Archive for May 12, 2019

An alliance for the ages

May 12, 2019

Source: An alliance for the ages – www.israelhayom.com

From the historical recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, inaugurating the new embassy in the capital a year ago, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and many other measures, U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration are firmly on Israel’s side with no sign of slowing down.

On May 8, 2018, mere days before the U.S. officially inaugurated its new embassy in Jerusalem, the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. Since then, the U.S. has continued imposing harsh economic sanctions on the regime in Tehran, decimated its economy, forced large corporations to cut business ties with it, rebuffed intensive European efforts to save the Iranian economy, compelled China and India to partake in sanctions, and just last week deployed the U.S. Navy’s largest aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. And while Trump and officials in his administration have stressed that these measures were implemented to uphold American interests, and not necessarily on behalf of Israel, in their view, Israel’s and America’s security are one and the same – and this is the crux of the matter.

Not only has the administration completely backed all Israeli military activity in Syria, Gaza and Judea and Samaria, but officials have also made clear that in their view anti-Zionism, Jew-hatred and calls for boycotting Israel all stem from the same phenomenon.

In the words of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman: “There are places in Manhattan, where I worked for 35 years, where you could attend a cocktail party and if you said, ‘I hate Jews,’ you would be politely escorted to the door. But if you said ‘isn’t it a shame that after the Jews survived the Holocaust they turned into Nazis themselves against the Palestinians,’ you might be ordered another drink and invited to hold court on your interesting point of view. Unlike other nations, unlike other peoples, there is no political correctness when it comes to Israel and the Jewish people.” The Trump administration refuses to accept this double-standard.

On April 12, for the first time, the U.S. Embassy announced visa exemptions for Israeli investors, while on March 26, President Trump made history by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan. Consequently, the administration and Congress are now including the Golan in joint trade and cooperation initiatives.

On March 4, the U.S. Central Command declared it was deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile defense system in Israel – the most advanced such system in the American arsenal. A day earlier, the U.S. State Department said it was shutting down the independent “Palestinian consulate” on Agron Street in Jerusalem and making it a regular department of the embassy located in the city’s Arnona neighborhood.

On February 21, for the second time, Friedman attended and spoke at the Israeli-Palestinian International Economic Forum sponsored by the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry – yet another step signaling U.S. recognition of the permanence of Israel’s presence in there.

A week prior, on February 13-14, the U.S. convened, in large part on Israel’s behalf, the 2019 Warsaw Conference, in an effort to highlight and curb Iran’s activities in the region. At the conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat alongside Arab leaders.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the conference and declared: “Tonight I believe we are beginning a new era, with Prime Minister Netanyahu from the State of Israel, with leaders from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, all breaking bread together, and later in this conference sharing honest perspectives on the challenges facing the area.”

On September 1, 2018, the Trump administration announced the complete cessation of American financial support for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which perpetuates and exaggerates the Palestinian refugee issue. Ten days later, the administration shuttered the PLO’s offices in Washington and on June 20, 2018, the U.S. withdrew from the so-called U.N. “Human Rights Council.” The move was spearheaded by then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, who did so simply to object to the body’s discrimination against Israel.

 

The drums of war in the Persian Gulf

May 12, 2019

Source: The drums of war in the Persian Gulf – www.israelhayom.com

We need to understand that the shockwaves from a clash between the U.S. and Iran, if it indeed occurs, will reach us. If attacked, Tehran will unleash it proxies, chief among them Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, against Israel.

The escalation began with a verbal exchange. On the one-year anniversary of the United States’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told global powers that his country would cease fulfilling its obligations as part of the deal. At this stage, this mostly means Iran will stop shipping abroad its surplus of enriched uranium and heavy water, as it prepares to enrich uranium at a greater pace.

In response, the White House said it would impose additional sanctions on Iran – not just on its oil production, banks and foreign trade, but on its metals industry. This sector is Iran’s top job provider and hurting it could leave many Iranians unemployed, which in turn would increase internal strife.

But the main factor behind increased tensions in the Persian Gulf over the past two days was the Pentagon’s decision to deploy the “Abraham Lincoln” aircraft carrier and four B-52H bombers to Qatar. The backdrop, as conveyed by the Pentagon, were fears that Iran was planning to attack American forces stationed in Iraq, perhaps via Shiite militias that it controls.

It’s hard to misread these developments. After a year of harsh sanctions, the ayatollah regime in Iran is exceedingly frustrated. This frustration stems from the country’s drastic economic downturn, but also from the fact that European countries – who are co-signed to the nuclear deal – have not kept their promises to compensate European companies that continued doing business with Tehran despite the sanctions imposed by Washington.

There’s no question the Trump administration is also disappointed. Although the sanctions are having an effect, they still haven’t forced Iran to wave the white flag and agree to fundamentally amend the nuclear deal to include shelving its ballistic missile project and ceasing its subversive activities via its proxies across the region.

Moreover, if we can assess the situation according to the behavior of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and the latest round of violence with Israel, Iran has only amplified its subversive efforts. This terrorist organization, which is completely subordinate to and entirely funded by Tehran, ignited the latest skirmish by sniping at IDF officers on the border and it is the one presently spearheading, at the behest of Iran, the most aggressive line against Israel.

How will developments in the Persian Gulf unfold in the weeks ahead? It’s too soon to make a determination. The Iranians’ move to cancel “some” of their obligations stipulated by the nuclear deal is not irreversible and was the least they could permit themselves without being accused of violating it. The main objective behind their move is to incentivize the Europeans to fulfill their promises, and Rouhani even declared a 60-day extension for global powers to reconsider – before Iran accelerates its uranium enrichment.

The Trump administration, for its part, stressed that its military reinforcements are only intended to deter Iran from attacking American forces in the region, adding that the purpose for increasing sanctions is to bring Iran back to the negotiating table.

The problem, of course, is that it’s entirely uncertain any of this will actually transpire in the near future. We don’t know if the Europeans will surrender to Iranian extortion, and it’s almost assured that the White House will not halt sanctions before the Iranians agree to recalibrate their course of action.

This dynamic is a sure-fire recipe for heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf and opens the door for a military escalation. The ayatollah regime, if it feels it must, could renew uranium enrichment and risk a limited military confrontation with the U.S., over the prospect of regime collapse due to domestic revolt amid the country’s increasingly dire economic situation.

We need to understand that the shockwaves from such a clash, if it indeed occurs, will reach us. During the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles at Israel. Iran, if it is attacked, will unleash it proxies, chief among them Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, against Israel.

 

Minister: Iran may attack Israel if US standoff escalates 

May 12, 2019

Source: Minister: Iran may attack Israel if US standoff escalates – www.israelhayom.com

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz says “things are heating up” in the Persian Gulf. Statement comes as U.S. bolsters military presence in the region, with Iran warning it might renew high-level uranium enrichment.

An Israeli cabinet minister warned on Sunday of possible direct or proxy Iranian attacks on Israel should the standoff between Tehran and Washington escalate.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said that, in the Gulf, “things are heating up.”

The United States has increased economic and military pressure on Iran, with President Donald Trump on Thursday urging its leaders to talk to him about giving up their nuclear program and saying he could not rule out an armed confrontation.

“If there’s some sort of conflagration between Iran and the United States, between Iran and its neighbors, I’m not ruling out that they will activate Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Gaza, or even that they will try to fire missiles from Iran on Israel,” Steinitz, a member of Diplomatic-Security Cabinet, said.

Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad are Iranian-sponsored guerrilla terrorist groups on Israel’s borders, the former active in Syria as well as Lebanon and the latter in the Palestinian cities.

The Israeli military declined to comment when asked if it was making any preparations for possible threats linked to the Iran-U.S. standoff.

Israel has traded blows with Iranian forces in Syria, as well as with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian terrorists. But it has not fought an open war with Iran, a country on the other side of the Middle East.

 

Caroline Glick: Trump’s Policy on Nuclear Iran Is Working

May 12, 2019

Source: Caroline Glick: Trump’s Policy on Nuclear Iran Is Working

The Associated Press
AP Photo
CAROLINE GLICK

241

7:27
Media analysts and Obama administration officials are working overtime to blame President Donald Trump for Iran’s decision, announced Wednesday, to breach key limitations on its nuclear operations that Teheran had accepted in 2015 in the framework of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the nuclear deal.

Had Trump not withdrawn from the JCPOA, and had he not adopted and implemented an alternative policy of maximum pressure on Iran, then Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s announcement on Wednesday that Iran is ending its compliance with key provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal would never have been made, they argue.

That is nonsense.

On Wednesday, Rouhani announced that Iran is suspending its commitment to export all excess uranium and plutonium to third countries. That is, he said that Iran is stockpiling plutonium and enriched uranium.

Rouhani also announced that unless the European Union (EU) breaches U.S. sanctions and allows Iran to export oil and use the international banking system, Iran will increase levels of uranium enrichment in sixty days.

Despite what Trump’s critics claim, there is no causal connection between Rouhani’s announcement and Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and renewal of U.S. economic sanctions on Iran.

To understand why that is the case, it is important to recall the nature of the nuclear deal itself.

The JCPOA was based on a fiction. Obama and his EU counterparts asserted, in the face of massive, long-standing countervailing evidence, that Iran was a credible negotiating partner. They insisted that Iran’s regime could be trusted not to develop nuclear weapons if the U.S., Europe, and other key players offered it sufficient quantities of cash and other monetary gains. This fiction, in turn, was based on an even more basic lie: that Iran’s nuclear program was peaceful rather than military.

This foundational fiction – that the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program was peaceful — was always fanciful. Iran, with its massive deposits of natural gas and oil, has no need for nuclear energy. Moreover, if it were truly interested in peaceful nuclear energy, it could have found ways to secure legal nuclear power capabilities. Tehran had no need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over decades to construct hidden nuclear installations inside of mountains and underground if all it sought were radioactive isotopes for medical research.

And yet, Iran, in the absence of any energy deficit and at great cost, materially breached the nuclear non-proliferation pact and secretly built nuclear installations in Qom, in IsfahanNatanz, FordoParchin, and other sites throughout the country. It used these secret nuclear installations to enrich uranium illicitly, to develop plutonium, and to engage in other illicit nuclear weapons projects. It similarly breached non-proliferation treaties in its illicit pursuit of ballistic missiles.

Moreover, it engaged in all of these activities in secret and then refused to open its illegal nuclear facilities to UN nuclear inspectors – again, in material breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (TPT).

Obama; the Europeans; China; and Iran’s chief overt nuclear partner, Russia, all ignored these basic realities and chose instead, at President Barack Obama’s urging, to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran that took account of none of these things. Instead, they embraced the demonstrated fiction that Iran’s nuclear program was peaceful, and that Iran would give it up for sufficient sums of money.

A year ago, on April 30, 2018, the fiction was exposed conclusively. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shocked the world when he exposed Iran’s nuclear archive, which Mossad officers located, seized and spirited out of Iran. Iran’s nuclear archive proved conclusively that Iran’s nuclear program was a military program. Iran had gone to extraordinary lengths to mask its nature. But its copious documentation of its nuclear knowledge, and the lengths it went to preserve that know-how, showed that the basic assumptions of the JCPOA were fraudulent.

Netanyahu’s revelation of Iran’s nuclear archive set the stage for Trump’s announcement, a week later, that he was abandoning the nuclear deal and enacting a new strategy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

In truth, once its true nature of Iran’s nuclear program was finally exposed, there was no rational way the U.S. could have remained in the nuclear deal. The nuclear archive made clear that the nuclear deal was not a non-proliferation agreement. It was a payoff.

Iran agreed to suspend some of its nuclear work for a limited time. In exchange, the U.S. and its partners agreed to pay Iran billions of dollars in cash and sanctions relief, and accept that Iran has a right to nuclear development in contravention of the NPT.

Under the deal, the Iranians have three paths to achieve military nuclear capabilities. They can keep the agreement, and wait for its limitations to expire. After its expiration, as Obama himself confessed, the nuclear research and ballistic missile activity the agreement permits Iran to undertake during the course of the JCPOA would have positioned Iran to develop a nuclear arsenal immediately.

Second, the Iranians could just as easily develop a weapon during the lifespan of the JCPOA by cheating. Since the deal allowed Iran to define nuclear installations as military sites and to bar UN inspectors from entering military sites, the UN had no effective meansof determining Iran’s nuclear capabilities. And indeed, for the past four years, since the JCPOA went into effect, the UN’s biannual determinations that Iran was abiding by the JCPOA’s limitations on its nuclear efforts obscured more than they revealed. After all, the UN’s compliance certifications are based on only partial access to Iran’s nuclear installations. And, as such, they have no credibility.

Finally, Iran can achieve nuclear weapons by abandoning the JCPOA and renewing its nuclear operations. Since the deal was based not on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons but on international monetary payoffs to Iran, Iran’s decision to walk away from the deal now that it is no longer receiving payoffs is perfectly predictable.

Does this mean that the cause of nuclear non-proliferation has been set back? Not at all. The JCPOA itself set back nuclear non-proliferation efforts by inventing a fictional Iran that was credible and appeasable while ignoring the real Iran which is neither of these things.

Given this state of affairs, Trump’s strategy of maximum pressure on Iran, including his decision to deploy the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group to the Persian Gulf, is entirely reasonable.

There are only two moves the U.S. and its allies can make to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The first is to apply crippling sanctions on Iran. And the Trump administration is certainly doing that.

By undermining Iran’s financial stability, the U.S. makes it difficult, if not impossible, for Iran to pay for its illicit nuclear and other operations. Iran’s reported curtailment of its financial support for Hezbollah and Hamas is an indicator that the sanctions are having the anticipated positive effect on the region. The more precarious the Iranian regime’s position becomes, the more difficult it will be for it to carry out its nuclear work and maintain its support for terrorism in the Middle East and worldwide.

The second is to develop a credible threat to use force. Over the past year of steadily increasing U.S. economic pressure on Iran, coupled with stalwart U.S. support for Israel and the Sunni Arab states threatened by Iran, President Trump has built up his personal credibility in the Middle East. In the context, his decision to deploy the carrier group to the Persian Gulf constitutes a credible threat to use military force against Iran if it fails to comply with U.S. demands.

Rouhani’s announcement Wednesday was eminently predictable. The regime is clearly hoping that Europe will run to its side to save Iran from Trump’s effective policies. But if the EU’s tepid responses to the move are any indication, it appears that the ploy backfired. Trump has demonstrated his seriousness of purpose to Europe no less than he has to Iran. And so far, the EU is not willing to breach its relations with the U.S. in order to give in to Iranian nuclear blackmail.

While there is every reason to be concerned that unforeseen events will place the U.S. and its allies in challenging positions vis-à-vis Iran and its terror proxies, and the U.S. and its allies must prepare for the worst, Iran’s announcement that it is stockpiling plutonium and enriched uranium is not proof that Trump’s policy of maximum pressure is failing. It is proof that it is working.

 

B-52s, Patriots, F-35s and more: America’s MidEast deployment rundown

May 12, 2019

Source: B-52s, Patriots, F-35s and more: America’s MidEast deployment rundown – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

A short 101 on the US deployment making its way to the Middle East.

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 MAY 11, 2019 22:15
B-52s, Patriots, F-35s and more: America’s MidEast deployment rundown

In recent days, the US has announced the deployment of an array of military power to the Middle East as tensions grow with Iran. On Friday, the Department of Defense approved the addition of the USS Arlington and a Patriot battery to US Central Command to fill a request last week. The additional forces come as tensions with Iran are rising and the US has warned Iran that any attack by Iranian forces or their proxies will be met with retaliation.

The following is a list of the known forces that the US has deployed.

The USS Arlington

A 24,000 ton, 207-meter-long ship commissioned in 2013 is a San-Antonio class amphibious transport vessel. It is designed to transport US Marines, vehicles and aircraft to be used to support amphibious assaults. It can carry up to 800 troops with a dozen vehicles. Although with the 6th Fleet, which operates in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, it was ordered to join the deployment, according to the United States Naval Institute News.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit

Elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were also dispatched. They transited the Strait of Hormuz with the amphibious ship Kearsarge.

The Kearsarge ARG

The amphibious ready group (ARG) led by the Kearsarge entered the 6th Fleet’s area of operations in December with the MEU and over the last months has been deployed to the Persian Gulf, steaming around various countries. It has up to 4,500 sailors and marines aboard its various units. These include, according to Naval Today, the USS Arlington which is mentioned above, the dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, a helicopter squadron, a tactical air squadron and a naval beach group.

USS McFaul and USNS Alan Shepard

The destroyer USS McFaul and the ammunition ship USNS Alan Shepard were photographed in the Straits of Hormuz on May 7. They had been in the Red Sea in April.

B-52 bombers

Two B-52s landed Thursday in Qatar, part of four B-52s sent to the region. They flew from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and were supported by two KC-10s from McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, according to reports. They form part of a bomber task force of Barksdale’s 20th Bomb Squadron.

The USS Abraham Lincoln

The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike force passed through the Suez Canal last week en route to the Persian Gulf. It included the USS Leyte Gulf and destroyers.

Patriot missiles

US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan also sent a US Patriot missile battery to bolster Central Command.

F-35s

In mid-April, the US sent several F-35s to the United Arab Emirates. These included maintenance and support units from the 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve 419th Fighter Wing.

 

Rouhani compares current ‘difficult conditions’ to Iran-Iraq War 

May 12, 2019

Source: Rouhani compares current ‘difficult conditions’ to Iran-Iraq War – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

The Iran-Iraq War, which began in 1980 and continued for 8 years, left millions dead and wounded on both sides of the fight. Food and essential goods were rationed for years afterwards.

BY TZVI JOFFRE
 MAY 12, 2019 04:48
Rouhani compares current 'difficult conditions' to Iran-Iraq War

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani compared Iran’s current situation with the Iran-Iraq War which killed and injured millions and heavily affected the country’s economy in a meeting with a group of politicians on Saturday, according to Radio Farda.

“Today it is not possible to say if conditions are better or worse than during the imposed war, but at the time we did not have problems with banking, selling oil, imports and exports and our only problem was a weapons sanction,” Rouhani said.

The Iran-Iraq War, which began in 1980 and continued for 8 years, left nearly two-million people dead and wounded on both sides of the fight, and it took years afterwards for the government to end the rationing of food and essential goods.

“Some goods might be rationed and distributed through vouchers or coupons,” said Islamic Republic Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri without much elaboration according to a Radio Farda report. “We might be forced to ration some goods and reintroduce vouchers for distributing them.”

Increasing US sanctions imposed since 2018 have virtually stalled much of Iran’s oil exports and foreign investment and have reduced its trade.

US President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on Iran on Wednesday, as Iran announced that it was relaxing some restrictions on its nuclear program, according to Reuters.

“I believe we can get through this tough situation if we stick together and lend a helping hand to each other,” Rouhani said. “We face difficult conditions, but at the same time I am not hopeless.”

“Surrendering is not compatible with our religion and culture and people will not accept it, therefore we should not surrender. Instead we should find solutions,” Rouhani told the politicians.

“In this regard, it important to consider to what degree solutions can be determined by the government,” Rouhani said, possibly referring to the distribution of power in Iran and the limited power his government has, according to Radio Farda.

Much of the military’s policies, foreign policy, cultural and social restrictions, judicial and major economic policies are determined by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, not the president.

Zachary Keyser contributed to this report.

 

US ready to go for Iran’s Guards bases if Iraqi Shiite proxies attack Al Tanf garrison – DEBKAfile

May 12, 2019

Source: US ready to go for Iran’s Guards bases if Iraqi Shiite proxies attack Al Tanf garrison – DEBKAfile

US-Iranian tensions this week were ramped up by intelligence of a plot for Iran’s Iraqi proxies to attack the American Al Tanf garrison in E. Syria, which commands the strategic Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border intersection. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources, reporting this exclusively, reveal that Tehran’s master-plotter is Qais al-Khazail, head of the Iraqi Kataib Hezballah militia, and he is collaborating with a fellow proxy, the Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq.

This intelligence, which reached the head of US CENTCOM, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, galvanized Washington into action. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hurried over to Baghdad on Tuesday, May 7 with a warning that US punishment would reach Iranian soil and its Revolutionary Guards bases, if US forces came to harm. On Thursday, the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group sailed into the Red Sea and on Thursday, the Pentagon announced the redeployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries to the Middle East.

These ramped up US deployments followed a high-powered conference, which took place unusually at CIA headquarters in Langley on April 29 at 7 a.m. The top-secret meeting was attended by CIA Director Gina Haskel, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats.

For the Trump administration, an Iranian proxy attack on a US asset or ally is tantamount to direct aggression by the Islamic regime in terms of the American response. The Iraqi Hezballah militia is a faction of the multibranched Iraqi Shiite PMU which takes its orders from the Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that in recent months, the PMU has concentrated large scale forces in the western Iraqi province of Anbar next door to the Syrian border This has given Tehran’s plot master Qais al Khazali easy access to his target and time to properly prepare a successful hit. Iran has also provided him with a multi-function arsenal of missiles. They include Fateh 110 missiles which have a range of 300km; Zelzal 2 and Zelzal 3 which can reach targets at distances respectively of 150km and 210 km; and Zulfigar short-range ballistic missiles which have a 1,000km range.

This missile arsenal offers Iran’s proxy chief several options for striking US targets outside Iraq across the Middle East – either instead of or in addition to the projected Al Tanf operation.

Ranged against Iran’s preparations, the Americans have deployed: B-52 bombers to the Al-Udaid Air Base in Qatar; F-35A stealth aircraft to Al-Dhafra base in the UAE; and ordered the USS Abraham Lincoln with strike group take up position in the Red Sea.