Tag: Iran vs Israel

IRANIAN THREAT TO ISRAEL’S “RED LINES” HANDLED WITH DIPLOMACY AND DETERRENCE

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

                                               

 

 

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.

 

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.]

                                                                       

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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.

 

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.]

                                                                       

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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. 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.

 

                                                                       

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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 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.]

 

Contents

 

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).

IRAN, EMPOWERED BY NUCLEAR DEAL, SEEKS DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL & M.E. HEGEMONY

 

 

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

 

                                                                           

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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. 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.                                  

 

 

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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.         

 

 

Contents

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.

 

 

Contents

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISRAEL RESPONDS TO THREATS FROM HEZBOLLAH-SYRIA-IRAN AXIS

Are Israeli Raids on Syrian Targets Legal?: Prof. Louis René Beres, BESA, Mar. 23, 2017— Syria, a country in the midst of chaos, has launched multiple aggressions against neighboring Israel.

Warning, War Clouds on the Horizon!: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Mar. 24, 2017— Academic research has explored in depth the factors leading to the wars that broke out between nations in previous centuries…

World Shrugs as Hizballah Prepares Massive Civilian Deaths: Noah Beck, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 23, 2017— Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently warned Israel that his Iran-backed terror group could attack targets producing mass Israeli casualties, including a huge ammonia storage tank in Haifa, and a nuclear reactor in Dimona.

Trump’s Greatest Deal: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 23, 2017— What can be done about Iran?

               

On Topic Links

 

US Investment in – Not Foreign Aid to – Israel: Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, Spring, 2016

Israel Explains Arrow Intercept of Syrian SAM: Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, Mar. 20, 2017

In-House Hizballah Missile Factories Could Add to Massive Arms Buildup: Yaakov Lappin, IPT, Mar. 17, 2017

Lebanon’s Army and Hizbullah Join Ranks: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Mar. 2, 2017

 

                  

 

ARE ISRAELI RAIDS ON SYRIAN TARGETS LEGAL?

Prof. Louis René Beres

BESA, Mar. 23, 2017

 

Syria, a country in the midst of chaos, has launched multiple aggressions against neighboring Israel. In recent years, most of these assaults have assumed the form of heavy weapons transfers to Hezbollah, a Shiite terror group with not only genocidal views about the Jewish State but also correspondingly destructive military capacities. Moreover, the de facto army of Hezbollah – a fanatical adversary sponsored by non-Arab Iran – has become even more threatening to Israel than the regular armies of its traditional Arab state enemies. These are not just operational or strategic matters. From the standpoint of international law, Israel has an unassailable right to launch appropriate measures of self-defense against Syria. Accordingly, the Israel Air Force has been conducting selective strikes against relevant targets inside Bashar al-Assad's fractured country.

 

Significantly, almost exactly one year ago, in April 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed for the first time that Israel had been attacking convoys transporting advanced weapons within Syria bound for Hezbollah. Among other substantial ordnance, these weapons included SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, Russian arms that could enable Hezbollah to shoot down Israeli civilian aircraft, military jets and helicopters, and drones. (It is plausible that at least some of the latest Israeli-targeted weapons are of North Korean origin. Until Israel's preemptive September 6, 2007 "Operation Orchard," an expression of "anticipatory self-defense" under international law, Syria had been actively working towards a nuclear weapons capacity with North Korean assistance and direction.)

 

Certain noteworthy operational ironies ought to be referenced here. For one, Israel's regular need to act against Hezbollah could inadvertently enlarge the power of ISIS and/or other Sunni militias now operating against Israel in the region. For another, because the Trump administration in Washington remains reluctant to criticize Russian war crimes in Syria (or anywhere else, for that matter), Jerusalem now has less reason to seek security assurances from the US.

 

But our concern here is law, not strategy or tactics. As a purely jurisprudential matter, Israel's measured and discriminate use of force against Hezbollah terrorists and associated targets in Syria has been conspicuously consistent with legal rules concerning distinction, proportionality, and military necessity. Although both Tehran and Damascus sanctimoniously identify Israel's defensive actions as "aggression," these actions are supported, inter alia, by Article 51 of the UN Charter. Under law, Israel, in the fashion of every other state on the planet, has a primary and incontestable prerogative to remain alive.

 

Legally, there is nothing complicated about the issues surrounding Israel's counter-terrorist raids within Syria. By willfully allowing its territory to be used as a source of Hezbollah terrorist weapons against Israel, and as an expanding base for anti-Israel terrorist operations in general, Assad has placed Syria in unambiguous violation of both the UN Charter and the wider body of international rules identified in Article 38 of the UN's Statute of the International Court of Justice. There is more. Because Syria, entirely at its own insistence, maintains a formal condition of belligerency with Israel (that is, a legal "state of war"), no charge levied by Damascus or Tehran of "Israeli aggression" makes jurisprudential sense.

 

More practically, of course, Syria has become a failed state. In some respects, at least, with the Assad regime in full control of only limited portions of Damascus, Aleppo, and the Syrian Mediterranean coast, it makes little legal sense to speak of "Syrian responsibility" or "Syrian violations." Nonetheless, even amid the collapse of traditional boundaries between states, the Syrian president must bear full responsibility for blatantly illegal arms transfers to a surrogate Shiite militia. For Israel, the principal legal issues here are easy to affirm. Express prohibitions against pro-terrorist behavior by any state can be found in Articles 3(f) and 3(g) of the 1974 UN General Assembly Definition of Aggression. These prohibitions are part of customary international law, and of what are identified in Article 38 of the ICJ Statute as “the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations.”

 

Following the 1977 Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, insurgent organizations are expected to comply with humanitarian international law, sometimes called the law of armed conflict. Additionally, any documented failure to comply, such as resort to "human shields" (a common practice with Hezbollah) would be known in formal law as "perfidy." Under international law, every use of force by states must be judged twice: once with regard to the justness of the cause, and once with regard to the justness of the means. This second standard concerns core issues of humanitarian international law. Specifically, even when it can be determined that a particular state maintains a basic right to apply force against another state, this does not automatically imply that any such use would comply with the law of war.

 

In defending itself against Hezbollah terror, Israel’s actions have always been consistent with humanitarian international law. In stark contrast to the Shiite terrorist militias operating in Lebanon and southern Syria, and similarly unlike the Syrian-supported Islamic Jihad Sunni forces, who intentionally target noncombatants, Israel has been meticulous about striking exclusively hard military targets in raids on Syria.

 

Unlike Syria, which even in its currently attenuated form opposes any peaceful settlement with Israel, Jerusalem resorts to defensive force only as a last resort. As for Syrian charges that Israel’s actions somehow raise the risk of “escalation,” this alleged risk would disappear entirely if Damascus and Tehran ceased their lawless support of Hezbollah and other criminal organizations. In this connection, it should be recalled, terrorism is always a codified crime under binding international law. It is never considered a permissible form of national liberation or self-determination…

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

 

 

Contents

 

WARNING, WAR CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON!                    

Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Arutz Sheva, Mar. 24, 2017

 

Academic research has explored in depth the factors leading to the wars that broke out between nations in previous centuries, both in order to understand why wars take place and to develop ways of predicting nascent wars by "connecting the dots" between the signs signalling an approaching conflagration. Since the signals are clearly directly connected to the relations between the countries involved in a war, the literature points out the connection between internal problems affecting a state and the desire of its leaders to initiate a war with other countries. The literature also lists war-delaying factors, foremost of which is the high price of military and civilian fatalities and the damage to the country's infrastructure.

 

Syria is no exception to the rule in terms of academic theory, since the reasons the regime was pressured into past wars were always a mixture of internal and external factors. The external cause for the ongoing state of war with Israel was the very fact of Israel's existence, never recognized by the Syrian regime.  The encouragement to attack Israel came from the USSR while Israel was supported by the West. Add to that the desire to be granted a position of power in pan-Arab leadership and the need to erase the humiliating Syrian defeats in 1948, 1967, 1973 and 1982 at the hands of the Zionists.

 

Syrian media have always played a part in the country's war effort, adding the battle for the army's morale and that of the general population to the one waged with conventional weaponry, so that the people remain willing to suffer the sights of war and continue fighting despite injuries suffered by soldiers and citizens. Syria's media are controlled by the regime, which gives them the messages they are expected to deliver to the public. This fact allows the researcher to know what the feelings of the groups leading the country are at any given time.

 

The factors that prevented war from breaking out in the past were mainly the damage to the army and the country's infrastructure, but also the possibility that another defeat by Israel would bring more humiliation to the regime. Today, when social networks allow everyone to express his opinion freely, Syria's leadership knows that the battle for the hearts of the population will not be won through the Syrian media, because every Arab – in Syria and outside of it – knows that its reliability is limited and that its journalists cannot express themselves freely.

 

In the past, one of the main internal reasons that pushed the Assads, father and son, to declare war on Israel was their desire to create an external threat that would cause the Syrians – especially the opposition – to put their differences aside and join Assad's fight against the "Zionist enemy threatening all of us." Today, with Syria torn between the rebel regime and the areas still under ISIS control, it is far from certain that a war with Israel would bring the rebels and ISIS to stop attacking Assad, and definitely not to the point where instead of attacking Assad, they join him in a war against Israel,

 

Despite the losses and damage sustained by the opposition to Assad since Russia entered the fray, and despite the fact that they too are light years away from recognizing Israel's right to exist, they will not desist from fighting Assad. In fact, over the last few days, the rebels have intensified their battle for Damascus because of their defeats in other arenas, mainly in Aleppo and Homs. A war between Assad and Israel might cause the rebels to take advantage of the regular army's preoccupation with fighting Israel to score some victories. After suffering close to half a million fatalities in six years of fighting, some of the rebels might even prefer that Israel finish off Assad, not for love of Israel but due to their hatred of the despotic dictator. In sum, a war with Israel will not weaken the desire of Assad's enemies to be rid of him.

 

Once, the external reason for war to break out was pressure exerted by the USSR in its desire to defeat the USA and Europe on a Middle Eastern battlefield. Today, it is far from certain that Russia wants a war between Syria and Israel, partly because of the minor role the West plays in today's Middle Eastern politics and partly because Putin does not want to force Trump to have to show active and obvious support for Israel, Putin is aware that the US sent fighters – "boots on the ground" – to the war being waged against ISIS. He realizes that Obama's non-interventionist policies are over and he has no wish to find himself opposite the USA in a war between Syria and Israel in which he will be forced to support Syria and oppose Israel.

 

How great Putin's fears of Israeli military technology are is not clear to me, but the downing of a Russian SA-5 missile last week by an Israeli "arrow" missile is enough to give the Russian army pause and raise doubts about the feasibility of war between Russian and Israeli weapons. It looks as though the Russian army, which found it very difficult to overcome the light weapons in the hands of the Syrian rebels, is not overjoyed at the thought of a direct confrontation with Israeli military technology. There is also an economic situation behind the scenes, the possibility that Israel will be marketing gas to Europe on a massive scale in the near future, causing Russia significant economic difficulty, as Europe may decide to do without Russian gas. To sum up the Russian issue, it does not seem to be in Russia's best interests to bring about a struggle between Syria and Israel, because that would only complicate Syria's internal problems even more and cause Russia's attempts to have the two sides reach some kind of agreement, to fail.  Thursday, March 23, is when the two sides were to begin their fifth round of talks.

 

There are other powers functioning in Syria. The list includes Iran, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias, as well as Afghans. They have their own interests, far removed from those of Russia and Assad. In my estimation, Iran and Hezbollah want to involve Israel in the war in Syria so as to show their people, that is, the Iranians and Lebanese, many of whom are against their country's involvement in Syria, that there is no choice, despite the high price in casualties and equipment, They could then claim that this is not only a war against the rebels and ISIS, it is a campaign against the "threatening Zionist entity." Iran wants to drag Syria into a war with Israel which would be in essence a war against Trump, whose mettle the Iranians would like to test, along with his loyalty to Israel and his hostility towards Iran. They expect Russia to join the war while the US remains outside it, so as to avoid getting embroiled in a regional war and in addition, to avoid a confrontation that would damage the relations between Trump and Putin.

 

Hezbollah is also interested in a war with Israel in order to prove to its detractors in Lebanon and the Arab-Islamic world that its weapons, especially its rocket arsenal, are meant to fight Israel and not "our Syrian brothers." In order to prove to itself, its fighters and its Iranian supporters that despite the loss of manpower Hezbollah suffered in Syria, the army is as strong as ever and that the northern Shiite alliance that has coalesced from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, is continuing to advance towards Israel in order to surround Saudi Arabia with a southern Shiite flank in Yemen…

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

 

Contents

                         

WORLD SHRUGS AS HIZBALLAH PREPARES MASSIVE CIVILIAN DEATHS

                                     Noah Beck

                                    Breaking Israel News, Mar. 23, 2017

 

Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently warned Israel that his Iran-backed terror group could attack targets producing mass Israeli casualties, including a huge ammonia storage tank in Haifa, and a nuclear reactor in Dimona. Also last month, Tower Magazine reported that, since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Iran provided Hizballah with a vast supply of “game-changing,” state-of-the art weapons, despite Israel’s occasional airstrikes against weapons convoys.

 

In a future conflict, Hizballah has the capacity to fire 1,500 rockets into Israel each day, overwhelming Israel’s missile defense systems. Should such a scenario materialize, Israel will be forced to respond with unprecedented firepower to defend its own civilians. Hizballah’s advanced weapons and the systems needed to launch them reportedly are embedded across a staggering 10,000 locations in the heart of more than 200 civilian towns and villages. The Israeli military has openly warned about this Hizballah war crime and the grave threats it poses to both sides, but that alarm generated almost no attention from the global media, the United Nations, or other international institutions.

 

Like the terror group Hamas, Hizballah knows that civilian deaths at the hands of Israel are a strategic asset, because they produce diplomatic pressure to limit Israel’s military response. Hizballah reportedly went so far as offering reduced-price housing to Shiite families who allowed the terrorist group to store rocket launchers in their homes.

 

But if the global media, the UN, human rights organizations, and other international institutions predictably pounce on Israel after it causes civilian casualties, why are they doing nothing to prevent them? Hizballah’s very presence in southern Lebanon is a flagrant violation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1701, which called for the area to be a zone “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons” other than the Lebanese military and the U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The resolution also required Hizballah to be disarmed, but the terror group today has an arsenal that rivals that of most armies. Hizballah possesses an estimated 140,000 missiles and rockets, and reportedly now can manufacture advanced weapons in underground factories that are impervious to aerial attack.

 

“Israel must stress again and again, before it happens, that these villages [storing Hizballah weapons] have become military posts, and are therefore legitimate targets,” said Yoram Schweitzer, senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Meir Litvak, director of Tel Aviv University’s Alliance Center for Iranian Studies, agrees, adding that global attention would “expose Hizballah’s hypocrisy in its cynical use of civilians as… human shields.”

 

Even a concerted campaign to showcase Hizballah’s war preparation is unlikely to change things, said Eyal Zisser, a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. Hizballah exploits the fact that “the international community is too busy and…weak to do something about it,” Zisser said. All of “these talks and reports have no meaning. See what is happening in Syria.” Israel has targeted Hizballah-bound weapons caches in Syria twice during the past week. Syria responded last Friday by firing a missile carrying 200 kilograms of explosives, which Israel successfully intercepted. If Hizballah provokes a war, Israel can legitimately attack civilian areas storing Hizballah arms if the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) first attempts to warn the targeted civilians to leave those areas, Litvak said. But “it will certainly be very difficult and will look bad on TV.”…

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

                                                                           

Contents

 

TRUMP’S GREATEST DEAL

Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 23, 2017

 

What can be done about Iran? In Israel, a dispute is reportedly raging between the IDF and the Mossad about the greatest threat facing Israel. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot thinks that Hezbollah is the greatest threat facing Israel. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen thinks Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest danger facing the Jewish state. While the media highlight the two men’s disagreement, the underlying truth about their concerns has been ignored.

 

Hezbollah and Iran’s nuclear program are two aspects of the same threat: the regime in Tehran. Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of the regime. If the regime disappeared, Hezbollah would fall apart. As for the nuclear installations, in the hands of less fanatical leaders, they would represent a far less acute danger to global security. So if you undermine the Iranian regime, you defeat Hezbollah and defuse the nuclear threat. If you fail to deal with the regime in Tehran, both threats will continue to grow no matter what you do, until they become all but insurmountable. So what can be done about Tehran? With each passing day we discover new ways Iran endangers Israel and the rest of the region. This week we learned Iran has built underground weapons factories in Lebanon. The facilities are reportedly capable of building missiles, drones, small arms and ammunition. Their underground location protects them from aerial bombardment.

 

Then there is Hezbollah’s relationship to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). For more than a decade, the Americans have been selling themselves the implausible claim that the LAF is a responsible fighting force capable and willing to rein in Hezbollah. Never an easy claim – the LAF provided targeting information to Hezbollah missile crews attacking Israel in 2006 – after Hezbollah domesticated the Lebanese government in 2008, the claim became downright silly. And yet, over the past decade, the US has provided the LAF with weapons worth in excess of $1 billion. In 2016 alone the US gave the LAF jets, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and missiles worth more than $220 million.

 

In recent months, showing that Iran no longer feels the need to hide its control over Lebanon, the LAF has openly stated that it is working hand in glove with Hezbollah. Last November, Hezbollah showcased US M113 armored personnel carriers with roof-mounted Russian anti-aircraft guns, at a military parade in Syria. The next month the Americans gave the LAF a Hellfire missile-equipped Cessna aircraft with day and night targeting systems. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun is a Hezbollah ally. So is Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and LAF commander Gen. Joseph Aoun. Last month President Aoun told Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, that Hezbollah serves “a complementary role to the Lebanese army.”

 

And yet the Americans insist that it continues to make sense – and to be lawful – to arm the LAF. You can hardly blame them. Denial is an attractive option, given the alternatives. For the past eight years, the Obama administration did everything in its power to empower Iran. To make Iran happy, Obama did nothing as hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed and millions more were forced to flee their homes by Iran and its puppet Bashar Assad. Obama allowed Iran to take over the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military. He sat back as Iran’s Houthi proxy overthrew the pro-US regime in Yemen. And of course, the crowning achievement of Obama’s foreign policy was his nuclear deal with the mullahs. Obama’s deal gives Iran an open path to a nuclear arsenal in a bit more than a decade and enriches the regime beyond Ayatollah Khamenei’s wildest dreams…

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

 

 

Contents                                                              

 

On Topic Links

 

US Investment in – Not Foreign Aid to – Israel: Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, Spring, 2016—At the "Strategic Challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean" conference, Prof. Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University gives an account of the "miracles" which saved Assad's regime and turned him into the "Liberator" of Aleppo: Obama's decision not to strike, the Russian intervention, and now (perhaps) the ascension of President Trump. He suggests three possible outcomes to the civil war in Syria: a Spanish outcome (total victory for one side), an Afghan one (continued insurgency in the periphery), and a Libyan result (chaos and disintegration).

Israel Explains Arrow Intercept of Syrian SAM: Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, Mar. 20, 2017—A senior Israeli Air Force officer on Monday provided operational context to the unusual March 17 Arrow intercept of a Syrian SA-5 surface-to-air missile, which the jointly developed U.S.-Israel anti-ballistic missile system was not designed to fight.

In-House Hizballah Missile Factories Could Add to Massive Arms Buildup: Yaakov Lappin, IPT, Mar. 17, 2017—A recent report saying that Iran constructed underground missile factories in Lebanon for Hizballah would, if accurate, indicate a disturbing boost in the Shi'ite terror organization's ability to self-produce weapons.

Lebanon’s Army and Hizbullah Join Ranks: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Mar. 2, 2017—Hizbullah has completed the process of usurping the Lebanese state and its institutions. The election of Michel Aoun as president, through a forced arrangement with Hizbullah, has fulfilled the Iranian vision of controlling Lebanon without changing the power equation that has prevailed there since the National Pact of 1943.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IRAN FACES “MANY CRISES” DESPITE RUSSIAN ALLIANCE & EXPANDING REGIONAL INFLUENCE

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

   

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. 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.                                                                                   

 

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                     PUTTING IRAN ON NOTICE PUTS TEHRAN OFF BALANCE

         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.]

                                                                                   

Contents

 

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. 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.                                                           

 

Contents

 

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: “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

 

Contents                                                              

 

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 TAPS IRAN HAWKS, BUT WILL THE NEXT PRESIDENT KILL THE DREADED NUCLEAR DEAL?

Israel’s First Project With Trump: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 8, 2016 — Israeli officials are thrilled with the national security team that US President-elect Donald Trump is assembling. And they are right to be.

The Iran Deal Is Doomed: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Nov. 20, 2016 — Will President-elect Donald Trump crash the Iran deal on day one, as he said on the campaign trail?

The EU Cozies with Iran at Its Peril: Behnam Ben Taleblu, World Affairs, Nov. 23, 2016 — Since last summer’s nuclear deal, Iran has been pushing a full court press to be treated as a legitimate member of the international community.

Iran’s Prisoner of the Revolution: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 4, 2016 — An Iranian revolutionary court on Sunday sentenced Ahmad Montazeri to 21 years in prison on a range of national-security charges.

 

On Topic Links

 

Iran Seals Deal With Boeing to Buy 80 Planes Worth $16.6B: Nasser Karimi and Adam Schreck, Washington Post, Dec. 11, 2016

Netanyahu Tells 60 Minutes How Trump Can Undo Iran Deal: Valerie Locke, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 12, 2016

Keith Ellison’s Life as NIAC Cheerleader: Armin Rosen, Tablet, Dec 6, 2016

Popular Iranian Theme Park Encourages Young Boys to Fire Plastic Bullets at Effigies of Netanyahu: Becca Noy, Jerusalem Online, Dec. 9, 2016

 

 

ISRAEL’S FIRST PROJECT WITH TRUMP

Caroline Glick                                                                        

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 8, 2016

 

Israeli officials are thrilled with the national security team that US President-elect Donald Trump is assembling. And they are right to be. The question now is how Israel should respond to the opportunity it presents us with.

 

The one issue that brings together all of the top officials Trump has named so far to his national security team is Iran. Gen. (ret.) John Kelly, whom Trump appointed Wednesday to serve as his secretary of homeland security, warned about Iran’s infiltration of the US from Mexico and about Iran’s growing presence in Central and South America when he served as commander of the US’s Southern Command.

 

Gen. (ret.) James Mattis, Trump’s pick to serve as defense secretary, and Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, whom he has tapped to serve as his national security adviser, were both fired by outgoing President Barack Obama for their opposition to his nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

 

During his video address before the Saban Forum last weekend, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that he looks forward to discussing Obama’s nuclear Iran nuclear deal with Trump after his inauguration next month. Given that Netanyahu views the Iranian regime’s nuclear program – which the nuclear deal guaranteed would be operational in 14 years at most – as the most serious strategic threat facing Israel, it makes sense that he wishes to discuss the issue first.

 

But Netanyahu may be better advised to first address the conventional threat Iran poses to Israel, the US and the rest of the region in the aftermath of the nuclear deal. There are two reasons to start with Iran’s conventional threat, rather than its nuclear program. First, Trump’s generals are reportedly more concerned about the strategic threat posed by Iran’s regional rise than by its nuclear program – at least in the immediate term.

 

Israel has a critical interest in aligning its priorities with those of the incoming Trump administration. The new administration presents Israel with the first chance it has had in 50 years to reshape its alliance with the US on firmer footing than it has stood on to date. The more Israel is able to develop joint strategies with the US for dealing with common threats, the firmer its alliance with the US and the stronger its regional posture will become.

 

The second reason it makes sense for Israel to begin its strategic discussions with the Trump administration by addressing Iran’s growing regional posture is because Iran’s hegemonic rise is a strategic threat to Israel. And at present, Israel lacks a strategy for dealing with it.  Our leaders today still describe Hezbollah with the same terms they used to describe it a decade ago during the Second Lebanon War. They discuss Hezbollah’s massive missile and rocket arsenal. With 150,000 projectiles pointed at Israel, in a way it makes sense that Israel does this.

 

Just this week Israel reinforced the sense that Hezbollah is more or less the same organization it was 10 years ago when – according to Syrian and Hezbollah reports – on Tuesday Israel bombed Syrian military installations outside Damascus. Following the alleged bombing, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told EU ambassadors that Israel is committed to preventing Hezbollah from transferring advanced weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, from Syria to Lebanon. The underlying message is that having those weapons in Syria is not viewed as a direct threat to Israel.

 

Statements like Liberman’s also send the message that other than the prospect of weapons of mass destruction or precision missiles being stockpiled in Lebanon, Israel isn’t particularly concerned about what is happening in Lebanon. These statements are unhelpful because they obfuscate the fact that Hezbollah is not the guerrilla organization it was a decade ago. Hezbollah has changed in four basic ways since the last war. First, Hezbollah is no longer coy about the fact that it is an Iranian, rather than Lebanese, organization.

 

Since Iran’s Revolutionary Guards founded Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1983, the Iranians and Hezbollah terrorists alike have insisted that Hezbollah is an independent organization that simply enjoys warm relations with Iran. But today, with Hezbollah forming the backbone of Iran’s operations in Syria, and increasingly prominent in Afghanistan and Iraq, neither side cares if the true nature of their relationship is recognized. For instance, recently Hezbollah commander Hassan Nasrallah bragged, “We’re open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets are from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

 

What our enemies’ new openness tells us is that Israel must cease discussing Hezbollah and Iran as separate entities. Israel’s next war in Lebanon will not be with Hezbollah, or even with Lebanon. It will be with Iran. This is not a semantic distinction. It is a strategic one. Making it will have a positive impact on how both Israel and the rest of the world understand the regional strategic reality facing Israel, the US and the rest of the nations of the Middle East.

 

The second way that Hezbollah is different today is that it is no longer a guerrilla force. It is a regular army with a guerrilla arm and a regional presence. Its arsenal is as deep as Iran’s arsenal. And at present at least, it operates under the protection of the Russian Air Force and air defense systems. Hezbollah has deployed at least a thousand fighters to Iraq where they are fighting alongside Iranian forces and Shi’ite militia, which Hezbollah trains. Recent photographs of a Hezbollah column around Mosul showed that in addition to its advanced missiles, Hezbollah also fields an armored corps. Its armored platforms include M1A1 Abrams tanks and M-113 armored personnel carriers.

 

The footage from Iraq, along with footage from the military parade Hezbollah held last month in Syria, where its forces also showed off their M-113s, makes clear that Hezbollah’s US platform- based maneuver force is not an aberration. The significance of Hezbollah’s vastly expanded capabilities is clear. Nasrallah’s claims in recent years that in the next war his forces will stage a ground invasion of the Galilee and seek to seize Israeli border towns was not idle talk. Even worse, the open collaboration between Russia and Iran-Hezbollah in Syria, and their recent victories in Aleppo, mean that there is no reason for Israel to assume that Hezbollah will only attack from Lebanon. There is a growing likelihood that Hezbollah will make its move from Syrian territory.

 

The third major change from 2006 is that like Iran, Hezbollah today is much richer than it was before Obama concluded the nuclear deal with the ayatollahs last year. The deal, which canceled economic and trade sanctions on Iran, has given the mullahs a massive infusion of cash. Shortly after the sanctions were canceled, the Iranians announced that they were increasing their military budget by 90%. Since Hezbollah officially received $200 million per year before sanctions were canceled, the budget increase means that Hezbollah is now receiving some $400m. per year from Iran…                                                                

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

 

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THE IRAN DEAL IS DOOMED                                                                                                             

Lee Smith                                                                                                              

Weekly Standard, Nov. 20, 2016

 

Will President-elect Donald Trump crash the Iran deal on day one, as he said on the campaign trail? If so, Barack Obama's signature foreign policy initiative, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will melt into air. Obama allies and Iran deal supporters at home and abroad are already showing their anxiety.

 

The president-elect shouldn't tear up the agreement, argues the National Iranian American Council, a key voice in the administration's deal-promoting echo chamber. NIAC's Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi wrote last week that it's "in the interest of the United States to build on the Iran nuclear deal to resolve remaining tensions with Iran and help stabilize the Middle East." The Europeans are also concerned. Last week, EU foreign ministers issued a statement from Brussels. "The upholding of commitments by all sides is a necessary condition to continue rebuilding trust and allow for continued, steady and gradual improvement in relations between the European Union, its member States and Iran."

 

As we argued in these pages last week, the Iran deal is likely to collapse under its own weight if the incoming administration merely enforces its terms—something the Obama team has conspicuously failed to do. Instead, the Obama White House has bribed Iran, drummed up business for the regime, kept Congress from imposing nonnuclear sanctions, and excused Iranian violations. If the Trump White House simply stops propping up what the president-elect has called the "worst deal ever negotiated," the Iranians are likely to walk.

 

What worries the deal's supporters is that the new commander in chief will take an even more aggressive posture and undo with his own hands what he has called a "lopsided" agreement. Some argue that's undesirable, and others impossible. Senator Bob Corker, for instance, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggests that Trump should take a more tempered approach. "I don't think he will tear it up, and I don't think that's the way to start," said Corker, rumored to be in the running for secretary of state. "I think what he should do is build consensus with these other countries that [Iran is] definitely violating the agreement."

 

Indeed, Iran is violating the agreement. Last week, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, noted that Iran had again exceeded its limit of heavy water (used to produce plutonium for nuclear warheads). Certainly the new president should seek to work with the deal's signatories and other allies to build consensus on Iran. However, renegotiating the JCPOA—with a less than helpful Russia and China at the table, never mind Iran itself—involves risks. What if the world's most famous negotiator can't get a better agreement than his predecessor? It would lend weight to the Obama administration's contention that the deal it secured with Iran was the best to be had. Worse, it leaves the new president with egg on his face and someone else's deal in his pocket.

 

Trump is thus cornered, say Iran deal supporters; he has no choice but to abide by the agreement. The JCPOA is a "multilateral accord," the European Union's head of international affairs, Federica Mogherini, said last week. The JCPOA, she said, was "not concluded with one country or government but was approved by a resolution of the U.N. Security Council, and there is no possibility that it can be changed by a single government." Actually, that's not true. There is very little to stop the Trump White House from toppling the JCPOA. The United States can reimpose its own nuclear-related sanctions, and more important it can reimpose multilateral sanctions—unilaterally. The means are outlined in Article 37 of the JCPOA and in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which explain how the snapback measures work.

 

The instrument was designed to take advantage of the United States' veto power at the U.N. Security Council, while sidelining the veto wielded by Iran's two closest allies among the deal's signatories, China and Russia. Let's say Iran is found to be not in compliance with the JCPOA (and it is not, as the IAEA found last week). Any of the signatories can notify the Security Council, at which point the Security Council has 30 days to address the issue. If the concerns are not satisfied, a resolution comes before the Security Council to continue suspending nuclear sanctions on Iran. This is where the power of the veto comes into play—the United States would use its veto power to strike down the measure, at which point all multilateral sanctions would be reimposed. At that stage, Iran almost certainly walks out of the deal.

 

Iran deal supporters are likely to argue that the Trump White House cannot avail itself of this measure, even though the unilateral trigger on the "snapback" mechan­ism was how the administration sold the deal to some of its critics. The explanation for why Trump can't use it is likely to be as bizarre and ad hoc as nearly everything that's come out of the Obama administration's Iran echo chamber. But here's the thing—the advocates of the deal, like NIAC and other Obama surrogates, were powerful only because they were plugged into the White House for the last eight years. The "echo chamber" was just a well-funded fiction-writing workshop—as long as it was directed by the president of the United States, it produced what Obama deputy Ben Rhodes calls "narrative." Once cut off from the White House, the echo chamber will simply spin fairy tales that bear no relationship to reality.

 

Untangling the Obama administration's many myths will be among the multitude of tasks facing the incoming Trump White House. It can start with the simple expedient of enforcing the Iran deal, at which point it will die a quick death.       

 

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THE EU COZIES WITH IRAN AT ITS PERIL                          

Behnam Ben Taleblu                                                   

World Affairs, Nov. 23, 2016

 

Since last summer’s nuclear deal, Iran has been pushing a full court press to be treated as a legitimate member of the international community. Its behavior suggests otherwise. Since the accord, Tehran has stepped up support to the Assad regime in Syria, persisted in testing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and continued human rights abuses within its borders. Nevertheless, on October 25, the European Parliament passed a resolution affirming its desire to normalize political and economic ties with Iran. Effectively, Tehran would be poised to reap dividends of closer ties without changing its conduct.

 

The resolution does contain language critical of Iran for its rights abuses and brazen anti-Semitism—thus drawing the ire of Iran’s hardliners. But it is more of a fig leaf to cover the EU’s true motives: ending the sanctions firewall and the taboo of ties with Tehran. The EU’s imports from Iran dipped considerably in 2012 when it implemented an oil embargo on the Islamic Republic. Pursuant to the nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA—Europe will remove some of the most dangerous Iranian actors from its sanctions lists by 2023 or earlier. Worse, some sanctions, like those on Iran’s premier terror-financing institution Bank Saderat, have slipped well in advance of that deadline.

 

According to the EU Parliament resolution, Brussels seeks “a dialogue of the four Cs’”—namely talks that are comprehensive, cooperative, critical, and constructive. Similarly, an April 2016 EU Parliament report called for “strategic and structured dialogue” with Iran. On its face, this attempt to broaden the range of issues on the table with Tehran is commendable. In actuality, it is tantamount to falling back on an already-failed policy. In the 1990s, Europe embraced several forms of this policy to no avail. Each time, it was given a different moniker—ranging from “critical dialogue” to “comprehensive dialogue”—but its lackluster results in changing Iranian behavior at home and abroad speaks for itself.

 

In a display of wishful thinking, European proponents of this allegedly new policy insist they can build on the nuclear deal to change Iranian behavior. By flooding Tehran with cash, the JCPOA merely provides the regime with more resources with which to pursue its destabilizing regional ambitions. European defenders of normalization with Iran maintain that the accord “was a huge prize for peace and stability in a troubled region.” But this ignores the fact that Tehran is already intricately involved in a number of regional conflicts. Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and various Shiite proxies and militias are fighting in battlefields across the region at Tehran’s behest. At home, business interests connected to or controlled by the IRGC stand to gain the most from the deal. Europe would be bolstering those whom it should be weakening.

 

A similar challenge exists with respect to Iranian airlines, which are set to service new destinations in the aftermath of the nuclear deal. The US Treasury designated Mahan Air in 2011 for its support for terrorism, with specific reference to its role in the Syrian theater. Recently, reports emerged that Mahan has grown its operations in Europe—where it remains unsanctioned—as well as the Caucasus. Tehran’s penchant to illicitly procure material for its missile program has also continued unabated. According to Germany’s intelligence services, Iranian attempts to acquire “proliferation-sensitive” technologies reached “a quantitatively high level” in 2015. Normalization with Tehran would require ignoring these disturbing trends.

 

As the global business community eyes Tehran, Europe should not squander this opportunity to meaningfully alter Iran’s policies. Before rushing back to regain its place as the Islamic Republic’s largest trading partner, the EU must recognize that unless it demands changes to Iranian behavior upfront, Iran will retain the upper hand in any post-deal negotiations. European advocates of the nuclear deal insist that it would shore up security and stability in an uncertain world. Now is their chance to put their money where their mouth is.                                                

 

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IRAN’S PRISONER OF THE REVOLUTION

Editorial

Wall Street Journal, Dec. 4, 2016

 

An Iranian revolutionary court on Sunday sentenced Ahmad Montazeri to 21 years in prison on a range of national-security charges. The 60-year-old cleric will serve a mere six years by Iranian justice standards, owing to his age and his family’s special status in Iranian revolutionary history. But his sentence is a reminder that the regime remains as brutal as ever, even as it reaps the economic benefits of its nuclear deal with the West.

 

Mr. Montazeri’s crime was to release tapes that capture his father, the Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, denouncing the regime’s repression during its first decade in power. The elder Montazeri, who died in 2009, was one of the regime’s founders with Ayatollah Khomeini. Tapped to succeed Khomeini as supreme leader, Montazeri grew increasingly disillusioned with the theocracy he had established. The final break came in 1988 when the regime executed thousands of leftists and supporters of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) opposition group. The MEK had helped Khomeini topple the Shah in 1979. But after the revolution the new supreme leader set out to consolidate power and liquidate his erstwhile allies.

 

Montazeri denounced the executions at the time, accusing senior security apparatchiks in the 1988 recording of committing the “biggest crime in the Islamic Republic, for which the history will condemn us.” He added: “Beware of 50 years from now, when people will pass judgment on the leader [Khomeini] and will say he was a bloodthirsty, brutal and murderous leader.” For his dissent, Montazeri was sidelined and has spent much of the rest of his life under house arrest. Among the men he addressed in the tape was Mostafa Pourmohammadi, who is now Justice Minister in the “moderate” government that negotiated the nuclear deal.

 

Confronted with the recording this summer, Mr. Pourmohammadi said, “We take pride in executing God’s commandment with respect to the hypocrites,” using the regime’s epithet for the MEK. This episode about the nature of the Tehran regime is worth keeping in mind as Donald Trump becomes the seventh U.S. President to confront the Iranian threat.

 

Contents

           

On Topic Links

 

Iran Seals Deal With Boeing to Buy 80 Planes Worth $16.6B: Nasser Karimi and Adam Schreck, Washington Post, Dec. 11, 2016 —Iran’s flag carrier finalized a major deal with U.S. plane maker Boeing Co. to buy $16.6 billion worth of passenger planes Sunday in one of the most tangible benefits yet for the Islamic Republic from last year’s landmark nuclear agreement.

Netanyahu Tells 60 Minutes How Trump Can Undo Iran Deal: Valerie Locke, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 12, 2016 —In an interview with 60 Minutes aired Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he plans to ask President-elect Donald Trump to dismantle the P5+1 Iranian nuclear deal when he enters office and revealed that he has several suggestions on how it can be done.

Keith Ellison’s Life as NIAC Cheerleader: Armin Rosen, Tablet, Dec 6, 2016—July of 2009 was not the most obvious time to argue against sanctioning Iran. In June, the regime violently suppressed a widespread protest movement that emerged in response to the alleged rigging of the country’s presidential election.

Popular Iranian Theme Park Encourages Young Boys to Fire Plastic Bullets at Effigies of Netanyahu: Becca Noy, Jerusalem Online, Dec. 9, 2016—The Iranian government held a celebratory opening ceremony for a new amusement park for children. However, this park is not a typical children’s park. At Iran’s City of Games for Revolutionary Children, young Iranians learn how to become revolutionists and fight enemy countries.

 

 

IMPROVING SAUDI-ISRAEL TIES, & YEMEN PROXY WAR, REFLECT GROWING SAUDI-IRAN TENSION

 

Is Saudi Arabia Warming Up to Jews?: Elliot Friedland, Clarion Project, Aug. 23, 2016 — Saudi Arabia has long been the hub of the austere form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and has long perpetuated anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews in the country’s media.

A Joyous Holiday and a Sad World: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Sept. 20, 2016 — Two million Muslims will be making the obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj, this month, as mandated by the Islamic calendar.

Holy War of Words: Growing Saudi-Iranian Tensions: Simon Henderson, Washington Institute, Sept. 7, 2016 — In the coming days, hundreds of thousands of Muslims will visit the Saudi city of Mecca to partake in the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Yemen: The War Canada Can’t Afford to Ignore: Elizabeth Renzetti, Globe & Mail, Aug. 26, 2016— Far from the watchful eye of the world’s media, war is ravaging Yemen, killing thousands of civilians, and starving and displacing millions more.

 

On Topic Links

 

No Saudi Money for American Mosques : Daniel Pipes, The Hill, Aug. 22, 2016

In Saudi Arabia, a Revolution Disguised as Reform: Dennis Ross, Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2016

‘We Misled You’: How the Saudis Are Coming Clean on Funding Terrorism: Zalmay Khalilzad, Politico, Sept. 14, 2016

Hajj Prep: Search Soul, Buy Sturdy Shoes, Pay the Dentist: Diaa Hadid, New York Times, Sept. 9, 2016

 

IS SAUDI ARABIA WARMING UP TO JEWS?

Elliot Friedland

 Clarion Project, Aug. 23, 2016

 

Saudi Arabia has long been the hub of the austere form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and has long perpetuated anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews in the country’s media. For example one sermon broadcast on the official state channel from the Holy Mosque in Mecca said “O God, destroy the tyrant Jews. O God, deal with the Jews and their supporters. O God, destroy them for they are within your power.” But now relations seem to be thawing between Saudi Arabia and Israel and several prominent media personalities have publicly written about changing attitudes towards Jews.

 

Famous Saudi columnist Saham al-Kahtani wrote that references in the Quran to Jews as being “apes and pigs” could only be taken to refer to the Jews of the time of Muhammed and did not apply to contemporary Jews. Yasser Hijazi, of the influential paper Riyadh, published in the nation’s capital, went further, calling on Muslims to “leave behind their hostility and hatred of Jews” in a piece translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

 

Israel’s Channel Two TV, reported on this trend in a recent newscast. Israeli media attributed the change in focus to warming ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia following the Iran Deal over Iran’s nuclear program. “The change in tone in Saudi rhetoric towards Israel comes a year after the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers — a deal that leaves Riyadh concerned over its position in the Middle East — and as Tehran’s proxies in Syria and Lebanon are holding their ground in the Syrian civil war,” The Times of Israel wrote. The Times of Israel cited a July delegation to Israel of academics and businessmen headed by a retired Saudi general as further evidence of warming ties. The delegation met with Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold and other senior military and political officials, as well as with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

 

Over the last few years there have been subtle changes in Saudi Arabia’s position that may indicate a gradual shift towards a less anti-Semitic policy. In 2013, an assistant professor at King Saud University in Riyadh published an article praising Israel’s democracy and explaining that Arab youth was unaware that in Israel many young people “strongly believe that Israel’s stability is conditional upon its coexistence with the Arabs.” She also condemned Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians in the piece and condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet in a heavily-censored country like Saudi Arabia writing anything remotely praiseworthy about Israel is fraught with peril, so it condemning the “occupation” is pretty much essential if discussing the topic at all.

 

In December 2014 the Saudi Labor Ministry said Jews would be permitted to work in Saudi Arabia, provided they were not Israeli citizens. “We bar entry [into Saudi Arabia] only to those with Israeli citizenship. Other than that, we are open to most nationalities and religions,” an unnamed government source told Saudi daily Al-Watan in a report translated by MEMRI. “For example, if a worker is a citizen of Yemen but practices Judaism, the [Saudi] Embassy [in Yemen] would not object to issuing him a work visa for the kingdom.”

 

The Saudi Labor Ministry later issued an ambiguous statement denying the reports saying that while new forms do allow those applying for a visa to list Judaism as a faith, the government has not made an official decision to allow the employment of Jews in the country. This disconnect can perhaps be explained by the difference between the public and private dealings of the Saudi state. The July visit of the Saudi delegation to Israel was officially not coordinated with the royal family and participants did not visit any Israeli governmental institutions, rather, they conducted their meetings in hotels. Similarly media attention to the employment of Jews in Saudi Arabia may have prompted an official denial, while in practice some Jews are able to obtain visas to travel and work in Saudi Arabia with no problems.

 

Saudi Arabia is a long way from supporting equality for all faiths equally and becoming a liberal state instead of a theocratic monarchy. Yet any progress is to be welcomed and change takes time. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring it is worth considering that the violent overthrow of states has so far failed to bring liberalism to the Middle East. Perhaps supporting gradual change as fought for by liberals within Middle-Eastern societies is more likely to yield tangible and largely bloodless positive results.          

           

 

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A JOYOUS HOLIDAY AND A SAD WORLD

Dr. Mordechai Kedar                                                   

Arutz Sheva, Sept. 20, 2016

 

Two million Muslims will be making the obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj, this month, as mandated by the Islamic calendar. The Hajj is one of the five basic pillars of Islam, a commandment that every Muslim must fulfill at least once in his lifetime.  Muslims from all over the Islamic world come to the Hajj, differing in appearance, skin color, language, dress, culture and customs, but all take part in rituals performed according to the stringent dictates originating in the Hannibal code of law as interpreted by the Wahhabi Saudi regime.

 

The Hajj symbolizes the ingathering of all Muslims to “The House of Allah,” as well as the love and affection that are expected to reign between Muslims and the happiness that unites them in their joint dedication to the service of Allah. The robe worn by the pilgrims – the “ihram” – a white sheath without pockets – signifies the modesty that man must show when coming to the home of his Lord and the absence of pockets proves that all belongs to Allah, that man’s property is worth nothing,  is temporary and perishable at best. The fact that the robes are identical and worn by all symbolizes that all are equal before Allah, rich and poor, king and servant, honored and despised. The pristine color of the ihram expresses the forgiveness for transgressions that takes place at the Hajj where every man who repents is cleansed of his sins.

 

The Hajj is an wrenching emotional experience, the most massive assembly in the world.  The intensive and crowded meeting with Muslims from a myriad of different cultures, the religious rituals, the speeches and prayers, all turn the Hajj into an ecstatic experience that creates a feeling that believers cannot achieve in other places or occasions. Pilgrims return from the Hajj with glowing eyes, veins suffused with religious adrenaline, heightened religious fervor and renewed and intense loyalty to Allah.

 

For most of those who return from the Hajj, this heightened religious fervor is expressed in adherence to the behaviors that are central to Islam: five prayers a day, fasting during Ramadan charity to the poor, modest dress, proper behavior and speech, avoidance of sins and transgressions and better relations with family and surroundings. Some of those returning from the Hajj interpret their heightened religious intensity as a reason to turn to Jihad, not only against the evil inclination within man’s soul but against infidels as well. And thus, not a small number of the Jihadists fighting in various areas were drawn in by representatives of terror groups who come to the Hajj in order to meet those most vulnerable to their efforts.

 

A massive gathering in an average-sized city like Mecca causes acute safety dangers because of the extreme crowding due to the fact that everyone has to perform the same rites at the same time and on the same day. The Saudi royal household invests enormous sums to build an infrastructure that will allow the crowds to perform the rituals safely, and builds bridges, lanes, passages, sidewalks and roads that create a secure environment for the millions who come to the Hajj.

 

The Saudi king calls himself “Guardian of the Holy Sites” in order to bestow religious sanctity on himself and his regime. This is the reason he feels responsible for arranging the Hajj so that it is safe. The Saudis build thousands of air conditioned tents for the pilgrims, and provide them with tens of thousands of sheep so that they can celebrate “Id Al Adha” – the “festival of the offering” that follows the Hajj. Sometimes, however, there are slip-ups and misunderstandings, and when two groups, each consisting of tens of thousands of people march towards each other by mistake, the tragic result is that many of them lie trampled underfoot and that many lives are lost in the resulting stampede.

 

Last year a crane fell over and killed tens of people, but the worst part of the accident was the altercation between the Saudi police and the Iranian pilgrims which left many of the Iranians dead.  The pilgrims from Iran are Shiites and the Saudis suspect them of attempting to perform rituals according to Shiite tradition, in direct opposition to Sunni Islamic principles – and certainly to the Wahhabi version of those rites. In past years there were other altercations between Iranian pilgrims and Saudi police, so that this is nothing new.

 

This year the dispute between Iran and the Saudis started anew as they rehashed the arguments over the accidents that occurred in previous years until the anger of both sides reached such a frenzy that the Mufti of Saudi Arabia declared Khamenei – the Supreme Ayatollah of Shiite Iran – an “Amgushi,” that is, not a Muslim, a heretic, a follower of the pre-Islamic Persian religion disguised as a Muslim. There is no more insulting epithet in the Muslim dictionary than the word “Amgushi.” As a result, Khamenei decided to move the Hajj this year from Mecca to Karbala, the Iraqi city closest to Mecca. In the year 680 C.E., Hussein Ibn Ali the leader of the Shiite rebels, was murdered and beheaded there by a military unit of the Sunni Umayyad Caliph Yazid ibn Muawiyah…

 

This rift over the Hajj is just another aspect of the war between the Saudis and the Iranians in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and in my estimation we are approaching the day when rockets are going to be flying through the air from Iran to Saudi Arabia and vice versa. This will be a disastrous development for the entire world because these two powers have both called on the ultimate player to help them, Allah, and both sides claim they are fighting for him and in his name. This kind of situation leads to a frenzy with which the world cannot cope, because no earthly or human considerations can put an end to a war that Allah wages against the infidel.

 

Economic considerations, oil infrastructure, loss of lives and damage to other countries do not have the slightest effect on Allah and his armies, and if – Heaven forfend – a real war breaks out between Saudi Arabia and Iran it will be a war to the bitter end using chemical and biological weapons. If one of the sides has atomic weapons, it is quite possible that they will be employed. I am stressing this point because both Saudi Arabia and Iran can get their hands on nuclear weapons, Iran has developed its own and the Saudis have acquired them from Pakistan. World leaders, especially those who gave their support to easing the sanctions on Iran and allowed that country to advance its military nuclear projects and continue to develop its missile arsenal, will have to answer for the decisions they made that may bring the Middle East and possibly other parts of the world to the point of no return on the road leading straight to hell.

 

And that is how the Hajj, the holiday that is meant to bring humankind closer to God and to a life spent under his protective shadow, may bring the Saudis, Iranians and perhaps other countries to their deaths under the shadow  of a horrendous mushroom cloud. A culture whose concepts range from “cursed tree” to “Amgushi” and which incorporates all-powerful Allah in its ranks, might find it perfectly acceptable to destroy a world that was built by mankind and for mankind, using concepts taken from the world of mankind. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.  

 

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HOLY WAR OF WORDS: GROWING SAUDI-IRANIAN TENSIONS                                               

Simon Henderson                                                                                               

Washington Institute, Sept. 7, 2016

 

In the coming days, hundreds of thousands of Muslims will visit the Saudi city of Mecca to partake in the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Unlike last year, there will be no Iranians there. Tehran and Riyadh were unable to agree on visa allocations and security arrangements intended to avoid the type of tragic stampede that killed hundreds of pilgrims last time around — an incident in which Iran suffered more victims than any other country. Two days ago, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that Iranians who were injured last year and subsequently died were "murdered" by the kingdom's inadequate emergency response. He went on to suggest that Saudi Arabia was not a proper custodian of the holy places — effectively a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the kingdom's Sunni royal family, since the monarch has been styled "Custodian of the Two Holy Places of Mecca and Medina" since the 1980s.

 

Khamenei's words prompted a damning response yesterday from the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, the country's chief cleric, who described Iran's Shiite majority as "Zoroastrians" and "not Muslims." Anti-Shiite sentiment is common in Saudi Arabia, and the "Zoroastrian" jibe (meaning fire worshippers) is sometimes mentioned in the press. But the very public use of such words by a mainstream religious leader is extraordinary — though hardly surprising given Khamenei's comments.

 

The verbal escalation did not stop there: a few hours later, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif entered the fray, tweeting about the "bigoted extremism that Wahhabi top cleric & Saudi terror masters preach." This was no doubt a direct response to the Grand Mufti (since the Saudi brand of Islam is often labeled "Wahhabism"), and a reiteration of the longstanding Iranian claim that Riyadh supports the Islamic State terrorist group. The situation is arguably as bad as it was in 1987, when Iranian pilgrims in Mecca shouted political slogans that prompted trigger-happy Saudi National Guard forces to open fire, killing scores. Even without Iranians in Mecca this year, the risk of further escalation between the two countries is high.

 

In this regard, a key decisionmaker on the Saudi side will be Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who will likely favor a resolute rather than conciliatory approach. As defense minister, he has been the main proponent of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, which was prompted by Iranian support for the Houthi rebels. That campaign is now a proxy war between the two countries, as are the struggles in Iraq, Syria, and, to a more limited extent, Bahrain. Saudi Arabia's own Shiite minority, concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern Province adjacent to Bahrain and the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, will likely be inflamed by the war of words, and miscalculation is possible, even direct military clashes. In light of this danger, the international community — collectively and individually — should urge both sides to calm the rhetoric.

 

At the very least, the tension represents a setback for U.S. policy, since the Obama administration had hoped that such animosity would be reduced at least somewhat by last year's nuclear agreement with Iran. In a January 2014 interview with the New Yorker, the president stated, "It would be profoundly in the interest of citizens throughout the region if Sunnis and Shias weren't intent on killing each other"; he also expressed his hope of "an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there's competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare."

 

Part of the challenge of quieting the situation is coping with the apparent belief in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states that the Obama administration favors Iran. The president's April interview with the Atlantic caused considerable surprise in Riyadh and other capitals, particularly when he stated, "The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians…requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace." Four months prior, Saudi Arabia had broken off diplomatic relations with Iran after its embassy in Tehran was gutted — an incident that followed the kingdom's execution of a leading Saudi Shiite preacher.

 

Given recent reports of aggressive maneuvering by Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval units in the Gulf, a confrontation with U.S. forces is also possible. Accordingly, Washington's response to the spike in tensions should combine diplomatic and military components — for example, dispatching Secretary of State Kerry or another senior official to the kingdom while visibly reinforcing the Fifth Fleet. America's allies in the region will be hoping for nothing less. Without a significant U.S. response, Saudi Arabia will likely be tempted to consider a more independent and perhaps dangerous course of action.

 

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                        YEMEN: THE WAR CANADA CAN’T AFFORD TO IGNORE

Elizabeth Renzetti

Globe & Mail, Aug. 26, 2016

 

Far from the watchful eye of the world’s media, war is ravaging Yemen, killing thousands of civilians, and starving and displacing millions more. This brutal conflict should be in the spotlight, especially in countries that supply arms to Saudi Arabia, which leads the coalition accused of causing most of the civilian deaths. Countries such as Canada.

 

This year, the Liberal government approved $15-billion in sales of light-armoured vehicles (LAVs) to the Saudi kingdom, a sale that gave this country the dubious honour of being the second-greatest exporter of arms to the Middle East, The Globe and Mail’s Steven Chase reported in June. Earlier versions of Canadian-made LAVS seem to have been used in the war against Houthi rebels in Yemen, The Globe reported in February. Human-rights groups protested against the sale, but otherwise there has been little public outcry.

 

The government’s argument for selling the combat vehicles to a country with an abysmal human-rights record boiled down to, “it creates jobs,” and “if we don’t, someone else will.” Those are lousy arguments for a country aiming to be a leader in global freedom and progress. The Saudi-led Arab coalition’s air strikes are responsible for the majority of the 3,800 civilian deaths in Yemen in the past 18 months, according to a new report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released Thursday.

 

The Saudis’ enemies, the Shia Houthi rebels and their allies backing the deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh, are also responsible for atrocities, possibly including the use of land mines. Cluster bombs are landing on civilian targets. Children are being recruited into militias. An entire country is running out of medication and food. The war in Yemen is said to be a proxy war that Saudi Arabia is waging with Iran through the Houthi militia, but there’s nothing proxy about a bomb landing on a wedding celebration. “The resilience of the Yemeni people has been stretched beyond human limits,” the UN report warns. It calls for an independent report into the civilian devastation, which may be cold comfort to the people who are being bombed in marketplaces, schools, factories and hospitals.

 

A ceasefire ended in early August, which has caused the destruction to increase again. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) recently withdrew its staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen, after a devastating hospital bombing on Aug. 15 killed 19 and injured 24. MSF said it gave the GPS co-ordinates of its facilities to the warring parties. Announcing its pullout from the region, the medical aid group said: “MSF is neither satisfied nor reassured by the Saudi-led coalition’s statement that this attack was a mistake.” At the same time, it’s hard to know the exact scope of the destruction, considering how lethal it is for journalists to operate in Yemen. It’s extremely difficult for foreign reporters to gain access to the country, and local journalists have been killed, harassed, kidnapped and imprisoned.

 

John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, was in Jeddah this week for “peace talks” with Saudi officials, even as his government is selling billions of dollars worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. The most recent deal, $1.15-billion (U.S.) in tanks and other arms, was approved earlier this month, though a small group of U.S. lawmakers is trying to delay the sale until Congress can study it further. The Obama administration has approved $110-billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the past six years, New York University professor Mohamad Bazzi recently wrote in The Nation, part of a complicated geopolitical dance to balance interests in the region. “The United States is complicit in this carnage,” The New York Times wrote in an editorial about the war in Yemen this week.

 

If the United States is the No. 1 supplier of arms to the Middle East, Canada is now No.2, according to figures compiled by the defence-industry publisher IHS Jane’s…Canada is not in the same weapons-dealing class as the United States, which supplies Saudi Arabia with helicopters, missiles and arms. However, the Canadian government has diluted the language around arms-export controls to make them less sensitive to human-rights concerns and more attuned to commercial interests. All of this should raise alarm bells, or at least spark interest in knowing more about this country’s arms-export deals. Unfortunately, the war in Yemen is grinding and complicated and far, far away. An entire population will pay the price for the world looking the other way.

 

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On Topic Links

 

No Saudi Money for American Mosques : Daniel Pipes, The Hill, Aug. 22, 2016 —Saudi Arabia may be the country in the world most different from the United States, especially where religion is concerned. An important new bill introduced by Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) aims to take a step toward fixing a monumental imbalance.

In Saudi Arabia, a Revolution Disguised as Reform: Dennis Ross, Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2016 —Today, it’s hard to be optimistic about anything in the Middle East. And yet having just visited Saudi Arabia, in which I led a small bipartisan group of former national security officials, I came away feeling hopeful about the kingdom’s future.

‘We Misled You’: How the Saudis Are Coming Clean on Funding Terrorism: Zalmay Khalilzad, Politico, Sept. 14, 2016 —On my most recent trip to Saudi Arabia, I was greeted with a startling confession. In the past, when we raised the issue of funding Islamic extremists with the Saudis, all we got were denials. This time, in the course of meetings with King Salman, Crown Prince Nayef, Deputy Crown Mohammad Bin Salman and several ministers, one top Saudi official admitted to me, “We misled you.”

Hajj Prep: Search Soul, Buy Sturdy Shoes, Pay the Dentist: Diaa Hadid, New York Times, Sept. 9, 2016 —My father was on the phone from Australia, giving gravely voiced advice on preparing for the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. “Have you paid the dentist?” he asked. “He ruined my teeth!” I shrieked. “No matter, Baba,” he said, using an Arabic endearment. “This is the hajj. You have to clear your debts, even if you don’t think they are fair.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

SYRIAN REFUGEES FLEEING GENOCIDAL I.S. & RUSSIA-BACKED ASSAD: “ISRAEL IS ENEMY #1”

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Russia's Military Presence in Syria: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2015 — The current increase of the Russian military presence in northwest Syria is a function of the declining military fortunes of the Assad regime.

Assad Regime Fans Refugee Crisis: Sam Dagher, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2015 — As hundreds of thousands of refugees flee Syria for Europe, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been coming down hard on those who have stayed behind, particularly people viewed as potential threats.

For Syrian Refugees in Italy, Israel Remains Enemy #1: Rossella Tercatin, Times of Israel, Sept. 12, 2015 — At a migrant reception center near Milan’s central train station, two-year-old Mahmoud sleeps on a pillow in a pair of patched-up grey pajamas, exhausted after fleeing Damascus a month ago with his parents and relatives.

Facing Iran on its Own: Louis Rene Beres, Breaking Israel News, Sept. 8, 2015 — In core matters of war and peace, timing is everything.

 

On Topic Links

 

Middle East Provocations and Predictions: Daniel Pipes, Mackenzie Institute, Sept. 9, 2015

The Russian Bear in Sheep’s Clothing: Andrew Foxall, New York Times, Sept. 15, 2015

Iran: Russia to Help Us Improve Our Centrifuges: Times of Israel, Sept. 16, 2015

Migrants Pose as Syrians to Open Door to Asylum in Europe: Manuela Mesco, Matt Bradley & Giovanni Legorano, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, 2015

                  

                             

RUSSIA'S MILITARY PRESENCE IN SYRIA                                                                                      

Jonathan Spyer

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2015

 

The current increase of the Russian military presence in northwest Syria is a function of the declining military fortunes of the Assad regime. It represents a quantitative, rather than qualitative, change in the nature of the Russian engagement in Syria. Moscow’s goal throughout the conflict has been to keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power by all means necessary. The ends remain the same. But as the situation on the ground changes, so the Russian means employed to achieve this goal must change with it.

 

Since the outset of the Syrian civil war, the key problem for Assad has been manpower. Against a Sunni Arab rebellion with a vast pool of potential fighters from Syria’s 60 percent Sunni Arab majority and from among foreign volunteers, the regime has been forced to draw ever deeper from a far shallower base. At the outset of the conflict, the Syrian Arab Army was on paper a huge force – of 220,000 regular soldiers plus an additional 280,000 reserves. But the vast majority of this army was unusable by the dictator. This is because it consisted overwhelmingly of Sunni conscripts, whose trustworthiness from the regime’s point of view was seriously in doubt. Since then, the army has shrunk in size from attrition, desertion and draft dodging.

 

The story of the last four years has been the attempt by Assad and his allies to offset the reality of insufficient manpower for the task at hand. This has been achieved by two means. First, the regime has chosen to retreat from large swathes of the country, in order to be able to more effectively hold the essential areas it has to maintain with its limited numbers. The abandonment of the country’s east and north led to the emergence of the areas of control held by Kurdish, Sunni Arab rebel, and later al-Qaida and Islamic State forces in these areas.

 

But of course retreating in order to consolidate is a strategy that can be pursued only so far. At a certain point, the area remaining becomes no longer viable for the purpose intended – namely, the preservation of the regime in a form that can guarantee the needs of its Russian and Iranian backers, and the relative security of the ruling elite itself and to a lesser extent of the population which relies on it and upon which it relies.

 

To offset the arrival at this point, Assad and his friends have striven in ever more creative ways to put sufficient men in the field, and to maintain the edge in military equipment which could hold back the masses of the lightly armed rebels. There were the hastily assembled Alawi irregulars of the “shabiha.” Then an increasing commitment of Iranian regional assets – including the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite militia forces. Then there was the Iranian-trained National Defense Forces. In recent months, northwest Syria has witnessed the arrival of “volunteers” from as far afield as the Hazara Shi’ite communities of Afghanistan (paid for by Tehran).

 

Despite all this effort, the rebels have, since the spring, been pushing westward toward Latakia province. If the rebels reach Latakia, there is nowhere left to retreat to. The regime and its allies must hold the province or face defeat. The appearance of apparently Russian-crewed BTR-82A APCs on the Latakia battlefield appears to be testimony to Russia’s awareness of this – and its willingness to dig deeper for Assad – even if this means the direct deployment of Russian personnel on the battlefield in a limited way.

 

The apparent deployment of a growing force of the Russian army’s 810th Independent Marine Brigade at and around the naval depot of Tartus in Latakia province offers further evidence of this commitment, as well as a pointer to the interests in Syria that Moscow regards as vital. The bolder claims of Russian Pchela 1T UAVs and even Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets over the skies of the Idlib battlefield are not yet confirmed. But the respected Ruslanleviev Russian investigative website found the evidence regarding the APCs and the marines around Tartus to be persuasive.

 

There is a reason why the rebel march toward Latakia cannot simply be absorbed by the regime as a further tactical withdrawal, analogous to earlier retreats from Hasakah, Quneitra, most of Deraa, Aleppo, Idlib and so on. Latakia province is the heartland of the Syrian Alawi community. It is a place where regime supporters have been able to convince themselves for most of the last four years that here, at least, they were safe. If the rebels break through on the al-Ghab Plain, and the front line moves decisively into the populated areas of Latakia, this will be over.

 

The loss of Latakia province would render the hope of keeping a regime enclave intact no longer viable. It will raise the possibility of the regime losing its control of Syria’s coastline (vital for Assad’s Russian and Iranian backers). This, in turn, could mean rebel capture of the Tartus naval depot. Hence the deployment of the marines, who, according to information available, have not yet been placed in forward positions facing the rebels. Rather, they are gathered around Tartus for its defense.

 

So the steady rebel advance in the direction of Latakia is producing a Russian response of a volume and nature not before witnessed on the Syrian battlefield. Russian weaponry and Russian diplomatic support have been the vital lifelines for Assad throughout the last four years. Previous levels of support are no longer enough. So more is being provided. Still, the current indications do not appear to suggest or presage a major conventional deployment of Russian forces. That would go against the known pattern favored by President Vladimir Putin.

 

Rather, Russian assistance, while on the increase, is likely to be limited to an active support role, perhaps extending to the use of some air power, along with behind-the-scenes advisory and training roles and the use of some specialized personnel in combat or combat support roles…

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

                                                                       

                                                           

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ASSAD REGIME FANS REFUGEE CRISIS                                                                                         

Sam Dagher                                                                                                         

Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2015

 

As hundreds of thousands of refugees flee Syria for Europe, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been coming down hard on those who have stayed behind, particularly people viewed as potential threats. Ahmed al-Hamid is one of them. The 37-year-old doctor said security agents picked him up in late 2013 for his role establishing field hospitals in opposition areas in Homs and Damascus. After six months in jail—where he said he was beaten with batons and whips while strapped to boards—Dr. Hamid was released by a sympathetic judge. Last year, he fled to nearby Lebanon, joining an exodus of professionals, dissidents and others who were driven out for being on the wrong side of the Syrian regime. “There is no order, per se, but all conditions are being put in place so that people do not dare go back,” says Dr. Hamid, a stocky man with a shaved head.

 

Refugees from Syria’s multisided civil war have fueled Europe’s migrant crisis. More than half the nearly 400,000 who have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year are Syrian, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. The West has focused largely on those fleeing Islamic State and its atrocities, but Mr. Assad’s regime hasn’t relented with the intimidation and force it has used since the start of the conflict more than four years ago: detention, torture and mandatory drafting into the army for military-age men, along with starvation and an aerial bombing campaign of opposition-held areas. His government has also offered subtle incentives to leave, such as an easier time obtaining a Syrian passport and less hassle booking flights to foreign countries.

 

The regime’s tactics are pushing out its opponents and those perceived hostile to Mr. Assad, while friendlier groups are rebuilding from the wreckage of war. The cumulative results are broader demographic change designed to tighten Mr. Assad’s hold over the few places he still controls. Many Syrians say the Assad regime, along with the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, is specifically targeting Syria’s Sunni Arab majority. Syria’s rebels are mostly Sunni, while those defending the regime are mainly members of Mr. Assad’s Shiite-linked Alawite minority and Shiite foreign fighters.

 

Only two pro-regime Shiite villages remain in northern Idlib province after Mr. Assad lost an air base there this week to the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. Both Mr. Assad and his main allies in the war—Hezbollah, Iran and Russia—appear intent on maintaining control over Damascus and a corridor of territory connecting the capital with the Mediterranean coast via Homs…

 

In Damascus, the demographic changes aimed at surrounding Mr. Assad with regime-friendly groups are increasingly visible. Many residents say parts of the city’s historic quarter are now unrecognizable because of the growing presence of Iran-trained Syrian Shiite militiamen and their families. Several predominantly Sunni areas around Damascus have been recently recaptured by the regime and its allies, prompting most residents who are seen as sympathetic to the opposition to flee. Syrian officials say they are proceeding with an ambitious urban renewal plan that seeks to construct better housing and infrastructure, and that there are no broader efforts to repopulate cities with people friendly to the regime.

 

“Our current preoccupation is people’s return,” said Homs governor Talal al-Barazi, who was appointed by Mr. Assad. “Demographic changes in any area are forbidden.” A 27-year-old mechanical engineer and opposition activist, who asked not to be identified because his family remains in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, estimates that only 500,000 civilians are left in the area. That’s about one-third the number from two years ago, when the regime was blamed for a major chemical weapons attack on the area.

 

Since then the regime has kept up its bombardment of the area. In August, 556 people, including 123 children, were killed in regime airstrikes on the area, according to tallies released by local medics. The activist arrived in Beirut last month after paying to be smuggled out through a tunnel that connects the eastern suburbs with Damascus. Many Syrians who come to Lebanon are looking to move on to Europe. And those who had settled temporarily in Tripoli are doing the same.

 

Since the start of the conflict in Syria, this northern Lebanese city transformed into a “second Homs” for many natives of the Syrian city. Located just about 70 miles from Tripoli, Homs is close by but remains a distant dream for many Syrians. “It’s impossible to go back,” said Saeed Al-Sowas, a Homs native living in Tripoli. “Even those who remain inside now feel like strangers in their homeland.” Mr. Sowas, 25 years old, who now works in a barber shop in Tripoli, says he can count at least 40 of his friends and acquaintances, mostly Homs natives, who left Tripoli for Europe since the start of this summer. He plans to join them in Europe by the end of September. He was able to obtain a Syrian passport for $1,100, a sum that he said included bribes. The Sowas family home is in central Homs, a heavily damaged area that remains largely abandoned after the regime regained it from rebels in May 2014.

 

In Damascus, authorities last month began implementing a plan to build new housing units, and have started razing predominantly Sunni areas designated as illegal slums. A ceremony last month inaugurated a section of the reclaimed land for a park dedicated to the late dictator Kim Il Sung of North Korea, which has long cooperated with Syria on military and trade affairs. As many as 150,000 people living in the slums risk being displaced. Similar slums in the city occupied by Alawites weren’t affected by the regime’s housing plan…

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

 

                                                                       

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FOR SYRIAN REFUGEES IN ITALY, ISRAEL REMAINS ENEMY #1                                                               

Rossella Tercatin                                     

Times of Israel, Sept. 12, 2015

 

At a migrant reception center near Milan’s central train station, two-year-old Mahmoud sleeps on a pillow in a pair of patched-up grey pajamas, exhausted after fleeing Damascus a month ago with his parents and relatives. Their nightmarish journey across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya was marred by beatings, starvation and dehydration, and the fear of drowning in rough waters. Yet despite the cruelty at the hands of Libyan smugglers, despite the suffering that was inflicted upon them by their own government that forced them to flee for their lives, Mahmoud’s family and other Syrian refugees I met still view Israel as their real enemy.

 

“First of all I respect all religions, including Judaism… In Syria we have all races and religions living together, we are all brothers… but Israel, Israel is the ultimate enemy, that’s what we’ve been told since we were kids,” said baby Mahmud’s cousin Adman, 21, who studied tourism in Syria. “But I want to stress something: Jews are not my enemy. Zionists are my enemy.” Adman was surprised that he was being interviewed by a Jewish reporter, and, more so, for an Israeli newspaper. He jumped.

 

“Wow, I’m almost shaking. I’ve never met a Jew before,” he said and paused. “Why would an Israeli paper be interested in stories about Syrian refugees,” he asked. He was amazed after I told him about the current debates in Israel concerning the absorption of refugees from Syria, and how the Israeli military was treating wounded Syrians in makeshift field hospitals near the border. Despite his surprise and interest, he still warned me not tell the other refugees that I was Jewish. “Some of them could react badly,” he said.

 

Sitting with her parents and brother, Mais, 21, is another refugee from Syria whose family also harbors strong resentment towards Israel. “Israel is a colonial power, that’s it. They stole the Palestinians’ land,” her mother Inaia was quick to respond when asked her thoughts on the subject. Beneath her bright purple headscarf, Mais smiles sweetly, looking a bit tired, but relieved that the horrific journey from Syria was behind her. “Our house was bombarded three times and the road my brother and I used to take to go to university does not exist any more,” she said. “There was no future in Syria.”

 

Mais’s family tried fleeing to Egypt two years ago but without success. “We wanted to be in a fellow Arab country, we felt it was important. But they treated us extremely badly,” explained her father Imad, who worked in olive production back home in Idlib. “We could not work, we could not do anything.”

 

As the night goes on, many refugees leave for designated shelters. Each are provided with a bright orange cloth bag of toiletries and other basic goods from donors and organizations. Twenty-eight-year-old Rima works for one of those organizations — Arca, the Italian NGO, which was chosen by Milan’s municipality to run the migrant registration facility. Since 2013, Arca has registered and assisted about 87,000 migrants, most of them Syrians and Eritreans. Rima moved to Italy from Syria in 2004 with her family but moved back to Syria in 2009 because of the economic crisis. With the start of the Syrian civil war, they moved yet again to Italy.

 

Rima is a veteran at the center. She registers the migrants, jokes with them, listens to their requests, translates, talks on the phone and organizes their accommodations for the night in one of the several shelters set up in the city. “Since the beginning of the war I have lost an uncle, some cousins, a baby nephew. This is why working in this center for me is so important,” she said. “It’s the one thing I can do for my people. Everyone here could be my family. Their pain is my pain.”

 

When she finds out that I am interested in understanding what Syrians think about Israel, she hesitates but is willing to engage. “For Syrians, Israel is Palestinian territory,” she explained. “Palestinians are our relatives, our friends, our neighbors, because a lot of them flee to Syria. My paternal grandmother is Palestinian, she left Haifa in 1948, when she was 10.” But, she insisted that she isn’t in any way against Jews. “It’s written in the Quran, we must respect Jews,” she said. Asked about her perspective on the war in Syria, she says that the war will end when Russia and Iran will stop giving arms to the regime, and America will decide that they have had enough.

 

Only a few hundred feet away from the shelter providing temporary refuge for the migrants is Milan’s Holocaust Memorial. So, it is only natural for the Holocaust to come up in conversation. “I know about the Holocaust and when I was in Italy I always took part in the ceremonies for [Holocaust] Memorial Day at school. It was terrible,” said Rima. “In Syria, we don’t study it in the same way, it’s only a couple of lines of the textbooks. That is why I wanted to find out more about it, and I saw some movies on the topic, like ‘The Pianist.'” However, when asked if she would be willing to read or explore different perspectives on Middle East issues and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she simply said, “Not really, I don’t read too much.”

 

A similar reaction arose when I brought up the possibility of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. “I don’t think that Jews should have a state. They are a religion, not a people,” Rima explained. “They can be Syrian Jews, German Jews, Italian Jews. But I don’t think a Jewish state has any reason to exist.”      

                                                          

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FACING IRAN ON ITS OWN                                                                                             

Louis Rene Beres

Breaking Israel News, Sept. 8, 2015

 

In core matters of war and peace, timing is everything. For Israel, now cheerlessly confirmed in its long-held view that U.S.-led diplomacy with Iran was misconceived, future strategic options should be determined with great care. In essence, this means that the beleaguered mini-state’s nuclear policies, going forward, should be extrapolated from carefully fashioned doctrine, and not assembled, ad hoc, or “on the fly,” in assorted and more-or-less discrete reactions to periodic crises.

 

More precisely, should Israel decide to decline any residual preemption options, and prepare instead for aptly reliable and protracted dissuasion of its nearly-nuclear Iranian adversary, several corresponding decisions would be necessary. These closely-intersecting judgments would concern a still-expanding role for multilayered ballistic missile defense, and also, a well-reasoned and incremental discontinuance of deliberate nuclear ambiguity. In this connection, among other things, Jerusalem will need to convince Tehran that Israel’s nuclear forces are (1) substantially secure from all enemy first-strike attacks, and (2) entirely capable of penetrating all enemy active defenses.

 

To succeed with any policy of long-term deterrence, a nearly-nuclear Iran would first need to be convinced that Israel’s nuclear weapons were actually usable. In turn, this complex task of strategic persuasion would require some consciously nuanced efforts to remove “the bomb” from Israel’s “basement.” One specific reason for undertaking any such conspicuous removal would be to assure Iranian decision-makers that Israeli nuclear weapons were not only abundantly “real,” but also amenable to variable situational calibrations. The strategic rationale of such assurance would be to convince Iran that Israel stands ready to confront widely-different degrees of plausible enemy threat.

 

In the “good old days” of the original U.S.-U.S.S.R. Cold War  (we may now be on the brink of “Cold War II”), such tangibly measured strategic calculations had been granted their own specific name. Then, the proper term was “escalation dominance.” Early on, therefore, it had been understood, by both superpowers, that adequate security from nuclear attack must always include not only mutually-reinforcing or “synergistic” protections against “bolt-from-the-blue” missile attacks, but also the avoidance of unwitting or uncontrolled escalations. Such unpredictably rapid jumps in coercive intensity, it had already been noted, could too-quickly propel certain determined adversaries from “normally” conventional engagements to atomic war.

 

Occasionally, especially in many-sided strategic calculations, truth can be counter-intuitive. On this point, regarding needed Israeli preparations for safety from a nearly-nuclear Iran, there exists an obvious, but still generally overlooked, irony. It is that in all foreseeable circumstances of nuclear deterrence, the credibility of pertinent Israeli threats could sometimes vary inversely with perceived destructiveness. This suggests, at a minimum, that one distinctly compelling reason for moving deliberately from nuclear ambiguity to certain limited forms of nuclear disclosure would be to communicate the following vital message to Iran: Israel’s retaliatory nuclear weapons are not too destructive for actual operational use.

 

Soon, Israel’s decision-makers will need to proceed more self-consciously and explicitly on rendering another important judgment. This closely-related decision would concern making an essentially fundamental strategic choice between “assured destruction” and “nuclear war fighting” postures. To draw upon appropriate military parlance, assured destruction strategies are those postures generally referred to as “counter-value” or “mutual assured destruction” (MAD) strategies…

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

 

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On Topic

                                                                                                        

Middle East Provocations and Predictions: Daniel Pipes, Mackenzie Institute, Sept. 9, 2015—The Middle East stands out as the world’s most volatile, combustible, and troubled region; not coincidentally, it also inspires the most intense policy debates – think of the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Iran deal. The following tour d’horizon offers interpretations and speculations on Iran, ISIS, Syria-Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Islamism, then concludes with some thoughts on policy choices. My one-sentence conclusion: some good news lies under the onslaught of misunderstandings, mistakes, and misery.

The Russian Bear in Sheep’s Clothing: Andrew Foxall, New York Times, Sept. 15, 2015 —Syria is being destroyed. The civil war, now more than four years old, has left the country in ruins. The implacable Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant controls vast areas of the north and east, and the barbaric regime of President Bashar al-Assad maintains its Damascus stronghold.

Iran: Russia to Help Us Improve Our Centrifuges: Times of Israel, Sept. 16, 2015—Russia has agreed to help Iran upgrade its uranium-enriching centrifuges, Iran’s nuclear chief said.

Migrants Pose as Syrians to Open Door to Asylum in Europe: Manuela Mesco, Matt Bradley & Giovanni Legorano, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, 2015—At Budapest’s Keleti Train Station last week, Mahmoud, a Syrian from Aleppo, looked around the underground concourse packed with new arrivals like himself.

 

 

 

                                                                      

 

              

OBAMA’S STRATEGIC FOLLY HIGHLIGHTED BY RECENT I.S. VICTORIES, AND AN EMBOLDENED TEHERAN

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The Rational Ayatollah Hypothesis: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2015— Can there be a rational, negotiable, relatively reasonable bigot? Barack Obama thinks so.

You Want Hypotheticals? Here’s One.: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, May 21, 2015 — Ramadi falls. The Iraqi army flees. The great 60-nation anti-Islamic State coalition so grandly proclaimed by the Obama administration is nowhere to be seen.

Islamic State Eyes Damascus: Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, May 25, 2015 — One year after seizing vast areas of Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State group has once again reared its head.

As the Mideast Burns, Obama Talks About the Weather: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, May 25, 2015— It’s commencement season, a time when the great and the good come to campus to encourage the graduates to strive not only for greatness but for goodness, too.

 

On Topic Links

 

‘Look … It’s My Name on This’: Obama Defends the Iran Nuclear Deal: Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, May 21, 2015

How Islamic State’s Win in Ramadi Reveals New Weapons, Tactical Sophistication and Prowess: Margaret Coker, Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2015

Can the Islamic State Survive?: Ross Douthat, New York Times, May 23, 2015

The Last Battle?: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, May 8, 2015

 

                            

                            

THE RATIONAL AYATOLLAH HYPOTHESIS                                                                                   

Bret Stephens                                                                                                       

Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2015

 

Can there be a rational, negotiable, relatively reasonable bigot? Barack Obama thinks so. So we learn from the president’s interview last week with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg—the same interview in which Mr. Obama called Islamic State’s capture of Ramadi a “tactical setback.” Mr. Goldberg asked the president to reconcile his view of an Iranian regime steeped in “venomous anti-Semitism” with his claims that the same regime “is practical, and is responsive to incentive, and shows signs of rationality.”

 

The president didn’t miss a beat. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s strategic objectives, he said, were not dictated by prejudice alone. Sure, the Iranians could make irrational decisions “with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool.” They might also pursue hate-based policies “where the costs are low.” But the regime has larger goals: “maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their country,” and getting “out of the deep economic rut that we’ve put them in.” Also, Mr. Obama reminded Mr. Goldberg, “there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country,” to say nothing of Europe. If the president can forgive us our trespasses, he can forgive the ayatollah’s, too.

 

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a man with an undergraduate’s enthusiasm for moral equivalency (Islamic State now, the Crusades and Inquisition then) would have sophomoric ideas about the nature and history of anti-Semitism. So let’s recall some basic facts. Iran has no border, and no territorial dispute, with Israel. The two countries have a common enemy in Islamic State and other radical Sunni groups. Historically and religiously, Jews have always felt a special debt to Persia. Tehran and Jerusalem were de facto allies until 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and 100,000 Jews still lived in Iran. Today, no more than 10,000 Jews are left.

 

So on the basis of what self-interest does Iran arm and subsidize Hamas, probably devoting more than $1 billion of (scarce) dollars to the effort? What’s the economic rationale for hosting conferences of Holocaust deniers in Tehran, thereby gratuitously damaging ties to otherwise eager economic partners such as Germany and France? What was the political logic to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, which made it so much easier for the U.S. and Europe to impose sanctions? How does the regime shore up its domestic legitimacy by preaching a state ideology that makes the country a global pariah?

 

Maybe all this behavior serves Tehran’s instrumental purposes by putting the regime at the vanguard of a united Shiite-Sunni “resistance” to Western imperialism and Zionism. If so, it hasn’t worked out too well, as the rise of Islamic State shows. The likelier explanation is that the regime believes what it says, practices what it preaches, and is willing to pay a steep price for doing so.

 

So it goes with hating Jews. There are casual bigots who may think of Jews as greedy or uncouth, but otherwise aren’t obsessed by their prejudices. But the Jew-hatred of the Iranian regime is of the cosmic variety: Jews, or Zionists, as the agents of everything that is wrong in this world, from poverty and drug addiction to conflict and genocide. If Zionism is the root of evil, then anti-Zionism is the greatest good—a cause to which one might be prepared to sacrifice a great deal, up to and including one’s own life.

 

This was one of the lessons of the Holocaust, which the Nazis carried out even at the expense of the overall war effort. In 1944, with Russia advancing on a broad front and the Allies landing in Normandy, Adolf Eichmann pulled out all stops to deport more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in just two months. The Nazis didn’t even bother to make slaves of most of their prisoners to feed their war machine. Annihilation of the Jews was the higher goal.

 

Modern Iran is not Nazi Germany, or so Iran’s apologists like to remind us. Then again, how different is the thinking of an Eichmann from that of a Khamenei, who in 2012 told a Friday prayer meeting that Israel was a “cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut”? Whether the Ayatollah Khamenei gets to act on his wishes, as Eichmann did, is another question. Mr. Obama thinks he won’t, because the ayatollah only pursues his Jew-hating hobby “at the margins,” as he told Mr. Goldberg, where it isn’t at the expense of his “self-interest.” Does it occur to Mr. Obama that Mr. Khamenei might operate according to a different set of principles than political or economic self-interest? What if Mr. Khamenei believes that some things in life are, in fact, worth fighting for, the elimination of Zionism above all?

 

In November 2013 the president said at a fundraising event that he was “not a particularly ideological person.” Maybe Mr. Obama doesn’t understand the compelling power of ideology. Or maybe he doesn’t know himself. Either way, the tissue of assumptions on which his Iran diplomacy rests looks thinner all the time.            

                                                                       

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YOU WANT HYPOTHETICALS? HERE’S ONE.                                                                                  

Charles Krauthammer                                                  

Washington Post, May 21, 2015

 

Ramadi falls. The Iraqi army flees. The great 60-nation anti-Islamic State coalition so grandly proclaimed by the Obama administration is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it’s the defense minister of Iran who flies into Baghdad, an unsubtle demonstration of who’s in charge — while the U.S. air campaign proves futile and America’s alleged strategy for combating the Islamic State is in freefall. It gets worse. The Gulf states’ top leaders, betrayed and bitter, ostentatiously boycott President Obama’s failed Camp David summit. “We were America’s best friend in the Arab world for 50 years,” laments Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief. Note: “were,” not “are.”

 

We are scraping bottom. Following six years of President Obama’s steady and determined withdrawal from the Middle East, America’s standing in the region has collapsed. And yet the question incessantly asked of the various presidential candidates is not about that. It’s a retrospective hypothetical: Would you have invaded Iraq in 2003 if you had known then what we know now?

 

First, the question is not just a hypothetical but an inherently impossible hypothetical. It contradicts itself. Had we known there were no weapons of mass destruction, the very question would not have arisen. The premise of the war — the basis for going to the U.N., to the Congress and, indeed, to the nation — was Iraq’s possession of WMD in violation of the central condition for the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Gulf War. No WMD, no hypothetical to answer in the first place.

 

Second, the “if you knew then” question implicitly locates the origin and cause of the current disasters in 2003 . As if the fall of Ramadi was predetermined then, as if the author of the current regional collapse is George W. Bush. This is nonsense. The fact is that by the end of Bush’s tenure the war had been won. You can argue that the price of that victory was too high. Fine. We can debate that until the end of time. But what is not debatable is that it was a victory. Bush bequeathed to Obama a success. By whose measure? By Obama’s. As he told the troops at Fort Bragg on Dec. 14, 2011, “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” This was, said the president, a “moment of success.”

 

Which Obama proceeded to fully squander. With the 2012 election approaching, he chose to liquidate our military presence in Iraq. We didn’t just withdraw our forces. We abandoned, destroyed or turned over our equipment, stores, installations and bases. We surrendered our most valuable strategic assets, such as control of Iraqi airspace, soon to become the indispensable conduit for Iran to supply and sustain the Assad regime in Syria and cement its influence all the way to the Mediterranean. And, most relevant to the fall of Ramadi, we abandoned the vast intelligence network we had so painstakingly constructed in Anbar province, without which our current patchwork operations there are largely blind and correspondingly feeble.

 

The current collapse was not predetermined in 2003 but in 2011. Isn’t that what should be asked of Hillary Clinton? We know you think the invasion of 2003 was a mistake. But what about the abandonment of 2011? Was that not a mistake? Mme. Secretary: When you arrived at State, al-Qaeda in Iraq had been crushed and expelled from Anbar. The Iraqi government had from Basra to Sadr City fought and defeated the radical, Iranian-proxy Shiite militias. Yet today these militias are back, once again dominating Baghdad. On your watch, we gave up our position as the dominant influence over a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” — forfeiting that position gratuitously to Iran. Was that not a mistake? And where were you when it was made?

 

Iraq is now a battlefield between the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State and the Shiite jihadists of Iran’s Islamic Republic. There is no viable center. We abandoned it. The Obama administration’s unilateral pullout created a vacuum for the entry of the worst of the worst. And the damage was self-inflicted. The current situation in Iraq, says David Petraeus, “is tragic foremost because it didn’t have to turn out this way. The hard-earned progress of the surge was sustained for over three years.” Do the math. That’s 2009 through 2011, the first three Obama years. And then came the unraveling. When? The last U.S. troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, 2011. Want to do retrospective hypotheticals? Start there.

 

                                                                                   

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ISLAMIC STATE EYES DAMASCUS                                                                                          

Eyal Zisser                                                                                                          

Israel Hayom, May 25, 2015

 

One year after seizing vast areas of Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State group has once again reared its head. As it turns out, while Washington was busy eulogizing the organization and spreading rumors about the death of its leader, Islamic State was gearing up for the next round of fighting. Last week, Islamic State dealt a one-two punch to the Syrian and Iraqi regimes by seizing the Iraqi city of Ramadi, 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of the capital of Baghdad, and the Syria city of Palmyra, 200 kilometers (124 miles) northeast of Damascus. It seems the Obama administration, which was convinced Islamic State was retreating and perhaps even on the brink of collapse, was the only one to be surprised by the group's success.

 

Islamic State's progress is resounding proof of the failure of the American strategy, which seeks to deal with the threat via airstrikes and covert commando raids. Moreover, the group's success is also resounding proof of how detached Washington is from the reality on the ground. The problem is that in their quest to get a better grasp of the situation, the Americans have decided to adopt the Iranian point of view, placing their trust in Tehran, and therefore in Hezbollah, to indirectly assist them in curtailing Islamic State's progress in Syria and Iraq.

 

The advances Islamic State has made in Iraq are disturbing, but it is doubtful the group is seeking to overrun Baghdad and the Shiite areas in southern Iraq, whose government, as everyone knows, has become defunct and no longer presumes to represent the Iraqi people. Essentially, all that is left of sovereign Iraq is the Shiite people, who enjoy the backing of the U.S. and the assistance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. They have come together to fight Islamic State over the Shiite territories in southern Iraq, but have neither the interest nor the ability to defend northern Iraq from the jihadi group.

 

As opposed to the complicated situation in Iraq, Islamic State fighters view the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria as easy prey. In overrunning Palmyra, Islamic State dealt a blow to Assad, whose regime is barely holding on as it is. Assad has virtually no military forces fighting for him in the hundreds of battlegrounds across Syria. What is left of the Syrian army is a group of exhausted soldiers who are outnumbered and unmotivated, and Assad can do little to assist them.

 

While Assad, assisted by several thousand Hezbollah operatives, is fighting a rearguard battle at the Qalamoun Mountains on the Syria-Lebanon border, Islamic State has been able to seize some 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles) of Syria, and although most of this area is uninhabited, it still represent two-thirds of the country. Control of Palmyra affords Islamic State a springboard to the heart of Syria, toward Damascus in the south and Homs, which connects the northern and southern parts of Syria, in the east.

 

Assad's problems, however, go beyond Islamic State, as he must also contend with the Nusra Front, which is collaborating with several rebel groups backed by Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Unlike before, the rebel groups have joined forces and are threatening the Assad regime from the south, near the city of Daraa and on the Syrian Golan Heights, and from the north, where they have already taken the cities of Idlib and Jisr al-Shughur. These groups are now threatening Aleppo, the second-largest city in Syria, as well as the regime's strongholds on the Alawi coast.

 

In this reality, the assistance Hezbollah lends the Assad regime is a drop in the bucket. It would take a miracle to save the regime, and despite Washington's illusions, Islamic State may soon become one of the entities filling the vacuum in Syria. This will pose a problem for Israel as well.

                                               

                                                                                   

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AS THE MIDEAST BURNS, OBAMA TALKS ABOUT THE WEATHER                                                    

Father Raymond J. de Souza                                                                                       

National Post, May 25, 2015

 

It’s commencement season, a time when the great and the good come to campus to encourage the graduates to strive not only for greatness but for goodness, too. Commencement speeches are meant to celebrate the graduates, but with carte blanche to say something important, they reveal rather a lot about the speakers, as well. Recent addresses have brought inspiration at home and foreboding abroad.

 

Ten days ago I was at the Royal Military College graduation, where the commencement speaker was the commander-in-chief, Governor General David Johnston. The day after sexual abuse in the military was the lead story in the news, he spoke eloquently about how the graduates need to have a solid moral code and how the military depends upon them for force of arms and integrity of life.

 

I wish I had been at the Mount Allison graduation to hear Kevin Vickers speak to the graduates about the events that took place on Oct. 22, when as sergeant-at-arms he defended Parliament against a terror attack. The mace-bearer brought force of arms to bear on the shooter, but never lost sight that the man he took down was just that, a man, with an eternal soul. Vickers, having exercised his duty to dispatch Michael Zehaf-Bibeau to his judgment, prayed that it might be a merciful one.

 

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the graduation of the Coast Guard Academy last Wednesday. He listed the various vital tasks the smallest of America’s military academies prepares its graduates for — safeguarding ports against terrorism, disaster relief, interdiction of smugglers, whether trafficking in people or drugs. The Coast Guard is deployed globally, including in the Persian Gulf alongside the Navy, in West Africa to fight Ebola and in the Pacific to preserve freedom of navigation along key trading routes. But that is not what the American commander-in-chief thought most pressing.

 

“And this brings me to the challenge I want to focus on today — one where our Coast Guardsmen are already on the front lines, and that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers — and that’s the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change. As a nation, we face many challenges, including the grave threat of terrorism. And as Americans, we will always do everything in our power to protect our country. Yet even as we meet threats like terrorism, we cannot, and we must not, ignore a peril that can affect generations.”

 

It turns out that on the very same day, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was also on service academy commencement duty, addressing the graduates at Imam Hussein Military University in Tehran. According to the New York Times, the ayatollah did not get around to climate change, but did have some pithy words about the nuclear negotiations with America: “Regarding inspections, we have said that we will not let foreigners inspect any military centre.” For good measure, he also had a pointed warning for Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies not to make trouble for Iran, lest they suffer the consequences. Scimitar-rattling by a regional hegemon on the threshold of nuclear capability is even a less sunny graduation address than apocalyptic climate change.

 

 

It was a perfect, almost painful, juxtaposition. Obama spoke of how “confronting climate change is now a key pillar of American global leadership — a core element of our diplomacy.” The defiance in Teheran paints a rather different picture. American leadership looks rather less impressive in Teheran’s part of the globe. The Obama administration has been begging the Iranians for a nuclear deal for years. The Iranians have not yet decided the terms on which they will grant Obama his wish, though Khamenei’s speech indicates that it will include the capacity to violate any such agreement with impunity.

 

If climate change is a new core element of American diplomacy, it may be because the traditional priorities of diplomacy are not faring as well. Watching Obama’s humiliation in Syria, reversals in Iraq and capitulation to Iran, American allies in the Gulf are highly nervous. A few weeks back, Obama sought to reassure them with invitations to a Camp David summit. Three of the five heads of state took a pass on meeting the president, including the new Saudi king. The king of Bahrain opted instead to attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show with Queen Elizabeth. The petro-monarchies have more pressing concerns than climate change.

 

Commencement addresses are often forgotten by the graduates to whom they are delivered. Perhaps it was so last week, though one expects the malevolent powers around the world took careful note that as Ramadi fell to ISIS, and Iran sets a course for nuclear weapons, Obama spoke about the weather. 

 

 

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On Topic

 

‘Look … It’s My Name on This’: Obama Defends the Iran Nuclear Deal: Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, May 21, 2015—On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry.

How Islamic State’s Win in Ramadi Reveals New Weapons, Tactical Sophistication and Prowess: Margaret Coker, Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2015—In late April, a commander for Islamic State said his forces were ready to launch an offensive to take Ramadi, and the group called for fighters to redeploy to Iraq from Syria.

Can the Islamic State Survive?: Ross Douthat, New York Times, May 23, 2015—The fall of an autocrat leads to foreign occupation and civil war. A revolutionary movement with a messianic vision capitalizes on the chaos to gain power.

The Last Battle?: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, May 8, 2015 —The Kalamon mountains range from Mount Hermon northwards for tens of kilometers, overlooking the Lebanon Valley to the west. The official boundary between Lebanon and Syria runs along the crest of the mountain range, with the western slopes of the mountains part of Lebanon and the eastern slopes part of Syria. The Beirut-Damascus highway serves as the northern edge.

 

              

              

AS COALITION DEADLINE LOOMS: IRAN NUCLEAR COUNT-DOWN STRAINS ISRAEL-U.S. RELATIONS, AS LIEBERMAN BOLTS POSSIBLE BIBI COALITION

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

Liberman Says He Won’t Join Netanyahu Coalition: Tamar Pileggi & Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, May 4, 2015 — Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said his Yisrael Beytenu would not join a new coalition with the ruling Likud party, throwing a wrench in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to form a government days before a looming deadline.

The New Government’s Greatest Tasks: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 23, 2015—In testimony last week before the House committee in charge of State Department funding, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power acknowledged that the Obama administration intends to abandon the US’s 50 year policy of supporting Israel at the United Nations.

The Emergency: John Podhoretz, Commentary, May 1, 2015 — We have entered a state of emergency.

War With Iran: Lee Smith, Tablet, Apr. 20, 2015 — Ever since it announced the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran last month, the Obama administration has flooded the news media with technical details elaborating the many virtues of the proposed framework agreement.

 

On Topic Links

 

Unravel the Deal: William Kristol, Weekly Standard, Apr. 20, 2015

Congress Must Approve of Any Iran Deal: Sen. Ted Cruz, Washington Times, Apr. 29, 2015

Focus on North Korea to Stop Iran: John Bolton, New York Post, Apr. 30, 2015

Iran Won't Give Up on Its Revolution: Soner Cagaptay, James F. Jeffrey & Mehdi Khalaji, New York Times, Apr. 26, 2015

         

         

LIBERMAN SAYS HE WON’T JOIN NETANYAHU COALITION                                                     

Tamar Pileggi & Stuart Winer

Times of Israel, May 4, 2015

 

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said his Yisrael Beytenu would not join a new coalition with the ruling Likud party, throwing a wrench in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to form a government days before a looming deadline. Liberman, who also announced he would resign as foreign minister, said that he chose to be in the opposition rather that serve in a government that he called opportunist, conformist and not “nationalistic.”

 

“We have come to a unanimous decision that it would not be right for us to join the coalition,” Liberman said during a press conference in the Knesset in which he announced his decision. “We chose our principles over cabinet seats.” The announcement puts Netanyahu in a corner as he attempts to cobble together a government before a May 7 deadline. Yisrael Beytenu’s six seats were thought key to bolstering Netanyahu’s nascent government, which may now have to rule with a razor-thin 61-seat majority. Netanyahu has thus far signed coalition agreements only with the Kulanu and United Torah Judaism factions, giving him 46 seats. He is considered close to closing deals with Jewish Home and Shas to give him a majority.

 

Liberman said that the prime minister’s Likud party made concessions in coalition agreements with other parties that Yisrael Beytenu could not accept. “The Jewish-state Bill was so important in the last Knesset – suddenly no one is talking about it,” he said, referring to the controversial legislation proposed last year that would enshrine Israel as a Jewish state. Liberman further criticized Netanyahu for his weak stance toward terrorism, and charged that the future government “had no intention of uprooting Hamas in Gaza.”

 

The comments echoed ones made by Liberman over the summer that exposed a rift between him and Netanyahu. The two ran together under a joint list in the 2013 election. Liberman also lamented that the future government would likely not permit the building of new homes in the major settlement blocs. In recent weeks, Liberman has criticized Netanyahu’s concessions to ultra-Orthodox parties on the issues of conversion and recruitment to the IDF.

 

Both issues are important to the electorate of Yisrael Beytenu, which is largely composed of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Liberman also accused Netanyahu of planning a coalition reshuffle in the future, predicting that the prime minister would bring the Labor Party into the government after it holds a primary election next year.

                                                                       

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THE NEW GOVERNMENT’S GREATEST TASKS                                                                   

Caroline Glick                                                                                                     

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 23, 2015

 

In testimony last week before the House committee in charge of State Department funding, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power acknowledged that the Obama administration intends to abandon the US’s 50 year policy of supporting Israel at the United Nations. After going through the tired motions of pledging support for Israel, “when it matters,” Power refused to rule out the possibility that the US would support anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Security Council to limit Israeli sovereignty and control to the lands within the 1949 armistice lines – lines that are indefensible. Such a move will be taken, she indicated, in order to midwife the establishment of a terrorist-supporting Palestinian state whose supposedly moderate leadership does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, calls daily for its destruction, and uses the UN to delegitimize the Jewish state.

 

In other words, the Obama administration intends to pin Israel into indefensible borders while establishing a state committed to its destruction. In about a week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government will be sworn in. The new government will have no grace period before it will be called upon to forge and implement policies to lead Israel through perhaps the most trying time in its history. Clearly, developing the means to cope with our deteriorating relations with the US is one of the most urgent issues on the agenda. But it is not the only issue requiring the attention of our leaders.

 

Israel must quickly determine clear strategies for contending with the consequence of US’s strategic shift away from its allies, Iran’s nuclear project. It must also determine the principles that will guide its moves in contending with the regional instability engulfing or threatening to engulf our Arab neighbors. As tempting as it may be to believe that all we need to do is wait out Obama, the fact is that we have no way of knowing how the US will behave once he has left office. The Democratic Party has become far more radical under Obama’s leadership than it was before he came into office. Hillary Clinton may very well become the next president, particularly if Jeb Bush is the Republican nominee. And she has evinced no significant interest in moving the party back to the center.

 

As secretary of state during Obama’s first term in office, Clinton was a full partner in his foreign policy. Although she appears less ideologically driven than Obama, there are many indications that her basic world view is the same as his. Moreover, the world has changed since 2009. The Middle East is far more volatile and lethal. The US military is far less capable than it was before Obama slashed its budgets, removed its most successful commanders and subjected its troops to morale-destroying mantras of diversity and apologetics for Islamic terrorism.

 

In light of these changed circumstances, there are in essence two major principles that should guide our leaders today. First, we need to reduce our strategic dependence on the US. Second, we need to expand our policy of openly and unapologetically making the case for our positions to the American public. On the first score, the need to limit our dependence on US security guarantees became painfully obvious during Operation Protective Edge last summer. Obama’s interference in military-to-military cooperation between the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon, and his decision to implement an unofficial arms embargo on Israel in the middle of a war, was a shocking rebuke to the powerful voices inside the IDF General Staff and in policy circles that Israel can and must continue to trust the US to back it up in crises.

 

Our need to limit our dependence on the US to the greatest practicable degree will have consequences on everything from our domestic military production and development industries to intelligence and operational cooperation with the US and other governments. It is imperative as well that we develop a plan to wean ourselves off of US military aid within the next three-five years. Netanyahu’s critics continue to attack him for his decision to abandon the longstanding policy of settling disputes with the US administration through quiet diplomacy. They blame Netanyahu’s decision to publicly air Israel’s opposition to Obama’s nuclear diplomacy for the crisis in relations. But they are confusing cause and effect. Netanyahu had no choice.

 

Obama has made clear through both word and deed that he is completely committed to a policy of reaching a détente with Iran by enabling Iran to join the nuclear club. He will not voluntarily abandon this policy, which his closest aides have acknowledged is the signature policy of his second term. Under these circumstances, it has long been clear that quiet diplomacy gets Israel nowhere. Open confrontation with the administration is the only way that Israel can hope to limit the damage the administration’s policies can cause. By publicly laying out its positions on issues in dispute, Israel can provide administration critics with legitimacy and maneuver room in their own critiques of Obama’s policies.

 

The public debate in the US regarding Obama’s policy of appeasing Iran was transformed by Netanyahu’s speech before the joint houses of Congress last month. Before he came to town, most of the voices in the US warning against Obama’s nuclear diplomacy were dismissed as alarmist. Netanyahu’s speech changed the discourse in the US in a fundamental way.

 

Today, Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is highly controversial and unpopular. And this brings us to the second burning issue the next government will need to contend with immediately upon entering office: Iran.

Since word of Iran’s nuclear weapons program got out more than a decade ago, Israel has operated under the assumption that a sufficient number of members of the policy community in Washington were committed to a policy of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons to make the abandonment of that policy politically impossible. Netanyahu’s strategy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program has centered on convincing those policy-makers to take action, whether through sanctions on Iran or through other means that would make it impossible for Obama to conclude a deal with Iran that would give the nuclear program an American seal of approval.

 

In recent weeks, we have seen the collapse of that assumption. The Senate’s feckless handling of Obama’s nuclear accommodation of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism exposed Israel’s operating assumption as overly optimistic. So the policy must be updated. An updated policy must be based on two understandings. First, the US will not stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Second, due to Obama’s commitment to nuclear accommodation of Iran, at this point unless Iran’s nuclear installations are destroyed through military force, it will become a nuclear power. Israel’s survival will be compromised and a nuclear arms race throughout the region will ensue.

 

Given this reality, Israel’s public diplomacy should no longer be viewed as a means to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Rather, Israel should view it as a means to empower American lawmakers and others to stand with Israel in the event that it carries out military strikes against Iran’s nuclear weapons. Open support for Israel by the US public and by politicians and media organs will make it more difficult for the administration to harm Israel in retribution for such action…

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

                                                                       

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THE EMERGENCY                

John Podhoretz                                          

Commentary, May 1, 2015

 

We have entered a state of emergency. The Obama administration is pursuing policies that effectively serve the purposes of one of America’s greatest foes and treat one of America’s dearest friends as though it were an adversary. The White House has implicitly taken up the cause of normalizing Iran and has become at the very least complicit in the international goal of isolating Israel.

 

Barack Obama has decided the key to his legacy is a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran that will enshrine its nuclear capacity but delay its ability to build and deploy a bomb for a time—that is, assuming Iran doesn’t cheat, which is an assumption that requires a leap of geopolitical faith Blaise Pascal would have blanched at. Meanwhile, 970 miles from Tehran, the State of Israel finds itself the unwanted focus of another Obama legacy effort: the effort to drive a wedge between the two countries and thereby realign America’s interests in the Middle East away from Israel’s interests.

 

In making clear his desire to establish a working relationship with a nation that does not abide by any standards of civilized conduct, a nation that oppresses in medieval fashion at home and that is the worst state sponsor of terrorism abroad, the president is tacitly accepting the everyday behavior and casting a blind eye on the plain language of one of the world’s most monstrous regimes.

 

“There is a practical streak to the Iranian regime,” the president told Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times on April 5. “There [is] an appetite among the Iranian people for a rejoining with the international community, an emphasis on the economics and the desire to link up with a global economy. And so what we’ve seen over the last several years, I think, is the opportunity for those forces within Iran that want to break out of the rigid framework that they have been in for a long time to move in a different direction. It’s not a radical break, but it’s one that I think offers us the chance for a different type of relationship.”

 

The overall purpose here is to remake the geopolitical map and include Iran among the nations with which we can and should do business. From this perspective, Iran’s systematic record of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism and its role as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism are not bugs but features: Iran is important not only because it is an oil-rich state with religious and ideological ambitions, but also because it has set itself against the United States and the West. And so it must be attended to, its concerns taken seriously, its desires and wishes accorded respect. In Obama’s view, it is with adversaries that America must enmesh itself to find some form of common ground.

 

This theory has governed most of the Obama administration’s foreign-policy approaches over the past six years, from the Russian reset to the opening to Cuba. The corollary is that little or no positive attention needs to be paid to allies, especially if those allies are inconveniently situated either geographically or ideologically. Thus, in 2009, Obama had no problem abrogating the long-standing deal to put missile-defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, even though they are two stalwart friends of the United States, because they interfered with his efforts to improve the American relationship with Vladimir Putin.

 

Even those countries that we should not call our friends but with which many of our national interests align are to be consigned to the second ring of concern. Thus, while the president speaks gently of Iran and draws parallels between its politics and ours—it is a “complicated country,” he said to Friedman, “just as America is a complicated country”—he offers systematic criticism of the internal dynamics of the Sunni Arab nations in the Middle East that have expressed alarm over the thaw: “I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries.”

 

The Obama policy of behaving high-handedly toward friends and charitably toward foes is most striking in the case of the State of Israel. The president and his people speak with barely disguised disgust about the policies of a friendly government and rough election-day tactics in a vibrant democracy in which 72.3 percent of those eligible to vote did so. They talk of revisiting the relationship with Israel, reevaluating it—all of which is code-speak for withdrawing American protection from Israel in the international bodies that wish to do it injury. It was not mere chance that these two legacy policies converged in the month of March 2015. Something more sinister was at work.

 

The results of Israel’s election on March 17 were disappointing to the president and his team, given how tirelessly they had worked to undermine the eventually victorious Netanyahu. A key Obama campaign aide named Jeremy Bird had been dispatched to the Holy Land to manage a get-out-the-vote group called V15 whose sole campaign message was “Anyone But Bibi.” In the end, Netanyahu’s Likud party garnered 30 seats, as opposed to the 18 seats it had won just two years earlier—a result that has to be seen as a conscious rebuke of Obama’s effort to unseat the Israeli prime minister. In choosing not to reject Netanyahu but to strengthen him, Israelis effectively endorsed the views of Obama’s most dangerous critic—the only democratically elected leader on earth who might find it necessary to act drastically to save his country in a way that would scuttle Obama’s vision for the future of the Middle East.

 

Netanyahu has made it clear that he cannot stand by while a course is charted to a future in which Iran can build and deploy a nuclear weapon, given that its millenarian leaders have vowed to wipe Israel off the map. But under the terms of the strange April 2 agreement-with-Iran-that-is-not-really-an-agreement—terms we know the president had already conceded well before the Israeli elections on March 17—Obama has effectively endorsed a future in which Iran will have the power and the means to do exactly that…

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

                                                           

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WAR WITH IRAN                                                                                                                 

Lee Smith                                                                                                            

Weekly Standard, Apr. 20, 2015

 

Ever since it announced the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran last month, the Obama administration has flooded the news media with technical details elaborating the many virtues of the proposed framework agreement. Indeed, the White House sent its energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist, onto the Sunday shows to helpfully explain the knotty fine points that are likely to be lost on laymen—or anyone who doesn’t celebrate its signal accomplishment.

 

If you don’t think it’s a good deal, said CIA director John Brennan, you don’t know the facts. The science is in! But like it does with so much else, the White House is using “science” as a smokescreen to obscure its failure in Lausanne. John Kerry and the American negotiating team were supposed to lock down not technical details but political arrangements, like the pace of sanctions relief and inspectors’ access to Iranian nuclear sites. None of these issues has been resolved—nor, says Iran, will it accept White House demands.

 

As the deans of American foreign policy, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, wrote last week in an important Wall Street Journal article: “Debate regarding technical details of the deal has thus far inhibited the soul-searching necessary regarding its deeper implications.” It’s time then to look at the bigger picture that the proposed deal points to—a new Cold War.

 

Advocates of the deal make Panglossian assumptions about the nature of the Iranian regime. As Kissinger and Shultz note, to some, a deal would represent “a moderation of Iran’s 3½ decades of militant hostility to the West and established international institutions, and an opportunity to draw Iran into an effort to stabilize the Middle East.” That’s a pipedream. Iran now boasts of controlling four Arab capitals. Tehran and its allies have fomented war throughout the Middle East, from Beirut and Damascus to Baghdad and Sanaa. The White House’s coordination with Iran in the campaign against ISIS hardly conceals the fact that Iran is targeting American allies, especially Israel, Saudi Arabia, and now Jordan.

 

Some argue, write Kissinger and Shultz, that “the nuclear deal is a way station toward the eventual domestic transformation of Iran.” The opposite is true. Domestically, a deal strengthens the hardliners who actually manage the nuclear weapons program. “Some advocates,” Kissinger and Shultz explain, “have suggested that the agreement can serve as a way to dissociate America from Middle East conflicts.” But this is not what happens when a state goes nuclear. Rather, such a state only becomes a bigger threat.

 

Right now, that means primarily in the Middle East—from the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. An Iranian bomb will push Riyadh to acquire one as well, setting off a nuclear arms race that may come to include the UAE, Algeria, Egypt, and Jordan. Accordingly, the regional Sunni-Shia conflagration now embroiling Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon will be funded and fought by two or more nuclear powers.

 

As a nuclear power, Iran will find new friends eager to sign on to its project of challenging the established order—an order underwritten by American power. In effect, an Iranian bomb will engender another empire in thrall to evil.  Tehran has already seeded assets in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. A Defense Intelligence Agency assessment contends that within a year, the Iranians will have a ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.

 

The White House argues that the only alternative to its terrible deal is war, but that’s nonsense. Iran has no ability to make war on the United States except as a continuation of the terrorist war it has been waging against us for the last 36 years. As the former prime minister of Israel Ehud Barak and Senator Tom Cotton have argued, the White House is overstating both the nature of the military strike that would bring Iran’s program to a halt and Iran’s capacity to retaliate.

 

But all that changes once Iran gets the bomb. At that point, as Kissinger and Shultz know only too well, we must contend with the prospect that they will use it. A similar prospect caused the United States and the Soviet Union to engage in a high-stakes struggle on four continents for nearly half a century. Obama’s foreign policy legacy, enshrined by a deal that opens the door to an Iranian nuke, wouldn’t be a historic reconciliation with an adversarial regime, but a return to the nightmare of the Cold War.

 

Contents

                                                                                     

On Topic

 

Unravel the Deal: William Kristol, Weekly Standard, Apr. 20, 2015—What is to be done about Obama’s Iran “deal”? We could, fatalistically, lament the collapse of American foreign policy.

Congress Must Approve of Any Iran Deal: Sen. Ted Cruz, Washington Times, Apr. 29, 2015—Today, there is no greater threat to U.S. national security than the prospect of a nuclear Iran.

Focus on North Korea to Stop Iran: John Bolton, New York Post, Apr. 30, 2015 —Recent Chinese estimates of North Korea’s nuclear-weapons capabilities should have shattered our complacency about Pyongyang’s proliferation threat.

Iran Won't Give Up on Its Revolution: Soner Cagaptay, James F. Jeffrey & Mehdi Khalaji, New York Times, Apr. 26, 2015 —The announcement last month of a preliminary agreement between the United States and Iran has led some to believe that Tehran will now enter the international system as a responsible actor. But such optimism ignores the fact that Iran’s current government still bears the imprint of a long imperial history and longstanding Persian regional ambitions.

 

 

 

                                                                    

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

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Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

O’ SEEKS DANGEROUS DEAL DESPITE IRAN’S ANTI-ISRAEL RHETORIC & REGIONAL AMBITIONS

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

When Did America Forget That it’s America?: Natan Sharansky, Washington Post, Apr. 17, 2015 — On a number of occasions during the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli government has appealed to the United States and its allies to demand a change in Tehran’s aggressive behavior.

Strategic Folly in the Framework Agreement with Iran: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror, BESA, Apr. 20, 2015 The nuclear framework agreement signed between Iran and world powers, namely the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, on April 2, was defined by U.S. President Barack Obama as an “historic understanding,”…

Iran’s Grand Strategy is to Become a Regional Powerhouse: Michael Morell, Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2015— One of the interesting aspects of international affairs is that states and nonstate actors will occasionally say publicly exactly what they are thinking, doing and planning to do. No need for spies, no need for diplomats — just a need to listen.

War in Yemen Is Allowing Qaeda Group to Expand: Saeed Al-Batati & Kareem Fahim, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2015— Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen took control of a major airport and an oil export terminal in the southern part of the country on Thursday, expanding the resurgent militant group’s reach just two weeks after it seized the nearby city of Al Mukalla and emptied its bank and prison.

 

On Topic Links

 

Danger of Iran Deal is Not Because Tehran Lies, But Because it Doesn’t: Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, Apr. 16, 2015

Ten Maps That Explain Iran's Power Play in the Middle East: Patrick Martin, Tonia Cowan and Trish McAlaster, Globe & Mail, Apr. 14, 2015

Keeping up the Fight in Yemen: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Apr. 17, 2015

The Ineffective Campaign in Yemen: Max Boot, Commentary, Apr . 17, 2015

         

                  

WHEN DID AMERICA FORGET THAT IT’S AMERICA?                                                                         

Natan Sharansky                                                                                                                      

Washington Post, Apr. 17, 2015

 

On a number of occasions during the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli government has appealed to the United States and its allies to demand a change in Tehran’s aggressive behavior. If Iran wishes to be treated as a normal state, Israel has said, then it should start acting like one. Unfortunately, these appeals have been summarily dismissed. The Obama administration apparently believes that only after a nuclear agreement is signed can the free world expect Iran to stop its attempts at regional domination, improve its human rights record and, in general, behave like the civilized state it hopes the world will recognize it to be.

 

As a former Soviet dissident, I cannot help but compare this approach to that of the United States during its decades-long negotiations with the Soviet Union, which at the time was a global superpower and a existential threat to the free world. The differences are striking and revealing. For starters, consider that the Soviet regime felt obliged to make its first ideological concession simply to enter into negotiations with the United States about economic cooperation. At the end of the 1950s, Moscow abandoned its doctrine of fomenting a worldwide communist revolution and adopted in its place a credo of peaceful coexistence between communism and capitalism. The Soviet leadership paid a high price for this concession, both internally — in the form of millions of citizens, like me, who had been obliged to study Marxism and Leninism as the truth and now found their partial abandonment confusing — and internationally, in their relations with the Chinese and other dogmatic communists who viewed the change as a betrayal. Nevertheless, the Soviet government understood that it had no other way to get what it needed from the United States.

 

Imagine what would have happened if instead, after completing a round of negotiations over disarmament, the Soviet Union had declared that its right to expand communism across the continent was not up for discussion. This would have spelled the end of the talks. Yet today, Iran feels no need to tone down its rhetoric calling for the death of America and wiping Israel off the map. Of course, changes in rhetoric did not change the Soviet Union’s policy, which included sending missiles to Cuba, tanks to Prague and armies to Afghanistan. But each time, such aggression caused a serious crisis in relations between Moscow and Washington, influencing the atmosphere and results of negotiations between them. So, for example, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan shortly after the SALT II agreement had been signed, the United States quickly abandoned the deal and accompanying discussions. Today, by contrast, apparently no amount of belligerence on Iran’s part can convince the free world that Tehran has disqualified itself from the negotiations or the benefits being offered therein. Over the past month alone, as nuclear discussions continued apace, we watched Iran’s proxy terror group, Hezbollah, transform into a full-blown army on Israel’s northern border, and we saw Tehran continue to impose its rule on other countries, adding Yemen to the list of those under its control.

 

Then there is the question of human rights. When American negotiations with the Soviets reached the issue of trade, and in particular the lifting of sanctions and the conferring of most-favored-nation status on the Soviet Union, the Senate, led by Democrat Henry Jackson, insisted on linking economic normalization to Moscow’s allowing freedom of emigration. By the next year, when the Helsinki agreement was signed, the White House had joined Congress in making the Soviets’ treatment of dissidents a central issue in nearly every negotiation. Iran’s dismal human rights record, by contrast, has gone entirely unmentioned in the recent negotiations. Sadly, America’s reticence is familiar: In 2009, in response to the democratic uprisings that mobilized so many Iranian citizens, President Obama declared that engaging the theocratic regime would take priority over changing it. Reality is complicated, and the use of historical analogies is always somewhat limited. But even this superficial comparison shows that what the United States saw fit to demand back then from the most powerful and dangerous competitor it had ever known is now considered beyond the pale in its dealings with Iran.

 

Why the dramatic shift? One could suggest a simple answer: Today there is something the United States wants badly from Iran, leaving Washington and its allies with little bargaining power to demand additional concessions. Yet in fact Iran has at least as many reasons to hope for a deal. For Tehran, the lifting of sanctions could spell the difference between bankruptcy and becoming a regional economic superpower, and in slowing down its arms race it could avoid a military attack. I am afraid that the real reason for the U.S. stance is not its assessment, however incorrect, of the two sides’ respective interests but rather a tragic loss of moral self-confidence. While negotiating with the Soviet Union, U.S. administrations of all stripes felt certain of the moral superiority of their political system over the Soviet one. They felt they were speaking in the name of their people and the free world as a whole, while the leaders of the Soviet regime could speak for no one but themselves and the declining number of true believers still loyal to their ideology.

 

But in today’s postmodern world, when asserting the superiority of liberal democracy over other regimes seems like the quaint relic of a colonialist past, even the United States appears to have lost the courage of its convictions. We have yet to see the full consequences of this moral diffidence, but one thing is clear: The loss of America’s self-assured global leadership threatens not only the United States and Israel but also the people of Iran and a growing number of others living under Tehran’s increasingly emboldened rule. Although the hour is growing late, there is still time to change course — before the effects grow more catastrophic still.                                          

 

Contents                                                                                     

   

STRATEGIC FOLLY IN THE FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT WITH IRAN                                    

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror                                                                                                     

BESA, Apr. 20, 2015

 

The nuclear framework agreement signed between Iran and world powers, namely the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, on April 2, was defined by U.S. President Barack Obama as an “historic understanding,” while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defined the deal as “bad.” Both leaders are right: The deal has radically changed Iran’s position in the global theater  in exchange for Iran temporarily slowing down its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and in this respect it is indeed “historic.” However, the agreement affords Iran the status of a regional power and legitimizes it as a nuclear threshold state. It is now up to Iran to decide when to cross this threshold, and in this respect it is a “bad” deal.

 

The U.S. changed its policy mid-negotiations, at first demanding that Iran be stripped of its nuclear weapons production capabilities but later agreeing only to place limitations and supervision on these capabilities. The framework deal clearly indicates that the U.S. has come to accept that Iran will one day possess military nuclear capabilities, and that at the end of the supervision period there would be nothing stopping the Islamic Republic from realizing this potential. Obama told the American people as much in a radio interview, before his spokesmen rushed to say he was misunderstood. But even if that was the case, Obama’s statements reflected the reality which may arise from any final agreement with Iran. This reality entails three scenarios. The first may see the Iranians relinquish their nuclear efforts, willingly or otherwise. Some in the U.S. administration believe this is a viable option, and that bolstering the moderate forces within Iran will eventually effect change. The second scenario may see the Iranians diligently follow the agreement, while stabilizing their economy, reinforcing their regional status, strengthening their allies, such as Hezbollah, and enhancing their nuclear expertise. Then, once the agreement’s sunset clause comes into effect, the Iranians will resume the military aspects of their program with renewed zeal.

 

Throughout the negotiations, that U.S. has attempted to prolong the period during which Iran would be unable to pursue nuclear capabilities, saying that if Tehran complies with the agreement, it would buy the West more time, at least a decade. The administration’s excuse was that a deferral of the matter was preferable to the alternative, a military operation, which may not buy the West the same amount of time, making the deal a better option. The third scenario may see the Iranians bide their time and wait for the right moment to violate the deal. This will probably happen only after all the sanctions are lifted, and after enough countries have vested financial interests in Iran, which would deter them from targeting its economy. The U.S., for its part, has pledged to put in place rigorous inspection practices, which would guarantee the West at least a year to detect any violation of the agreement.

 

Would such an agreement guarantee, to any extent, a change in Iran’s nuclear aspirations? It seems the opposite is true. In the near future, the agreement will only fuel Iran’s desire to realize the potential outlined and legitimized by the deal. The hope that the agreement will somehow breed a positive process in Iran has no hold in reality. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appears eager for his country to obtain nuclear weapons. In fact, there is no debate within the Iranian leadership on whether or not such capabilities are necessary, only about the best way to go about achieving them. Only a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the Iranian regime could lead anyone to believe that this or any deal will somehow satisfy the ayatollahs’ nuclear ambitions, to the point of becoming a game changer.

 

Is there really no military alternative that could result in a longer setback to Tehran’s nuclear program, one that could outweigh the delay outlined in the current deal? After all, it was under orders from Obama that the U.S. developed a weapon that could seriously compromise Iran’s nuclear facilities. The argument that any military strike would result in only a short-term setback in Iran’s nuclear endeavors is wrong, because the seemingly professional American calculation on the matter is purely technical. This calculation is flawed because it fails to account for the effect a successful strike would have on Tehran’s willingness to invest in rehabilitating a program that could be destroyed in a matter of several nights, which is how long the U.S. said it would take to strike all of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

 

I believe that Iran, subject to crippling sanctions, would not rush to resuscitate its nuclear program in the event it was destroyed by the U.S. It also stands to reason that Iran’s actual ability to retaliate over such a strike, other than by putting Hezbollah in play, would be limited. An American strike could buy the West more than just a few years, but its reluctance to assume the risks involved in a military operation is understandable. Regardless, the reality is clear: The U.S. can forcibly bring the Iranian nuclear program to a halt; it simply chooses not to do so…                                                                                                                  

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

Contents                                                                                     

                          

IRAN’S GRAND STRATEGY IS TO BECOME A REGIONAL POWERHOUSE                                                           

Michael Morell                                                                                                    

Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2015

 

One of the interesting aspects of international affairs is that states and nonstate actors will occasionally say publicly exactly what they are thinking, doing and planning to do. No need for spies, no need for diplomats — just a need to listen. In the mid-1990s, Osama bin Laden said repeatedly that he saw the United States as his most important enemy and therefore as his key target. Bin Laden delivered on these warnings in August 1998 in East Africa, in October 2000 in Yemen and in September 2001 in New York and Washington.

 

In a hotly contested election campaign in early 1998, India’s Bharatiya Janata Party told voters in its platform that, if elected, it would openly deploy nuclear weapons. Once the BJP was in office, analysts played down the nuclear plank as campaign rhetoric. They were proved wrong in May 1998 when India conducted multiple underground nuclear tests, becoming a declared nuclear weapons state.

 

The world recently witnessed another moment of such candor — and it came just weeks before Iran and world powers agreed to a framework for how to handle Iran’s nuclear program over the next 10 to 15 years. Last month, a senior adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke at a conference in Tehran on “Iran, Nationalism, History, and Culture.” The adviser made clear that Iran’s ambition is to become a regional hegemon — in short, to reestablish the Persian empire. The adviser, Ali Younesi — who was head of intelligence for former president Mohammad Khatami — told conference attendees, “Since its inception, Iran has [always] had a global [dimension]. It was born an empire. Iran’s leaders, officials and administrators have always thought in the global” dimension.

 

Younesi defined the territory of the Iranian empire, which he called “Greater Iran,” as reaching from the borders of China and including the Indian subcontinent, the north and south Caucasus and the Persian Gulf. He said Iraq is the capital of the Iranian Empire — a reference to the ancient city of Babylon, in present-day Iraq, which was the center of Persian life for centuries. “We are protecting the interests of [all] the people in the region — because they are all Iran’s people,” he said. “We must try to once again spread the banner of Islamic-Iranian unity and peace in the region. Iran must bear this responsibility, as it did in the past.”

 

Younesi said that the aim of Iranian actions in “Greater Iran” was to ensure the security of the people there, adding that Saudi Arabia has nothing to fear from Iran’s actions because the Saudis are incapable of defending the people of the region. He also said that anything that enters Iran is improved by becoming Iranian, particularly Islam itself, adding that Islam in its Iranian-Shiite form is the pure Islam, since it has shed all traces of Arabism. These are not the views of a single individual. They are shared widely among Iranian elites. They are also not new. They stretch back decades and are deeply rooted in Iranian society and Persian culture.

 

Younesi’s speech was an outline of Iran’s grand strategy. And, most important, it puts into context Iran’s behavior in the region — largely covert operations to undermine its Arab neighbors, Israel and the United States, the countries that stand in the way of its pursuit of hegemony. Iran conducts terrorism as a tool of statecraft — it is one of the only countries in the world to do so — largely against its neighbors. An Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a Georgetown restaurant was foiled in 2011. Iran supports international terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, which was behind the 1983 attacks on the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 258 Americans. These attacks are seen as the beginning of Islamic jihad against the United States as well as the start of the use of suicide car and truck bombs.

 

Hezbollah’s stated reason for its existence is to destroy Israel. This is also Iranian state policy. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful person in the country, said in a speech in Tehran in late 2013, “Zionist officials cannot be called humans; they are like animals, some of them. The Israeli regime is doomed to failure and annihilation.” Iran also provides support to Shiite groups in the region with the intent of reinforcing Shiite-led governments or overthrowing Sunni Arab regimes. Tehran’s extensive support has assisted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s killing of more than 100,000 of his own citizens. Iran’s support to Shiite militia groups during the Iraq war resulted in the deaths of hundreds of U.S. servicemen there. One of Iran’s proxies, the Houthis, recently overthrew the popularly elected government in Yemen.

 

This grand strategy, of course, is inconsistent with U.S. interests, and Iran knows that. At the conference, Younesi said that Iran was operating in Greater Iran against Sunni Islamic extremism, as well as against the Saudi Wahhabis, Turkey, secularists, Western rule and Zionism. The nuclear framework agreement announced Thursday is a good deal for the United States. If fully implemented by Iran, it will push Iran’s breakout time to produce a weapon from just a few months to beyond a year, while making it difficult for Iran to cheat. But it will also, once sanctions are lifted, give Iran more resources to pursue its grand strategy, as outlined so clearly by Younesi. It has always been important that the United States and our allies have a policy to counter this strategy and contain Iran — and now it is even more important that we do so.

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                                

   

WAR IN YEMEN IS ALLOWING QAEDA GROUP TO EXPAND                                            

Saeed Al-Batati & Kareem Fahim                                                                                         

New York Times, Apr. 16, 2015

 

Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen took control of a major airport and an oil export terminal in the southern part of the country on Thursday, expanding the resurgent militant group’s reach just two weeks after it seized the nearby city of Al Mukalla and emptied its bank and prison. Local officials said that fighters belonging to the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP, took control of the Riyan Airport and a nearby military base outside Al Mukalla, the fifth-largest city in Yemen. The group also seized the Dhabah oil terminal on the Arabian Sea coast, which the group had tried to capture before, according to Yemeni officials.

 

Al Qaeda is capitalizing on the expanding multisided war in Yemen and the collapse of its government to carve out territory for itself. When its fighters stormed Al Mukalla, the capital of Hadhramaut Province, they seized government buildings, looted the central bank office and freed hundreds of inmates from the city penitentiary, including a senior leader of the group. Al Qaeda’s adversaries in Yemen are largely in disarray or distracted by other fighting. Military units have melted away or put up little resistance as Al Qaeda has advanced. The Houthis, a militia movement from northern Yemen that is considered Al Qaeda’s most determined foe, have been preoccupied with battles against rival militias across the country, and their fighters have been battered by aerial assaults from the Saudi-led Arab coalition, which is trying to restore the exiled government to power.

 

Saudi Arabia has focused on crippling the Houthis, leaving Al Qaeda all but unopposed around Al Mukalla, though the group was dealt a setback this week when a top figure and several other members were killed in an American drone strike. Still, the Saudi assaults on the Houthis have indirectly helped empower Al Qaeda in ways the group had not enjoyed before. Its fighters are now developing relations with Yemeni tribal leaders who share antipathy for the Houthis and their allies, said Jamal Benomar, the United Nations diplomat who had unsuccessfully sought to achieve a political reconciliation in Yemen. “For the first time, Al Qaeda is building a strategic alliance with the tribes,” Mr. Benomar, who has requested a reassignment, said in an interview at The New York Times on Wednesday. “It is a strengthened and dangerous Al Qaeda. This is what worries everybody.”

 

In Washington, Pentagon officials acknowledged that the American-backed Saudi airstrikes have created more space for Al Qaeda to gain territory. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, in a news conference, called gains by the group “of serious concern” to the United States. “It’s obvious that it’s easier to do our counterterror operations when there’s a settled government” in Yemen, he said. “In the meantime, we need to, and do, protect ourselves against AQAP. Because they are dangerous.” Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the United States Central Command, was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday for meetings with Saudi officials. Mr. Carter said that the United States would continue to support the Saudi campaign, calling the kingdom “a longstanding friend and ally,” and that the United States was trying to “help them protect themselves and their own border.” Mr. Carter characterized the Saudi objective in Yemen as restoring “a political process there in which a legitimate government can be established.”

 

With growing alarm over the extremists’ gains and the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, Khaled Bahah, a top official in the exiled government, called on Thursday for the Houthis to halt their offensive as a condition for peace talks. Speaking in Saudi Arabia, where the government has taken refuge, Mr. Bahah said the “language of reason and dialogue must be given priority.” But first, he said, the Houthis must halt their attacks and “stop tampering with the destiny of the nation and destroying its institutions.” Mr. Bahah was appointed vice president on Sunday by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled Yemen shortly before the Saudis began bombing.

 

Mr. Bahah, who served as Yemen’s last prime minister, is widely viewed as a conciliatory figure among the country’s increasingly fractured and polarized political elite. His appointment as vice president was seen as an attempt to bridge the divisions fueling the war and to provide alternative leadership to that of Mr. Hadi, who lacks any significant base of support. But a senior Houthi official, responding to Mr. Bahah’s comments on Thursday, told Reuters that the Saudi-led bombing campaign had to stop “immediately and without conditions.” The political deadlock has contributed to increasingly dire assessments from international aid agencies about the toll on civilians in Yemen, a country that must import nearly all of its food. The Saudi-led military coalition has imposed an air and sea blockade, which, along with the fighting, has caused critical shortages of food and fuel in many cities, including Sana, the capital, and Aden, a southern port gripped by combat for weeks…

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

 

Contents

                                                                                     

 

On Topic

 

Danger of Iran Deal is Not Because Tehran Lies, But Because it Doesn’t: Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, Apr. 16, 2015 —Who trusts Iran? Most Americans don’t. According to two new polls, a majority of the public strongly doubts the ruling theocrats in Tehran can be counted on to keep their end of any nuclear deal negotiated in the US-led “P5+1” talks in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Ten Maps That Explain Iran's Power Play in the Middle East: Patrick Martin, Tonia Cowan and Trish McAlaster, Globe & Mail, Apr. 14, 2015 —Iran and Saudi Arabia, which have been at odds for decades, view themselves as defenders of Shia and Sunni Islam, respectively. Today, flashpoints in their regional power struggle stretch from Yemen to Syria as Iran supports Shia minorities and Saudi Arabia mobilizes to check Iran’s growing influence.

Keeping up the Fight in Yemen: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Apr. 17, 2015 —When U.S. special operations forces exited Yemen last month, it was seen as a severe blow to the fight against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which U.S. President Barack Obama had previously held up as a success in the global effort against terrorism.

The Ineffective Campaign in Yemen: Max Boot, Commentary, Apr . 17, 2015 —Almost a month ago, on March 25, the Saudis launched what they called Operation Decisive Storm to stop the onslaught of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen. It turns out that, to no one’s surprise, Decisive Storm isn’t actually decisive.

                                                                    

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org