Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
L'institut Canadien de Recherches sur le Judaisme
Strength of Israel will not lie

Tag: Iran

IN SYRIA, IRAN PLAYS KEY ROLE IN EMERGING POWER STRUCTURE AMID ONGOING RUSSIA-ISRAEL CRISIS

A New Order Emerges in Southern Syria: Jonathan Spyer, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 3, 2018— Syrian Regime closes accounts with west- and Israel-linked rebels, as Iran builds and expands its presence in the area.

The Russian-Israeli Crisis over Syria Lacks an Exit Strategy: Yaakov Lappin, BESA, Dec. 5, 2018— The crisis in Russian-Israeli relations that followed the downing of a Russian aircraft in September lacks an exit strategy, and has resulted in significantly higher tensions in the Syrian arena.

In the Middle East, Russia is Back: Liz Sly, Washington Post, Dec. 5, 2018 — Among the presidents, prime ministers, kings and princes who have visited Moscow over the past year to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin are some of the United States’ closest allies, who once might have been expected to devote their travel time to Washington.

The Palestinians No One Talks About: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 27, 2018— Here’s some “good” news: In October, only five Palestinians living in Syria were pronounced dead.

On Topic Links

US Claims it Killed ISIS Commander, Syria Says US Hit its Forces: Seth Frantzman, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 4, 2018

Hundreds of Bodies Recovered From ISIS Mass Graves in Syria: New York Post, Nov. 27, 2018

While Confronting Iran in Syria, Israel May Have to Defy Russia: Charles Bybelezer, Media Line, Dec. 4, 2018

Expect Russia to Escalate Soon in Syria: Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner, Dec. 3, 2018

 

A NEW ORDER EMERGES IN SOUTHERN SYRIA                   

Jonathan Spyer                                                                           

Breaking Israel News, Dec. 3, 2018

Syrian Regime closes accounts with west- and Israel-linked rebels, as Iran builds and expands its presence in the area. Evidence emerging from south west Syria indicates that the Assad regime has begun to ‘close accounts’ with former rebels who worked with Israel and with western countries during the years that this area was outside of regime control.  A number of prominent former rebel commanders in Deraa and Quneitra Provinces have recently disappeared after being apprehended by regime forces.   Other former rebels have been prevented from leaving the area for opposition-controlled Idleb province in the country’s north east.

The regime’s measures against those it deems unfit for ‘reconciliation’ are continuing parallel to the integration of rank and file former rebels into the regime’s security structures.  What is returning to Syria’s south, however, is not the status quo ante bellum.  Iran and its allies have a central role in the emergent power structure. Indeed, the emergent reality is one in which it is difficult to discern where precisely the Syrian state ends and Iran and its allies begin. Syria’s south west, which was the cradle of the uprising against Assad, is now being transformed into the birthplace of a new Syria, in which Iran and its allies form a vital and inseparable component.

Deraa and Quneitra Provinces were among the first areas of Syria to break free of regime control. The demonstrations that launched the Syrian uprising began in Deraa city in mid-March, 2011.  By the end of the year, the regime had lost control of the greater part of both provinces.  In the subsequent six years, a flourishing post-regime reality came into being.  International NGOs began to operate projects in the areas. A provisional local authority functioned.  Unlike in northern Syria, militias aligned with Salafi or Muslim Brotherhood style political Islam did not swallow up all other elements.  Rather, groups aligned with these streams existed alongside other less ideological formations.

Foreign governments also became involved.  Israel, determined to prevent the arrival of Iran and its proxy militias to the border with the Golan Heights, developed relations with a number of non-jihadi local rebel groups, and assisted their control of the border area.  Such organizations as Fursan al Jolan, and Ahrar al Nawa, among others, benefitted from the Israeli connection.  Further east, western governments including the US and the UK offered assistance to the opposition in Deraa Province.  Through such projects as the ‘Free Syrian Police’ force, the west sought to aid the development of rudimentary civil society structures to replace those of the Assad regime.

All this came abruptly to an end in the course of summer, 2018.  In June, the regime, having finished off the rebellion in Eastern Ghouta close to Damascus, turned its attentions to the south west.  A massive aerial and ground assault began.   The rebels collapsed with unexpected speed.  By July, it was over.  Once the regime had captured key strategic areas, rebel groups were forced to choose between a bloody last stand or a negotiated surrender. They chose the latter.  Thousands then opted to board buses for rebel-controlled Idlib in the north west. Those who wishes to stay were given a six month period from August to visit a government controlled center and ‘normalize their status’ with the authorities.  The implicit suggestion was that if this was done, they would face no further retribution.

This assumption now appears to have been misplaced.  According to residents of the area interviewed by the Syria Direct website, a wave of arrests and disappearances of former rebel commanders and opposition activists is now taking place.  On November 7, the body of Ghanim al-Jamous, former head of the Free Syrian Police in the town of Da’el, was found by a roadside on the outskirts of the town.  Officers belonging to Assad’s feared Air Force Intelligence prevented bystanders from approaching the body.  Jamous is one of 23 former rebel commanders and opposition activists to have been detained or disappeared by the regime organs in recent weeks.  Many more young Syrian residents of the area with less clear links to the opposition have also been detained.

Among others affected by the regime crackdown are individuals formerly directly linked to Israel.  On September 7, Ayham al-Juhmani, former commander of the Ahrar Nawa group in the town of Nawa in Quneitra province was detained by regime forces.  He has not been heard of since.  Ahrar Nawa was among the groups to have cooperated most closely with Israel.  Juhmani himself spent some time in a hospital in Israel during the civil war, undergoing treatment for wounds received in combat…

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

 

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THE RUSSIAN-ISRAELI CRISIS OVER SYRIA LACKS AN EXIT STRATEGY

Yaakov Lappin

BESA, Dec. 5, 2018

The crisis in Russian-Israeli relations that followed the downing of a Russian aircraft in September lacks an exit strategy, and has resulted in significantly higher tensions in the Syrian arena. Russia is seeking to pressure Israel into rolling back its air strikes in Syria, fearing that they will jeopardize the stability of the Assad regime. Moscow has waged a three-year air campaign in support of the brutal Alawite Assad regime in Damascus, and in support of the regime’s Iranian-led Shiite allies.

The Russians were able to project their power into the heart of the Middle East, secure a naval port, an airbase, and a center of regional influence, while challenging America’s regional role. But the ongoing Israeli-Iranian conflict on Syrian soil could place those gains at risk by dragging the Syrian regime into the conflict. This means Russian and Israeli interests have begun to collide.

PM Netanyahu has made it clear that Israel will not permit Iran to set up attack bases on Syrian soil, despite Russia’s new posture against Israel’s ‘War Between the Wars’ campaign in Syria. A series of signals over recent weeks indicate that Jerusalem and Moscow have been unable to defuse the crisis, after Russia placed responsibility for the deadly September 17 plane downing incident on Israel.

Since the loss of the intelligence-gathering aircraft, Russia has rebuffed a succession of Israeli attempts to patch up relations, including the sending of a high-profile Israeli military delegation to Moscow on September 20, led by Air Force Chief Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin, to brief Russian air force officials on what occurred. Israel expressed sorrow for the deaths of the 15 Russian aircrew members, and explained that IAF jets had struck Iranian components for the manufacture of precision-guided missiles.

The Iranian weapons were stored at a Syrian Armed Forces facility in Latakia, on the Syrian coastline, 25 km north of Russia’s Khmeimim Airbase, and were destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon. This appeared to have been an Iranian bid to use Russia as a cover to proliferate arms. The gamble by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was that Israel would not strike in this sensitive area. That assumption was proven false. Syria’s anti-aircraft systems then released a volley of inaccurate fire, hitting the Russian plane, when Israel’s jets were already approaching their bases for landing, according to Israel. Yet these explanations were rejected by Russia.

On October 8, media reports emerged saying that Netanyahu had been forced to cancel a planned meeting with President Putin in Paris. Still, they managed to meet on the sidelines of a WWI memorial event in the latest attempt to deal with the crisis. Other media reports said in recent weeks that former Defense Minister Lieberman had been unable to reestablish a communications channel with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoigu, who had released belligerent statements in Israel’s direction in the aftermath of the plane incident. Lieberman and Shoigu had previously had a good channel for dialogue.

Russia translated its new policy in Syria into action by transferring four S-300 surface-to-air batteries to the Assad regime. Syrian air defense crews are now believed to be undergoing training to learn how to use the systems, which can detect and track air traffic – including civilian traffic – deep inside Israel. Moscow has, in recent weeks, stepped up its criticism of Israeli air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria. FM Sergey Lavrov claimed on November 5 that the attacks will not improve Israel’s security situation, and criticized what he described as inadequate Israeli coordination efforts with Russian forces.

These steps amount to a new Russian policy of applying high pressure on Jerusalem to scale back its air strikes. Nevertheless, international media outlets have carried reports of continued Israeli strikes on threatening Iranian activities in Syria, meaning Russia’s campaign has so far not achieved its goals.

It also remains unclear whether Russia is willing or able to apply effective pressure on Iran to scale back its military infrastructure construction in Syria, which can later be used to attack Israel. Until Iran stops trying to build a war machine in Syria, Israel will not be responsive to attempts to limit its preemptive campaign.

The outlook for the Syrian arena is therefore troubling. It is safe to assume that the Israel Air Force can overcome the S-300 systems, including through the use of the new Israeli stealth F-35 aircraft. These jets were specifically designed to penetrate and deal with advanced Russian-made air defenses. However, the apparent disconnect between the Israeli and Russian leaderships means an important part of the bilateral coordination mechanism for preventing mishaps in Syrian skies has been damaged…

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

 

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IN THE MIDDLE EAST, RUSSIA IS BACK

Liz Sly

Washington Post, Dec. 5, 2018

Among the presidents, prime ministers, kings and princes who have visited Moscow over the past year to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin are some of the United States’ closest allies, who once might have been expected to devote their travel time to Washington. There’s a new power rising in the Middle East, and it needs to be wooed.

Three decades after the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States emerged as the undisputed superpower in the Middle East and North Africa, a resurgent Russia is back. Under the personal direction of Putin, Russia is stepping into the vac­uum left by the disengagement of the Obama administration and the unpredictability of the Trump one to challenge the United States’ dominant role in the region.

Russian oilmen, arms dealers and financiers have been fanning out across the region, striking billions of dollars’ worth of deals, reviving old relationships and forging new ones from Libya to the Persian Gulf. At the center of it all is Putin, whose strongman image resonates with the region’s authoritarian rulers at a time when doubts are growing about Washington’s commitment to the Middle East.

Russia’s 2015 military intervention in Syria has given Putin perhaps the single biggest boost, burnishing his credentials as a decisive and effective leader who delivers what he set out to achieve: the survival of President Bashar al-Assad.  It also positioned Putin at the nexus of the Middle East’s overlapping conflicts, leveraging Russia’s influence far beyond Syria’s borders to include all the countries with a stake in the outcome of the war — foes such as Israel and Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey. As a result, he has frequently been on the phone with U.S. allies such as Turkey and Israel — nearly three dozen times with the leaders of those two countries just in the past year.

Apart from Syria, Russia has shown little inclination to wade into most of the region’s myriad conflicts, such as the Yemen war, the Arab-Israeli peace process and the dispute between Qatar and its neighbors. But Putin has welcomed anyone who wants to visit, making Moscow a must-stop destination for leaders with a problem to solve. “Putin is effectively working as the psychoanalyst of the region,” said Malik Dahlan, a Saudi who is a professor of international law and public policy at Queen Mary University of London. “The Russians are happy to hear all sides, and anyone who wants to speak, they’re happy to listen.”

The U.S.-allied leaders who have traveled to Moscow this year include Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who gave President Trump a lavish welcome in Riyadh last year but then chose Moscow over Washington for his first and so far only official overseas visit — the first visit ever by a Saudi monarch to Russia. The emir of Qatar unexpectedly flew to Moscow to meet with Putin on the eve of his visit to Washington in April, earning a rebuke from the Trump administration. The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, a close U.S. ally, declined an invitation to Washington this spring, diplomats say. But he traveled to Moscow in June, his seventh trip in five years, signing a “strategic partnership” agreement with Putin. Most recently, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi in October made his fourth visit to Moscow — compared with one to Washington — and also signed a strategic-partnership agreement with Putin in the Russian resort town of Sochi, marking a significant shift of a U.S. ally toward Russia.

The meetings are providing Putin with new levers of influence just when the United States is drawing down forces in the Middle East, in part to counter Russian and Chinese expansion elsewhere. His hearty greeting at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman illustrated the personal rapport Putin is establishing with regional leaders. Those visits are also translating at times into substantive policy. An agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia to cut oil production, resulting from King Salman’s Moscow visit last year, has given Russia new weight in world energy markets. The joint announcement Monday that the two countries would further cut production reflects an emerging partnership that has the potential to rival the clout of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

When not hosting visitors, Putin is often on the telephone, usually sorting out problems relating to Syria but, in the process, cultivating close relationships with some of the United States’ dearest friends. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called Trump a “true friend” of Israel, has spoken 11 times on the phone with Putin over the past year and only three times with Trump, according to a tally of the calls reported on Putin’s and Netanyahu’s websites. Netanyahu has visited Moscow four times in the past year. He has visited Washington twice since Trump became president. It’s unclear whether Putin and Netanyahu’s rapport will survive building tensions between Israel and Iran in Syria and also Lebanon, where the ­Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia has expanded its influence. They have spoken only once since the downing of a Russian plane in Syria in September, which Moscow blamed on Israel. But phone calls between Putin and Netanyahu at the time played a part in tamping down the worst of the animosity, diplomats say.

Turkey, a longtime U.S. ally and NATO partner with a centuries-old history of rivalry with Russia, has been drifting deeper into Moscow’s orbit of influence as their cooperation in Syria expands and relations with the United States have become strained. According to a count of their interactions, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the past year has spoken 20 times on the phone with Putin and seven times with Trump. Erdogan’s decision to purchase Russia’s advanced S-400 missile system, which Moscow says will be delivered next year, offers one example of how their burgeoning relationship could challenge the cohesion of NATO…

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

 

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THE PALESTINIANS NO ONE TALKS ABOUT                             

Bassam Tawil                                               

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 27, 2018

Here’s some “good” news: In October, only five Palestinians living in Syria were pronounced dead. The London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria reports that in October 2017, 12 Palestinians were killed due to war-related incidents in that country. “The list of victims who died in October 2018 includes four Palestinians who were pronounced dead in Teloul Al-Safa, in Al-Sweida desert, south of Syria, and one Palestinian in Damascus,” the group said.

According to the human rights watchdog that monitors the situation of Palestinians in Syria, the number of Palestinians killed in Syria since the beginning of the civil war there in 2011 now stands at 3,903. Another 1,712 Palestinians in that country have been arrested by the Syrian authorities, and 316 are listed as missing. The latest victim was identified as Ahmed Abdullah Balbisi who, according to the human rights group, died of torture in a Syrian prison eight years after his incarceration. The group said that Balbisi was arrested then for participating in peaceful demonstrations organized by the Syrian opposition. Balbisi is the latest victim added to the 3,903 Palestinians killed in Syria during the past seven years. His death was reported by the group on November 22.

A day earlier, the human rights group reported that two other Palestinians, Mohammed Khalil al-Kurdi and Wael Abu Hamdeh, died due to lack of proper medical treatment. On November 19, reports surfaced that a third, Mohammed Ahmed Farhat, was killed during an exchange of gunfire between the Syrian army and the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group. Last week, reports noted that a Palestinian man, Nael Abd Al-Raheem, was kidnapped and killed by ISIS in Aleppo’s northeastern city of Al-Bab.

These stories concerning the atrocities committed against Palestinians in an Arab country do not come as a surprise. It is not as if anyone expected the Syrian regime or the opposition forces there to act differently. What is disturbing, however, is the attitude of the international media and community to the plight of the Palestinians in Syria in particular and the Arab world in general.

There are dozens of foreign Middle East correspondents in the Middle East, and many are based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. These correspondents feel safe living and working out of Israel. They prefer to live and work in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv rather than in Ramallah, the Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and other Arab countries. Why? Because Israel is the only place these correspondents feel safe. A trip to Syria might result in being beheaded by Muslim terrorists. A trip to Iraq might result in being kidnapped by Muslim terrorists. A trip to Egypt or to Jordan might result in being harassed by the authorities or anti-Western Muslim extremists.

Perhaps this disparity helps to explain why the international community does not read about human rights violations in Arab and Islamic countries. There is, however, another reason, not related to the journalists’ safety. The international community are not interested in what the Arabs and Muslims are doing to the Palestinians because the Western journalists are hell-bent on covering only stories that reflect negatively on Israel. Palestinian rioters killed by the Israel Defense Forces on the Israel-Gaza border attract the attention of scores of Western journalists and media outlets. By contrast, Palestinians tortured to death and otherwise killed in Syria receive zero coverage in Western media organizations.

The 3,903 Palestinians killed in Syria in the past seven years are of no interest to the Western correspondents or their editors. As far as these journalists are concerned, the reports of the human rights organization monitoring the condition of Palestinians in Syria are rubbish fit for the wastebasket. Unlike those living in the Arab countries, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are fortunate. Thanks to the Western media’s continued obsession with Israel, the international community is aware of them…

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

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Chag Sameach!

 

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On Topic Links

US Claims it Killed ISIS Commander, Syria Says US Hit its Forces: Seth Frantzman, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 4, 2018—In a bizarre series of events on Sunday the Syrian regime claimed that the US hit its forces south of Sukhna “The military source said in a statement to SANA: The forces of the ‘International Alliance’ attacked several missiles at around 8:00 pm on some sites of the Syrian Arab Army in Jabal Gharab south of the city of Sukhna in the eastern Homs countryside.

Hundreds of Bodies Recovered From ISIS Mass Graves in Syria: New York Post, Nov. 27, 2018—Syrian workers have exhumed more than 500 bodies from one of the largest mass graves near the northern city of Raqqa, once the capital of the Islamic State group’s self-styled caliphate, and are still uncovering remains, a local official said Tuesday.

While Confronting Iran in Syria, Israel May Have to Defy Russia: Charles Bybelezer, Media Line, Dec. 4, 2018—Russia has completed an elaborate air defense system in Syria that curbs the operational capabilities of both the United States and Israel, according to a report by the Washington- based Institute for the Study of War. The deployments throughout the conflict-ravaged country include variations of the advanced S-300 and S-400 systems in addition to other cutting-edge technologies.

Expect Russia to Escalate Soon in Syria: Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner, Dec. 3, 2018—It often flies under the radar – until it flies into the Russian GRU’s face – but the U.S. military presence in Syria is a constant aggravation for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government.

TRUMP TAKES TOUGH STAND ON IRAN WHILE FOLLOWING REALPOLITIK WITH SAUDIS

Trump Doesn’t Know History, but He Knows Iran: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Nov. 13, 2018 — Donald Trump got just about the welcome he should have expected when he showed up to take part in the commemorations of the centennial of the end of World War I this past weekend.

The Implications of Sanctions for the Iranian Oil Market: Dr. Doron Itzchakov, BESA, Nov. 25, 2018— On November 5, the Trump government imposed wide-ranging sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to bring about a change in the revolutionary regime’s radical orientation.

How Trump Could — and Should — Get Tough on the Saudis: Elliott Abrams, New York Post, Nov. 22, 2018— As a card-carrying neoconservative, I am usually a critic of realpolitik.

The Midterm was a Huge Win for Trump’s Mideast Policy: Dr. Aviel Sheyin-Stevens, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 18, 2018— Donald Trump’s supporters take him seriously but not literally; whereas, Democrats and their media acolytes, along with Never Trump Republicans, take him literally but not seriously.

On Topic Links

Trump’s Iran Sanctions Could Work: Micha’el Tanchum, Foreign Policy, Nov. 20, 2018

Trump’s Clever Policies Against Iran: Media Line, Nov. 18, 2018

Khashoggi’s Revenge: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 24, 2018

Donald Trump’s High-Wire Act on the Global Stage: Derek Burney, Globe & Mail, Oct. 25, 2018

 

TRUMP DOESN’T KNOW HISTORY, BUT HE KNOWS IRAN                                                Jonathan S. Tobin                                                                                             

JNS, Nov. 13, 2018

Donald Trump got just about the welcome he should have expected when he showed up to take part in the commemorations of the centennial of the end of World War I this past weekend. The international media excoriated him for skipping one of the memorial services due to bad weather (he attended another such service the following day, despite the rain) and then was subjected to a stern lecture by his host, French President Emmanuel Macron, during another one of the ceremonies.

Trump is being portrayed as unequal to the high-minded leaders of France and Germany, whose current close relations underscore the importance of learning the lessons of history. But while the president seemed out of step with the spirit of the 1918 centennial, on the key challenge currently facing the international community, it is his European critics who are ignoring history and acting selfishly.

There was little doubt who or what Macron was talking about when he spoke of the dangers of “nationalism,” drawing a stark contrast between those who view themselves as “nationalists” and those who view themselves as “patriots.” Speaking at the Arc de Triomphe, Macron told the assembled leaders of Europe: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying: ‘Our interest first. Who cares about the others?’”

While Macron’s distinction between nationalism and patriotism is sheer sophistry, it was a message that went over very well for those who fear for the future. His critics think Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and lack of enthusiasm for the NATO alliance, as well as his much publicized interest in better relations with Russia, are tearing apart the post-World War II order that has kept the peace in Europe. Trump’s critics — Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel being the most prominent of them — believe that his emphasis on nationalism is encouraging right-wing governments in Eastern Europe to follow his lead and think less about what’s good for the continent as a whole and more about what’s in it for them.

Set in the context of the effort to recall how unbridled nationalism helped set in motion the catastrophe of the war that tore Europe apart from 1914 to 1918, it sounds like a searing indictment of the president. In that way, Trump’s own condemnation of those who value globalism or pay little attention to the impact of the global economy on local interests is viewed as not merely a narrow and chauvinistic approach to the world, but also a willingness to ignore threats to democracy that can only be met by collective action. Indeed, the whole point of NATO was to ensure that a third European war would not follow the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, as well as to defend small nations against the predatory ambitions of the Soviet Union and its reboot under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Russia isn’t the only threat the West faces, and that’s why the Franco-German love-fest at Trump’s expense isn’t quite as principled as the president’s critics claim it to be. Leaving aside the natural resentment many in Europe feel about the high-handed and undemocratic way that the European Union thwarts the efforts of individual nations to decide their own fates, Macron’s sermon is actually deeply hypocritical. Far from exemplifying the principle that the West must think about what is good for all, France and Germany are actually doing the opposite when it comes to Iran.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal horrified Macron and Merkel. They are particularly angry about America’s re-imposition of sanctions on the Tehran regime and the Trump administration’s efforts to force the Europeans to go along with his decision. The Europeans see this as the worst example of policies that undermine the Western alliance. But in fact it’s the Europeans who are behaving selfishly.

Trump understands that the Iran deal must be renegotiated because the pact that President Barack Obama proclaimed as solving the nuclear threat is fatally flawed. The deal not only enriched and empowered the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, but its sunset clause ensures that Iran will eventually get a bomb anyway. Rather than joining with him to act to correct this problem and restrain Iranian adventurism — including a mass slaughter in Syria, a bloody war in Yemen, and a standing threat to the security of Sunni Arab nations and Israel — the Europeans prefer to keep doing business with Tehran.

And rather than submit to American leadership on an issue that threatens not merely the Middle East but a European continent that would be in range of Iranian missiles, Macron and Merkel have been exploring options that would allow them to separate entirely from the US economy. They are bluffing about that. But their insistence on vetoing any Western stand against Iran is a dangerous form of appeasement that gives the lie to their claims of learning the lessons of history.

Europe’s wars were caused by the indifference of democracies to the need to stop aggressors before they posed a mortal threat to the world. The greatest tragedies of the 20th century happened because the appeasers — and those who just wanted to make a profit by dealing with rogue regimes — had their way until it was too late to avert catastrophe.

Trump may not be much of a student of history, but he appears to know that much. That’s why he’s right about Iran, and why Macron and Merkel are wrong. All the lectures about nationalism won’t change the fact that on Iran, it is they who are acting in their nation’s selfish interest and Trump who is speaking for the good of the international community. One hundred years after the end of the Great War, that’s a history lesson that can’t be erased by the applause France and Germany are getting from Trump’s critics.

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THE IMPLICATIONS OF SANCTIONS FOR THE IRANIAN OIL MARKET

Dr. Doron Itzchakov

BESA, Nov. 25, 2018

On November 5, the Trump government imposed wide-ranging sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to bring about a change in the revolutionary regime’s radical orientation. This round of sanctions places severe restrictions on a wide range of corporations, financial and commercial entities, organizations, and private individuals both in Iran and abroad. The focus of the sanctions is the Iranian energy market, with an emphasis on oil exports, which is the country’s main source of income. The assumption is that constraining Iran’s oil revenues will significantly harm its economic stability and thus force it to change course and return to the negotiating table, this time under new conditions.

On November 2, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration’s purpose was to deprive the regime of the revenues with which it spreads death and destruction around the world. However, this goal is inconsistent with the decision to grant temporary exemptions to eight countries, including China and India – Iran’s two biggest oil consumers. The eight countries that have been temporarily exempted are Italy, Turkey, Greece, Taiwan, China, India, South Korea, and Japan. This decision reflects a desire to avoid a shake-up in world oil prices and a pragmatic approach that allows room for maneuver for countries that are not ready or able to immediately stop their purchases of Iranian oil. The decision also reflects the administration’s “carrot and stick” approach, which it employs to maintain balance in the international arena and to obtain the cooperation of weightier countries such as China, India, and Turkey.

A day before the sanctions were imposed, the Islamic Republic marked the 39th anniversary of the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran. During the demonstrations, which were punctuated by chants of hatred against the US and Israel, the government attempted to convey that Iran will be able to withstand the sanctions. Notwithstanding that show of belligerence, it is perfectly clear that the establishment grasps the ramifications of the sanctions for the Iranian economy, indicators of which have been visible ever since Trump announced the departure of the US from the nuclear agreement. Moreover, the economic turmoil caused by the sanctions imposed on Iran during the Obama administration is still engraved in the Iranian collective memory, though at that time, its oil exports did not fall below 1 million barrels per day.

At the time of writing, Iranian oil exports are estimated at 1.6 million barrels per day, but in the 10 months since the beginning of the year (January-October), the daily average was about 2 million barrels. This is due to export volumes of 2.1 to 2.6 million barrels per day between February and July of this year. Bloomberg data on the world oil market show that in 2017, Iran ranked sixth in the world, with an income of about $40 billion. If Iran’s decision-makers can manage to maintain an average export of 1.2 million barrels per day, they will be able to cope with the threat to the sector. Therefore, the decision to allow the eight countries, particularly China and India, to continue to purchase Iranian oil for the time being is a boon to the Iranian side.

The Americans’ “stick and carrot” policy of imposing sanctions but granting a temporary exemption to eight Iranian customers is being interpreted by Tehran as a sign of weakness and a victory for its own foreign policy. While Trump succeeded at bringing the ruler of North Korea to the negotiating table, the Iranian arena is different. The leadership in Tehran hopes that Trump will not win another term, and is willing to tighten the country’s belt until the next US elections. It should also be remembered that in effect, the revolutionary regime has been under American sanctions since the time of its inception; hence its perception that it can overcome the burden of sanctions.

China, the world’s largest oil consumer, is a key element in the Iranian regime’s ability to withstand sanctions. According to OPEC, China’s crude oil consumption will reach 13 million barrels per day by the end of 2019. Beijing purchases the largest share of the Iranian oil market, making it a vitally important ally. Moreover, Beijing and Tehran have joint ventures in many fields, including commercial, security, and geopolitical areas.

The inclusion of China and India, which collectively account for about 65% of Iranian oil exports, on Washington’s list of exemptions is inconsistent with Mike Pompeo’s statement that Washington’s goal is to paralyze Iranian oil exports. In September, the volume of aggregate purchases by China and India stood at about 1.05 million barrels a day out of a total of 1.6 million. It appears, therefore, that despite the decline in the volume of Iranian oil exports, the volume of exports has not yet fallen to the critical level of fewer than 800,000 barrels a day since the date of publication of the resolution on the return of sanctions.

As part of Iran’s bid to preserve its oil revenues, a wide range of purchase proposals, ranging from barter transactions to cash-based payments, have been proposed to circumvent the limitations on the banking system. Tehran recently announced that it was going to sell a million barrels of oil on the energy exchange in an effort to open the oil market to private investors. Of the million barrels, 280,000 were sold. While that result did not meet Tehran’s expectations, it will maintain the trend even at the cost of a significant reduction in oil prices…

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

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HOW TRUMP COULD — AND SHOULD — GET TOUGH ON THE SAUDIS           

Elliott Abrams

New York Post, Nov. 22, 2018

As a card-carrying neoconservative, I am usually a critic of realpolitik. But in judging the Trump administration’s response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, I find myself thinking that more realpolitik would lead to better policy. Here’s what I mean. The president has made two statements, both of which refuse to break with Saudi Arabia or its crown prince: his formal White House statement and his comments to reporters. Both constitute a kind of realpolitik.

The formal statement begins this way: “The world is a very dangerous place!” In both statements, the president notes the advantages that accrue to the United States from our relationship with the Saudis, principally the arms sales to the kingdom, its investments in the United States, its help in keeping oil prices down and its assistance against terrorism and against Iran more generally.

As to Iran, the president said: “We also need a counterbalance. And Israel needs help also. If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a terrible mistake.” The problem with this analysis is not that it is wrong, but that it posits only two options: abandoning Saudi Arabia or embracing it. A tougher realpolitik approach would promote a third option: Use this moment to push the Saudis to do some things we think they need to do.

Some examples: Patch up their dispute with Canada. More important, patch up their dispute with Qatar and get the Gulf Cooperation Council working again. Rationalize their own government by appointing empowered ministers, instead of having the crown prince in charge of all domestic, economic, defense and foreign-policy aspects of their government. And take some steps on human rights. The president was asked about the last point: “Are you basically telling us, Mr. President, that human rights are too expensive?” Trump replied “No, I’m not saying that at all.” But there is no evidence the United States is pressing the Saudis on that issue.

Now compare the putative master of realpolitik, Richard Nixon. After the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989, Nixon — then a private citizen — wrote to the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Nixon took a tough-minded pose, writing, “I have always believed that a nation’s policy must not be affected by soft-headed friendship, but only by hard-headed reality.” He reaffirmed his belief that US-China relations were of “great benefit to both our countries strategically.” And he had “hard-headed” advice for Deng: “It is imperative that steps be taken now to return China to its rightful place as a civilized member of the world community. It would be a tragedy if China continues to be seen as a repressive throwback to a dark age of the past.”

What steps? Release the physicist and dissident Fang Lizhi. Second, “provide amnesty for those who demonstrated peacefully . . . particularly students.” Third, take some steps providing reassurance about the future of Hong Kong. Two months later, in June 1990, Fang Lizhi and his family were allowed to leave China, and a group of dissidents was released. Perhaps Nixon’s advice, couched not as humanitarian pressure but cold political realism, had an effect.

That is what seems to me missing from recent administration policy on Saudi Arabia. Nixon did not presume that the choices were all or nothing, to embrace China or to break with it. Similarly, if the Trump administration view is that we should not break with Saudi Arabia (a view I share), then the next step is not to embrace Saudi Arabia but rather do what Nixon did: Specify to the Saudis what they need to do so that they will not be seen as “a repressive throwback to a dark age of the past.”

Send the Saudi foreign minister to fix things with Canada. Figure out a way to release the blogger Raif Badawi and the Saudi women’s-rights protesters who appear to have been badly abused since their arrests. Reunite the Gulf Cooperation Council. In his public statements, the president did not do that. Neither did Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his remarks. Realpolitik policy is missing: how we will use this moment to press the Saudis to do some things we need them to do, in our national interest.

The exception is Trump’s approach to Yemen. Since the Khashoggi killing, the Trump administration has taken a far tougher public stance demanding steps aimed at ending the war there, and it has stopped US aerial refueling of Saudi jets. Now, neither the president nor the secretary is obliged to lay out American demands in public. We must hope the Trump administration is trying in private to exact a price for the public support it is giving the US–Saudi relationship.

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THE MIDTERM WAS A HUGE WIN FOR TRUMP’S MIDEAST POLICY                            

Dr. Aviel Sheyin-Stevens                                     

Arutz Sheva, Nov. 18, 2018

Donald Trump’s supporters take him seriously but not literally; whereas, Democrats and their media acolytes, along with Never Trump Republicans, take him literally but not seriously. Before the midterm election, Trump intimated he could win the election and outperform previous presidents who generally lost seats in their first midterm election; however, he also acknowledged that Democrats may win the House. Now, many claim he lost the election. Although the Democratic Party won the House, Trump won the election.

What President Trump achieved by his net gain of Senate seats in the midterm was unprecedented for a Republican. He has also essentially eliminated the Never Trump section of the Republican Party. Since the beginning of his administration, Never Trump Republicans refused to accept his leadership of their party and therefore use every opportunity to undermine him. He has also essentially eliminated the Never Trump section of the Republican Party. The late Senator John McCain blocked Trump’s efforts to repeal Obamacare with his dramatic late-night Senate vote in 2017. McCain’s dramatic, decisive vote against Republicans’ effort to repeal Obamacare was widely perceived as motivated by personal revenge against Trump, because Trump succeeded where he failed. McCain had been in favor of repealing Obamacare, until Trump was elected and wanted it repealed.

Senator Bob Corker, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, undermined Trump’s foreign policies and cast aspersions on the president’s judgment. His actions subverted the credibility of Trump’s foreign policy strategies and empowered Democrats and others to delegitimize Trump’s leadership. In contrast; however, Corker worked heartily with Barack Obama. Corker assisted in securing Obama’s catastrophic Iran nuclear deal. Corker agreed not to treat the deal as a treaty that would have required the support of two thirds of the Senate for ratification, and passed a special law for it that upturned the US Constitution. Rather than requiring a two-thirds majority for ratification, the law required two thirds of the Senate to disapprove the deal to prevent its implementation.

Before the midterm election, Never Trump Senators held the balance of power in the Senate, but not anymore. They would mostly be replaced by pro-Trump people, like Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee who is replacing Corker. Many months ahead of the midterm election, Republican voters kept telling pollsters that the number one issue facing the country was immigration. Meanwhile, they considered tax reform as one of the least pressing issues. Nevertheless, House Republicans surrendered on Trump’s immigration plans to push Paul Ryan’s ‘Tax Reform 2.0’ plan.

House Republicans who spurned running for reelection also contributed to the Democratic takeover of the House. Generally, House incumbents have little trouble holding onto their seats. Since 1964, their reelection rates have consistently been over 80% and often in the high 90s. In this midterm, 39 incumbent Never-Trump House Republicans, many in leadership positions including House Speaker Paul Ryan, chose to retire. Rhe departure of key Never Trump Republicans from the House could make the Republican minority caucus to be more unified than they were as the majority. Thus, they could act more capably as a minority than they were as a fractured majority. Approaching the 2020 election, the Republican Party would be far more coherent ideologically and unified behind Trump’s leadership than it has been for the past two years.

As for the Democrats, fanatically anti-Israel, pro-Hamas candidates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib won their House races when they ran in safe districts. However, anti-Israel Scott Wallace and Leslie Cockburn who ran in Republican-leaning districts in Pennsylvania and Virginia, respectively, lost their races, whereas moderate Democrats won races in Republican leaning states…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Trump’s Iran Sanctions Could Work: Micha’el Tanchum, Foreign Policy, Nov. 20, 2018—Those who doubt that U.S. President Donald Trump’s Iran sanctions will hit their target should reconsider. It is true that their immediate impact on Iran’s oil export revenues will likely be minimal.

Trump’s Clever Policies Against Iran: Media Line, Nov. 18, 2018—On the morning of November 5, renewed US sanctions against Iran kicked in and Tehran’s hope for a last-minute miracle that would save it from economic meltdown vanished.

Khashoggi’s Revenge: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 24, 2018—According to Reuters, a group consisting of members of the Saudi royal family plans to replace the son of reigning King Salman, Mohammad, with his uncle, the king’s brother, 76 year old Ahmed bin Abed Al-Aziz.

Donald Trump’s High-Wire Act on the Global Stage: Derek Burney, Globe & Mail, Oct. 25, 2018—U.S. President Donald Trump is taking Teddy Roosevelt’s maxim – “Speak softly and carry a big stick” – and putting it into a higher gear. He talks loudly while brandishing a heavy stick on the world stage.

IRAN SANCTIONS “RESTORED AND STRENGTHENED” AFTER U.S. RESCINDS DEEPLY FLAWED JCPOA

Terrible Tehran: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 6, 2018— On Monday, the US restored and strengthened the sanctions it had lifted under the 2015 international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Despite Farrakhan’s Urging, Iranians not Giving in to Hate: Benny Avni, New York Post, Nov. 6, 2018— Iran’s true believers are sticking with the mullahs’ Pavlovian response to President Trump’s newly reimposed sanctions. Increasingly, however, many Iranians no longer are.

Washington Can Roll Back Iran’s Influence. Here’s How.: Alireza Nader & Bassam Barabandi, Weekly Standard, Oct. 31, 2018 — The U.S. campaign against the Soviet Union during the latter years of the Cold War holds some important lessons for Washington’s current policy of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

How the First World War Changed Jewish History: Anna Isaacs, Moment, June 16, 2015— Though World War II overshadows World War I in American Jewish consciousness, Professor Daniel Schwartz argues that it was the latter that shifted the arc of Jewish history…

On Topic Links

Bolton: There Will be Even More Sanctions on Iran: Arutz Sheva, Nov. 9, 2018

Nasrin Sotoudeh and the Struggle for Human Rights in Iran: Irwin Cotler, Weekly Standard, Oct. 18, 2018

Why America Had to Join World War I: Andrew Roberts, New York Post, Nov. 9, 2018

11 November: Armistice Day and Jewry: The Centennial: Larry Domnitch, Jewish Press, Nov. 11, 2018

                                                 

TERRIBLE TEHRAN                                                                                                          

Editorial                                                           

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 6, 2018

On Monday, the US restored and strengthened the sanctions it had lifted under the 2015 international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. The sanctions, targeting Iran’s oil, banking and industrial sectors “are the toughest sanctions ever put in place on the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the beginning of the week.

Even with temporary exceptions to eight oil importers – China, India, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey and South Korea – more than 20 nations have already cut their oil imports from Iran, reducing purchases by more than one million barrels per day, Pompeo said. The sanctions also prohibit countries from conducting business with 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries; more than 200 people and vessels in its shipping sector; the country’s national airline, Iran Air; and more than 65 of its aircraft, the US Treasury said.

Israeli officials – from Gilad Erdan and Danny Danon to Avigdor Liberman and Naftali Bennett – fell over themselves running to heap praise on US President Donald Trump for reversing US policy on Iran. Bennett, in particular, tweeted a fawning “Thank You for Making the Ayatollahs Scared Again” in homage to Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”

But nobody was happier than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Any way you look at it, the decision by Trump to leave the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action brokered by former president Barack Obama bears the personal influence and efforts of the Israeli leader. He has tirelessly battled against the agreement with Iran, arguing that it wouldn’t prevent the regime from developing nuclear weapons – and that only stiff economic sanctions would halt Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and its support for global terrorism.

Netanyahu raised the wrath of the Obama administration and liberal American Jews by telling a 2015 joint meeting of Congress in Washington that instead of stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Obama’s plan “would all but guarantee” that it does, in turn setting off a regional arms race. His much anticipated, props-filled annual speeches at the United Nations General Assembly have focused almost entirely on the Iranian threat – and since the deal went into effect, how Iran was violating the agreement.

Netanyahu found a sympathetic and like-minded ear in Trump, who already during his campaign for president, regularly skewered the “bad” deal with Tehran. On Monday, Netanyahu congratulated Trump, calling the heightened sanctions “a great day for the future of Israel” and praising the US president for “a courageous, determined and important decision.” He also touted his involvement in turning the Iran agreement on its head. “You know that for many years I have devoted my time and energy to the war against the Iranian threat. In this matter I went almost against the whole world. Today we see the results of this long and continuous struggle,” he told the Likud faction in the Knesset.

However, the struggle is far from over. The return of beefed up sanctions is no guarantee that the Iranian threat is going to be eradicated from the world arena. A defiant Tehran has pledged to buck the new obstacles and continue its global trade. Although the new penalties in effect could have a major impact on Iran’s ability to export its nefarious goals via Hezbollah and its proxies in Syria, a regime with its back to the wall is a dangerous regime. It’s nice to think that Iran will roll over and play dead, surrendering to the weight of sanctions. But if anything is apparent, it’s that the country’s leadership cares less about its people than its power.

The US and Israel can take a moment to bask in the satisfaction of success over rescinding the dubious nuclear agreement with Iran. But everyone needs to remember that the Iranian people are not the enemy. Every effort needs to be made to reach out to them and encourage the citizens of the beleaguered country to demand change, reconciliation with the West and the end of religious fanaticism, nuclear ambitions and the export of terrorism. The sanctions are a good start, but they are not the endgame.                   Contents

   

DESPITE FARRAKHAN’S URGING, IRANIANS NOT GIVING IN TO HATE                                         Benny Avni

New York Post, Nov. 6, 2018

Iran’s true believers are sticking with the mullahs’ Pavlovian response to President Trump’s newly reimposed sanctions. Increasingly, however, many Iranians no longer are. On Sunday, Tehran flew in Louis Farrakhan to help spread its go-to “It’s all America’s fault” message. And the Nation of Islam leader played his role like a violin — even flaunting foreign-language skills. “Death to … ” Farrakhan intoned in Farsi, addressing a Tehran University audience. “America,” answered the obedient crowd.

That chant has been an Iranian staple since the seizure of the US Embassy 39 years ago, so to celebrate the anniversary of the American hostage taking, while also marking the re-imposition of US sanctions, the regime asked Farrakhan to join in. And the man who recently professed to be “anti-termite,” referring to Jews, also led cheers of “Death to Israel,” the country the regime wants off the map.

Along the years, Farrakhan cozied up to Libya’s Muammar Khadafy, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and other US enemies. A frequent visitor to Tehran, he looked natural Sunday next to former Revolutionary Guards chief Moshen Rezaee, who recently threatened a violent response to US sanctions. “The American government is plotting against you every day,” Farrakhan said in his speech at the university. “Because it is impossible to change the way of thinking of Islamic Iran, they never sleep and are always working to create an internal enemy in Iran.”

Fine. Farrakhan’s amen corner, including followers like Linda Sarsour, may fall for this distorted thinking. And his regime-friendly message may ring true for many Iranians as well. But clearly not all of them. Iranians now increasingly dismiss the notion that the sole cause of their problems is the Great Satan. Many, apparently, have no interest in the ritual burning of the Stars and Stripes.

Consider: To mark Sunday’s hostage-taking anniversary, the authorities painted floors at entrances to universities, government offices and hotels with Israeli and American flags. Walking in, people were called on to trample them, using their feet to show disdain to the enemy (a common Arabic practice). Guess what? “Many young men and women refused to walk on the American and Israeli flags and found ways to go around them,” reports Masih Alinejad.

Alinejad is the Iranian-born, Brooklyn-based author of “The Wind in my Hair,” a best-seller about the battle she inspired against Iranian laws mandating traditional Islamic head cover for women. Like many in her homeland, she’s leery of the newly re-imposed sanctions, but, she says, people are nonetheless refusing to join in “Death to America” chants. Her Iranian social media followers, she told me, sent her several video clips showing students actually going out of their way to sidestep the flags. Posted on her Instagram account and narrated in Farsi, one video received 1 million hits. Even for Alinejad, whose social media posts are widely followed in Iran, this is an unusually large number.

“This is a new phenomenon,” she says. “Everyone I talk to is worried about the economic impact of the sanctions,” and yet “people are refusing to buy into the regime’s talking points.” Given a lack of reliable data, it’s hard to quantify just exactly how many Iranians are sick of the “Death to” chants, compared to those standing by the flag burnings. But economic hardship in Iran, which started long before America walked out on the Obama team’s nuclear deal and started threatening sanctions, has brought regime opponents to the streets.

Poverty-stricken remote villagers, taxi and truck drivers, environmentalists, women’s-rights supporters, even upscale, traditionally regime-supporting merchants at the Tehran bazaar all now chant against their theocratic rulers. They cite corruption, mismanagement, involvement in foreign wars and oppression at home rather than faulting Israel or America. Sure, some will continue to scapegoat America. But for the many Iranians disenchanted with the regime, sanctions can reinforce a reality: The Islamic Republic’s revolutionary ideology is fast taking them to nowhere. And they realize another truth, too: Their real oppressors aren’t Israeli or American — but the clerical regime and fellow travelers like Louis Farrakhan.

                                                                        Contents

   

WASHINGTON CAN ROLL BACK IRAN’S INFLUENCE. HERE’S HOW.

Alireza Nader & Bassam Barabandi

Weekly Standard, Oct. 31, 2018

The U.S. campaign against the Soviet Union during the latter years of the Cold War holds some important lessons for Washington’s current policy of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Much like the Soviet Union was, the Iranian regime is beset with a host of internal and external challenges. Iran’s theocracy lacks legitimacy, popularity, and even the ability to govern the country effectively. Iran’s environmental devastation, water shortages, and near economic collapse point to the regime’s grave failings. And while Iran appears ascendant in the region, it has achieved its supremacy in Syria and Iraq at a grave expense to its own people.

Popular dissatisfaction with the regime’s costly involvement in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Gaza was one of the chief causes of the December 2017 Iranian uprising against the regime. The Islamic Republic’s continued aggression in the region puts its own existence at greater risk. This gives the U.S. tremendous leverage to increase economic pressure against Tehran as it counters the regime’s regional influence. But to do so, Washington must revise its policies in key places such as Syria and Iraq so it can contain and roll back Iranian influence.

Syria is Iran’s most vulnerable foreign adventure. The Assad regime appears on the cusp of victory with Iran’s position in the Levant seemingly strong and secure. Tens of thousands of Iranian trained troops roam Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon at will, part of the vast Iranian military structure that doesn’t recognize international borders. Yet Iran’s victory in Syria may prove pyrrhic in the long term. In addition to suffering thousands of casualties, Iran has spent billions protecting the Syrian regime. And it needs to spend billions more in order to rebuild Assad-controlled parts of Syria and maintain its dominant role in the country. Yet Tehran must contend with a collapsing economy at home, Russian supremacy in Syria and Moscow’s potential betrayal of Iranian interests, and Israeli attacks against Iranian military installations. The U.S. should be commended for maintaining its military presence in Syria in order to counter Iran, but it could do a lot more to increase the pressure on Tehran and compel it to pull its troops out of the Levant.

First, the U.S. should maintain support for some anti-Iranian Syrian forces fighting the Assad regime even if Assad’s defeat is not imminent; Iran may have largely “won” the conflict in Syria, but it should be denied stability in areas occupied by its allies and proxies. The U.S. should divert trade and investment from Assad-held areas, a policy it has already set in motion; but for its policy to be more effective, Washington should ensure that critical border areas such as Deraa remain under control of the opposition to the Assad regime. Moreover, the U.S. should prevent normalization of ties between Damascus and regional and foreign powers. Finally, Washington should figure out how to encourage defections from Iranian-commanded Shi’a Afghan, Pakistani, and Arab forces numbering thousands in Syria. Many of these fighters are in Syria not because of religion or ideology, but due to financial hardship and desperation. Alternative sources of revenue may convince many to abandon Iran’s mission and return to their home countries.

Iraq presents another important opportunity for the U.S. to roll back Iranian influence. Baghdad is often presented as a pliant junior partner to Tehran, and while Iran does hold many levers of influence, its ability to manipulate its neighbor is not ironclad. Iran’s main source of leverage is its close ties to Shiite religious parties that hold sway in Baghdad. Washington may think that it has no choice but to share power with Tehran in Iraq given that the majority of Iraqis are Shiite. But the Iraqi Shiites are not monolithic in their views of Iranian influence; powerful political figures such as Muqtada al Sadr see Iran with suspicion and are willing to work with other domestic and foreign actors to offset Iranian power. Washington’s ability to choke off Iran’s banking ties with Iraq and disrupt illicit economic activities across the border can be used to demonstrate a key choice for pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite groups. Iraqi groups wedded to the Islamic Republic’s ideology and money may be harder to break off, but as the September 2017 anti-Iranian riots demonstrated, there is enough resentment of Iran which can be exploited by sophisticated American information operations.

Iranian power in the Middle East, once ascendant, is under tremendous pressure and is vulnerable to U.S. pressure. The Iranian population will no longer passively tolerate the Islamic Republic’s export of the revolution and emptying of Iranian pockets for the regime’s narrow interests. And although Iran has built an impressive regional military network, the upkeep of its proxy armies will prove unsustainable in the face of renewed U.S. sanctions on November 5. The regime must either feed its population or its insatiable appetite for power abroad; it no longer has the resources to do both. Hence a U.S. pressure campaign that emphasizes information operations and defections while pushing against Iranian influence in both Iraq and Syria may pay great dividends for American policy-makers.

Contents

   

HOW THE FIRST WORLD WAR CHANGED JEWISH HISTORY

Anna Isaacs                                               

Moment, June 16, 2015

Though World War II overshadows World War I in American Jewish consciousness, Professor Daniel Schwartz argues that it was the latter that shifted the arc of Jewish history — by fanning virulent anti-Semitism, and by motivating the British-Zionist alliance that led to the creation of the State of Israel.

Schwartz spoke with Moment senior editor George E. Johnson about how fears of Jewish disloyalty fueled deportations and massacres in Eastern Europe during and after the war, how the Jewish Legion helped conquer Ottoman Palestine for the British, and why World War I was a turning point for European Jewry.

Daniel Schwartz is an associate professor of history and director of the Program in Judaic Studies at George Washington University. He specializes in modern Jewish and European intellectual and cultural history.

How many Jews fought in World War I?

This is a watershed. The number of Jews who are soldiers for different sides far exceeds any precedent to that point. Approximately a million and a half Jews fought in World War I for their respective countries. On the Allied side, at least 500,000 Jews served in the Russian Army, notwithstanding widespread Russian anti-Semitism and distrust of Jews. After the United States enters the war, U.S. forces get something like 250,000 Jewish soldiers. About 40,000 or so throughout the British Empire fought for Britain. And about 35,000 soldiers for France.

On the side of the Central Powers, nearly 100,000 Jews served in the German Army and 12,000 were killed in action. German Jews were very determined to prove their loyalty to Germany, to the Kaiser. The overall population of German Jews at the time was probably around 500,000. So you had close to 20 percent of the total Jewish population serving. In the Austro-Hungarian Army there were around 275,000 Jews.

What made Jewish participation so significant?

In the debates about Jewish emancipation — granting Jews equality — dating back to before the French Revolution, the question was, “Can we really trust Jews to be good soldiers? Can we really trust them to be patriots?” The argument was made that, “Look, Jews will be more loyal to their fellow Jews than they will be to people in this particular nation.” World War I certainly is not the first time that Jews fight on opposite sides. There had been the Franco-Prussian war of 1871. In the American Civil War, Jews fought for both sides, as they did early in the 19th century in the various Napoleonic Wars. But nothing approaching this scale.

How did World War I affect Jewish history?

World War I is absolutely a turning point. You could say it’s a turning point in western history more generally, but also in Jewish history, because two of the most impactful events of the Jewish 20th century — the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel — are almost unimaginable without World War I. By the second decade of the 20th century, modern anti-Semitism, which had emerged in the late 19th century, seemed, for the most part, to have petered out as a political movement. But World War I gave it new life. The German experience in the First World War — its defeat, its humiliation by the Allies, and the scapegoating of Jews for the economic, social and political turmoil that followed — set in motion the events leading to Holocaust.

Similarly, Zionism also is a late 19th century movement that as of 1914 seems to have run into a brick wall. The Ottomans are implacably opposed to Zionism, basically preventing Zionists from immigrating, at least from purchasing land. Even though the war itself is initially damaging to Zionism and to the Yishuv [early Jewish settlers of Palestine], the alliance and the Balfour Declaration that comes from it enable the movement to develop. This is something that could not have been anticipated in 1914.

Why isn’t World War I recognized as such a turning point for European Jewry?

This is quite astonishing. I’ve always been struck by the degree to which this catastrophe seems to fly under the radar today. The war was an absolute catastrophe for the Jews of Eastern Europe. The total death toll for Jewish civilians in Eastern Europe between 1914 and 1921 was more than 100,000, and I have seen estimates that as many 600,000 Jews who lived in the Russian Pale of Settlement or Austrian Galicia were uprooted. Ansky, the famous Russian-Jewish writer who toured through Galicia during the war, wrote a book after the war called Churban Galicia. They called it a churban — a destruction. But this didn’t become cemented in the collective memory. People often recall that in 1881-1882 there were major pogroms in Eastern Europe after the assassination of Czar Alexander II. “Kishinev” (the site of a major pogrom in 1903) is a name that was embedded in the collective memory. And then of course, the Holocaust. But this massive catastrophe in the interim doesn’t have a name, like a Kishinev, that has stuck. And it is not remembered to the same extent.

Why were the consequences of the war so grave for Eastern European Jews?

On the Eastern Front, one moment the Russians are invading, then the Germans or the Austro-Hungarians are successfully counter-attacking. And it goes back and forth. This is critical because the Eastern Front was basically located right smack in the heartland of East European Jewry. You have millions of Jews living in these areas who are immediately and direly affected by the war. Whole communities were destroyed and never reconstituted. As the Russian soldiers attacked — or retreated, for that matter — they created tremendous refugee crises. They often would expel Jews. There was this fear that the Jews were not loyal. And so they pushed them east behind Russian lines, sometimes with as little as 24 to 48 hours’ notice. Or Jewish populations would attempt to escape to the west because they heard about all the brutality — both deportations and massacres. My paternal grandmother, who died earlier this year at the age of 100, was from Eastern Galicia and remembered having to leave her home with her mother and her grandparents and take shelter in refugee camps, as did thousands of Jews. They were running away from the Russians…

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

Contents

On Topic Links

Bolton: There Will be Even More Sanctions on Iran: Arutz Sheva, Nov. 9, 2018—US National Security Adviser John Bolton reiterated on Friday that more sanctions were possible on Iran, AFP reported. His comments came four days after a new round of US measures on Tehran entered into force.

Nasrin Sotoudeh and the Struggle for Human Rights in Iran: Irwin Cotler, Weekly Standard, Oct. 18, 2018—“I realize they had arrested me for my work on human rights, the defense of women’s rights activists, and the fight against the death penalty. Still, I will not be silenced.” With this courageous cri de coeur, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh launched her hunger strike.

Why America Had to Join World War I: Andrew Roberts, New York Post, Nov. 9, 2018 —The centenary of the armistice that ended World War I on Nov. 11 inevitably raises questions about the United States’ involvement in that conflict, which cost the lives of 50,585 Americans and wounded 205,690.

11 November: Armistice Day and Jewry: The Centennial: Larry Domnitch, Jewish Press, Nov. 11, 2018—On November 11, at 11:00 a.m., 1918, the guns which had pounded the Earth into oblivion in search of human targets for four seemingly interminable horrendous years, were finally laid down. Humanity could breathe again.  

IN SYRIA, I.S. “REGROUPS & REORGANIZES,” HEZBOLLAH REMAINS ACTIVE, AND IRAN’S ENTRENCHMENT CONTINUES

The Return of ISIS: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2018— Islamic State fighters operating in the Lower Euphrates river valley this week killed 68 fighters of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces.

Israel Keeps a Wary Eye on Iranian Entrenchment as Syrian Border Crossing Reopens: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Oct. 24, 2018— The recent reopening of a border crossing between Israel and Syria holds the hope of stability as the Syrian war draws to a close.  

The Israeli Campaign Against the Conversion of Rockets in Lebanon to Precision-Guided Missiles: Ofek Riemer, INSS, Oct. 23, 2018— In his speech at the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned, “Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles.”

Time to Get Tough on Hezbollah: Sheryl Saperia, CJN, Oct. 11, 2018— Public Safety Canada releases an annual report on terrorist threats, which in recent years has highlighted ISIS and al-Qaida as posing the greatest risk to Canada, along with a general category of extremists who are inspired by violent Islamist ideology.

On Topic Links

Play Nicely with Your New Toys: Jerusalem Online, Oct. 31, 2018

US Hopes Russia will Continue to let Israel Hit Iran in Syria –Envoy: Ynet, Nov. 7, 2018

Fight Against Last Vestige of ISIS in Syria Stalls, to Dismay of U.S.: Eric Schmitt, New York Times, Nov. 6, 2018

A Luxury City Shows Blueprint for Syria’s Rebuilding Plans: New York Times, Nov. 5, 2018

                                                

THE RETURN OF ISIS                                                                                                         

Jonathan Spyer                                                           

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2018

Islamic State fighters operating in the Lower Euphrates river valley this week killed 68 fighters of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces.  Under cover of a sandstorm that severely reduced visibility, the Sunni jihadis of IS launched a wave of suicide bombings against SDF positions.  The Coalition rushed 500 fighters from the Kurdish YPG to the area (the SDF in the area consisted mainly of Arab fighters from the Deir a Zur Military Council).  Intense Coalition air and artillery strikes followed.  For now the situation has returned to an uneasy stability.  The SDF and coalition offensive against the last significant IS-controlled pocket of territory around the town of Hajin continues.

It would be mistaken to see the latest Hajin incidents as merely the last stand of a few IS bitter-enders, a final if gory footnote in the often horrifying trajectory of the Caliphate declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul on June 29, 2014.  Rather, the evidence shows that IS doesn’t care for last stands under which a line can be drawn.  It had the opportunities for such gestures in its main urban conquests of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.  It avoided them – leaving a core of fighters to carry out the last battles, while key leaders and cadres escaped to reorganize for the next chapter.

The Hajin incidents should rather be seen as reflective of a larger reality: namely, that the Islamic State organization has not been destroyed. Reports of its demise have been much exaggerated.  It is currently in a process of reorganization and regrouping. And it may well recommence major operations in the not too distant future. This process is itself part of a broad strategic picture.  Two large and inter-related Sunni Arab insurgencies have arisen in the Levant and Iraq in the last decade – these are the ‘Syrian rebellion’ and the Caliphate of the Islamic State.  Both have, in conventional terms, been defeated.  The Syrian Sunni Arab rebel groups remain in existence only in a part of north west Syria, and only because of the protection of Turkey. The Caliphate, meanwhile, consists today only of the Hajin pocket and a few other isolated desert enclaves.

But the defeat of these armed campaigns has not resolved the issues that caused them to come into existence.  A very large, discontented and disenfranchised Sunni Arab population remains in the area of Syria and Iraq.  Its needs, to put it mildly, are not set to be addressed by either the Alawi-dominated Assad dictatorship in Damascus, or the Shia-led and Iran inclining Iraqi government in Baghdad.  The language which can mobilise this population, meanwhile, as the events of recent years confirm, is Sunni political Islam.

All this creates a ripe atmosphere for ISIS 2.0 to grow – on condition that the organization can extricate from the ruins of the Caliphate something resembling a coherent organizational structure for the rebuilding of an insurgent network. The evidence suggest that IS has achieved this.  It is therefore now regenerating itself. What form is this taking? A recent report by the Institute for the Study of War entitled ‘ISIS’ Second Resurgence’ quotes a US State Department estimate of August 2018 which puts the number of fighters currently available to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria at 30,000.  These fighters, the report suggests, are evenly divided between Iraq and Syria.

ISW notes that the Islamic State infrastructure does not lack for funding, the organization having smuggled $400 million out of Iraq, where it has been invested in businesses across the region.  IS also engages in kidnapping, extortion and drug smuggling within the area of Syria and Iraq itself. Embedded deep in the Sunni Arab communities from which it draws its strength, IS maintains networks of support and de facto control in a number of areas identified by the report.  These include the Hamrin Mountains in Diyala Province, the Hawija area, eastern Salah al-Din Province, the area south of Mosul city and Daquq. Local government officials also in the Sinjar area have reported sharp increases in IS activities in the area to the south of Sinjar and in the Ninawah plains in the recent period.

In all these areas, IS relies on the fear of the local populace, their lack of trust in the Shia-dominated, often sectarian-minded Iraqi security forces,  and in turn the unwillingness of those security forces to make a real effort to root out the IS presence. To do so would require determined and risky deployments of a type which the security forces lack the determination or motivation to undertake. Sheikh Ali Nawfil al-Hassan of the Al-Shammar Beduin tribe which has lands in eastern Syria and western Iraq, recently said in an interview with the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis (MECRA) that ‘in these areas ISIS is coming and going as they want freely. They move about as they wish.’…

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ISRAEL KEEPS A WARY EYE ON IRANIAN

ENTRENCHMENT AS SYRIAN BORDER CROSSING REOPENS                                               

Yaakov Lappin

IPT News, Oct. 24, 2018

 

The recent reopening of a border crossing between Israel and Syria holds the hope of stability as the Syrian war draws to a close. But if Iran, Hizballah, and allied radical Shi’ite militias have their way, Syria will be hijacked and turned into a radical Iranian power projection base. Any hopes for stability would then give way to destabilizing conflict, terrorism, and new threats to Israel and Jordan. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced last week that the Quneitra border crossing between Israel and Syria, shut down in 2014, is back in operation.

Before the Syrian civil war’s outbreak, members of the Golan Heights Druze community – which identifies itself as Syrian, unlike the Israeli-Druze community – used the crossing to attend family celebrations in next-door Syria, export apples, and to study at Syrian universities. The border crossing also served as a key access point for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), tasked with trying to help keep the border region peaceful, and help Israel and Syria maintain their 40-year truce.

All of that fell apart during the bloody years of the Syrian war. The Assad regime’s sovereignty in southern Syria, like many other areas of the country, collapsed, the UN fled, and armed groups overran the area. Some parts of southern Syria came under the control of extremist Islamic State-affiliated forces, while other areas were ruled by more moderate Sunni groups. Other pockets of land were held by the Assad regime, with the assistance of pro-regime militias that Iran helped to set up and arm.

Now, southern Syria is officially back under Assad’s control, and the UN is returning to the border. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has retaken the area, and this has allowed Israel to reopen the Quneitra crossing. These developments suggest a new stability, but the reality isn’t as simple as putting the chess pieces back in their original positions. The Syria of 2018 – or what is left of it – is not the country that it was before the war, for it has been thoroughly infiltrated by Iran and its proxies. Iran has played a major role in the war that led to an estimated 500,000 deaths, and which displaced half of all Syrians, most of them Sunnis. Now that Iran’s client, the Assad regime, has emerged as the victor, Tehran is looking to ‘cash in its chips,’ and build itself a war machine in Syria.

One of Iran’s goals is to set up a network of terrorist cells to attack Israel from southern Syria. Such cells would be able to attack with border bombs, shoulder-fired missiles, ballistic rockets, and cross-border raids. They could aim for both Israeli military and civilian targets. It is a goal that Iran has already tried to realize in the past, and failed. Iran has also tried to build missile bases, drone bases, weapons production sites, and other installations throughout Syria, an effort that was thwarted by Israel. Iran has flooded Syria with militant Shi’ite militias that it recruited from across the Middle East, trained, and armed, giving it access to its own army.

Throughout the war, Syria became an active Iranian military zone. Assad’s role was essentially reduced to granting Tehran permission to further entrench itself. Assad had little choice in the matter, as the Iranian assistance he received on the ground, combined with Russia’s air power, saved his regime from destruction.

Hizballah – Iran’s forward division in Lebanon – remains active throughout Syria as well. Although Hizballah has begun withdrawing forces back to Lebanon, its chief, Hassan Nasrallah, recently signaled that some of his personnel will be remaining in Syria. “No one can force us out of Syria,” Nasrallah said in September. “We will stay there until further notice.”

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), together with its international operations unit, the Quds Force, are also staying put. They have played a critical role in assisting the return of Assad’s army to southern Syria. The IRGC has planned operations and injected Iranian-controlled militias into the SAA’s offensive.

Israeli defense sources have confirmed the presence of embedded Shi’ite militias among the returning SAA forces. This year already provided a glimpse into Iran’s future plans for the region. In May, the Quds Force used a truck-mounted rocket launcher to fire projectiles at Israel, following a string of reported air strikes against Iranian bases in Syria. “Numerous reports indicate that the Iranian forces, Hizballah, and the Shi’ite militias participated in the fighting in southern Syria dressed in Syrian army uniforms so as to disguise their presence there,” the Middle East Media Research Institute said in a July report.

Russia’s vow to keep Iranian forces 85 kilometers away from the Israeli border does not appear to be a long-term arrangement on which Israel can depend. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last Thursday that it was not up to Russia to convince Iran to pull out of Syria. U.S. lawmakers and security observers have expressed growing concern over Iran’s plan of entrenchment in Syria. The dangers posed by Iran projecting its radical power onto Syria are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

The wider picture, then, is that Iran’s takeover efforts continue to cast a dark shadow over Syria’s future, as well as the security and stability of the wider region. Jordan is as threatened by the presence of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias on its borders as Israel, due to Iran’s hostile intentions toward this pragmatic Sunni kingdom, which maintains a peace treaty with Israel, and which wishes to have no part in Tehran’s attempt to become a regional hegemon. Jordan has nothing to gain and much to lose if Iran succeeds in turning the region into a staging ground of extremist armed forces that answer to the Islamic Republic…

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THE ISRAELI CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE CONVERSION

OF ROCKETS IN LEBANON TO PRECISION-GUIDED MISSILES

Ofek Riemer

INSS, Oct. 23, 2018

In his speech at the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned, “Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles.” As evidence, he presented a map showing three sites in southern Beirut near the international airport, which Israeli intelligence claims are related to this project. The expose was accompanied by a video clip distributed by the IDF spokesperson to the media and on the social networks with more information about the project, and text messages were sent to residents of Beirut. The speech, including the disclosure of sensitive information about both the missile conversion sites in Lebanon and the warehouse of nuclear materials in Iran, met with a mixed reception. Some praised the political act designed to increase the pressure on Iran and Hezbollah. Conversely, some criticized the disclosure of the hard-earned intelligence material.

What is Israel’s ultimate goal in the campaign against the production of missiles in Lebanon – prevention or delay? And, is the media policy, including the disclosure of intelligence, useful in attaining this goal? The information about the project to convert rockets into high-precision missiles on Lebanese territory was first revealed in a Kuwaiti newspaper in March 2017. Already then the Israeli press hinted that Israel was behind this report. Three months later, then-Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate Chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi confirmed the information in a public lecture. The Prime Minister and senior military establishment leaders then declared that Israel regards “gravely” the construction of factories for production of advanced weapons in Lebanon, but refrained from threatening direct military action to attack the project.

The impression is that the Israeli leadership has refused to commit itself to take direct military action to remove the threat due to Hezbollah’s success in consolidating a deterrence equation against Israel, whereby an attack in Lebanon is a red line for Hezbollah. As part of Israel’s ongoing campaign since early 2013 against Hezbollah’s arming itself with advanced weapons, in February 2014 IDF forces attacked an arms shipment on the western side of the Syrian-Lebanese border. In a counterattack against IDF forces on Mt. Dov (Shab’a Farms), Hezbollah acted for the first time since the beginning of the campaign to enforce the red line it had drawn. Since then, the IDF has refrained from attacks on Lebanese territory. In establishing weapons production plants in Lebanon, Iran and Hezbollah therefore presumably assume that Israel will not attack them out of concern about Hezbollah’s response and the possibility of escalation in Lebanon.

In these circumstances, Israel has continued its operations against the project through air force attacks in Syrian territory – a conduit for delivery of advanced missiles and conversion equipment to Lebanon – and also probably through covert operations in Lebanon itself. In July 2017, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot claimed that Israel was “working all the time against it [missile conversion in Lebanon] with a set of tools that it is best to keep quiet about, and with the aim of not causing a deterioration [in the situation].” Two months later, he said that the IDF had successfully prevented Hezbollah from attaining capability to launch precision missiles into Israeli territory. It appears, however, that the Israeli efforts did not succeed in delaying the project for long, and Israel accordingly resumed its use of the media to reveal additional information about the project and deliver threats aimed mostly at the Lebanese side, such as in an article published by the IDF spokesperson early this year.

The repeated use of the media indicates that Israel has likely not achieved its goals in Lebanon through other means. Furthermore, in the absence of a credible threat of military action, its use of the media indicates that Israel is deterred from acting in Lebanon, thereby signaling implicitly that Iran and Hezbollah are free to continue to carry out their plans. It therefore appears that Israel’s use of the media to expose Hezbollah’s operations is not aimed at those directly responsible; rather, it is designed mainly to exert pressure on the international community and the authorities and public in Lebanon. This pressure is meant to increase concern about a war between Israel and Hezbollah that will “cause the destruction” of Lebanon, its infrastructure, and its army, and aggravate instability in the region, in the hope that the parties who are the subject of this pressure will intervene and halt the project.

Nevertheless, it appears that these efforts have not borne fruit. Even after the Prime Minister’s speech at the UN, the international community is still indifferent to the issue, and refuses to use the means at its disposal to exert pressure on Lebanon. The US administration is preoccupied with internal affairs and other urgent foreign policy issues (the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs, relations with NATO, and trade with China), and has left the Syrian-Lebanese theater to Russia. This is evident through Russia’s expanding influence in Syria, as indicated inter alia by the orchestration of diplomatic measures aimed at reaching a political settlement of the crisis and bringing the refugees back to the country; the emerging economic and security agreements between Russia and Lebanon; and the withdrawal of American Patriot missile batteries from Jordan. The sanctions imposed on Hezbollah, including those recently approved by the US House of Representatives, are also proving unsuccessful in exerting pressure on the organization on this issue. Europe, for its part, regards Hezbollah as an element contributing to internal stability in Lebanon, and still supplies unconditional monetary and military aid to that country…

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TIME TO GET TOUGH ON HEZBOLLAH                                                              

Sheryl Saperia

CJN, Oct. 11, 2018

Public Safety Canada releases an annual report on terrorist threats, which in recent years has highlighted ISIS and al-Qaida as posing the greatest risk to Canada, along with a general category of extremists who are inspired by violent Islamist ideology. But tucked away in these reports is a brief mention that Hezbollah also poses a clear risk to Canadian interests, with regard to its terrorist financing, recruitment and operations. Indeed, both the RCMP and the Ministry of Public Safety view the organization, whose objectives are to destroy Israel and establish a revolutionary Shia Islamic state in Lebanon that is modelled after Iran, as one of the most technically capable terrorist groups in the world. Yet Hezbollah generally does not receive much attention here.

Hezbollah was designated as a terrorist entity in Canada in 2002, with both the Liberal government and Conservative opposition at the time rightly rejecting the notion that the military and political wings of the organization could be distinguished in a way that would rationalize only banning the former. Aside from this crucial step, what other policy measures could be put in place to contain the threat posed by Hezbollah?  First, given that Iran provides approximately $800 million a year to Hezbollah, in addition to weapons, it is important that Canada continues to label Iran as a state sponsor of terror and ensure that Canadian money does not help enrich the regime.

One particularly tragic example of Hezbollah operating under Iran’s guidance is the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed and many more wounded. Mohsen Rabbani is said to have handled the logistics for the attack. Shortly before the bombing, Rabbani became the cultural attaché to the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires. This diplomatic appointment and its attendant passport allowed him to carry out the operation. This attack, and others like it, should heavily weigh against any consideration the Canadian government might give to allowing Iran to re-open its embassy in Ottawa. An Iranian embassy establishes a foothold inside Canada, from which serious terrorist groups like Hezbollah are positioned to spy, recruit, fundraise and carry out attacks.

Second, Canada must recognize the threat that Hezbollah poses, especially in Latin America, where it, and Iran, are particularly active. Alberto Nisman, an Argentine prosecutor who was murdered in 2015 while investigating his government’s cover-up of Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing, had previously released a report warning countries such as Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay of Iranian infiltration. Canada should urge Latin American countries to list Hezbollah as a terrorist group and even contemplate utilizing the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act to impose sanctions. As my colleague Emanuele Ottolenghi has pointed out, “In Latin America, a major factor explaining Hezbollah’s success is its ability to buy the silence and complicity of local politicians, law enforcement, judges and prosecutors, airport security and other officials.” These foreign officials’ corrupt practices may render them worthy of sanctions under Canadian law.

Finally, Canada should recalibrate its foreign policy vis-à-vis Lebanon, whose sovereignty has been largely co-opted by this terrorist organization. Hezbollah is the key power broker in the Lebanese parliament and has influence inside the Lebanese Armed Forces. This explains why Iranian civilian airliners can fly weapons destined for Hezbollah straight into the Beirut airport. Canadian policy must include measures to isolate and defang those involved in perpetuating insecurity and slaughter throughout the region, through their support for Hezbollah. Hezbollah also runs a multi-billion dollar international network of illicit activities, such as drug trafficking and money laundering. There is nothing redeeming about this organization. It’s time for Canada to get tough on Hezbollah.

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On Topic Links

Play Nicely with Your New Toys: Jerusalem Online, Oct. 31, 2018—Israeli forces have no plans to target Russian-made S-300 air defense systems in Syria if the Syrian army uses them in a way that poses no threat to Israel, former Israeli deputy chief of staff and ex-head of the National Security Council Gen. Uzi Dayan told Sputnik News Agency in an interview.

US Hopes Russia will Continue to let Israel Hit Iran in Syria –Envoy: Ynet, Nov. 7, 2018—The United States said on Wednesday it hoped Russia would continue to allow Israel to strike Iranian targets in Syria, despite Moscow’s supply of the S-300 air defence system to the Syrian government.

Fight Against Last Vestige of ISIS in Syria Stalls, to Dismay of U.S.: Eric Schmitt, New York Times, Nov. 6, 2018—An American-backed military offensive has stalled against the Islamic State’s last vestige in eastern Syria. Booby traps, land mines and a militant counterstrike during a fierce sandstorm after the campaign began in September have knocked the coalition back on its heels.

A Luxury City Shows Blueprint for Syria’s Rebuilding Plans: New York Times, Nov. 5, 2018—At a building site in Damascus, trucks and bulldozers zigzag back and forth ferrying sand and stones for a luxury development of residential high-rises and shopping centers.

 

 

 

FOR IRAN, ISRAEL IS THE MAIN BARRIER PREVENTING ITS GOAL OF REGIONAL HEGEMONY

Israel’s War with Iran Is Inevitable: Efraim Inbar, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 04, 2018— Iran is a formidable enemy.

Return of the Bush Doctrine?: Editorial, Weekly Standard, Oct. 1, 2018— On September 20, 2001, speaking to a joint session of Congress, President George W. Bush famously articulated the key component of what would later be called the Bush Doctrine

Iran’s Imploding Strategy: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 05, 2018 — The effort by the US and its allies to contain and ultimately roll back the gains made by Iran in the region over the last half decade is currently taking shape, and is set to form the central strategic process in the Middle East in the period now opening up.

Trump Hit Iran With Oil Sanctions. So Far, They’re Working.: Clifford Krauss, New York Times, Sept. 19, 2018— When President Trump announced in May that he was going to withdraw the United States from the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration and five other countries negotiated with Iran in 2015 and reimpose sanctions on the country, the decision was fraught with potential disaster.

On Topic Links

US State Dept. ‘Iran Has Spent $16 Billion to Destabilize Middle East’: JNS, Oct. 11, 2018

Iran, Russia Reach Deal to Circumvent US Oil Sanctions: Israeli Report: I24, Oct. 14, 2018

This Is How Sanctions Are Impacting Iran: Adam Lammon, National Interest, Oct. 15, 2018

Iran’s Idea of Human Rights: Persecute Christians: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 07, 2018

 

                              ISRAEL’S WAR WITH IRAN IS INEVITABLE

                                                Efraim Inbar

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 04, 2018

Iran is a formidable enemy. A large country of more than 80 million people, endowed with energy riches, it has always been a regional power. Having an imperial past and revolutionary zeal (since the 1979 Iranian Revolution), Iran nourishes ambitions to rule over the Middle East and beyond. Furthermore, theologically there is no place in Iranian thinking for a Jewish state. Iran believes that Israel will either wither away following military pressure on its population or be annihilated when it is militarily weak and vulnerable.

As Iran challenges the status quo in the Middle East, a clash between Tehran and Jerusalem is inevitable. International history teaches us that when a rising power challenged the balance of power, in most cases war ensued. Sparta challenged an Athenian-led Greek city system, ending in the Peloponnesian wars. Prussia’s quest for the unification of the German principalities under its helm ended in several European Wars. Similarly, Israel cannot tolerate a Middle East dominated by Iran and its radical ideology.

Unfortunately, much of the Arab world is in the throes of a deep socio-political crisis, particularly since the mistermed “Arab Spring,” creating dissension and a political vacuum, which the sophisticated revolutionary elite in Iran has capitalized upon. These dynamics explain the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the power grab of the Houthi Shi’ite sect in Yemen.

The revolutionary enterprise was also facilitated by the Middle East policies of the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations. American military intervention destroyed Iraq, a strong rival of Iran, further undermining the regional balance of power. Subsequently, the display of weakness by Obama was replaced by a questionable Trump commitment to the security of the region.

The Sunni Arab states have been terrified by the advances in the Iranian nuclear program and by the successes of its proxies. They are weak. Saudi Arabia failed to contain Iranian influence in Syria and Iraq. Closer to home, it was not successful to change the pro-Iranian orientation of small Qatar. Egypt, an important Sunni power, survived the domestic turmoil, but it focuses on literally supplying food to its population, fighting an Islamic insurgency at home, leaving little energy to parry the Iranian challenge.

Turkey, a strong Sunni state, albeit non-Arab, has preferred to act upon its Islamic impulses and its common interest with Iran on the Kurdish issue, forfeiting its potential to balance Iran. The result was an entente between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Gulf states with Israel. In the absence of a credible American security umbrella, the Sunnis understand that only Israel can oppose the hegemonic drive of Iran. Iran reached a similar conclusion – Israel is the main barrier for achieving hegemony. Israel is a religious and strategic anathema.

Initially, Iran has waged war against Israel primarily by proxies. It envisions military actions causing exhaustion to the civilian population. In the 1980s, Iran trained and armed the Hezbollah, a Shi’ite militia in Lebanon, directing its military efforts to oust Israel from South Lebanon. Moreover, Iran has supplied more than 120,000 missiles of various ranges to Hezbollah, which cover most of Israel. The declared goal still is “to liberate Jerusalem from Zionist rule.” In the meantime, Hezbollah has assumed control of Lebanon, turning the country into an Iranian satrapy.

Similarly, after Hamas took over Gaza in 2005, it became the recipient of large military aid from Iran, intended to enhance its capability to bleed Israel. As Sunni Hamas did not support the Iranian line in Syria, Tehran channeled its financial and military aid to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, which is subservient to Iranian wishes. By having a foothold in Gaza, Iran established an additional front against Israel in the south. The current Iranian effort in Syria aims at establishing a third front in the northeast, along Israel’s border on the Golan Heights. Moreover, it wants to acquire a land corridor to the Levant (Lebanon and Syria) via Iraq, where Iran has been successful to establish a military presence and influence, to facilitate the transfer of more advanced weapons to Hezbollah and gain access to the Mediterranean.

We can also detect Iranian efforts to destabilize the Jordanian kingdom, situated along Israel’s eastern border. This is also part of Iran’s attempt to encircle Israel with Iranian proxies. Shi’ite militias and/or the Islamic Revolutionary Guards in Iraq and Syria obviously threaten the Hashemite dynasty. The fall of Jordan would also endanger Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch-rival in the Gulf. Neutralizing Israel’s military power, by encircling it with proxies which have at their disposal thousands of missiles directed at Israel’s strategic installations and centers of population, is an Iranian goal in its quest for hegemony in the Middle East.

In the absence of a clear American or Turkish determination to confront Iranian encroachment, only Israel has the power to stop it. Therefore, Israel has no choice but to wage war against Iranian entrenchment in Syria. It is an illusion that Iran’s nuclear ambitions can be curbed by international agreements. The bomb is the best insurance for regime survival and for achieving hegemony in the region. It is inconceivable that the mullahs will give it up. As the international community, including the US, has no appetite for a military confrontation with Iran, it is left to Israel to prevent its nuclearization. The only way to do it is by brute force, adding a new dimension to the war conducted already against Iran. This is an inevitable imperative for Jerusalem.

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                                                RETURN OF THE BUSH DOCTRINE?

                                                           Editorial                                                                                                                                           Weekly Standard, Oct. 1, 2018

On September 20, 2001, speaking to a joint session of Congress, President George W. Bush famously articulated the key component of what would later be called the Bush Doctrine: “From this day forward,” the president said, “any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” It was an assertion of great moral clarity.

If the Bush administration didn’t always adhere to its own doctrine in subsequent years, the Obama administration repudiated it—nowhere more so than in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal. Supporters of the 2015 agreement vehemently argued that the Trump administration should not pull the United States out of it because Iran was in compliance with its terms. We always doubted that claim—there was plenty of evidence that Tehran was flouting, for example, the agreement’s heavy-water limit—but the core problem with the Iran deal wasn’t so much Iran’s compliance or noncompliance as what the deal set aside. In short: The JCPOA allowed Iran to persist in rogue behavior—including its sponsorship of terrorism across the Middle East and beyond.

The Trump administration rightly and vocally rejected its predecessor’s insistence that Iran’s promise not to pursue nuclear weapons could be considered in isolation from its malign behavior as a terror sponsor. All week, in anticipation of President Trump’s addresses at the United Nations, top administration officials have been making that case. They’re not short on material. “Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death, and destruction,” Trump himself said in remarks at the General Assembly. “They do not respect their neighbors or borders or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.”

Iran, he argued, has used the cash it procured through the nuclear deal to bolster its terror agenda, advance its missile program, and more. He’s right. Administration officials say any new deal must address these key deficiencies. In the meantime, the United States is reimposing sanctions lifted under the agreement in an effort to deprive the regime of its capacity to fund terrorist proxies. Europe, which is sticking with the deal, wants to circumvent these sanctions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent them a stark message on September 25: “By sustaining revenues to the regime, you are solidifying Iran’s ranking as the number one state sponsor of terror, enabling Iran’s violent export of revolution, and making the regime even richer while the Iranian people scrape by.”

Pompeo went on to note that Iran’s terror support is not confined to the Middle East, as the State Department’s yearly terrorism report, issued last week, made clear. Tehran has been caught conducting or supporting malign activities on U.S. and European soil. The State Department report cites the June 2017 arrest of suspected Hezbollah operatives in New York and Michigan. Another example offered by State’s coordinator for counterterrorism Nathan Sales last week: “On June 30th of this year, German authorities arrested an Iranian official for his role in a terrorist plot to bomb a political rally in Paris.” “Iran uses terrorism as a tool of its statecraft,” Sales added. “It has no reservations about using that tool on any continent.”

There’s also the usual support for terrorism across the Middle East, including cash, arms, and training for groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which hold as their goal the destruction of Israel. Lebanese Hezbollah also has a sweetheart deal with Tehran, which every year provides it with $700 million. And there’s Iran’s longstanding support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians.

Much of Iran’s terror activity is conducted by its Quds Force, which has long been the country’s “primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.” Why does Iran use proxy groups to do its dirty work? According to the State Department’s report, “to shield it from the consequences of its aggressive policies.” In other words: to create plausible deniability.

Iran also harbors al Qaeda (AQ) operatives and “has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody,” the State Department noted last week in its report. It “has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria,” the report reads. Adds a separate State Department report released this week: “As AQ members have been squeezed out of other areas, all indications suggest that they are continuing to find safe haven in Iran.”

Focusing on this reality doubtless makes life more difficult for our diplomats, but that’s thanks to the Obama administration’s naïveté. Diplomacy ought to be rooted in the world as it is, not as our leaders wish it to be, and above all else it should advance America’s interests, elevate our values, and ensure our security. The Trump administration has the right approach, as President Bush did 17 years ago: States that harbor and support terrorism deserve our hostility, not our money.

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                                                  IRAN’S IMPLODING STRATEGY

                                                           Jonathan Spyer

                                                Jerusalem Post, Oct. 05, 2018

The effort by the US and its allies to contain and ultimately roll back the gains made by Iran in the region over the last half decade is currently taking shape, and is set to form the central strategic process in the Middle East in the period now opening up. New sanctions on the export of Iranian oil are due to be implemented from November 4. Israel’s campaign against Iranian entrenchment in Syria is the most important current file on the table of the defense establishment.

The US appears set now to maintain its assets and its allies in Syria as part of the emergent strategy to counter Iran. In Iraq, the contest between Iran-associated forces and those associated with the US is the core dynamic in the country, with the independent power on the ground of the Iran-associated Shia militias the central factor. In Yemen, the battle of attrition between the Iran-supported Ansar Allah (Houthis) and the Saudi and UAE-led coalition is continuing, with limited but significant gains by the latter.

Iran’s response is also becoming clear. At the present time, Tehran’s ballistic missile capabilities appear to be the preferred instrument for Tehran to express its defiance. Notably, for the moment at least, Iran appears to be erring on the side of caution in its choice of targets. This phase is unlikely to last, however, assuming the US is serious in its intentions.

In the early hours of Monday, October 1, the Fars News Agency, associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reported that the IRGC had fired a number of Zulfiqar and Qiyam ballistic missiles at targets east of the Euphrates River in Syria. The strike came in response to an attack on an IRGC parade in Iran’s Arab-majority Khuzestan province on September 22. According to Fars, the missiles fired were decorated with slogans including “Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” and “Death to Al Saud.”

It is noteworthy, however, that the missiles were not directed at any of the aforementioned enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rather, the IRGC targeted the Hajin pocket, a small enclave east of the Euphrates still held by Islamic State. This was in response to a claim of responsibility by ISIS for the September 22 attack. (A somewhat more credible claim was made by the Ahwaziya, or Ahvaz national resistance, an Arab separatist group in Khuzestan.) Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani later tried to frame the attack as a response to American threats, because of the close proximity of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to the area targeted.

Similarly, on September 8, the IRGC fired seven Fateh-110 short-range missiles at a base maintained by the PDKI (Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan) in the city of Koya in eastern Iraq. The PDKI is engaged in an insurgency against the IRGC and the Iranian regime, centered on the Kurdistan Province of western Iran. Eleven people were killed in the attack. In both these cases, Tehran chose to make its demonstrations of strength against the very weakest of the forces opposed to it (in the case of Islamic State, a force indeed mainly engaged against the enemies of Iran). Shamkhani’s bluster after the fact tends to draw attention to this, rather than detract from it.

By contrast, when Iran wishes to act against or threaten the interests of any of the powerful states whose names were written on the missiles fired at ISIS in Hajin, it takes care to do so in ways that avoid attribution. Thus, the Lebanese Hezbollah organization, in military terms a direct tributary of the IRGC, is the force entrusted with the missile array facing Israel.

When ballistic missiles are fired at Riyadh from Yemen, the act is claimed by the Houthis, and the missiles are identified as “Burkan 1” and “Burkan 2” missiles, developed in Yemen. These missiles are considered by the US State Department and senior US officers to be Iranian in origin, possibly the Qiam 1 or Shihab 2 system with minor modifications. Certainly, the Houthis, a lightly armed north Yemeni tribal militia, did not acquire the knowledge required to operate ballistic missiles locally. There is evidence to suggest that Lebanese Hezbollah operatives are engaged by Iran in Yemen to carry out these launches. In Iraq, according to a Reuters report in August, the IRGC has begun to transfer ballistic missiles to its militia proxies in that country, presumably with the intention of using these against Israeli or US personnel.

So Iran acts through deniable proxies in its wars against powerful states, but acts directly only against small and marginal non-state paramilitary groups. The purpose, of course, is to enable the Iranian state to avoid retribution, while gaining benefit from the acts of the militias. This practice has proven effective in recent years, though it projects weakness as much as strength. It is of use only for as long as Iran’s enemies are willing to participate in the fiction of separation between the IRGC and its client militias.

At a certain point, if the US and its allies are serious about rolling back Iran from its regional gains, the question will arise as to whether success in this endeavor can coexist with the tacit agreement to maintain this fiction. In Israel’s case, the decision to cease adherence to this convention was taken earlier this year, when Israeli aircraft began openly targeting Iranian facilities in Syria. For the US, such a decision is likely to emerge, if it emerges, as a result of the dynamics set in motion by the decision to challenge Iran’s advances. At the moment, what is taking place is something of a “phony war”: missile strikes against peripheral targets, grandiose threats from the IRGC leadership, supplying of militias with this or that weapon system…

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

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TRUMP HIT IRAN WITH OIL SANCTIONS. SO FAR, THEY’RE WORKING.

Clifford Krauss

New York Times, Sept. 19, 2018

When President Trump announced in May that he was going to withdraw the United States from the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration and five other countries negotiated with Iran in 2015 and reimpose sanctions on the country, the decision was fraught with potential disaster. If Mr. Trump’s approach worked too well, oil prices would spike and hurt the American economy. If it failed, international companies would continue trading with Iran, leaving the Islamic Republic unscathed, defiant and free to restart its nuclear program. But the policy has been effective without either of those nasty consequences, at least so far.

Nearly two months before American oil sanctions go into effect, Iran’s crude exports are plummeting. International oil companies, including those from countries that are still committed to the nuclear agreement, are bailing out of deals with Tehran. And remarkably, the price of oil in the United States has risen only modestly while gasoline prices have essentially remained flat. The current global oil price hovers around $80 a barrel, $60 below the highs of a decade ago.

“The president is doing the opposite of what the experts said, and it seems to be working out,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, a research and consulting firm. Initial signs of a foreign-policy success could benefit Mr. Trump politically as Republicans try to hold on to control of Congress. The president and lawmakers allied with him could point to the administration’s aggressive stand toward Iran as evidence that his unconventional approach to diplomacy has been much more fruitful and far less costly than Democrats have been willing to acknowledge.

The administration’s tactical advantage could be fleeting, of course, if Iran retaliates with cyberattacks or militarily, incites more militia violence in Iraq, or revives its nuclear program. The most important reason that predictions of higher oil prices have been wrong is that there is plenty of oil sloshing around the world. The United States has become a huge exporter of oil in the last several years and is now shipping roughly the same amount — more than two million barrels a day — that Iran did earlier this year. Trade tensions and economic problems in developing countries like Turkey and Argentina might also be slowing the growth of energy demand.

Another thing in Mr. Trump’s favor is that while governments in Europe and Asia have publicly opposed his decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, many businesses in those places have made a different calculation. They have concluded that it makes little financial sense to risk investments in and trade with the United States by doing business with Iran. Until Mr. Trump’s May announcement, Western allies considered the nuclear deal with Iran a success. In exchange for agreeing to strict limits on its nuclear program and international monitoring, Iran was allowed to re-enter the global oil market. The deal lifted restrictions on foreign companies doing business in Iran and gave the country access to frozen assets overseas.

After Nov. 4, companies that buy, ship or insure shipments of Iranian oil can be excluded from the American market and banking system unless they obtain waivers from the administration. Trump administration officials say its sanctions are designed to punish Iran for its interventions in Syria, Yemen and other countries. For Iran, the timing could not be worse. The country has lost influence over oil prices as other producers have eclipsed its energy industry, which has not kept up with technological advances…

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

Contents

On Topic Links

US State Dept. ‘Iran Has Spent $16 Billion to Destabilize Middle East’: JNS, Oct. 11, 2018—The U.S. State Department recently published an ‎unprecedented report detailing the financial ‎resources Iran invests in destabilizing the Middle ‎East. The report estimated that over the past six years, ‎the Islamic republic has spent some $16 billion to ‎prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and ‎fund Iranian-backed militias across the Arab world.‎

Iran, Russia Reach Deal to Circumvent US Oil Sanctions: Israeli Report: I24, Oct. 14, 2018—An Israeli foreign ministry document reportedly reveals that Russia and Iran have reached a deal to circumvent the last round of US sanctions scheduled to go into effect in the beginning of November. The agreement contemplates Iran supplying its crude oil to Russia through the Caspian Sea to be thereafter exported worldwide, Israeli television news station Hadashot reported Sunday. It is not yet clear what form of compensation Russia will pay to Iran for the oil supply, but it will likely be through trade and service benefits.

This Is How Sanctions Are Impacting Iran: Adam Lammon, National Interest, Oct. 15, 2018—When dealing with Iran, the “resiliency of the regime should never be underestimated,” Geneive Abdo, resident scholar at the Arabia Foundation, said at an event on U.S.-Iranian relations organized by the Center for the National Interest on October 2, 2018.

Iran’s Idea of Human Rights: Persecute Christians: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 07, 2018—In a speech before the United Nations on September 20, 2017, presumably as a way to support his claim that Israel is “a rogue and racist regime [that] trample[s] upon the most basic rights of the Palestinians,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani repeatedly portrayed his government as dedicated to “moderation and respect for human rights,” adding: “We in Iran strive to build peace and promote the human rights of peoples and nations. We never condone tyranny and we always defend the voiceless. We never threaten anyone…”

ISRAEL DETERMINED TO PREVENT SYRIA FROM BECOMING AN “IRANIAN MILITARY FORTRESS”

‘The War Between Wars’: Israel vs Iran in Syria: Yaakov Lappin, Fathom, Oct., 2018— In late August, Iran’s Defence Minister, Gen. Amir Khatami, met with his Syrian counterpart, Gen. Ali Ayoub, in Damascus and signed an agreement for military cooperation.

S-300 Strategy: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 3, 2018— Russia claimed on October 2 that it had completed delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system to Syria.

The True Threat of S-300s is not that they’re Powerful, But that they’re Russian: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, Sept. 25, 2018— Russia’s announcement on Monday that it would be upgrading Syria’s air defenses with its formidable S-300 system within two weeks marked the latest nadir in Israel’s rapidly spiraling relationship with Moscow since the downing by Syria of a Russian spy plane off the Syrian coast last week.

Turkey-Russia Idlib Agreement: A Lesson for the US: Seth Frantzman, The Hill, Sept. 26, 2018— Russia and Turkey agreed to a diplomatic solution for Syria’s northern Idlib province at a meeting in Sochi on Sept. 17.

On Topic Links 

IDF is Prepared to Deal with S-300: Yossi Yehoshua, Ynet, Oct. 1, 2018

A Snake Pit at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Oct. 7, 2018

Common Objectives, Separate Interests: Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, Israel Hayom, Sept. 21, 2018

Is Israel’s Military Honeymoon with Russia in Syria Over?: Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 29, 2018

                              ‘THE WAR BETWEEN WARS’: ISRAEL VS IRAN IN SYRIA

Yaakov Lappin

Fathom, Oct., 2018

In late August, Iran’s Defence Minister, Gen. Amir Khatami, met with his Syrian counterpart, Gen. Ali Ayoub, in Damascus and signed an agreement for military cooperation. This is an event that sounds deceptively mundane. In actuality, it was far from being a routine bilateral defence pact. Instead, it was a statement of Iranian intent – a message Israel paid close attention to – that it has no intention of giving up its goal of turning Syria into an Iranian military fortress in the next phase of an ongoing, explosive regional struggle.

After an extraordinarily effective series of attacks by Israel against its expansion efforts, Iran has had to go back to the drawing board and search for new ways to realise its goal of taking over Syria. In this fight, Israel is playing an aggressive defence, determined to keep Iran out of all of Syria. Iran is on the offensive, determined to take over Syria militarily, to project its radical power from Tehran all the way to Israel’s border, and convert Syria into an Iranian launch pad for future aggression against Israel.

After turning half of all Syrians into refugees, and killing half a million people, the monstrous Syrian war is drawing to a close, and Iran’s ally, the Bashar Assad regime, has emerged as the de-facto victor, thanks to the assistance it has received from Iranian forces on the ground, as well as Russia air power and diplomatic cover.

Now, Russia’s shift away from Israel and move toward the Assad regime could provide Iran just the encouragement it was seeking to renew its efforts to infiltrate Syria. The Russian – Iranian military alliance, meanwhile, is continuing, despite rising economic rivalry over reconstruction opportunities in Syria. In addition, Iran’s ongoing activities are clashing with Russia’s interest in stabilising and ensuring Assad’s rule for many years to come, by drawing Israeli strikes and creating potential escalation points. What remains unclear is the extent of Russia’s ability or intention to reign Iran in.

At first, Iran used Syria mainly as a weapons transit zone. It moved masses of arms, such as surface-to-surface missiles and heavy rockets, surface-to-air missiles, and other arms along a complex trafficking network, which was run by the Islamic Republican Guards Corps (IRGC). These weapons are produced in Iranian and Syrian factories, and smuggled along air and ground routes into Lebanon. Their final destination was Hezbollah’s storage depots and launch sites, which are embedded in built-up civilian areas across Lebanon. Once in Lebanon, the projectiles are pointed at Israeli cities and critical strategic targets, enabling Iran to threaten the whole of Israel.

Hezbollah’s offensive firepower, estimated at some 150,000 rockets, missiles, and mortar shells, dwarfs that of most NATO member states. According to IDF estimates, one out of three to four buildings in southern Lebanon is a Hezbollah military asset. With Lebanon already an Iranian-run province, the IRGC had hoped that Syria could be next. Under the IRGC’s plan, Syria would not only turn into a mass transit zone for weapons making their way to Hezbollah in Lebanon but would also itself turn into a base for Iranian missile and rocket arsenals, as well as terrorist networks operating under Iran’s command.

But Iran’s weapons trafficking to Lebanon kept running into major trouble. Since 2012, the air strikes that targeting them displayed a high level of intelligence penetration, and accurate firepower, that deeply troubled both Hezbollah and its Iranian patron, causing them to feel exposed. These strikes evolved into a broad Israeli campaign, dubbed by the Israeli defence establishment as the ‘war between wars’. The aim of this campaign was to disrupt attempts by Israel’s enemies to build up their military force with improved weaponry. It also aimed at boosting Israeli deterrence, and delaying the start of the next full-scale conflict, by making enemies feel vulnerable, and robbing them of their ability to continue to arm themselves with impunity.

In 2017 the war between wars took a new turn. Over the past 18 months, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) struck no fewer 200 targets across Syria – a very high number of active combat operations for so-called ‘routine’ times. Some 800 missiles and bombs were reportedly used in the Israeli attacks – an indication of the sheer scale of Israel’s low-profile operations. The increase in strikes was due to Iran no longer just using Syria to transit weapons to Lebanon; it also began to turn Syria itself into a second Lebanon and create a new Iranian-run army there.

When the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani tried to respond to Israel’s active defence campaign, by firing a volley of rockets at Israel from a truck-mounted launcher in Syria on 10 May, the IAF decimated over 50 Iranian targets in Syria in retaliation. Israel’s air operations frustrated Iran’s ambitions for Syria. Relying on the highest quality real-time intelligence and standoff fire capabilities, Israel’s defence establishment was able to place a roadblock in front of Iran’s dangerous regional plot.

An entire IDF doctrine developed to serve this campaign, as the war between wars received growing resources. Long-range precise airpower and ever-improving intelligence capabilities came together to give Israel the ability of placing limitations on Iran’s activities. Israel found that it could enforce its red lines, and that it could do so without ending up in a major war. The ability to identify and track a target, analyse the costs and benefits of striking it, and decide on whether to strike in real time represents a major evolution for the Israeli defence establishment. It enabled Israel to not only enforce its red lines on Iranian expansion, but to also signal powerful regional capabilities, which contributed to deterrence against foes, and inspired Sunni moderate states that are equally threatened by Iran’s activities to boost cooperation with Israel. But Iran has made it clear that it is not going to walk away so quickly, and that it views these developments as short-term setbacks in a longer strategy…

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

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                                                            S-300 STRATEGY

                                                          Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 3, 2018

Russia claimed on October 2 that it had completed delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system to Syria. The delivery came after Syrians shot down a Russian IL-20 reconnaissance aircraft last month during Israeli air strikes on Syria’s Latakia region. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has indicated that although the system will improve Syria’s defenses, it will also take time to train the Syrians to use the system. This is of importance since Syrian air defense failures led to the killing of the fifteen Russians. If their defense had worked properly it would not have downed the plane of its own ally, even during the tense and confusing period after air strikes by another country.

The US views the deployment of the S-300 as adding fuel to the fire in Syria. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that if reports of the missile delivery were correct, it was a “serious escalation.” This is because the S-300 is part of a wider Russian regional strategy in Syria and will bolster the war-torn country’s defenses, which might potentially threaten US and coalition aircraft operating in eastern Syria. The US is still engaged in a war against the remnants of ISIS, and Washington has indicated that American troops will remain in eastern Syria.

The deployment of the S-300 also comes amid heightened tensions in the region. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the S-300 delivery prior to flying to New York for the United National General Assembly meeting last week.

During his speech, Netanyahu pointed to a secret nuclear warehouse in Tehran and referenced Hezbollah’s increasing entrenchment in Lebanon. Israel wanted the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the Tehran site. “The IAEA should inspect the site and immediately send inspectors there with Geiger counters,” a statement from Jerusalem said. Both Lebanon and Iran have mocked Israel’s claims. Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil took diplomats on a tour of an alleged missile site near Beirut’s airport. “We refuse to have missile sites near the airport,” he told ambassadors, while claiming Israel was using the allegation as an excuse for “aggression.” Jerusalem’s claims would impact the “stability of the region,” he said.

Iran’s Press TV also took viewers on a tour of the exterior of the warehouse Netanyahu had alleged was a secret site. Iran’s regime has sought to show that the IAEA is not concerned about Jerusalem’s claims. This must be understood in the context of a war of narratives between Iran and Israel. Tehran is seeking to salvage the Iran deal signed in 2015 and wants to present itself as a stable player in the region, obeying international law while presenting Israel and the US as aggressors. Lebanon also wants to shrug off allegations about Hezbollah’s increasing role in the country.

However, Iran also wants to project its military power across the region. On Monday morning if fired six ballistic missiles at an area near Albukamal in Syria. Tehran says the missiles were fired in retaliation for a September 22 attack by ISIS in Ahvaz which targeted an Iranian military parade. On Tuesday Syria’s foreign minister acknowledged that Iran coordinated the missile attack with Damascus. But the missiles flew over 500 km. of Iraqi territory and landed within miles of US forces, potentially endangering lives in Iraq and elsewhere, and also endangering air traffic.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which fired the missiles, also wrote on them “death to America,” “death to Israel,” and “death to al-Saud,” a reference to Saudi Arabia. This is not the behavior of a regime that obeys international law. Iran cannot present itself as a moderate state when it wishes death on whole countries and peoples. The S-300s in Syria help bolster Iran’s reckless entrenchment there and are part of the larger picture of its bullying attempt to dominate the region. While Russia has legitimate concerns about safeguarding its personnel, the Syrian regime must understand that the S-300 will not protect Iran and its proxies, whose continued threat to the region must not go unchallenged.

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THE TRUE THREAT OF S-300S IS NOT THAT THEY’RE POWERFUL, BUT THAT THEY’RE RUSSIAN

                                                          Judah Ari Gross

                                                Times of Israel, Sept. 25, 2018

Russia’s announcement on Monday that it would be upgrading Syria’s air defenses with its formidable S-300 system within two weeks marked the latest nadir in Israel’s rapidly spiraling relationship with Moscow since the downing by Syria of a Russian spy plane off the Syrian coast last week. In addition to supplying Syria with the S-300, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu also said Monday that Russia would “jam satellite navigation, on-board radars and communication systems of combat aircraft attacking targets in Syria.” But the greater threat is not the specific tactical hurdle that the system poses for the Israeli Air Force, but rather that this episode could lead to a breakdown of Israel’s relationship with Russia.

Not since the 1960s and 1970s has Israel had to contend with an antagonistic Moscow actively working against Israeli interests. Though Russia today indeed supplies weapons to many of Israel’s enemies — including S-300 batteries to Israel’s arch-nemesis Iran — the general understanding in Israel is that this isn’t personal, it’s business.

The current crisis has the potential to change that, depending on how it is handled by Israel, Russia and the United States. Though the actions of Russia are some of the most openly hostile toward Israel since the end of the Cold War, they are still reversible, at least to some degree. For over five years, Russian has been threatening to sell the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Syria, but has backed off each time at the behest of the Israeli, and sometimes the American, government. The long-range S-300 — with an operational radius of 250 kilometers (150 miles), according to Russia — is a far more advanced form of the S-200 air defense system that Syria currently employs.

For now, Moscow has said it will supply two to four S-300 batteries to Syria, but is prepared to deliver more if necessary. According to Russian media, the systems will be set up on Syria’s western coast and in its southwest, near the Israeli and Jordanian borders, which are the two areas from which the IAF would be most likely to conduct airstrikes. Russia has yet to indicate which model of S-300 it intends to sell Syria; there are several, each with its own range of capabilities. Even the lowest quality model’s radar would be able to monitor flights around northern Israel — and potentially civilian flights in and out of Ben Gurion International Airport, depending on where the system is placed in Syria.

For Israel, the S-300 would represent a significant but not insurmountable obstacle in Syria, where it routinely bombs Iranian and Hezbollah facilities and weapons caches. While the S-300, known by NATO as the SA-10, is far more powerful than Syria’s current long-range anti-aircraft system, the S-200 or SA-5, the Israeli Air Force has had decades to prepare for it. A number of Israeli allies operate the air defense system. The IAF has reportedly trained against S-300 batteries that once belonged to Cyprus, but are now owned by Greece, during joint aerial exercises over the years.

Israel is also the proud owner of a growing fleet of F-35 fighter jets, a model whose raison d’être is stealth. These fifth-generation jets have already been used operationally, the IAF said earlier this year. And the Israeli Air Force is also famed for its own electronic warfare capabilities. Indeed, in the 1982 first Lebanon War, the IAF used radar jamming against Syria’s Soviet-supplied air defenses, destroying 29 of the country’s 30 anti-aircraft batteries. Israeli also reportedly used this type of technology in its attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor in 2007, blocking the Syrian military’s air defenses during the raid.

But a Russia-supplied S-300 system is not only an operational challenge — it is a geopolitical one as well. Though in his announcement Russian defense minister Shoigu said Syrian teams had been training to operate the S-300 system, it was not immediately clear if the batteries would also be staffed by Russian military personnel. If they were, this would make an Israeli decision to destroy Syrian S-300 batteries far more complicated, requiring the direct and intentional targeting of Russian forces.

Russia’s plan to use electronic warfare against Israeli “hotheads” — per Shoigu — serves as yet another obstacle and point of consideration for the Israeli Air Force. According to Russian media, these electronic warfare systems will create a “radioelectonic dome” with a radius of hundreds of kilometers around western Syria and the Mediterranean coast, which would affect not only Israeli planes but also American and French navy ships, as well as civilian planes in the area. Here too, the Israeli military would likely have a number of technological and operational means to overcome this challenge, but the top brass would have to weigh the use of those measures against the value of the target…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                                                                        Contents

   

TURKEY-RUSSIA IDLIB AGREEMENT: A LESSON FOR THE US

Seth Frantzman

The Hill, Sept. 26, 2018

Russia and Turkey agreed to a diplomatic solution for Syria’s northern Idlib province at a meeting in Sochi on Sept. 17. It followed weeks of concern that Syria’s regime, backed by its Russian and Iranian allies, would assault the last rebel stronghold in Syria, an area home to several million civilians as well as a coterie of Syrian rebel and extremist groups. The Russia-Turkey deal may provide a lesson for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. It shows that a country’s goals can be achieved, and conflict avoided, as long as military force is a clear option and a country stands by its allies. In this case, Russia and Turkey both were committed to their allies and refused to see them defeated or lose face in a potential battle.

Over the past decade, the Middle East has undergone unprecedented turmoil, characterized by the breakdown of states and the rise of extremist groups. This reached a peak in 2014 when the Islamic State took over wide swaths of Syria and Iraq, an area the size of Pennsylvania with a population of around 10 million. U.S. policy in the region has lacked clarity and U.S. allies see Washington as frequently changing course. For example, under the Obama administration the United States timidly backed the Syrian rebels, only to eventually withdraw most support under President Trump.

Israel was concerned that the Iran nuclear deal empowered Tehran and decided to go it alone in Syria with strategic bombing against increasing Iranian influence. Saudi Arabia opposed the Iran deal and has praised the Trump administration’s recent moves to isolate Tehran. The United States also has sought to placate Turkey, while Ankara has accused Washington of training a “terrorist army” in eastern Syria.

In Iraq, U.S. policy has tacked back and forth, leaving allies frustrated and enemies empowered. In 2010, the United States backed former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to govern Iraq as U.S. troops withdrew. In 2014, when Maliki’s policies alienated the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq and ISIS routed the Iraqi army, the United States embraced Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Both men were from the Shi’ite sectarian Dawa party and close to Iran. Yet some U.S. policymakers thought Abadi would bring stability after ISIS was defeated in 2017. When former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Abadi that Iranian-backed Shia militia should “go home,” Abadi objected and told the United States that the militias were the “hope of the country and the region.”

Kurdish allies in northern Iraq held an independence referendum last year, hoping the United States would support the Kurds, who fought alongside Americans against Saddam Hussein and then against Shia extremists and ISIS. Instead, the United States spurned the Kurdish region and backed Abadi. But in May 2018, Abadi came in third in the Iraqi elections — and now Washington is worried once again that it could “lose Iraq.” U.S. senators are trying to sanction Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Washington is finally confronting Iran’s meddling.

In Syria, the United States also has Kurdish allies, who are keen on a closer relationship and want guarantees that their hard-fought war against ISIS will lead to continued autonomy. But Washington is careful to use diplomatic-speak when discussing eastern Syria, talking about supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but never full-throated on specifics about long-term commitment. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the SDF had “carried the brunt of the fighting responsibilities overwhelmingly” against ISIS. So, the United States acknowledges that the mostly-Kurdish SDF was key to defeating ISIS in Syria, but Washington isn’t clear on what comes next…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

IDF is Prepared to Deal with S-300: Yossi Yehoshua, Ynet, Oct. 1, 2018—At first, it seemed that the Russian threat to supply Assad with the S-300 system was yet another in a long line of warnings we have heard before. However, this time it looks much more serious seeing as Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov claimed on Wednesday that the transfer of anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria already started.

A Snake Pit at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Oct. 7, 2018—A scientific paper published recently by the Department of Emergency Medicine at the American University of Beirut Medical Center revealed that a biomedical product manufactured serially by the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) contains polyvalent anti-serum to be used as an emergency treatment against the venoms of six snakes.

Common Objectives, Separate Interests: Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, Israel Hayom, Sept. 21, 2018—Israel and Russia maintain an operational hotline meant to prevent ‎unwanted incidents in the area of Syria where Israel is targeting Syrian, Iranian and ‎Hezbollah assets.

Is Israel’s Military Honeymoon with Russia in Syria Over?: Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 29, 2018—For the first time in decades, the operational freedom of the Israel Air Force may truly be at risk – not because of terrorist groups or countries bent on Israel’s destruction, but because of Russia – and intense efforts have been put into motion on all sides to prevent that from occurring.

ISRAEL DISRUPTS TEHRAN’S ENTRENCHMENT IN SYRIA AND GROWING REGIONAL AMBITIONS

The Tehran Summit and Iran’s Regional Ambitions: Dr. Doron Itzchakov, BESA, Sept. 20, 2018— On September 7, the presidents of Russia, Turkey, and Iran

met in Tehran in an attempt to reach understandings regarding Syria’s future in general, and the imminent offensive in the Idlib district – the last bastion of anti-Assad regime rebels – in particular.

Israel’s Secret War Against Iran Is Widening: Jonathan Spyer, Foreign Policy, Sept. 07, 2018— It has recently become clear that Israel is engaged in a secret war against Iran in Syria.

Iran’s Attack on Kurds Is a Message to Washington, Riyadh and Jerusalem: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 9, 2018 — The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran claimed credit for a missile attack on Kurdish opposition groups in Koya in northern Iraq.

John Kerry’s Freelance Diplomacy is an Invitation to Disaster: Michael Rubin, New York Post, Sept. 14, 2018— Former Secretary of State John Kerry admitted to meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “three or four times” since leaving office.

On Topic Links

Inside Israel’s New Iran Strategy: Maysam Behravesh, Reuters, Sept. 17, 2018

How Team Trump is Making the UN Spotlight Iran’s Evil: Benny Avni, New York Post, Sept. 6, 2018

The North Korean Foreign Minister Visits Tehran: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Sept. 12, 2018

IAEA Still Needs to Investigate Military Dimension of Iran’s Nuclear Program: Olli Heinonen, FDD, Sept. 6, 2018

 

THE TEHRAN SUMMIT AND IRAN’S REGIONAL AMBITIONS

Dr. Doron Itzchakov

BESA, Sept. 20, 2018

On September 7, the presidents of Russia, Turkey, and Iran met in Tehran in an attempt to reach understandings regarding Syria’s future in general, and the imminent offensive in the Idlib district – the last bastion of anti-Assad regime rebels – in particular. Despite the outward display of unity and the shared desire to exclude Washington from the decision-making process on Syria’s future so as to make the Syrian agenda their exclusive domain, the differences between the three parties were inevitable. What dictated the tone was the attempt by each party to promote its own disparate interests.

Take, for example, the three leaders’ use of the term “terrorist.” While Putin and Rouhani referred to the entire Syrian opposition as terrorists, Erdoğan confined this term to the Kurds and the Sunni jihadist organizations such as Jabhat al-Nusra. Likewise, while Putin’s speech focused on the normalization of the situation and the return of refugees under a UN umbrella, Erdoğan demanded an immediate ceasefire in Idlib to prevent a bloodbath by the Assad regime. For his part, Rouhani devoted his speech to attacking the US and Israel, criticizing the former as an illegal invader of Syria and decrying Israel as an illegitimate entity that inflamed regional tensions and demanding – tongue in cheek – the removal of Israeli forces from the Syrian hemisphere. No less important, the Iranian president expressed the Islamic Republic’s strong desire to see Syria’s reconstruction after the fighting ended.

Viewed from Tehran’s vantage point, cooperation with Russia and Turkey, despite their substantial differences, is a necessary step for realizing its regional ambitions. Keenly aware of Moscow’s centrality in determining Syria’s political, economic, and military agenda, Iran invests considerable effort in persuading the Kremlin to acquiesce in its continued presence in the war-torn country. Furthermore, Russia is not only perceived as a lifeline for Iran’s future presence in Syria but also as an essential component in preserving the 2015 nuclear agreement after the US withdrawal from the treaty. In addition, Tehran puts much effort into raising foreign investment and views China and Russia as important substitutes for the European markets, which are hesitant to challenge the Trump administration’s re-imposed sanctions. It is true that economic factors often put Tehran and Moscow on opposite sides of the divide, such as competition over Syrian reconstruction contracts and in the Asian and Far Eastern energy markets. But Tehran seems well aware of Moscow’s superior position and is unlikely to rock the boat in these respects.

Cooperation with Turkey is similarly necessary for the realization of the Islamic Republic’s regional ambitions. While Ankara and Tehran are at odds over the legitimacy of the Assad regime and compete for leadership of the Muslim world, Turkey offers a vital channel for circumventing the US sanctions. Moreover, Iran places great hopes on Turkey as a natural gas supply route to European markets via the Tabriz-Ankara pipeline. The two states have collaborated in the past over the Kurdish issue, most recently in their joint campaign against the September 2017 referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.

As noted above, in his speech at the summit Rouhani stressed Iran’s desire to take an active part in the Syrian reconstruction, something that had already been demonstrated at the late August signing of an agreement by Iranian Defense Minister Amir Khatami and his Syrian counterpart. Why is Tehran prepared to invest billions of dollars in reconstructing Syria at a time when it is undergoing a sharp economic upheaval? The answer has to do with both domestic and strategic considerations.

On the strategic level, Tehran strives to transform Syria into a protectorate, similar to the model it successfully implemented in post-Saddam Iraq and in Lebanon since late 2006. This model comprises four overlapping circles: Influence through “soft power”; The formation of proxy armed militias from among recruited volunteers both at home and abroad; Direct military intervention by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and, in the Syrian case, by the Iranian army as well; Civilian and military reconstruction that enables Tehran to position itself as a supportive factor and, in consequence, to influence the political agenda from within. Syria’s reconstruction is at the top of Tehran’s list of priorities for the simple reason that this will lead to the establishment of security and intelligence infrastructures that will enable the use of Syrian territory as a front base for Iranian operations.

On the domestic level, Tehran’s interest in the Syrian reconstruction is a corollary of the internal power struggle within the Islamic regime, notably the desire of the IRGC commanders to consolidate their influence on the various aspects of the Iranian national agenda. Dating back to the country’s recovery from the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), the organization’s penetration of the economic, energy, industry, and agricultural spheres has been deep and pervasive. This is illustrated inter alia by its control of the industrial conglomerate Khatim al-Anbiya (“Seal of the prophets”), which serves as the exclusive concessionaire for most of Iran’s engineering projects – from paving roads, to developing oil and gas fields, to constructing dams. Its survival and expansion of influence are the top priorities of the IRGC, which seems to be (justifiably) looking forward to the day when the next Supreme Leader is chosen. It is clear that the wellbeing of ordinary Iranians is not at the top of the organization’s agenda, which is also why large sums of money are diverted from Iran to regional adventures…

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

 

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          ISRAEL’S SECRET WAR AGAINST IRAN IS WIDENING

                             Jonathan Spyer            

Foreign Policy, Sept. 07, 2018

It has recently become clear that Israel is engaged in a secret war against Iran in Syria. The war is conducted mainly by means of air power, presumably combined with the intelligence work necessary to provide the country’s airmen with the relevant targets; there is also evidence that targeted killings are among Israel’s tactics in Syria. The objective of this campaign, as plainly stated by senior officials such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is the complete withdrawal of Iranian forces and their proxies from Syria. Given the government’s strategy, this objective is unlikely to be achieved. But its lesser goal of disrupting Tehran’s efforts to consolidate and entrench itself in Syria is within reach.

Israel has carried out periodic strikes against the Syrian regime and Hezbollah targets throughout the country’s civil war. Starting this year, however, there has been a sharp increase in the frequency of such attacks and the commencement of the direct targeting of Iranian facilities and personnel. The imminent demise of the Syrian rebellion spurred this shift.

So long as the insurgency remained viable, Israel was content to observe from the sidelines. At most, the Israeli government maintained a limited relationship with rebels in the Quneitra area to ensure that the war did not reach the border with the Golan Heights while intervening sporadically to disrupt the supply of weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Beyond that, Israel was content to allow Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Iran and the mainly Sunni Islamist rebels to subject one another to a process of mutual attrition.

This year, however, it became clear that the rebellion, thanks to Iranian and Russian intervention, was going to be defeated. Israel could no longer afford the luxury of relative inaction if it wished to prevent the consolidation of an independent infrastructure of military and political power by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Syrian soil, along the lines of its existing bases in Lebanon and Iraq. Israel’s direct targeting of this nascent infrastructure began shortly thereafter. It’s difficult to trace the precise contours of this campaign, given Israel’s reticence about taking responsibility for attacks. It is also sometimes in the interest of both Tehran and the Assad regime to avoid publicizing Israel’s strikes.

But it’s clear that the largest-scale clashes so far took place on May 10, when in response to Iranian forces firing 20 Grad and Fajr-5 rockets toward Israeli positions on the Golan Heights, Israel launched an extensive air operation, targeting Iranian infrastructure throughout Syria. This operation involved 28 aircraft and the firing of 70 missiles, according to Russian Defense Ministry figures. The targets included a variety of facilities maintained by the IRGC in Syria: a military compound and logistics complex run by the Quds Force, an elite paramilitary unit of the IRGC, in Kiswah; an Iranian military camp north of Damascus; weapons storage sites belonging to the Quds Force at Damascus International Airport; and intelligence systems and installations associated with the Quds Force.

But Netanyahu recently indicated that the campaign was not over. “The Israel Defense Forces will continue to act with full determination and strength against Iran’s attempts to station forces and advanced weapons systems in Syria,” Netanyahu told an audience in the southern Israeli town of Dimona on Aug. 29. Israel seemed to express its determination to act in a series of explosions last weekend at the Mezzeh military airport near Damascus. Both the pro-regime Al Mayadeen website and the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights attributed the attack to Israel, but it was silent on the matter. Syrian state television and the official SANA news agency later denied that an Israeli attack had taken place.

An aerial attack on an Iranian convoy near Tanf in southern Syria on Sept. 3 similarly passed without any official claim of responsibility. An Iranian citizen and seven Syrians were killed in the attack, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition maintains a base at Tanf, but the coalition denied any involvement in the incident. Tanf, of course, is far to the east of the Quneitra Crossing and the Golan Heights. But Israel’s concerns are not solely, or mainly, with the border area. Israel also appears to be concerned not only with physical infrastructure but also with the passage of Iran-associated militia personnel across the border between Iraq and Syria.

In mid-June, an airstrike took place on Harra, southeast of Albu Kamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border. The target was a base of the Kataib Hezbollah militia, a leading Iran-supported irregular force. Twenty-two members of the organization were killed in the strike. No country claimed responsibility for the attack. An Iranian militia commander quoted by Reuters said the United States was probably responsible. Such an action, however, would be directly contrary to the generally observable U.S. approach regarding the Iraqi Shiite militias. Washington seeks the political defeat of the militias but also is concerned with avoiding military clashes among political elements in Iraq. Finally, the unattributed killings of Aziz Asber, the head of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center in Masyaf, and Ahmad Issa Habib, the commander of the Palestine department of Syria’s military intelligence, on Aug. 5 and Aug. 18, respectively, have led to some speculation as to possible Israeli responsibility.

What is taking place, then, is an ongoing, rolling campaign intended to disrupt Iran’s attempt to consolidate and deepen its project in Syria. Will the Israeli campaign succeed? It is difficult to see how the country can achieve its maximal goal of complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria. The Iranian investment in Syria is very large, formally based, and long-standing. Tehran has spent upwards of $30 billion in the country over the last seven years…

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

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                    IRAN’S ATTACK ON KURDS IS A MESSAGE

                    TO WASHINGTON, RIYADH AND JERUSALEM

                                        Seth Frantzman

                                       Jerusalem Post, Sept. 09, 2018

 

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran claimed credit for a missile attack on Kurdish opposition groups in Koya in northern Iraq. The attack on Saturday killed a dozen and wounded numerous others. It was the first time Iranian forces had used this kind of precision missile attack deep inside Iraq.

The brazen daylight missile attack is a message from Tehran to the region that it can do what it wants, not only in neighboring Iraq but throughout the Middle East. In the last year, Iranian missiles and Iranian-supported groups using Tehran’s technical advisors have targeted Saudi Arabia from Yemen and Israel from Syria. As Washington seeks to pressure Iran, the missile threat is a clear indication that Tehran is flexing its muscles in the face of sanctions.

The IRGC attempted a decapitation strike against the Kurdish KDP-I, an opposition group that has a headquarters in Koya. Numerous senior leaders were present, and a missile crashed into the building where they were meeting. This was a precise and unprecedented strike. Although Iran has targeted Kurdish groups before in Iraq and has fired missiles at other opposition groups, the missiles used in this attack were precise and showcased Iranian intelligence operations and know-how.

The missile attack on Koya should not be seen as an isolated Iran regime attack on an opposition group. Iran has been fighting Kurdish opposition for years, and in Iran, there have been increasing clashes. But the missile strike was an escalation and should be seen in the context of the Iranian-backed Houthis using ballistic missiles to target Riyadh, flying some 900 km from their launch point. Iranian forces from Syria have also targeted and tested Israel’s defenses. They flew a drone into Israeli airspace in February and fired a salvo of missiles in May. Recent satellite images show missile production facilities in northern Syria. Reports also indicate that Iran has transferred missiles to the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Shia militias, in Iraq. Moreover, Iran has armed Hezbollah with missiles for years and also supplied Hamas with technical support.

The big picture then is an Iranian missile threat throughout the region. The National Defense Authorization Act signed by US President Donald Trump in August included passages about Iran’s ballistic missile threat. Congress had looked deeply into how Iran’s missile program threatens the region. During a June speech at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies US Under Secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, Sigal Mandelker said that “Iran must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles.” US allies in the region have missile defense technology to confront the Iranian threat. Israel has a layered system of missile defense included Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow program, while Saudi Arabia has used Patriot missile batteries to stop the Houthi missiles. This has proven effective. It is also why the IRGC decided to test out its missiles by targeting defenseless Kurdish groups in northern Iraq.

The IRGC’s strike on the Kurds is a message to Washington and to Israel. It shows how the IRGC operates across borders and across with the region, seeing Iran’s policy in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon as linked into one larger program. The IRGC is also the group responsible for working with various proxies and Shia militias across the region. The US administration’s response to the missile attack in Iraq will reveal whether Washington takes this new front in northern Iraq seriously and whether the discussions about stopping Iran’s activities see Iraq as a frontier to confront these missile threats, or whether Iraq will continue to be an area that Iran can operate freely in.

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JOHN KERRY’S FREELANCE DIPLOMACY IS AN INVITATION TO DISASTER

Michael Rubin

New York Post, Sept. 14, 2018

Former Secretary of State John Kerry admitted to meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “three or four times” since leaving office. Seeking to preempt criticism that his talks violated US laws prohibiting private citizens from advising or negotiating with foreign states, he said he merely wanted to see “what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East.” Even if Kerry violated no laws, a more self-aware statesman would recognize that such freelance diplomacy weakens the US, emboldens enemies and has a track record of failure.

Consider North Korea: Bill Clinton’s presidency, like Trump’s, began with a North Korea crisis. Clinton had been president barely a month when North Korea refused International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and, weeks later, announced that it would withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. After Clinton declared, “North Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb,” former President Jimmy Carter traveled to Pyongyang on an ostensibly personal visit to try to right what he believed was Clinton’s unnecessarily inflexible policy. He met with North Korea’s absolute dictator Kim Il -sung and, without authorization, promised not only would the White House abandon its drive for UN sanctions, but also conceded North Korea the right to reprocess nuclear fuel rods — in effect giving Pyongyang enough plutonium to construct five nuclear bombs. Carter had pulled the carpet out from the international pressure campaign Clinton sought to build.

Then there was Syria: Bashar al-Assad’s government was an unrepentant terror sponsor. It facilitated Hezbollah’s rearmament in defiance of UN resolutions after, in July and August 2006, Hezbollah launched much of its missile arsenal at Israel. As insurgency raged in Iraq, evidence mounted as to Assad’s culpability. In one raid on insurgents, US forces found a laptop that contained a database showing conclusively that most foreign fighters and suicide bombers entered Iraq via Syria, with the full complicity of the Syrian government. Meanwhile, Assad covertly worked with North Korea to build a plutonium processing plant.

Like Clinton with North Korea, President George W. Bush believed the best course of action was to isolate Syria. To partisans, however, “cowboy” Bush was the real problem. Enter Nancy Pelosi. Defying Bush, the then-majority leader decided to break the diplomatic embargo. Pelosi traveled to Damascus, posed diligently for photos and declared, “We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace.” It wasn’t. In the wake of her visit, Assad doubled down on defiance and repression and, eventually, the pressure cooker he created exploded. Pelosi today recognizes her mistake, as she no longer brags about cultivating a man subsequently responsible for a half million civilian deaths and the use of more chemical weaponry than any leader since World War I.

Kerry seems unwilling to learn such lessons. After all, Iran isn’t his first freelance attempt: During the Vietnam War, his antics emboldened the enemy while Americans were still in harm’s way. More recently, just weeks into Barack Obama’s presidency, he became the first US lawmaker to visit Gaza in nearly a decade. Congressmembers had avoided the area for the simple reason that it was run by Hamas, an unrepentant terrorist group committed to genocide and responsible for the murder of Americans. Hamas was thrilled. “We believe Hamas’ message is reaching its destination,” Ahmed Yusuf, Hamas’ chief political adviser, said. In effect, Kerry legitimized Hamas, reinvigorated it and made himself its postman.

Back to Iran: When, in 2015, Sen. Tom Cotton and 46 other senators sent an open letter to its leaders warning them that absent Senate ratification the nuclear deal would not survive the Obama administration, Kerry quipped that the senators’ actions were an “unconstitutional, un-thought-out action.” Of course, they were neither. Kerry’s castigation of Cotton, however, simply makes Kerry’s more covert and repeated outreach to Iranian officials more hypocritical. Even assuming Kerry is well-meaning, his naiveté is astounding. Zarif arose in a system where freelancing insures imprisonment if not death and so may project officialdom onto Kerry even when there is none.

Regardless, the basis of Trump’s strategy — like that of Clinton and Bush before him — is to coerce concession through isolation. Every president has the right to craft his own strategy. For a former secretary of state to knowingly undercut that suggests antipathy toward democratic outcomes. Perhaps it is that tendency, however, that best explains Kerry’s bizarre affinity toward Tehran.

 

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On Topic Links

Inside Israel’s New Iran Strategy: Maysam Behravesh, Reuters, Sept. 17, 2018—In a rare admission, Israel has broken its “no-comment” policy on air strikes to confirm that it has carried out over 200 attacks against Iranian targets in Syria over the last two years.

How Team Trump is Making the UN Spotlight Iran’s Evil: Benny Avni, New York Post, Sept. 6, 2018—The United States has assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council — and that means the council is about to put Iran under the hot lights.

The North Korean Foreign Minister Visits Tehran: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Sept. 12, 2018—Not long after the US reimposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, arrived in Tehran.

IAEA Still Needs to Investigate Military Dimension of Iran’s Nuclear Program: Olli Heinonen, FDD, Sept. 6, 2018—The board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will meet in Vienna beginning on September 10 and will receive briefings beforehand from the IAEA secretariat.

FRESH IRAN SANCTIONS AND ECONOMIC PRESSURE “TIGHTEN THE SCREWS” ON ISLAMIC REPUBLIC

Iran Has Only Begun to Feel the Pain of Trump’s Sanctions: Benny Avni, New York Post, Aug. 6, 2018 — As the Iranian regime reels under the strain of renewed sanctions, the Trump administration is already preparing the next phase.

What Trump Could Do For Iran: Amir Taheri, Aawsat, Aug. 3, 2018 — “To resist or not to resist?” In Tehran’s political circles these days that is the question.

The Preeminent Challenge: Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh, Weekly Standard, Aug. 3, 2018 — The biggest foreign-policy challenge before Donald Trump isn’t North Korea, where the usual pattern of diplomacy and deception persists.

Why Iran Supports Palestinian Terror Groups: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, July 19, 2018— While the United Nations, Israel and the US are proposing plans to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Iran is pledging to continue its financial and military aid to Palestinian terror groups.

On Topic Links

 

Netanyahu Warns Iran Against Blocking Maritime Oil Route: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, Aug. 2, 2018

Talking to Rouhani: Is Trump Shooting from the Hip or Reading from a Script?: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Aug. 5, 2018

With U.S. Sanctions Looming, Iran Faces a Potentially Explosive Economic Crisis: Mohsen Milani, World Politics Review, Aug. 2, 2018

The Iranian Crown Prince’s Speech: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Breaking Israel News, July 30, 2018

 

IRAN HAS ONLY BEGUN TO FEEL THE PAIN OF TRUMP’S SANCTIONS

Benny Avni

New York Post, Aug. 6, 2018

As the Iranian regime reels under the strain of renewed sanctions, the Trump administration is already preparing the next phase. We see too little of it in our press, but Iranians are increasingly taking to the streets and the clerics’ hold on power is weakening. And it’s about to get worse for the regime. A new round of US sanctions, announced in advance, kicked in Monday. It restricts currency transfers and bans trade in gold, silver, aluminum, steel and other metals.

Most of the new sanctions have already been factored in, changing the way the world does business in Iran. European politicians, who’ve sanctified President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal, are calling on companies to stay put and do business in Iran, as the seven-party Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action dictates. But business is business.

After the nuke deal was signed, France’s Renault was eager to position itself for the day all sanctions would be removed, cutting deals to dominate Iran’s car market. Anticipating Monday’s sanctions, however, Renault announced an end to all its Iran businesses in July — even though it sells no cars in America.

Meanwhile, under US pressure, Germany’s central bank last week announced new limits on foreign access to cash, blocking a desperate attempt by cash-strapped Tehran to withdraw 300 million euros ($375 million) from a Hamburg-based Iranian-controlled bank.

European politicians, still bitter over the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal and reimpose sanctions, like to issue defiant press releases. But the American squeeze is working. “We know Iran is increasing activities throughout Europe, and so we must be vigilant,” US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told me Monday.

Buckle up. The next sanctions phase, due in November, will hit Iran’s only viable source of income: oil. Iran’s oil exports are expected to be halved. Saudis, Russians and Americans will seek to fill the void, making sure Iran, not global consumers, feels the pain. So you’d think (and the regime had hoped) Iranians would blame America. Instead, striking truck and taxi drivers, workers in faraway dusty towns, environmentalists, women, bazaar salesmen — all blame the regime.

With good reason. Obama’s generous JCPOA-related gifts to the regime, more than $100 billion in cash, never trickled down to the people. The money was spent on regional wars, propping up global terror organizations and lining the pockets of regime bigwigs. The Iranian people no longer buy the “Great Satan” trope. “Even the bazaaris [who strongly supported the regime] know that impediment to normal life is not international, but domestic,” says Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran watcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. And as protests swell, “many of the enforcers, those who joined the Basij and Revolutionary Guards because it was their only employment option, may also defect and join the uprising,” says the Israeli Farsi broadcaster Menashe Amir. “After all, they’re Iranian too.”

The Western press largely ignores or belittles such tectonic shifts, but the Trump administration doesn’t. Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Iranian-Americans in California, expressing support for the protesters. In a Sunday tweet, he backed “the Iranian people’s right to protest against the regime’s corruption & oppression without fear of reprisal.”

Trump’s strategy — turning to the Iranian people — is a major departure from Obama’s coddling of the clerics. Without declaring it outright, Washington has been encouraging regime change, or at least trying to force an end to the regime’s pursuit of nukes, missiles and Mideast aggression.

Sure, regime change could be chaotic, lengthy and bloody. It could lead to an even more repressive, dictatorial and cruel leadership than the current one. Then again, it may liberate the Iranian people and, more likely, end Tehran’s pursuit of the most dangerous arms and the spread of global violence and terrorism.

“Yes, it’s hard to get worse than the Islamic Republic, but the Mideast is full of surprises,” cautions Ben Taleblu. Yet, he adds, a new regime, “popular and representative, will benefit the Iranian people, the Mideast and the international community.” The potential risks are dwarfed by ample rewards, so by all means, tighten the screws. On to the next Iran sanctions phase.

 

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                                                  WHAT TRUMP COULD DO FOR IRAN     

                                                  Amir Taheri

                                                Aawsat, Aug. 3, 2018

“To resist or not to resist?” In Tehran’s political circles these days that is the question. The prospect of fresh sanctions to be imposed by the United States and its allies has helped intensify the debate which has marked Iranian politics since the mullahs seized power in 1979.

At first glance the most common answer seems to be in favor of “resisting”, whatever form it might take. Over the past four decades the Khomeinist ruling elite has been divided between those called “the accommodationists” who have been prepared to seek a deal with the United States and those who refuse even talking to the “Great Satan”. The mullahs’ first Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, included five US citizens of Iranian origin and was thus dominated by the “accommodationists”. It contemplated a strategy of partnership with the United States to face the Soviet threat in the context of the Cold War. That strategy ever got off the ground as Bazargan and his pro-US group were swept away in the political tsunami triggered by the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran. Then began almost a decade of war and tension in which the pure revolutionists ran the show and marginalized the accommodationists. The sinking by the US navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard navy, followed by Khomeini’s abject retreat and subsequent death, closed that parenthesis as the “resistance” policy proved to be futile.

Then followed almost a decade of domination by the accommodationists who went to the extremes to befriend the ”Great Satan” on the sly. However, a decade of secret and later overt “dialogue” with the Great Satan proved equally fruitless, leading to a “resistance backlash” symbolized by the emergence of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President. As we know, that attempt at “resistance” also failed, doing possibly long-term damage to Iran’s economy and the nation’s social fabric.

The disastrous end of Ahmadinejad’s presidency gave the accommodationists a fresh chance to try their old and several times failed stratagems. The joint effort by US President Barack Obama and his Islamic counterpart Hassan Rouhani to dupe their respective audiences with the so-called “nuke deal” was hailed by many as an end of the vicious circle of accommodation-resistance. Now, however, we know that that chapter, too, has closed. Even the Islamic Foreign Minister Muhammad-Javad Zarif now admits that much. In a talk in Tehran last Sunday he claimed that even Obama, a “polite and friendly man”, had not been quite straight with his Khomeinist partners in duping the world.

Today, the Islamic Republic looks like a two-trick pony both of whose tricks have been exposed as sham and inefficient. It is, of course, not in the gift of a journalist to predict the future. But it seems to me that the Khomeinist regime will no longer be able to rely on either of its two tricks in the context of the usual cheat-and-retreat strategy to get itself off the hook at least for a while longer.

The reason for that failure is the regime’s inability to clearly spell out its case and tell the Iranians, and the world beyond them, why it is addicted to policies that have produced nothing but grief for all concerned.

It would be a good thing if the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei were to appear on national television and tell Iranians precisely why it is in Iran’s interest to help Bashar al-Assad kill Syrians or what could be gained for prolonging the war in Yemen by supporting a rebel group that, regardless of the justice or injustice of their cause, have no chance of winning and, even if they won, would in no way contribute to Iran’s security and prosperity.

Until recently, one argument advanced by Khomeinists was that though the current policies, including a real or feigned enmity for the United States, may harm Iran’s interests as a nation they still serve the interests of ran as a vehicle for “Islamic Revolution.” In other words, sacrificing Iran’s national interests to the interests of the dominant ideology may have some rational explanation.

However, even that argument no longer holds. Thousands of deaths and billions spent in Syria have not only harmed Iran’s national interest but have also failed to secure any advancement for the Khomeinist ideology.

Having found a new and stronger protector in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Assad and his cohorts now regard the Islamic Republic as something of an embarrassment. It is no surprise that Assad has vetoed an Iranian plan to set up “cultural centers” in the so-called “newly liberated” areas of Syria, that is to say chunks of territory abandoned by the regime’s opponents. Iranian mullahs and their military associates are no longer flowing into Syria at will and when they arrive there, they are no longer treated with the deference they enjoyed five years ago.

Even in chunks of Yemen held by the Houthis, Iran is being pushed to the sidelines. In fact, the bulk of Iranian diplomatic and military personnel fanning the war in Yemen are now located in neighboring Oman.

Even in Lebanon, as a prominent pro-Tehran Lebanese newspaper editor noted recently, the Islamic Republic risks losing its influence because of the increasing difficulties it faces in paying its allies and mercenaries. The daily Kayhan, believed to reflect Khamenei’s views, still boasts about the Islamic Republic’s success in having Gen. Michel Aoun elected President of Lebanon. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that, while trying not to ruffle the mullahs’ feathers, Aoun is so full of himself as not to be a mere puppet for Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The looming crisis in Iran may be an opportunity for Iranians, both in the regime and those opposed to it, to decide whether they wish Iran to behave like a vehicle for a bankrupt ideology or like a nation-state with the legitimate, quantifiable and rationally analyzable interests of a nation-state…

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

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    THE PREEMINENT CHALLENGE

Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh                           

Weekly Standard, Aug. 3, 2018

 

The biggest foreign-policy challenge before Donald Trump isn’t North Korea, where the usual pattern of diplomacy and deception persists. Nor is it Russia; it doesn’t have the muscle to take on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which isn’t dead yet. Nor is the most imminent problem China, which doesn’t have the navy and air force to tempt fate in the South and East China Seas. It will one day really challenge the United States and East Asia’s democratic and anti-Chinese authoritarian states—the type of fascist confrontation that could lead to carnage—but Washington probably has years to check Beijing’s ambitions.

The most troublesome, immediate challenge comes from Iran. Trump’s decision to walk away from his predecessor’s deeply flawed arms-control agreement will likely soon consume the administration’s attention since, depending on what the mullahs do, war may once more be on the horizon. If the president fails to corral the clerics and the Revolutionary Guards through sanctions and the threat of force, the reverberations will surely weaken, if not gut, the administration’s capacity to play hardball elsewhere. Barack Obama punted the Iranian nuclear problem down the road slightly (and didn’t really pivot to Asia). Trump has probably eliminated the possibility of punting. He now may have to deal with Iran more decisively than his predecessors.

So far, the administration has developed a somewhat contradictory yet potentially successful Iran policy. The White House has all the elements of a regime-change strategy despite its denials; yet Donald Trump aspires to new nuclear negotiations, even suggesting a meeting could take place with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani without prerequisites. Some have called this Reaganesque. After all, Ronald Reagan sought the end of the Soviet empire. “While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change [inside the Soviet bloc], we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them,” he declared at Westminster in 1982. “It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation—in both the public and private sectors—to assisting democratic development.” Putting “Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history” clearly meant regime change in Mother Russia. Yet Reagan welcomed nuclear talks with an array of Soviet leaders, from Leonid Brezhnev to Mikhail Gorbachev.

Can Donald Trump tailor-make an approach to an Iran that is suffering from many of the same kind of authoritarian afflictions that the Soviet Union did in the 1980s? Can he, his senior staff, and the essential worker bees understand enough Iranian history—its peoples’ long quest for representative government—to realize that what Reagan envisioned for the Soviet empire is applicable to the Islamic Republic? Reagan’s vision—“The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means”—is within reach in Persia if the clerical regime starts cracking. Iran is an empire that has, at least at its core, become a coherent nation-state. It carries many of the Middle East’s cultural liabilities, but it manifestly isn’t a land of tribes and oil wells. That it had the Muslim world’s only Islamic revolution 39 years ago is actually an enormous asset in its continuing religious and political evolution. Unlike most Muslims, Iranian Shiites and Sunnis know what it’s like to live in a theocracy. Most have found it wanting.

Post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan, the primary American question is whether Washington’s political elite is capable of imagining interventionism. A successful regime-change approach isn’t likely if one doesn’t really believe, as Reagan did, that American aid to those seeking freedom is both good and strategic. The loss of faith in this idea within the United States is profound and dovetails with an analysis that depicts the Middle East as no longer a compelling strategic theater (killer drones and American military bases in Bahrain and Qatar can handle the post-9/11 threat and the oil of the Persian Gulf). Even the Iranian nuclear quest doesn’t disturb this mindset. The Iraq syndrome has convinced the foreign-policy establishment and a not inconsiderable segment of the American public that the Muslim Middle East is a hopeless mess.

Can Trump carve out a democratic exception for Iran, where religious dictatorship appears to be secularizing the society it rules? Trump seems to have a serious animus against the Islamic Republic—he isn’t in the revisionist right-wing and libertarian camps (see Tucker Carlson, Patrick Buchanan, the American Conservative, and the Cato Institute) that veer toward Obama in their reassessment of, or disinterest in, the mullahs’ ambitions. Can Trump energetically try to collapse the clerical regime and advance democracy there while forging a détente with the repressive Sunni states? Such a contradiction isn’t difficult to handle operationally. The issue is whether the White House can overcome those within the bureaucracies who resist anything too forward-leaning. It’s a good bet that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Emirati ruler Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who don’t want to see democracy bloom in their kingdoms, would be fine with American efforts to foster representative government in Persia…

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

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WHY IRAN SUPPORTS PALESTINIAN TERROR GROUPS

Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, July 19, 2018

While the United Nations, Israel and the US are proposing plans to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Iran is pledging to continue its financial and military aid to Palestinian terror groups. Iran’s meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians is not new. The Iranians have long been providing Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups with money and weapons. Were it not for Iran’s support, the two groups, which do not recognize Israel’s right to exist, would not have been able to remain in power in the coastal enclave.

Iran’s support for the Palestinian terror groups has a twofold goal: first, to undermine the Palestinian Authority, which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas, and which Tehran sees as a pawn in the hands of the US and Israel; and second, to advance Iran’s goal of destroying Israel. Just this week, we received yet another reminder of Iran’s true goal. The leader of Iran’s “Islamic Revolution,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that the Palestinians will win over their enemies and will “see the day when the fake Zionist regime” vanishes. He said that US President Donald Trump’s “evil policy” is doomed to failure.

So, Iran does not care about the harsh conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Instead, its leaders are hoping that the Palestinians will live to see the day Israel is eliminated. This is also why Iran continues to support any Palestinian group that seeks to destroy Israel. On the same day that Khamenei made his statement in Tehran, one of his senior generals, Gholamhossein Gheybparvar addressed a conference held in the Gaza Strip and Tehran simultaneously. Gheybparavar is a senior officer in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and commander of its Basij forces — the “Mobilization Resistance Force.” This force’s main mission is to suppress protests against the regime in Tehran.

In his speech via video conference, the Iranian general told representatives of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terror groups that he was “proud” of their “resistance” against Israel. He said that the conference, which was being held under the title, “Wet Gunpowder/Resistance Is Not Terrorism,” was an expression of Arab and Islamic unity against the enemies of the Arabs and Muslims. The Iranian general said that Iran and the “axis of resistance” were not afraid of Trump’s “threats.” The Palestinian terror groups said after the conference that they were encouraged by the Iranian general’s pledge to support them in their fight against Israel and the US.

Khader Habib, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip, said that the Iranian-Palestinian conference was both “symbolic and significant.” The conference, he said, served as a reminder that Iran continues to support the Palestinian “resistance” and would deter Israel from attacking the Gaza Strip in response to terror attacks on its citizens. The speech by the Iranian general, he added, was aimed at sending a message to the many countries to support the Palestinian “resistance” groups in the Gaza Strip. “Israel is a potential threat to the Arabs and Muslims,” Habib said. Buoyed by the Iranian backing, several speakers at the conference called for the formation of a “unified Arab-Islamic front” against Israel and the US. They also stressed that the terror attacks against Israel would continue and praised Iran for its full support for the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.

By promising to continue helping the Palestinian terror groups, Iran is offering the two million residents of the Gaza Strip more bloodshed and violence. The Iranian general did not offer to build the Palestinians a hospital or a school. Nor did he offer to provide financial aid to create projects that would give jobs to unemployed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. His message to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip: Iran will give you as much money and weapons as you need, as long as you are committed to the jihad (holy war) against Israel and the “big Satan,” the US…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

Netanyahu Warns Iran Against Blocking Maritime Oil Route: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, Aug. 2, 2018—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran on Wednesday that any attempt to shut down a strategic maritime oil route would be met with an international coalition that would open the waterway to traffic.

Talking to Rouhani: Is Trump Shooting from the Hip or Reading from a Script?: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Aug. 5, 2018—President Donald Trump’s announcement that he is willing to meet unconditionally with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took many by surprise. It threatened to reinforce the impression, even among America’s closest friends in the Middle East, that Trump is a supportive but unpredictable and unreliable ally.

With U.S. Sanctions Looming, Iran Faces a Potentially Explosive Economic Crisis: Mohsen Milani, World Politics Review, Aug. 2, 2018—A few years after Iran’s 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini disregarded an aide who was worried about inflation by declaring that “this revolution was not about the price of watermelons.”

The Iranian Crown Prince’s Speech: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Breaking Israel News, July 30, 2018—The Shah of Iran, Mahmad Reza Pahlevi, was deposed in 1979 and exiled to Egypt with his family where he died one year later. Upon reaching the age of twenty, the late Shah’s son Reza Pahlevi II was crowned in his stead by those loyal to the monarchy, but the fact that the young prince was in exile robbed the move of any practical significance.

 

IRAN PRESSURED BY ANTI-REGIME PROTESTS, ECONOMIC CRISIS, & RENEWED U.S. SANCTIONS

Iran Protests Raise Hopes of Regime Collapse as Sanctions Set to go in Effect: Ariel Ben Solomon, JNS, July 3, 2018 — The Iranian regime appears to be in a panic as the Trump administration tightens the screws on the country’s economy…

Iran’s Regime Faces Widespread Economic and Political Unrest: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, June 27, 2018 — Since June 24, 2018, protests have been taking place in several main cities in Iran.

Canada Comes to Its Senses on Iran: Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary, June 13, 2018— I have never been mistaken for a fan of Justin Trudeau, nor will I ever be so mistaken.

Iran’s Quds Day: Ideology or Interests?: Doron Itzchakov, Algemeiner, June 28, 2018 — On June 8, the Islamic Republic of Iran held its annual “Quds Day” to express the nation’s support for the Palestinian struggle.

On Topic Links

Inside the Iran Protests: An IPT Exclusive Video Report: Steven Emerson, IPT News, July 2, 2018

State Department’s Brian Hook: Pompeo Presented Iran With “12 Demands To Become A Normal Country”: Real Clear Politics, July 2, 2018

Iran’s Hardliners Support Rouhani’s Push Back Against the United States: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, July 5, 2018

Why Turkey Will Not Be Another Iran: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018

 

IRAN PROTESTS RAISE HOPES OF REGIME

COLLAPSE AS SANCTIONS SET TO GO IN EFFECT                                        

Ariel Ben Solomon

JNS, July 3, 2018

 

The Iranian regime appears to be in a panic as the Trump administration tightens the screws on the country’s economy with the United States telling countries to stop all oil imports from Iran starting on Nov. 4. In the meantime, the United States is asking the Gulf states to boost  their oil production to make up for the Iranian shortfall. The question is if this, and other economic sanctions and pressure, will be enough to increase the protests inside of Iran?

Dr. Harold Rhode, a former adviser on Islamic affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense and now a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute think tank, told JNS in an interview that from the perspective of the Iranian people, the radical regime is reacting to the protests from a position of fear. “The protesters have confidence because they inherently sense that the regime is weak,” commented Rhode, adding that as long as the regime is perceived to be strong, the protesters will be more careful and reserved.

Protests have criticized the Iran regime and its foreign policy of imperialist expansion in the region, which they say is happening against the interests of its own citizens. Regarding the significance of protests in Tehran’s Baazar, Rhode said that keeping control of the central market is a key indicator of the power of the regime to control the rallies.

In an article for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Iranian negotiating behavior, Rhode stated: “It is only when Iranians become convinced that either their rulers lack the resolve to do what is necessary to remain in power or that a stronger power will protect them against their current tyrannical rulers that they will speak out and try to overthrow leaders.”

The former Pentagon official sees the pressure and sanctions strategy of U.S. President Donald Trump—one that has been pushed for years by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the Obama administration—as having a chance of succeeding and leading to regime change.

Asked if the new sanctions will be effective, Rhode responded that “all of these companies have a choice to make: to trade with Iran or the U.S.” He continued, saying, “large multinationals that have done business in Iran, such as German’s Siemens or other oil companies, will have to decide if they want to continue to have access to the U.S. banking system.”

As a result of the recent U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the new pressure campaign initiated by the Trump administration, reports keep coming in about how deals worked out during the Obama administration are falling apart. For example, in early June, Boeing said it would not be delivering any aircraft to Iran after having signed a pair of large contracts with Iranian airlines, AFP reported.

Raz Zimmt, an Iran expert at the Israeli think tank INSS, told JNS that the recent protests in the Tehran Baazar is the latest link in the wave of protests that have gripped Iran in recent months. The key factor, he said, is “if other sectors of the population join the protests.”

However, Zimmt also warns against observers who are overly optimistic about the possibility of the regime falling, mentioning the limitations that the protest movement faces. “Most of the demonstrators, including the merchants at the bazaar, focus on improving the economic situation against the background of the worsening crisis and not toppling the regime. Second, with the exception of the truck drivers’ strike that broke out last month, the rest of the protests are limited geographically and occur sporadically. They lack a unified leadership.” And thirdly, he added, the “new” urban middle class, which led the 2009 riots, remains “outside the wave of protests.” Therefore, “the protest currently affects mainly the status of President Hassan Rouhani and the government and poses no real threat to the stability of the regime,” asserted Zimmt.

As the economic crisis deepens in the coming months as a result of the resumption of economic sanctions, the regime will have two choices, according to the Iran expert: “To agree to a compromise with the Trump government, even at the price of making significant concessions on issues that the regime considers essential, such as its long-range nuclear or missile program.” Or, he concluded, the regime could increase its “resistance economy” and willingness to increase internal repression, if necessary, “in an attempt to gain time in the hope that by the time sanctions make a significant effect, the U.S. administration will be replaced by a more convenient administration.”

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IRAN’S REGIME FACES WIDESPREAD ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL UNREST

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

JCPA, June 27, 2018

Since June 24, 2018, protests have been taking place in several main cities in Iran. This time, the protesters were mainly comprised of traders from the Bazaar in Tehran and other commercial locations throughout Iran. The bazzaris initially protested the sharp and fast fall in the value of the Iranian currency, the rial, in dollar terms, the freeze in Iran’s economic activity, and the rising cost of imported goods.

The decline of the Iranian economy gathered speed, and it is expected to suffer even more due to President Trump’s May 8, 2018, announcement that the United States was pulling out of the nuclear deal, the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, and the notice of several large international corporations that they intend to stop doing business with Iran and/or not sign any new contracts.

The main protest centered on the huge Grand Bazaar in Tehran, where the merchants closed their stores and marched toward the Parliament (Majlis) building to protest against the government’s economic policies. The metro station serving the Bazaar was closed because of the protest. Closing stores and halting trade happened in several other large cities, including Tabriz, Mashhad, Arak, Kermanshah, and Isfahan. Additionally, in the free trade zone on the island of Gheshm at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, merchants closed their stores and joined the strike.

The social networks were flooded with hashtags from bazaaris calling for more people to join the national strike #اعتصابات_سراسری).). The hashtag ( #ساعت_6 ) widely appeared. It gave the time to start demonstrating at 6:00 PM, when people should swarm into the streets. It was presented in different variations, with clear symbols and slogans of the opponents of the regime. Demonstrators chanting “Death to Khamenei” and “Death to Palestine” (#مرگ_بر_فلسطین), in defiance of Iran’s foreign adventures at the expense of the Iranian people, were uploaded to social network accounts. At the same time, Iranian virtual platforms also dealt with unemployment, economic hardships, and the ongoing water crisis that has hit different areas in the country.

Conspicuously, the conservative media outlets, which usually don’t cover anti-government protests, have been following the traders’ protests. Apparently, it is so they can taunt the government and its economic failings. The secretary-general of the traders’ guild of the Tehran Bazaar, Ahmad Karimi Isfahani, pointed an accusing finger at the government and said, “We expect President Rouhani and his government to admit that the steps they have taken connected with anything to do with the Iranian economy were a mistake” and that the protest began due to a lack of economic stability, the deepening economic crisis, and the apathy of the government toward the population and the traders.

The Iranian security forces, and primarily the units for dispersing protests, were deployed in the streets of Tehran in order to contain the events, but until June 26, they generally refrained from using force to disperse the demonstrators and relied on teargas grenades.

The government, for its part, acted to bring down the value of the dollar as compared with local currency and to deal with foreign currency offenders. The governor of the Central Bank of the Islamic Bank of Iran, Valiollah Seyf, announced that Iran would open a “parallel/secondary market” for trading in foreign currencies at fixed rates (42,000 rials = 1 U.S. dollar) to help the private sector import goods valued in dollars and prevent wild currency rates being set by uncertified brokers.6 In April, President Rouhani first imposed this rate to prevent any further fall in the value of the rial but without any success, and the dollar rate reached 85,000 rials or more.

During the current crisis, President Rouhani instructed authorities to reveal the names of those importers who have received foreign currency at subsidized rates but sold their merchandises at free-market prices. Rouhani blamed U.S. sanctions for the crisis at a gathering in Tehran on June 26, 1018, and insisted that there is no shortage of currency and goods in the market. Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Ali Shamkhani, said that profiteer groups (mainly in the mobile phone market) and currency smugglers would be monitored. Judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, lambasted those who are “disrupting the economy” by funneling their huge assets into foreign currency, threatening they will be designated as “corrupted on earth (punishable by death).” Amoli urged the police to identify those who disrupt the market, saying they commit “treason against the system and the nation.” The Majlis‘ National Security and Foreign Policy Committee discussed the recent economic fluctuation during its latest meeting on June 25, 2018.

The Iranian media has dealt with the economic crisis in depth, as well as the solutions offered by the government. Essentially, much of the criticism was directed at President Rouhani who, “to the surprise of the public,” chose to spend his vacation at the luxury Tochal mountain resort in north Tehran in the middle of an economic crisis, while the traders and public opinion are waiting for a solution to the economic problems and price rises. Even the president’s western-style apparel has been subject to criticism. For example, he was seen wearing Western-brand apparel – an Under Armour sweatshirt and a Puma hat.

Economic stabilization in Iran is not yet visible on the horizon. The protest of the bazaar traders is just one example of the many different demonstrations that have taken place throughout Iran in recent times (truck drivers, teachers, laborers, and protests about pollution and the lack of water). This process was accelerated when President Trump decided to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran, and all the immediate ramifications of this upon the Iranian economy occurred. The regime’s recent steps toward what Khamenei termed in 2017 the “Year of Economy of Resistance” or “resistive economy” to circumvent sanctions are likely to have a negative effect on the citizens of Iran with more bans on imported goods.

At the same time, the protest by the traders at the bazaar – the beating heart of Iran’s economy, at least in the past – is unique and a warning light for the Iranian regime. The bazaar protest originally was not against the Islamic government. It was focused upon Iran’s growing and genuine economic hardships due to the sanctions on the country that are already affecting it. The protest is authentic, and it reflects the difficulties of the traders at the bazaar (mainly those who buy in dollars) and the Iranian citizen, who finds it hard to buy goods due to rising prices. At the same time, the protest did not occur in a vacuum, and it adds to the general feeling of discontent – not only at the economic level – with the Islamic regime (and not only against the government as the conservatives try to portray)…

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

 

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CANADA COMES TO ITS SENSES ON IRAN

Sohrab Ahmari

Commentary, June 13, 2018

I have never been mistaken for a fan of Justin Trudeau, nor will I ever be so mistaken. On the whole, I agree with Ben Shapiro’s assessment of the Canadian prime minister (“Justin Trudeau is what would happen if the song ‘Imagine’ took human form…”). Trudeau’s commitment to full-spectrum progressivism, combined with his vanity and moral preening, make him one of the least serious figures ever to lead a major Western power. Even so, I found myself cheering Trudeau’s Liberal government on Wednesday after it backed a resolution in the House of Commons to “immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions” with the Iranian regime.

The resolution also designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity under Canadian criminal law, condemned the mullahs for their “ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world,” and denounced Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for “calling for genocide against the Jewish people.” Liberal support for the resolution marked a striking about-face. Trudeau had campaigned for restoring Ottowa’s ties with Tehran, severed in 2012 by the previous, Conservative government. “I would hope that Canada would be able to reopen its mission” in Tehran, Trudeau told an interviewer in June 2015, just as Barack Obama was concluding his nuclear diplomacy with the mullahs. “I’m fairly certain that there are ways to re-engage.”

It turns out that even Trudeau-led Canadian Liberals have their limits when it comes to dealing with the Islamic Republic. As the Canadian broadcaster CBC reported, Ottawa dispatched two diplomatic missions in 2017 to explore a rapprochement. But there were two stumbling blocks. The Iranians insisted that Tehran should be removed from Canada’s list of terror-sponsoring nations, and the Canadians were determined to free various hostages held by the regime. The Iranians were apparently immovable on the matter of the hostages–that’s how they roll–and the Canadians were, in turn, unwilling to deny the basic truth about Iran’s role in sponsoring international terror.

Passage of the resolution doesn’t mean Canada is rethinking its support for Obama’s nuclear deal. But it underscores Iran’s growing isolation, as a new generation of Western leaders comes to learn that there are no “moderates” and “hard-liners” in Tehran–only tyrants and terrorists.

 

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IRAN’S QUDS DAY: IDEOLOGY OR INTERESTS?

Doron Itzchakov

Algemeiner, June 28, 2018

On June 8, the Islamic Republic of Iran held its annual “Quds Day” to express the nation’s support for the Palestinian struggle. Iran invests a great deal of effort into commemorating this event and mobilizes its citizens to flood the streets in solidarity with the Palestinians. But is the hostility toward Israel on display on Quds Day a reflection of pure ideology, or is it a product of Tehran’s desire to elevate its status as regional hegemon and leader of the Muslim world?

Quds Day (Ruz-e Jehani-ye Quds), which is marked in Iran annually on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan, broadcasts the Iranian government’s uncompromising rejection of Israel’s existence. As in previous years, many Iranian citizens both within the country and abroad took part in demonstrations, which included hate speeches by senior Iranian officials who called for the destruction of Israel, and the burning of US, Israeli, and even Saudi Arabian flags.

The decision to mark Quds Day, adopted by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini not long after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, was aimed at highlighting the approach of the revolutionary regime toward the Palestinian struggle. That approach was to challenge the ruling hegemony of the US and Western countries (the “arrogant powers”), and call for the unification of the Muslim world against their influence.

To determine the source of the Islamic Republic’s hostility towards Israel, it is useful to examine the historical context. The Islamic revolution, which was a culmination of Khomeini’s opposition to the Shah, occurred during a crisis in modern Islam. In Khomeini’s view, Iran’s precarious situation stemmed from the control of an autocratic monarch who had chosen to disengage from Islam. This had led to an unprecedented dependence on the US and the West, and Iran’s close ties with Israel at the time were part and parcel of that relationship.

It is difficult to determine exactly how Khomeini became aware of the ties between monarchist Iran and Israel, as the Shah’s regime made every effort to blur them for both internal and external reasons. However, Khomeini made much use of them in his preaching. In the introduction to his book Velayat-e Faqih Hokumat-e Eslami, he focused on identifying the enemies of Islam. This document, which over time became something of a constitution in the revolutionary political system, presented the Jews as enemies of Islam and placed Israel at the center of the axis of resistance for the Islamic Republic.

The expansion of ties between Iran and Israel in the 1960s, especially in the security, commerce, and agriculture fields, infuriated Khomeini. In his Ashura Day speech in June 1963, he described three circles with a common center that were barriers to Iran’s development.

In the outer circle, he placed the massacre in which Hussein bin Ali and his supporters were killed by Yazid ibn Mu’awiya and his army in the Battle of Karbala in the seventh century, which led to a fracture in the community of believers. In the middle circle, he placed the Shah’s declaration of the principles of the “White Revolution,” aimed at deepening the separation between religion and state. And in the innermost circle, he placed the connection between Iran and Israel, which in his opinion symbolized the disconnection of the ruler from the will of the people.

On June 5, 1963, Khomeini was arrested and imprisoned in Tehran, but the authorities allowed him to return to the city of Qom. A month later, he delivered another speech in which he attacked Israel’s involvement in a land reform initiative and the military cooperation between the two countries. In November 1964, Khomeini was exiled from Iran, but 15 years in exile did not diminish his influence. Upon his return, he established the Islamic Republic of Iran in February 1979, shut down Iran-Israel relations, and brought an end to the extensive bilateral network of contacts that the two countries had built over three decades.

Khomeini’s resolute opposition to Israel’s presence in the region became, over time, a model for those who sought to prove their loyalty to the man and his path. After his death in June 1989, his statements regarding Israel gained power. Despite differences of opinion, the various factions of the government presented a unified anti-Israel front…

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

Contents

On Topic Links

Inside the Iran Protests: An IPT Exclusive Video Report: Steven Emerson, IPT News, July 2, 2018—Anti-government protests throughout Iran are heating up, with security forces reportedly killing four protesters Saturday night.

State Department’s Brian Hook: Pompeo Presented Iran With “12 Demands To Become A Normal Country”: Real Clear Politics, July 2, 2018—State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook holds a news briefing to discuss diplomatic efforts with Iran.

Iran’s Hardliners Support Rouhani’s Push Back Against the United States: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, July 5, 2018—In light of the internal crisis in Iran created by chronic financial mismanagement and pending U.S. sanctions, the internal tension between the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani intensified.

Why Turkey Will Not Be Another Iran: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018—Is Turkey going to be another Iran? With President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest electoral victory the question is making the rounds in Western political circles. Despite the fact that Sunday’s election gives Erdogan immense new powers, my short answer to the question is a firm: no!

 

TURKEY’S ISLAMIST & AUTHORITARIAN POLITICS, AND ANTISEMITISM, DEEPEN WITH ERODGAN’S WIN

Turkey’s Election: Stockholm Syndrome at Its Worst: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 26, 2018— Nothing could have better explained the Turks’ joy over their president’s election victory on June 24 than a cartoon that depicts a cheering crowd with three lines in speech balloons: “It was a near thing,” one says.

The Iran-Turkey Switcheroo: Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary, June 25, 2018— Bernard Lewis issued a startling prediction in 2010: Iran—the land of scowling ayatollahs and flag burnings—would abandon Islamism by the end of the decade…

Trump Arms an Adversary: Bret Stephens, New York Times, June 22, 2018 — The Turkish Air Force took delivery of its first F-35A stealth plane this week at an elaborate rollout ceremony in Texas…

Anti-Semitism is on the Rise, from Berlin’s Streets to Turkish Grocery Stores: Robert Fulford, National Post, June 15, 2018— In Germany, of all places, anti-Semitism has recently made a fresh and ominous appearance.

On Topic Links

After Erdogan’s Victory, What Should Israel Do?: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, June 26, 2018

Turkey: Glorification of Murder, Martyrdom and Child Soldiers: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, June 19, 2018

U.S. Islamists Ignore Erdogan’s Authoritarianism, Celebrate Win: IPT News, June 26, 2018

Turkey Seeks Arrests of 138 for Links to US-Based Cleric: National Post, June 26, 2018

 

TURKEY’S ELECTION: STOCKHOLM SYNDROME AT ITS WORST

Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, June 26, 2018

 

Nothing could have better explained the Turks’ joy over their president’s election victory on June 24 than a cartoon that depicts a cheering crowd with three lines in speech balloons: “It was a near thing,” one says. “We would almost become free.” And the last one says: “Down with freedoms!”

Turkey’s Islamist strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, won 52.5% of the national vote in presidential elections on June 24. That marks a slight rise from 51.8% he won in presidential elections of August 2014. More than 25 million Turks voted for Erdoğan’s presidency. His closest rival, social democrat Muharrem Ince, an energetic former schoolteacher, won less than 16 million votes, or nearly 31% of the national vote. The opposition candidate admitted that the election was fair. There have been no reports of fraud from international observers, at least so far.

Despite the defeat, Ince was one of the many winners of Election 2018. For the first time since 1977 a social democrat politician won more than 30% of the vote in Turkey. Ince’s party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) won only 22.6% of the vote in the parliamentary race.

Despite Erdoğan’s clear victory, his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) performed worse than expected: It won 42.4% of the vote in parliamentary elections, down eight percentage points from the 49.5% it won in the previous parliamentary race in November 2015. That decline deprived the AKP of winning parliamentary majority, with 295 seats in Turkey’s 300-member house. Instead, AKP’s right-wing partners, the National Movement Party (MHP) unexpectedly won 49 seats, bringing the total number of seats controlled by the governing bloc up to 344, a comfortable majority.

The AKP-MHP alliance marks the official birth of Turkey’s new ruling ideology: A bloc of Islamists and nationalists that traditionally represent Turkey’s lowest educated rural population. Erdoğan may not be too happy having to share power with a party that was last in a coalition alliance in 2002 but with his AKP lacking a parliamentary majority he will have to keep the nationalists in partnership. He may also have to give them high-profile seats like vice-president and/or ministerial positions.

After election results on June 24 Turkey will be further dragged into authoritarian politics with the blend of Islamism and nationalism emerging as the new state ideology. Deep polarization in the Turkish society will probably get deeper. There are already signs. In a victory speech in the evening hours of June 24 Erdoğan’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said that the losers of the election were the “terrorists”. In this politically-divisive, pathetic logic, 47.5% of Turks are terrorists: that makes about 38.5 million people.

The national joy over the re-election of a man known best to the rest of the world for his authoritarian, sometimes despotic rule, is not surprising in a country where average schooling is a mere 6.5 years. As recently as April 2017, the Turks had already given up the remaining pieces of their democracy when they voted in favor of constitutional amendments that made Erdoğan head of the state, head of government and head of the ruling party all at the same time. The amendments gave the president almost unchecked powers and the authority to rule by decree.

In its “Freedom in the World 2018” report, Freedom House categorizes Turkey as a “not free” country due to “due to a deeply flawed constitutional referendum that centralized power in the presidency, the mass replacement of elected mayors with government appointees, arbitrary prosecutions of rights activists and other perceived enemies of the state, and continued purges of state employees, all of which have left citizens hesitant to express their views on sensitive topics”. Turkey also tops Freedom house’s list of countries where democracy has been on decline for the past decade. Ironically, even civil war-torn Syria is at the bottom of the list (meaning its democracy has declined the least among the countries surveyed).

Erdoğan’s Turkey was galloping toward dictatorship even before the Turks gave him the powers he wanted in the April 2017 referendum. Millions of anti-Erdoğan Turks are now terrified of the prospect of further torment under an Islamist-nationalist coalition show run by a president with effectively no checks and balances. Ince, the opposition candidate against Erdoğan has vowed to fight back. Let us hope he does not have to fight back from where many Erdoğan opponents have been locked up.

 

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THE IRAN-TURKEY SWITCHEROO                                                           

Sohrab Ahmari

Commentary, June 25, 2018

Bernard Lewis issued a startling prediction in 2010: Iran—the land of scowling ayatollahs and flag burnings—would abandon Islamism by the end of the decade, while Turkey—Washington’s stalwart Cold War ally—would turn away from the West and burrow deeper into its Muslim identity. Lewis is no longer with us, and there are still a few years left in his wager, but events in both countries are proving him remarkably prescient.

On Turkey, Lewis has already been vindicated. Witness the ballot-box triumph of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP. In the presidential contest over the weekend, Erdogan thumped his opponent, Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party, 53% to 31%. A smattering of pro-Kurdish and secular candidates divided the remaining ballots. Erdogan’s AKP and its allies also locked a majority of seats in Parliament.

The elections were not exactly fair. As the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observed, the state of emergency imposed following a 2016 coup attempt constricted “freedom of expression and assembly” for the opposition. Erdogan has used the emergency laws to dismiss more than 100,000 soldiers, teachers, police officers, and journalists. And some 50,000 people have been jailed and are awaiting trial, according to rights groups. With numerous opposition reporters languishing in prison, it came as no surprise that the ruling party dominated the media landscape, which led European Union officials to conclude that “conditions for campaigning were not equal.”

All this is par for the course with Erdogan, who first launched his power-grab in 2008. The opposition is right to complain of Erdogan’s efforts to hollow out Turkey’s independent institutions and remove checks on the AKP. Yet the fact remains that a substantial majority of Turks continue to elect Erdogan and the AKP in one plebiscite after another. In Erdogan these voters see, not a corrupt would-be dictator, but a visionary who has delivered jobs and growth and reasserted Turkey’s long-suppressed Islamic identity. A majority of Turks prefer a pious Turkey anchored in its Muslim neighborhood rather than in Europe. It is high time to recognize that, for now, Turkey is lost to the West.

That doesn’t mean the West should instantly sever all diplomatic, economic, and military ties to Turkey. But the old arrangements lack the sentimental and ideological glue that once held them together. Everything is fragile and tentative and subject to revision by the majoritarian strongman in Ankara—and the voters who form his durable base.

So far, the Bernard Lewis scenario has been borne out by events in Turkey. But what about Iran? There, too, events are tending in the direction foreseen by the great historian…(T)he Islamic Republic faces a profound legitimacy crisis at home, with not a day going by without some explosion of popular discontent. The ideological currents tossing the mullahs this way and that, I argue, are strongly nationalist. The slogans that daily ring out from the streets point to a growing revulsion with the regime’s Shiite-expansionist project, which has starved the national fisc, not to mention the population, and left the country sanctioned and isolated.

The latest slogan: “Death to Palestine!” You read that right. In a country that has become synonymous with Holocaust-denial cartoon contests and threats to wipe Israel off the map, people are chanting “Death to Palestine.” Iranians don’t have a beef with Palestinians, of course. But they have had it with their regime’s decades-long underwriting of Hezbollah, Hamas, and other Palestinian terror groups. Why is our national wealth going to Gaza, they ask, rather than to Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz? The regime has no good answer to such questions. It has to resort to the truncheon, and that may work for a time, perhaps for many more years. But not forever. Bernard Lewis is surely smiling somewhere.

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TRUMP ARMS AN ADVERSARY

Bret Stephens

New York Times, June 22, 2018

The Turkish Air Force took delivery of its first F-35A stealth plane this week at an elaborate rollout ceremony in Texas that featured, according to one report, “traditional music and song together with a dancer who performed … while wearing a pair of massive leather wings.” If the performance was bizarre, the underlying politics ranged from the incompetent to the perverse. In a word: Trumpian. In an era of American baby prisons and Melania meta-messaging, it can be difficult to pay attention to the things that used to matter. So here’s a quick primer on our former ally Turkey, which on Sunday goes to the polls for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Its economy is in crisis. The leader of a major opposition party is in prison. A state of emergency, in force since a failed 2016 military coup, has resulted in the estimated detention of nearly 140,000 people, the closure of 189 media outlets, and the arrest of more than 300 journalists.

The Turkish military nearly came to blows last year with U.S. forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria. It also intends to purchase advanced Russian antiaircraft missiles that are incompatible with NATO systems. An American pastor, Andrew Brunson, has been held in a Turkish prison for nearly two years — hostage to the Turkish government efforts to extradite dissident cleric Fethullah Gulen from his home in Pennsylvania.

All this has been the doing of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist and vitriolic anti-Semite (he once decried the “Jewish capital” allegedly financing The Times), who has steadily consolidated authoritarian power over 15 years in power. Erdogan was once genuinely popular, but his recent electoral victories have been increasingly marred by serious allegations of voter intimidation and electoral fraud.

Good news? Well, yes, there is some. Precisely because Erdogan has driven the economy off a cliff, there’s a modest chance he’ll have to face a runoff election next month, and a decent chance his A.K.P. party won’t get a majority in Parliament. Opposition candidates are more united against Erdogan than they’ve ever been, and they’ve drawn huge numbers at their rallies.

What’s an American administration to do? Turkey poses honest quandaries for U.S. policymakers. Are we better off, to use Lyndon Johnson’s line about J. Edgar Hoover, with Erdogan “inside the tent, pissing out, than outside pissing in”? Turkey dominates NATO’s southern flank, and the air base at Incirlik has served a useful role in the fight against the Islamic State. There have been calls to kick Turkey out of the Alliance — exactly how isn’t clear — which might be emotionally satisfying and morally justified. But it would do nothing to improve Ankara’s domestic or international behavior and would probably worsen it.

None of that means, however, that the U.S. should lift a finger on Erdogan’s behalf. Barack Obama tried to embrace him early on as a model for Muslim democracy, a policy that proved to be nearly as fruitless as the Russia Reset. Trump, who has yet to appoint an ambassador to Turkey, has gone further, fulsomely calling Erdogan “a friend of mine” who gets “very high marks” for his leadership.

That may not be surprising, since Trump seems never to have met a thug he doesn’t want to imitate and flatter. What’s inexplicable is why the administration, led by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, would go ahead with the F-35 deliveries after Republican and Democratic senators tried to block the delivery until Turkey releases Pastor Brunson, drops its bid to buy Russian missiles, and improves its overall behavior.

The F-35 was leverage. We just squandered it. Worse, we did it just days before the election, handing Erdogan a political prize that he can wield as evidence that the United States doesn’t dare to oppose him and that he can continue to behave as he pleases. In the meantime, a country now moving into Russia’s orbit will acquire one of the most sophisticated pieces of military hardware ever made.

If and when Erdogan goes fully anti-American — he’s already nine-tenths of the way there — what’s to keep him from allowing Russian technicians to take a closer look, so they might gain a better idea of how to shoot it down? Or from using it against American allies in the region, including Israel? If Obama were making this delivery today, Republicans would call it treason.

It will be a lucky thing for Turks if Erdogan fails to win another mandate for five more years of political, social and ethnic repression. Turkey is a beautiful country of remarkable people that could yet show that a Muslim state can also be prosperous, tolerant and democratic.

Should that happen, history will record that the United States did nothing to help, and much to hinder, the forces of freedom. As with so much that the Trump administration does, it’s not a surprise, but it’s still a shock.

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ANTI-SEMITISM IS ON THE RISE,

FROM BERLIN’S STREETS TO TURKISH GROCERY STORES            

Robert Fulford

National Post, June 15, 2018

 

In Germany, of all places, anti-Semitism has recently made a fresh and ominous appearance. It became clear when mobs in Berlin reacted to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by waving Palestinian flags while burning Israel’s flag beneath the Brandenburg Gate.

This is one of many countries where a revived anti-Semitism is apparent — Canada and the U.S. are others, where anti-Jewish vandalism is increasing. The German government considers it so disturbing that a commission has been created to deal specifically with prejudice against Jews. Polling in recent years indicates that old stereotypes still live on in the German imagination. For instance, about 10 per cent of the population apparently believes that Jews are now too powerful in Germany.

Sawsan Chebli, a deputy minister in the Berlin government, has argued that Germans should know more about the Holocaust, the central crime of their history. She thinks every student in Germany should make at least one visit to a death camp — a fairly sure way of grasping the emotional and moral impact of triumphant anti-Semitism.

Chebli is a 39-year-old German-born daughter of Palestinian asylum seekers. She’s said that, “My father is a pious Muslim, hardly speaks German, can neither read nor write, but he is more integrated than many functionaries of the AfD (the powerful, popular Allianz für Deutschland).” By “integrated” she means he grasps the meaning of German history.

The AfD, a right-wing party proud of its patriotism, holds that Germany is self-destructively obsessed with the Nazi past. While not anti-Semitic, it holds that Germany should be seen as a “normal” state, rather than a place known mainly for its shameful behaviour. But is it possible to kill six million people and be judged “normal” seven decades later? The AfD hopes to forget the past, not really a possibility.

But if Germany has a troubling amount of anti-Jewish bigotry, Turkey is experiencing a tidal wave. Attacks on synagogues are reported, and programming on the government-owned TV network is clearly anti-Jewish. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other politicians from the ruling AKP use Jews and Israel as scapegoats in campaigning for the general election on June 24. The state-controlled media recently blamed the “Jewish lobby” for the sudden drop of the value in Turkish currency.

On social media the treatment of Jews is outrageous. “Hitler and Nazi Germany will be known and remembered with gratitude and respect” is one line that appears. Another is a quote attributed to Hitler: “One day you will curse me for every Jew I did not kill.”

In Turkey, Adolf Hitler has become a hero and a best-seller. Mein Kampf sells as many as 50,000 copies a year. Publishers feverishly pursue Hitler’s admirers. Thirty-five separate publishing houses have printed translations by at least 21 different translators. Eight new editions came out in 2016, nine in 2017. Hitler’s manic memoirs are now on sale not only in bookstores but also in supermarkets, including the 1,800 stores in the Migros chain.

After all these years, what can they find in Hitler, these Turkish readers? Perhaps they are simply looking for confirmation of what they have always believed. Prejudice teaches envy, which leads to malice. Jews are seen as too prosperous and too powerful. Reuven Brenner, a management professor writing last week in the Wall Street Journal, sees this as a result of Jewish history.

“Self-reliance has been a necessity,” he explains. The Jews were never numerous enough to achieve much in politics or through military power. They focused on scientific, commercial and financial success. “Jews’ success through ages and countries despite severe discrimination” encourages jealousy in those who blame others for their own lack of achievement. Anti-Semitism is in essence a narrative of vain ambitions and failed dreams. It is immune to rational argument but that’s part of its power: it appeals to those who would like to think but cannot.

 

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On Topic Links

After Erdogan’s Victory, What Should Israel Do?: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, June 26, 2018—Gazans might have shot off fireworks in celebration, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may have put in a congratulatory call, but there was obviously no joy in Jerusalem on Tuesday at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s victory – and that of his party – in Sunday’s election.

Turkey: Glorification of Murder, Martyrdom and Child Soldiers: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, June 19, 2018—Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz recently announced that the government was shutting down a Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna and dissolving a group called the Arab Religious Community that runs six mosques, according to the Associated Press. “Parallel societies, political Islam and tendencies toward radicalization have no place in our country,” Kurz told reporters.

U.S. Islamists Ignore Erdogan’s Authoritarianism, Celebrate Win: IPT News, June 26, 2018—A number of American-Islamists are hailing Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan’s election Monday to a new five-year term as a win for democracy.

Turkey Seeks Arrests of 138 for Links to US-Based Cleric: National Post, June 26, 2018—Turkey’s state-run news agency says authorities have issued initial detention warrants for 138 people, including military personnel, for suspected links to a network led by a U.S.-based cleric who Turkey accuses of orchestrating a 2016 failed coup attempt.