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IAEA chief demands ‘clarifications’ on Iran’s nuclear programme

March 23, 2020

The report showed Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at more than five times the limit fixed under the accord.

https://www.france24.com/en/20200303-iaea-chief-demands-clarifications-on-iran-s-nuclear-programme

The head of the UN’s atomic watchdog on Tuesday sounded the alarm at Iran’s cooperation with the agency and demanded “clarifications” over an undeclared site in Tehran where uranium particles were found late last year.

It comes on the same day as the IAEA issued two reports, one on Iran’s current nuclear programme and the other detailing its denial of access to two sites the agency wanted to visit.

Rafael Grossi, the new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who was in Paris to meet President Emmanuel Macron, told AFP: “Iran must decide to cooperate in a clearer manner with the agency to give the necessary clarifications.”

“The fact that we found traces (of uranium) is very important. That means there is the possibility of nuclear activities and material that are not under international supervision and about which we know not the origin or the intent.

“That worries me,” Grossi added.

The IAEA has for months been pressing Tehran for information about the kind of activities being carried out at the undeclared site where the uranium particles were found.

While the IAEA has not identified the site in question, diplomatic sources told AFP the agency asked Iran about a site in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, where Israel has alleged secret atomic activity in the past.

In addition, according to a report issued by the IAEA on Tuesday, “the Agency identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations in Iran”.

At one of them the report said the IAEA had from early July 2019 observed “activities… consistent with effort to sanitize part of the location”.

A diplomatic source said that the three locations were separate to Turquzabad.

The source also said that the agency’s queries were thought to relate to Iran’s historic nuclear activities and not to its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The IAEA report says the agency first raised questions about the sites last year and that Iran refused access to two of them that the agency wished to visit in late January.

Iran then sent the IAEA a letter saying it did “not recognize any allegation on past activities and does not consider itself obliged to respond to such allegations”.

– Deal in danger –

The second report from the agency detailed Iran’s current breaches of several parts of a landmark 2015 international deal on scaling back its nuclear programme.

The report showed Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at more than five times the limit fixed under the accord.

It said that as of February 19, 2020 the Iranian stockpile stood at the equivalent of 1,510 kilogrammes, as opposed to the 300 kg limit set under the agreement.

Some experts consider this amount to provide sufficient material to produce a nuclear weapon, depending on its exact level of purity.

However, it would still need several more steps, including further enrichment, to make it suitable for use in a weapon.

The report says that Iran has not been enriching uranium above 4.5 percent.

An enrichment level of around 90 percent would be needed for weapons use.

Richard Nephew, a former lead US sanctions expert during the negotiations for the 2015 deal, pointed out that while the latest figures were “a problem (that)… needs to be addressed”, Iran’s uranium stockpile remains a fraction of what it was before the deal actually came into force.

“This remains not yet a crisis and we have time to fix it diplomatically, if anyone in Washington or Tehran is still so inclined,” he said on Twitter.

The 2015 deal has been hanging by a thread since the US withdrew from it in May 2018 and went on to impose stinging sanctions on Iran, in particular targeting its vital oil sector.

The latest IAEA reports come just days after a meeting in Vienna of the remaining parties to the deal ended without a clear plan to keep the accord alive.

The 2015 agreement promised Iran an easing of very damaging economic and other sanctions in return for scaling back its nuclear programme.

Tehran has been progressively reducing its commitments to the accord in retaliation for the US move.

Where Is Iran’s Supreme Leader?

March 20, 2020

A worker in a protective suit sprays a disinfectant

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/what-coronavirus-means-regime-change-iran/608122/

Last week, I proposed that Iran’s coronavirus problem is much greater than commonly acknowledged, and that the true number of cases is perhaps hundreds of times greater than the official number. More signs of uncontrolled infection have emerged, and I fear I was optimistic. On Wednesday, Bahrain evacuated 165 of its citizens from Iran; 77 of them tested positive for the coronavirus. The Washington Post reported that satellite photographs showed a great furrow dug into a cemetery in Qom, reportedly to bury huge numbers of COVID-19 victims who had died already in that city. Other areas of Iran complained that they had run out of cemetery space, and that their numbers (then in the hundreds) were so great that they swamped the official national total, which even a week later is a mere 853. In Islam, bodies must be buried promptly and, in general, alone. You cannot bury two people together unless they are close family. One Iranian reported to me that the deaths were coming so fast that the survivors were requesting special dispensation to break this rule.

The economist Tyler Cowen asks, impishly, whether we should in fact be relieved, because apparently even when a society faces unrelenting misery—accelerated by the policies of its government—it doesn’t necessarily break down. Iran hasn’t turned into a criminal wasteland, with gangs in tricked-out, armored Paykans looting toilet paper and ventilators. In fact, it looks like Iranians have, like some Chinese before them, spawned informal systems of order, with roadblocks going up to prevent people from Tehran from fleeing to the countryside and bringing the disease with them. These efforts at containment have failed, but they were not forms of disorder, and most evidence suggests that when the plague abates, Iranians will have many things to mourn, but the irreversible disintegration of their society will not be among them.

The government is another matter. Many Iranians would celebrate its passing, and even its supporters have been watching for signs that the coronavirus will catalyze changes that should have come long ago, but that its authoritarian structure makes nearly impossible. The previous change of leadership came in 1989, as a result not of a modern political process but of biology: Ruhollah Khomeini, 86, died, and his deputy, Ali Khamenei, then 49, took over and has ruled ever since. He is now almost 81.

Given how many people are dying, it would be grotesque to think of COVID-19 as a lucky break for fans of regime change. But the news of ailing senior leaders keeps coming, and at some point the mullahs’ deep bench of gerontocrats will be depleted. Today, Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei-Golpaygani, a member of Khamenei’s Council of Experts, died of COVID-19 in Qom. Last week, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati announced that he had contracted the coronavirus. He is 74 years old, still cunning, and the chief adviser to Khamenei, to whom he speaks regularly and in person. If Velayati dies of the coronavirus, he will be the most important regime figure to die since Qassem Soleimani.

Of course, the center of all speculation is the supreme leader himself. Khamenei doesn’t appear in public often, even in the best of times, and you’d have to be fairly lucky to spot him—except on a few occasions where his appearance is so customary that an absence would make everyone, both allies and enemies, wonder if the coronavirus has felled him too.

As it happens, one such occasion is this week: Persian New Year, or Nowruz. This pre-Islamic holiday marks the vernal equinox, and this year it falls smack in the middle of coronavirus season. Last year, Khamenei stood at the largest Islamic pilgrimage site in Iran, the shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, and delivered a long, almost Fidel Castro–like speech detailing policies and plans. This year, the Islamic Republic canceled the speech 10 days in advance, “due to health recommendations to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.”

As a matter of public health, the decision to call off a huge public gathering is wise and sane. But rumors do not die so easily. Couldn’t Khamenei just give his speech from a studio? Is this not the ideal opportunity, the first day of spring, to discuss the process of renewal that Iran will have to undertake to recommit itself to the ideals of its revolution? For the past two weeks, speculation has been rampant. Surely, say the rumors, Khamenei has the virus—or if he doesn’t, it’s because he has entered Howard Hughes–like seclusion, behind a flaming moat of Purell. These rumors aside, the perception of distance has made Khamenei, already a distant figure without charisma or warmth, seem superannuated and out of touch. If he does not show up, looking healthy, for his camera appearance this year, many will assume that he is in a febrile delirium somewhere.

In any other year, such an absence could, all by itself, trigger speculation about a stroke or even a coup d’état. (Imagine if the U.S. president failed to show up for a State of the Union address, or even—without a word of explanation—the pardoning of Thanksgiving turkeys.) What might save Khamenei is the simple fact that the whole Iranian nation is suffering together, and it isn’t clear which institutions are healthy enough to rival his leadership, even in this diminished state. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers are dying of COVID-19, just as civilians are. And ordinary people have sheltered in place, just as Europeans and Americans are (slowly) beginning to.

If the pandemic has exposed or confirmed the incompetence and malignance of governments, at the same time it has crippled the forces for improvement. The U.S. government has failed to provide the COVID-19 tests that tell us how to prepare for the coming waves of infection. But what can we do, other than go to war against the virus with the White House we have, instead of the White House we want? In Iran, popular protests in the streets simply cannot happen as long as the manpower for those protests remains sequestered at home, and as long as morale is utterly depleted by the task of burying one’s loved ones. Regime change might have to wait. At least the pandemic will eventually end, and with its end, change is one more thing to look forward to.

Cleric close to Khamenei wants Iranians to widely infect the world with Covid-19 to help bring about the Mahdi messiah

March 18, 2020

Sick bastards.

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2020/03/cleric-close-to-khamenei-wants-iranians.html

A prominent hardline Iranian cleric, Ali Reza Banahyan, called on the Iranians to spread the coronavirus to speed up the emergence of the expected Mahdi, the messianic figure in Shiite Islam.

Banahyan said that the outbreak of the virus is a sign of the emergence of the Mahdi, which Shiites believe will emerge at the end of time.

Banahyan is close to the guide the Ayatollah Khamenei, according to the local Tasnim News Agency.

The cleric added that the world before the emergence of the Mahdi will suffer from widespread fears and many economic problems and deaths, and people will need a religious government led by the Imam Mahdi.

Is it really so outrageous to think that people who bankroll suicide bombings all the time against their enemies would not send people infected with the coronavirus to different parts of the world?

I always find it fascinating that the people who are scared as hell of, say, Mike Pence for his fundamentalist Christian beliefs never seem to show much worry about a wannabe nuclear superpower that believes that widespread deaths are a good thing to help bring about the end of the world.

Will a microbe seal the fate of Iran’s virulent regime?

March 16, 2020

Here’s hoping…

P.S. First I’ve heard about Nasrallah catching it – LOL if true.

https://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/will-a-microbe-seal-the-fate-of-irans-virulent-regime/

The problem with events that catch us off-guard is that we are never prepared for the unexpected to happen. Who would have thought that the entire world would suddenly be destabilized by one microbe?

It will take some time before people grasp the social, political and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But it is already altering our landscape and knocking previous assumptions off-course.

Until a few days ago, attention in the United States was focused on whether the Democrats could find a plausible candidate to beat President Donald Trump. Now Trump’s main political opponent is the coronavirus.

During the rackety first few weeks, the administration behaved with impressive speed and resolution in banning flights from China, but then Trump unwisely minimized the severity of the threat of the coronavirus. Now America has banned all flights from mainland Europe, while states of emergency in epidemic hotspots are spreading.

Trump has given the damaging impression that he’s been thrown off-guard by the virus because he can’t make a deal with it. If America goes into coronavirus lockdown, the president stands to pay a heavy political price.

In Britain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just delivered a budget with an eye-watering and, in normal times, reckless increase in public spending to stave off the worst effects of the probable virus fueled recession. In London, events are being canceled, shops are empty, and the normally packed Tube has plenty of space – even at rush hour.

In Israel, where thousands are now quarantined at home, the government took the earliest and most draconian decisions to bar flights from the most affected countries and is now quarantining all arrivals, including Israeli citizens

As a result of its proactive and uncompromising approach, at present Israel is in better shape than most countries. Even so, Israelis are facing inconvenience and worse.

Synagogues are staggering service times for small batches of congregants. Bus drivers are taped off from passengers who are being waved on board without paying. El Al, with massively reduced flights, is on the brink of bankruptcy. Schools nationwide have been closed.

Relatively few in the preoccupied West are taking proper notice of how this unprecedented crisis is playing out in Iran.

After China, Iran has become the second global hub of the disease. So far, even according to doctored official figures, at least 9,000 have been diagnosed with the virus, and 429 have died from it. Unofficial estimates suggest a figure of 1 million or more who have been affected, with thousands of deaths.

In the beginning, the regime concealed the truth and pretended the virus was not affecting the country. Then senior members of the regime fell ill, some of them displaying visible signs during public appearances. Five current lawmakers are known to have the virus, and two representatives elected in the parliamentary elections last month have died of the disease.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah, is also reported to have been infected and has been placed under quarantine along with several of his senior circle. Doubtlessly, they were infected through their close contacts with the Iranian regime. Another reason why so many regime members have been infected is through their close relations with China.

The regime has not only failed to contain the spread of the disease but seems to have made virtually no attempt to do so. It still has no plans to quarantine the city of Qom – the principal shrine of Iranian Shia religious devotion and the epicenter of the Iranian outbreak, from where the virus has massively spread.

The regime also hasn’t halted flights from Iran to other countries. And it has failed to provide testing for its citizens across the country.

As a result of this striking level of inaction, Iran has acted as a global virus super-spreader. And at least one Iranian commentator has suggested that the regime is doing this deliberately.

Pointing out that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently called the virus “a blessing,” Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, president of the International American Council on the Middle East, wrote on the Gatestone Institute website: “Are the ruling mullahs attempting purposefully to spread the coronavirus to other countries as a form of global jihad?”

Those who might find this suggestion too fanciful to be believed are those who fail to fathom the regime’s depths of fanaticism and evil.  Such as, Britain and Europe, along with US Democrats, who reacted with horror when Trump pulled America out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Whatever the president’s faults, he deserves enormous credit for doing just that. He restored sanctions – and a measure of sanity – against a regime that remains hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons to destroy Israel and the West – an infernal agenda the Iran deal would enable with only a few years’ delay.

This week, the International Atomic Energy Authority has reported that Iran is accelerating its production of enriched uranium and is blocking its nuclear inspectors from inspecting Iranian activities. Some analysts suggest that Iran has dramatically shrunk its theoretical “breakout” time to acquire a bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium to less than four months.

The regime’s failure to protect Iranians against the virus has provided a fresh outbreak of public protests. More ominously for the regime, the people are openly mocking it. Since mockery is a sign of condign disapproval in Iran, the regime will be well aware that its already fragile hold on power over the public is slipping further.

This all adds to the increasing pressure the regime has been under through the resumption of sanctions, not to mention the grievous blow it suffered from the US drone killing of its principal military strategist, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

In addition to all of the above, having empowered the Shia from Beirut to Baghdad, the regime is now finding that these people are also turning against it. They are blaming its corruption, ineptitude and foreign adventurism for causing their many woes. In Iraq, the Shia are literally praying for the coronavirus to kill the mullahs.

This week, two Americans and one British soldier were killed after the Taji military camp hosting US and UK troops in Iraq was hit by a rocket attack. No one has claimed responsibility, but the most plausible suspect is Iran.

If so, this suggests that the regime is panicking. For when fanatics feel cornered, they are likely to lash out on the basis that if they’re going down, they’ll take down with them the enemies they believe are their Divine mission to destroy. Perhaps that’s also why it’s not fanciful to suggest that the coronavirus is “a blessing” they wish to magnify.

This microbe might just achieve what humankind has failed to do and seal the fate of the regime itself. With the pandemic predicted to reach its peak around Passover, the coronavirus may thus lay claim to becoming the 11th plague.

Innovative Light-Blade laser can cut down Hamas, Iranian attack drones

March 8, 2020

The laser uses a low-powered system, making it suitable for use in urban environments such as airports without the risk of blinding anyone in the area.

https://www.jpost.com/HEALTH-SCIENCE/Laser-defense-system-developed-by-BGU-offers-defense-against-drones-619765

The OptiDefence laser defense system, which can neutralize attacks by balloons and drones (photo credit: screenshot)

A laser-based defense system capable of taking out attack drones even in urban environments has been developed by Israeli experts, who hope to roll out the system for a range of security uses, including at airports.

The system was developed by Prof. Amiel Ishaaya at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev after incendiary balloons started being launched into Israel in 2018, setting fire to farmland and causing widespread damage. Realizing that no one was looking into a way to prevent the balloons from posing a threat, Ishaaya, an expert on lasers, contacted industry experts. Together, they developed the Lahav-Or, or Light Blade defense system.

“We just worked on a laser system for cutting thick plastic for greenhouses. Kites and balloons are made of similar materials,” he recalled.

Together with Dr. Rami Aharoni and the backing of Border Police commander Yaakov (Kobi) Shabtai, Ishaaya founded OptiDefense to develop the system, working on a shoe-string budget of just a few million shekels to develop a prototype within a year.

Last month, the team proved the efficacy of their system by downing explosive balloons traveling across the border from Gaza. The system was paired with Elbit’s SupervisIR threat detection system in the test, and operated by the Border Police. “We succeeded in downing everything that came within our field of fire,” Ishaaya said.

However, OptiDefense has set its sights on bigger targets.

Attack drones are becoming increasingly common threats, but at the moment require a communication link to either their handler or a GPS system in order to operate, meaning that they can be downed by electronic jamming systems – known as a “soft kill.” Future generations of drones are expected to do away with this weakness and operate completely autonomously. In order to neutralize the threat, a “hard kill” option would need to be employed to shoot the drone out of the air. This is where the Lahav-Or system comes in.

“In order to operate most high-powered laser defense systems, the airspace needs to be cleared for many kilometers around so the laser does not accidentally blind anyone. Our system operates on a lower frequency which makes it safe for urban environments. Airports, for example, could station our systems around to provide complete coverage without endangering any pilots or passengers,” says Ishaaya.

Other applications could include defending public events such as speeches or concerts. The system’s range is several kilometers.

OptiDefense is now seeking investment to further develop and refine the technology.

Trump Just Enabled Israel to Attack Iran’s Nuclear Sites

March 8, 2020

Hmmm…

https://www.meforum.org/60529/trump-enables-israel-to-attack-irans-nuclear-sites

If Israel does decide to bomb Iran, the U.S. government has made it a little easier.

The U.S. State Department has approved an Israeli request to buy eight KC-46A Pegasus aerial tankers. Including support equipment, spare parts and training, the deal is valued at $2.4 billion, with the first aircraft arriving in 2023.

The sale “supports the foreign policy and national security of the United States by allowing Israel to provide a redundant capability to U.S. assets within the region, potentially freeing U.S. assets for use elsewhere during times of war,” said the State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency. “Aerial refueling and strategic airlift are consistently cited as significant shortfalls for our allies. In addition, the sale improves Israel’s national security posture as a key U.S. ally.”

If approved by the U.S. Congress — which is unlikely to block it — the sale is notable on several levels. It’s the first time the U.S. has sold tanker aircraft to Israel. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) currently has 11 tankers, including seven American-made Boeing 707 airliners and four Lockheed Martin C-130H transports. But the Israelis themselves converted these planes into tankers.

The problem is that most IAF tankers are 60 years old: the 707, long retired from commercial air travel, dates back to 1958. The IAF is so desperate to maintain its aerial refueling capability – which allows its aircraft to fly deep across the Middle East – that in 2017, it bought an old Brazilian Air Force 707 just to cannibalize for spare parts.

The KC-46A Pegasus has a range of more than 6,000 miles.

The KC-46A Pegasus is a different beast. Based on Boeing’s 767 airliner, the twin-engine KC-46A can carry 106 tons of fuel to feed hungry jet fighters, and has a range of more than 6,000 miles. The Pegasus is replacing the 1950s KC-135 Stratotanker as the Air Force’s aerial refueler, with 31 currently in service.

A series of manufacturing defects led the U.S. Air Force in 2019 to briefly ban cargo and passengers from flying on the KC-46A, and there are still glitches in the remote-controlled refueling boom. Because the U.S. also flies the Pegasus, it’s reasonable to assume that the Pentagon will insist on ironing out the bugs, which will also benefit the Israeli models.

Also significant is that the State Department approval of the sale is deemed to “provide a redundant capability to U.S. assets within the region, potentially freeing U.S. assets for use elsewhere during times of war.” In other words, the U.S. is selling tankers to Israel with the expectation that they will be used to support American as well as Israeli forces during wartime.

However, the U.S. government also asserts that the sale “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

Iran may beg to disagree.

A direct flight path between Jerusalem and Tehran is just under a thousand miles each way.

Israel is buying 50 U.S. F-35 stealth fighters, and has already stood up two squadrons. The U.S. Air Force’s F-35A model has a range of more than 1,350 nautical miles using internal fuel. While the Israeli-modified F-35I has special Israeli-designed external fuel tanks, a direct flight path between Jerusalem and Tehran is just under a thousand miles each way.

Israel has long threatened to attack Iranian nuclear sites if Tehran tries to build atomic weapons. Iran has more than a thousand anti-aircraft guns, several varieties of surface-to-air missiles, and has repeatedly asked Russia to sell it advanced S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. Iranian nuclear facilities will certainly be protected by strong air defenses.

The KC-46A has more fuel capacity and better sensors and jammers than current IAF tankers.

Which means that if Israel attacks Iranian nuclear sites, the IAF F-35’s – as well as additional F-15 fighters that it intends to purchase – would need mid-air refueling, and probably multiple refills. The KC-46A carries more fuel than current Israeli tankers, and it has better sensors and jammers to survive hostile air defenses.

New aerial tankers by themselves won’t guarantee the success of an Israeli strike on Iran. But they do make it a little easier.

 

The history of nonaggression pacts in Islam

February 21, 2020

Does it matter that Muslim Arabs cannot sign a true peace agreement with Israel? Not as long as Israel recognizes it must remain militarily strong and resolute in defending its culture and borders.

https://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/the-history-of-nonaggression-pacts-in-islam/

The news media is filled with reports that the Arab world – most notably Saudi Arabia and countries in the Persian Gulf, might be prepared to sign a nonaggression pact with Israel. What does this mean, however, from a Muslim perspective?

For countries with strong institutions, agreements are not made between leaders. Meaning that such agreements continue to be valid even if the countries’ governments change.
This is not the case in the Middle East, where with the possible exception of Turkey, agreements are made between leaders, and last as long as those leaders are still in power.

Middle Eastern states are by their very nature authoritarian, even if they appear to have the trappings of democracy – like parliaments, government ministers, etc. If a leader dies or is overthrown, all bets are off. The new leader decides which agreements he will honor.

In essence, in these authoritarian states institutions are by their nature weak, because they are loyal and respond to the leader – not to the people. Regarding Middle Eastern leaders, the late professor Bernard Lewis used to say “the state is their estate.” Meaning that they understand their countries to be their fiefdoms, where they can do pretty much what they want.

In summary, in democratic societies, a “government official” means a person who represents the people vis-à-vis the government. The people empower their governments.

In the Middle East, the Arabic/Turkish/Persian word for government official/bureaucrat is “maamur” or “mu’azif” – which mean “one who is commanded.” But commanded by whom? Answer: Middle Eastern government officials don’t work for the people, they work for and represent the rulers – i.e. a top-down structure.

In Islam, peace as we know it in the West, meaning letting bygones be bygones, cannot exist between Muslims and non-Muslims. According to both the Koran and the Shari’a, there can however be a temporary agreement – a truce or armistice. Such a truce is called a “sulha” or “hudna.” These agreements are modeled after the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, a 628 CE treaty between the Islamic prophet Mohammad and the Quraysh tribe of Mecca, who Mohammad was unable to defeat.

The agreement was to last 10 years, but after only two – when Mohammad had managed to rearm himself sufficiently – he reneged on the agreement, attacked his enemies, and defeated them.

This sulha/hudna agreement is the type of non-aggression pact the Saudis and other Arab Muslim nations seem to be willing to sign with Israel. It is now in their interest to do so because their existential enemy is Iran, an enemy which they share with Israel.

Any agreement they sign with the Israelis must be understood in these terms. These are not peace agreements; they remain in force only as long as the leaders of these Arab countries believe it in their interest.

What would happen, for example, if the Iranian regime collapsed and the new government in Iran no longer threatened the Sunni Arab regimes? Would Israel and these Arab countries still share common interests? Would these agreements still hold? Can Muslim leaders recognize Israel as a Jewish state with the right to live within borders on land once conquered by Muslims?

What does history teach us here?

1.

At the 1949 Rhodes conference after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, the Arabs insisted on calling their treaties with Israel “armistice agreements” – not peace agreements. They further insisted that the lines drawn on the map which divided Israeli-controlled territory from territory controlled by the Arabs be defined as “armistice lines” – not borders. Borders and peace agreements imply permanence and an end to war; the Arabs could not agree to either. From a Muslim-Arab perspective, all of pre-1948 Palestine was Muslim land. Thus, they could not agree to permanent borders or peace.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat, two weeks after he signed the Oslo agreements with Israel, was in South Africa speaking to Muslims. He was recorded telling them that the agreement he signed with Israel was like the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah their prophet had signed with his enemies the Quraysh. Everyone understood the reference and the meaning – Arafat would break the agreement as soon as it became possible to do so.

2.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, upon returning to Egypt after signing an agreement with the Israelis on the White House lawn, told his people he had done what he did for the good of Egypt. Egypt needed its resources to build itself up, and must not waste them on battles Egypt was certain to lose, he said. Sadat ended his speech by saying: what will happen in the future will happen in the future – meaning, this was a temporary agreement until Egypt could regroup – which could last as long as needed. Even so, some in Egypt saw this as treachery, which is why they assassinated him.

3.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton hosted then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Arafat at a Camp David. The stated goal going into the summit was to come to an agreement which would end the Arab-Israeli conflict. Barak offered Arafat almost every square inch of eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank if Arafat would sign a peace agreement with Israel. Arafat instantly rejected Barak’s offer, saying “that he [Arafat] would not have tea with Sadat.” Arafat knew that if he signed such an agreement, he too would be labeled a “traitor” and likely assassinated.

There are no permanent agreements between Muslims and non-Muslims, and certainly not over land that Muslims believe is theirs.

So, what does the above tell us about any possible nonaggression pacts between Israel and Arab countries? The Arab countries in question are all ruled by Sunni Muslims. All are authoritarian. All are in the same boat as the Arab leaders in the examples mentioned above. They cannot agree to permanent peace with Israel. Almost all Muslim scholars agree that once a territory is conquered by Muslims, it must remain under Muslim rule forever. Non-Muslims – i.e., Christians, Jews and others who received a revelation from God prior to Islam can live under Islamic rule, but do not have the right to rule any territory that has ever been conquered by Muslims.

Today’s Israel was conquered by Muslims in 637-38 CE, and thus according to Islam must be ruled by Muslims forever. The Saudis, Morocco and any other Arab Muslim countries therefore cannot sign permanent peace agreements with Israel. Neither, for that matter, can Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas’s charter explicitly calls all of pre-1948 Mandatory Palestine a Muslim waqf – which means it belongs to Allah forever.

No Muslim can recognize Israel’s permanent right to exist because it is a Jewish state, ruled by Jews, which contradicts Islam. Any Muslim that recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state on Muslim land would be labeled a “traitor” and suffer the same fate as Sadat. So the best we could hope for is a temporary non-aggression pact between Israel and its Muslim neighbors.

Does it matter that the Muslim Arabs cannot sign a true peace agreement with Israel? As long as Israel recognizes that it must remain militarily strong and resolute in defending its culture and borders, it should be fine.

Nonaggression pacts or peace treaties notwithstanding, as long as the Muslims realize that Israel is here to stay and will defend itself at whatever cost, non-aggression pacts or truces will be fine. But no one should delude himself into believing that any agreement between the Arabs and Israel will ever be like the peaceful relationship between, say, the United States and Canada. That could only happen if there is a thought revolution in Islam, something that seems unlikely for the foreseeable future.