caused by more comprehensive sanctions on regimes.

Autocrats and rights violators recognize the threat posed by these sanctions. Much like the reaction it prompted among Putin and his loyalists in Russia, the prospect of Magnitsky sanctions directed at Iranian government officials has caused the Iranian regime and its supporters to lash out at a variety of targets. For example, when noted human rights activist Irwin Cotler held a December press conference with an Iranian women’s rights activist to discuss Magnitsky sanctions on Iran, Tehran’s official news agency tweeted an attack on both Cotler and the activist, falsely claiming that the sanctions would be imposed “on Iran” and solely “in the name of human rights.” The Iranian Canadian Journal, an anonymous Canada-based publication that closely parrots the Tehran line, tweeted a verbatim attack. In a similar vein, Iran’s Etemad newspaper carried an article by Delshad Emami, a vocal Iranian-Canadian supporter of the Iranian government, that called Magnitsky sanctions a threat to Iran’s security and a form of “economic terrorism.”

The case for imposing human rights sanctions on Iranian officials is surprisingly easy, having been made repeatedly by Iranian activists over the years. It starts with acknowledging that past sanctions imposed on Iran have focused almost exclusively on Iran’s nuclear program. Critical as such efforts have been, they have overlooked the fact that the primary victims of Iran’s government are its people.

Iran has one of the worst human rights records in the world and its officials’ heretofore impunity must be rectified. As recognized by Canada’s parliament in 2013, Iran’s government is guilty of crimes against humanity (crimes which Amnesty International believes are ongoing). It has continuously targeted journalists. It has arrested and murdered environmentalists, including Iranian-Canadian professor Kavous Seyed-Emami. It has repressed religious minorities, particularly members of the Baha’i faith. It arrests women’s rights activists as well as labour unionists, torturing some “to the verge of death.” And as a symbol of its utter disregard for the rule of law, Iran’s government continues to arrest defence lawyers who dare to represent dissidents.

The list of Iranian officials responsible for these crimes is long. But a good place to start would be the report recently compiled by the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, which lays out a solid case for sanctioning 19 Iranian officials who have played a role in everything from carrying out mass murder to suppressing free speech.

Despite the clear case for such sanctions, some senators may still be hesitant to support the motion. Last year, a somewhat similar bill introduced in the Senate was rejected by all of Canada’s independent (i.e., formerly Liberal) senators. But the new motion deftly works around many of the objections previously raised by the senators — specifically, that the bill prevented engagement and restricted Canada’s ability to respond to incremental improvements in Iran’s human rights record.

The Magnitsky sanctions are a more nuanced instrument, allowing Canada to calibrate its pressure on Iran. The motion also does not stand in the way of any fruitful engagement with Iran, provided that such engagement does not include those implicated in mass crimes. In addition, the “name and shame” approach of the Magnitsky sanctions is completely consistent with the existing Canadian policy of naming and shaming Iran at the UN General Assembly through an annual human rights resolution.

Iran’s human rights activists, at home and in the diaspora, have long sought to end that country’s culture of impunity through focused pressure on human rights violators. The Magnitsky sanctions proposed in Canada’s Senate provide an opportunity to advance that admirable goal. In solidarity with the tens of thousands of human rights victims in Iran, Canada’s senators should vote for the motion. And pressure their colleagues in the House of Commons to adopt it into law. Contents

   

ON MLK DAY, THE FUTURE OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN

AND JEWISH RELATIONS HANGS IN THE BALANCE

Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman

Algemeiner, Jan. 21, 2019

On this Martin Luther King Day, the future of African-American and Jewish relations hangs in the balance. The explosive controversy around National Women’s March leaders like Tamika Mallory refusing to apologize for their love of Louis Farrakhan — or to affirm Israel’s right to exist — is disturbing enough. But The New York Times’ decision to feature Michelle Alexander’s op-ed, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” signals the opening of a new line of attack against our community.

Michelle Alexander has superstar credentials. She taught the Civil Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School and clerked for Justice Harry Blackmun at the Supreme Court. Today, she teaches “social justice” at Union Theological Seminary. Her 2010 bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, argues persuasively that the post-1960s “war on drugs” cemented African-American males’ status deep in the new underclass, a condition of racial inferiority reminiscent of the post-Reconstruction Jim Crow era. But she implies that much of our current racial crisis is the result of white racists — and immoral white liberal politicians in league with them. During 2016, she urged African-Americans and white progressives not to vote for Hillary Clinton.

James Foreman, Jr., son of a civil rights icon and himself a Yale Law professor, just won a Pulitzer Prize for Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. His central thesis in may ways reinforces Alexander’s argument — as he has acknowledged. Yet Foreman has criticized Alexander for downplaying the role of exploding black violent crime during the 1960s and 1970s in creating a political crisis over drugs, for flirting with the idea of an alleged white-racist political conspiracy when many African Americans also supported a harsh crackdown on crime, and for inflaming black-white polarization at a time when cross-race and cross-class alliances are needed for prison reform.

In her New York Times broadside, Alexander paints a picture of Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territories as the greatest human rights crime of our time. There is no mention of Arab armies repeatedly invading Israel, of Palestinian terrorism, of the corrupt Palestinian Authority’s refusal to negotiate a peaceful two-state solution, or of the genocidal Hamas. Worst of all is her shameless revision of Martin Luther King’s history to re-imagine him as a late-blooming critic of Israel.

King was a man of peace and a humanitarian, sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. But he knew — from first to last — the difference between right and wrong in the Middle East. The young Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1956 commented: “There is something in the very nature of the universe which is on the side of Israel in its struggle with every Egypt.” King apotheosized the positive side of African-American Christian identification with Zion. In 1959, King made his only trip to the Middle East. Barred by Jordan from visiting the Old City, he was indelibly affected by Jerusalem.

In Miami Beach — to the national convention of the American Jewish Congress on May 14, 1958 — King said: “My people were brought to America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility. … There are Hitlers loose in America today, both in high and low places.”

Interviewed by the editor of Conservative Judaism on March 25, 1968, soon after he attended a birthday celebration for Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel before 1,000 rabbis in upstate New York and just 10 days before his assassination, King declared: “I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can almost be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”

So why is Alexander’s piece so significant? Because it represents the new progressive-left “intersectional” policy of trying to demonize Israel and remove Jews from movements like the Women’s March with a powerful boost from The New York Times. This campaign recalls the 1940s, when the Times only ambivalently endorsed the 1947 UN Partition Plan for a Jewish state, and then stayed silent about Israel’s actual declaration of independence. The political narrative is different now, but the anti-Israel trend lines are analogous.

We are witnessing the opening shot in a new 21st century war to de-legitimize Israel, home to the world’s largest Jewish population and the values of our people — including our love of Zion. We now face a two-front attack — one from white supremacist antisemites responsible for Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, the other from our erstwhile multi-racial progressive friends, who seem to want a Judenrein vision of equality and mutual respect. We must fight both movements vigorously.

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On Topic Links

Arbor Day (Tu Bishvat) Guide for the Perplexed, 2019: Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 20, 2019—1. The Jewish Arbor Day, Tu Bishvat (ט”ו בשבט), although essentially halakhic with regard to laws of tithes as they affect trees, highlights human gratitude for the creation of the fruit-bearing trees.  Jewish tradition stipulates a one-sentence-blessing before consuming any fruit.

Arafat and the Ayatollahs: Tony Badran, Tablet, Jan. 16, 2019—When Yasser Arafat arrived in Tehran on Feb. 17, 1979, the first “foreign leader” invited to visit Iran mere days after the victory of the revolution, he declared he was coming to his “own home.”

Why They Stay: Roya Hakakian, Tablet, Jan. 14, 2019—Among the world’s endangered minorities, Iranian Jews are an anomaly. Like their counterparts, their conditions categorically refute all the efforts their nation makes at seeming civilized and egalitarian—and so they embody, often without wanting to, all that is ugly and unjust about their native land.

A Forbidden Story Makes its Way Into Iran: Peter O’Brien, Globe and Mail, Jan. 4, 2019—On a rainy day at a small outdoor bookstall, a man hides his face with a book. On the cover a girl, loosely wrapped in a sheet, lies on the floor, a pair of large men’s shoes inches away from her young, outstretched arm.