Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
L'institut Canadien de Recherches sur le Judaisme
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Tag: Iran

IRAN’S ONGOING NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES & HEGEMONIC AMBITION THREATEN REGIONAL STABILITY

Iran’s Violent Influence Threatens Israel and its Arab Neighbors: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Jan. 29, 2019— Wherever violence and aggression flare up around Israel’s borders, Iran or one of its proxies can be found. Iran’s persistent subversion and promotion of terrorism is not only a threat to Israel, but also to its Arab Sunni neighbors, who stand in the way of Tehran’s radical designs for the Middle East.                                                                                                                  

Iran Continues with its Nuclear Activities Unabated: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, January 23, 2019— Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi has stated that Iran will transfer 30 tons of “yellow cake” (a raw material used to produce nuclear fuel) from the production site in Ardakan to Isfahan. Salehi did not mention the name of the installation, but it seems that he was referring to the UCF (uranium conversion facility) in Isfahan.

Terrorism is Making Europe Think Again About Appeasing Iran. Benny Avni, New York Post, Jan. 22, 2019 — Et tu, Angela? Tehran must be quite confused this week, as Germany, until now the most enthusiastic Iran enabler among the Western powers, hopped on the sanctions wagon. So, is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government adopting President Trump’s sensibilities?

Time’s Up for the EU’s Appeasement Policy on Iran. Struan Stevenson, UPI, Jan. 23, 2019— It is time for the EU to pull out of the nuclear deal with Islamic Republic of Iran.

On Topic Links

Russian Deputy FM Reiterates Commitment to Israel’s Security: Ariel Kahana & Daniel Siryoti, Israel Hayom, Jan. 30, 2019

Nearly all of Iran’s Advanced Nuke Centrifuges Failing, Top Expert Reveals: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, January 30, 2019

Cyber Firm Says Iranian-Linked Espionage Group Targeting Telecom, High-Tech Industries: Olivia Beavers, The Hill, Jan. 29, 2019

Sunni and Arab Opposition Attack the Iranian Regime’s Security Forces and Critical Infrastructure: JCPA, Jan. 31, 2019

 

IRAN’S VIOLENT INFLUENCE THREATENS

ISRAEL AND ITS ARAB NEIGHBORS                                                                  

Yaakov Lappin                                                                                 

IPT News, Jan. 29, 2019

Wherever violence and aggression flare up around Israel’s borders, Iran or one of its proxies can be found. Iran’s persistent subversion and promotion of terrorism is not only a threat to Israel, but also to its Arab Sunni neighbors, who stand in the way of Tehran’s radical designs for the Middle East.

This pattern was on display in recent days. On Jan. 21, the Israeli Air Force destroyed a number of targets in Syria belonging to the Quds Force, the elite Iranian expeditionary force, led by General Qassem Soleimani. The Quds Force has been trying to build an Iranian-run terrorist army in Syria, and missile bases, to threaten Israel. But Israel has been able to thwart many of these efforts. In an attempt to change the “rules of the game,” and deter Israel from continuing to defend itself, a Quds Force cell fired a missile at Israel’s Golan Heights region, threatening civilian lives, before Israeli air defenses shot down the threat.

Iran emerged from this round of fighting fairly poorly, losing valuable assets, including weapons storage facilities that it built at Damascus’s International Airport. Yet just a few days later, Iran’s chief proxy in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), began gun attacks on the Israel-Gaza border, threatening to plunge the Strip into a new conflict. A new Gaza war would endanger the security of Gazan and Israeli civilians alike. “In recent weeks, we have monitored increasing attempts by the Islamic Jihad movement to destabilize the security situation in the Gaza Strip,” an Israel Defense Forces statement said. When a PIJ sniper fired a shot at an IDF officer, striking his helmet, Israel responded with tank fire on Hamas outposts, killing a Hamas operative. Israel’s message to Hamas was simple: Get PIJ under control.

But it isn’t just Israel that delivered a warning to Hamas, itself a radical Islamist regime that has partnered up with Iran. According to a recent report that appeared in the Israel Hayom Hebrew daily newspaper, Egypt delivered the very same message to Gaza’s rulers. “Cairo has made it clear that [Hamas political chief Ismail] Haniyeh must decide whether Hamas takes its orders from Tehran or continues to implement the understandings for calm formulated by the head of Egyptian intelligence Abbas Kamel,” the report, quoting an Egyptian intelligence official, said.

Egypt’s message represents a larger struggle for influence in Gaza. It is a struggle being waged between radical Shi’ite Iran and its terror proxies, and moderate Sunni Egypt. Iran is seeking to set Gaza alight with conflict, while Egypt is seeking to douse the flames, and counter-balance Iran’s destabilization efforts. In this struggle, Israel and Egypt’s interests align – both are threatened by Iran’s activities. Hamas, for its part, cannot casually ignore Egypt’s demands, since the Arab regional power is right on its doorstep, and controls the Strip’s sole crossing to the outside world.

After sealing it shut during the latest border violence, Egypt will reportedly open the Rafah Crossing with Gaza, giving Gazans who wish to travel out of their repressive Hamas-run enclave an outlet, and allowing the movement of goods. Such a move is good for Gaza’s economy, and takes the pressure off Hamas. When open, Rafah is a carrot that Egypt can offer Hamas as a reward for following Cairo’s directives. When it is shut, it turns into a stick, or a chokehold, reminding Hamas that Iran is geographically distant and that Cairo’s influence is far more immediate. Still, all of these efforts represent short-term push back against Iran. The Islamic Republic continues to wield a significant influence on Gaza through its financial support of Hamas and PIJ, and the knowledge sharing it conducts with them on weapons manufacturing and combat doctrines. These have helped turn Hamas into a mass rocket and urban warfare base. In Syria, Iran has not given up its takeover ambitions.

The situation was well described by a senior Israeli military source last year, during a briefing to journalists.

“The risks are all around us. Whether it is instability in Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon – also a forward Iranian division – or Hamas, which gets its support from Iran. Iran is all over, offensively trying to operate against Israel, and we have to weigh and assess the risks constantly as we operate against this aggression.” The officer described a large-scale shadow war, saying, “We are operating around the Middle East against the Iranian buildup up force. The aim of our line of operations and our decisiveness is to deter and dissuade and counter Iranian activities in the region. What we see is very dangerous to regional stability.”

 

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IRAN CONTINUES WITH ITS NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES UNABATED

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

JCPA, January 23, 2019

Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi has stated that Iran will transfer 30 tons of “yellow cake” (a raw material used to produce nuclear fuel) from the production site in Ardakan to Isfahan. Salehi did not mention the name of the installation, but it seems that he was referring to the UCF (uranium conversion facility) in Isfahan.

Salehi suggested that Iran would continue to “discover and mine” uranium, construct two additional nuclear power reactors in the Bushehr province as planned, and continue with its activities at the heavy water reactor in Arak. Iran has purchased new equipment for the facility and did not even fill in the core of the reactor with cement in January 2016 in accordance with the nuclear deal (also known as the JCPOA) because “if we had done that, there would not be a reactor.” In accordance with the JCPOA, Iran was required to fill the calandria, or reactor core, at the Arak facility with cement to render it unusable. On January 16, 2016, the IAEA Board of Governors released a report by the Director General, which confirmed that Iran had removed and “rendered inoperable” the Arak facility’s calandria. Salehi clarified that Iran under JCPOA removed the calandria from the Arak reactor and poured cement into metal tubes contained within fuel bundles.

In January 2016, several other reports of the removal of the core of the reactor and filling it in with cement were also published. Some of these have since been denied, and the issue continues to arouse dispute within Iran among the supporters and the opponents of the nuclear agreement.

During an interview (on January 22, 2019) on the Face to Face program5 (Channel 4, TV-IRIB) that was part of commemorations of the 40th anniversary of the Revolution, Salehi criticized claims by the conservative camp that Iran had completely sealed the core of the reactor. He claimed that images published at the time were photo-shopped, and Iran was never required (in the agreement) to seal the core of the reactor with cement. Instead, this applied to other parts of it. He added that construction on the heavy water reactor in Arak was not completed during the time of the debates on the nuclear deal. Salehi emphasized throughout the interview, which discussed the achievements of the Iranian nuclear deal, its progress also during the implementation of the nuclear agreement.

In the same context, Behrooz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, stated that Iran is redesigning the heavy water reactor in Arak with Chinese aid, but it can also do so without any assistance. The partnership with China is supposed to speed up the completion of the program. He defined Iran’s nuclear plan as “logical” and said that even with the cancelation of the nuclear agreement, there would not be any change.

Salehi said that, “as one who is responsible for all technical aspects (of the nuclear program),” he was “thankful to Allah for the way in which the discussions relating to the technical aspects of the nuclear talks were conducted, as they left so many breaches in the agreement that Iran was able to exploit, doing things that the other side could not claim were a violation of the nuclear agreement. [Emphasis added.] We can manufacture UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) and continue with the technical work.”

“Iran has lost nothing as a result of signing the agreement,” Salehi continued, “and history will prove this. We have preserved our capabilities in the field of enrichment. We are providing products for other industries and are continuing to manufacture new centrifuges. We are doing everything we need to do, but this time in the right way.”…

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

 

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TERRORISM IS MAKING EUROPE THINK AGAIN ABOUT APPEASING IRAN

Benny Avni                                                

New York Post, Jan. 22, 2019

 

Et tu, Angela? Tehran must be quite confused this week, as Germany, until now the most enthusiastic Iran enabler among the Western powers, hopped on the sanctions wagon. So, is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government adopting President Trump’s sensibilities? Sort of.

On Monday, Berlin announced a complete ban against Mahan Air, a “civilian” airline that doubles as an adjunct to the Iranian regime’s nefarious activities across the Middle East. The decision came, reportedly, after months of US efforts to persuade the Germans that Mahan is no ordinary carrier. As the US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, told me in an email, “Mahan Air has flown terrorists, weapons, equipment and funds to international locations to support Iranian terrorist proxy groups,” including Syria’s murderous Assad regime. He thanked Germany for imposing the ban.

Denying American pressure, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told Reuters: “It cannot be ruled out that this airline could also transport cargo to Germany that threatens our security. This is based on knowledge of past terrorist activities by Iran in Europe.” Germany’s move may signal a wider souring of Europe’s love affair with Iran, which culminated in the 2015 nuclear deal. The European Union also recently imposed sanctions on Iran, which, however symbolic, were a first since the deal.

Why? Terrorism. Copenhagen recently stopped a planned attack on Iranian dissidents in Denmark, and last summer European authorities unraveled a major bombing plot in Paris that targeted Iranian regime opponents. So the march to normalize ­Europe’s relations with Tehran is slowing down. In addition to detecting a new uptick in Iranian terror plots on the continent, Europe is frustrated as Iran experiments with ballistic missiles of ever-longer range. Last week saw the launch of a satellite on an ICBM-like platform that could reach over the Atlantic.

Europe has long advocated engagement with Tehran in the hope of strengthening regime “moderates.” Now Iran seems increasingly intent on not letting the Europeans help it. As Reuters put it in a recent headline, “Europe’s patience with Iran wears thin, tiptoes toward Trump.” The German about-face is especially remarkable. Berlin has been among the most adamant European advocates of ending Iran sanctions. Closely working with EU foreign policy czar Federica Mogherini, Merkel has even sought to create a banking mechanism for the sole purpose of helping the mullahs thwart the US-imposed sanctions.

Germany would help run the proposed European “special-purpose vehicle” to preserve the mullahs’ access to financial markets. While Iranian officials recently boasted that the SPV is already up and running, EU officials keep saying it will be ready, well, very soon. Problem is, even top Iran ­apologists and European industrialists eager to make deals with the mullahs can’t turn a blind eye to Tehran’s misbehavior. And while Ambassador Grenell is hotly criticized in Germany for pressuring Merkel, facts are on his side.

Grenell, incidentally, has pushed Germany on other issues beyond Iran. He has been a withering critic of Nord Stream 2, a proposed pipeline that would bring Russian natural gas directly into Germany, isolating the Kremlin-endangered states of Central and Eastern Europe. “More Russian gas in Europe only increases Putin’s leverage at a time when the international community is concerned about the growing Russian offense,” Grenell tells me.

Germany, however, has long vied to become an impartial mediator ­between America and its European partners, on the one hand, and Russia and China, on the other. As a ­result, it has often been hard to tell which side Berlin is on. Perhaps we will learn more next month, when high-level diplomats meet in Warsaw to discuss Iran and other Mideast questions. Russia announced it won’t show up. Iran wasn’t invited.

And Germany? Merkel has yet to announce whom she plans to send. Will it be Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart? If, alternatively, Merkel sends a low-level ­official, she would signal that this week’s sanctions against Mahan Air were a one-off. Merkel is unpopular at home and plans to step down in 2021, ending 16 years at the helm. America can’t wait until her successor changes course. Efforts to nudge Germany — and the rest of Europe — to America’s side on Iran and other issues are beginning to bear fruit. Trump should intensify them.

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TIME’S UP FOR THE EU’S APPEASEMENT POLICY ON IRAN

Struan Stevenson

UPI, Jan. 23, 2019

It is time for the EU to pull out of the nuclear deal with Islamic Republic of Iran. The appeasement policy of the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, has been an abject failure, simply emboldening the mullahs to order assassination attempts against opposition figures in Europe and brazenly to fire ballistic missiles into Syria. Mogherini was one of the main proponents of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that was signed in Vienna on July 14, 2015 and involved five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: China, Russia, France, the U.K. and the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump called the JCPOA the worst deal in history, pointing out that it led to the release of over $150 billion in frozen assets, enabling the theocratic state to redouble its funding of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq.

Last October, the U.S. State Department published a 48-page report titled “Outlaw Regime: A Chronicle of Iran’s Destructive Activities.” In a foreword, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained why Trump had decided to withdraw from Obama’s nuclear deal, calling it “a failed strategic bet that fell short of protecting the American people or our allies from the potential of an Iranian nuclear weapon.” He pointed out that Barack Obama’s deal had “plainly failed to contribute to regional and international peace and security.” In fact, he said, “Iran’s destabilizing behavior has grown bolder under the deal.” Pompeo said, “We are asking every nation who is sick and tired of the Islamic Republic’s destructive behavior to join our pressure campaign. This especially goes for our allies in the Middle East and Europe, people who have themselves been terrorized by the violent regime’s activity for decades.”

Pompeo’s remarks followed a rash of terror events sponsored by the mullahs in Europe. On July 1, German police arrested Assadollah Assadi, a diplomat from the Iranian Embassy in Vienna, and charged him with terrorist offenses. The day before, Belgian police had arrested an Iranian-Belgian couple from Antwerp after 500 gm of high explosives and a detonator were found in their car. They admitted Assadi had given them the bomb and instructed them to detonate it at the Iranian democratic opposition rally being held in Villepinte, France, near Paris, that day. President Emmanuel Macron of France declared his outrage at this attempted terrorist atrocity on French soil and imposed immediate sanctions on Iran.

Undeterred by this embarrassing setback, in October, Iran sent another diplomat to assassinate an opposition figure in Denmark. He was also arrested and is now facing trial. Similar terror plots were uncovered in Albania, where Iran’s newly appointed ambassador and first secretary were found to be leading Ministry of Intelligence & Security agents, plotting attacks on the 2,500 Iranian dissidents from the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI or MEK) who have set up a compound near Tirana. Albania’s courageous Prime Minister Edi Rama did not hesitate. He announced the expulsion of both so-called Iranian “diplomats” last December, on the grounds that they posed a threat to Albania’s national security.

Despite clear evidence that Iranian embassies in Europe were being used as terrorist bomb factories, EU lawmakers on July 5 — less than a week after the Iranian diplomat from Vienna was arrested — approved plans for the European Investment Bank to do business with the ruling theocracy in Iran, in a desperate bid to keep the 2015 nuclear deal alive. Europe’s leading appeaser, Mogherini, has been a frequent visitor to Tehran, where she pays homage to the ayatollahs, donning a headscarf to offer submission to the clerical regime’s misogyny, even posing for selfies with the mullahs. Now she has decided to snub an anti-Iran conference organized by Pompeo in Warsaw, Poland, in mid-February.

But Mogherini’s efforts at conciliation appear to have fallen on deaf ears in Europe. It has been reported that a delegation of leading EU diplomats from France, the U.K., Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands had a volatile meeting earlier this month in Tehran. They told senior Iranian officials that the EU could no longer tolerate ballistic missile tests in Iran and assassination attempts on European soil. Apparently, in an unprecedented breach of protocol, the Iranian officials stormed out of the room, slamming the door.

Clearly, the mullahs are deeply perplexed. A state of total confusion has persisted ever since Trump tore up the nuclear deal and reimposed tough sanctions. For many EU countries, assassination attempts on their own soil were the last straw. Sanctions approved now by France, Denmark and the Netherlands and threats of further action by a widening range of EU member states, have isolated Mogherini and her disastrous policy of appeasement. The time is right for the EU to follow America’s example and pull the plug on the nuclear deal.

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On Topic Links

Russian Deputy FM Reiterates Commitment to Israel’s Security: Ariel Kahana & Daniel Siryoti, Israel Hayom, Jan. 30, 2019

Although the Kremlin has contradicted itself about its relations with Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a delegation of senior Russian officials in Jerusalem on Tuesday to discuss the situation in neighboring Syria.

Nearly all of Iran’s Advanced Nuke Centrifuges Failing, Top Expert Reveals: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, January 30, 2019Nearly all of Iran’s advanced centrifuges used for enriching uranium potentially towards a nuclear bomb are failing, one of the world’s leading nuclear weapons experts revealed to The Jerusalem Post this week.

Cyber Firm Says Iranian-Linked Espionage Group Targeting Telecom, High-Tech Industries: Olivia Beavers, The Hill, Jan. 29, 2019 A cyber espionage group linked to Iran has targeted telecommunications and high-tech industries in order to steal personal information, according to a new report.

Sunni and Arab Opposition Attack the Iranian Regime’s Security Forces and Critical Infrastructure: JCPA, Jan. 31, 2019Toward the end of January 2019, two terror attacks were carried out in Iran by Sunni (the Army of Justice – Jaish ul-Adl) and Arab (the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, or ASMLA) opposition movements. Both of these opposition movements, as well as other opposition organizations, have increased their attacks on the security forces of the Iranian regime in recent months, as well as on the regime’s energy and economic infrastructures.

 

IRAN’S MISSILE ATTACKS AND ENTRENCHMENT IN SYRIA RISK CONFRONTATION WITH ISRAEL AND U.S.

Iran Is Ready to Take Risks in its Struggle with Israel: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Jan. 21, 2019 — In response to an attack on qualitative Iranian targets in the Damascus, Syria, region, which was carried out on January 20, 2019, the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guard fired a medium-range surface-to-surface missile at the Hermon Region.

John Bolton Is Threatening Iran. Good.: Ray Takeyh, Politico, Jan. 15, 2019— The latest news to rattle the Washington establishment is that John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has asked the Pentagon for military options against Iran.

It’s Time to Ramp up the Pressure on Iran. Here’s How: Kaveh Shahrooz, National Post, Jan. 16, 2019 — Once they reconvene in February, Canada’s senators will be presented with a unique opportunity to pursue human rights in Iran in a new and effective way…

On MLK Day, the Future of African-American and Jewish Relations Hangs in the Balance: Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman, Algemeiner, Jan. 21, 2019 — On this Martin Luther King Day, the future of African-American and Jewish relations hangs in the balance.

On Topic Links

Arbor Day (Tu Bishvat) Guide for the Perplexed, 2019: Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 20, 2019

Arafat and the Ayatollahs: Tony Badran, Tablet, Jan. 16, 2019

Why They Stay: Roya Hakakian, Tablet, Jan. 14, 2019

A Forbidden Story Makes its Way Into Iran: Peter O’Brien, Globe and Mail, Jan. 4, 2019

 

IRAN IS READY TO TAKE RISKS IN ITS STRUGGLE WITH ISRAEL

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira

JCPA, Jan. 21, 2019

In response to an attack on qualitative Iranian targets in the Damascus, Syria, region, which was carried out on January 20, 2019, the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guard fired a medium-range surface-to-surface missile at the Hermon Region. Apparently, the attack had been planned for a long time and approved by the Iranian regime in Tehran. The missile was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system.

This is not the first time that Iran has reacted to an Israeli aerial attack on Iranian targets in Syria. On May 10, 2018, the Qods Force fired more than 30 Grad and Fajr rockets toward Israel. Most of them fell inside Syrian territory, and some of them were intercepted by Israel without causing any casualties. However, this time, the Qods Force fired a more accurate surface-to-surface missile toward the Hermon region, rather than at the outskirts of the Golan Heights. Moreover, this missile attack occurred during daylight hours. The significance of firing the missile during the day was that it was clear to the Qods Force that there were hundreds of Israeli tourists visiting the area and a ski resort.

This attack indicated Iran’s readiness to ratchet up the level of violence and take greater risks of a strong Israeli reaction, thereby leading to a military deterioration with Israel. If reports that some of the targets attacked by Israel were close to the Qods Force command building in the Damascus region are true, from the viewpoint of Iran, it can no longer tolerate Israeli attacks. This is certainly the case after the end of Israel’s ambiguous policy of claiming the military actions and its readiness to take direct responsibility for attacks on Iranian targets in Syria.

Therefore, it would seem that at this stage, we are facing a new strategic situation with regard to Israel’s dealing with Iran in Syria. At its foundation lies the risk that Iran, through the Qods Force, will intensify its reactions to Israeli attacks on Syria and is even prepared to enter into a limited conflict with Israel. By no coincidence, the Iranian press released this statement by Iran’s Air Force commander Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh: “The young people in the air force are fully ready and impatient to confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the Earth.”        Contents

   

JOHN BOLTON IS THREATENING IRAN. GOOD.

Ray Takeyh

Politico, Jan. 15, 2019

The latest news to rattle the Washington establishment is that John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has asked the Pentagon for military options against Iran. The commentariat and the Democrats in exile are aghast and insist that such bellicosity will only invite belligerence from Iran. Many former Obama administration officials fear that Bolton’s truculence may lead Iran to resume its nuclear program. But the truth is that when dealing with Iran, threats usually work while blandishments only whet the appetite of the mullahs who run the country.

No president was more concerned with the Islamic revolutionaries’ sensibilities than Jimmy Carter. Even after Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostages, Carter hoped to resolve the crisis in a manner that did not jeopardize the possibility of resuming ties with the theocracy. Such deference helped prolong the crisis for 444 days and essentially doomed Carter’s presidency. However, during the long hostage saga, on one occasion, Carter took forceful action and his policy actually worked. After the storming of the embassy, there was much loose talk in Tehran that the U.S. officials would be put on trial. The administration sent a private note to Iran that any harm done to the hostages would provoke American military retaliation. Soon, all the talk of public trial was quietly shelved. This proved to be a lesson not learned, not just by Carter but by many other American statesmen who would go on to deal with Iran.

The Reagan administration may best be known for the Iran-Contra affair, whereby it traded arms for the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Iran’s Hezbollah proxy. However, the tragic and accidental shooting down of an Iranian commercial airliner in July 1988 was actually critical to ending the Iran-Iraq war. For eight years, Iran had rebuffed all entreaties and offers of diplomatic mediation, as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini held tight to his goal of deposing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein irrespective of the conflict’s human toll. By the summer of 1988, there was an ongoing conflict between American naval ships and Iranian speed boats laying down mines in the Gulf waters. As the confrontation on the high seas was taking place, an Iranian passenger plane was making its way to Dubai. As the aircraft approached, the USS Vincennes mistook it for a hostile vessel and shot it down, killing 290 passengers.

Despite days of mourning and incendiary speeches, Iran’s reaction was basically subdued, as Tehran appreciated that the asymmetry of power militated against escalation of the conflict. The one dramatic consequence of downing the passenger plane was that it finally persuaded the clerical elite that it was time to abandon the war with Iraq—they mistakenly believed the shooting down of the Airbus was a prelude to America entering the war on Saddam’s behalf with the purpose of overthrowing the Islamic Republic. Even Khomeini, who was indifferent to the loss of human life, proved too respectful of American power to persist with a war that he felt might now include the United States. So Khomeini opted for an armistice, which he famously compared to drinking a “poisoned chalice.”

The world’s handling of Iran’s nuclear ambitions is also instructive. For much of its tenure in power, the Islamic Republic has maintained a nuclear apparatus. And by late 1990s, it was busy establishing an elaborate and clandestine facility in Natanz, approximately 200 miles south of Tehran. Iran was also active in developing plutonium capabilities. The uranium conversion facility in Isfahan and the nearly completed heavy-water production plant in Arak demonstrated the scope of a program that had been effectively concealed from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Islamic Republic had carefully constructed a nuclear infrastructure that offered it multiple paths to the bomb.

All this came crashing down in 2002, when an opposition group revealed Tehran’s secrets. Ali Khamenei, Khomeini’s successor as supreme leader, immediately understood that he had a serious problem on his hands. The revelations came at a time when America was feeling shock-and-awe confidence in the wake of its rapid displacement of the Taliban in Afghanistan and on the cusp of destruction of the Baathist regime in Iraq in three weeks. The latter campaign shocked an Iranian political establishment that had been confidently told by its military leaders that America could not discharge that task with such ease and speed. The fear in Tehran was that America would next turn its gaze on the Islamic Republic.

So what happened next? President George W. Bush’s inclusion of Iran in his “axis of evil” speech alarmed Iranian leaders. It was time for the clerical state to buy time and wait for the storm to pass. It was at this juncture that Iran cut a deal with the so-called EU-3—Britain, France and Germany—to suspend all aspects of its nuclear program. This suspension would last for two years. By then, America found itself in a sectarian civil war in Iraq that was inflamed by Iran and its proxies. Once America became distracted in Iraq, Iran resumed its enrichment activities. Still, the lesson of 2003 is that threats work in compelling Iran to abandon its nuclear program far more than all the diplomacy that ensued in the coming decade.

Trump and Bolton are the latest American policymakers to unsettle the Islamic Republic. The signs coming out of the White House may at times be ambiguous, but the tough talk and the tough actions have had an impact in Tehran. The U.S. has withdrawn from the flawed Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran that have knocked off nearly a million barrels from its oil exports and crippled its economy. And yet the U.S. has faced no retaliatory Iranian response. The Islamic Republic has maintained its compliance with the nuclear agreement and will likely do so during the duration of the Trump presidency. Why? Because it respects and fears the power of the United States when wielded appropriately. The lesson: American determination, forcefully expressed, usually yields Iranian retreat.

The American strategist who seems to have internalized the right lessons in dealing with Iran is John Bolton. He appreciates Iran’s history of creating chaos in the Middle East and the fallacy of an arms control agreement that was paving its way toward the bomb. More important, he seems to appreciate that threats work better than soothing words in tempering a theocratic regime destined for the ash heap of history.

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IT’S TIME TO RAMP UP THE PRESSURE ON IRAN. HERE’S HOW

Kaveh Shahrooz

National Post, Jan. 16, 2019

Once they reconvene in February, Canada’s senators will be presented with a unique opportunity to pursue human rights in Iran in a new and effective way — through a new Iran-focused motion tabled by Conservative Sen. Linda Frum, condemning the Iranian regime’s human rights violations. The motion calls for the use of Canada’s Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (the Sergei Magnitsky law) to “sanction Iranian government … entities and individuals involved in egregious human rights abuses.”

While its language is largely consistent with an earlier opposition motion adopted in the House of Commons in June 2018 (with the surprise backing of the Trudeau Liberals), the new motion’s call for the application of Magnitsky sanctions is novel. Magnitsky laws — recently adopted by a number of Western countries and named after a Russian lawyer killed by Vladimir Putin’s government — are designed to sanction foreign officials implicated in widespread corruption and human rights abuses. Once subject to Magnitsky sanctions, the assets of the listed official are frozen and the person is barred from travelling to the sanctioning jurisdiction. Such sanctions are narrowly tailored and avoid the harmful collateral damage caused by more comprehensive sanctions on regimes.

Autocrats and rights violators recognize the threat posed by these sanctions. Much like the reaction it prompted among Putin and his loyalists in Russia, the prospect of Magnitsky sanctions directed at Iranian government officials has caused the Iranian regime and its supporters to lash out at a variety of targets. For example, when noted human rights activist Irwin Cotler held a December press conference with an Iranian women’s rights activist to discuss Magnitsky sanctions on Iran, Tehran’s official news agency tweeted an attack on both Cotler and the activist, falsely claiming that the sanctions would be imposed “on Iran” and solely “in the name of human rights.” The Iranian Canadian Journal, an anonymous Canada-based publication that closely parrots the Tehran line, tweeted a verbatim attack. In a similar vein, Iran’s Etemad newspaper carried an article by Delshad Emami, a vocal Iranian-Canadian supporter of the Iranian government, that called Magnitsky sanctions a threat to Iran’s security and a form of “economic terrorism.”

The case for imposing human rights sanctions on Iranian officials is surprisingly easy, having been made repeatedly by Iranian activists over the years. It starts with acknowledging that past sanctions imposed on Iran have focused almost exclusively on Iran’s nuclear program. Critical as such efforts have been, they have overlooked the fact that the primary victims of Iran’s government are its people.

Iran has one of the worst human rights records in the world and its officials’ heretofore impunity must be rectified. As recognized by Canada’s parliament in 2013, Iran’s government is guilty of crimes against humanity (crimes which Amnesty International believes are ongoing). It has continuously targeted journalists. It has arrested and murdered environmentalists, including Iranian-Canadian professor Kavous Seyed-Emami. It has repressed religious minorities, particularly members of the Baha’i faith. It arrests women’s rights activists as well as labour unionists, torturing some “to the verge of death.” And as a symbol of its utter disregard for the rule of law, Iran’s government continues to arrest defence lawyers who dare to represent dissidents.

The list of Iranian officials responsible for these crimes is long. But a good place to start would be the report recently compiled by the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, which lays out a solid case for sanctioning 19 Iranian officials who have played a role in everything from carrying out mass murder to suppressing free speech.

Despite the clear case for such sanctions, some senators may still be hesitant to support the motion. Last year, a somewhat similar bill introduced in the Senate was rejected by all of Canada’s independent (i.e., formerly Liberal) senators. But the new motion deftly works around many of the objections previously raised by the senators — specifically, that the bill prevented engagement and restricted Canada’s ability to respond to incremental improvements in Iran’s human rights record.

The Magnitsky sanctions are a more nuanced instrument, allowing Canada to calibrate its pressure on Iran. The motion also does not stand in the way of any fruitful engagement with Iran, provided that such engagement does not include those implicated in mass crimes. In addition, the “name and shame” approach of the Magnitsky sanctions is completely consistent with the existing Canadian policy of naming and shaming Iran at the UN General Assembly through an annual human rights resolution.

Iran’s human rights activists, at home and in the diaspora, have long sought to end that country’s culture of impunity through focused pressure on human rights violators. The Magnitsky sanctions proposed in Canada’s Senate provide an opportunity to advance that admirable goal. In solidarity with the tens of thousands of human rights victims in Iran, Canada’s senators should vote for the motion. And pressure their colleagues in the House of Commons to adopt it into law. Contents

   

ON MLK DAY, THE FUTURE OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN

AND JEWISH RELATIONS HANGS IN THE BALANCE

Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman

Algemeiner, Jan. 21, 2019

On this Martin Luther King Day, the future of African-American and Jewish relations hangs in the balance. The explosive controversy around National Women’s March leaders like Tamika Mallory refusing to apologize for their love of Louis Farrakhan — or to affirm Israel’s right to exist — is disturbing enough. But The New York Times’ decision to feature Michelle Alexander’s op-ed, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” signals the opening of a new line of attack against our community.

Michelle Alexander has superstar credentials. She taught the Civil Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School and clerked for Justice Harry Blackmun at the Supreme Court. Today, she teaches “social justice” at Union Theological Seminary. Her 2010 bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, argues persuasively that the post-1960s “war on drugs” cemented African-American males’ status deep in the new underclass, a condition of racial inferiority reminiscent of the post-Reconstruction Jim Crow era. But she implies that much of our current racial crisis is the result of white racists — and immoral white liberal politicians in league with them. During 2016, she urged African-Americans and white progressives not to vote for Hillary Clinton.

James Foreman, Jr., son of a civil rights icon and himself a Yale Law professor, just won a Pulitzer Prize for Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. His central thesis in may ways reinforces Alexander’s argument — as he has acknowledged. Yet Foreman has criticized Alexander for downplaying the role of exploding black violent crime during the 1960s and 1970s in creating a political crisis over drugs, for flirting with the idea of an alleged white-racist political conspiracy when many African Americans also supported a harsh crackdown on crime, and for inflaming black-white polarization at a time when cross-race and cross-class alliances are needed for prison reform.

In her New York Times broadside, Alexander paints a picture of Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territories as the greatest human rights crime of our time. There is no mention of Arab armies repeatedly invading Israel, of Palestinian terrorism, of the corrupt Palestinian Authority’s refusal to negotiate a peaceful two-state solution, or of the genocidal Hamas. Worst of all is her shameless revision of Martin Luther King’s history to re-imagine him as a late-blooming critic of Israel.

King was a man of peace and a humanitarian, sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. But he knew — from first to last — the difference between right and wrong in the Middle East. The young Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1956 commented: “There is something in the very nature of the universe which is on the side of Israel in its struggle with every Egypt.” King apotheosized the positive side of African-American Christian identification with Zion. In 1959, King made his only trip to the Middle East. Barred by Jordan from visiting the Old City, he was indelibly affected by Jerusalem.

In Miami Beach — to the national convention of the American Jewish Congress on May 14, 1958 — King said: “My people were brought to America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility. … There are Hitlers loose in America today, both in high and low places.”

Interviewed by the editor of Conservative Judaism on March 25, 1968, soon after he attended a birthday celebration for Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel before 1,000 rabbis in upstate New York and just 10 days before his assassination, King declared: “I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can almost be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”

So why is Alexander’s piece so significant? Because it represents the new progressive-left “intersectional” policy of trying to demonize Israel and remove Jews from movements like the Women’s March with a powerful boost from The New York Times. This campaign recalls the 1940s, when the Times only ambivalently endorsed the 1947 UN Partition Plan for a Jewish state, and then stayed silent about Israel’s actual declaration of independence. The political narrative is different now, but the anti-Israel trend lines are analogous.

We are witnessing the opening shot in a new 21st century war to de-legitimize Israel, home to the world’s largest Jewish population and the values of our people — including our love of Zion. We now face a two-front attack — one from white supremacist antisemites responsible for Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, the other from our erstwhile multi-racial progressive friends, who seem to want a Judenrein vision of equality and mutual respect. We must fight both movements vigorously.

Contents

 

On Topic Links

Arbor Day (Tu Bishvat) Guide for the Perplexed, 2019: Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 20, 2019—1. The Jewish Arbor Day, Tu Bishvat (ט”ו בשבט), although essentially halakhic with regard to laws of tithes as they affect trees, highlights human gratitude for the creation of the fruit-bearing trees.  Jewish tradition stipulates a one-sentence-blessing before consuming any fruit.

Arafat and the Ayatollahs: Tony Badran, Tablet, Jan. 16, 2019—When Yasser Arafat arrived in Tehran on Feb. 17, 1979, the first “foreign leader” invited to visit Iran mere days after the victory of the revolution, he declared he was coming to his “own home.”

Why They Stay: Roya Hakakian, Tablet, Jan. 14, 2019—Among the world’s endangered minorities, Iranian Jews are an anomaly. Like their counterparts, their conditions categorically refute all the efforts their nation makes at seeming civilized and egalitarian—and so they embody, often without wanting to, all that is ugly and unjust about their native land.

A Forbidden Story Makes its Way Into Iran: Peter O’Brien, Globe and Mail, Jan. 4, 2019—On a rainy day at a small outdoor bookstall, a man hides his face with a book. On the cover a girl, loosely wrapped in a sheet, lies on the floor, a pair of large men’s shoes inches away from her young, outstretched arm.

NEW IDF CHIEF INHERITS ONGOING IRAN, HAMAS, AND HEZBOLLAH CONFLICTS

TRUDEAU SAYS HE WILL ‘CONTINUE TO CONDEMN THE BDS MOVEMENT’ AT ST. CATHARINES TOWN HALL: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given a full-throated defence of his condemnation of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement…”We need to understand, as well, that anti-Semitism has also manifested itself not just as in targeting of individuals but it is also targeting a new condemnation or an anti-Semitism against the very state of Israel,” he said. The prime minister added that Canada must be very careful “not to sanction this new frame around anti-Semitism and undue criticism of Israel.” To support his case, Trudeau pointed to the so-called “Three Ds” test for separating criticism of the Jewish state and anti-Semitism: demonization, double standards, and delegitimization of Israel. “When you have movements like BDS that single out Israel, that seek to delegitimize and in some cases demonize, when you have students on campus dealing with things like Israel apartheid weeks that make them fearful of actually attending campus events because of their religion in Canada, we have to recognize that there are things that aren’t acceptable, not because of foreign policy concerns but because of Canadian values,” Trudeau said. (Huffington Post, Jan. 16, 2019)

 

A Full Plate Awaits Israel’s New IDF Chief: Yoav Limor, Algemeiner, Jan. 14, 2019— It’s not surprising that Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot spent his last night as army chief in the command bunker underneath IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv…

Is the IDF Ready for All-Out War?: Yaakov Lappin, BESA, Jan. 10, 2019— The question of just how ready the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is for war has dominated Israel’s headlines in recent weeks.

A One-Time Opportunity for Israel in the Golan?: Michael Oren, JNS, Dec. 25, 2018— Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw ‎American troops from Syria shocked many in the ‎United States and the Middle East.

Is Europe Ready to Defend Itself?: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 4, 2019— The new Republican administration in Washington issued a blunt warning…

On Topic Links 

Prime Minister Denounces BDS at Town Hall Meeting (Video): Anthony Housefather, CBC, Jan. 16, 2018

The Challenges Ahead for Incoming IDF Chief of Staff Kochavi (Video): Breaking Israel News, Jan. 16, 2019

Israel Air Force Invited to First-Ever Joint Exercise With Britain’s RAF: JNS, Jan. 17, 2019

How Changing U.S. Policy Can Improve the Indo-Pacific Relationship: Brahma Chellaney, Globe & Mail, Nov. 21, 2018

 

A FULL PLATE AWAITS ISRAEL’S NEW IDF CHIEF

Yoav Limor

Algemeiner, Jan. 14, 2019

It’s not surprising that Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot spent his last night as army chief in the command bunker underneath IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, closely following the type of operation that has been synonymous with his tenure. It was full throttle up to the very last moment, one final mission before he handed in his dog tags.

As usual in the Middle East, nothing will change when Eizenkot is replaced. There’s enough Syria for everyone (and Iran, Hezbollah, Gaza, and a few other headaches). Incoming IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi wasn’t in the command bunker Friday night — he was enjoying his last worry-free Shabbat evening — but his deputy, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, was there as part of the process of passing the baton to the next IDF leaders.

An airstrike in Damascus on Friday, which has already been attributed to Israel, apparently targeted the logistics center Iran operates at Damascus International Airport — a separate and secured loading dock, where Iran does as it pleases. Several hours before the attack, an Iranian military plane landed in Damascus and unloaded its cargo. This was quite possibly the impetus for the strike, which according to satellite images, caused immense damage. Syria, per its custom, claimed that it shot down most of the missiles fired by Israeli warplanes. These claims don’t always need to be taken at face value. Assad also has to cater to public opinion — at home and abroad — and he has to explain (domestically) why Israel is still attacking his country unhindered. As for the international community, he has to explain why Iran is operating its own secure terminal at the airport in Damascus, as if it were in Tehran.

It was hard not to notice the Russian silence on Saturday in the wake of the rather obvious attack. Ever since the downing of the Russian spy plane last September, Israeli-Russian relations have chilled. Israel was strongly rebuked, including by accusations that it was endangering Russian forces in Syria and regional security. Relations have warmed a bit in recent weeks, and Russia turning a blind eye to the attack Friday night (which didn’t jeopardize its personnel) is a possible indication of this. Past experience teaches us that Israel, too, most likely informed the Russians prior to the operation. Israel would be wise to continue its recent policy of treading carefully as it pertains to operating in Syria. This is now Kochavi’s job.

The good tidings on the northern front were somewhat tempered on Saturday by Hamas’ video revelations regarding the IDF’s botched operation in Gaza in November. Although Hamas invested a great deal in the video, it revealed nothing new of significance. But it did provide another glimpse into the drama that unfolded that night — from the moment the undercover soldiers were detected at a Hamas roadblock, to their narrow escape under heavy air cover and the subsequent round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

It’s safe to assume that this story isn’t over. Hamas apparently has more information, some of which can potentially cause considerable damage. The Israeli mission inquiry is proceeding apace. Initial findings have already been presented twice to Eizenkot and the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate. The investigators were asked to fill in certain blanks and, on Monday, just before Eizenkot steps out the door, these additional findings will also be presented.

The final conclusions will be up to Kochavi. In television interviews on Saturday, Eizenkot said the operation wasn’t inherently flawed, and that a chain of unfortunate events resulted in the outcome. But the information that has been accumulated thus far paints a different picture, one that raises serious questions about the operation, its approval, the conduct of the soldiers, and the makeup of their team — not to mention questions about structural changes within the unit that carried out the operation and the chain of command.

The operational inquiry (headed by Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon) will surely lead to many professional conclusions and perhaps personal ones as well. Within the unit, there’s been bad blood for the past two months, which must also be drained quickly. The operation in Gaza has already failed. Along with mitigating the fallout, it’s now time to internalize the proper lessons and turn this failure into future operational success. Kochavi will have to lead the way.

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IS THE IDF READY FOR ALL-OUT WAR?

Yaakov Lappin

BESA, Jan. 10, 2019

The question of just how ready the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is for war has dominated Israel’s headlines in recent weeks. The issue came to the fore following the stormy end to the 10-year tenure of IDF Ombudsman Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brick. Brick released a scathing report and multiple statements claiming that the military’s ground forces are grossly underprepared for conflict. He went so far as to say, during an address to the Knesset’s State Control Committee, that “the IDF is undergoing a process of deterioration that has reached its peak in recent years.”

Brick’s alarming assessments have been outright rejected by military chiefs, including outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and the Commanding Officer of the ground forces, Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak. While Eizenkot has ordered the military to examine Brick’s claims, he has consistently affirmed that the IDF’s war readiness has improved dramatically in recent years. Eizenkot focused his four years as Chief of Staff on improving readiness, meaning that Brick’s criticisms are being leveled directly at the heart of his efforts and legacy.

Dr. Eado Hecht, a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a defense analyst specializing in military theory and military history and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. Hecht also lectures at the IDF Command and General Staff College. In conversation with the author, Hecht agreed with Brick and other critical voices who think the IDF is unprepared – but added that this is not a zero-sum argument. “There are areas in which the IDF has done excellent work, and there is a reason why foreign militaries come here to learn from it,” said Hecht. “On the other hand, there are areas in which the IDF is not good enough.”

Hecht explained that the way in which Brick and military command measure war readiness is different. To understand this difference, it’s necessary to dive into the IDF’s history. The Second Lebanon War of 2006, Hecht said, was the second-lowest point in the history of Israel’s military. The lowest was in the years 1950-53. “The difference between these two points is that while in 1950 to 1953, the IDF did not know how to conduct routine security missions and did not know how to conduct major wars, in 2006, the IDF knew how to do continuous security in an excellent manner,” Hecht said. “Hence, it defeated the Palestinians in the ‘Ebb and Flow’ War [the so-called ‘Al-Aqsa Intifada’ of 2000 to 2006].”

However, it was during those years of the Al-Aqsa Intifada that new concepts were taking hold regarding the future of warfare. The concepts were that there will be no “big, high-intensity wars” anymore, and in the unlikely event that such wars do occur, they should be fought with high-quality intelligence and through the use of long-range firepower, mostly delivered by fighter jet, to destroy enemy targets. As a result, “the IDF deliberately neglected the necessary requirements for ground combat,” said Hecht. By the time Lt. Gen. (ret.) Dan Halutz became Chief of Staff in 2005, the ground forces had suffered major neglect, leading to significant failures in the war that erupted with Hezbollah the following summer.

The strategic gains Israel received from that war came “despite tactical failures,” noted Hecht. Those failures led the next Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Gabi Ashkenazi, to demand a “return to basics” for the ground forces. They underwent a major upgrade during Ashkenazi’s tenure. But then, under the leadership of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (ret.) Benny Gantz, this trend was stopped. The older trend of focusing on airpower and intelligence, which dominated before the Second Lebanon War, made a comeback, according to Hecht. The current outgoing Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, “brought back Ashkenazi’s trend,” Hecht said. “However, the reference point for Eizenkot and the General Staff compares today’s IDF to the military of 2006. Brick’s reference points compare today’s IDF to the military when it was at its peak, 40 to 50 years ago.”

The bottom line, said Hecht, is that compared to its performance in 2006, the IDF of 2019 has “undergone a terrific improvement.” At the same time, he warned, there is a need to take stock of the growing threat posed by Hezbollah, which today is equivalent to some five infantry divisions, in terms of relative power. “Hezbollah is like the PLO and the Syrian army in Lebanon in 1982 combined. True, they [Hezbollah] do not have tanks, but they have many things that the Syrians and the PLO did not have then,” said Hecht, pointing to powerful guided anti-tank missiles as one example. “They are moving ahead with the fortification of southern Lebanon at a scale that did not exist before, and they are much more professional and skilled than the PLO was back then,” he said.

According to public sources, in 2006, Hezbollah’s forces in southern Lebanon were equal to perhaps two infantry brigades, and the organization was armed with far fewer anti-tank missiles, mortars, and other powerful weapons. Hezbollah today is some six times more powerful than what it was in 2006, said Hecht…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

   

A ONE-TIME OPPORTUNITY FOR ISRAEL IN THE GOLAN?

Michael Oren

JNS, Dec. 25, 2018

Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw ‎American troops from Syria shocked many in the ‎United States and the Middle East. In Israel, ‎most of the public discourse about this decision revolves around the ‎challenges of this process, but we seem to be ‎largely ignoring the question of what opportunities ‎it may present: For one, could Israel, as ‎compensation, secure a pledge from Washington to ‎help it in times of war and on other vital ‎diplomatic issues?‎

Given the recent discovery of Hezbollah’s grid of ‎terror tunnels and Iran’s attempts to upgrade its ‎offensive capabilities, it is reasonable to assume ‎that Israel is closer than it has ever been in the ‎last decade to a war in the northern sector. This could prove highly complex from a ‎military standpoint and even a legal-diplomatic one: Most of Hezbollah’s arsenal of 130,000 projectiles is hidden under civilian homes. ‎Neutralizing them would require investing ‎considerable military resources and likely ‎entail large civilian losses.‎

It is important to remember that in the last four ‎military campaigns since 2006, Israel has had to ask ‎the United States for additional ammunition, and we ‎would probably have to do the same in a future war. ‎Israel would also likely need diplomatic and legal ‎backing to defend it against condemnations in ‎the UN Security Council and the International ‎Criminal Court.‎

The same opportunity exists regarding the situation ‎opposite Hamas in the Gaza Strip: Israel can win ‎a US commitment for the post-Hamas era ‎there. Naturally, the IDF is capable of removing ‎Hamas from the Gaza Strip on its own, but the ‎question is who would take its place. ‎Understandings could be reached with the ‎United States — and through it, the Sunni world — on Gaza’s rehabilitation and the ‎establishment of an economic infrastructure for the civilian population there.‎

As Israel prepares for military campaigns in its ‎north and south, as part of my position as ‎deputy minister for public diplomacy at the Prime ‎Minister’s Office I am promoting a first-of-its-kind initiative to develop the Golan Heights. ‎The goal is to have more than 100,000 Israelis move ‎to the area over the next decade, thereby increasing ‎the Israeli population there by five times, and to ‎establish the necessary industrial and ‎transportation infrastructure for such a move.‎ My efforts have already gained widespread ‎support domestically and internationally.

Now, ‎given the fragile situation in Syria, Israel must ‎reach a comprehensive understanding with the US on ‎recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan ‎Heights. This would send a message to our ‎enemies about the decisive American position on the eternal Israeli ownership of the Golan ‎Heights.‎ It would be a good idea to make a large portion of ‎these commitments public in multiple languages. Such ‎a move would bolster America’s somewhat bruised ‎image in the Middle East, and even reinforce its ‎ability to promote diplomatic processes and its ‎position as a very effective mediator in possible ‎peace negotiations. ‎

It is no secret that during the Obama ‎administration, the United States lost some of its status ‎in the region. The Trump administration has taken ‎several steps — from striking Syrian assets in ‎response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use ‎of chemical weapons to pulling out of the 2015 ‎nuclear deal with Iran — to improve this situation. ‎A commitment to aid Israel would be a continuation ‎of this policy of improvement, presenting multiple ‎possibilities not only for Israel but also for the ‎Trump administration. The recent changes in the region present a one-time ‎opportunity for Israel, and we should take advantage ‎of it.

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IS EUROPE READY TO DEFEND ITSELF?

Yaroslav Trofimov

Wall Street Journal, Jan. 4, 2019

The new Republican administration in Washington issued a blunt warning: Unless Europe quickly set up its own unified army, the U.S. would be compelled to undertake an “agonizing reappraisal” of its commitment to defend its European allies.

The year was 1953, and the main target of American ire was France, whose delay in ratifying the European Defense Community treaty, signed the previous year, meant that preparations for a federal European army had to be paused. But the pressure applied by the Eisenhower administration backfired spectacularly: A joyous choir of French lawmakers broke into the “Marseillaise” when France’s parliament finally rejected the treaty in August 1954. The idea of a joint European defense policy was shelved for decades.

Today, the push for European autonomy in defense—and even for a common European Union army—is gathering momentum again, in part because of doubts in many European capitals about President Donald Trump’s willingness to defend the continent against a renewed threat from Russia. Mr. Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, which prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign, has added new urgency to the drive.

This time around, the revival of European defense integration is championed by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while the American president keeps lobbing angry tweets at the very idea. And inside Europe, the skeptics today aren’t in Paris but in the former Soviet vassal-states in the east that, despite all their misgivings, still view the U.S. as the only credible guarantor of their survival as independent nations. A historic swing in Europe’s public opinion, particularly in Germany—the EU’s most powerful state and one where trans-Atlantic cooperation was the bedrock of the political consensus since the end of World War II—has fueled this change.

Mr. Trump has described the EU as a “foe” and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as “obsolete,” and he has publicly questioned why American soldiers should die for a NATO ally like Montenegro. One recent opinion poll showed that Germans now rank Mr. Trump as the greatest threat to their country. In another, 73% of Germans described their relationship with the U.S. as “bad,” and 72% wanted a foreign policy more independent from Washington’s. “The shift in public opinion is due to a mix of disappointment and fear,” said Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, a think tank that advises the German government and parliament. “There is a fear that the U.S. will be less interested in Europe, and that the security commitments of the U.S. will no longer be reliable.” It was in this political environment that Ms. Merkel told the European Parliament in a landmark speech in November: “The times when we could fully rely on others have ended.…If we Europeans want to survive as a community, we must make a greater effort to take our destiny into our own hands.”

Achieving such “strategic autonomy” became the EU’s official policy in 2016. Though calls by Mr. Macron and Ms. Merkel for a European army are largely rhetorical so far, several concrete initiatives to achieve that goal have been launched since then. Probably most significant is the $15 billion European Defense Fund, which aims to spur Europe’s military industry and could limit the influence of American weapons manufacturers. Another new initiative is the so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation system, under which European armies seek to remove the barriers to joint action that stem from fielding so many different—and often incompatible—types of weapons. Addressing a frequently voiced demand of Mr. Trump, European governments have also raised their defense spending to get closer to the NATO target of 2% of each country’s GDP.

On the face of it, there is no reason why an economic giant like the EU shouldn’t be able to protect itself against Russia even without American help. Setting aside Britain (which seeks to continue to cooperate with the EU on security and defense even after leaving the bloc), the remaining EU’s population and defense budgets are roughly three times Russia’s size. France, the EU’s military powerhouse, spends almost as much as Russia on defense just by itself and operates an independent nuclear arsenal. All those sums, of course, are dwarfed by the U.S., whose military budget is nearly double the defense spending of the EU (minus the departing U.K.) and Russia combined. “Europe is addicted to the American security umbrella,” said Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research, a think tank that advises the French government. “But if the U.S. weren’t there, Europe would have found a way to defend itself.”

Yet there is a Catch-22 that makes these aspirations risky. Building up European defenses after seven decades of American protection would take time. Meanwhile, every move that Europe attempts in this direction spurs an American backlash, further undermining NATO’s cohesion—and its deterrent capacity against a rapidly militarizing Russia. “We have to hedge. But it is a very tricky situation: When does the hedge become a wedge?” said François Heisbourg, a veteran French expert who advised Mr. Macron’s presidential campaign on security and defense…

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

Contents

 

On Topic Links

Prime Minister Denounces BDS at Town Hall Meeting (Video): Anthony Housefather, CBC, Jan. 16, 2018—At last night’s town hall meeting at Brock University, PM Justin Trudeau was asked to apologize for opposing BDS. Instead, he gave yet another forceful denunciation of a movement which makes pro-Israel students and, in particular, many Jewish students feel uncomfortable on college campuses and holds Israel to a different standard.

The Challenges Ahead for Incoming IDF Chief of Staff Kochavi (Video): Breaking Israel News, Jan. 16, 2019—Aviv Kochavi became the 22nd Chief of Staff of the IDF. As he assumes one of the most demanding jobs in the world, here’s a look at some challenges ahead of him.

Israel Air Force Invited to First-Ever Joint Exercise With Britain’s RAF: JNS, Jan. 17, 2019—Israel’s air force is to take part in its first-ever joint drill with the Royal Air Force in Britain in the most open level of cooperation between the two forces yet, The Jewish Chronicle reported on Tuesday.

How Changing U.S. Policy Can Improve the Indo-Pacific Relationship: Brahma Chellaney, Globe & Mail, Nov. 21, 2018—The Indo-Pacific is emerging as the centre of global power and wealth, with security dynamics changing rapidly in the region.

 

PRAYING FOR ISRAEL: INTERVIEW WITH FORMER IDF CHIEF OF STAFF MOSHE YA’ALON

Machla Abramovitz

Community, Dec., 2018              

…To assess the current state of Israel’s security, we sat down with former IDF Chief of Staff General Moshe (“Boogie”) Ya’alon, following  his keynote address at the 30th anniversary gala of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR) in Montreal. General Ya’alon, 68, was born in Haifa, joined the Nahal Paratroop Regiment at age 18, and shortly afterward enlisted in Israel’s most elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal. Ya’alon then served as Head of Military Intelligence, was later appointed IDF Deputy Chief-of-Staff, and eventually was named IDF Chief-of-Staff.

Following his military career, Ya’alon became a politician, joining the Likud in 2008, and serving as Minister for Strategic Affairs and Vice Prime Minister. In 2013, General Ya’alon served as Minister of Defense, and a year later, he presided over Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s major military operation in Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas underground tunnels and ending rocket launches. In May 2016, he resigned from his position, and he recently founded a party named Manhigut Acheret (New Leadership.)

When asked about his position on the viability of a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, General Ya’alon explains that he supports the idea “in principle,” adding that he supported the 1993 Oslo Accords. “However,” he says, “today, nobody takes them seriously. Israelis are overwhelmingly unified on there being no Palestinian State under the present circumstances, and under any foreseeable leadership. The best we can do is give the Palestinians autonomy, help them develop economically, and hope for better leadership to arise.”

Ya’alon is critical of the Obama administration’s Middle East policies. “Yasser Arafat’s duplicitousness didn’t matter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, as they were trying to curry support among the Arabs by propping up Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians. The JCPOA [the deal reached by the Obama administration with the Republic of Iran] is a disaster. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, is doing wonderful things for Israel. Over 80 percent of Israelis support him.” The following is an edited transcript of the rest of our conversation with the General:

CM: Are wars between Israel and Iran, as well as Hamas, inevitable?

Ya’alon: Let’s distinguish between Iran and Hamas. The Iranians are trying to open another front against us in Syria. In 2015, they started launching missiles at Israel. In less than a year, this attempt ended after Israel hit back hard. This February, their units began launching drones and rockets. Subsequently, the IAF destroyed 15 Iranian units. Iran understands that they cannot successfully challenge Israel. Israeli power is superior to theirs militarily and intelligence-wise.

We don’t want Iran to either violate our sovereignty or arm our enemies; any violations on their part contravenes what we call our Red Line Strategy. [Israel prevents the Iranians from shipping arms to Hezbollah by bombing their ammunition depots and highways traveled by convoys.] I don’t see a war with Iran coming soon. Hezbollah’s 15,000 long-range, guided missiles are a problem, which Israel will eventually deal with. I foresee the possibility of a massive Israeli assault in Lebanon. Because Hezbollah installs these missiles in villages and towns and next to hospitals – as they do in Gaza – this will result in a large-scale PR problem because specific civilian structures must be destroyed to root these missiles out.

The challenge with Hamas is different. Since 2014, Hamas didn’t shoot a single bullet; and they arrested any proxy group that did. They don’t want to escalate the situation to a full-scale war. During Operation Protective Edge, we destroyed over 10,000 buildings in Gaza. They’ve been reconstructing Gaza for 20 years. So, Gazans are now releasing dangerous, incendiary balloons and kites, and are demonstrating along the border to express their frustration. The IDF is responding in a limited way. I don’t like this. We should not have accepted this behavior from the onset. It’s impossible to intercept every balloon and every kite. We must confront these terrorists vigorously. It’s the only way to handle things in the Middle East. Still, it’s not deterministic that we are going to war, even though the Middle East can erupt at any time even when it’s not intentional. I hope the government and the IDF will be able to change the rules of the game. The rules as they exist now are not in our favor.

CM: Despite Israel’s ability to manage Iranian aggression in Syria, doesn’t Iran remain a severe threat to its security?

Ya’alon: Iran remains a crucial issue. Still, with enough pressure placed on it, I believe the current regime can be persuaded to act in Iran’s best interests. Iran suspended its nuclear project in 2003 when the US invaded Afghanistan. They were afraid of President George W. Bush. The project was renewed two years later when Ayatollah Khamenei saw that the US lost its stomach for war. In 2012, he decided to re-engage with America because of political isolation, crippling economic sanctions, a credible military option, and a fear of a general uprising among Iranians. His economists told him his regime could not survive another year if he continued with his expansionist policies. Unfortunately, President Barak Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry headed the negotiations. President Trump’s determination to renew the sanctions is an excellent idea. This “irrational” regime becomes very rational when presented with a dilemma, whether to continue with their hegemonic drive or choose to survive [due to the implosion of the economy and fear of a popular uprising.] I believe they will choose to survive. Still, at some point, we’ll have to deal with the Iranians. If the US cancels the JCPOA next month, as President Trump said they would, Iran will crank up its nuclear research again. At that point, Israel must act. It cannot allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. If the US doesn’t act on this; Israel will.

CM: The accidental downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by the Syrian Air Force resulted in the deaths of 15 Russian troops for which Israel was blamed. It also resulted in Russia’s decision to supply Syria with S-300, an advanced anti-aircraft missile system with a range of 400 miles capable of shooting down planes flying in and out of Ben-Gurion Airport. How do you explain this escalation in tensions?

Ya’alon: Russia and Israel are not on the same page regarding Syria. Despite that, Israel succeeded in establishing an understanding with Russia that they don’t interrupt Israel and Israel doesn’t interrupt them in their military activities there. If the Iranians approach Israel’s border where there are Russians present, Israel warns them before taking any military action.

Still, President Vladimir Putin is very frustrated. That’s why he sparked this latest crisis between Israel and Russia. Since moving into Syria in 2010, he declared victories many times, but Syrian President Bashar al Assad controls less than 50 percent of Syrian soil. Turkey controls less than 50 percent of the north, and the Kurds and Americans are in control of 7 percent of the land [a strip along the northeast border, which contains Syria’s abundant oil reserves.] Russia wants the oil. Subsequently, it launched an unsuccessful offensive using Russian mercenaries against Syrian anti-Assad forces that are supported by the Kurds and the US, which resulted in the deaths of 150 Russians. In this regard, Putin doesn’t benefit from Syria. [The Russians benefit from naval and air bases, which gives them an outlet to the Mediterranean.] The cost of intervention for Russia is very high in terms of money and human casualties. It is, subsequently, seeking an exit strategy. The Russians used the threat of giving the S-300 to Syria, which Israelis didn’t want them to do, as a means of pressuring the Americans to accept Syrian President Bashar al Assad and bring a quick end to the conflict.

CM: The Americans are arguing for Russian non-intervention in Idlib Province, which is the last remaining autonomous Syrian province, and the gathering place of all the anti-Assad forces. Moreover, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, both hawks, want the US to remain in Syria until Iran and Russia are out of the country. As for the S-300, even if the Syrians already have the missile system, which is not clear, they must be trained to use it. Time still exists for Russia and the US to make a deal. What will Israel do regarding the S-300 should the US and Russia not make a deal?

Ya’alon: Israel has known about these missiles for some time and is working on the electronic jamming of the system. Hopefully, by the time the Syrians are trained to use it, the system will be deemed useless.

CM: Would Russia abandon President Assad and Iran if the Americans made that a condition for a settlement?

Ya’alon: Putin is committed to Putin and no one else. From the very beginning, he was committed to a stable regime, even without Assad. Otherwise, he argued, we would see more and more Islamist factions. Russian intelligence knew of about 2000 jihadists from Chechnya and other places deployed with ISIS in Syria. He told us that he prefers to keep these jihadists in Syria rather than on Russian soil. He also wanted to benefit by demonstrating his partisan allegiance – “I’m loyal to my allies, unlike Obama who abandoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak” – as well as demonstrate his military capabilities, to be a player in the game. Considering Russia’s poor economic situation, he played his cards better than Obama did. Regarding Iran, Russia’s interest is not to have Iranian dominance in Damascus. However, he needs them for boots on the ground.

CM: Why is Israel concerned about China?

Ya’alon: China is inserting itself into the Middle East in many ways, least of which is through its control of ports. Over the past few years, they bought majority holdings in ports – in Somalia, Piraeus, Greece – and they administer them. This insertion is significant because the ports are military, and they are building up

their navy there. It’s the first time in their history that the Chinese are moving outwards, which is of some concern. On the other hand, Israel has excellent relations with China – military and technical. The Chinese are investing in Israeli corporations. Still, the relationship remains complicated because they also play up to the Arab States. That can be dangerous for Israel.

Machla Abramovitz is a CIJR Academic Fellow

 

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!

 

Contents 

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.

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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.

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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.’…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link]

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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…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link]  

 

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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…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link]

 

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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.

Contents

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.]

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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.