Archive for August 3, 2018

As UN forces return to Israel-Syria border, Iran’s presence still felt

August 3, 2018

Source: As UN forces return to Israel-Syria border, Iran’s presence still felt – Israel Hayom

Israel-Hamas truce efforts shift into high gear with Egypt mediation 

August 3, 2018

Source: Israel-Hamas truce efforts shift into high gear with Egypt mediation – Israel Hayom

The ball is in Iran’s court

August 3, 2018

Source: The ball is in Iran’s court – Israel Hayom

Syria claims Israel hit 3 Iranian targets ‎on its soil 

August 3, 2018

Source: Syria claims Israel hit 3 Iranian targets ‎on its soil – Israel Hayom

Caroline Glick: Trump’s Offer to Talk to Iran Was Shrewd Move in Complicated Showdown

August 3, 2018

By Caroline Glick – August 2, 2018 Breitbart

Source Link: Caroline Glick: Trump’s Offer to Talk to Iran Was Shrewd Move in Complicated Showdown

Sowing the seeds of discontent. – LS}

President Donald Trump’s offer Monday to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani caught senior administration officials as well as U.S. allies off guard. Many wondered what Trump could possibly be thinking.

Trump’s offer needs to be seen in the context of events in Iran. Iran is in the throes of rapidly growing, country-wide protests which may be the largest it has seen since the 1979 revolution. And worse is yet to come.

Beginning next week, U.S. will begin reimposing sanctions suspended by the Obama administration. Iran’s economy, already in a tailspin, stands a good chance of collapsing.

Trump made his offer in the context of an overall U.S. policy towards the Iranian regime. That policy was set out explicitly by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech in May and in another last month.

In May, Pompeo told an audience at the Heritage Institute that the U.S. sanctions against Iran would remain in place until the regime abided by twelve U.S. demands. The major demands require Iran to end all of its nuclear activities and come clean about its past nuclear operations; end its sponsorship of terrorism regionally and worldwide; respect the human and civil rights of the Iranian people; and end the aggression it is carrying out against its neighbors both directly and through its terror proxies.

In July, Pompeo spoke explicitly in favor of the Iranian people now protesting against the regime. He signaled clearly that the U.S. supports efforts by the Iranian people to overthrow the regime in Tehran.

So when Trump offered to meet with Rouhani without preconditions, it did not mean that he does not expect Iran to change its behavior. It meant that he was willing to meet with Rouhani while leading a policy whose goal is the fundamental transformation of Iran (to borrow a phrase from Barack Obama).

Trump would be happy if that transformation comes in the framework of a massive change in regime behavior. He would also be happy if it comes through a revolution that overthrows the regime.

As for the Iranians, their behavior in recent days probably gave Trump reason to believe they may be desperate enough to at least consider the former option.

On Sunday, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council reportedly decided to free the country’s two top political prisoners from house arrest.

Hossein Karroubi, the son of Mehdi Karroubi, told the Kalameh website in Iran that the council had decided to free his father and Mir Hossain Mousavi from house arrest. The two have been confined to their homes since 2009, when they led the Green Revolution in the wake of Iran’s 2009 presidential elections. The two men each won far more votes than the incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But in a mark of the regime’s contempt for the public, and for the very concept of democracy, Ahmadinejad was declared the winner. The mass countrywide protests that followed the stolen election represented the gravest threat the regime faced since the 1979 revolution.

To save itself, the regime sent its Basij paramilitary forces into the crowds of hundreds of thousands of protesters that gathered throughout the country demanding its overthrow. The Basij forces brutally repressed the protesters. Mousavi, his wife, and Karroubi were confined to their homes. Then President Obama, who was keen to reach an accord with the regime, refused to back the protesters.

The regime’s decision to free its top political prisoners is not a sign that it is willing to admit its crimes or make amends to the Iranian public. It is a sign of desperation.

With each passing day, the size of the crowds in the streets protesting against the regime, and the number of cities in Iran that are experiencing major protests, grows. The slogans they shout are not limited to demands that the regime bear down on corrupt officials and lower inflation. Protesters are calling for the overthrow of the regime.

Throughout the country, protesters are calling out, “Death to the Dictator,” meaning “supreme leader” Ali Khamenei. In Isfahan on Tuesday, protesters shouted out, “Reza Shah, may your soul and spirit be happy!”

Reza Shah was the founder of the dynasty that was overturned in the 1979 Islamic revolution. It is also the name of the Shah’s son in exile.

Protesters also insisted that they are done with the regime as a whole. They called for the death of both “reformists,” and “hardliners.”

As for Mousavi and Karroubi’s announced release, although the movement they led in the wake of the 2009 presidential election morphed into an attempted revolution that was brutally suppressed, Mousavi and Karroubi are not revolutionaries themselves. They are reformists deeply embedded in the regime.

In the 1980s, Moussavi served as prime minister and foreign minister, and Karroubi served as speaker of the parliament.

Khamenei and his advisors no doubt view the two men as a bridge to the protesters in the streets, who can moderate their demands and so stabilize the regime. But the fact that the protesters are now insisting there is no distinction between reformers like Mousavi and Karroubi and hardliners like Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Al Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani indicates that the regime may be a day late and a dollar short.

It isn’t just that the protesters want revolution and not reform. They also want America. They hate the regime more than they hate the United States.

In Karaj, outside Tehran, anti-regime protesters were filmed shouting, “Our enemy is here, they are lying when they say it is America.”

Under the circumstances, attempts by regime officials to blame Iran’s economic problems on the U.S. are doomed. After failing to convince the Europeans to bypass U.S. sanctions, the only way the regime can save even a semblance of a normal economy is to beat a path to Washington.

And so, over the past week, Suleimani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif beat a path to Muscat, Oman, in the hopes of working something out. Muscat served as a mediator between the Tehran regime and the Obama administration in the early stages of their contacts, so it was a natural place for the Iranians to turn to renew contacts with Washington today.

Immediately after his meetings with Zarif and Suleimani, Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah flew to Washington for meetings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

The Iranians deny that they are using Oman as a mediator. But the confluence of meetings makes it difficult to accept their claims. It is all the more difficult to take their position seriously when Trump made his offer to meet with Rouhani during bin Abdullah’s visit to Washington.

This, then brings us to the purpose of Trump’s offer, and what it tells us about Trump’s view of how to achieve the American goal of fundamentally transforming the regime — either by coercing it to abide by Pompeo’s twelve conditions or by supporting a popular revolution.

Only time will tell if Zarif’s and Suleimani’s attempts to open channels of communication with Washington signalled regime willingness to consider such a transformation. The fact that Pompeo repeated the U.S. position on CNBC after Trump made his offer for talks suggests that the administration thus far has not been lured by the regime into changing its policy.

Although the media portrayed Pompeo’s statement as contradicting Trump’s assertion that there are no preconditions for negotiations, Pompeo simply restated the administration’s position when he told CNBC that the Iranians need to accept the basic parameters of the U.S. position set out in his speech at the Heritage Institute as a basis for negotiations.

One of the things that distinguishes Trump from Obama, as well as from George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, is how he views negotiations. When his predecessors sought diplomatic channels with Iran and North Korea, they willingly discarded all the other levers of statecraft, including military and economic pressure.

The Bush administration took North Korea off the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism and withdrew economic sanctions on Pyongyang. Clinton provided North Korea with fuel and food. The Bush administration downplayed Iran’s role in fomenting and maintaining the insurgency against U.S. forces in Iran and Afghanistan, and Iran’s role in the September 11 attacks. And Obama gave Iran an open road to regional hegemony in the Middle East through a host of economic, military, and political concessions at the expense of U.S. allies and interests throughout the Middle East.

Trump, in contrast, uses diplomacy in tandem with economic and military pressure to foment a change in behavior in his opponents. As Breitbart News’ Joel Pollak explained, the difference between Trump’s offer to negotiate with the Iranians and Obama’s offer to negotiate with them is that Trump’s offer was made from a position of strength while Obama’s offer was made from a position of weakness.

If Trump senses that the Iranians are willing to make a deal along the lines set out by Pompeo — that is, if the regime is willing to agree to curtail its sponsorship of terror and mayhem and end its nuclear program without war — he would be a fool not to pursue it. Assuming he handles them properly, if the talks fail, the Iranian public will be more than willing to blame the regime.

That said, there are two major risks to holding negotiations. First, the Iranian people may view such negotiations as a signal that the U.S. will sell them out. To mitigate that risk, it is imperative that any talks be conducted publicly. The regime will use secret channels as a means to signal that like the Obama administration, the Trump White House supports it against the Iranian public.

The second risk is not unique to discussions with Iran, but is a risk in all negotiations between Western democracies and authoritarian tyrannies.

All negotiations have a tendency to create a dynamic in which reaching a deal – any deal – becomes more important than achieving the goals that brought the parties to the negotiating table in the first place. Western leaders, who are subject to media scrutiny and election pressures, are more susceptible to the pressure to achieve a deal than leaders of dictatorial regimes like those in Iran and North Korea.

As a consequence, the dynamic of negotiations works against the interests of the Western powers and favors the interests of the authoritarians they face at the table. In the current context of U.S.-Iranian relations, we will know that we should be concerned about this dynamic if and when the administration diminishes its public support for the anti-regime protesters in Iran.

On Wednesday, U.S. Central Command warned that Iran is about to launch a massive military exercise in the Straits of Hormuz. Suleimani and other regime leaders have threatened repeatedly in recent weeks to seal the maritime choke point through which 20 percent of world oil shipments transit if the U.S. blocks Iranian oil exports.

This Iranian move, like the missiles its Houthi proxies shot at two Saudi oil tankers in the Bab el Mandab choke point in the Red Sea least week, shows that the Iranians also know how to talk and shoot at the same time.

Obviously, it is too early to know where Trump’s offer will lead. But what is clear enough is that Trump’s offer to negotiate with Iran is no fluke. It is a shrewd, albeit high-risk move made in a complex and highly dynamic and dangerous standoff between the U.S. and its allies — and a lethal, menacing regime whose back is up against the wall.

Caroline Glick is a world-renowned journalist and commentator on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. Read more at www.CarolineGlick.com.

Russia’s 8 military Golan positions – problematic for Israeli security. Hizballah creeps ever closer 

August 3, 2018

Source: Russia’s 8 military Golan positions – problematic for Israeli security. Hizballah creeps ever closer – DEBKAfile

The Russian decision to set up 8 military positions along the Syrian-Israeli Golan border will impede rather than help consolidate security on Israel’s northern front – in more ways than one:

  • The positions will be manned by Chechen recruits in Russian uniforms. (By the law of Chechnya, nationals are barred from fighting in foreign wars.)
  • They will serve alongside UNDOF monitors in the buffer zone without legal status. The presence of foreign forces is not covered in the 1974 Israel-Syrian disengagement agreement which created the buffer zone. The agreement was extended by the UN Security council a month ago.
  • This may be a mere formality until they are called into action. How and on behalf of which party they respond are moot questions.
  • What will Israel’s government and military decision-makers do if the Russian orders to their unit run contrary to Israel’s security interests – or, still worse, impede Israeli operations against aggressors? The Israeli Air Force, for instance, may be tied down from striking terrorists in the buffer zone by fear of Russian policemen getting in the way.
  • And what will happen if the IDF needs to cross into the buffer zone to terminate illicit Hizballah or pro-Iranian Shiite militia incursions? DEBKAfile’s military sources stress that these are not just hypothetical situations; they are already real, although Israel’s national leaders are keeping their intrusion under wraps. This is because they accepted the Russian police monitors without stipulating the prior removal from the buffer zone of all Hizballah and Shiite forces deployed there by Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers.
  • On Aug. 1, Russian Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev sold Sputnik News a fairy story. In deference to Israel’s concerns, he said “We have managed to achieve the pullback of Iranian units to within 85km from the border.” World media parroted this tale as solemn truth without checking its authenticity. DEBKAfile’s military sources can assert after investigation that the Russian envoy was not only wide of the mark, but in the 48 hours since he spoke, Shiite and Hizballah forces have crept further west and taken up new positions that are several meters closer than before to the Israeli border.
  • Since Vladimir Putin’s senior adviser on Syria is so free with falsehoods, how can Israel risk entrusting its security in the Golan buffer zone to the hands of a Russian military police force?

U.S. Issues New Warning to Europe: End Business With Iran or Face Harsh Sanctions

August 3, 2018

Trump admin, Congress issue warnings that could impact international financial institutions

Iran Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with representatives of the European Union for Foreign Affairs

Iran Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with representatives of the European Union for Foreign Affairs / Getty Image

BY:

https://freebeacon.com/national-security/u-s-issues-new-warning-europe-end-business-iran-face-harsh-sanctions/

Congress and the Trump administration are issuing a stern warning to European partners: End all business ties with the Iranian regime or face harsh new sanctions in the coming months, a move that could impact international financial markets and U.S. banks tied to foreign monetary institutions, according to multiple senior U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon about diplomatic efforts to pressure Europe on Iran.

The Trump administration and many in Congress have been working in tandem to pressure European partners over their ongoing financial ties to Iran ahead of efforts by the United States to fully reinstate harsh sanctions on Iran, including on its lucrative oil sector and banking systems, U.S. officials said.

Key European partners have expressed opposition to the new U.S. sanctions in recent months and have held a series of meetings with senior Iranian officials to discuss tactics for evading the new American sanctions, which follow on the heels on President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the landmark nuclear deal.

The increased financial pressure if part of a larger effort by the Trump administration and its allies in Congress to further choke the Iranian economy as dissident protesters in the Islamic Republic continue to rail against the hardline regime for its spending on foreign interventionism in hotspots such as Syria and its continued support for international terror groups.

Diplomatic tensions over the new sanctions have heightened ahead of November, when the Trump administration expects to fully reinstate sanctions on Iran that could cripple its business ties to Europe and further strain the regime’s cash reserves.

Iranian officials have responded to the sanctions with threats of violence, including a possible military blockade of critical shipping routes in the Persian Gulf that has stoked fears of a potential war in the region. Top Israeli officials declared on Thursday that they would respond militarily should Iran take such actions.

Senior U.S. officials leading the efforts to pressure European partners over their business ties with Iran told the Free Beacon the Trump administration will not hesitate to sanction those who violate the new sanctions, warning that international banking institutions and even top U.S. banks could be hit with sanctions for not complying.

“The Iranian regime has and continues to use terrorism as a weapon in Europe,” Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, told the Free Beacon. “We must be vigilant in finding out about their plans and stopping them before they succeed.”

Grenell and other top U.S. diplomats “are urging our partners to help stop the flow of money to this Iranian regime because it is used to fund malign activities,” the ambassador said.

Administration allies in Congress have been helping to bolster these efforts.

Ten U.S. senators recently wrote to the EU3—Britain, Germany, and France—warning them to comply with all new U.S. sanctions coming down the pike.

As these European countries work to preserve the nuclear deal and keep business with Iran open, the senators ensured these countries they will not be kept safe from new U.S. sanctions.

“We write to urge you to comply with all American sanctions, but also to emphasize we would consider it particularly troubling if you sought to evade or undermine American statutes,” write the 10 Republican senators, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), and David Perdue (R., Ga.), among others.

“First, these statutes align with your governments’ commitment to deepen cooperation addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities,” the letter states. “Second, they were passed over several years by overwhelming bipartisan majorities—including in some cases via unanimous Senate passage—and Congress is obligated to ensure their implementation.”

“Any attempt to evade or undermine them could well prompt Congressional action, in coordination with other elements of the U.S. government, to ensure their integrity,” the letter continues.

Senior congressional sources working on the matter who spoke to the Free Beacon said the decision is clear: Europe must choose between the United States and Iran.

“Everyone has gone out of their way to be nice to the Europeans while they’ve been working through the stages of grief over the Iran deal,” said one senior congressional official who has been working on the matter. “There’s deep appreciation across Congress for the importance of NATO and the other elements of the transatlantic relationship.”

“But enough is enough,” said the source, who would speak only on background when discussing efforts to pressure Europe. “Iran is threatening to shut down Gulf energy exports, they’re promoting sectarian warfare across the Middle East, and they’re launching terrorism globally and even in Europe. It’s inexplicable and unacceptable for the Europeans to choose Iran over us.”

A Treasury Department official, responding to queries from the Free Beacon on upcoming sanctions actions, said the administration could not specifically comment on potential actions, but pointed to wide-ranging sanctions guidance recently issued by the administration.

A full range of sanctions on Iran are expected to be put back in place by Nov. 4, with a range of new actions expected early this month.

The new sanctions will not only hit Iran and its global terror operations, but also international financial systems such as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, the major provider of global financial services.

American and European leaders on SWIFT are being told that they, too, will not be spared from new sanctions if they continue to facilitate business with Iran.

“There’s no question the banks represented on the board of SWIFT are in serious jeopardy—both the American banks and the foreign ones,” said Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former senior Senate aide who was one of the architects of the initial SWIFT sanctions in early 2012.

“Congress authorized the president to take a wide range of actions against directors personally and against their financial institution employers,” Goldberg explained. “The Trump administration understands how crucial it is to sever Iran from SWIFT so you can bet they will seek maximum enforcement of the sanctions.”

Diplomatic warnings to SWIFT members have already been issued, according to sources familiar with ongoing actions to lay the groundwork for new sanctions.

“Let’s just say that if I was a director or senior employee at SWIFT, I’d make sure I had all my money accounted for and didn’t plan any vacations to the United States for a while,” said one veteran foreign policy adviser familiar with the Trump administration’s thinking on the issue.

“For the two American banks—Citi and JP Morgan—well, I wouldn’t want to be in their C-Suites when Squawk Box is wall-to-wall covering the massive government action that just came their way for non-compliance,” the source warned.