ISRAEL CONCERNED BY IRAN’S GROWING POWER IN SYRIA, & DRIVE TO BECOME REGIONAL SUPERPOWER Posted on July 10, 2017 Printer Friendly Iran Has Conquered Syria: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, June 30, 2017 — The world has accepted the fact that Russian forces have been in Syria for the past two years and that Russia controls the Syrian coastline, its seaports and its two airbases. Rouhani and Trump: Together against Iran's Men with Guns?: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 9, 2017— These days something strange is happening with regard to Iran. Confront Iran the Reagan Way: Mark Dubowitz, Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2017— One message of President Trump’s is popular at home with his political base and embraced abroad by key Middle Eastern allies: The Islamic Republic of Iran is imperialist, repressive, and—unless we adopt a new strategy—on its way toward possessing nuclear weapons. Is Israel Catching Up Too Late to a Major Strategic Threat from Iran?: Judith Miller, Tablet, June 27, 2017—Israel is increasingly obsessed with a new strategic threat—the possibility that eventually it may have to fight a two-front, and even three-front, war against Iran and its proxies. On Topic Links How Trita Parsi and NIAC Used the White House to Advance Iran’s Agenda: Hassan Dai, Tablet, June 28, 2017 Where to Draw the Line Against Iran’s Mideast Takeover: Michael Horowitz, Daily Beast, June 27, 2017 Middle East Peace Hinges on Regime Change in Iran: Shahriar Kia, American Thinker, July 5, 2017 The Next Middle East War: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, July 4, 2017 IRAN HAS CONQUERED SYRIA Dr. Mordechai Kedar Arutz Sheva, June 30, 2017 The world has accepted the fact that Russian forces have been in Syria for the past two years and that Russia controls the Syrian coastline, its seaports and its two airbases. It has become used to having Hezbollah, the Shiite Lebanese militia, involved in the fighting in Syria and giving Assad much-needed support. Other Shiite militias, commanded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, are reported to have arrived from Iraq and Afghanistan. These forces sometimes endure losses on Syrian land, leaving the impression that Iran simply sent some Shiite gangs to fight Sunni gangs on Syrian soil. The real situation is totally different, because the Iranian forces in Syria are not gangs anymore, nor are they militias. They are an army by every existing definition of one. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are charged with building up Iranian forces in Syria, and they are a regular Iranian armed force, not a militia and certainly not a gang. An army. They have infantry, commando, tank, artillery, air force, intelligence and logistics units. This Iranian army's presence has slowly evolved on Syrian soil over the last four years and it has done so under the radar of world media. The largest military offensive in Syria in which Iran's army took part was freeing the northern city of Aleppo from Islamic State in 2016. Russia and Iran cooperated in the operation, with Russia bombing from the air and Iranian forces, along with Hezbollah and other Shiite militias, advancing on the ground and handing over control of conquered areas to Assad's army. Iran has been expanding the area controlled by its forces since early 2017, encroaching upon the desert regions of central and southern Syria which were, until several months ago, in the hands of the Sunni Islamic State (Daesh), the organization now fighting for its survival in three places: Mosul in Iraq, its capital city Raqqa in Syria and Dir A-Zur in eastern Syria. Once Mosul falls, into the hands of the Iranian Army, any day now, the other two cities will follow suit. Iran's regular armed forces took advantage of the power vacuum created by Islamic State's retreat to take over Syria's central and eastern sparsely populated desert regions. I estimate that Iran controls over 60% of Syria today, either directly – through its Revolutionary Guards – or indirectly, through Hezbollah and Shiite militias. Iran's armed forces have several important bases in Syria that allow them complete freedom of movement. Most important of those is the Tadmor airfield in the center of the country, allowing Iran to fly in any military equipment it wishes to bring to Syria, mainly rockets and mortars but also other weapons. Israel is extremely concerned about this development and in March of this year attacked targets in the Tadmor region. The foreign press reported that the raid's objective was an Iranian rocket storage facility. The entire story shows a basic change in the way Iran is running its affairs. Until recently, Iran used commercial flights to camouflage its arms transports, landing in the Damascus international airport, whille foreign press reports claimed that Israel repeatedly bombed storage facilities in the airport's environs. Iran concluded that Israeli intelligence had enlisted Syrian citizens who work or live in proximity to the airport in order to obtain information in real time. Damascus is not far from Israel, allowing the IDF to operate effectively against objectives near the Syrian capital. In contrast, the Tadmor airfield is hundreds of kilometers from Israel. The area has few residents, making it harder for Israel to enlist people to pass on information. Israel, however, did bomb Tadmor, possibly having found another source of information. The war of the minds is being waged all the time, even though the public may be blissfully unaware of it. Reports have claimed that Iran is now using another airport, Alsin, in the Altanef region of southern Syria, near the three-country Syria-Iraq-Jordan border. There is a border crossing between Iraq and Syria nearby, control over which allows the Iranians to freely transport anything at all to Syria. Iranian activity along the Iraq-Syria border is meant to create a continuous land passage from Iran to Syria via Iraq, resulting in Iran being able to move its forces undisturbed all the way to Lebanon, already under Hezbollah's control to all intents and purposes. Hezbollah is the Lebanese arm of the Iranian octopus, so that Iran is turning into a regional power whose forces control an enormous area, ranging from central Asia to the Mediterranean Sea. In this context, it is important to note that all this is happening under the watchful eyes of two global powers, Russia and the United States, each concerned with its own interests. The Russian interest is clear: Russia wants to strengthen Assad and destroy all the Sunni organizations fighting him with Saudi funding and guidance, in addition to other Sunni Arab countries including Turkey. Putin taught Erdogan a lesson and he is now more fearful of the Syrian Kurds than he is an enemy of Assad and his Iranian allies, making Erdogan an important link in the Russo-Iranian coalition supporting Assad. The US observed the growing strength of Iran in Syria over the past four years without initiating any serious attempt to stop it, unless one counts the recent downing of two drones, basically a light tap on Iran's spreading wings. Up until January 2017 the US gave silent assent to Iran's moves, because Obama wanted to empower Iran at the expense of the Saudis. He might have considered it preferable to give the Shiite Arabs and Iranians control of the "Masrek", the name for the regions to the east of Israel, while the area from Egypt westward, known as the "Maghreb," would be under Sunni control. Now that Trump is in the White House, the main goal of American activity in Syria is the elimination of Islamic State, aka Daesh. The US is busy creating "moderate rebel" forces and an alliance with the Kurds who, helped by US air power, are charged with getting rid of Caliph Abu Bakr al Bagdadi and the state he established. The reason the US is concentrating on Daesh is the American fear, shared by Europe, that the terror-state model of Islamic State might seem like a successful one in Muslim eyes. That could lead to Islamic State clones in other parts of the world, including Europe, with the local Islamist public providing a support base…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents ROUHANI AND TRUMP: TOGETHER AGAINST IRAN'S MEN WITH GUNS? Amir Taheri Gatestone Institute, July 9, 2017 These days something strange is happening with regard to Iran. You might say: so what? Strange things have been happening with regard to Iran ever since the mullahs seized power in 1979. Alright, but what is happening now may merit closer attention because it represents an unprecedented convergence between the thinking of the Trump administration in Washington, on the one hand, and that of one of the factions involved in the power struggle in Tehran, on the other. Last month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the Trump administration is putting final touches to a new policy on Iran with the ultimate aim of regime change. While details of this new policy remain a mystery, one thing maybe clear: one of its aims would be the dismantling of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which US experts identify as the mainstay of the Khomeinist regime. National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster has more than hinted at this, while a number of Republican policymakers, among them Senator Tom Cotton, have evoked the designation of the IRGC as a "terrorist organization." Parallel to those developments, the Islamic Republic's own President Hassan Rouhani has launched a campaign of vilification against the IRGC. Some analysts dismiss Rouhani's attacks as mere posturing. After all, they argue, Rouhani himself is a product of the military-security complex based on the IRGC. Thus, his attacks on the IRGC, labeling it "a state with guns within the state," may be a trick to hoodwink the gullible Americans into continuing Barrack Obama's policy of propping up "the moderate faction" in Tehran. This may well be the case. However, the IRGC sees Rouhani's attacks as the domestic angle of a "plot" being hatched in Washington. In an editorial published in the daily Javan, principal organ of the IRGC, General Yadallah Javani, says so with surprising clarity. "What the President is saying [against the IRGC] is exactly copied from what the Western media have been saying for years," he writes. Another commander, Hamid-Reza Muqaddam-Far goes even further by accusing Rouhani and his clan of "unsheathing their swords" against the IRGC by "lying across the board". The IRGC's Commander-in-Chief, General Aziz Jaafari, has linked Rouhani's statements to efforts by the US to limit or even halt Iran's project of building long-range missiles. "Yes, we own missiles that smash the enemy," Jaafari said in a speech a day before "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei reappointed him as IRGC commander-in-chief for a further three years. Never missing an opportunity to attract publicity, General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, has also entered the debate by claiming that "without the IRGC there will be no country!" The so-called "moderate faction" led by the late Hashemi Rafsanjani and former President Mohammed Khatami has always told Western powers, notably the US, that the IRGC is the principal hurdle on the way to the Islamic Republic's change of behavior and "normalization." This was the theme that Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif used with some success in numerous appearances in American policy circles and think-tanks. His claim was that Iran's interventions beyond its borders were due to the IRGC's ambition to make the Islamic Republic a regional superpower, while "the moderates" wanted nothing but "win-win relations" with the West. Last week, that theme was taken up by Rouhani in a speech in Tehran. "Our aim should not be to become the strongest power in the region," he said. "What we want is a stronger region." However, becoming the regional "first power" is clearly stated as the principal goal of the Islamic Republic's 20-Year Strategy, approved by the "Supreme Guide" in 2014. In an editorial last Tuesday, the daily Kayhan, reflecting Khamenei's views, insisted that becoming "the regional superpower" was not a matter of choice, but one of necessity for the Islamic Republic. The principal means of attaining that goal is the IRGC and its growing military power. The current campaign to clip the wings of the IRGC is a reminder of the brief attempt by Khatami to disband the force by merging it with the regular armed forces. It also echoes the campaign launched in the 1970s by the Shah's many enemies to break the Iranian armed forces. At the time, the Khomeinists, the pro-Soviet Communists, the People's Muajahedin, Libya under Moammar Gadhafi, the Palestinians led by Yasser Arafat, leftist parties in Western Europe and certain circles in the US worked together, albeit in an informal way, to vilify the Iranian army and mobilize Iranian and world opinion against it. Days after he seized power in 1979, Khomeini declared the destruction of the army as one of the top aims of his regime. The process of dismantling the army stopped only when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in September 1980… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents CONFRONT IRAN THE REAGAN WAY Mark Dubowitz Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2017 One message of President Trump’s is popular at home with his political base and embraced abroad by key Middle Eastern allies: The Islamic Republic of Iran is imperialist, repressive, and—unless we adopt a new strategy—on its way toward possessing nuclear weapons. To keep the threat at bay, Mr. Trump should take a page from the playbook Ronald Reagan used against the Soviet Union. In the early 1980s, President Reagan shifted away from his predecessors’ containment strategy toward a new plan of rolling back Soviet expansionism. The cornerstone of his strategy was the recognition that the Soviet Union was an aggressive and revolutionary yet internally fragile regime that had to be defeated. Reagan’s policy was outlined in 1983 in National Security Decision Directive 75, a comprehensive strategy that called for the use of all instruments of American overt and covert power. The plan included a massive defense buildup, economic warfare, support for anti-Soviet proxy forces and dissidents, and an all-out offensive against the regime’s ideological legitimacy. Mr. Trump should call for a new version of NSDD-75 and go on offense against the Iranian regime. The administration would be wise to address every aspect of the Iranian menace, not merely the nuclear program. President Obama’s myopic focus on disarmament paralyzed American policy. Under Mr. Obama’s deeply flawed nuclear accord, Tehran does not need to cheat to reach threshold nuclear-weapons capabilities. Merely by waiting for key constraints to sunset, the regime can emerge over the next decade with an industrial-size enrichment program, a near-zero breakout time, an easier clandestine path to a nuclear warhead, long-range ballistic missiles, access to advanced conventional weaponry, greater regional dominance, and a more powerful economy, increasingly immunized against Western sanctions. You could call this scenario the lethal Iranian end-state. A new national security directive must systemically dismantle Iranian power country by country in the Middle East. The Europeans, traumatized by foreign fighters returning from Syria and massive refugee flows, may support a tougher Iran policy if it means Washington finally gets serious about Syria. The early signs of the return of American power are promising: 59 Tomahawk missiles launched in response to the Assad regime’s most recent chemical attack, military strikes at Iran-backed militias in southern Syria, the downing of a Syrian fighter plane and Iranian-made drones, and 281 Syria-related sanctions in five months. Washington should demolish the Iranian regime’s terrorist networks and influence operations, including their presence in Europe and the United States. That means working closely with allied Sunni governments against Iranian subversion of their societies. The American offensive has already begun: CIA Director Mike Pompeo is putting the agency on an aggressive footing against these global networks with the development of a more muscular covert action program. All of Washington’s actions to push back against Tehran hinge on severely weakening the Iranian regime’s finances. Robust measures should target the regime’s praetorians, the Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, a dominant force in Iran’s economy. New sanctions legislation designating the IRGC for terrorism—which the Senate recently passed with 98 votes—and the more than 40 Iran-related sanctions imposed this year are a good start. But much more is still needed: The IRGC’s transfer to Hezbollah of industrial-size missile production capability based on Lebanon soil could trigger the next Israel-Hezbollah war. Massive economic sanctions on Iran to stop these transfers may be the only way to head off this war. Last but not least, the American pressure campaign should seek to undermine Iran’s rulers by strengthening the pro-democracy forces that erupted in Iran in 2009, nearly toppling the regime. Target the regime’s soft underbelly: its massive corruption and human-rights abuses. Conventional wisdom assumes that Iran has a stable government with a public united behind President Hassan Rouhani’s vision of incremental reform. In reality, the gap between the ruled and their Islamist rulers is expanding. The odds that a moderate government will emerge in Tehran before the nuclear deal’s restrictions expire are poor. Washington needs to block the Islamic Republic’s pathways to gaining nuclear-tipped missiles. While aggressively enforcing the nuclear agreement, the administration should present revised terms for a follow-on deal. These must address the current accord’s fundamental flaws, including the sunset provisions that give Tehran a clear pathway to nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them, and the inadequate access to Iranian military sites that blocks effective verification. The administration should present Iran the choice between a new agreement and an unrelenting American pressure campaign while signaling that it is unilaterally prepared to cancel the existing deal if Tehran doesn’t play ball. Only six years after Ronald Reagan adopted his pressure strategy, the Soviet bloc collapsed. Washington must intensify the pressure on the mullahs as Reagan did on the communists. Otherwise, a lethal nuclear Iran is less than a decade away. Contents IS ISRAEL CATCHING UP TOO LATE TO A MAJOR STRATEGIC THREAT FROM IRAN? Judith Miller Tablet, June 27, 2017 Israel is increasingly obsessed with a new strategic threat—the possibility that eventually it may have to fight a two-front, and even three-front, war against Iran and its proxies. According to Chagai Tzuriel, director general of Israel’s intelligence ministry, Iran is now negotiating with Damascus to build a base on the Mediterranean. He called Iran’s effort to build a land corridor and establish a permanent forward operating presence on the sea the “most important strategic development in the region.” All the rest, he said, was “noise.” A corridor through Iraq that allows the Iranian regime to ship weapons and soldiers directly from Iran to proxies in Syria and Lebanon would be a strategic gain that puts Iran directly on two of Israel’s four borders. The most promising route for such a corridor, experts say, is from Iran’s border through southeastern Syria near Jordan’s border at a town called At-Tanf, where Iranian-backed Shiite forces and the Syrian army have been battling American-trained and -supported Syrian rebels. “A corridor is more than a road,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, an Israeli national-security expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who knows both countries’ politics and vulnerabilities well. “It is shorthand for Iran’s success in changing disputed territories’ demography by pushing out Sunnis and replacing them with Shiite and other friendly minorities. It is Iran’s effort to develop energy, economic, and military ties with the local population, particularly along heavily disputed borders, and other means of establishing a permanent presence and Shiite dominance in the region.” The potential peril of Iran’s ambitious, persistent effort to build a so-called land corridor between Tehran and its satellite Hezbollah in Lebanon is the paradoxical result of the impending victory of an improbable American-led coalition—which includes Shiite Iran and Russia—against the Islamic State, the Sunni extremists who once controlled territory the size of Britain in Iraq and Syria. Although the radical Sunnis face expulsion from the “caliphate” they declared two years ago, Iran has filled the vacuum, gaining political and military ground and invaluable operational experience that Israelis fear may enable the Islamic state to soon surround the Jewish state with hostile proxies. Heavily armed Hezbollah has long dominated Lebanon’s security establishment, and increasingly, its politics, to the point where it now seems fair to talk about state institutions like the Lebanese Armed Forces as operating under Hezbollah’s supervision, if not outright control. Alarm about Iran’s growing influence and ability to project power, directly and indirectly, through its regional proxies was a persistent theme last week at the Herzliya Conference, an annual gathering of Israeli and foreign national-security experts in the eponymous Israeli city by the sea. While most analysts agreed that President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran has deferred the threat of an Iranian bomb by a decade, Iran’s desire to become the region’s superpower and project influence in the region through such a corridor has only grown stronger, they said. At the conference and in interviews, veteran Israeli military and intelligence analysts agreed that Israel had not adequately dealt with the strategic threat posed by Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region. In particular, Israel needed to do more to prevent Iran from creating such a corridor, or what King Abdullah of Jordan once called a Shiite “crescent” from Tehran to Beirut through Iraq and Syria. To do so, Israel needs to join forces with another improbable Saudi-promoted Sunni Arab coalition and rely on the United States to counter what several Israeli analysts described as Iran’s patient, coherent strategy to advance its interests in what was once seen as a vital part of the Sunni Arab heartland. Iran’s goals in the region, said Shmuel Bar, a former intelligence analyst who now heads IntuView, an artificial-intelligence company that monitors the region’s media and provides strategic predictions, many of which have proved accurate, says that Tehran’s goals in the region are to solidify political control in Damascus, establish a permanent military presence in Syria, and build a strategic corridor from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, where Hezbollah holds sway. If successful, Iran will have its own “Proxystan” on the Israeli and Jordanian borders. An Iranian presence so close to Israel’s borders with Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, he said, could easily trigger a conflict in which Israel would be pounded simultaneously by artillery and rockets across two of its borders. “Israel can handle a two-front war,” said a senior official of Israel’s ministry of intelligence. “But at what cost?”…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents On Topic Links How Trita Parsi and NIAC Used the White House to Advance Iran’s Agenda: Hassan Dai, Tablet, June 28, 2017—In 2005, Jack Abramoff’s corruption and lobbying scandal became public. Is Israel Catching Up Too Late to a Major Strategic Threat from Iran?: Judith Miller, Tablet, June 27, 2017—Israel is increasingly obsessed with a new strategic threat—the possibility that eventually it may have to fight a two-front, and even three-front, war against Iran and its proxies. Where to Draw the Line Against Iran’s Mideast Takeover: Michael Horowitz, Daily Beast, June 27, 2017 —Recent weeks have witnessed a growing competition in eastern Syria between U.S.-backed forces and Iranian-led militias, putting the two rival countries on a collision course. Middle East Peace Hinges on Regime Change in Iran: Shahriar Kia, American Thinker, July 5, 2017—As the Trump administration continues to overhaul and codify a comprehensive new Iran strategy, the opposition coalition to the mullahs in Tehran held a massive rally on Saturday in the French capital calling for regime change. The Next Middle East War: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, July 4, 2017—Eleven years ago this month, Israel went to war with Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanon-based Shi’a proxy militia. The fighting began when Hezbollah fired rockets at Israeli villages and missiles at Israeli armored vehicles patrolling the border. Three Israeli soldiers were killed. Two were kidnapped and taken into Lebanon.