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
PRELUDE TO A SHOWDOWN?
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.”
WHEN WILL THE WORLD ADMIT THE TRUTH
ABOUT IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM?
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.]
THE IRAN DEAL IS A LIE
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.
THE SHORT AND UGLY HISTORY OF THE DISASTROUS IRAN DEAL
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.”