Tag: Iran Nuclear


Prelude to a Showdown?: Noah Rothman, Commentary, May 2, 2018— On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revealed the results of an audacious intelligence operation that resulted in the seizure of thousands of documents related to the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

When Will the World Admit the Truth About Iran’s Nuclear Program?: Vivian Bercovici, National Post, May 2, 2018 —Even for the storied Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, the night-time raid on a top-secret underground nuclear archive in Tehran in late January is incredible.

The Iran Deal Is a Lie: Bret Stephens, New York Times, May 1, 2018 — “The sanctions lifting will only occur as Iran takes the steps agreed, including addressing possible military dimensions.”

The Short And Ugly History Of The Disastrous Iran Deal: David Harsanyi, The Federalist, May 1, 2018— On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented documents to the world that prove Iran lied for years about its peaceful intentions.

On Topic Links

Lag Ba’Omer: Guide for the Perplexed, 2018: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, May 2, 2018

Europe Wants Unity on Iran but Undermines Trump on Jerusalem: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, May 2, 2018

Mossad Agents Snuck Nuclear Files out of Iran with Authorities ‘On Their Tails’: Times of Israel, May 2, 2018

Most Iranians Couldn’t Care Less About the Palestinians or Israel: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, May 2, 2018



Noah Rothman

Commentary, May 2, 2018


On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revealed the results of an audacious intelligence operation that resulted in the seizure of thousands of documents related to the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Since then, the revelations about the bomb program that the Islamic Republic preserved, presumably for future use, have been met with furious spin by supporters of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aka the nuclear deal. They’ve contended that there is nothing to see here, but they are all missing the bigger picture. And it is a sobering one.

Supporters of the 2015 nuclear agreement have alleged that information revealed by an operation involving 100 Mossad agents or assets, in which 55,000 printed pages and 183 compact discs revealing the Iranian bomb program in granular detail were spirited out of a civilian warehouse in Tehran, is no big deal. Middlebury Institute of International Studies lecturer Jeffrey Lewis called the way in which Netanyahu revealed this intelligence coup a “dog and pony show” that exposed only information already disclosed to the IAEA. NIAC chief Trita Parsi said Israel had essentially raided and plundered the IAEA, not a secret Iranian storehouse. This was all “well-known pre-Iran deal history,” according to Barack Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes. Former spokesman for Obama’s national security council, Tommy Vietor, even accused the U.S. and Israel of “cooking up intel” to justify the abrogation of the JCPOA.

This all amounts to a strenuous exercise in missing the point. The documents, which cover a time span that ends prior to the adoption of the nuclear accords in 2015, might not reveal violations of the nuclear deal (by definition), but they are by no means old news. The specificity revealed by those documents, including the metallurgy work and kiloton yields sought by the regime were new to the West, and details of the nuclear test sites that Iran considered and prepared were news to Western observers. But the bombshell was not the information contained within these documents. The very fact that they exist was the bombshell, as was the fact that they were being housed in a facility designed to keep them secret from international inspectors (to the modest extent that a verifiable inspections regime exists as part of the JCPOA). Former Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly assured the public and lawmakers that all of Iran’s past nuclear-weapons work would have to be disclosed to an international monitoring regime as part of the nuclear accords–or there would be no deal. Now we are told that the very fact that Iran has violated the spirit if not the letter of the accords is also the very reason that they are so vital.

Again, though, to focus on the intelligence Netanyahu revealed is to lose the plot. The exposure of an exceedingly complex operation that revealed these documents to the world is by itself an alarming development. According to the Israeli officials with whom Axios reporter Barak Ravid spoke, the Iranian nuclear archive was transferred to its covert home in February of 2016 explicitly to hide the military dimensions of its nuclear program from inspectors. The Israeli operation that uncovered that warehouse, which was known only to a small circle of Iranian officials, took years to prepare and involved hundreds of agents and informants. Exposing this operation has compromised all of those irreplaceable human assets and sacrificed a lot of invaluable collection capability. No government does that without performing a cost/benefit analysis. Either Israel concluded that making this operation public was worth the concrete policy objective that would be achieved by the reveal, or Netanyahu’s government determined that the value of its assets in Tehran was going to depreciate soon anyway as a result of events. And events are becoming rather ominous.

In as many months, Israel has executed three airstrikes on Iranian targets inside Syria. In February, Israel claimed to have shot down an Iranian drone originating in Syria that penetrated its airspace. In response to that incursion, the Israeli military targeted and destroyed four Iranian positions and an Iranian-operated command-and-control center from which the drone originated. One Israeli aircraft was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire during that operation. In early April, Israel executed an airstrike on an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps post in Syria in which Iranian soldiers and Hezbollah were killed. And just days ago, Israel attacked two Iranian-linked bases inside Syria killing dozens of Iranian and Syrian fighters and igniting ammunition that resulted in several massive explosions. The tempo of Israeli operations is increasing and Americans sources say observers have every reason to fear the accelerating trend.

U.S. officials reportedly told NBC News that, within the last two weeks, Iran has stepped up deliveries of small arms and surface-to-air missiles to Syria as part of Tehran’s effort to “shore up Iranian ground forces and to strike at Israel.” The conspicuous reinforcement of Iranian soldiers, support staff, and weapons stockpiles might have led Israel to draw the gravest of conclusions. “The three U.S. officials said Israel now seems to be preparing for military action and is seeking U.S. help and support,” NBC News revealed.

The arguments among political factions within the United States regarding the Iran nuclear deal and various presidential legacies are peripheral to what may be the more immediate issue: the prospect of imminent hostilities between Israel and Iran, to say nothing of Tehran’s proxy forces in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza. Seen in that light, Netanyahu’s decision to reveal the most eye-opening feat of spycraft in a generation is anything but a “nothing-burger.”




Vivian Bercovici

National Post, May 2, 2018


Even for the storied Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, the night-time raid on a top-secret underground nuclear archive in Tehran in late January is incredible. Within hours, this facility was breached and 55,000 hard-copy original files as well as an additional 183 CDs loaded with documents were removed and secreted back to Israel that same night. A half ton of material.

In an exceptional live broadcast on Israeli television Monday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the media in English, ensuring maximum global reach for what was billed in advance as a dramatic revelation about Iran. Whereas Israelis were expecting to hear that the country is on the cusp of all-out war with Iran (operating from its proxy base in neighbouring Syria), what transpired was no less grave. “Iran lied. Big time,” declared Netanyahu. For the next 15 minutes or so he delivered a careful exposé of Iranian deception, over decades, regarding its nuclear weapons aspirations, capabilities and concrete plans to achieve these goals.

In December of 2015, president Barack Obama celebrated his brilliance in — as he put it — “negotiating” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with key Western allies and Iran — putatively an agreement to monitor and contain Iran’s race to develop a devastating nuclear arsenal. The primary target for these weapons: Israel. Really, though, the JCPOA was a capitulation, writ large in neon. Not a single element of this “Agreement” reflected any meaningful negotiation, no matter how much time the parties spent in discussion. From the outset, president Obama, inexplicably, caved to Iranian demands that economic sanctions be dropped as a precondition to any negotiations.

According to a senior military source who was close to the American-Israeli tensions throughout this period, the U.S. was convinced — baselessly — that it had no leverage with which to pressure the Iranians. Certainly, after lifting the highly effective sanctions at the outset and squandering the only real leverage it had, that misguided belief became a fact. Why such a generous precondition was ever considered, never mind acceded to, is incomprehensible.

Netanyahu’s sobering presentation, complete with slides, documented Iranian duplicitousness, in detail, over a 20-year period, naming names and specifying incriminating program details unassailably proven by the captured documents. It’s interesting to note that the staunchest advocates and architects of the JCPOA — president Obama, former secretary of state John Kerry and former national security adviser Susan Rice — have been anything but silent since leaving office about their “legacy” accomplishment. But they didn’t have a word to say in the day after Israel’s report. Angela Merkel, a staunch Obama ally in this caper, has also been noticeably quiet, apparently distracted by her own domestic political challenges.

Into the breach steps French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been working overtime in recent weeks to convince President Donald Trump, and the world, that the JCPOA may be sub-optimal but it is still worth saving. May 12 is the date on which President Trump will announce America’s intention — to continue to honour the detail or withdraw — and Macron made no bones about his views on that when addressing the U.S. Congress last week. “A deal,” he intoned, “must be honoured.” To renege would not only destabilize the world order, he said, but would set a terrible precedent in international relations. Indeed. As would knowingly lying about every aspect of one’s past behaviours and intentions when entering into said deal — which was and is the Iranian modus operandi. To not see this glaringly obvious truth is inexplicable.

Europeans, of course, have a regrettable history of self-delusions on urgent matters of national security, as they proved in the years leading up to the Second World War. Israel cannot afford the luxury of self-deception and wilful blindness. Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence who is widely respected for his informed, non-partisan analysis regarding regional security matters, characterized the Israeli evidence as irrefutably establishing Iranian duplicitousness, past and present. The notion that a regime so entrenched in lies has suddenly modified its behaviour and abandoned a fundamental military goal is simply not realistic…

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




Bret Stephens

New York Times, May 1, 2018

“The sanctions lifting will only occur as Iran takes the steps agreed, including addressing possible military dimensions.” That was State Department spokesman John Kirby in June 2015, speaking just as negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal were wrapping up. But Tehran did not “take the steps agreed.” The deal was founded on a lie.

Two lies, actually. The first was Iran’s declaration to the International Atomic Energy Agency, prior to the implementation of the deal, of the full extent of its past nuclear work. This was essential, both as a test of Tehran’s sincerity and as a benchmark for understanding just how close it was to being able to assemble and deliver a nuclear warhead. The second lie was the Obama administration’s promise that it was serious about getting answers from Tehran. In a moment of candor, then-Secretary of State John Kerry admitted “we are not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another” — but then he promised Congress that Iran would provide the accounting.

That was when the White House still feared that Congress might block the deal. When it failed to do so, thanks to a Democratic filibuster, the administration contented itself with a make-believe process in which Iran pretended to make a full declaration and the rest of the world pretended to believe it. “Iran’s answers and explanations for many of the I.A.E.A.’s concerns were, at best, partial, but over all, obfuscating and stonewalling,” David Albright and his colleagues at the nonpartisan Institute for Science and International Security wrote in December 2015. “Needed access to sites was either denied or tightly controlled as to preclude adequate inspections.”

So much, then, for all the palaver about the deal providing an unprecedented level of transparency for monitoring Iranian compliance. So much, also, for the notion that Iran has honored its end of the bargain. It didn’t. This should render the agreement null and void. That’s the significance of Benjamin Netanyahu’s show and tell on Monday of what appears to be a gigantic cache of pilfered Iranian documents detailing Tehran’s nuclear work. The deal’s defenders have dismissed the Israeli prime minister’s presentation as a bunch of old news — just further proof that Iran once had a robust covert program to build a bomb. They also insist Iran has complied with the terms of the agreement since it came into force in January 2016.

Yet it’s difficult to imagine that the I.A.E.A. can now square Iran’s 2015 declaration with what the Israelis have uncovered. Iran’s mendacity is no longer the informed supposition of proliferation experts such as Mr. Albright. It is — assuming the documents are authentic, as the U.S. has confirmed — a matter of fact that the I.A.E.A. chose to ignore when it gave Iran a free pass under political pressure to move to implement the deal. If the agency cares for its own credibility as a nuclear watchdog, it should decide that Iran’s past declaration was false and that Iran’s retention of the documents obtained by Israel, with all the nuclear know-how they contain, put it in likely breach of the agreement.

As for Iran’s current compliance, of course it’s complying. The deal gave Iran the best of all worlds. It weakened U.N. restrictions on its right to develop, test and field ballistic missiles — a critical component for a nuclear weapons capability that the Iranians haven’t fully mastered. It lifted restrictions on Iran’s oil exports and eased other sanctions, pumping billions of dollars into a previously moribund economy. And it allows Iran to produce all the nuclear fuel it wants come the end of the next decade.

Yes, Iran is permanently enjoined from building a nuclear weapon, even after the limitations on uranium enrichment expire. But why believe this regime will be faithful to the deal at its end when it was faithless to it at its beginning? Netanyahu’s revelations were plainly timed to influence Donald Trump’s decision, expected later this month, on whether to stay in the Iran deal. Trump is under pressure from the French, British and Germans to stay in it, on the view that, if nothing else, the agreement has kept Iran from racing toward a bomb.

But the deal now in place allows Iran to amble toward a bomb, even as it uses the financial benefits of the agreement to fund (in the face of domestic upheaval and at a steep cost to its own economy) its militancy in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and especially in Syria. And Iran’s own nuclear history suggests the country’s leaders have always been cautious in the face of credible American threats, which is one reason they shelved much of their nuclear program in 2003 after the U.S. invaded Iraq. “When the Iranians fear American power, they either back down or they stall,” says Mark Dubowitz, an expert on Iran sanctions at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “When they don’t fear American power, they push forward. With Trump, the question is: Are they going to feel American power, or American mush?”

I opposed the Iran deal, but immediately after it came into effect, I believed that we should honor it scrupulously and enforce it unsparingly. Monday’s news is that Iran didn’t honor its end of the bargain and neither need the United States now. Punitive sanctions combined with a credible threat of military force should follow.




David Harsanyi

The Federalist, May 1, 2018

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented documents to the world that prove Iran lied for years about its peaceful intentions. Netanyahu claims that in 2017 the Iranians moved “a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons” to a secret location, and that a few weeks ago Mossad agents procured a half ton of that material and smuggled it out of the country. The United States has reportedly confirmed the authenticity of the documents.

The Iran deal, it’s worth remembering,  is likely the only international accord the United States has entered into where it offered extensive concessions to a nation that continued to destabilize its interests, kill its soldiers, and threaten its allies. In return, we asked for nothing other than a promise that Iran uphold its preexisting obligations. The Islamic state, we shouldn’t forget, was already a signee to the non-proliferation agreements when the Obama administration saved its economy and reinvigorated its military.

It’s also worth remembering what we’ve given up for this deal. From the start there was almost nothing Obama wouldn’t do to save it. To pass it, the administration created (then bragged about) a media echo chamber that smeared the opposition at home. Obama accused those who opposed the accord of being in “common cause” with Islamists, offering the ludicrous false choice: his way or war. Some of the nastiest attacks were reserved for fellow Democrats like Chuck Schumer, whose tepid pushback triggered Obama flunkies to accuse of him of harboring dual loyalty.

Then there was the constant subjugation of American interests to placate the Iranians. First, Obama made “common cause” with Russia and Syria. It seems increasingly plausible, in fact, that the president was hamstrung in Syria because he wanted to avoid upsetting the Iranians and Russians. Vladimir Putin, the man who helped Iran create its nuclear program, was a fan of the deal. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was also an admirer, confident that Iran would continue its “just causes” after the deal was wrapped up. What could he possibly mean?

The Iran deal remained Obama’s predominant concern during his second term, even as Tehran grappled with a contracting economy and inflation brought on, in part, by international sanctions that had been set up over a decade. Despite its natural resources, Iran’s economy still struggles. One can imagine what it would look like with another two years of sanctions. Later we learned that Obama’s machinations were worse than we imagined. In his January 2016 speech announcing the lifting of sanctions, Obama claimed that as a “reciprocal humanitarian gesture” the United States would release a number of Iranian-born “civilians” who “were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses.”

Far from mere “civilians,” the administration was releasing Iranian spies whom the Justice Department had tagged as threats to national security. Of the 14 civilians, one was a top Hezbollah operative named Ali Fayad, who had not only been indicted in U.S. courts for planning to kill U.S. government employees but whom agents believed reported to Putin as a key supplier of weapons to Syria and Iraq. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for “conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware.” Another, Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, was charged with illegally conspiring to procure “thousands of parts with nuclear applications.” Now imagine Donald Trump making a similar deal with Russia. On top of that, Obama administration was “slow-walking” investigations against Iranian spies here in the United States and efforts to extradite suspects. It also, according to Josh Meyer’s source-heavy reporting that has never been factually refuted, neutralized efforts to stop Hezbollah from funding its operations through criminal enterprises in the United States.

When the Iranians released American hostages in early 2016, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry claimed it was due to “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks.” In actuality, the Obama administration secretly airlifted more than $1.7 billion worth of cash as ransom to obtain the release of four Americans so as not to derail the Iranian deal. Because all of it was above-board and absolutely not a ransom payment, it was sent on wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs, and other currencies on an unmarked cargo plane…

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



On Topic Links

Lag Ba’Omer: Guide for the Perplexed, 2018: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, May 2, 2018—Lag Ba’Omer (ל”ג בעומר) is celebrated on the 33rd day following the first day of Passover (in Jewish numerology: ל=30, ג=3).  It commemorates the victory of Shimon Bar-Kokhbah over the occupying military force of the Roman Empire; the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai (a key supporter of the Bar Kokhbah revolt), who commanded his disciples to rejoice on his memorial days; and the end of the plague, which took the lives of 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples (who were, allegedly, engaged in bad-mouthing each other, which is one of the worst offenses according to Judaism).

Europe Wants Unity on Iran but Undermines Trump on Jerusalem: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, May 2, 2018—As French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel beat a path for the White House in back-to-back visits this week, the media coverage of U.S. – European Union relations is focused on efforts to convince President Donald Trump to keep faith with his predecessor Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Mossad Agents Snuck Nuclear Files out of Iran with Authorities ‘On Their Tails’: Times of Israel, May 2, 2018—Agents of Israel’s spy agency Mossad smuggled hundreds of kilograms of paper and digital files on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program out of the Islamic Republic with Iranian agents “on their tails,” Hadashot television news reported Tuesday night, based on briefings by Israeli officials.

Most Iranians Couldn’t Care Less About the Palestinians or Israel: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, May 2, 2018—Three years ago, the then Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had also served as ambassador to Iran, told members of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies something they had heard from other foreign diplomats. “You Israelis are obsessed with Iran,” he said. “For Iranians, you and the Palestinians are a marginal concern.”



The Axis of Moderation vs. the Axis of Resistance in the Middle East: Najat AlSaied, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 1, 2017— The dispute between the Arab states, often known as the Axis of Moderation, and the officially designated terrorist regime in Iran often known as the Axis of Resistance, is no longer just a political disagreement but a threat to the national security of Arab countries.

Can Israeli Diplomacy Pull its Weight Against Russia, Iran and Syria?: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Nov. 16, 2017— Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sent shockwaves through Jerusalem on Tuesday when for the first time he publicly rebuffed Israel’s demand that Iran not be permitted to gain a permanent military foothold in Syria.

With Iran on Its Doorstep, Israel Quietly Readies Game-Changing Air Power: Yaakov Lappin, BESA, Nov. 21, 2017— Iran has big plans to create a military outpost in Syria, right on Israel’s doorstep.

New Evidence of the Iran Deal's Failures: A.J. Caschetta, Middle East Forum, Nov. 28, 2017— Days away from the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry boasted about the success of the Obama administration's signature foreign policy achievement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)…


On Topic Links


Wrestling Inquiry: Did Iranian Lose Match to Avoid Israeli?: Washington Times, Dec. 1, 2017

War With Iran’s Proxies Looming, Israel’s US Envoy Warns: Times of Israel, Dec. 5, 2017

Trump Follows Obama’s Lead and Gives Iran Just What it Wants: Benny Avni, New York Post, Nov. 14, 2017

Hezbollah and the Yemeni Missiles: Uzi Rubin, BESA, Nov. 29, 2017






Najat AlSaied

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 1, 2017


The dispute between the Arab states, often known as the Axis of Moderation, and the officially designated terrorist regime in Iran often known as the Axis of Resistance, is no longer just a political disagreement but a threat to the national security of Arab countries.


While the Arab states seem pro-statehood and work with other states, Iran and the Axis of resistance seems not to. Even though Iran calls itself Republic, it has a militia mentality and rarely deals with states. In general, rather than dealing with governments, it instead establishes militias, as it has in Lebanon and Yemen. Even in Iraq, where the government is considered its ally, Iran has established more than 15 militias. Qatar, by supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as Syria under the Assad regime, seem to have the same mentality as Iran. If you trace the Axis of Resistance, all of them appear to have adopted the concept of supporting militias and extremist groups under the slogan of "resistance."


The Iranian regime's long history has now culminated in Saudi Arabia being targeted by Iranian missiles located in Yemen. They are coordinated in Lebanon by the Hezbollah militia, who train the Houthis in Yemen. It is important to understand that these violations and proxy wars carried out by the Iranian regime not only threaten the Arab Gulf states but also pose a threat to a regional and international security.


The Axis of Resistance is led by Iran, and includes Syria, Qatar, Hezbollah, Hamas, Arab Shiites loyal to Wilayat al-Faqih ("The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist") in Iran and Arab nationalists. Its slogans consist of fighting imperialism, empowering the (supposedly) vulnerable — mainly Muslim Shiites — and furthering "Arab nationalism," which usually manifests itself in support for Palestinians against Israelis. The expansionist objectives of the Axis of Resistance — in its drive to build a "Shiite Crescent" from Iran to the Mediterranean, are clear, compared to the objectives of the Axis of Moderation, which have not announced any specific aims, except to denounce Iran's interference in the Arab countries' affairs.


The Axis of Moderation comprises Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Arab Gulf countries, except for Qatar. The great mistake that the Axis of Moderation has made in confronting the Iranian regime — to try to curb its export of its "Revolution" — has been to fall into the trap of propagating sectarianism. While Iran portrayed itself as the defender of all the Shiites in the world, Saudi Arabia, as a result, acted as the defender of all the Sunnis in the Muslim world — accordingly, sectarianism was propagated. This polarization, however, has only furthered the interests of the Iranian regime, whose chief objective seems to be to continue igniting this division in an apparent policy of divide and conquer. Instead of the members of the Axis of Moderation confronting Iran politically or militarily, they challenged it on religious and sectarian grounds, such as publishing countless books against Shiites that describe them as the enemies of Islam and labelling all Shiites as subordinate to Iran, as if all Shiites were Iran's puppets, which not all of them are. This divisiveness has brought extremism and terrorism to the region, and has only harmed everyone.


Now the Axis of Moderation has become shrewder in its confrontation with the Iran and has employed a greater number of experts in Iranian affairs. The Axis of Moderation, especially Saudi Arabia, has realized that it cannot face down the threat of Iran without radical internal reforms. Saudi Arabia's complaints against Iran's interference and spreading extremism cannot sound credible if extremism is being practiced inside Saudi Arabia. These internal reforms, and liberalizing the society, are important internally: they will boost the economy by creating an attractive investment environment, especially for foreign investors. As importantly, reforms will stop any adversary from saying that Saudi Arabia is a state supporter of terrorism or a land that exports terrorists.


The most obvious changes are Saudi Arabia's internal reforms that cover "social openness" in the form of concerts and festivals, coordinated by an entertainment body, and the country's attempts to undermine clerical control, both by arresting extremists and establishing a committee at the Islamic University in Medina to codify the interpretation of Quranic verses that call for extremism, especially against other religions. Saudi Arabia has also clamped down on corruption by arresting suspected businessmen, princes and former ministers. The kingdom has also raised the status of women by giving them more of their human rights, such as the recent lifting of the ban on women driving. In another important change, Saudi Arabia will also allow women to be clerics to confront all the patriarchal interpretations of verses in Quran related to women…

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





Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Nov. 16, 2017


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sent shockwaves through Jerusalem on Tuesday when for the first time he publicly rebuffed Israel’s demand that Iran not be permitted to gain a permanent military foothold in Syria.


While discussing the recent ceasefire agreement for southern Syria brokered by Moscow, the United States and Jordan, Lavrov contended that it did not include a Russian commitment—contrary to American assurances—to prevent Iranian-backed fighters from operating in the Syrian Golan Heights close to the Israeli border. He further stressed that Russia had never promised to limit Tehran’s influence in Syria, which he described as legitimate. “No one mentioned Iran or pro-Iranian forces,” Lavrov told reporters in reference to the formulation of the truce. “If we talk about pro-Iranian forces, somebody might be tempted to call the entire Syrian army pro-Iranian, and then what—it should surrender? In my opinion, it is wishful thinking.”


Israel has long pressed Moscow, the leading player in the conflict since militarily intervening on behalf of the Assad regime in September 2015, to create a buffer zone of up to 50 km in the Syrian Golan Heights in which Shi'ite proxies supported by Tehran would be banned. While a joint American-Russian statement announcing the deal called for “the reduction and ultimate elimination of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the [border region],” Jerusalem fears that such will only apply to radical Sunni rebels battling regime forces, as, in principle, Assad does not consider Iranian-backed troops as “foreign” given their role in effectively saving the Syrian leader.


News of the ceasefire deal came after the BBC published satellite photos purportedly showing the construction of an Iranian military base in Al-Kiswah, located just 14 kilometers south of Damascus. Israel has repeatedly conducted air strikes in both Lebanese and Syrian air space targeting such installations as well as arms convoys destined for Hezbollah, some confirmed by Jerusalem and others reported by foreign media. This comes on the backdrop of recent confrontations in which the Syrian army targeted Israeli warplanes conducting cross-border missions, and late last month fired five rockets into Israel in what Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman described as a deliberate act carried out by a Hezbollah cell at the directive of the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah. In response, the Israeli army struck three Syrian artillery positions, bringing into stark focus the fact that forces loyal to Iran and President Bashar Assad—who according to Liberman green-lighted the missile barrage—remain entrenched along the border.


Accordingly, Jerusalem finds itself on a potential collision course with Moscow, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated in the wake of Lavrov’s comments that the Jewish state will continue to act militarily in Syria when necessary in order to uphold its security. “[Iran] want[s] to create a permanent air, land and sea military presence, with the declared intent of using Syria as a base from which to destroy Israel,” Netanyahu affirmed. “We are not going to agree to that.… Israel will work to stop this.”


According to Danny Ayalon, Israel's former deputy foreign minister, the most important consideration is not whether Israel has a seat at the negotiating table but, rather, that it is able to defend its red lines. "Israel is certainly a major player and is treated as such," he explained to The Media Line, "and the fact that it was not pulled into the Syrian chaos is a testimony to the very responsible leadership by the prime minister, due to the country's deterrent capability as well as its close coordination with Russia." "However, when it comes to a demilitarized zone along the Syrian border," he continued, "it is a must because any modicum of stability there requires that Israel's interests be taken into account and this was specifically and strongly conveyed to our best friend in Washington and our new friend in Moscow."


In this respect, it is no coincidence that a high-ranking delegation from the US National Security Council arrived in Israel this week to discuss Jerusalem's concerns over the truce deal. Daniel Shek, a former Israeli Ambassador to France agrees that "Israel's positions were partially taken into account in Syria, but that deal leaves Jerusalem in a position where it will have to be vigilant and cautious over a long period of time." On the other hand," he elaborated to The Media Line, "the whole Syrian situation is still so unsettled that Israel should probably wait and see what the end result is."…

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





Yaakov Lappin

BESA, Nov. 21, 2017


Iran has big plans to create a military outpost in Syria, right on Israel’s doorstep. From there, the Islamic Republic could threaten and attack Israel in the future. Israel is currently employing two tools to try and prevent this from happening: diplomacy and deterrence. Diplomatically, Jerusalem is reaching out to global powers and the international community, informing them of the consequences of Iran’s actions in a bid to create pressure on Tehran. To achieve deterrence, Israel is making clear to Iran and its agents that it has no intention of allowing them to proceed with their plans.


But what can Israel do if these prevention efforts fail, as they might? In such a scenario, Israel would have to fall back on military action. Some of that action would likely involve Israel’s new aerial strike capabilities. These recently developed capabilities might well surpass any display of air power seen in military history thus far. They are based on an ability to use precise intelligence, combined with precision-guided weaponry, to destroy up to several thousand targets in just a matter of hours. This is a tool that the Israel Air Force, together with the Military Intelligence Directorate of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), has been developing quietly over recent years. It is a game-changing capability that significantly boosts Israeli deterrence against its enemies. It also boosts actual war fighting capabilities, should these be called upon.


In recent weeks and months, there have been indications that Iran is testing the waters in Syria. It is seeing how far it can go, and how far it can push Israel’s red lines. In November, a Western intelligence source shared satellite imagery with the showing a new Iranian base being built south of Damascus. The facility can house hundreds of personnel and vehicles. It is a mere 50 kilometers from Syria’s border with Israel, and represents the tip of the iceberg of Iran’s plans for Syria. This month, during a visit to London, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the BBC in an interview that the Iranians “want to bring their air force there, right next to Israel, they want to bring Shi’ite and Iranian divisions right next to Israel. They want to bring submarines. So we will not let that happen, we will resist it.”


Israel’s Kan News broadcaster also recently reported Iranian plans to set up a division in Syria made up of 5,000 soldiers, air force bases containing Iranian fighter jets, and Iranian naval bases on the Syrian coastline. Iran has already deployed to Syria thousands of Shiite militia members recruited from across the Middle East. They have been armed and trained by the Iranian Republican Guards Corps and the elite overseas Iranian Quds Force. The Iranians also run militia units made up of Syrian recruits. The Commander of the Quds Force, Qassem Solemani, was recently photographed in eastern Syria with members of one such militia, the al-Baqr Battalion. The Iranians also helped build up other Syrian military forces, like the 313 Battalion.


At the same time, Iran appears to have stepped up efforts to create missile factories on Syrian soil, which it can use to arm its chief Shiite proxy, Hezbollah. One of these factories was reportedly struck by Israel last month. As ISIS crumbles and the remainder of the Syrian Sunni rebels face defeat in Syria, Iran, which runs Assad’s ground war, will be free to shift the focus of its Syrian presence towards Israel. Israel is prepared to deal with this threat militarily if necessary, though the intelligence challenge would be considerable. Many of the targets in question would not be clear-cut Iranian military entities, but rather proxies and militias attempting to disguise themselves or embedded into the local environment. Still, Israel’s intelligence capabilities should be up to the job of detecting and monitoring the targets and passing them on to the air force.


So far, Israel has used its precision strike capabilities for pinpoint attacks on targets that are part of the Hezbollah–Iran weapons program. But these same strike capabilities can be activated on a grand scale. The same air power can also be directed against the Assad regime, which the Iranian axis has fought for years to rescue and preserve. In theory, Israel could inform Iran that its treasured Assad regime would be in jeopardy if Israel’s red lines are crossed in Syria.


Needless to say, any major escalation in Syria would almost certainly draw in Hezbollah in Lebanon as well, as the two fronts are interlinked. The Syrian-Lebanese border has become more of an imaginary line on a map than a real international boundary, as Hezbollah moves weapons and fighters across it on a regular basis. Any escalation on the Syrian front could easily activate the Lebanese front. The stakes in Syria are very high, and Israel remains committed to the objective of preventing conflict on its northern fronts. So far, it has succeeded in this goal. Russia has thus far appeared to help restrain its radical allies in Syria, but its role in any potential escalation remains unclear. But should Iran ignore all of Israel’s warnings, Israel’s new air power will likely prove decisive to the outcome of military action in this arena.





A.J. Caschetta

Middle East Forum, Nov. 28, 2017


Days away from the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry boasted about the success of the Obama administration's signature foreign policy achievement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on putatively "preventing" Iran's nuclear capability. "In reaching and implementing this deal," Kerry said, "we took a major security threat off the table without firing a single shot."


On the contrary, anyone who examines the JCPOA closely and honestly will come to the conclusion that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the mullahs got just about everything they wanted, while the U.S. got a dubious promise of good behavior that expires after 10 years.


It has long been known that what Michael Doran called "Obama's Secret Iran Strategy" required the administration to exaggerate the "spirit of reform" in Iran and to keep details about the agreement secret from both Congress and the American public. Recently, however, two seemingly unrelated events demonstrated just how duplicitous the Obama administration was with the American public over its dealings with the Islamic Republic.


The first event occurred on October 31, at the "World Without Terrorism" convention held in Iran. At a press conference, Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), reminded the world that Iran's ballistic missiles, though limited to a range of 2,000 km, are still sufficient to target U.S. bases in the region, saying, "Even though we have the capability to increase this range, in the meantime this range is enough for us, because the Americans are sufficiently situated within a 2,000 km radius around Iran. We will respond to them if they attack us."


One could argue quite sensibly that Iran should never have been permitted to retain any offensive missile program. However, that's not what happened. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), in the early stages of negotiations, prior to the "Interim Agreement" of December 10, 2013, the U.S. team acquiesced to Iranian demands that missiles be excluded from the JCPOA. Then, in either a "secret," undisclosed part of the JCPOA or in an unwritten agreement, Iran agreed to a 2,000-km range limit on its ballistic missiles. MEMRI reads Jafari's statement as serving both "a message of reassurance for Europe, which is beyond the 2,000-km range" while simultaneously signaling a threat to Israel, which is well within the range.


The second event shedding a ghastly light on Obama's rapprochement with Iran came just hours after Jafari's statement, on November 1, when the CIA declassified and released more of what the U.S. Navy SEALs took from Osama bin Laden's dingy lair in Abbottabad, Pakistan after they killed him on May 2, 2011. Among the 470,000 documents was a 19-page file written by one of bin Laden's lieutenants demonstrating the considerable cooperation between Iran and Al-Qaeda. According to NBC News, two U.S. intelligence officials described the document as "evidence of Iran's support of al Qaeda's war with the United States."


A newly declassified document recovered from Bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad shows "evidence of Iran's support of al Qaeda's war with the United States," according to U.S. intelligence officials. This support included "money and arms," and it confirms the cozy relationship between Iran and Al-Qaeda hinted at by the 9/11 Commission Report. CIA Director Mike Pompeo said the document shows that "There have been relationships, there are connections. There have been times the Iranians have worked alongside Al-Qaeda."


Those who recall that Al-Qaeda and Iranian proxy Hezbollah cooperated in the 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia will not be surprised to learn that Iran provided Al-Qaeda "training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf," according to the 19-page file. Of course, these files were not news to the Obama administration. Michael Rubin points out that "Obama and his CIA heads Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, John Brennan, and acting head Mike Morell released only what upheld and affirmed Obama's tenuous theories about Iran." While President Obama was busy concocting the fiction that "moderates" in the Iranian regime were worthy of our trust, he knew full well that he was offering concessions to co-conspirators in the 9/11 attacks…

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




On Topic Links


Wrestling Inquiry: Did Iranian Lose Match to Avoid Israeli?: Washington Times, Dec. 1, 2017—Wrestling’s governing body is investigating whether an Iranian threw a match to avoid facing an Israeli. United World Wrestling announced Friday that it is looking into irregularities surrounding a first-round match between Ali Reza Karimi of Iran and Alikhan Zhabrailov of Russia at the recent U-23 World Championships in Poland.

War With Iran’s Proxies Looming, Israel’s US Envoy Warns: Times of Israel, Dec. 5, 2017—Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said Monday that his country is closer to a full-blown military conflict along its northern border than people think.

Trump Follows Obama’s Lead and Gives Iran Just What it Wants: Benny Avni, New York Post, Nov. 14, 2017—President Trump’s decision to reevaluate the nuclear deal was a step forward for the West’s efforts to contain Iran, but the White House took two steps back with its new deal with Russia over Syria.

Hezbollah and the Yemeni Missiles: Uzi Rubin, BESA, Nov. 29, 2017—In a CNN interview on November 6, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel Jubair asserted that “Lebanon has declared war” on his country. This accusation was made following the launch of a ballistic missile from Yemen towards Riyadh International Airport (it was shot down harmlessly by Saudi Arabia’s Patriot defense system).


Lebanon's Fall Would be Iran's Gain: John Bolton, Pittsburgh Tribune, Nov. 11, 2017— Almost unnoticed in the coverage of President Trump's Asia trip, Lebanon is slipping under Iran's control.

The Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah Connection: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 8, 2017— The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, has had enough.

In Shadowy Covert Wars, Iran Takes Center Stage: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, November 14, 2017— In the shadowy world of covert proxy wars, Iran is taking center stage, both as a target and as a player.

On the Left, the Missing Debate over the Iran Deal: Matthew RJ Brodsky, National Review, Oct. 26, 2017— President Trump’s decision to remain in the nuclear agreement with Iran while working to fix its numerous flaws has temporarily put to bed an ideological debate…


On Topic Links


Trump, Iran, and a Fast-Changing Middle East (Interview): Daniel Pipes, L'Informale (Italy), Nov. 13, 2017

Is the JCPOA Working?: Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon, Algemeiner, Nov. 7, 2017

Report: Iran Establishing Permanent Military Presence in Syria Near Israeli Border: Avital Zippel, Jerusalem Online, Nov. 11, 2017

Will There be a Russian-Turkish-Iranian Alliance?: Jonathan Adelman, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 12, 2017


LEBANON'S FALL WOULD BE IRAN'S GAIN                                                      

John Bolton

Pittsburgh Tribune, Nov. 11, 2017


Almost unnoticed in the coverage of President Trump's Asia trip, Lebanon is slipping under Iran's control. On Nov. 3, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni, resigned, citing fears of assassination by Hezbollah, the Shia terrorist group funded and controlled by Iran. No one can say Hariri's fears are unjustified since his father, former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, was murdered in 2005 — almost certainly at Syrian or Iranian direction.


While the full ramifications of Saad Hariri's resignation remain to be seen, Tehran's ayatollahs have now significantly extended their malign reach in the Middle East. This is bad for the people of Lebanon; bad for Israel, with which Lebanon shares a common border and a contentious history; bad for Arab states like Jordan and the oil-producing Arabian Peninsula monarchies; and bad for America and its vital national interests in this critical region.


Sadly, Iran's progress was foreseeable from the inception of Barack Obama's strategy of using Iraqi military forces and Shia militia units as critical elements in the campaign to eradicate the ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The Baghdad government is effectively Iran's satellite. Accordingly, Obama's decision to provide that regime with military assistance and advice strengthened Iran's hand even further and materially contributed to its efforts to establish dominance in Iraq's Shia regions. Moreover, Iran itself, supported by Russian forces in Syria, aided and directed the Bashar Assad regime in fighting against both ISIS and the Syrian opposition. Iran also ordered Hezbollah to deploy from Lebanon into Syria, thus effectively creating a Shia-dominated arc of control from Iran itself to the Mediterranean.


Apparently, neither the Pentagon, nor the State Department, nor the National Security Council advised the new Trump administration of the implications of facilitating Iran's Middle East grand strategy. Obama's approach is, ironically, easier to understand, given his determination to secure his “legacy” by conceding vital U.S. national interests to nail down the Iran nuclear deal. Seeing Iran enhance its hegemonic aspirations throughout the region was, in his view, just another small price to pay to grease the way for the nuclear deal. Trump's advisers have no such excuse.


Hariri's resignation shows the inevitable consequences of blindly following Obama's approach. Very little now stands in the way of Hezbollah's total domination of the Lebanese government, thereby posing an immediate threat to Israel. In recent years, Tehran continued supplying the Assad regime and Hezbollah with weapons systems dangerous to Israel. Even more Israeli self-defense strikes are now likely, as Iran's conventional threat on Israel's borders grows.


Nearby Arab states also see the potential dangers of an unbroken Shia military arc of control on their northern periphery. The Middle East thus faces an advancing Syria, backed by Iran's imminent nuclear-weapons capability, deliverable throughout the region — and likely able to reach America in short order. The Trump administration cannot continue idly watching Iran advance without opposition. Washington and its regional allies need a comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran, not a series of ad hoc responses to regional developments. Time is fast running out.  




Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 8, 2017


The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, has had enough. Last week, Iran finalized its takeover of Lebanon when Hariri resigned, and reportedly fled to Saudi Arabia. Hariri, denouncing Hezbollah and its Iranian backers, said he feared for his life. Hariri has good reason to be afraid of Hezbollah, the powerful Shia terror group and Iranian proxy that effectively controls Lebanon.


Indications show that Iran and Hezbollah are also planning to extend their control to the Gaza Strip. Iran already provides Hamas with financial and military aid. It is precisely the support of Iran that has enabled Hamas to hold in power in the Gaza Strip for the past 10 years. It is also thanks to Iran that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another major terror group in the Gaza Strip, are in possession of thousands of missiles and rockets. It is Iranian money that allows Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to continue digging terror tunnels under the border with Israel.


Relations between Iran and Hamas have grown stronger in the past few weeks. Last month, a senior Hamas delegation visited Tehran to attend the funeral of the father of the senior Iranian security official, Qasem Soleimani. A few weeks earlier, another senior Hamas delegation visited Tehran to brief Iranian leaders on the latest developments surrounding the "reconciliation" agreement reached between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA).


It was the first time senior Hamas officials visited Iran since relations between the two sides became strained in 2011. That year, Iran suspended its ties with Hamas over the latter's refusal to support Syria's dictator, Bashar Assad, against his opponents in its civil war. The sudden rapprochement between Hamas and Iran has raised concerns among Abbas and his Palestinian Authority officials regarding Hamas's sincerity in implementing the "reconciliation" agreement. President Abbas and his officials wonder why Hamas rushed into arms of Iran immediately after reaching the "reconciliation" accord under the auspices of the Egyptian authorities.


Iran and Hezbollah are no fans of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Abbas is terrified that Hamas is trying to bring Iran and its Hezbollah proxy into the Gaza Strip. Abbas and his PA are eager to return to the Gaza Strip, but the presence of Iran there creates a serious problem. Like Hariri, Abbas would have good reason to fear for his life if Hamas brings the Iranians and Hezbollah into the Gaza Strip.


Abbas's fear is also not unjustified. Earlier this week, a senior Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzouk, disclosed that his movement and Hezbollah were working towards strengthening their relations. "Relations between Hamas and Hezbollah were never cut off," Abu Marzouk stated. "We have ongoing contacts and understandings. But we preferred to keep them away from the spotlight. Hamas and Hezbollah are in one line in the fight against Israel, and we coordinate our positions regarding the Palestinian cause. Hamas will continue to cooperate with resistance groups that support the Palestinian resistance."


The alliance between Hamas and Hezbollah is a direct result of the renewed relations between Iran and Hamas. With the help of Hezbollah, Iran has managed to take control of large parts of Syria. With the help of Hezbollah, Iran already controls Lebanon. Now that the Iranians have sole control over Lebanon, their eyes are set on the Gaza Strip. They know that the only way to access the Gaza Strip is through the Hamas door. Iran wants to see Hezbollah inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas, for its part, is thirsting for Iranian resources. Hamas knows that it will have to pay a price: allowing Iran and Hezbollah to set foot in the Gaza Strip. Judging from the remarks of Abu Marzouk, Hamas appears to be happy to pay the price.


Hariri, Abbas and many Sunni Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, felt betrayed by the Obama Administration's policy of détente towards Iran — a policy that emboldened the Iranians and gave them a green light to meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries to try to establish, as they seem to have done, a "Shiite Crescent" from Persia through Yemen and now Lebanon, clear to the Mediterranean Sea. The Sunni Arabs are apparently particularly worried about the nuclear deal signed between the Obama Administration and Iran. They feel that the Obama Administration's attempt to appease the Iranians has emboldened the country that is the world's leading sponsor of terrorism. Iran has since taken advantage of the nuclear deal to threaten and try to terrorize America, its friends and its Arab allies…

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





Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, November 14, 2017


In the shadowy world of covert proxy wars, Iran is taking center stage, both as a target and as a player. In the latest signal of escalating proxy wars, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) announced that it had “dismantled a terrorist team” that was “affiliated with global arrogance,” a reference to the US and its allies, in the Islamic Republic’s northwestern province of East Azerbaijan. The announcement came weeks after Iran said it had eliminated an armed group in a frontier area of the province of West Azerbaijan that borders on Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. It also followed Iran’s assertion two months ago that it had disbanded some 100 “terrorist groups” in the south, southeast, and west of the country.


To be sure, intermittent political violence in Iran cannot be reduced exclusively to potential foreign exploitation of minority ethnic and religious grievances in a bid to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Nor can foreign exploitation be established beyond doubt despite multiple indications that it is a policy option under discussion in the US and Saudi Arabia. There is, moreover, little doubt that Iran’s detractors had no connection to a June 7 attack on the Iranian parliament and the grave of Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran that killed 12 people and was claimed by ISIS, despite Iran’s claims that Saudi Arabia was responsible.


Nor can revived agitation by Kurds, Baloch, and Azeris be simply written off as foreign creations rather than expressions of longstanding and deep-seated grievances, even if the revival may in part have been inspired by secessionist trends among Iraqi and Syrian Kurds as well as developments in Catalonia. There is, however, also no reason to exclude the possibility of the US and its allies, including Saudi Arabia and Israel, seeking to exploit those grievances.


Iran is by no means a country wracked by political violence. Still, violence is gradually mounting. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) announced in January that it was resuming its armed struggle not “just for the Kurds in Iran’s Kurdistan, but [as] a struggle against the Islamic Republic for all of Iran.” PDKI militants, operating from Iraqi Kurdistan, have since repeatedly clashed with Iranian forces.


Pakistani militants in the province of Balochistan reported a massive flow of Saudi funds in the last few years to Sunni Muslim ultra-conservative groups, while a Saudi think tank believed to be supported by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman published a blueprint for support of the Baloch and called for “immediate counter measures” against Iran. Without a doubt, US and Saudi moves to counter Iran go beyond potential exploitation of ethnic and religious grievances. Supported by the Trump administration, Saudi Arabia recently forged close ties to the predominantly Shiite Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi – despite Al-Abadi’s rejection of demands that he roll back the power of Iranian-backed Shiites who played a key role in the fight against IS.


Similarly, US President Donald J. Trump appears to be goading Iran into walking away from the 2015 nuclear agreement. Trump earlier this month refused to certify to Congress that Iran was in compliance with the accord. The US has also sought to limit the benefits Iran should garner from the accord. The Trump administration, in its latest move, blocked Iranian participation in ITER, a multibillion-dollar fusion experiment in France. Increased scientific cooperation was part of the agreement’s bid to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.


Included in the recent release of 470,000 documents captured during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout, in which he was killed, was the Al Qaeda’s leader’s personal diary. The diary and other documents provide evidence of Iran’s complex relationship with the jihadist group and serve to strengthen justification of the Trump administration’s tougher approach towards Iran. Iran has not restricted its opportunistic, albeit calibrated, support for militants to Al Qaeda, but has played both sides of the divide in Afghanistan. In an indication that ties to the Taliban could strengthen because of US pressure on Pakistan to halt its support for militants, including the Taliban, Taliban fighters are looking to Iran as an alternative safe haven. “Many Taliban want to leave Pakistan for Iran. They don’t trust Pakistan anymore,” an Afghan fighter told The Guardian.


In a bid to counter Saudi influence in Afghanistan that dates back to the US-Saudi-backed jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s, Iran played, in the wake of the US ousting of the Taliban, a key role in the Bonn conference that united disparate Afghan factions behind the government of Hamid Karzai. Iran has since allowed the Taliban to open a regional office in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan. Late last year, Iran hosted several senior Taliban figures at an Islamic Unity conference.


The record of past efforts to engineer regime change in Iran through covert wars is mixed at best and dismal on balance. There is little reason to assume that a potential new round will fare any better. If anything, the attempts persuaded Iran to keep its lines open to Sunni Muslim jihadists, who are hardly natural allies for a Shiite Muslim regime. At the same time, the two-year-old experience with implementation of the nuclear agreement, as well as Iranian support for not only the Taliban but also the government in Kabul, suggests grey areas in which reduction rather than escalation of conflict may be possible.





Matthew RJ Brodsky

National Review, Oct. 26, 2017


President Trump’s decision to remain in the nuclear agreement with Iran while working to fix its numerous flaws has temporarily put to bed an ideological debate…between the two main conservative camps, known as “the Walkers” and “the Fixers.” The fix-it approach adopted by the president was developed in think tanks such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the Institute for Science and International Security, and it involves a comprehensive strategy called “decertify, pressure, and fix.” With the writing on the wall, the Walkers, who favored withdrawing from the agreement, have joined with the Fixers, albeit skeptically, and they reserve the right to say “I told you so” later.


Mark Dubowitz of FDD recently wrote that the president’s choice “moved the debate on the fatally flawed nuclear deal from ‘keep it or nix it’ to ‘fix it or nix it.’” The problem, however, is that movement is discernible only on the political right. Across the political aisle, no such debate or internal discussion is taking place. To grasp why, it is crucial to understand that for “the Vanguard,” the leading camp on the left, the Iran deal was always about much more than the nuclear file. The reason that they and “the Believers” they spawned are so vocal in their opposition to tinkering with the agreement today is that Trump was elected, which gives him the authority to kill their deal and shine a light on its shortcomings. In the meantime, they are simply regurgitating the old lines without taking stock of their handiwork two years on.


The Underpinnings From the outset, the Obama administration set out to lessen the American footprint abroad — especially in the Middle East. Part of that endeavor included trading traditional alliances for new ones that could bear the burden of the Middle East maladies in America’s absence. To that end Barack Obama, shortly after taking office in 2009, began a process designed ultimately to reestablish full U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran.


For the Vanguard, reaching a nuclear accord with Iran was identified as the means to lock in America’s strategic shift. In that sense, the deal was about transforming Iran so that it could “take its rightful place in the community of nations” and become a constructive regional player as America withdrew. Iran and its proxies were seen as a more cohesive and capable unit to inherit the Middle East than the mix of Sunni states, most of whom were working at cross-purposes. The years of Arab upheaval that began in 2011 only reinforced that notion.


Adopting this new approach, they believed, would help bring stability to the Middle East, allowing the U.S. to correct its unfortunate plague of foreign-intervention, which sprung from “a mindset out of step with the traditions of American foreign policy.” Doing so would “restore America’s standing in the world,” which was a promise that candidate Obama made in September 2008. It was to be “the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy,” as Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told progressive activists in January 2014. “This is health care for us, just to put it in context.”


Of course, flipping Iran from the dark side wouldn’t be easy, nor would convincing skeptical Americans that the deal they were cooking up would be in their interest. It required a group of core believers who could carry the Obama administration’s message, which was initially based on the fiction of an ongoing struggle between Iranian moderates and hardliners, epitomized by the 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president. He defeated the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. According to the Vanguard’s logic, anyone elected short of Caligula could be considered a moderate compared to Mr. “wipe Israel off the map” Ahmadinejad. That election served as the pretext that Obama needed to sell America on the idea that the winds of change were blowing in Tehran, allowing him to keep his goal of a grand bargain hidden. In reality, the Obama administration sat on the sidelines a few years earlier in June 2009 and watched the regime brutally crush the Green Revolution with techniques that it later exported and perfected for Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian slaughterhouse.


Marketing this new formula under the guise of a nuclear deal necessitated an avoidance of any back-and-forth discussion of the merits of the agreement itself, a willingness to attack all those who raised important questions about its shortcomings or sought to improve the deal, and the circumvention of Congress, which, if presented with it as a treaty, would surely have voted it down. Most of all, once the Vanguard caved on all of the promises it had made regarding what would be in deal, it had to rest its case on the bottom-line assertion that those who were opposed to it offered only war as a solution. The debate today should be over whether to ‘fix it or nix it,’ despite the Vanguard’s continuing attempts to kneecap the efforts of those trying to strengthen the agreement.


For this monumental task, Obama turned to Ben Rhodes, who developed, ran, and subsequently bragged to David Samuels of the New York Times about his creation of an echo chamber designed to sell their alternative facts about the Iran deal to the American people. Rhodes handpicked newly minted experts who then began popping up at think tanks. They didn’t think like the American foreign-policy establishment — “the blob,” as Rhodes called them — they simply acted as parrots. To spread their centralized hot takes, the Vanguard relied on “hundreds of often-clueless reporters,” as Samuels described Rhodes’s understanding of them. As Believers, they were only too willing to oblige. Together, they generated a feedback loop of misinformation, amplification, and reiteration.


And it all worked brilliantly. Barack Obama and his Vanguard’s echo chamber sold the JCPOA lemon in 2015 as an exclusive choice between the deal they cooked up or war. Those who opposed the agreement were smeared as warmongers who shared a common cause with the Iranian-regime hardliners. They scolded and undermined the Fixers then as they do now and then bypassed Congress to seal the deal at the United Nations. And they did so claiming that they had reached the best agreement possible, having exhausted the limits of U.S. leverage in search of a deal, and that to turn down what was now available would leave America with no other option besides war. All of that is garbage…

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




On Topic Links


Trump, Iran, and a Fast-Changing Middle East (Interview): Daniel Pipes, L'Informale (Italy), Nov. 13, 2017—Donald Trump decertified the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, leaving it up to the U.S. Congress whether to sanction Tehran or not. Do you agree with John Bolton, Martin Sherman, and others that it is futile to "fix" the deal and necessary to "nix" it?

Is the JCPOA Working?: Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon, Algemeiner, Nov. 7, 2017—All JCPOA supporters rely on the notion that “the agreement is working” and on the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that Iran is in compliance with the agreement eight times since it came into force in January 2016.

Report: Iran Establishing Permanent Military Presence in Syria Near Israeli Border: Avital Zippel, Jerusalem Online, Nov. 11, 2017—An intelligence source told the BBC that Iran is establishing a permanent military base in Syria, according to a report issued on Friday. The official claimed that the construction has significantly progressed, which may be a result of recent gains made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army.

Will There be a Russian-Turkish-Iranian Alliance?: Jonathan Adelman, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 12, 2017—With the winding down of the war in Syria, some pundits have seen an alliance of Russia with Turkey and Iran in the Middle East as possible and even likely. They see a rising authoritarian Russia and Iran uniting with an authoritarian Turkey to dominate the Middle East.




How Trump Can Improve the Iran Deal: Mark Dubowitz & David Albright, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 25, 2017 — Powerful voices at home and abroad are pressuring President Trump to give his blessing to his predecessor’s nuclear agreement with Iran.

Donald Trump Takes a Hostage: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Oct. 13, 2017— Negotiators warn never to take a hostage you can’t shoot.

Trump's Tough Talk on Iran Fails to Mask His Inaction: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Oct. 13, 2017— For anyone baffled by President Barack Obama's humiliating outreach to Iran in his second term, President Donald Trump's speech Friday was cathartic.

Stopping Iran Is up to Israel Now: Efraim Inbar, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 1, 2017— Western hopes that Iran will moderate and "engage" with the international community following the faulty 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) have been gradually replaced with apprehension.


On Topic Links


Remarks by President Trump on Iran Strategy: White House, Oct. 13, 2017

With New Iran Strategy, Trump Rips Page out of Netanyahu’s Playbook: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Oct. 15, 2017

After Iran Announcement, Trump Punts to Congress: Sean Savage, JNS, Oct. 15, 2017

Trump’s ‘Calm Before the Storm’ is a Message to North Korea and Iran: Alan Dershowitz, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 9, 2017





Mark Dubowitz & David Albright

Wall Street Journal, Sept. 25, 2017


Powerful voices at home and abroad are pressuring President Trump to give his blessing to his predecessor’s nuclear agreement with Iran. Mr. Trump has repeatedly pledged to renegotiate the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or scrap it altogether. There is a way for him to highlight the agreement’s egregious deficiencies while showing his determination to improve the deal or leave it. We call this strategy “decertify, waive, slap and fix.”


The president should follow through on his commitments by refusing to certify the JCPOA under the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. That law requires Mr. Trump to certify every 90 days that Iran is fully implementing the nuclear deal and hasn’t significantly advanced its nuclear-weapons program. Additionally he must certify whether the suspension of sanctions remains vital to U.S. national-security interests and proportionate to Iran’s efforts to terminate its illicit nuclear programs. The next 90-day deadline is Oct. 15…


The JCPOA is a prelude to a Middle Eastern version of the North Korean mess. It gives the clerical regime sunset-expiring restrictions, advanced centrifuges, intercontinental ballistic missiles, the ability to frustrate U.N. inspectors’ access to military sites where Tehran has conducted secret nuclear-weapons and uranium-enrichment work in the past, and tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, with hundreds of billions to follow. The Iranians will continue to run amok in the Middle East, using foreign cash to pay for their imperialism.


The president should refuse to certify for another reason: The nuclear deal’s fundamentally flawed architecture—not just how it is enforced—makes it too dangerous to continue. By patiently following the deal the Islamic Republic can gain nuclear weapons, as well as a nuclear-capable arsenal of missiles giving it regional hegemony and the ability to threaten the United States. It also will have a powerful economy immunized against sanctions pressure by the time the JCPOA restrictions expire. Allowing this is not in the “vital national security interests of the United States.”


Decertifying doesn’t mean breaking the deal. That happens only if the U.S. reimposes sanctions that have been lifted or suspended under the JCPOA. On Sept. 14, as required by the JCPOA, the president again waived nuclear-related sanctions, this time on Iran’s central bank and oil exports. He accompanied this “waive” with a “slap” imposing new sanctions on companies and individuals connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and recent cyberattacks. An engineering company working with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was also targeted.


These sanctions, which are fully compliant with the JCPOA, are a decent start. But Mr. Trump must do more. He should designate the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, as Congress has required he do by Oct. 31. He should also instruct the Treasury to blacklist companies with Revolutionary Guard and military ownership, which represent about 20% of the total market capitalization of the Tehran Stock Exchange. He should redesignate Iran Air (which is buying planes from Boeing and Airbus) as a terrorist entity for airlifting weapons and fighters to Syria. All these measures are consistent with the JCPOA.


We propose the president “fix” U.S. policy by making it clear he does not accept the Iran deal’s dangerous flaws. He should insist on conditions making permanent the current restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and the testing of advanced centrifuges and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, as well as the buying and transferring of conventional weaponry. He must insist on unfettered access for U.N. weapons inspectors to Iranian military sites.


Congress should do its part to help fix the deal. Reinstating the JCPOA sanctions after decertification would ruin the “decertify, waive, slap and fix” approach. To persuade Republicans, who are the most likely to vote to reinstate JCPOA sanctions that have been waived or lifted, the administration needs to demonstrate a comprehensive strategy to fix the deal and use all instruments of American power to neutralize and roll back Iranian aggression. Democrats should help fix the deal or explain to Americans why a brutally repressive and aggressive Iranian regime should have a North Korean-style glide path to dozens of nuclear weapons and ICBMs.


The Europeans are already responding to Mr. Trump’s threats to walk away from the deal. French President Emmanuel Macron has said he’s willing to consider supplementing the agreement to address the sunset provisions and missiles. European leaders who want to preserve the accord are now working on a U.S.-EU consensus on ways to fix it. They should outline conditions under which trans-Atlantic sanctions would be reinstated if Iran doesn’t play ball. Otherwise, they can watch Mr. Trump exit the deal and use the considerable financial power of the U.S. to force European banks and companies to choose between America’s $19 trillion market and Iran’s $400 billion one.


Decertification is the critical first step of a strategy to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from becoming a nuclear state. The famously blunt Mr. Trump must send an unambiguous message to Tehran’s clerics: His administration will not tolerate a nuclear Iran, nor can it abide by the agreement as it stands. But the strategy doesn’t depend on Iranian acquiescence. It gives the Europeans a chance to come on board to fix the deal in order to save it. If they don’t, the consequences could be severe.




DONALD TRUMP TAKES A HOSTAGE                                                                           

Bret Stephens

New York Times, Oct. 13, 2017


Negotiators warn never to take a hostage you can’t shoot. By announcing Friday that the administration would not certify that the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was in the national interest, Donald Trump has taken a hostage.

The hostage is the deal itself. Contrary to belief, decertification neither violates nor cancels the agreement. It does not betray our commitments to our allies and it does not abrogate our obligations to the Iranians. It’s an act of domestic politics between two branches of the United States government.


But it’s also a psychological step, a brash signal that Trump is prepared to see the deal fail and accept the consequences, including war, if he can’t negotiate a better one. Since Iran insists it won’t budge, it sets Washington and Tehran on a path of confrontation that can be averted only if one side or the other blinks. Decertification is Trump saying: We won’t blink.


On Thursday, a well-placed source who advises the administration on Iran policy and supports decertification listed for me all the ways things could go wrong. There’s personnel risk, starting with the volatility of the man at the top. There’s escalatory risk, as the United States, its forces thinly stretched in the Middle East, become vulnerable to attack by Iran’s terrorist proxies. Think of the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983 and the humiliating American withdrawal in its wake.


There’s diplomatic risk, as Iran traps Western diplomats in a process of never-ending negotiations designed to go nowhere — all the while turning the Islamic Republic into a reputable member of the international community and the United States into the global pariah. Above all, there’s the risk that Iran will call Trump’s bluff, much as Bashar al-Assad called President Obama’s when he failed to enforce his chemical red line in 2013. A superpower repeatedly exposed as a paper tiger by lesser, if more willful, adversaries will not maintain its pre-eminence for long.


So what’s the case for supporting decertification? The architects of the nuclear deal make three dubious claims on its behalf. They say it concerns Iran’s nuclear dossier alone, and does not prevent us from thwarting Tehran’s regional bids in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza or the Gulf. They claim the deal is working because Iran is abiding by its terms, as certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And they add that since the agreement permanently enjoins the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, the United States maintains the military option to stop them from doing so.


Yet Iran’s regional behavior has become worse since the nuclear deal came into effect, not least because it provided the regime with a huge new income stream — $10 billion in cash and gold in 2016 alone, plus more than $100 billion in additional sanctions relief — to fund its work. Tehran also operates on the assumption, well justified during the Obama years, that the United States would not risk the nuclear deal for the sake of rolling back Iranian gains in Syria and elsewhere.


As for the point that the Iranians are generally (if not quite entirely) honoring their end of the bargain — why shouldn’t they? “Iran doesn’t want a bomb today,” one senior Israeli official told me. “It wants a bomb tomorrow.” That is, it wants a robust nuclear base that puts it within a screw’s twist of a sizable nuclear arsenal without the economic and security risks of actual possession. And if it does choose to go for a bomb once the agreement has run its course, our military options will be slight. If we couldn’t prevent Pakistan or North Korea from going nuclear in the 1990s, why should we think we’ll be able to stop Iran in the nick of time?


My critics will claim that a distant prospect of a nuclear Iran is still vastly preferable to an exit from the deal that allows Iran to bring its centrifuges out of storage and start spinning its way to a bomb once again, this time without the monitoring of United Nations inspectors. Maybe. But Iran still wants the economic benefits of the deal — benefits Washington alone can bestow through waivers, permits, relief from secondary sanctions and control over dollar transactions. The American Goliath needn’t be helpless against a Middle Eastern state with a gross domestic product only slightly larger than that of metropolitan Atlanta.


We are living through a nuclear nightmare on the Korean Peninsula after more than two decades of optimistic diplomacy. That’s a fate we ought to do everything possible to avoid with Iran. As Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies points out, “decertification isn’t a sufficient condition to break the paralysis of our Iran policy, but it is a necessary one.” Even if the rest of the difficult enterprise rests in the hands of — God help us — President Trump.



TRUMP'S TOUGH TALK ON IRAN FAILS TO MASK HIS INACTION                                                  

Eli Lake

Bloomberg, Oct. 13, 2017


For anyone baffled by President Barack Obama's humiliating outreach to Iran in his second term, President Donald Trump's speech Friday was cathartic. He spoke plainly about Iran's "rogue regime," which seized power by revolution and "forced its people to submit to fanatical rule." The nation’s Revolutionary Guard will be designated as supporting terrorism and sanctioned. Trump seeks to assure us that he will never allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. 


As I reported last week that he would, Trump stopped short of withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. He is not pushing Congress to re-impose the crippling sanctions Obama lifted, which would void the nuclear bargain. Instead he is urging Congress to rewrite the 2015 law that requires his certification of the deal every 90 days to spell out the terms of a better nuclear accord with Iran and the consequences for Iran if they violate those terms. While Trump said he reserves the right to withdraw from the deal at a later date if his efforts to improve it fail, his decertification amounts to a rebuke, but not a rejection of Obama's signature foreign policy achievement.


But like Obama, Trump fails to address the greatest threat the rogue regime poses: its expansion in Syria and Iraq. Senior administration officials who briefed reporters Friday acknowledged that there is no policy for now to begin trying to drive Iran and its proxies out of Syrian territory it has taken over. These officials said a Syria-specific policy was coming where these issues would be addressed.


U.S. officials have also told me that at the moment there is no plan for countering Iranian influence among Shiite allies in Baghdad. This policy is also under review for Iraq, but for now U.S. forces will continue to train and equip the Iraqi military as Iran continues to train and equip the Shiite militias that have done much of the fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq. In some ways Trump's decisions to date have exacerbated Iranian expansion, particularly in Syria. As the Washington Post reported in July, Trump cut off a CIA program to support rebels in Syria who were fighting the regime. U.S. intelligence officials tell me Trump's decision was sudden, and it is still unclear whether another ally will take over the agency's support for the anti-regime rebels.


A deal the U.S. helped to broker this summer also contributes to Iranian interference. Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me Friday, "Far more detrimental than the covert program issue is the de-escalation agreement because it has allowed Iran's proxies to focus on the center of the country in the Euphrates River valley without having to contest the southwest part of Syria where the de-escalation agreement applies."


It's possible that a new Syrian policy for the Trump administration will commit more U.S. forces and allies to begin to push back Iranian influence in Syria and Iraq as the war against the Islamic State dies down. But to date, Trump has resisted such policies. Senior administration officials on Friday told reporters that the strategy for now is to prepare to push back against Iranian expansion in Iraq and Syria over time. But time is not on the side of America and its allies. Iran's Revolutionary Guard is close to establishing a land bridge from Tehran to Beirut, giving groups like Hezbollah and other militias access to advanced weapons they can aim at Israel and Jordan. Sanctions are a good first step. But Trump needs to do more, and quickly.





Efraim Inbar

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 1, 2017


Western hopes that Iran will moderate and "engage" with the international community following the faulty 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) have been gradually replaced with apprehension. More voices in the international community are joining Israel in expressing growing concern about Iran's policies. While Iran seems to be abide by the JCPOA, it resists expanding the scope of inspections, continues its nuclear research and development (for example upgrading centrifuges) and continues to make progress on its long-range missile program. Recently it conducted a test of a missile designed to carry nuclear warheads.


Moreover, Iran's involvement in the region attests to its hegemonic plans, defying the notion, propagated by its propagandists, that it is a status quo power acting defensively. Rather, Iran is following its Persian imperial instincts that are reinforced by Muslim jihadist impulses. It already controls four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa; its Shi'ite militias and proxies are fighting in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and engaging in ethnic cleansing; and it is on the verge of solidifying the Shi'ite corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. Israel tries to capitalize on the new widespread global apprehension about Iran and a new American president who is not committed to the JCPOA to bring about the cancellation of the 2015 nuclear accord or its renegotiation, and the reinstating of the sanctions regime. Yet, these goals are difficult to attain and not useful in preventing a nuclear Iran.


The international community, including the US, has little appetite to confront Iran. The belligerent tone of President Donald Trump might be pleasant to Israeli ears, but we should not forget that he has not yet dismantled the North Korean nuclear arsenal. Understanding very well the Western reluctance to take military action, Iran is emulating the North Korean scenario. Many states, Germany for example, were eager to renew business relations with Iran after the removal of the sanctions regime and to turn a blind eye to Iranian purchases of dual-use equipment.


The world seems to prefer to wait until the agreement expires in 10 years or so without worrying about what will happen after. Iran signed the deal to gain legitimacy for its nuclear program without giving up the plan to go nuclear in the near future. Iran, with its thousands of years of history, is patient, seeing the agreement as only a short delay on the road to achieving its ambitions.


Israel cannot rely on the international community to stop Iran's nuclearization. Unilateral cancellation of the nuclear agreement will only energize the Iranian nuclear program. Even if attempts to convince Iran to renegotiate the deal are successful, the Iranian talent for bargaining will prolong the negotiations for years, gaining it additional time to enhance its nuclear program. Similarly, putting in place a tough economic sanctions regime requires years of diplomatic struggle. Neither Russia nor China have a great interest in helping the US neutralize the trouble potential of an anti-American Iran. Moreover, the effectiveness of economic sanctions is limited. Past sanctions were useful in bringing Iran back to the negotiating table, but not in changing its policy.


The claim that a tougher deal could have been achieved in 2015 and therefore renegotiations could elicit a better one for the West is not credible. The JCPOA, with its loopholes, was the only agreement the Iranians were ready to sign when it became clear that the US under president Barack Obama would anyway be unwilling to use the military option. Despite the anti-Iranian rhetoric, the US under President Donald Trump seems to lack the strategic acumen needed to stop Iran from attaining regional hegemony. As a matter of fact, its Middle Eastern policies suit Iran. Trump continued the obsession with Islamic State (an anti-Iranian force) and is going along with the Russian and Iranian plans in Syria. The US prefers the integrity of Iraq, an Iranian satellite, rather than supporting a Kurdish state that Iran opposes. The US did not side clearly with Saudi Arabia in isolating a Qatar that courts Iran. A nuclear Iran will be even more difficult to restrain.


Nothing in the world can convince Iran to give up the nuclear dream. Only the use of force can stop Iran from fulfilling its ambitions. Israel is on its own in this. Nobody will deal with an Iran that is going nuclear. Therefore, Israel must prepare its military for a strike against the main components of Iran's nuclear infrastructure. This will not be easily achieved, but with determination and creativity it is feasible. A successful attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure would change the regional power equation and reverse Iranian advances. Most states would be happy for Israel to do the dirty work, and judging from past Israeli strikes on the Iraqi and Syrian reactors, would hardly create any difficulties for Israel on this account. It is true that Iran has ways to retaliate and exact costs from Israel. However, these would be easier to bear than the cost of allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons.



On Topic Links


Remarks by President Trump on Iran Strategy: White House, Oct. 13, 2017—History has shown that the longer we ignore a threat, the more dangerous that threat becomes. For this reason, upon taking office, I've ordered a complete strategic review of our policy toward the rogue regime in Iran. That review is now complete.

With New Iran Strategy, Trump Rips Page out of Netanyahu’s Playbook: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Oct. 15, 2017—When US President Donald Trump outlined his new strategy to counter Iran in a major policy speech Friday, he said that his views were formed “after extensive consultations with our allies,” but he could really only have been talking about Israel and some Gulf states.

After Iran Announcement, Trump Punts to Congress: Sean Savage, JNS, Oct. 15, 2017—President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he will decertify the Iranian nuclear deal as part of a new and tougher approach towards the Islamic Republic. The move brings a new level of challenges and uncertainty in handling one of the most complex international agreements in recent years.

Trump’s ‘Calm Before the Storm’ is a Message to North Korea and Iran: Alan Dershowitz, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 9, 2017—Reporters continue scratching their heads about what President Trump meant when he spoke of the “calm before the storm” recently as he was hosting a dinner for military commanders and their spouses.





N. Korea and Iran: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 3, 2017— The situation playing out now with North Korea is a nightmare scenario of the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

Pyongyang's Playbook: Anthony Ruggiero, Weekly Standard, Sept. 2017— The crisis between the United States and North Korea shows no signs of abating.

What if There’s No Good Solution for North Korea’s Nukes?: Jonah Goldberg, New York Post, Sept. 1, 2017— The first step in thinking through a problem is to ask whether it’s a problem at all. Problems without solutions, the saying goes, aren’t problems. They’re facts.

Between Trump and Kim: Navigating Unpredictable Escalations: Louis René Beres, Israel Defense, Aug. 28, 2017 — In preparing for nuclear crisis bargaining with North Korea, Donald Trump will have little meaningful precedent upon which to rely.


On Topic Links


The United States’ North Korea Strategy Needs a Reality Check: Derek Burney & Fen Osler Hampson, Globe and Mail, Aug. 29, 2017

The Moral Answer to North Korea Threats: Take Them Out!: Ralph Peters, New York Post, Sept. 4, 2017

Iran’s New Defense Minister Is Committed to Iran’s Missile Program and the Export of the Revolution: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, BESA, Aug. 30, 2017

How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal: John R. Bolton, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 28, 2017




Jerusalem Post, Sept. 3, 2017


The situation playing out now with North Korea is a nightmare scenario of the dangers of nuclear proliferation. It offers a partial preview of the sorts of dangers the world would face if Iran ever obtained nuclear weapon capability. And it vindicates the use of preemptive military strikes to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of autocratic regimes, like the one that was launched – according to foreign news sources – by Israel a decade ago, on September 6, 2007.


On Sunday, North Korea, a country run by a madman, conducted its biggest nuclear test to date, setting off an explosion that Pyongyang said was caused by the detonation of an advanced hydrogen bomb. The tremor that resulted was said to be 10 times more powerful than the tremor picked up after the last test a year ago. Since 2006 North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests.


US President Donald Trump immediate reaction was registered, as is his custom, on his personal Twitter account. “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.” And, in a more strident message, Trump wrote: “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!” French President Emmanuel Macron urged the UN Security Council to react quickly and decisively. “The international community must treat this new provocation with the utmost firmness, in order to bring North Korea to come back unconditionally to the path of dialogue and to proceed to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear and ballistic program,” he said. China, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency also weighed in.


But what can any of them do? No one wants to play chicken with Kim Jong Un and risk a nuclear Armageddon. Iran’s mullahs, meanwhile, are carefully monitoring the developments. True, North Korea and Iran are radically different culturally. Iran is governed by religious fanatics who look to usher in a messianic age ruled by Shi’ites. North Korea, in contrast, is run by a secular tyrant. However, North Korea offers Iran a test case in the wonders of obtaining nuclear weapons. And it offers the world a sharp rebuke for past inaction and a foreboding warning for the future. A small but aggressive nation with limited economic and military means has succeeded in leveraging its power to intimidate while remaining utterly immune to the influence of the international community – all accomplished by simply obtaining nuclear weapons.


Tehran has an opportunity to watch how the international community reacts – or rather fails to react – when Pyongyang fires a missile over Japan, as it did in August, or when it detonates a hydrogen bomb, as it did Sunday. Trump might tweet, Macron might threaten, but the real danger of sparking a nuclear war will have a chilling effect on rational decision-making with regard to using military options to stop Pyongyang.


The Islamic Republic’s leadership did not need Sunday’s hydrogen bomb test to become convinced of the merits of obtaining an atomic bomb. As a nation of Shi’ites surrounded by a Sunni majority, Tehran’s motivation from the outset in obtaining nuclear weapons was first and foremost an insurance policy against being bullying around. Libya’s lesson was not missed by the Iranians. The US’s toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime under the pretext that he had weapons of mass destruction scared Muammar Gaddafi into disarming his country from nuclear weapons. Less than a decade later he was overthrown.


We do not want to think about what would have happened if Syria had succeeded, with North Korea’s help, in obtaining nuclear weapons instead of reportedly being stopped by a preemptive attack. President Bashar Assad had no qualms about using chemical weapons against his own people. We don’t know what he would have done had he obtained nuclear weapons. There is a lesson to be learned from North Korea by the international community as well. Nothing came of the more than two years of negotiations with Pyongyang. No country stopped North Korea. The West ultimately accepted a North Korea with nuclear weapons capability. The same mistake must not be made again with Iran.






Anthony Ruggiero

Weekly Standard, Sept. 2017


The crisis between the United States and North Korea shows no signs of abating. Indeed, Pyongyang escalated its provocations last week, firing a missile over Japan on August 29. Critics of the president cite his brash approach to Pyongyang as a factor behind North Korea’s belligerency. Some also link Trump’s tough talk about the Iran nuclear deal. Why, they ask, would North Korea want to cooperate with a White House that insists on revisiting a nuclear deal the United States struck with Iran just two years ago? What they fail to note is the Kim regime has already violated two nuclear deals with the United States. North Korea, in fact, authored the playbook now being used by Iran to fleece the United States and our allies. And if the United States fails to neutralize the North Korean threat, Iran will notice how the United States buckles in the face of nuclear pressure.


Iran has already learned a number of damaging lessons from North Korea. First, cheating on nuclear deals is permitted. North Korea cheated twice, and we kept coming back for more. President Bill Clinton announced the 1994 Agreed Framework as a deal that would “freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program,” but Pyongyang violated the agreement when it started a covert uranium enrichment program. Washington tried another nuclear deal with the Kim regime, negotiating the 2005 Joint Statement, but the Kim regime built a nuclear reactor in Syria during the negotiations. The reactor was eventually destroyed by Israel in 2007. Normally that would have ended negotiations, proving that North Korea was not a serious interlocutor. Instead, the Kim regime was rewarded for its nuclear proliferation when the Bush administration removed North Korea from the state sponsors of terrorism list in 2008.


Iran’s cheating has focused on testing the will of the United States and its partners to hold Tehran to the negotiated limits in the 2015 nuclear deal. During the Obama administration, Tehran twice exceeded the cap on heavy water, and rather than punishing Iran, Washington and Moscow purchased the excess material from Iran. Iran is operating advanced centrifuges in excess of the limit of 10 it agreed to in the deal. And reports suggest the United Kingdom blocked an attempt by Iran to secretly purchase additional natural uranium. German intelligence reports showed that Iran attempted procurement of nuclear-related items, likely in violation of the agreement.


Second, limited nuclear deals can be exploited. The Agreed Framework and Joint Statement merely froze the North Korean nuclear programs (what was known of them), and in both instances Pyongyang was not required to dismantle its programs upfront. The result left North Korea with the infrastructure to produce fissile material (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for the nuclear weapons that now threaten America’s allies and the U.S. homeland. Tehran adopted this very strategy when it negotiated a nuclear deal that allows it to keep its uranium enrichment program and continue research on advanced centrifuges. Iran can thus comply with the deal and emerge about a decade later with a production-scale enrichment facility and near-zero breakout time to develop nuclear weapons.


Third, you can also push the envelope on military and non-nuclear issues. North Korea tested a space launch vehicle (SLV) only four years after negotiating the 1994 Agreed Framework. Pyongyang has tested additional SLVs five times since 1998, placing satellites in orbit in 2012 and 2016. These SLVs provided key advancements Pyongyang used to improve intercontinental ballistic missiles that the Kim regime can use to deliver a nuclear weapon to the United States. North Korea has also tested the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which can reach Guam, at least five times this year, with a successful test in mid-May and again last week. The international community’s failure to respond meaningfully is viewed by North Korea as tacit approval.


Since the 2015 nuclear deal was signed, Tehran has reportedly conducted two SLV launches. It has launched as many as 14 ballistic missiles, many of which are “nuclear capable,” in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which codified the nuclear deal. Iran has undoubtedly noticed the U.N.’s lack of a firm response. The number of Iranian violations detailed by U.N. Secretary General António Guterres in a recent report is stunning. Two Iranian attempts to procure missile components, aircraft parts, and anti-tank missile components from Ukraine were thwarted over a period of just six months. How many others have gotten through? Iran also continues its shipment of arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, in violation of two Security Council resolutions.


Finally, insist that your military sites are off-limits. The first nuclear crisis in the mid-1990s started in part when North Korea refused a request by the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect a waste facility that Pyongyang said was a military site unrelated to its nuclear program. The Kim regime’s refusal set off a crisis that almost ended in a military conflict between the United States and North Korea. The crisis was resolved when the Clinton administration negotiated the ill-fated Agreed Framework. Tehran has learned from the North Korean experience to insist that military facilities are off-limits and hope the issue fades away. Before the 2015 nuclear deal was completed, Iran’s supreme leader declared “inspection of our military sites is out of the question and is one of our red lines.” Iran’s foreign minister boasted that he had maintained the red line in negotiations. Tehran has allowed only a cursory inspection of the Parchin military site where undeclared uranium particles were discovered, and the regime continues to deny more intrusive inspections.


While Iran has learned many lessons from North Korea, Washington should have learned a few, too. The most significant is that flawed, limited nuclear deals do not solve the strategic issues. The Trump administration must internalize this lesson if it is to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, which could in turn set off an arms race in the Middle East. Similarly, with North Korea, the president should insist on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The “echo chamber” supporting the 2015 Iran nuclear deal wants President Trump to believe that North Korea’s aggressive nuclear weapons and missile programs somehow demonstrate the need for Washington to remain committed to the agreement. They have it exactly wrong. Pyongyang’s path highlights how a limited nuclear deal can lead to a nuclear threat to the U.S. homeland. Another such threat, this time from Iran, could be only a matter of time.




WHAT IF THERE’S NO GOOD SOLUTION FOR NORTH KOREA’S NUKES?                                                         

Jonah Goldberg                     

New York Post, Sept. 1, 2017


The first step in thinking through a problem is to ask whether it’s a problem at all. Problems without solutions, the saying goes, aren’t problems. They’re facts. Some people argue that a nuclear-armed North Korea is less of a problem and more of a fact. Murderous doughboy Kim Jong Un will never give up his nuclear toys. And let’s face it: He would be stupid to. Perhaps the one true lesson of the last half-century of geopolitics is that the only way ambitious criminal regimes can protect themselves from outside threats is to have a nuclear deterrent. That was probably one of the last thoughts to go through Muammar Gadhafi’s mind before the Libyan dictator was killed by a U.N.-backed mob.


Advocates of more “strategic patience” argue that we should just accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and rely on the time-tested policy of nuclear deterrence. It’s not a bad argument, but it has problems. Nuclear weapons have uses other than simply laying waste to cities. The chief one, as I already mentioned, is they take regime change off the table forever. Hence North Korea’s primary demand: permanent recognition of the illegitimate regime’s legitimacy.


Nukes also provide all manner of maneuvering room. For instance, Iran, another country with a horrible government, wants a nuclear arsenal very badly. While the Israelis are worried — for understandable reasons — that the Iranians might one day use it against Israel, that’s not the only reason it would be bad for Iran to have the bomb. Iran wants to be a regional hegemon able to meddle far beyond its own borders. Having nukes makes that much easier because it raises the stakes of any military confrontation.


North Korea, the so-called Hermit Kingdom, does not have any territorial ambitions, nor is it much interested in interacting with the rest of the world. The regime’s existence depends on keeping the population ignorant of just how terrible they have it compared with nearly every other country in the world. But the North Korean regime is best understood as a monarchy that operates a criminal enterprise. It makes much of its money through counterfeiting, sex and drug trafficking, and numerous other schemes. Among its biggest profit centers is extortion from the “international community.” For 25 years it has been taking bribes to delay its nuclear program, as President Trump rightly noted on Twitter recently. And, obviously, the regime lied every time.


North Korea has also exported nuclear and missile technology to rogue nations such as Iran and Syria. Who really thinks that Kim will give up his business model? If it were easy, the wisest course of policy would be to decapitate the North Korean regime. But that wouldn’t be easy at all. A conventional war would be over relatively quickly — so long as China stayed out of it — but not quickly enough to prevent the destruction of South Korea’s capital and the deaths of millions of people, including thousands of Americans.


Another widely discussed solution would be to induce China to overthrow the regime and install a puppet government. China could probably do it relatively easily. It surely has lots of North Korean generals on the payroll already. But there are problems with this, too. China would demand a high price: total removal of American forces in South Korea and a tacit acknowledgement that China is the uncontested hegemon of the region. Such a “grand bargain would effectively transfer America’s dominance to China,” Hoover Institution scholar Michael Auslin writes in the Los Angeles Times. “No matter how the White House spun such a deal, world leaders would infer that the U.S. had gone hat in hand to China.” The impact on South Korean politics, never mind Japan’s, would be tumultuous at best.


So what to do? Well, the first thing is to recognize that there are no good solutions. But perhaps the least bad option would be to openly declare that America already considers the North Korean regime to be China’s puppet, and that North Korean misdeeds are really Chinese misdeeds. That would come at a price, too. But it would incentivize China either to rein in the North Korean regime or, eventually, get rid of it.





NAVIGATING UNPREDICTABLE ESCALATIONS                                                           

Louis René Beres

           Israel Defense, Aug. 28, 2017


In preparing for nuclear crisis bargaining with North Korea, Donald Trump will have little meaningful precedent upon which to rely. When examined together with this president's plainly limited capacity to succeed in any such complex negotiations, the United States has much to consider. In essence, as Mr. Trump is apt to hand over any moment-by-moment crisis deliberations to his most senior military deputies, it could quickly fall upon "the generals" for rescue.


They too, however, would be guided by largely visceral or "seat-of-the-pants" bargaining calculations. This is not a per se criticism of the generals by any means, but merely an acknowledgment (1) that scientific probabilities must always be based upon the determinable frequency of pertinent past events; and (2) that there have been no pertinent past events. Whatever ultimately unravels between Washington and Pyongyang, therefore, these unique ventures in competitive risk-taking will be navigated in uncharted waters. Here, too, the experiential uniqueness would be mutual. But such mutuality would not necessarily prove in the best interests of the United States. This is because an overly confident Kim Jung-un and/or Donald Trump could quickly generate a more-or-less uncontrollable cycle of move and counter-move, one leading inexorably toward mutual catastrophe.


Mr. Trump and his counselors ought never forget that this sort of rapid cycle deterioration could be rendered even more precarious as a result of still unforeseen interactions between one side's fully executed moves, and the other's. In technical terms, such perilous interactions would be known formally as "synergies." Significantly, as there are no extant experts on nuclear war – not in the United States, not in North Korea, not in Israel, not anywhere on this beleaguered earth – there could even emerge a hideously complex "synergy of synergies." This conspicuously indecipherable sort of multilayered and overlapping intersections is what the computer scientists are apt to call "cascades."


All things considered, Mr. Trump should proceed in any impending North Korean crisis with exquisite prudence and abundant caution, recalling at absolutely every point the inherently limited body of available strategic thought. At the same time, he will need to bear in mind that while nuclear war avoidance is obviously most important, maintaining "escalation dominance" could also be thoroughly central to American national security. Success will require an almost unimaginably meticulous "balance," a delicate level of analytic equilibrium that has rarely been witnessed or perhaps even expected.


President Trump's strategic plan for North Korea ought never to be constructed ex nihilo – out of nothing. Yet it must, by definition, still be the result of assorted deductions or extrapolations from various pre-nuclear forms of conflict management. For these deductions and extrapolations to be up to the utterly herculean intellectual task at hand, they must accurately represent the determined outcome of expressly dialectical modes of military reasoning. Plato, in the middle dialogues, describes the dialectician as the one who knows best how to ask and then answer sequential questions. Going forward, US strategists and negotiators must use far more than "common sense." They must learn to become capable dialecticians.


In brief, this certifiably ancient method of seeking answers by correct reasoning remains best suited for the North Korean crisis now lying ahead. There is no elaborate computer program or algorithm that can possibly substitute for such indispensable reasoning. Still sorely needed to rescue the United States from certain corollary nuclear hazards are exceptionally imaginative human beings, most notably those thinkers who have been nurtured by impressively broad sectors of knowledge and learning, and not just by the latest in vogue statistical techniques or technologies.


In all expectedly nuanced deliberations with the North Koreans, America might do far better to rely, at least in part, on talented diplomats, poets, philosophers and mathematicians than exclusively career soldiers. To be sure, in the grievously measureless history of warfare, the military professional has occasionally made a few consequential mistakes. Looking ahead, we would be demanding that these trained strategists avoid major future errors in planning an altogether unique form of warfare, one for which their training has been largely extraneous, and with which they could literally have had no tangible acquaintance.


For the United States, the North Korea crisis, whether protracted or episodic, will immediately be one of "mind over mind," and not just "fire and fury." During this daunting intellectual struggle, each side, as long as it remains recognizably rational, will be seeking "escalation dominance" without simultaneously endangering its own national survival. Significantly, if the American side should sometime calculate that its North Korean counterpart is not fully rational, the apparent incentives to undertake far-reaching military preemptions could then become overwhelming…

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




On Topic Links


The United States’ North Korea Strategy Needs a Reality Check: Derek Burney & Fen Osler Hampson, Globe and Mail, Aug. 29, 2017—Kim Jong-un has once again called U.S. President Donald Trump's bluff, launching a ballistic missile across northern Japan on a flight exceeding 2,700 kilometres and reaching an altitude of 550 km.

The Moral Answer to North Korea Threats: Take Them Out!: Ralph Peters, New York Post, Sept. 4, 2017—Better a million dead North Koreans than a thousand dead Americans. The fundamental reason our government exists is to protect our people and our territory. Everything else is a grace note. And the words we never should hear in regard to North Korea’s nuclear threats are “We should’ve done something.”

Iran’s New Defense Minister Is Committed to Iran’s Missile Program and the Export of the Revolution: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, BESA, Aug. 30, 2017—The new Iranian defense minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, reemphasized immediately upon taking office on August 20, 2017 – and in honor of National Defense Industry Day – the Defense Ministry’s commitment to strongly support the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), its commander Qasem Soleimani, and the “resistance front.”

How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal: John R. Bolton, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 28, 2017—Although candidate Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Barack Obama's Iran nuclear agreement, his administration has twice decided to remain in the deal. It so certified to Congress, most recently in July, as required by law. Before the second certification, Trump asked repeatedly for alternatives to acquiescing yet again in a policy he clearly abhorred.






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





                             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.]                      





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.]                                                                            




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.        





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.]



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.














What Happens in Iran After the ISIS Attacks?: Reza Shafiee, American Thinker, June 14, 2017 — In many ways, the Iranian regime is different from other classic dictatorships.

Rouhani’s Second Term: On a Collision Course with the Revolutionary Guards: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, June 7, 2017— Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected to a second term, winning 57 percent of the votes in the May 19, 2017, election.

Is Trump All Talk on Iran?: Jonathan S. Tobin, National Review, May 31, 2017 — During his trip to the Middle East last week, President Donald Trump had one consistent theme and he never wavered from it: The region needs to unite to stop Iran.

The Tehran Two-Step: Jenna Lifhits, Weekly Standard, May 8, 2017— Details of the United States' 2016 prisoner swap with Iran continue to surface more than a year later, forming a picture much different from the one the Obama administration presented at the time.


On Topic Links


Terrorism in Tehran: ISIS Intensifies Its Subversive Activity in the Middle East: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, June 15, 2017

What the Islamic State Wants in Attacking Iran: Will McCants, Foreign Policy, June 7, 2017

Drawing a “Broader Conclusion” on Iran’s Nuclear Program: Olli Heinonen, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, June 14, 2017 

The Ethnic Instability of Iran: Mike Konrad, American Thinker, June 11, 2017





Reza Shafiee

American Thinker, June 14, 2017


In many ways, the Iranian regime is different from other classic dictatorships.  But who would have thought that in mourning Tehran's terrorist attacks last week, a first for ISIS in Iran, which left 13 dead and some forty others injured, the mullahs' supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, would set a new high in absurdity?


It is obvious that any leader's first priority in any civilized country in the world would be to mourn with his people.  It is even customary for leaders and elected officials to show at the scene as soon as possible and pay respects to those who lost their lives and comfort the families of the victims.  But not Khamenei.  He did nothing.  Instead, on June 7, he callously minimized the ISIS twin attacks by shrugging them off, saying: "These firecrackers that happened today will not have the slightest effect on the will of the people."


Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, claimed that "the incident was not unexpected," and the regime's Parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, referred to the bloody attack as a "gem" and a "valuable jewel." Such comments, although painful and shocking for many Iranians, had a hidden and dreadful truth.  Khamenei and Rouhani alike were trying to capitalize on the ISIS attack in their political favor. Iran's police chief and later minister of intelligence and security (MOIS) gave, in some cases, conflicting reports and different accounts of the events.  One thing was certain: neither was being transparent.  In comparison to how, for example, British police were clearly and consistently releasing information to the public in recent terrorist attacks in London, the regime authorities were trying to cover them up.


The MOIS chief was vague and refused to give bombers' last names and their prior activities.  Case in point was one of the bombers, Serias Sadeghi, an Iranian Kurd from Paveh, a city in western Iran, who has been cited as a prominent recruiter for ISIS in Iranian Kurdistan. It has been reported that Sadeghi, over a year ago, was arrested by MOIS and then recruited by ISIS.  He underwent training for three months.  Then he was released.   


Iranian Kurdistan since the 1979 revolution has always been a hotspot for the regime.  People in that region are twice as much under pressure by the IRGC and MOIS as the rest of the country.  How is it possible that an ISIS recruiter has such a free hand in Kurdistan?  It just does not add up. It has been a pattern throughout the mullahs' regime to use a diversion when it is struggling to stay afloat in the face of problems at home.  The Iranian regime's founding father, Khomeini, set an example when, for the first time, he shocked Iranians by calling the devastating eight-year-old Iran-Iraq war a "blessing."  Khomeini's fatwa for British writer Salman Rushdie's head is another famous example of how this regime operates and dodges problems.  The fatwa was used as an excuse to cover the heavy losses in the war with neighboring Iraq in 1988. Then again, there were the planned terrorist attacks designed by MOIS to blow up Imam Reza's holy shrine in the northern eastern city of Mashhad in 1994 and blame it on the regime's opposition.


Why would Khamenei and his regime welcome such a heinous attack in Tehran by ISIS? The short answer is that a new excuse was needed to prevent the powder keg – the Iranian society – from explosion. Despite arguments that elections were a show of unity and force for the mullahs' regime, they were not.  The election opened old wounds and intensified factional infighting and an unprecedented power struggle.  Since a year before the presidential election of May 29, Iran's supreme leader had been planning for – engineering – it.  He openly banned his previous favorite former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from running in hope of a quiet and clean "section" for the post.  He failed, and Ahmadinejad defiantly threw his hat in but was blocked from entering the race by the powerful Guardian Council.


The next step was to prop up Ebrahim Raisi, an infamous hanging judge with a track record of at least 30,000 political executions in 1988.  All factions within the mullahs' regime tried hard to brush off the massacre.  Raisi and Rouhani struggled to distance themselves from killing of those prisoners who were serving their sentences.  The main Iranian opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (POMI/MEK) shone the light on the regime's black history last year with a major campaign.  Among those executed were teenage girls as young as 13, according to Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Khomeini's handpicked successor, who was later sacked for protesting the summary executions…

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







COURSE WITH THE REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS                                  

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall                                                                                        

JCPA, June 7, 2017


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected to a second term, winning 57 percent of the votes in the May 19, 2017, election. During the campaign, Rouhani ended up going head-to-head with the conservative candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, who was supported by the spiritual Leader of Iran, Khamenei, and is on the list of candidates to succeed him.


The fact that Rouhani was elected despite Iranians’ growing disappointment with him may reflect, when all is said and done, the choice of the lesser evil. The other option, Raisi, was responsible for mass executions of political prisoners in the late 1980s. Rouhani’s first four years in office – which most notably will be remembered for the nuclear deal with the West – did not bring about the hoped-for economic transformation. The election campaign also put Rouhani on a direct collision course with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). That pertains particularly to sensitive issues such as Iran’s missile program, its nuclear program (Rouhani’s concessions during the negotiations have not been forgiven), and Iran’s regional policy. It pertains to economic issues as well, including the need to subject the IRGC’s shadow economy to transparency and taxation. Most of all, however, the collision course has to do with the issues on which Iranians most fervently long for a change – human rights, women’s rights, individual freedom, and freedom of expression. On all these, Rouhani has no good tidings to offer.


In the foreign sphere, it is indeed symbolic that on the very day Rouhani’s election victory was announced, U.S. President Donald Trump opened a new chapter in U.S. regional policy with his visit to Iran’s bitter political-religious adversary, Saudi Arabia. From there, Trump went on to Israel, a country Iran does not recognize and whose destruction it calls for. Perhaps as a sign of what is to come, a short time before Trump landed in Saudi Arabia, the Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a 675-km-range Burkan-2 (Volcano-2) ballistic missile at the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Although not the first of its kind, such a launch at such a sensitive time was carried out with Iran’s approval. It conveyed the message – both to the United States and to the reelected Iranian president – that the IRGC, which has the Leader’s support, has no intention of forgoing its ambitious goals either at home or abroad.


The West, of course, lauded the victory of the so-called “moderate,” pragmatic, reformist leader over his conservative, hardline opponent. The desire to return to “business as usual” with Iran is very strong. The galloping of Western companies, accompanied by delegations of politicians, is heard in the streets of Tehran. To the ordinary Iranians’ deep disappointment, human rights and civil society issues go almost unmentioned. As in the past, the West prefers to hide behind the fig leaf of a “reformist” president who – “helped by the will of the Iranian people” – defeated his ultra-conservative rival and proved that Iran is looking westward, wishing only to return to the international community’s good graces.


At the start of his second term, Rouhani faces a huge challenge both in the domestic and foreign spheres. At home, despite a change for the better in the macro- economic sense, he has not succeeded to bring about a tangible desired micro-economic improvement in Iranians’ lives. The distress of young Iranians, who constitute many of those who elected him, remains unchanged. The promises of the first term have not been borne out. Unemployment rates are still high, particularly among the educated young. Rouhani is again promising jobs, social justice, reforms, as well as personal and political freedom. Yet, he has not been able to secure the release from house arrest the leaders of the reformist camp, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and former Majlis (parliament) Chairman Mehdi Karroubi, to reopen reformist newspapers and websites, or to improve the human rights situation.


That failure continues to be felt, and Rouhani could not cite even a symbolic achievement to his supporters who cried, during the campaign rallies, “Ya Hossein, Ya Hossein.” On the other hand, the ongoing, now eight-year house arrest of the reformist “Green” leaders – whom young Iranians continue to regard as representing the hope for a change – reflects the regime’s fear of a resurgence of the protest movement that was violently suppressed in 2009. Hence, there may still be hope for a change in Iran under the right domestic and international circumstances…

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






Jonathan S. Tobin

National Review, May 31, 2017


During his trip to the Middle East last week, President Donald Trump had one consistent theme and he never wavered from it: The region needs to unite to stop Iran. Mutual antipathy for Tehran has driven Arab regimes such as Saudi Arabia to make common cause with Israel. It was also the motivation for the massive $110 billion arms deal Trump struck with the Saudis, who believe that President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran has endangered their security.


But while Trump talks tough about the Iranians, the normally bellicose Islamist regime has been restrained, at least by its standards, in response. Why? The Iranians may be unhappy with Trump’s effort to orchestrate the creation of a Middle East NATO that would oppose their dream of regional hegemony, but they are actually quite pleased with other elements of his administration’s Iran policy. For all of Trump’s bluster, his decision not only to leave the nuclear agreement in place but to erect no obstacles to a major U.S. commercial deal with Iran may have convinced the ayatollahs that the president isn’t quite as hostile as he wants to seem.


One of the least noticed aspects of the nuclear deal was a provision that granted Tehran an exception to U.S. sanctions that remained in place after it was signed. That provision allowed U.S. companies to sell “commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services” to Iran, and Boeing took advantage of it, joining European businesses in a race to secure Iranian business. It was a clever strategy that enabled Obama to undermine the remaining resistance to the deal. If, as Obama hoped, a major U.S. firm such as Boeing were to conclude a massive deal of its own with Iran, the jobs created by the sale would build a strong new constituency opposed to retightening the screws on Tehran no matter the regime’s subsequent actions.


Boeing’s deal with Iran was concluded in June 2016, and the Obama administration subsequently issued the requisite licenses for it to move forward. But the Trump administration still has a chance to raise objections and to block the delivery of the planes to Tehran. The grounds for objection were already clear last year, when Boeing was celebrating the deal: Many of the companies with which it would be doing business have strong connections to or are owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which coordinates Iran’s international terrorist network. Yet so far, the Trump administration has remained suspiciously silent about the deal, leading Iran to the not unreasonable conclusion that while the president may be willing to talk about its role as the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, he is as reluctant to do something about it as his predecessor was.


Trump has no good options when it comes to tearing up the nuclear deal that he spent so much of the 2016 campaign denouncing as a betrayal of U.S. interests. Walking away from the pact at a moment when neither America’s European allies nor Russia and China are willing to re-impose sanctions would simply give the Iranians permission to move quickly toward a bomb without providing a means short of war to stop them. But Trump does have options that can start the process of rebuilding an international quarantine against Iranian terror and punishing the regime for its illegal missile tests.


Earlier this month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a sweeping set of measures designed to impose new restrictions on trade with Iran because of its human-rights violations and support for terror. The point of such efforts is to expand the list of Iranian individuals and companies affected by the sanctions that still remain in place, so as to hamper the ability of the IRGC and other agents of the regime to profit from foreign trade. Moreover, even if other nations won’t re-impose their own sanctions on Iran, U.S. measures that bar foreign banks from the American financial system if they do business with terror-connected Iranian entities can still have a devastating impact on the regime.


President Trump mocked John Kerry as the worst negotiator in history for his disastrous role in making the nuclear pact possible. But if he doesn’t move to support the Senate bill and to do something about the Boeing deal, then he will effectively be throwing in his lot with Obama’s secretary of state, who remains a public opponent of increased sanctions on Iran. The reason for Trump’s reluctance to move against Boeing is obvious: Promises to create American jobs were as important to the success of his campaign as were his criticisms of Obama. Putting any further obstacles in the way of the transaction would have a devastating impact on the company and the thousands of workers it employs. Moreover, Boeing is looking to expand its ties with Iran and has applied for another license to sell 30 more planes to entities within the country. But Iran uses commercial planes such as the ones Boeing sells to ferry supplies, munitions, and “volunteers” to Syria, where they have helped preserve the rule of the barbarous Assad regime. No one in the White House can pretend that Boeing’s budding business relationship with the Islamic Republic is unrelated to the security concerns that Trump discussed with the Saudis and Israelis last week.


All of which is to say that there’s a glaring contradiction between Trump’s indulgence of Boeing’s desire to profit from its dealings with Iran and his efforts to rein in a dangerous foe of U.S. interests. If he stays silent and/or allows the planes to be delivered, it may preserve jobs for some of the working-class voters who backed him. But it will also validate Tehran’s belief that he is as much a paper tiger as Obama was. And an Iran unfettered by fear of U.S. power, hard and soft, would be an even bigger threat to global security.  




                                       THE TEHRAN TWO-STEP

Jenna Lifhits

Weekly Standard, May 8, 2017


Details of the United States' 2016 prisoner swap with Iran continue to surface more than a year later, forming a picture much different from the one the Obama administration presented at the time. The latest revelations are the most shocking yet. Under the deal, the United States granted clemency to 7 Iranians and dismissed charges against another 14 in exchange for the release of 4 Americans held in Iran. President Barack Obama called it "a reciprocal humanitarian gesture"—but it turns out the Justice Department had labeled many of those Iranians "a clear threat to U.S. national security."


Obama made the announcement on January 17, one day after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Iran took effect, along with the news that Tehran and Washington had settled a decades-old claim over an arms deal gone awry. Obama administration officials claimed the settlement—$400 million plus $1.3 billion in interest—saved American taxpayers a significant sum by avoiding a Hague Tribunal proceeding.


The string of briefings left dozens of questions unanswered, but most of Washington focused on the timing of the agreements. Officials repeatedly stressed that the money and the prisoners were separate from one another, and from the nuclear deal that had been a top priority for the administration. Skeptical lawmakers and members of the media swamped the administration with requests for information about the mechanics of the $1.7 billion outlay amid allegations that it was a ransom payment for the jailed Americans. Those questions were slowly answered over months—though not by the White House.


The Wall Street Journal ignited the firestorm in August 2016 with its report that the Obama administration had delivered to Iran $400 million in cash, the first installment of the settlement, via an unmarked cargo plane. Members of Congress toughened their demands for information and raised concerns that Tehran would use the hard currency to boost the Lebanese militia Hezbollah or Bashar al-Assad's murderous Syrian regime. "For the administration to continue to refuse to answer simple questions regarding its suspicious delivery of $400 million in pallets of cash to Iran only raises more questions," then-congressman Mike Pompeo told The Weekly Standard in August. Iran ended up authorizing the money for transfer to its military, according to a September policy brief by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Administration officials claimed they used cash because the United States did not have a banking relationship with Iran. "What we have is the manufacturing of outrage in a story that we disclosed in January," Obama said. "The only bit of news that is relevant on this is the fact that we paid cash. .  .  . We couldn't send them a check and we could not wire the money." But as TWS reported in September, the administration made such wire payments to Iran before and after the president's claim, in July 2015 and April 2016. As controversy over the cash payment raged, administration officials maintained that the financial settlement and prisoner swap were not coordinated; it was a "coincidence" that the money arrived in Iran at almost the same time the regime freed the American prisoners. But in fact, as another Journal report revealed a few weeks later, the cash payment was part of a "tightly scripted exchange" tied to the release of the Americans. Iran could take possession of the cash only once the Americans were in the air (three left that day). Another two cash shipments totaling $1.3 billion were delivered in the weeks that followed.


Following the Journal's disclosure, Obama officials said that the administration had used the cash as "leverage." "We took advantage of leverage that we felt we could have to make sure that they got out safely and efficiently," then-State Department spokesman John Kirby said. "I don't think anybody in the administration is going to make any apology for having taken advantage of those opportunities to get these Americans home." He admitted, "I certainly would agree that this particular fact is not something that we've talked about in the past."


Then, in late September, the Journal shed light on another deal: The United States had agreed to support lifting United Nations sanctions on two Iranian banks critical to financing Tehran's missile program. Senior State Department official Brett McGurk signed three documents the morning of January 17, 2016, the report revealed: one for the prisoner swap, one for the $1.7 billion payment, and one committing to support lifting the U.N. sanctions. The decision received minimal press coverage at the time, and Obama did not mention it that day. "We still have sanctions on Iran for its violations of human rights, for its support of terrorism, and for its ballistic missile program," Obama said in announcing the swap and settlement. "And we will continue to enforce these sanctions, vigorously."


The three agreements were certainly linked, said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, all rooted in the Obama administration's desire to secure the JCPOA. "The nuclear deal was, for the Iranian regime, not the end of negotiations. It was nearly the beginning," Dubowitz told TWS. "They saw an opportunity in the waning year of the Obama administration to try and extract as many concessions as they could from an administration that was clearly .  .  . desperate for a deal." He added, "The notion that somehow the $1.7 billion was about an outstanding military account, and that had nothing to do with the hostages, which had nothing to do with Bank Sepah is completely absurd."…

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



On Topic Links


Terrorism in Tehran: ISIS Intensifies Its Subversive Activity in the Middle East: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, June 15, 2017—The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated simultaneous terror attacks on Iran’s parliament (Majlis) building and on the tomb of Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. The group issued a statement in its media arm, as well as a short video from a camera carried by one of the assailants at the parliament.

What the Islamic State Wants in Attacking Iran: Will McCants, Foreign Policy, June 7, 2017 —After years of waiting and wanting to strike Iran, the Islamic State claims to have finally done so. According to recent news reports, four militants went on a shooting spree in Iran’s parliament, while other operatives detonated a bomb inside the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, killing 12 people.

Drawing a “Broader Conclusion” on Iran’s Nuclear Program: Olli Heinonen, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, June 14, 2017 —Under the terms of the nuclear deal with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), key restrictions would expire if  the IAEA formally reaches a “broader conclusion” that Tehran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

The Ethnic Instability of Iran: Mike Konrad, American Thinker, June 11, 2017—Avoiding all political correctness, there are some ancestral reasons that Iran should have been easy to deal with.  However, the last administration coddled the mullahs in Iran and let opportunity fly away.  It may be too late to do anything about it right now; however, later on, after Iran is in pieces, there could be a basis for change.















What North Korea Should Teach Us About Iran: Alan Dershowitz, Washington Examiner, Apr. 19, 2017 — We failed to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.

Iran Is a Bigger Threat Than Syria and North Korea Combined: Michael Oren, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 14, 2017 — The U.S. has signed agreements with three rogue regimes strictly limiting their unconventional military capacities.

It’s Time to Ramp Up the Pressure on Iran — It’s More Fragile Than We Think: Reuel Gerecht & Ray Takeyh, National Post, Apr. 11, 2017 — A consensus has developed in Washington for some “push back” against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Next Stop for Iran: Bahrain: Eric R. Mandel, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 19, 2017 — Ever since the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka “the Iran Deal”) was agreed to in the summer of 2015, Iran has become empowered both militarily and economically.


On Topic Links


Tillerson: An 'Unchecked Iran' Could Follow Same Path as North Korea: Jerusalem Post, Apr. 20, 2017

Is Iran Pushing the Envelope on Its Nuclear Deal?: Jenna Lifhits, Weekly Standard, Apr. 18, 2017

It’s Time to Name and Sanction Iran’s Terrorists: John Bolton, New York Post, Apr. 16, 2017

Trump Turns the Screws on Iran's Mullahs: Reza Shafiee, American Thinker, Apr. 18, 2017


WHAT NORTH KOREA SHOULD TEACH US ABOUT IRAN                                                

Alan Dershowitz                                                  

Washington Examiner, Apr. 19, 2017


We failed to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. As a result, our options to stop them from developing a delivery system capable of reaching our shores are severely limited. The hard lesson from our failure to stop North Korea before they became a nuclear power is that we must stop Iran from ever developing or acquiring a nuclear arsenal. A nuclear Iran would be far more dangerous to American interests than a nuclear North Korea. Iran already has missiles capable of reaching numerous American allies. They are in the process of upgrading them and making them capable of delivering a nuclear payload to our shores. Its fundamentalist religious leaders would be willing to sacrifice millions of Iranians to destroy the "Big Satan" (United States) or the "Little Satan" (Israel).


The late "moderate" leader Hashemi Rafsanjani once told an American journalist that if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, they "would kill as many as five million Jews," and that if Israel retaliated, they would kill fifteen million Iranians, which would be "a small sacrifice from among the billion Muslims in the world." He concluded that "it is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." Recall that the Iranian mullahs were willing to sacrifice thousands of "child soldiers" in their futile war with Iraq. There is nothing more dangerous than a "suicide regime" armed with nuclear weapons.


The deal signed by Iran in 2015 postpones Iran's quest for a nuclear arsenal, but it doesn't prevent it, despite Iran's unequivocal statement in the preamble to the agreement that "Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons." Recall that North Korea provided similar assurances to the Clinton administration back in 1994, only to break them several years later — with no real consequences. The Iranian mullahs apparently regard their reaffirmation as merely hortatory and not legally binding. The body of the agreement itself — the portion Iran believes is legally binding — does not preclude Iran from developing nuclear weapons after a certain time, variously estimated as between 10 to 15 years from the signing of the agreement. Nor does it prevent Iran from perfecting its delivery systems, including nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.


If we are not to make the same mistake with Iran that we made with North Korea, we must do something now, before Iran secures a weapon, to deter the mullahs from becoming a nuclear power, over which we would have little or no leverage. Congress should now enact legislation declaring that Iran's reaffirmation that it will never "develop or acquire nuclear weapons" is an integral part of the agreement and represents the policy of the United States. It is too late to change the words of the deal, but it is not too late for Congress to insist that Iran comply fully with all of its provisions, even those in the preamble.


In order to ensure that the entirety of the agreement is carried out, including that reaffirmation, Congress should adopt the proposal made by Thomas L. Friedman on July 22, 2015 and by myself on Sept. 5, 2013. To quote Friedman: "Congress should pass a resolution authorizing this and future presidents to use force to prevent Iran from ever becoming a nuclear weapons state … Iran must know now that the U.S. president is authorized to destroy – without warning or negotiation – any attempt by Tehran to build a bomb."


I put it similarly: Congress should authorize the president "to take military action against Iran's nuclear weapon's program if it were to cross the red lines …" The benefits of enacting such legislation are clear: The law would underline the centrality to the deal of Iran's reaffirmation never to acquire nuclear weapons, and would provide both a deterrent against Iran violating its reaffirmation and an enforcement authorization in the event it does.


A law based on these two elements — adopting Iran's reaffirmation as the official American policy and authorizing a preventive military strike if Iran tried to obtain nuclear weapons — may be an alternative we can live with. But without such an alternative, the deal as currently interpreted by Iran will not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In all probability, it would merely postpone that catastrophe for about a decade while legitimating its occurrence. This is not an outcome we can live with, as evidenced by the crisis we are now confronting with North Korea. So let us learn from our mistake and not repeat it with Iran






Michael Oren                                                                

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 14, 2017


The U.S. has signed agreements with three rogue regimes strictly limiting their unconventional military capacities. Two of those regimes—Syria and North Korea—brazenly violated the agreements, provoking game-changing responses from President Trump. But the third agreement—with Iran—is so inherently flawed that Tehran doesn’t even have to break it. Honoring it will be enough to endanger millions of lives.


The framework agreements with North Korea and Syria, concluded respectively in 1994 and 2013, were similar in many ways. Both recognized that the regimes already possessed weapons of mass destruction or at least the means to produce them. Both assumed that the regimes would surrender their arsenals under an international treaty and open their facilities to inspectors. And both believed that these repressive states, if properly engaged, could be brought into the community of nations.


All those assumptions were wrong. After withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Pyongyang tested five atomic weapons and developed intercontinental missiles capable of carrying them. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, less than a year after signing the framework, reverted to gassing his own people. Bolstered by the inaction of the U.S. and backed by other powers, North Korea and Syria broke their commitments with impunity.


Or so it seemed. By ordering a Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian air base, and a U.S. Navy strike force to patrol near North Korea’s coast, the Trump administration has upheld the frameworks and placed their violators on notice. This reassertion of power is welcomed by all of America’s allies, Israel among them. But for us, the most dangerous agreement of all is the one that may never need military enforcement. For us, the existential threat looms in a decade, when the agreement with Iran expires.


Like the frameworks with North Korea and Syria, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of 2015 assumed that Iran would fulfill its obligations and open its facilities to inspectors. The JCPOA assumed that Iran would moderate its behavior and join the international community. Yet unlike its North Korean and Syrian allies, Iran was the largest state sponsor of terror and openly vowed to destroy another state—Israel. Unlike them, Iran systematically lied about its unconventional weapons program for 30 years. And unlike Damascus and Pyongyang, which are permanently barred from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Tehran can look forward to building them swiftly and legitimately in the late 2020s, once the JCPOA expires.


This, for Israel and our neighboring Sunni states, is the appalling flaw of the JCPOA. The regime most committed to our destruction has been granted a free pass to develop military nuclear capabilities. Iran could follow the Syrian and North Korean examples and cheat. Or, while enjoying hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it can adhere to the agreement and deactivate parts of its nuclear facilities rather than dismantle them. It can develop new technologies for producing atomic bombs while testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. It can continue massacring Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis, and bankrolling Hamas and Hezbollah. The JCPOA enables Iran to do all that merely by complying.


A nuclear-armed Iran would be as dangerous as “50 North Koreas,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.N. in 2013, and Iran is certainly many times more dangerous than Syria. Yet Iran alone has been granted immunity for butchering civilians and threatening genocide. Iran alone has been guaranteed a future nuclear capability. And the Iranian regime—which brutally crushed a popular uprising in 2009—has amassed a million-man force to suppress any future opposition. Rather than moderating, the current regime promises to be more radical yet in another 10 years.


How can the U.S. and its allies pre-empt catastrophe? Many steps are possible, but they begin with penalizing Iran for the conventions it already violates, such as U.N. restrictions on missile development. The remaining American sanctions on Iran must stay staunchly in place and Congress must pass further punitive legislation. Above all, a strong link must be established between the JCPOA and Iran’s support for terror, its pledges to annihilate Israel and overthrow pro-American Arab governments, and its complicity in massacres. As long as the ayatollahs oppress their own population and export their tyranny abroad, no restrictions on their nuclear program can ever be allowed to expire. In responding forcibly to North Korean and Syrian outrages, President Trump has made a major step toward restoring America’s deterrence power. His determination to redress the flaws in the JCPOA and to stand up to Iran will greatly accelerate that process. The U.S., Israel and the world will all be safer.                                  




IT’S TIME TO RAMP UP THE PRESSURE ON IRAN —                                                          

IT’S MORE FRAGILE THAN WE THINK                                                                         

Reuel Gerecht & Ray Takeyh                                                                                         

National Post, Apr. 11, 2017


A consensus has developed in Washington for some “push back” against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Democrats and Republicans would be well-advised to learn from the Cold War: don’t compromise the battle on the ground for fear of compromising arms control. We should contain and roll back Iran and its growing army of proxy militias. We should target the clerical regime’s Achilles’ heel — popular disgust with theocracy. Human rights ought to be a priority for American Iran policy.


The Green Revolt, which erupted in Iran in 2009 after a disputed presidential election, may be a faded memory for many in Washington, but it continues to haunt Iran. Contrary to the accepted wisdom of the Obama administration, the disturbances of that summer posed a serious threat to the Islamist order. In a speech in 2013, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei admitted that the Green Movement brought the regime to the “edge of the cliff.” Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, has similarly described the post-election period as a “greater danger for the system and the Islamic revolution” than the Iran-Iraq War. “We went to the brink of overthrow in this sedition,” Jafari stated. The regime’s security services proved unreliable. Dissension spread even within the guards. Khamenei had to dismiss several commanders.

The ruling elite, which had perfected the strategy of staging large pro-regime demonstrations, dared not bring its supporters out for more than six months. Every commemoration day became an occasion for protest.


The Green Movement has altered the relationship between state and society. The Islamic Republic of Iran was never a routine authoritarian regime as it offered the people a voice through controlled elections. The possibility of reform through the ballot box offered a safety valve to the ruling elite. Enterprising intellectuals and activists clung to the hope for peaceful electoral change, even after the regime crushed the Second of Khordad Movement, imprisoning, torturing and exiling many of those who’d made a cheerful, mildly reformist cleric, Mohammad Khatami, president in 1997. But the repression that followed the 2009 election trashed the regime’s remaining legitimacy, brutalizing beyond repair the “loyal opposition” — the first- and second-generation revolutionaries who had cherished the promise of a less authoritarian Islamic state.


The regime’s survival is now dependent on unsteady security services and the power of patronage, which ebbs and flows with the price of oil. Iran’s continuing stage-managed elections and colourless apparatchiks, including President Hassan Rouhani, a founding father of the feared intelligence ministry who mimics reformist slogans, have failed to convince much less inspire. Today, the Islamist regime resembles the Soviet Union of the 1970s — an exhausted entity incapable of reforming itself while drowning in corruption and bent on costly imperialism.


If Washington were serious about doing to Iran what it helped to do to the U.S.S.R, it would seek to weaken the theocracy by pressing it on all fronts. A crippling sanctions regime that punishes the regime for its human-rights abuses is a necessity. Such a move would not just impose penalties on Tehran for violating international norms but send a signal to the Iranian people that the United States stands behind their aspirations. American officials should insist on the release of all those languishing in prison since the Green Revolt. This list must include the leaders of that movement, Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been confined to house arrest despite reports of poor health. Barack Obama never once spoke about these men. Donald Trump should not make the same mistake.


The Trump administration should also focus the bully pulpit on those who’ve fallen victim to the crackdown that occurred after the nuclear deal was signed. Obama completely ignored these people, too, who were imprisoned to demonstrate that the atomic accord wasn’t going to lead to greater openness and reform. Ever fearful of interfering in Muslim lands, seemingly ashamed of American support to the shah and exclusively focused on nuclear diplomacy, Obama refused to view Iranian dissidents with the same respect the United States once gave to those who’d opposed the Soviet Union.


The United States actually has the high ground against the mullahs. Our resources dwarf theirs. Our self-doubt is nothing compared with the insecurity that Khamenei has to suppress with the Revolutionary Guards. It is way past time for Washington to stoke the volcano under Tehran and to challenge the regime on the limes of its Shiite empire.


This will be costly and will entail the use of more American troops in both Syria and Iraq. But if we don’t do this, we will not see an end to the sectarian warfare that nurtures jihadists. We will be counting down the clock on the nuclear accord, waiting for advanced centrifuges to come on line. As with the Soviet Union vs. Ronald Reagan, to confront American resolution, the mullahs will have to pour money into their foreign ventures or suffer humiliating retreat. And they will have to keep their eye on the home front, anxiously awaiting another popular rebellion. Many in Washington in 1980 thought the Soviet Union was far from the dustbin. We would do well not to believe that the mullahs have a more secure dispensation.         




Eric R. Mandel                                                    

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 19, 2017


Ever since the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka “the Iran Deal”) was agreed to in the summer of 2015, Iran has become empowered both militarily and economically. Tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia, the Popular Mobilization Units, have been trained and are controlled by Iran and its proxy Hezbollah. They are the vanguard of a Shi’ite jihad stretching from Tehran to the shores of the Mediterranean, while simultaneously ethnically cleansing tens of thousands of Sunnis without a whimper from the United Nations.


Now that Iran and Hezbollah are well on their way to claiming Syria and Iraq as trophies, they may goose-step their way toward their next targets. Iranian support for the Houthis in Yemen’s civil war has tied up the Saudis while allowing Iran to focus on its next likely target, Bahrain. Bahrain may be the next epicenter in the war for Islamic supremacy, the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict. Iran has made no secret of the fact that it wants to overthrow the Sunni Al Khalifa Bahrainian dynasty, which rules a majority Shi’ite population in what Iran considers one of its provinces. Just two years after the Ayatollah Khomeini took power in 1979, he tried to foment a coup in Bahrain.


Here is a glimpse into some of Iran’s recent nefarious activity in Bahrain: As The Washington Post reported, “[The] U.S. increasingly sees Iran’s hand in the arming of Bahraini militants.” According to the Post, US and European officials said raids have revealed “game-changer” weapons, and “an elaborate training program, orchestrated by Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to school Bahraini militants in the techniques of advanced bomb making and guerrilla warfare.” In 2016 Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the overseas Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Quds Force), threatened Bahrain with a “bloody intifada.” According to the Washington Institute’s Matthew Levitt and Michael Knights, there is a “growing network of bomb making facilities and weapons stores,” part of a coordinated “destabilization campaign” by Iran in Bahrain.


Shi’ite militias and underground cells trained in Iran and Iraq are producing highly advanced weapons. Iran’s fingerprints are all over the imported weapons; the military explosive C-4 could only have come only from Iran. This month Bahrain arrested 14 people trained by Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who were allegedly planning assassinations.


Lets be clear: Bahrain is not an exemplar of human rights, and represses its majority Shi’ite populace. But in the name of shared interests, American administrations of both parties have relied on Bahrainian territory for American security interests. So why is Bahrain so vital to American national security interests? The answer is the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Bahrain is home to the Fifth Fleet, tasked with security of the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.


Up to 20% of the world’s fossil fuels transit these waters and only America’s Fifth Fleet is capable of the indispensible mission of protecting free passage for shipping. The Straits of Hormuz are just a few miles wide, connecting the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea. Every ship transiting the straits is in easy target range of Iranian missiles, endangering the worldwide economy.


If Iran takes over Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, a key American ally, will be exposed and vulnerable. It would destabilize the region and dramatically increase the risks for American forces. The King Fahd Causeway connects Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and was used by the Saudis to help quell the Bahrainian Shi’ite uprising during the Arab Winter. If Iran overtakes Bahrain, it could easily be used by Iran to threaten or overrun Sunni Arab oil fields and incite a Shi’ite uprising in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Shi’ites live near some of the most vital Saudi oil fields and could easily become a fifth column within the kingdom.


The presence of Iran casts an ominous shadow on the whole Gulf, where Oman has already acquiesced to Iranian extortion. Oman fears Iran, which lies just across the straits and for decades has been compelled for its survival to be Iran’s ally in the Gulf. Oman has allowed Iran to use its territory to threaten shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, and may build with Iran both a gas pipeline and a causeway to connect the nations.


According to the official Iranian Press TV in 2014, “the responsibility for seizing vessels trespassing on Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf has been officially given to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy, according to Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, the commander of the IRGC Navy.” Fadavi told the country’s quasi- official Fars news agency, “The Americans can sense by all means how their warships will be sunk…in combat against Iran.” For the past few years Iranian speedboats controlled by the IRGC have been harassing American naval vessels.


Now that US President Donald Trump has dipped his toe into the treacherous water of Iranian hegemony with his strike in Syria, will he also realize it is also the time to act decisively the next time the Iranian navy endangers American vessels in the international waters of the Persian Gulf?


The world is waiting to see whether his attack against the use of chemical weapons was a “one and done,” or is America beginning to reassert its authority for its national interest that was so carelessly abandoned by president Obama, Susan Rice and John Kerry.





On Topic Links


Tillerson: An 'Unchecked Iran' Could Follow Same Path as North Korea: Jerusalem Post, Apr. 20, 2017 —US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday accused Iran of "alarming ongoing provocations" to destabilize countries in the Middle East and of undermining US interests in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. "An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and to take the world along with it," Tillerson told reporters a day after announcing a review of US policy towards Iran, including sanctions against Tehran.

Is Iran Pushing the Envelope on Its Nuclear Deal?: Jenna Lifhits, Weekly Standard, Apr. 18, 2017 —Top Iranian officials are boasting that the nuclear deal enabled the country to make progress in developing advanced centrifuges, and broad production of some advanced models has already begun in the year since the deal was implemented, per Iranian media.

It’s Time to Name and Sanction Iran’s Terrorists: John Bolton, New York Post, Apr. 16, 2017—When US Tomahawk missiles struck Syria’s Shayrat air base in retaliation for the Assad regime’s barbaric chemical-weapons attack on rebel-held territory, Pentagon officials stressed their efforts to avoid hitting Russian military personnel located nearby. What the briefers didn’t say was that units from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were also present at Shayrat, having been buttressing Bashar al-Assad long before significant Russian involvement.

Trump Turns the Screws on Iran's Mullahs: Reza Shafiee, American Thinker, Apr. 18, 2017—The Trump administration sanctioned Iran’s prison system “for torturous interrogations, forced interrogations, and widespread mistreatment of inmates,” on April 15. It may seem a tiny step in the way of stopping Iranian regime’s human rights abuses against its own citizens but it certainly is significant as a change. It also deals a major blow to the perpetrators.



















Iranians at the Gate: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, Mar. 12, 2017— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Russia last week was dedicated to the Iranian issue, or, more precisely, to Israel's red lines on any Iranian presence in Syria if and when the six-year civil war there comes to an end.

Putting Iran on Notice Puts Tehran off Balance: Emily B. Landau, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 11, 2017— a. Purim’s historical background…

Iran in Crisis: Heshmat Alavi, American Thinker, Mar. 5, 2017— The recent dust storms that wreaked havoc in southwest Iran signaled only one of the many crises the mullahs are facing less than three months before critical elections.

Purim and the Challenge of the Holocaust: Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo, Jewish Press, Mar. 10, 2017— In a remarkable midrash on Mishlei, we read the following…


On Topic Links


Iran Is Progressing Towards Nuclear Weapons Via North Korea: Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek & Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Feb. 28, 2017

Impossible Dream: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Feb. 20, 2017

The Face-Off: Reuel Marc Gerecht, Weekly Standard, Feb. 27, 2017

Iran Setting up Shell Shipping Companies to Export Weapons and Illicit Goods: Investigation: Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, Mar. 7, 2017



                                      Prof. Eyal Zisser

       Israel Hayom, Mar. 12, 2017


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Russia last week was dedicated to the Iranian issue, or, more precisely, to Israel's red lines on any Iranian presence in Syria if and when the six-year civil war there comes to an end. The possibility that Russia may be able to do the seemingly impossible and strike a peace deal between the warring parties in Syria in the foreseeable future has Israel wary of the regional gains this may spell for Iran.


Iran could have significant influence in Syria and potentially even physical control of the country, thanks to tens of thousands of operatives on the ground in the form of Hezbollah members, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' soldiers, or Shiite militia fighters "imported" by Iran into Syria from across the Middle East.


What the world can expect from post-war Syria is reflected in recent reports of Iran's plans to build a naval base in Tartus, the second largest port city in Syria after Latakia, as well as in reports that Revolutionary Guard units and Hezbollah forces are planning to overrun the Syrian Golan Heights, to liberate it from the rebels and re-establish Syrian control over the area — a move that would effectively place Iranian forces on the Syria-Israel border.


Iran, most likely, has no interest in a direct conflict with Israel, but history has proved it will use its proxies in Syria — Hezbollah, Damascus-based Palestinian terrorist groups, and various Shiite militias — to do its bidding. This means the immediate issue Israel must deal with is the Iranian and Hezbollah presence in southern Syria, while the long-term issue is the question of Iran's status in Syria in any deal in which Syrian President Bashar Assad remains in power.


The campaign to liberate the northeastern Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, which is scheduled to begin in the next few days, stands to significantly impact the Iranian presence in the country as well: If the Turks and the Sunni Syrian rebels at their command take the city, or if the Kurds, who have American assistance, do so, that will lead to the creation of a buffer zone between Shiite Iraq and the rest of Assad-controlled Syria. But if Assad's forces, with the help of Iranian troops, are the ones to take Raqqa, Iran will be able to establish control over a land axis spanning from Tehran through Iraq and eastern Syria to Damascus and Beirut.


Russian President Vladimir Putin most likely listened carefully to Netanyahu's warnings. But for now, Russia is standing by its cynical alliance with Iran. Tehran and Moscow desire first and foremost to cement Assad's control in Syria, and the presence of Iranian and Shiite operatives in the country is imperative to that end. Netanyahu was wise to make it clear to Putin that Israel is determined to maintain its regional interests and will not allow anyone to cross its red lines, even if Russia sees things differently.


Incidentally, this dynamic was present in recent strikes against Syrian weapon shipments to Hezbollah, which foreign media attributed to Israel. The Russians did nothing to prevent these shipments, nor did they hide their disapproval of the alleged Israeli efforts to thwart them, but the dialogue between Jerusalem and Moscow over the past year resulted in Russia's acceptance of Israel's position on the matter. It is safe to assume that Netanyahu's meeting with Putin sought to reach similar understandings with regard to Israel's red lines over Iran and Hezbollah's presence in the Golan Heights, and perhaps in other areas in Syria as well.                                                                                   





         Emily B. Landau

                                                                Jerusalem Post, Mar. 11, 2017


In late January, just nine days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Iran tested a new medium-range ballistic missile – the Khorramshahr. The missile has a range of 3,000-4,000 km, which can reach all of Western Europe and can carry a nuclear payload. This test was the latest in a string of Iranian ballistic-missile tests that have been carried out since the nuclear deal (JCPOA) was announced in July 2015. And, it was their first test of the Trump administration, which has not yet clarified its Iran policy but has already projected that it is not happy either with the JCPOA or with Iran’s ongoing provocations since the deal was announced.


The immediate question that arises following the missile test is whether it is prohibited by international agreements. As far as the nuclear deal itself is concerned, none of Iran’s missile tests have constituted a violation for the simple reason that ballistic missiles are not covered by the deal even though, as the delivery mechanism for carrying a nuclear warhead, they are intimately connected to a nuclear weapons program. The omission of ballistic missiles from the JCPOA was the unfortunate result of the US unwisely caving to Iran’s demand not to include them in the nuclear talks, in effect acquiescing to Iran’s narrative that such missiles are “non-nuclear.”


Indeed, one of the first concessions to Iran, before formal negotiations between the P5+1 and Tehran commenced, was that ballistic missiles would be off the table. Because of this concession, the only reference to Iran’s missile program is currently included in UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the JCPOA. But compared to Resolution 1929, which was still in effect in October 2015 when Iran conducted its first post- JCPOA ballistic-missile test, Resolution 2231 only “calls upon” Iran to desist from these activities, rather than prohibiting them.


Moreover, the new resolution includes changed wording that opens space for Iran to claim that the test is not covered by the resolution.  Rather than targeting missiles “that can carry a nuclear payload,” Resolution 2231 refers to missiles “designed to” carry a nuclear payload. Because Iran denies any past nuclear weapons work and any future plans in this regard, it has argued that no missile developed in Iran could possibly have been designed to carry a nuclear warhead.


The Trump administration is not buying Iran’s excuses ‒ and for good reason: Iran’s attempt to explain away any wrongdoing through such legalistic gymnastics rests on very shaky ground. The reality that Iran refuses to acknowledge is that it actually did work on a military nuclear program in the past and it never demonstrated that it left those ambitions behind. Iran is a proven violator of the NPT, and, yet, it denies any wrongdoing. Under these circumstances, there is no reason to believe that Iran will never equip its nuclear- capable missiles with a nuclear warhead and, therefore, these missiles could very well have been (and most likely were) designed with this in mind.


The experience of the past year and a half has seen the Obama administration refrain from any pushback against Iran’s repeated provocations, belligerence and even some violations of the JCPOA itself, which has only served to embolden Iran and increase its leverage vis-à-vis the United States. With no reaction from the US – including firmly setting the record straight about Iran’s past nuclear weapons program and undermining Iran’s false narrative – there is little doubt that Iran would have continued to test any and all missiles with relative impunity.


But, if no Iranian missile could possibly meet the criteria set by Resolution 2231, what was the resolution originally meant to curb? On the basis of its very different interpretation and approach, the Trump administration responded to the latest missile test quickly and firmly. It immediately called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the test, and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (who has since resigned) then issued a statement that “put Iran on notice” while informing the Iranians that the US will no longer be turning a blind eye to their provocations. Sanctions were quickly imposed on 25 Iranian individuals and companies involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and with connections to terrorist activities. Later, it was reported that the US was considering naming the IRGC a terrorist group. Trump himself warned Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani that he “better be careful” with his words.


Taking a closer look at Flynn’s statement, in particular, many were quick to criticize it as “bellicose bluster” that risked escalation with Iran. Such interpretations ignored the fact that the US was responding to Iran’s belligerence. Indeed, in light of ongoing Iranian provocations that have gone unanswered for far too long, Flynn’s statement was an appropriate and measured American response. Critics also complained that Flynn’s message was non-specific, not stating clearly what the administration would do. But nowhere is it set in stone that the best way to deter a state is by clarifying the precise conditions and consequences of their action. In fact, setting a clear red line could very well have been counterproductive because it could have easily set the new administration up for failure – which is precisely what happened to president Barack Obama in 2013 when he warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that using chemical weapons would elicit an American military response. The Trump administration’s deterrent message was most likely intentionally non-specific.


Putting Iran on notice puts Tehran off balance – a desired result. It means Iran must be very careful because it does not know what action will trigger which response. From initial Iranian reactions, it seems that the deterrence is working: They are not sure what Trump might do, and Iranian media have reflected advice to Iran’s leaders not to do anything that might give Trump an excuse to attack. Moreover, it was reported in early February that Iran abruptly removed from the launch pad a missile being prepared for launch. It was a Safir missile, derived from the Iranian Shahab 3, which Iran had, on several occasions, used as a launch vehicle for its satellites, indicating technology for a long-range intercontinental missile…

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





Heshmat Alavi

American Thinker, Mar. 5, 2017


The recent dust storms that wreaked havoc in southwest Iran signaled only one of the many crises the mullahs are facing less than three months before critical elections. Tehran has been hit with severe blows during the Munich Security Conference, contrasting interests with Russia, the recent escalating row with Turkey, and most importantly, a new U.S. administration in Washington. These crises have crippling effects on the mullahs’ apparatus, especially at a time when Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sees his regime facing a changing balance of power in the international community, and is faced with a major decision of selecting the regime’s so-called president.


Iran and Ahvaz…The dust storms crisis in Ahwaz, resulting from the mullahs’ own destructive desertification policies, caused severe disruptions in water and power services and people pouring into the streets in major protests. The regime, and especially the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), has for decades pursued a desertification policy of constructing dams, drying lagoons, digging deep oil wells beneath underground water sources with resulting catastrophic environmental disasters. Various estimates indicate the continuation of such a trend will literally transform two-thirds of Iran into desert lands in the next decade. This will place 14 to 15 million people at the mercy not only dust storms but also salt storms.


Iran and the Munich Security Conference…Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attended this conference with a series of objectives in mind, only to face a completely unexpected scene. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence described Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the mullahs are the source of threats and instability throughout the Middle East. Turkey went one step further and said Tehran is the heart of sectarianism and spreads such plots across the region, and all traces in Syria lead to Iran’s terrorism and sectarian measures.


This resembles a vast international coalition against Tehran, inflicting yet another blow to the mullahs following a new administration taking control of the White House. These developments are very costly for Khamenei and the entire regime. In comparison to the early 2000s when the U.S. launched wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran was the main benefactor. The current balance of power now is quite different, as seen in Munich. While there is talk of an Arab NATO, any coalition formed now in the Middle East will be completely against Iran’s interests.


Iran and Russia…Following a disastrous joint campaign in Syria, for the first time Russia is reportedly supporting a safe zone in Syria. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said contacts have been made with the Syrian regime to establish safe zones in Syria. These are the first remarks made by any Russian official on the issue of safe zones in Syria. Moscow’s increasing contrast in interest with Iran over Syria has the potential of playing a major role in regional relations. Russia certainly doesn’t consider Bashar Assad remaining in power as a red line, a viewpoint far different from that of Iran. Moscow is also ready to sacrifice its interests in Syria in a larger and more suitable bargain with the Trump administration over far more important global interests.


Iran and Turkey…Yes, Ankara and Tehran enjoy a vast economic partnership. However, recent shifts in geopolitical realities have led to significant tensions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the mullahs of resorting to “Persian nationalism” in an effort to split Iraq and Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Iran of seeking to undermine Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as part of Tehran’s “sectarian policy.” Cavusoglu used his speech in Munich to say, “Iran is trying to create two Shia states in Syria and Iraq. This is very dangerous. It must be stopped.” Tehran considers Ankara’s soldiers in Iraq and Syria as a major obstacle in its effort to expand its regional influence.


U.S. president Donald Trump’s strong approach vis-à-vis Iran and the possibility of him supporting the establishment of a Turkish-administered northern Syria safe zone may have also played a major part in fuming bilateral tensions between these two Middle East powers. Erdogan has obviously realized completely the new White House in Washington intends to adopt a much more aggressive stance against Tehran. This is another sign of changing tides brewing troubles for Iran’s mullahs.


Iran and Presidential Elections…With new reports about his ailing health, Khamenei is extremely concerned about his predecessor. One such signal is the candidacy of Ibrahim Reisi, current head of the colossal Astan Quds Razavi political empire and a staunch loyalist to Khamenei’s faction, for the presidency. With former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani out of the picture, Khamenei may seek to seal his legacy by placing Reisi against Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in the upcoming May elections. This is literally Khamenei playing with fire, as Reisi is considered a hardline figure and such an appointment may spark 2009-like protests across the country, as the country has become a scene of massive social challenges. Rouhani himself doesn’t enjoy any social base support, especially after four years of lies and nearly 3,000 executions.


Final Thoughts…This places the entire regime in a very fragile situation. From the internal crises of Ahwaz, the upcoming elections and the formation of a significant international front threatening the Iranian regime’s strategic interests. Forecasting what lies ahead is truly impossible, making Khamenei and his entire regime extremely concerned, trekking this path very carefully and with a low profile. As we witnessed with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, Iran immediately released the 52 hostages held for 444 days. This regime understands the language of force very carefully. And yet, there is no need to use military force to inflict a significant blow and make Tehran understand the international community means business. Blacklisting Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist organization by the U.S. at this timing would be the nail in the coffin for the mullahs.                                                           





Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo                                                                                

Jewish Press, Mar. 10, 2017


In a remarkable midrash on Mishlei, we read the following: “All of the festivals will be nullified in the future [the messianic age], but Purim will never be nullified.” (Midrash Mishlei 9:2) This assertion seems to fly in the face of Jewish tradition, which states categorically that the Jewish festivals mentioned in the Torah, such as Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot will never cease to be celebrated. This is mentioned by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah:


“All the books of the Prophets and all the Scriptures will be nullified in the days of the Mashiach, except for Megillat Esther, which is as permanent as the Five Books of Moshe and the laws of the Oral Torah [including the festivals], which will never lose their relevance.” (Hilchot Megillah 2:18. For a completely different interpretation, see my booklet The Torah as God’s Mind: A Kabbalistic look into the Pentateuch [Jerusalem: Bep-Ron Publications, 1988]) Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein, in his famous commentary Torah Temimah on Megillat Esther (9:28), explains this contradiction – in the name of his father, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Halevi Epstein – in the following most original manner:


The miracle of Purim is very different from the miracles mentioned in the Torah. While the latter were overt miracles, such as the ten plagues in Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea, the revelation at Sinai and the falling of the man (manna) in the desert, the miracle of Purim was covert. Unlike with the miracles narrated in the Torah, no law of nature was ever violated in the Purim story, and the Jews were saved from the hands of Haman harasha (the evil Haman) by seemingly normal historical occurrences. Had we lived in those days we would have noticed nothing unusual, and many secularists would have explained the redemption of the Jews in Persia as the logical outcome of a series of natural and coincidental events. Only retroactively, when looking back at the story, would we have been astonished by all the incidents, their unusual sequence, and the seemingly unrelated and insignificant human acts that led to the complete redemption of the Jews during the time of Achashveirosh’s reign. The discovery that all these events actually concealed a miracle could only be made after the fact.


Covert miracles will never cease to exist, explains the Torah Temimah. In fact, they take place every day. But overt miracles such as the splitting of the Red Sea have come to an end. In light of this, the midrash on Mishlei is not suggesting that the actual festivals mentioned in the Torah will be nullified in future days, since this would contradict Jewish belief. Rather, it is stating that the original reasons for celebrating the festivals, namely overt miracles, have ceased.


So, one should read the midrash as follows: Overt miracles, which we celebrate on festivals mentioned in the Torah, no longer occur. But covert miracles such as those celebrated on Purim will never end; they continue to occur every day of the year. In other words, all the other festivals will still be celebrated to commemorate great historical events in Jewish history, events to be remembered and relived in the imagination of man so as to make them relevant and teach us many lessons for our own lives. Purim, on the other hand, although rooted in a historical event of many years ago, functions as a constant reminder that the Purim story never ended. We are still living it. The Megillah is open-ended; it was not and will never be completed! Covert miracles still happen.


Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner z”l, in his celebrated work Pachad Yitzchak (volume on Purim, chapter 33), uses this idea to explain a highly unusual halachic stipulation related to Purim. During all Torah festivals, the congregation sings Hallel, the well-known, classic compilation of specific Psalms. These Psalms praise God for all the great miracles He performed for Israel in biblical times, on occasions for which these festivals were later established. Why, then, asks the Talmud, do we not sing Hallel on Purim? Is there not even more reason to sing these Psalms on the day when God performed the great miracle of rescuing Israel from the hands of Haman? The Talmud (Masechet Megillah 14a) answers “kriyata zu hallila” – the reading of Megillat Esther is in itself praise. When one reads the story of Esther, one actually fulfills the obligation of singing Hallel, because telling this story is the greatest praise to God for having saved the Jews. Reading the story awakens in us a feeling of deep gratitude and appreciation for the miracle of Jewish survival against all odds…

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


Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo is a CIJR International Board Member




On Topic Links


Iran Is Progressing Towards Nuclear Weapons Via North Korea: Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek & Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Feb. 28, 2017—While the Vienna Nuclear Deal (VND) is focused on preventing (or at least postponing) the development of nuclear weapons (NW) in Iran, its restrictions are looser with regard to related delivery systems (particularly nuclear-capable ballistic missiles) as well as to the transfer of nuclear technology by Iran to other countries. Moreover, almost no limits have been placed on the enhancement of Tehran's military nuclear program outside Iran. North Korea (NK) arguably constitutes the ideal such location for Iran.

Impossible Dream: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Feb. 20, 2017—Since President Trump’s election, American allies and other foreign policy observers have been curious to know how the new White House intends to resolve an apparent contradiction. How is it possible that Trump seems keen to make some sort of deal with Vladimir Putin while expressing belligerent contempt for Russia's key Middle East ally, Iran? There may be an answer: Recent press reports indicate the Trump team will try to lure Russia away from Iran. The chances for success are slim.

The Face-Off: Reuel Marc Gerecht, Weekly Standard, Feb. 27, 2017— Donald Trump has promised a foreign policy of muscular retrenchment, in which a better-resourced U.S. military intimidates our enemies without serving as a global cop. More than any president since Richard Nixon, our new commander in chief sees virtue in brutal authoritarians, especially if they are fighting radical Islam. He has passionately belittled the idea of nation-building, freedom agendas, and protracted conflicts in Muslim lands.

Iran Setting up Shell Shipping Companies to Export Weapons and Illicit Goods: Investigation: Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, Mar. 7, 2017— Nearly half of all shipping docks in Iran are operated by the regime’s military, and it is using shell companies to smuggle weapons and other illicit goods, according to a new report. A total of 90 docks have been taken over by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is using them to circumvent sanctions and fund terrorist activities in the Middle East and beyond, according to the anti-regime People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).













Trump’s Iran Notice: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 31, 2017— One early test for the Trump Administration will be how it enforces the nuclear deal with Iran, and that question has become more urgent with Iran’s test last weekend of another ballistic missile.

Re-Isolate Iran Now: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Jan. 27, 2017— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that one of the top items on his agenda for consultation with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington next month is countering Iranian aggression.

Netanyahu's Road to Iran Runs Through North Korea: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Jan. 30, 2017— Forget for a moment about moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem…

Donald Trump Should Isolate Iran Immediately: Jeb Bush and Dennis Ross, Time, Jan. 19, 2017— Just days before Christmas, as U.S. policymakers were settling into the holidays, Iran staged massive war drills, with one of its top military leaders even boasting that the Persian Gulf was within "range" of its fighting forces.


On Topic Links


National Security Adviser Michael Flynn: As of Today, We Are Officially Putting Iran on Notice (Video): Real Clear World, Feb. 2, 2017

Report: Iran Violates UN Resolution With Ballistic Missile Test: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, Jan. 30, 2017

Thanks to our Mistakes With Iran, the North Korean Threat to the US is at Record Levels: Van Hipp, Fox News, Jan. 6, 2017

Iran's Axis of Resistance Rises: Payam Mohseni and Hussein Kalout, Foreign Affairs, Jan. 24, 2017





Wall Street Journal, Jan. 31, 2017


One early test for the Trump Administration will be how it enforces the nuclear deal with Iran, and that question has become more urgent with Iran’s test last weekend of another ballistic missile. The test of a medium-range, home-grown Khorramshahr missile is Tehran’s twelfth since it signed the nuclear deal with the U.S. and its diplomatic partners in 2015. John Kerry, then Secretary of State, insisted that the deal barred Iran from developing or testing ballistic missiles. But that turned out to be a self-deception at best, as the U.N. Security Council resolution merely “called upon” Iran not to conduct such missile tests, rather than barring them.


Iran has little reason to stop such tests because the penalties for doing them have been so light. The Obama Administration responded with weak sanctions on a few Iranian entities and individuals, even as it insisted that Iran is complying with the overall deal and deserves more sanctions relief. In December Boeing signed a $16 billion deal to sell 80 passenger planes to Iran, never mind that the regime uses its airliners to ferry troops and materiel to proxies in Syria.


President Trump has offered contradictory opinions about that sale, but he has been unequivocal in his opposition to what he calls the “disastrous” Iran deal. In a call Sunday with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the President pledged to enforce the Iran deal “rigorously,” and on Monday the Administration requested an emergency Security Council meeting to discuss the latest test.


That meeting probably won’t yield much, thanks to the usual Russian obstruction, but it will put a spotlight on the willingness of allies such as Britain to do more to uphold an agreement the enforcement mechanisms of which they were once eager to trumpet. Whatever happened to the “snapback economic sanctions” that were supposed to be the West’s insurance policy against Iran’s cheating?


The Administration could also warn Iran that the Treasury Department will bar global banks from conducting dollar transactions with their Iranian counterparts in the event of another test, and that it will rigorously enforce “know your customer” rules for foreign companies doing business with counterparts in the Islamic Republic, many of which are fronts for the Revolutionary Guards.


The U.S. needs to provide allies with military reassurance against the Iranian threat. Supplying Israel with additional funds to develop its sophisticated Arrow III anti-ballistic missile system would send the right message, as would an offer to Saudi Arabia to sell Lockheed Martin’s high-altitude Thaad ABM system. The State Department and Pentagon will have to explore diplomatic and military options in case the deal unravels.


What the Administration can’t afford is to allow the latest test to pass without a response. That would tell Iranians they can develop missiles and threaten neighbors with impunity. Mr. Trump is keen to show he will honor his campaign promises, and charting a tougher course against Iran is one of them.





David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Jan. 27, 2017


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that one of the top items on his agenda for consultation with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington next month is countering Iranian aggression. With good reason. The net result of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has been to foster Iran's rise to regional hegemon. While the JCPOA suspended a part of Iran's nuclear weapons program for a few years, the ayatollahs see it as providing time to advance their centrifuge capability and regional sway.


In a Hoover Institution paper published this month, Professor Russell Berman and Ambassador Charles Hill call Iran a "de facto Islamic caliphate," and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps an "Iranian expeditionary force for invading strategic Arab spaces." They call former President Barack Obama's declared goal — of finding and bolstering so-called moderates in Tehran via the JCPOA — an "illusion." Iran is not a polity of moderates and hard-liners, they write. It is a revolutionary theocracy masquerading as a legitimate state actor. So the first thing Trump must do is recognize the consistently hostile character of the regime.


Alas, Obama was obsessed from the advent of his presidency with making nice to Iran, and was willing to subordinate much of American foreign policy in service of that goal. He sent many secret letters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that recognized the prerogatives of the Islamic republic and foreswore regime change. He cut funding to anti-regime groups and abandoned Iranian moderates during the early days of the Green Revolution in 2009, after the regime fixed an election. He effectively conceded Syria as within Iran's sphere of influence.


In his penetrating book, "The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East," Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon exposes the money trail that accompanied this strategic sellout to Iran. In exchange for talking, Obama gave the Iranians hundreds of millions of dollars monthly, stabilizing their economy. And in the end, Obama offered Iran a deal that legalized full-blown uranium, plutonium, and ballistic missile work on a timeline, and did not force the country to disclose its previous nuclear cheating. The deal also released roughly a hundred billion dollars to Iran; had American officials traveling to drum up business for Iran; and removed restrictions on a range of Iranian terrorists.


Along the way, the administration abandoned the powerful sanctions leverage it had over Iran. Solomon chronicles the ramp-up of severe banking sanctions on Iran that were having a disastrous impact on the Iranian economy. "Iran's economy was at risk of disintegrating, the result of one of the most audacious campaigns in the history of statecraft. The country was months away from running short on hard currency. The budget had a $200 billion black hole. And the U.S. Treasury Department had made sure Iran had no way to recover. Iranian ships and airplanes were not welcome beyond Iran's borders, and oil revenue was frozen in overseas accounts."


And then, behold, Obama backed off. Administration officials all of a sudden claimed that tightening the noose on the Iranian economy would cause the sanctions policy to collapse! And Secretary of State John Kerry was sent to cut a sweet deal with Iran; a deal that squandered — and then reversed — a decade's worth of effort to constrain Iran. Now Trump must act to constrain Iran all over again. Over the past year, Iran has intensified a pattern of aggression and increased its footprint across the region. Iranian advisers with Shiite militias from as far away as Afghanistan have flooded Syria, giving Tehran a military arc of influence stretching to the Mediterranean. Khamenei says that Iran's massive military presence (alongside Hezbollah) in Syria is a supreme security interest for the regime — a front line against Israel — and that Iran has no plans to leave.


This has grave implications for Israel. Netanyahu must demand of Trump (and Putin) to include the removal of all foreign forces, especially Iran, in any future agreement regarding Syria. This will be very difficult — especially since Russia has just signed a long-term agreement to greatly enlarge its military presence in Syria, including the port in Tartus and air base in Latakia.


Iran, too, is aggressively expanding its naval presence in the Red Sea region and eastern Mediterranean. Since 2011, it has been sending warships through the Suez Canal, and has used maritime routes to send arms shipments to Hizballah and Hamas. (Israel has intercepted five of these armament ships.) And in the Strait of Hormuz, IRGC speedboats have repeatedly engaged in provocative encounters with American warships, including the conduct of surprise live rocket fire exercises in proximity to U.S. Navy vessels.


Then there is Iranian terrorism. IRGC agents have been caught planning attacks on Israeli, American, British and Saudi targets in Kenya. Over the past five years, Iranian agents were exposed while planning to attack Israeli diplomats in Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, India, Nigeria, Thailand and Turkey. Hezbollah operatives supported by Iran carried out the bus bombing of Israeli tourists at the Burgas airport. Also: The detailing of Iranian terrorism in Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia could fill this entire newspaper.


Then there is Iran's ballistic missile program. In December, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz sent a seven-page letter to three senior officials of the Obama administration, detailing his well-founded concerns that North Korea and Iran might be working together on developing nuclear missiles. (Not surprisingly, the Obama officials never answered.) Cruz's basic question was: Why does Iran, having promised not to make nuclear weapons, continue to pour resources into developing long-range ballistic missiles, including numerous missile tests this past year? If not for nuclear weapons, then for what?…

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






Ben Caspit

Al-Monitor, Jan. 30, 2017


Forget for a moment about moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, US recognition of the settlement blocs, a closed-eye policy on the pace of construction in the territories and the way the United States has been inspired, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, by the separation barriers that Israel built in the West Bank and along its southern border. The one truly important story is North Korea. The most senior sources in Israel claim that this is where US President Donald Trump will be tested. Once the dust settles, the eyes of the world will be watching Trump's steps to deal with North Korea’s accelerated nuclear armaments program. Top Israeli Cabinet members believe that the outcome of Trump's dealing with the North Koreans will determine whether international efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities will be a success or whether they will be a resounding failure.


“If Trump succeeds in stopping North Korea, it would be reasonable to assume that the Iranians will get the hint,” one senior Israeli official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “On the other hand, if Trump repeats the Obama administration’s failures in handling North Korea, the Iranians will take this as a signal that the world will have to concede to them too at some point. It would make no sense if the North Koreans can have a nuclear arsenal and intercontinental missiles that can strike the United States, while the Iranians cannot.”


The overall Israeli assessment is that this issue will be the focus of talks between Netanyahu and Trump scheduled to take place at the White House in February. Netanyahu will make every effort to gain Trump’s recognition of the settlement blocs. He will plead with Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and portray himself as the president’s closest friend, all in an effort to win public support to counter the wave of criminal investigations he currently faces. The real issue, however, will be Iran as an incarnation of North Korea’s nuclear program. It would be incorrect to think that Netanyahu has forgotten Iran's program, the definitive issue of his past eight years in power.


“Obama’s failure in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue was a decisive failure,” a senior Israeli security official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “And it is a failure that could have a snowball effect.” Despite the geographic and ideological distances, Israel is watching North Korea with extreme caution. It is fully aware that the unpredictable Asian nation is developing intercontinental missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It is also worried that the North Koreans, who already have several atomic bombs, are now trying to build a hydrogen bomb.


“Trump must stop North Korea,” a senior Israeli minister told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “While the eyes of the entire world are focused on this task, this is especially true of the North Koreans’ friends in Tehran. There can be no doubt that if Trump fails, the Iranians will also obtain nuclear capabilities. The question is whether Trump is fully aware of how important this issue really is. Just as Netanyahu convinced the entire international community about the importance of the Iranian threat, he will attempt to convince Trump to deal with North Korea, which is an extension of the way the Iranians were handled.


What about the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers? Israel’s defense establishment believes that it would be difficult to reopen the agreement for revision. Even the Cabinet believes it is a “mission impossible.” In December, sources close to Netanyahu held clandestine talks on the issue with members of the incoming administration and others close to Trump. The Israelis proposed an alternative in which the nuclear agreement is turned into a “trip wire’’ — a deterrence strategy shifting responsibility to the opposing side — in the belief that the Iranians will at some point violate the terms of the agreement. Once that happens, the United States could use the violations as the impetus to restore some sanctions and manufacture a crisis. The Israelis argued that any US violation of the agreement would run counter to the desired result. Trump and Netanyahu will need to have sensitive talks over this particular issue, and in those talks, the name of a third party is likely to come up: Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Israel is worried about Trump’s warm relationship with Putin. As one top Israeli political source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The question is who will influence whom? If Putin persuades Trump to soften his attitude toward Iran, it would be a catastrophic strategic development for Israel. If, however, the opposite happens, it would be a positive development.”


There is another subject particularly disconcerting for Israel: Iran’s influence in Syria. Netanyahu is expected to ask Trump to persuade the Russians to prevent Iran from establishing a real presence in Syria in the post-civil war era. “If the [Islamic] Revolutionary Guard [Corps] sets up bases in Syria, if Iran gains ports and anti-aircraft bases there, this would signal a significant deterioration of Israel’s strategic situation,” a senior military official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “We must make sure that Trump is aware of this issue and all of its implications.” In general, Israel is concerned about Trump handing Israel a few insignificant candies and toys, like moving the embassy to Jerusalem, while cutting a deal with Putin on the truly consequential issues — Iran's nuclear program and presence in Syria, which could lead to a new conventional front along Israel’s northern border, one that is much more dangerous than previous fronts.


Some in Israel are watching with consternation as the Trump administration takes shape. Almost all of the leading supporters of Israel mentioned as possible candidates for senior positions have been left out of the administration, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former UN Ambassador John Bolton and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The only real pro-Israel appointment is David Friedman, and with all due respect to the prospective ambassador to Israel, what Israel actually needs is a presence in the Pentagon and the State Department. Instead, it has Defense Secretary James Mattis, who declared that the capital of Israel is Tel Aviv, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has never visited Israel and has close ties with the Arab world because of his past work in the oil industry.


The euphoria in Jerusalem is dissipating. On Jan. 28, Netanyahu tweeted his support for the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico, writing, “President Trump is right.” Although the tweet got him into hot water with the Mexican government and Mexico’s Jewish community, Netanyahu has no real regrets. It is important for him to stay close to Trump and become his best friend as quickly as possible. Only after the two men meet will it be known if this is possible.






Jeb Bush and Dennis Ross

Time, Jan. 19, 2017


Just days before Christmas, as U.S. policymakers were settling into the holidays, Iran staged massive war drills, with one of its top military leaders even boasting that the Persian Gulf was within "range" of its fighting forces. At nearly the same time, Qassem Soleimani, the Commander of the Qods Forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), surveyed the battered remains of Aleppo. Soleimani now appears prominently wherever the Iranians deploy Shia militias to weaken existing states and regimes in the broader Middle East. Whether threatening to heat up the Persian Gulf or using Shia militias as an instrument of their power, we are witnessing a pattern of Iranian aggression that has accelerated in the year since the nuclear deal with Iran was implemented.


While Tehran is saber-rattling and threatening our allies in the region, the response from Washington, unfortunately, has remained muted. Time and again, the Obama administration has ignored the comprehensive nature of the Iranian threat and soft-pedaled non-nuclear sanctions seemingly out of fear that Iran would walk away from the nuclear deal. As a result, and much to the worry of America's traditional allies, Iran's leaders have become more emboldened and its footprint continues to grow across the region.


In the past, we have spoken publicly about the flaws of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which in the end has not halted but only delayed Iran's path to a bomb—and at the considerable price of abandoning Western leverage against Iran. To respond effectively, the Donald Trump administration should not rip up the deal on day one—that would make U.S. actions and not destabilizing and threatening Iranian behaviors the issue. We need to isolate Iran, not ourselves. But we must raise the costs of continued Iranian intransigence, and to that end, the incoming Trump administration should adopt a more expansive strategy towards Tehran: namely by addressing those vital issues beyond the scope of the agreement, specifically Iran's chronic regional meddling.


While the JCPOA was being negotiated and implemented, Iranian-advisors with Shia militias from as far away as Afghanistan flooded Syria, giving Tehran a military arc of influence stretching to the Mediterranean. Eleven Arab states also recently accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism and meddling in their internal affairs all while the nuclear agreement has been in effect. The U.S. State Department reached a similar conclusion in June, when it renewed its designation of Iran as the world's leading state-sponsor of terrorism, citing a "wide range of Iranian activities to destabilize the region." A new pressure campaign on Iran can help turn the tide. The United States has no shortage of tools for affecting Iran's behavior. A good one to start with: aggressively enforce the existing sanctions architecture.


Beginning on day one, the Trump administration can move quickly by pushing for enforcement of the U.N. travel ban imposed on key figures in the Iranian leadership, like Qassem Soleimani, who has been pictured in Aleppo, Falluja and near Mosul, and has met with counterparts recently in Russia. That's not to mention cracking down on Iran's multiple ballistic missile launches and its continued shipments of arms to Yemen, violating the U.N. arms embargo. Such behavior is in direct defiance of U.N. Resolution 2231, which enshrines the nuclear deal, and is an example of Iran's lack of accountability. If Iran continues to violate the letter and the spirit of the deal, the United States must be prepared to walk away from the agreement.


The new Administration should also move quickly to cut off Iran's financial pipeline. The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control should not provide licenses to Boeing and Airbus until Iran stops using Iran Air and other carriers to ferry weapons and personnel for the Assad regime and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The United States should also use its leverage with the Iraqi government to restrict airspace used by Iran for these activities…

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




On Topic Links


National Security Adviser Michael Flynn: As of Today, We Are Officially Putting Iran on Notice (Video): Real Clear World, Feb. 2, 2017 —Good afternoon, everyone. Recent Iranian actions involving a provocative ballistic missile launch and an attack against a Saudi naval vessel, conducted by Iran-supported Houthi militants underscore what should have been clear to the international community all along about Iran's destabilizing behavior across the entire Middle East.

Report: Iran Violates UN Resolution With Ballistic Missile Test: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, Jan. 30, 2017Fox News reported exclusively on Monday that Iran has again violated a United Nations resolution with another ballistic missile test. The Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile was test-launched Sunday at a site about 140 miles east of Tehran.

Thanks to our Mistakes With Iran, the North Korean Threat to the US is at Record Levels: Van Hipp, Fox News, Jan. 6, 2017—Well you know it’s the New Year when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is threatening a new ballistic missile or nuclear test.  This time, though, Kim Jong-un is saying the “Hermit Kingdom” is in the final stages of preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).  This would be Pyongyang’s first test of an ICBM.

Iran's Axis of Resistance Rises: Payam Mohseni and Hussein Kalout, Foreign Affairs, Jan. 24, 2017—In 2006, in the midst of a fierce war between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice famously stated that the world was witnessing the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” She was right—but not in the sense she had hoped.