Ramming Terror Method Adopted by ISIS Returns in Jerusalem Attack: Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2017— After a lull of several weeks, four soldiers were killed and 17 others wounded, when a truck rammed into a group on an educational trip to Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv promenade, a location with a stunning panorama of the capital.
What Rafsanjani Hagiography Exposes: Michael Rubin, Commentary, Jan. 9, 2017— Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 82.
Trump’s Iran Deal Trap: ‘Renegotiation’ vs. ‘Enforcement’: Lee Smith, Tablet, Dec. 20, 2016 — Forget China and underwater drones, forget Russian hacks and leaks, because it’s all a sideshow: America’s big-ticket foreign-policy issue is still the Iran deal.
The Tide Slowly Turns Against Iranian Terror: Ben Cohen, JNS, Jan. 6, 2017— A glimmer of hope in the fight against Iranian-backed terrorism shone forth from Argentina during the final days of 2016.
Rafsanjani Was Iran’s Mythical ‘Moderate’: Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 8, 2017
Israel’s Nuclear Strategy and America’s National Security: Louis René Beres, Tel Aviv University, Dec., 2016
Five Ways for Trump to Put Tehran on Notice: Michael Makovsky, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 2017
How Iran Got Stuck in the Syria Quagmire: Heshmat Alavi, American Thinker, Jan. 7, 2017
Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2017
After a lull of several weeks, four soldiers were killed and 17 others wounded, when a truck rammed into a group on an educational trip to Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv promenade, a location with a stunning panorama of the capital. Since a wave of violence broke out in September 2015, Palestinian attackers have killed more than 40 Israelis and two Americans. At least 230 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, the majority while carrying out attacks. The rest died in clashes with IDF soldiers.
Palestinians have used cars, trucks, buses and even tractors to carry out attacks against Israelis in the past, but with trucks now routinely used by groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida for deadly terrorist attacks, this attack in Jerusalem becomes reminiscent of the deadly ISIS-inspired ones that hit Europe this year.
In July, Tunisian-born French resident Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a 19-ton truck down Nice’s Promenade des Anglais into a crowd of people who had gathered for a Bastille Day firework display, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds of others. In December, 12 people were killed and at least 56 others injured when Tunisian- born Anis Amri drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz, one of Berlin’s busiest shopping areas.
At the scene of the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attacker was “by all indications” an Islamic State supporter, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called it an “attack inspired by ISIS,” adding, “We saw it in France, we saw it in Berlin and unfortunately we saw it today in Jerusalem.” According to Orit Perlov, social media analyst and research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Palestinian support for ISIS is declining. “The peak was in 2014-2015 when they had 14% support, it declined to 8% in 2016…There are a lot of ISIS sympathizers, but it does not mean that there is a direct connection to the group. We need to remember that ISIS is like the McDonald’s of [terrorism], it’s the brand that you want to be connected to when you carry out a terror attack today.”
Perlov said: “It’s a good brand to be connected to today,” and added that the popularity of Hamas is on the decline. “Today it’s not good to be a Hamas sympathizer if you want to carry out a terror attack. Today, when Hamas is no longer popular, you need to be a part of something else.” While Hamas did not claim responsibility for the attack, the group called it “heroic” and posted on Twitter that “the truck operation in Jerusalem affirms that all attempts to encircle the [Palestinian] intifada will fail.”
Hamas spokesman Abdul-Latif Qanou encouraged other Palestinians to do the same to “escalate the resistance” as that proves that the wave of violence has not ended. The resistance Qanou said, “may be quiet, it may linger, but it will never end.” However, Perlov noted that “every terror organization would want to claim responsibility” for this type of attack to stay relevant. And while it is hard to track down potential lone wolves, ISIS and al-Qaida have made it easy for their supporters to carry out attacks.
In the third edition of Islamic State’s English-language Rumiyah magazine, the group praised the use of trucks to carry out attacks because while “being an essential part of modern life, very few actually comprehend the deadly and destructive capability of the motor vehicle and its capacity of reaping large numbers of casualties if used in a premeditated manner.” In the same article, the group urged ISIS members and sympathizers anywhere in the world to use vehicles – stealing them if needed – to attack outdoor targets, specifying a “load-bearing truck, large in size, with reasonably fast speed or rate of acceleration.”
The group urged supporters to use a truck that is “heavy in weight” and “doubled-wheeled” to “assure the destruction of whatever it hits and give victims less of a chance to escape. The method of such an attack is that a vehicle is plunged at a high speed into a large congregation of kuffar [non-believer], smashing their bodies with the vehicle’s strong outer frame, while advancing forward – crushing their heads, torsos, and limbs under the vehicle’s wheels and chassis – and leaving behind a trail of carnage.”
According to Perlov, Israel will likely see more attacks carried out by IS sympathizers, at least “once or twice a year. In the end, there is no such thing as 100% [prevention rate]. No matter how many blockades you put, or how many raids are carried out, one will succeed in carrying out his mission.”
Commentary, Jan. 9, 2017
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 82. No sooner was his death announced then the whitewash of his record bordering on hagiography started pouring in. The New York Times Tehran bureau chief, for example, tweeted, “The death of Rafsanjani… is a major blow to moderates and reformists in Iran.” Reuters described him likewise. National Public Radio labeled him “a leading voice for reform.” The U.S. State Department remembered him as a “prominent figure.”
The whitewashing of Rafsanjani’s record is akin to praising Pol Pot for improved statistics on eyesight in Cambodia, Fidel Castro for free health care, or Jim Jones for raising the prominence of the Kool-Aid brand… In short, Rafsanjani signed off on attacks like the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires and assassinations of Iranian dissidents worldwide. He not only helped birth Iran’s covert nuclear weapons program but, on December 14, 2001, speculated that it could be for offense rather than defense since, unlike Israel, Iran’s had strategic depth to absorb a retaliatory strike. While he was willing to talk to Americans and Europeans, this had less to do with a desire for rapprochement than a recognition that dialogue could relieve economic pressure on the Islamic Republic and win it what it needed for the fulfillment of its indigenous military programs.
Was Rafsanjani a moderate or even reformer? Too often, diplomats and journalists analyze Iranian politics along a single spectrum ranging from hardline to reform. In reality, it is useful to think about the Islamic Republic’s politicians as falling between two axes: one with regard to social attitudes and tolerance and the other with regard to a belief in state-centered economies versus economic liberalism. Rafsanjani sought to reduce the centralized command structure of Iran’s economy, so he might have leaned more toward economic pragmatism. Even during his presidency, though, he was unsuccessful in implementing significant economic reform. When it came to social reform, however, Rafsanjani’s more moderate rhetoric did not translate into any desire or real effort to blunt the edge or fervor of the Islamic Revolution.
However, his death and the hagiography accompanying it does provide a “teachable moment.” Why is it that U.S. officials and analysts feel the need to find significance to factionalism among adversaries? In the Iranian context, this errs because it assumes that the spectrum from reform to hardline among Islamic Republic politicians is the end-all and be-all of political debate and existence. The Guardian Council, however, exists to limit political discourse and so—if Iranian presidential campaigns are any indication—what we see as a spectrum between reformers and hardliners represents only about one or two percent of the true Iranian political spectrum.
Ninety-eight percent of would-be candidates, let alone Iranians themselves, are too liberal for representation in the system. Another way to think about that is that if Rafsanjani was a moderate or voice of reform, then moderation in the Islamic Republic includes an embrace of incitement to genocide, assassination, torture, and terrorism. It is this belief in the meaningfulness of factionalism that can lead to such destructive U.S. policies. Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief foreign policy advisor, justified Clinton’s outreach to Iran in the belief that President Hassan Rouhani represented a Deng Xiaoping moment, in which an embrace of the reformers could lead to their ultimate triumph against hardliners. History shows it did not happen in China and it also enabled Iran’s good cop-bad cop strategy.
The desire to find moderation and meaning within factional struggles expands beyond just Iran. Talk to European or even American diplomats who work in the Middle East about Hezbollah or Hamas and they will describe a nuanced view that divides the movements into hardline and more pragmatic factions. The fact that those moderate Hamas factions still embrace a covenant that calls for genocide against Jews is left unsaid. Likewise, Track II dialogue proponents with North Korea justify their actions in the fact that there are more moderate officials in North Korea who can perhaps bring change.
Moral clarity is important. Diplomats should define moderation consistently: Moderates neither engage in terrorism nor endorse it. They do not seek to wipe other nations of the face of the earth. They do no preach religious hatred. Relative moderation should not be a consideration for accepting it only legitimizes different flavors of extremism. Rafsanjani was a corrupt man—he died Iran’s richest man and among the world’s wealthiest as well—and he had much blood on his hands. His removal from the Iranian political scene should also be a wake-up call to recognize just how easily the desperation to see moderation where little to none exists leads to ineffective and self-destructive policies.
Tablet, Dec. 20, 2016
Forget China and underwater drones, forget Russian hacks and leaks, because it’s all a sideshow: America’s big-ticket foreign-policy issue is still the Iran deal. Donald Trump has promised to rip it up on day one of his presidency, but that’s not going to happen because it means the freshly minted commander-in-chief may have America poised for conflict with the leading state sponsor of terror before the band even starts to warm up for the inaugural ball next month at the newly opened Trump International Hotel.
Prospective policymakers and analysts are busy proposing options for the new president. Recently, a debate has started to unfold with one side pushing to enforce the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and impose sanctions. Others argue the best way forward is to renegotiate a bad deal. Richard Nephew, the lead sanctions expert for the Obama administration team that negotiated the deal with Iran, argues that renegotiating the JCPOA is nearly impossible because you can’t create the same conditions that got the Iranians to the table in the first place. Others see “enforcement” as a way to re-create the leverage that America lost when it signed the deal.
Emily Landau, an Israeli nuclear-arms expert and a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said the Trump administration should understand that from Iran’s point of view, the struggle between them continues. “Now is not the time, nor is there any reason, to engage Iran in dialogue over the deal. The U.S. is bending over backward to play down Iran’s aggressive behavior and violations,” she told me from Tel Aviv. “The major thing that needs to be done now is to change the American approach. When Iran tests missiles, like it did last fall, Washington shouldn’t wait three months to react and then only impose minimal sanctions.”
The two-track strategy—combining “enforcement” with a new round of negotiations with Iran—has a number of high-profile supporters among those who opposed the Iran deal, like former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who, along with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Wallace, recently argued that Trump should “first try to aggressively enforce and then renegotiate the deal beyond the confines of the nuclear issue.” That means, write Lieberman and Wallace, a Trump renegotiating team should secure “an agreement with Iran to verifiably curb its regional aggression, state sponsorship of terrorism and domestic repression of human rights. In exchange, Iran could be given broad-based sanctions relief and even normalization of relations.”
Lieberman and Wallace purport to be optimistic that renegotiations might lead to, among other things, Iran ending its support for Hezbollah. Yet, at the same time, the authors understand very well that such Iranian concessions are a fantasy. If a decade of harsh sanctions proved anything, it is that there are no circumstances under which Iran would be willing to trade away its support for the Lebanese militia. This is even truer now that Iran is flush with post-sanctions cash, the U.S. has withdrawn nearly all its forces from Iraq, and Hezbollah is engaged in a full-scale war in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime.
Lieberman and Wallace aren’t stupid; they surely believe that renegotiation, too, would show the clerical regime, not the United States, to be intransigent. The problem with what its authors may think of as a clever PR strategy that incorporates Trump’s own fondness for deal-making is that the two strategies (enforcement/sanctions and renegotiation) cannot work on parallel tracks. Renegotiation preempts sanctions, while sanctions discourage negotiations. To keep Iran from walking away from the table, America needs to keep Iran happy.
The problem with the Iran deal was never that President Barack Obama was stupid or that his team were such terrible negotiators—even if someone else might have done better. Obama believed there was no way to get the Iranians to negotiate unless he de-escalated. He gave them $700 million a month just to sit through negotiations, and has continued to pay the Iranians to stick with the deal—like the $1.7 billion ransom paid in cash to release Americans that the Iranians were holding hostage. Obama keeps blocking nonnuclear sanctions for the same reason.
Obama was willing to pay Iran to sit at the table because the Iran deal was simply the hinge for a larger geopolitical maneuver: The JCPOA was the instrument by which the Obama administration effected a regional realignment intended to extricate America from the Middle East in part by turning the keys to the car over to Tehran. Obama’s White House re-prioritized its regional interests—traditional American allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, were downgraded and Tehran was upgraded.
While the “realignment thesis” has few doubters on the ground in the Middle East, where its deadly effects are visible from Aleppo to Mosul to Yemen, Americans have been slow to catch up to the reality of what Obama intended and did, in large part because of the deceptive way in which the Iran Deal was sold to the American public. As a result, many deal opponents are still chasing the mechanical rabbits that the Obama administration created for them to chase—as if the point of the Iran deal was simply to limit Iran’s ability to spin X amount of uranium instead of Y amount at facility Z. The idea that the Iran deal can be “renegotiated” begins with the president-elect’s own campaign rhetoric, of course. In a USA Today op-ed last year, candidate Trump called for sanctions and promised to renegotiate the deal. “A Trump presidency,” he wrote, “will force the Iranians back to the bargaining table to make a much better deal.”…
While the temptation to use the president-elect’s own language to lead him down a more confrontational path with Iran must be tempting to those with significant experience and expertise, it carries with it the danger of missing the forest for the trees—and of creating a new lobby for renewed and practically endless negotiations with Iran, this time on the Republican side of the aisle. Still, there are many in the expert community who favor this strategy…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
JNS, Jan. 6, 2017
A glimmer of hope in the fight against Iranian-backed terrorism shone forth from Argentina during the final days of 2016. An Argentinian federal appeals court ruled that former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will face a new investigation over allegations that she and her close colleagues made a secret pact with the Iranian regime over the probe into the July 1994 bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
Eighty-five people were murdered and hundreds were wounded that fateful day, when a truck packed with primitive explosives rammed into the AMIA building. But the perpetrators of the atrocity, the Iranian mullahs and their Hezbollah auxiliaries, have escaped justice for more than 20 years. Under Kirchner’s government, the most tangible outcome of the probe into the bombing was to produce its 86th victim: federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on January 18, 2015 — the day before he was due to unveil a lengthy, painstakingly researched complaint against Kirchner over her collusion with the Iranians.
Kirchner was defeated in last year’s presidential election, and under her successor, Mauricio Macri, there have been constant hints that the question of justice for both the original AMIA victims and Nisman himself is on the agenda once more. Specifically, Macri promised not to challenge a court ruling that the accommodation reached with the Iranians — formally described as a Memorandum of Understanding — was unconstitutional, and he promised that there would be a proper investigation into whether Nisman’s death was a suicide or, as is far more likely, an assassination. Since Argentina is saddled with a notoriously corrupt judiciary, it’s hard to predict whether the hoped-for progress will be made in the coming year. Much depends on which judge is appointed to handle the AMIA case. Some of the judges who served under Kirchner may well be guilty themselves of collaborating in the Nisman cover-up, but there are also others being considered for the renewed investigation who are more independently minded.
As we await the next developments, it’s important to remember how we got to this sorry juncture. One of the key influences on Kirchner was the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Riding the wave of an oil price boom in the early 2000s, Chavez joined the pantheon of left-wing dictators with loud mouths and wide appeal. His policies were defined by short-term social welfare programs in some of the country’s poorest towns and cities, oil subsidies to his Cuban friends worth at least $7 billion a year, and a shrill foreign policy founded upon both anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. Under Chavez, antisemitism, which up until then had not been particularly significant in Venezuela, surged through the media — including attacks upon Israel’s legitimacy and the lampooning of opposition leader Henrique Capriles, a devout Catholic who nonetheless proudly acknowledges his Jewish heritage. As a result, many of Venezuela’s Jews have sought refuge in Israel and other countries.
At the same time, and not by coincidence, Venezuela’s relations with Iran also surged. There were at least two significant outcomes from that relationship. First, Iran, along with Hezbollah and its allies, massively boosted its fundraising, criminal activities, and intelligence and terror-planning operations throughout Latin America. Second, Chavez used his influence on Kirchner to undermine Nisman’s investigation into Iranian culpability in the AMIA bombing. Nisman was also the target of direct Iranian threats. Hence the suspicion, as yet unproven, that Kirchner ordered his assassination, or at least acquiesced in it.
Out of that triangle — Kirchner, Chavez and the Iranian regime — only one still stands strong. Kirchner has been utterly discredited and may eventually find herself in prison. Chavez, too, is no longer with us, and the Venezuela he bequeathed to his successor, Nicolas Maduro, has collapsed into criminality, political thuggery, and chronic shortages of basic food and medicine; what was once one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America now has more in common with Zimbabwe under the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. In contrast, Iranian power continues to rise, cemented by an alliance with Russia, a dominant military position in Syria and the political collusion of the Obama Administration. (Shamefully, that same administration didn’t even stop to consider the moral turpitude of abstaining on the recent UN Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israel, even though Iran’s Venezuelan allies were among its sponsors.)
Hence the importance of real progress, and soon, in the Nisman case. Argentina’s courts are once again in a position to convict the Iranians for the unpunished crime of the AMIA bombing. Doing that will generate momentum to take on Iranian-backed terror globally, from Buenos Aires to Gaza, and from Aleppo to Kurdistan. If Iran’s allies in Latin America can crumble, after all, then so too can its allies elsewhere. The pain they have caused, though, can never be undone.
Rafsanjani Was Iran’s Mythical ‘Moderate’: Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 8, 2017 —Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was the original Mr. Moderation. Western observers saw the former Iranian president as a sort of Deng Xiaoping in clerical robes…
Israel’s Nuclear Strategy and America’s National Security: Louis René Beres, Tel Aviv University, Dec., 2016—Normally, scholars interested in the specifically nuclear relationship between Israeli national security and US national security consider
Israel only as the recipient of American protection – that is, as the receiving beneficiary of Washington's "nuclear umbrella." In these orthodox examinations, there has been almost no attention directed toward those more-or-less reciprocal circumstances in which the United States could conceivably benefit from Israel's nuclear strategy.
Five Ways for Trump to Put Tehran on Notice: Michael Makovsky, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 2017—As the bipartisan opponents of President Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement prepare to address its many shortcomings, they should beware of unwittingly repeating some of his mistakes.
How Iran Got Stuck in the Syria Quagmire: Heshmat Alavi, American Thinker, Jan. 7, 2017—Iran, known for its unbridled sectarian meddling in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon, is currently facing an unwanted quagmire and dead-end in the Levant. We cannot limit Iran’s role and its meddling across the Middle East to 2016 alone. There is an ongoing war in the region, resulting from Iran’s escalating interventions.