Bring Back Containment: Robert Joseph, Weekly Standard, Aug. 21, 2017 — The Trump administration is conducting a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward Iran.
It’s Time to Take on the Iran-North Korea Nuke Alliance: Benny Avni, New York Post, Aug. 1, 2017— Iran or North Korea? Which threat should America confront first?
Amid New US Sanctions, How Much of Iran’s Nuclear Deal Relief Funds Terrorism?: Ariel Ben Solomon, JNS, Aug. 8, 2017— As the Trump administration ramps up sanctions against Iran, how much of Iran’s sanctions relief from the nuclear deal of 2015 is funding the Islamic Republic’s support for sectarian conflict and terrorism across the Middle East?
Iran Is Using Syria to Advance Toward the Mediterranean: Naftali Bennett, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 9, 2017 — Hezbollah announced last month that it had captured the Syrian-Lebanese border area of Juroud Arsal from ISIS forces.
Top Israeli, American Experts Concerned About North Korean Nuclear Precedent for Iran: Ariel Ben Solomon, JNS, Aug. 14, 2017
The Military Options for North Korea: John R. Bolton, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 3, 2017
Danny Glaser: Iran and Hamas are United in Their Desire to Wreak Havoc in the Region: Joseph Braude, Huffington Post, Aug. 15, 2017
The Iranian Express: Emanuele Ottolenghi, Weekly Standard, July 31, 2017
Weekly Standard, Aug. 21, 2017
The Trump administration is conducting a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward Iran. There is no doubt top national security officials view the Islamic Republic as a major threat, both in terms of regional instability and proliferation. This recognition represents the principal difference from the previous administration and a welcome step forward. One likely outcome will be a stronger U.S.-led effort to counter Iran’s expanding presence, particularly in Syria and Iraq. The formation of an Arab alliance against Islamic terrorism, announced when Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia, signaled a move toward a more effective regional stance.
But there is little to suggest that, beyond an attempt to roll back Tehran’s external adventurism, there will be a fundamental change in U.S. policy. Press reports indicate that the usual interagency battle lines are being drawn—between those who advocate regime change and those who would continue past policies.
The main indicator of the direction of Iran policy will be the president’s decision on the future of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Candidate Trump’s stance on the nuclear deal during the campaign was clear: The JCPOA was a calamity for American security interests. Trump called it the worst agreement ever negotiated and declared in the spring of 2016: “My number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”
But much seems to have changed since he took office. His secretaries of state and defense have both reportedly urged him to stick with the deal—while admitting Iran remains the chief sponsor of international terrorism and the greatest threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East. Most telling are the administration’s two declarations to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the agreement. That might be true only in a very narrow, technical sense. Iran may now be complying with those terms of the agreement monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but that does not mean Tehran has stopped work on nuclear weapons. Just recall that the potential military activities identified by the IAEA in November 2011 were swept under the rug and that the supreme leader has explicitly ruled out inspections of the facilities that were the suspected sites of many of those activities.
Iran continues aggressively to expand its offensive ballistic missile force, already the largest and most dangerous in the region. The revelations recently made public by National Council of Resistance of Iran make clear that the country’s weapons programs, both nuclear and missile, are alive and well and moving forward. Consistent with this conclusion, U.S. officials have assessed that Iran has an active intercontinental ballistic missile program, for which the only purpose is to deliver a nuclear warhead. A number of arguments for and against staying in the nuclear agreement are presumably being considered in the administration review. The two most often heard in favor of remaining are:
1: The agreement provides some transparency to Iran’s nuclear program and slows it at least temporarily. Better to have 5,000 centrifuges spinning than 12,000 or 19,000. Better to have quantitative and qualitative limits on low-enriched uranium and limits on heavy water and the Arak reactor than not. But the issue is how meaningful these limits are in the broader context of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and at what cost. 2: Leaving will lead to widespread criticism from the other parties to the deal. John Kerry often raised the specter of the United States being isolated if Washington did not go forward with the agreement.
As for arguments in favor of withdrawal, five stand out: 1: The JCPOA does not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons—ostensibly its intended purpose. Even defenders of the agreement acknowledge that it represents—at best—a mere pause in that pursuit and that Iran retains the capacity to sneak out or break out of the agreement and possess a nuclear weapon in a matter of months or even weeks. Iran’s new generation of advanced centrifuge designs will permit it an almost immediate breakout capacity even before the terms of the JCPOA expire. After that time, as President Obama acknowledged, the breakout period would be essentially “zero.”
2: The flawed verification provisions of the JCPOA mean that we cannot verify that Iran has stopped work on nuclear weapon design. If Tehran does not have a covert program today, it would be the first time in decades. 3: The premise of the deal is demonstratively false. Far from leading to a more moderate Iran, the agreement has resulted in increased funding of international terrorism and a further expansion of Iran’s external interventions. The irony is that the misguided policies of the Obama administration have only strengthened the regime in Tehran, providing it with the means to advance its proliferation programs, foment disorder in neighboring countries, and brutalize its own people—the first and foremost victims of the regime.
4: Staying in the agreement undermines the U.S. ability to contain the broader threat by providing legitimacy to an illegitimate regime and strengthening the Iranian economy and thereby the regime. This undercuts the regional coalition to roll back Iranian adventurism and military aggression. 5: The JCPOA—in the form of an executive agreement reinforced by a U.N. Security Council resolution—usurped the constitutional prerogative of the Senate, which, under Article II, Section 2, has the power and responsibility to advise and consent on all treaties. President Obama deliberately chose not to pursue a treaty because he knew the Senate would reject it.
President Trump will make the final decision on the nuclear agreement. If he takes the country out, it will almost certainly be against the advice of his cabinet members and the institutional national security complex in and out of government. But this would nevertheless be the right decision: It is not in the U.S. interest to remain in the JCPOA…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
New York Post, Aug. 1, 2017
Iran or North Korea? Which threat should America confront first? Here’s a thought: both. Save for the weather, North Korea would’ve tested an intercontinental ballistic missile last Thursday, at almost the same time as Iran did. It missed the date, coinciding with the anniversary of the 1953 armistice pact that ended the Korean War, likely thanks to a rain storm. Nerveless, it tested the next day, creating a Mideast-East Asian stereo boom heard around the world.
American experts no longer think it’ll take North Korea years to be able to hit the continental United States. Most watchers now expect it sometime next year. So President Trump has drawn the short straw. Three predecessors failed to stop the Kim regime’s nuclear and missile advances. If he wants to stop the Norks, Trump has no choice but to act — and all of his options are bad.
Meanwhile, much of President Barack Obama’s Iran deal is expected to unravel during Trump’s tenure as well. What can he do? Americans and others have long observed cooperation between these two rogue regimes. You don’t need to be a trained missile expert to notice the design similarities between North Korea’s home-built Rodong and its Iranian clone, the Shahab 3. Or the Rodong B and Shahab 4. Iranian nuclear scientists were present at Pyongyang’s first nuclear test. Iran-allied Syria modeled its nuclear plant (later eliminated by Israel) on a similar North Korean one. Rather than violating the Obama deal by experimenting at home, Iran can advance its nuclear program by observing North Korea’s and contributing to its progress.
The mullahs have what Kim Jong-un needs most: cash. Pyongyang’s only foreign-currency-worthy export is weapons and knowing how to build and use them, which Iran craves. It’s a match made in hell. So why are countries threatened by North Korea, like Japan, so eager to do business with Iran? After all, don’t the mullahs enable the North’s quest to develop the missiles that get fired near Japan? “There’s no proof” of such cooperation, Tokyo officials said when I asked them about it on a recent trip to Japan.
They’re right. For decades, America shied away from revealing what the intelligence community knew about the Tehran-Pyongyang love affair because we dreamed of diplomatic breakthroughs on both fronts (and feared revealing spy methods). After the Sunday ICBM test, such timidity is no longer an option. America’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted Sunday that “China is aware they must act” and that Japan and South Korea must increase pressure. It’s “not only a US problem” but one that requires an international solution.
Yet, an international solution has eluded Haley since July 4, the last time North Korea launched a missile designed to reach the continental US. Russian diplomats have ridiculously argued there’s no proof this was an ICBM, therefore no need to increase sanctions. Such obfuscation will likely continue. Russia and China will block attempts to corner Kim and his henchmen — especially now that administration officials like CIA Director Mike Pompeo are starting to push the idea of toppling the Kim regime, which both Beijing and Moscow oppose.
So one action the United States can take would be to put forth a UN resolution naming and sanctioning persons and entities involved in the Iran-North Korea arms cooperation. Western diplomats tell me it likely won’t pass. Yet they’re intrigued by publicly airing, Adlai Stevenson-like, America’s intel on Iran-Nork cooperation. Iran’s missile program was, bizarrely, left out of Obama’s nuclear deal. Revealing the Tehran-Pyongyang nexus might convince allies wobbly about Tehran’s violations that the mullahs’ threat is global. It could also start the process of plugging a major cash source for the Kim regime. And then, there’s action beyond the United Nations: Obama rarely used the Proliferation Security Initiative, a treaty signed by 105 countries that allows search and seizure of ships carrying illicit arms. Expose the Iran-North Korea connection, then use PSI to disrupt it, with our allies’ help.
We’ve long thought of Iran and North Korea as separate problems. Time for a holistic approach that will give a jolt to the diplomatic stalemate. US flights over South Korean skies are helping. Talking publicly about adding Japan and South Korea to the global nuclear club may scare China into action. So will blacklisting companies that do business with Kim Jong-un. Regime change should be the ultimate target. But a change in diplomatic strategy is needed too, and fast. Time to expose what everyone knows, but no one ever says out loud: Kim and the mullahs are BFFs.
Ariel Ben Solomon
JNS, Aug. 8, 2017
As the Trump administration ramps up sanctions against Iran, how much of Iran’s sanctions relief from the nuclear deal of 2015 is funding the Islamic Republic’s support for sectarian conflict and terrorism across the Middle East? President Donald Trump last week imposed new sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program and human rights violations. The sanctions come amid Iran’s reported fueling of the recent Temple Mount crisis and its agreement to bolster relations with the Hamas terror group.
While Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah continue to back President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian Civil War, Russia’s military support for Assad is far more important for Iran than the limited economic benefits the Iranians have gained from sanctions relief and trade deals since the nuclear agreement, said Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian politics at Israel’s IDC Herzliya research college. “I think what has been crucial for the expansion of Iran’s role in Syria, more than anything, has been the air support [Assad] has received from Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Javedanfar told JNS.org.
Javedanfar estimated that Iran has received less than $20 billion of the $150 billion in sanctions relief it secured in the nuclear deal, which was brokered by the former Obama administration and other world powers. Even if all of the sanctions relief had been released immediately after the nuclear deal was reached, it “wouldn’t have been enough to save Syria,” said Javedanfar.
While the released funds have aided the Iranian regime, Javedanfar said President Hassan Rouhani’s government is plagued by around $100 billion in debt carried over from former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tenure. The new sanctions leveled by the Trump administration will hamper Rouhani’s ability to attract foreign investment, but hardline entities such as Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) militia “will be happy since less economic growth will give them more ammunition against the government,” he said. “The IRGC is responsible for these additional sanctions that were imposed after Iran fired a ballistic missile with a banner calling for Israel’s destruction,” said Javedanfar, who added, “The real intention of this launch, in practice, was to target Rouhani’s economic achievements.”
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told JNS.org it remains unclear how much of Iran’s sanctions relief funds have been diverted to causes such as Palestinian terrorism. But he said that “sanctions relief coupled with the campaign to ‘normalize’ Iran has enabled its fighters, money and weapons to go largely unchecked throughout the region.” The Trump administration’s new sanctions are part of “a desperately needed strategy, since for over a decade Iran’s regional ambitions and military programs took a back seat to the nuclear issue,” said Taleblu.
Ronen A. Cohen, an Iran expert and the chair of the Department of Middle East Studies at Israel’s Ariel University, disputes that Iran is using funds from sanctions relief and increased business ties with the West to support terrorism. “Iran will promote terror with or without the sanctions,” Cohen asserted, adding that since 2015, the country has spent less on regional terrorism as part of Rouhani’s strategy to strengthen the Iranian economy through trade. “Iran has a pragmatic strategy in the Middle East and will invest money only where it gains something in return, irrespective of sanctions,” he said.
Israel Hayom last week quoted a Palestinian Authority security official as claiming that Iran invested “millions of shekels” to inflame the tensions surrounding the Temple Mount. According to the report, tens of thousands of Muslim protesters received prepackaged meals along with notes in each one citing a quote attributed to 1979 Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: “With the help of Allah, Palestine will be liberated! Jerusalem is ours.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed his country’s support for the Palestinians amid the Temple Mount tensions, and more recently, Hamas said Aug. 7 that it has reached an agreement to improve relations with Iran. Taleblu said Iran’s Shi’a regime “uses the Palestinian issue to drive a wedge between the Arab world and Israel, as well as to mask its ethno-sectarian differences with its Sunni Arab neighbors and bolster its Islamist standing in the region.”
Iran has championed the Palestinian cause since its inception, and an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal “would rob Tehran of that card and render naked its regional aspirations,” said Taleblu. “Iran’s longstanding provision of money and weapons to Palestinian terror groups tells you one thing: Iran has more to gain from perpetual conflict in the Levant and eastern Mediterranean than peace,” he said.
IDC Herzliya’s Javedanfar said he has seen no real evidence that Iran was behind the recent tensions in Jerusalem. Rather, he said, Iran exaggerated its role in the Temple Mount crisis since “it feels isolated in the region because of its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and his atrocities against Sunni Muslims.” Iran’s claims regarding the Temple Mount, Javedanfar said, show “how desperate the Iranian regime has become.”
Wall Street Journal, Aug. 9, 2017
Hezbollah announced last month that it had captured the Syrian-Lebanese border area of Juroud Arsal from ISIS forces. Far from being a minor development in a violent and unstable region, this marks another Iranian success in its quest for power and dominance across the Middle East.
Since its 1979 revolution, Iran has sought to become a dominant world power capable of imposing Islamic rule on as many people as possible. The Iranian regime finances and supports armed militias in other countries and is the world’s top exporter of terror. Hundreds if not thousands of Americans have died at the hands of Iran’s terrorist proxies. An essential part of Tehran’s grand strategy is to control a land corridor from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. Under the cover of Syria’s bloody civil war, Hezbollah is helping to build such a highway. Hezbollah, trained and supported by Tehran, is classified as a terror group by the U.S., France and the Arab League, among others.
Its effort endangers the entire Western world. Controlling this corridor would directly connect Iran with its proxies in Syria and Lebanon, allowing it to transfer advanced weapons cheaply and quickly. The highway would let Iran build its military presence on the Mediterranean, bringing much of Europe into the range of its air force, navy and midrange missiles. Iran could even build arms factories outside its borders. Iranian apologists frame Hezbollah’s capture of the border area as a victory over ISIS, as if the U.S.-led coalition ought to be cheering. ISIS needs to be stopped, but Iran is a far greater problem in the long run. Tehran shouldn’t be mistaken for part of the solution.
As Syria disintegrated through civil war, Iran acted swiftly. It broke international law and forcefully expelled the Sunni population and replaced it with Shiites. This changed the local demography to support Tehran’s planned land corridor through Syria and Iraq. Iran also sent its generals to train Bashar Assad’s troops. Hezbollah has effectively morphed from a terror group into a division of the Iranian army, working for Tehran not only in Lebanon and Syria, but also in Yemen and Iraq.
In the game of chess that Syria has become, Western leaders are so focused on the knight attacking their pawns they cannot see the queen maneuvering to defeat them. Mistaking ISIS as the most serious threat has allowed Iran to move its pieces forward and gain better position. The nuclear deal Iran signed in 2015 demonstrates Tehran’s patience, as it temporarily slows the country’s preparations to acquire nuclear weapons without stopping them over the long term.
I and others are concerned by the cease-fire in southern Syria brokered by the U.S., Russia and Jordan last month. With American and allied forces present in the north, Iran has focused its efforts on the south. The hiatus from violence in that region only gives Tehran another piece of territory in its bid to build a highway to the coast. It will take time and patience to stop Iran. The international community needs to defeat Tehran wherever its forces advance: in cyberspace, on the battlefields of Yemen and Iraq, and in advanced-weapons laboratories. This effort will be both public and covert, economic and technological. If it results in direct military confrontation, Iran’s foes must be ready to win there too.
Iran must be made to pay a price every day its soldiers remain on Syrian soil helping the Assad regime kill its own people. Tehran’s leaders must know that every violation of the nuclear deal will trigger harsh sanctions. They cannot direct terror attacks in Europe, Asia and America and expect the world to ignore their actions.
There are many possible courses of action against Iran. Yet the free world—led by the U.S.—has yet to take the first and most important step: declaring that it cannot abide an Iranian empire from the Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.
Top Israeli, American Experts Concerned About North Korean Nuclear Precedent for Iran: Ariel Ben Solomon, JNS, Aug. 14, 2017—Several top Israeli and American experts on nuclear proliferation and Iran say the failure to successfully deal with North Korea sets a precedent for a similar result with the Islamic Republic.
The Military Options for North Korea: John R. Bolton, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 3, 2017—North Korea test-launched on Friday its first ballistic missile potentially capable of hitting America's East Coast. It thereby proved the failure of 25 years of U.S. nonproliferation policy. A single-minded rogue state can pocket diplomatic concessions and withstand sustained economic sanctions to build deliverable nuclear weapons. It is past time for Washington to bury this ineffective "carrots and sticks" approach.
Danny Glaser: Iran and Hamas are United in Their Desire to Wreak Havoc in the Region: Joseph Braude, Huffington Post, Aug. 15, 2017—Iran supports terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East and beyond. Iran has long had a foreign policy and a regional policy based on trying to upend the regional order.
The Iranian Express: Emanuele Ottolenghi, Weekly Standard, July 31, 2017—On November 30, 2016, Syria watcher Tobias Schneider tweeted out pictures of an Iraqi Shia militiaman boarding an Iranian commercial airliner en route to Damascus.