ISRAEL-IRAN CONFLICT IN SYRIA ESCALATES IN WAKE OF TRUMP’S NUCLEAR DEAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Overnight Clashes Show Shiite ‘Monster’ in Syria is Limited, For Now: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, May 10, 2018— The broadly unsuccessful Iranian military response overnight Wednesday to alleged Israeli attacks on Iranian-affiliated targets in Syria in recent weeks…

The ‘Game’ That Israel and Iran Must Play in Syria: Max Singer, Algemeiner, May 10, 2018 — Israel has neither the power nor the motivation to significantly influence the outcome of the war for control of Syria.

Wrong Man? Right Decision!: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, May 9, 2018— It took him 16 months to get around to it, but US President Donald Trump finally kept another campaign promise and pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.

The Iran Deal’s Disastrous Legacy Has Nothing to Do with Nukes: Noah Rothman, Commentary, May 9, 2018— In March, State Department veteran and former adviser to Barack Obama, Frederic Hof, bid farewell to public life with a stunning admission.

On Topic Links

Liberman: Israel Destroyed ‘Nearly All’ Iranian Military Sites in Syria: Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel, May 10, 2018

Another Reason the EU Supports the Iran Deal: Money: Elder of Ziyon, Algemeiner, May 10, 2018

The Ayatollahs’ Clear and Present Threat to the USA: Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, May 8, 2018

John Kerry, Busybody: Editorial, National Review, May 8, 2018

 

OVERNIGHT CLASHES SHOW SHIITE ‘MONSTER’

IN SYRIA IS LIMITED, FOR NOW

Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, May 10, 2018

 

The broadly unsuccessful Iranian military response overnight Wednesday to alleged Israeli attacks on Iranian-affiliated targets in Syria in recent weeks — themselves a response to Iran’s deepening military presence in Syria, and to its launch of an attack drone into Israel in February — reveals a lot about the present Iranian deployment in Syria. Despite the impression one might get from some Israeli reports that a real monster in Syria is threatening the very existence of the Jewish state, it emerged that pro-Iranian Shiite forces in Syria are, at this stage, limited in their capacity to attack Israel.

During Iran’s overnight revenge operation, 20 rockets were fired at Israel, of which 16 landed in Syrian territory and the other four were knocked out of the sky by Israeli missile defense systems. It’s doubtful that this was what the Iranians or the ayatollahs had in mind when they authorized Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’s Quds Force, to respond to what foreign sources have called recent Israeli attacks on Iranian-affiliated targets in Syria. Not only did the operation not achieve anything — there was no damage and there were no injuries on the Israeli side — it gave Israel the pretext for a wide-ranging attack on Iranian targets inside Syria.

According to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, nearly the entire Iranian military infrastructure was attacked overnight. The Israeli army said this infrastructure sustained heavy damage. What worries Israel, though, is not the attacks launched from Syria but the threat of a broader military confrontation with the much more important Iranian proxy in the region — Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Up until now, the Lebanese Shiite terror organization has avoided being drawn into war with Israel. It is keeping its troops on alert but has not ordered them into action.

As long as Hezbollah in Lebanon remains out of the picture, the exchange of blows in Syria can continue without escalating into war. The Iranians are in no hurry to use Hezbollah’s troops and rockets and will want to reserve them for more difficult times ahead. Hezbollah, for its part, does not seem eager to jump into a war when the exit route is not clear. During the Lebanese parliamentary election campaign of recent weeks, Hezbollah focused on rehabilitating its image as a Lebanese, rather than Iranian-backed, organization, dealing with internal Lebanese problems ranging from drugs to corruption and the problem of garbage removal.

This campaign brought successful results for Hezbollah; the Shiite bloc, together with the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, now has a majority in parliament. While the balance of power in Lebanese politics will not change significantly, the status of Hezbollah as a legitimate organization has been strengthened. The question is whether it will want to be dragged back into a discussion about its identity and loyalty.

Hezbollah’s entry into a confrontation with Israel in order to avenge Iran would once again raise the question of its image as a “defender of Lebanon” and revive the image of the organization as a branch of the Iranian regime fighting alongside Tehran during its participation in Syria’s civil war. Make no mistake, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah will continue to carry out whatever Qassem Soleimani asks of him. But Hezbollah’s entanglement in war against Israel will not serve Tehran’s goal of expanding Iranian control in the region. On the contrary, it could take Iran’s efforts backwards by many years.

Don’t imagine that the current escalation is already behind us. The Israeli-Iranian struggle in Syria is far from over. Last night’s events were only the first round of what appears to be a particularly long and exhausting fistfight, without a knockout. The Iranians will continue to entrench themselves in Syria and Israel will again launch alleged attacks on Iranian military targets there. After that, Iran will again try to respond, and last night’s operation will be repeated. It is only to be hoped that in the next round, the battle’s outcome will also tilt significantly in Israel’s favor.

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THE ‘GAME’ THAT ISRAEL AND IRAN MUST PLAY IN SYRIA

Max Singer

Algemeiner, May 10, 2018

Israel has neither the power nor the motivation to significantly influence the outcome of the war for control of Syria. Israel’s objective in Syria is to prevent Iran from building military facilities there that increase its ability to attack the Jewish state. The only way Israel can achieve this is by destroying any such facilities that Iran constructs or by convincing Iran not to build any threatening facility out of fear that Israel will destroy it.

Jerusalem does not have any strong preferences among the likely outcomes of the Syrian civil war, all of which are bad for Israel. For humanitarian reasons Israel would like the bloody attacks on civilians to stop, but Israel’s security benefits so long as its enemies are fighting each other. Any democracy’s ability to influence the outcome is limited by what could be called “the Sabra and Shatilla problem”; that is, a lack of local allies who can be trusted to refrain from massacres and ethnic cleansing.

Jerusalem’s main practical interests in Syria are to prevent construction of military facilities there that would increase Iran’s ability to attack Israel and prevent Iran from controlling territory near the Golan Heights. Israel has made political efforts to protect its interests in Syria, but there is not much possibility that such efforts can succeed. Even if for some reason an outside party such as Russia induced Iran to agree not to build a base that threatened Israel, Iran cannot be counted on to keep such an agreement, and no one else would feel strongly enough to insist that Iran live up to it. Iran cares more about this issue than anyone else except Israel.

So Israel itself has to try to prevent Iran from gaining new abilities to threaten it from Syria. It can’t do this through diplomatic demands or other forms of negotiation with Iran. But Israel can prevent Iran from constructing new military facilities in Syria — such as bases or factories — by bombing any such facilities that Iran builds so they become unusable. This strategic “game” is understood by both Israel and Iran. For now, neither side wants a war, but each is willing to take action that might risk war. They will both be careful, but neither is likely to be passive. The “game” has more complexities and nuances than presented here.

The first level of complexity is that both sides make threats that are broader than what they are willing to carry out. Tehran threatens to attack Israel if it bombs Iranian bases in Syria, while Jerusalem says it will not “accept” Iranian assets that threaten Israel anywhere in Syria. Each side tries to get other parties to step in to stop its enemy in order to prevent a new war.

Each side understands that its enemy’s threats are exaggerated, but neither is certain what the other will actually do. Iran started already by building a small base in southern Syria from which it launched a drone to deliver a small bomb to northern Israel. By destroying the Iranian facilities at that base, Israel demonstrated the will and ability to prevent Iran from basing forces so close to Israel. Iran learned that it would have to keep a bigger distance or risk a humiliating military blow.

Both sides had to pay a price for this teaching/learning experience. Iran lost whatever it had invested in building the base. More importantly, it suffered the embarrassment of being attacked without the ability to make a sufficient response — that is, some of its threats were exposed as empty. While Israel achieved its immediate goal, it too had to pay a price. Any military attack involves costs and risks, even if the dangers don’t materialize. And while there are political benefits to using military power successfully, there are also political costs.

Iran now needs to know if it can safely build a facility further from the border with Israel. How much further? Israel won’t draw a precise line because a degree of uncertainty can work in its favor. Exactly how far Israel will go in excluding Iranian facilities depends on all kinds of details and political considerations. The only way that Iran can determine Jerusalem’s limits is to build something and see whether Israel destroys it. But if it does cross an Israeli red line, Iran will suffer losses like those from the Israeli destruction of their drone-launching base last month.

Iranian leaders care much more about who controls Syria than about building bases in Syria that threaten Israel, and they don’t seem to want to have a war with Israel at this time. So for now, Israel can probably prevent Iran from building military facilities in Syria that it finds unacceptably threatening, contributing to the peace and security of the region. This capability hinges on Tehran’s continuing to believe that Jerusalem can and will use military strikes to prevent Syria from becoming a base for Iranian attacks against Israel.

When the question of control over what was Syria is finally settled — which will probably take at least another several years — Iran may give more emphasis to their goal of being able to use Syria as another base for attacking Israel. It may be less concerned at that point with avoiding war with Israel, especially if it has nuclear weapons by then. If that happens, Israel will have less ability to limit Tehran’s building of military facilities in Syria, though that will also depend to an extent on the nature of the new regime or regimes in the country. It is also entirely possible that by the time the war in Syria is settled, there will be a new regime ruling Iran. That would end the “game” described here and greatly reduce many other problems now troubling the region.

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WRONG MAN? RIGHT DECISION!

          Jonathan S. Tobin

JNS, May 9, 2018

 

It took him 16 months to get around to it, but US President Donald Trump finally kept another campaign promise and pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal. To his critics, especially the Obama administration alumni who have dedicated themselves to defending the 44th president’s foreign-policy legacy, the move is quintessential Trump: irresponsible, impulsive, politically motivated, and rooted in ignorance and malice.

But while Trump can be all those things and more, the narrative that his Iran policy is a foolish departure from the wise efforts of his predecessor is false. Think what you like of Trump the man and his relentless Twitter account. Yet for all of his faults, in making what may well turn out to be the most significant decision of his presidency, Trump not only did the right thing, but also exposed the intellectual bankruptcy of the supposed adults in Washington, US foreign-policy establishment and America’s European allies. Though the way forward may well be difficult and fraught with peril, by taking the first formal step to reverse former President Barack Obama’s effort to appease the Islamist regime, Trump has demonstrated that he has a surer grasp of how to defend US national security — and that of our allies — than all the people who are assumed to be smarter than him.

To understand why requires not only an explanation of how deeply flawed the nuclear pact is, but why those who claim that it’s working just fine (and who predict that Trump is plunging the world into a crisis) are wrong. The first point to be made about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is that it didn’t fulfill Obama’s 2012 campaign promise to end the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon. Instead, Obama’s desperation to make a deal at any price — a desire rooted in the president’s belief that détente with Tehran was both possible and desirable — resulted in granting the Iranian nuclear program an international seal of approval. It enriched and empowered the Islamist regime, and granted it an undeserved legitimacy. But rather than “get right with the world,” as Obama promised, Iran used the massive cash windfall in unfrozen assets and the lifting of sanctions to ramp up its aggressive behavior, as well as continue building missiles whose only purpose would be to carry the nukes it lied about not wanting to build.

Thanks to the free pass Obama gave Iran in Syria, it not only enabled the barbarous survival of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, but allowed the establishment of Iranian bases there to further threaten Israel and moderate Arab regimes. Yet Trump’s critics still claim that the deal was only focused on nuclear issues, and that for all its flaws, the agreement stalled that threat. They assert that Trump is making it easier for Iran to go back to preparing to break out to build a bomb with no “plan B” to ensure how it will be stopped.

Those who believe Trump is wrong are making the same mistake that Obama made in the negotiations. Obama acted as if he needed a deal more than Iran and then abandoned all of the West’s demands that it give up its nuclear quest one by one. As a result, Iran got to keep its program and advanced research capabilities, and also forced the United State to agree to sunset provisions that will mean that within 10 to 15 years, all of the restrictions on their nuclear capabilities will expire. Even if there were no other flaws in the deal — and there are many — that one alone would have justified Trump’s decision since a failure to renegotiate the JCPOA is tantamount to conceding that Iran will get a nuclear weapon sooner or later.

Unlike Obama, Trump understands that Iran is the weaker player in this confrontation, not the United States. While it may threaten to start building a weapon, doing so would force the Europeans — and even the Russians and the Chinese — to back Trump. That would accelerate a return to international sanctions and isolate them again. With unrest inside Iran building — both from anger over the theocracy’s impact on the lives of ordinary Iranians, and frustration over the Islamist tyranny’s incompetence and corrupt management of the economy — there is no way the ayatollahs will roll the dice in a standoff with the Americans in that way. Trump is calling their bluff, and he is right to do so.

That means the immediate danger of an Iranian breakout is unlikely to materialize. Once that’s clear, the administration can begin tightening the noose on Iran’s economy by not only re-imposing US sanctions, as Trump has done, but also by warning other nations, including America’s European allies, that anyone who does business with Iran will not be able to conduct transactions with US financial institutions. The French and the Germans will scream, but they would have no choice but to comply. As much as the president’s critics argue that he has forfeited America’s role as leader of the free world with his behavior, his policies make it clear that it is Trump — and not the seemingly more respectable Emmanuel Macron or level-headed Angela Merkel — who is defending the West.

In other words, although Obama apologists and the Europeans have kept telling us that there’s no way that America can start to roll back the deal on its own, Trump is about to do just that. And it will not only unravel the nuclear deal, but begin reversing the gains Iran has made in the last four years as its prestige rose and its coffers began to fill. Sooner or later, as Trump predicted, Iran will have no choice but to talk about a new nuclear deal that will, in contrast to the pathetic show put on by Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, be on America’s terms, not that of the ayatollahs.

Far from endangering US security, Trump’s move was the first step towards averting the peril that Obama’s shortsighted effort at appeasement created. Are there risks associated with this strategy? Of course, there are. But they are not as great as the risks, both long- and short-term, that Obama’s deal created. As was the case with his decision to reverse Obama’s campaign to create more daylight between the United States and Israel — and to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state — Trump has dismissed the conventional wisdom of the so-called experts. His instinctual distrust of the establishment was not a manifestation of his ignorance, but a recognition that they were, as they have been for decades, dead wrong.

There are still many good reasons to distrust Trump and to be disgusted by his personal behavior. But hard as it may be for those who despise him to admit, on Iran — as on Israel and Jerusalem — he has done the right thing. As his efforts to stop the rogue regime in Tehran continue, those who oppose this strategy will deserve our scorn. Not Trump.

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THE IRAN DEAL’S DISASTROUS LEGACY

HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH NUKES

Noah Rothman

Commentary, May 9, 2018

In March, State Department veteran and former adviser to Barack Obama, Frederic Hof, bid farewell to public life with a stunning admission. Amid a confession regarding his failure to prevent the expansion of the Syrian civil war into a regional crisis, Hof laid the blame for that all-consuming conflict (as well as a notable uptick in Russian aggression) at the feet of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. “[T]he administration sacrificed Syrian civilians and American credibility for the mistaken notion that Iran required appeasement in Syria as the price for a nuclear agreement,” Hof wrote. Today, with 500,000 dead, millions displaced, and the norm prohibiting chemical-weapons use shattered, we can confirm that the price of appeasement is as high as ever.

Indeed, the Iran nuclear deal was supposed to have a variety of positive knock-on effects entirely unrelated to the development of nuclear weapons, but they never materialized. As New York Times reporters David Sanger and David Kirkpatrick observe, Obama “regarded Iran as potentially a more natural ally” of the United States than America’s Sunni allies in Cairo, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh. Iran is urbane, young, educated, and chafing under its theological government. The opening up of the Iranian economy in a post-deal world, so the thinking went, would facilitate—even necessitate—domestic liberalization. Purely out of self-interest, the Mullahs would soon agree to pare back their support for destabilizing activities in the region and cooperate with the West to “defeat the Islamic State.”

All these ambitious objectives went unrealized in the years that passed since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s (JCPOA) adoption. That is not to say that the JCPOA failed to induce some tectonic shifts in the region. The Obama administration’s effort to empower Iran and its Shiite proxies in the region compelled the Middle East’s Sunni states to rethink their alliances. The regularization of contacts between Washington and Tehran for the first time in nearly 40 years forced longtime foes, Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, into a de facto pact. And just like that, the region’s all-consuming Palestinian question faded into the background. The remarkable diminution of the central issue of what we used to call the Middle East Peace Process underscores how stabilizing America’s forward posture can be, for good or for ill. It also demonstrates how American withdrawal can scramble regional dynamics with unforeseeable consequences.

Ultimately, the most welcome revelation the Iran nuclear deal has wrought is one to which only the accord’s most prideful defenders remain resistant. There can be no permanent accommodation with the regime in Tehran. The Islamic Republic can only be contained and weakened, with the eventual—if unstated—aim of nudging it toward radical democratic reform and, ultimately, dissolution. Since Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, the deal’s defenders and its detractors have largely argued over one another’s heads. The deal’s champions insist that everyone from IAEA inspectors to the Trump administration’s defense secretary and former secretary of state has certified that Iran is abiding by the arrangement. This is a red herring. Most of the deal’s opponents do not dispute that Iran is nominally in compliance with the terms of the deal. That’s the problem…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Liberman: Israel Destroyed ‘Nearly All’ Iranian Military Sites in Syria: Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel, May 10, 2018—Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday morning that the IDF had destroyed “nearly all” of Iran’s military infrastructure sites in Syria overnight in response to a rocket barrage on Israel’s north, and warned Tehran that attacks on Israeli territory will be met with “the strongest possible force.”

Another Reason the EU Supports the Iran Deal: Money: Elder of Ziyon, Algemeiner, May 10, 2018—EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini criticized the US move to reimpose sanctions on Iran — because Iran has been an economic windfall for the Europeans.

The Ayatollahs’ Clear and Present Threat to the USA: Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, May 8, 2018—1. The tyrannical Ayatollah regime – oppressing Iran’s majority – is driven by a megalomaniacal ideology, clearly reflected by its K-12 curriculum, brainwashing Iran’s youth for full commitment to the “divine battle” against the US, “the Great Satan,” the “infidel” Sunni Muslims, Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Kurds, Azerbaijanis, etc.

John Kerry, Busybody: Editorial, National Review, May 8, 2018—“The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal,” President Donald Trump tweeted yesterday. “He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!” The president was referring, of course, to recent attempts by the former secretary of state to shore up support for the Iran nuclear deal on which the Trump administration is markedly skeptical.