Archive for the ‘Iran – Middle East’ category

Netanyahu to address country with ‘dramatic news about Iran’ Monday night

April 30, 2018

By Tamar Ben-Ozer, REUTERS April 30, 2018 16:57

Source Link: Netanyahu to address country with ‘dramatic news about Iran’ Monday night

{This should be interesting.  Meanwhile, things seem to be heating up for Iran. Maybe we’ll see just how much intestinal fortitude these guys really have. – LS}

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a televised announcement Monday evening in what his office said would disclosing “dramatic news” regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran.

In a corresponding move, Netanyahu cancelled a scheduled speech at the Knesset in honor of Theodore Herzl day. Channel 10 reports Meir Ben Shabbat, head of the National Security Council, will hold phone calls with collegaues in the UK and France to update them about developments with the Iranian nuclear program.

The announcement will be made from Israel’s military headquarters in Tel Aviv, according to a brief statement from Netanyahu’s office.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a statement on a significant development regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran,” the statement said, offering no further details. Israeli media reports indicate Netanyahu will address the Iran nuclear deal and not the overnight strike in Syria.

Netanyahu met on Sunday with new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the two had spoken about Iran.

Speaking alongside the Israeli leader, Pompeo said: “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats towards Israel and the region.”

Netanyahu had said: “I think the greatest threat to the world and to our two countries, and to all countries, is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, and specifically the attempt of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.”

US President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from the 2015 agreement reached between Iran and global powers, which granted Tehran relief from economic sanctions in return for curbs to its nuclear program.

Israel has long opposed the agreement. Washington’s major European allies have urged the Trump administration not to abandon it and argue that Iran is abiding by its terms.

Minister of Energy Yuval Steineitz said the announcement would be “interesting and impactful.”

 

The Axis of Moderation vs. the Axis of Resistance in the Middle East

December 1, 2017

The Axis of Moderation vs. the Axis of Resistance in the Middle East, Gatestone InstituteNajat AlSaied, December 1, 2017

(Please see also, Saudis Fed Up: “Palestinians Milking Us for Decades.” — DM)

“We are just returning to the Islam we are used to… The moderate Islam”. — Saudi Crown Prince, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on October 26, 2017.

Saudi Arabia’s complaints against Iran’s interference and spreading extremism cannot sound credible if extremism is being practiced inside Saudi Arabia.

There urgently needs to be a unified American position to confront the Axis of Resistance. Iran continues to be the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, empowering these armed militias and extremist groups — the basis of terrorism both in the region and across the world. It makes death threats, cooperates with a nuclearized North Korea, and all the while races toward nuclear weapons capability itself.

The dispute between the Arab states, often known as the Axis of Moderation, and the officially designated terrorist regime in Iran often known as the Axis of Resistance, is no longer just a political disagreement but a threat to the national security of Arab countries.

While the Arab states seem pro-statehood and work with other states, Iran and the Axis of resistance seems not to. Even though Iran calls itself Republic, it has a militia mentality and rarely deals with states. In general, rather than dealing with governments, it instead establishes militias, as it has in Lebanon and Yemen. Even in Iraq, where the government is considered its ally, Iran has established more than 15 militias. Qatar, by supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as Syria under the Assad regime, seem to have the same mentality as Iran. If you trace the Axis of Resistance, all of them appear to have adopted the concept of supporting militias and extremist groups under the slogan of “resistance.”

The Iranian regime’s long history has now culminated in Saudi Arabia being targeted by Iranian missiles located in Yemen. They are coordinated in Lebanon by the Hezbollah militia, who train the Houthis in Yemen. It is important to understand that these violations and proxy wars carried out by the Iranian regime not only threaten the Arab Gulf states but also pose a threat to a regional and international security.

The Axis of Resistance is led by Iran, and includes Syria, Qatar, Hezbollah, Hamas, Arab Shiites loyal to Wilayat al-Faqih (“The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist”) in Iran and Arab nationalists. Its slogans consist of fighting imperialism, empowering the (supposedly) vulnerable — mainly Muslim Shiites — and furthering “Arab nationalism,” which usually manifests itself in support for Palestinians against Israelis.

The expansionist objectives of the Axis of Resistance — in its drive to build a “Shiite Crescent” from Iran to the Mediterranean, are clear, compared to the objectives of the Axis of Moderation, which have not announced any specific aims, except to denounce Iran’s interference in the Arab countries’ affairs.

The Axis of Moderation comprises Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Arab Gulf countries, except for Qatar. The great mistake that the Axis of Moderation has made in confronting the Iranian regime — to try to curb its export of the its “Revolution” — has been to fall into the trap of propagating sectarianism. While Iran portrayed itself as the defender of all the Shiites in the world, Saudi Arabia, as a result, acted as the defender of all the Sunnis in the Muslim world — accordingly, sectarianism was propagated. This polarization, however, has only furthered the interests of the Iranian regime, whose chief objective seems to be to continue igniting this division in an apparent policy of divide and conquer. Instead of the members of the Axis of Moderation confronting Iran politically or militarily, they challenged it on religious and sectarian grounds, such as publishing countless books against Shiites that describe them as the enemies of Islam and labelling all Shiites as subordinate to Iran, as if all Shiites were Iran’s puppets, which not all of them are.

U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump join King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, and the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in the inaugural opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, May 21, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This divisiveness has brought extremism and terrorism to the region, and has only harmed everyone.

Now the Axis of Moderation has become shrewder in its confrontation with the Iran and has employed a greater number of experts in Iranian affairs. The Axis of Moderation, especially Saudi Arabia, has realized that it cannot face down the threat of Iran without radical internal reforms. Saudi Arabia’s complaints against Iran’s interference and spreading extremism cannot sound credible if extremism is being practiced inside Saudi Arabia. These internal reforms, and liberalizing the society, are important internally: they will boost the economy by creating an attractive investment environment, especially for foreign investors. As importantly, reforms will stop any adversary from saying that Saudi Arabia is a state supporter of terrorism or a land that exports terrorists.

The most obvious changes are Saudi Arabia’s internal reforms that cover “social openness” in the form of concerts and festivals, coordinated by an entertainment body, and the country’s attempts to undermine clerical control, both by arresting extremists and establishing a committee at the Islamic University in Medina to codify the interpretation of Quranic verses that call for extremism, especially against other religions.

Saudi Arabia has also clamped down on corruption by arresting suspected businessmen, princes and former ministers. The kingdom has also raised the status of women by giving them more of their human rights, such as the recent lifting of the ban on women driving. In another important change, Saudi Arabia will also allow women to be clerics to confront all the patriarchal interpretations of verses in Quran related to women. Eventually, that could mean that lifting the ban requiring male guardians for women might also coming soon. The Saudi crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has also said that he will allow women to take sports classes in school, attend sporting event for women and to permit music. His wish, he has said, is to “restore Islam.”

The most important matter of all was pointed out by the Saudi Crown Prince, at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on October 26, 2017: “We are just returning to the Islam we are used to… The moderate Islam.” He also said, “We will not continue to be in the post-1979 era.”

This is essentially a confession that the approach that Saudi Arabia followed after 1979 to try to oppose the Khomeini Revolution was not helpful, and that now it is time for real reform to face both internal and external challenges.

What Saudi Arabia is doing will eventually contribute towards clarifying the aims of the Axis of Moderation, which will be to support countries whose primary objectives are development, modernity and stability. The most important goal is to stamp out terrorism by supporting a “moderate” Islam or, more specifically, supporting the approach that Saudi Arabia took before 1979. This approach was echoed by the UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, who said that the moderate countries boycotting Qatar are heading towards secularism — in contrast to Qatar’s support for Islamist militias such as Hezbollah, and radical groups in the Axis of Resistance, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

What has complicated the situation has been an exploitation of the conflict in the United States between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party over how to fight terrorism by countries in the Axis of Resistance such as Qatar.

The double face of Qatar is revealed in many ways. Al Jazeera in English, for instance — as mentioned the article, “Al Jazeera: Non-Arabs Should Not Be Fooled” — is totally different from Al Jazeera in Arabic.

Ahmed Mansour, for example, one of Al Jazeera’s anchors, tweeted about Hurricane “Irma” in Florida by citing a Koranic verse to say that what is happening in America is God’s curse: “Twenty million Americans fled out of fear from Hurricane Irma,” he wrote; then he cited a verse from Quran saying,

“And He shows you His signs. So which of the signs of Allah do you deny?” (40:81, Sahih International)

After his tweet in Arabic was read by American journalists, he apologized in a very sweet tweet in English.

Qatar also pretends to the US that it is supportive of its values, but in fact has close ties with all the enemies of the US. Sultan Saad Al-Muraikhi, Qatar’s permanent envoy to the Arab League, for example, has called Iran, which the US has officially designated as a terrorist state, an “honorable state”. Qatar also disagrees with designating Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations and calls them, instead, “resistance movements” against Israel.

Qatar has, moreover, used that dispute for its own ends by way of an alliance with the Democratic Party’s allies and supporters.

Many Qatari writers and Qatar’s supporters, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, have written articles against the Trump administration, as opposed to the previous administration which clearly had a soft spot for the Muslim Brotherhood. From the beginning, the administration of US President Barack Obama overruled Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak, by insisting that the Muslim Brotherhood attend Obamas speech in Cairo, thereby setting the stage for the fall of Mubarak; and also strongly supported the subsequent regime then Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood). Obama also openly counted the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, among his “best friends.”

These opinion-makers in the US, evidently nostalgic for the previous administration, and known, especially during the Iran Deal, as not exactly alignedwith the Axis of Moderation, seem to have been exploiting the rift between the Democrats and Republicans, apparently hoping for the impeachment of Donald Trump. As a Saudi academic and researcher, Ahmad Al-faraj, wrote in his article, “Qatar: The dream of isolating Trump!,” they possibly think that a Democrat President, like Obama, would again support them.

While Qatar makes itself out to be tolerant and a supporter of democratic Americans and Westerners, anyone who watches Al Jazeera in Arabic will find nothing other than pure hatred of Western values and enormous support for armed militias such as Hezbollah and terrorist groups such as Hamas.

There urgently needs, therefore, to be a unified American position to confront the Axis of Resistance. Iran continues to be the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, empowering these armed militias and extremist groups — the basis of terrorism both in the region and across the world. It makes death threatscooperates with a nuclearized North Korea, and all the while races toward nuclear weapons capability itself. The United States would also do well to advocate a unified European position, and draw support from across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, European governments, for their own economic interests, have turned a blind eye to all the terrorism, extremism and sectarianism that Iran is fomenting. European countries should be warned that if they continue to put these economic interests ahead of global security, not only will the decision undermine the already-fragile national security of their own countries but also those of the region.

It is in the interest of the United States and world peace to support the pillars of an Axis of Moderation that would:

  • Eliminate political Islam because it exploits religion for radical political goals in both the Sunni and Shiite sects. The Shiite version of political Islam failed in Iraq and the Sunni version of the Muslim Brotherhood failed in Egypt and Tunisia. In both versions of political Islam, violence and terrorism are exacerbated.
  • Undermine Iran’s influence among armed militias in the region such as the militia Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi in Yemen and the sectarian militias in Iraq. These should be classified as terrorist organizations. Hamas in the Gaza Strip has already been classified as such by the United States on October 31, 2001. Any country that supports Hamas or defends it, even in its media, should be classified as terrorist too.
  • Prevent the existence of armed militias operating as a state within a state; they are the beginning of the collapse of states and therefore a serious threat to peace and stability.
  • Consolidate the principles of secularism in internal and external dealings. Incitement to sectarian and racial hatred must be prevented as well as the use of Quranic verses to spread violence and extremism. To keep Iraq out of Iran’s control, non-sectarian neighborly relations need to be maintained.
  • Instill the principles of tolerance and respect for all religions and sects and guarantee the free practice of religions and the protection of minorities.

Moderate countries will not promote the rhetoric of a fight with Israel, as does the Axis of Resistance, led by Iran; instead, the Axis of Moderation is now committed to the principles of peace, which are based on the common interests of states to ensure the security and prosperity of all citizens.

The region and the world as a whole have suffered from the actions of the Iranian regime and its allies. There should be no justification for the existence of militias and extremist groups under the banner of resistance or similar pretexts. The international community needs to be firm in challenging states that allow or support such groups and should stress that states can only protect themselves with armies and armed forces, not with militias. A unified American and European position needs to help the Axis of Moderation to prevent countries in turmoil from becoming cantons of militias and extremist groups. That seems a more constructive way to fight terrorism and build global stability.

Najat AlSaied is a Saudi American academic and the author of “Screens of Influence: Arab Satellite Television & Social Development”. She is an Assistant Professor at Zayed University in the College of Communication and Media Sciences in Dubai-UAE.

This article was first published in Arabic at Al Hurra.

McMaster, McCain Call to Back Kurds

October 29, 2017

McMaster, McCain Call to Back Kurds, Clarion ProjectElliot Friedland, October 29, 2017

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster answers questions during a press briefing at the White House (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

McCain blamed the chaos in the region on the previous president, saying “This is the unfortunate legacy that the Obama administration left for its successor.” That alone is not a plan. Despite making encouraging sounding remarks about safeguarding Kurdish security, both McCain and McMaster were remarkably light on specifics.

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Leading U.S. political figures Senator John McCain and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster have called for America to ensure Kurdish security and curb Iranian influence. Iraqi forces recently seized disputed territories including the city of Kirkuk from the Kurds as tensions mount following the Kurdistan independence referendum.

President Trump has long warned about the dangers to American security posed by Iranian ambitions. Iran is steadfastly opposed to a Kurdish state.

“What we would like to see in Iraq is a stable Iraq that is not aligned with Iran,” McMaster told a meeting of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

He clarified that “part of a strong Iraq is a strong Kurdish region where we have very long-time partners whose partnership we value tremendously, who you know, who bore the brunt of Saddam Hussein’s brutality over many years and who we intervene on their behalf as everyone knows after 1991 and they used the safety and security we helped provide that region to build a—phenomenal communities in Sulaymaniyah, and Erbil and in Dohuk. I mean these are southern European thriving cities when you go to the Kurdish region.”

McMaster did not shy away from blaming Iran for aggression against the Kurds. In an interview with the U.S.-funded Arabic news network Al-Hurra, he accused Iran of taking “advantage of divisions within the Kurdish Regional Government, divisions within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] after the death of Jalal Talabani, God rest his soul, and what they have done is tried to advance their interest at the expense of long-term security and stability in Iraq.”

He called on America to intervene, saying, “What we need to do, though, is we have to work to mediate this conflict in a way that allows our Kurdish friends to enjoy the safety, security and prosperity they built over so many years and not regress from that.”

Former Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain was more forthright. In a New York Timesop-ed, McCain slammed the Iraqi government’s attacks on Kurdish forces as “totally unacceptable.”

“The United States offered arms and training to the government of Iraq to fight the Islamic State and secure Iraq from external threats — not to attack Iraqi Kurds, who are some of America’s most trusted and capable partners in the region,” he said.

Despite his strong words, Iraqi forces are already using American equipment to attack Kurds. People’s Mobilization Units (PMU), the paramilitary forces attached to the Iraqi army, launched a four-pronged attack against the Kurdish Peshmerga northwest of Mosul on Thursday, according to Kurdistan 24.

“As of 1200 hrs, Peshmerga heroically repelled today’s attacks, destroying three tanks, five U.S. Humvees and one Badger,” the Kurdish Region Security Council said in a statement. “Having retreated from the areas, Iraqi forces have resorted to shelling Peshmerga positions.”

The Kurds report that around 100 militia fighters were killed. The offensive is aimed at capturing the strategically important area of Iraq next to the Syrian border, according to analyst Seth Frantzman. If successful, it would cut off the Iraqi Kurds from Kurdish areas of Syria.

“Let me be clear: If Baghdad cannot guarantee the Kurdish people in Iraq the security, freedom and opportunities they desire, and if the United States is forced to choose between Iranian-backed militias and our longstanding Kurdish partners, I choose the Kurds,” McCain wrote.

What exactly does he mean by that? Iraq has already rejected a request by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to disband the Iranian-backed militias grouped under the PMU banner.

The PMU were called to arms in 2014 by a fatwa issued by leading Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to fight ISIS. The PMU were officially made part of the Iraqi army in November 2016.

It was unclear if McCain would support using U.S. military force to protect Kurdish areas against Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. It is also worrying what might happen if America does not act.

“There is a great fear among the Kurds that they could face another genocide at the hands of the Iraqi government and the Shia militia forces backed by Iran,” said Julie Lenarz, the executive director of the Human Security Centre, a London-based think-tank with extensive contacts in Kurdistan. Lenarz was speaking on a conference call hosted by The Israel Project.

McCain blamed the chaos in the region on the previous president, saying “This is the unfortunate legacy that the Obama administration left for its successor.” That alone is not a plan. Despite making encouraging sounding remarks about safeguarding Kurdish security, both McCain and McMaster were remarkably light on specifics.

Hamas Rejoins Iran’s Terrorist Axis

October 26, 2017

Hamas Rejoins Iran’s Terrorist Axis, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, October 26, 2017

(Please see also, The Iran-Hamas Plan to Destroy Israel. — DM)

One immediate result of the Iranian-Hamas reconciliation is the new Hamas outpost being built in Lebanon.

Lebanon is under the firm control of Iran’s proxy, Hizballah. It is now seeing the arrival of Hamas members who have set up a new command center. From there, Hamas could set up terrorist cells in the West Bank.

Hamas’ new presence in Lebanon could also be used to create a rocket-firing base, or cross-border terror cells operating from Lebanon, with Hizballah’s and Iran’s approval.

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Hamas is deepening its ties with Iran and its radical Shi’ite axis. Iranian cash is once again expected to fund Gaza’s war preparations and arms build-up program.

Before the 2011 outbreak of the war in Syria, Sunni Hamas and Shi’ite Iran were united by their goal to destroy Israel. Iran helped arm and fund Hamas’ terrorist-guerilla army in Gaza.

But the two fell out after finding themselves on opposite sides of the sectarian fence in the bloody Syria war. Iran, largely through its Lebanese proxy Hizballah, has committed troops and weapons to prop up dictator Bashar Al-Assad.

Now, out of cash and isolated, Hamas is in search of backing from a major regional power, and it is returning to Iran’s orbit.

The Iranians have been indicating that past fall-outs are history, and that Hamas will get all of the help it needs to prepare for future war against Israel. Israel’s intelligence community is closely monitoring these developments.

The Islamic Republic will grant Hamas “all assistance that it requests,” a senior Iranian official told the Lebanon-based Al Mayadin TV network, according to Israel’s Ynet website.

“Relations with Iran are excellent and Iran is the largest supporter of the [Hamas armed wing] Izz Al-Din Kassam Brigades with money and arms,” Hamas’ chief in Gaza, Yehya al-Sinwar said.

“The relationship today is developing and returning to what it was in the old days,” Sinwar told Reuters.

“This will be reflected in the resistance [against Israel] and in the agenda to achieve the liberation,” he said. “Liberation” is a reference to Hamas’ ideological long-term commitment to destroy Israel and replace it with a Palestinian-Islamist state.

One immediate result of the Iranian-Hamas reconciliation is the new Hamas outpost being built in Lebanon.

Lebanon is under the firm control of Iran’s proxy, Hizballah. It is now seeing the arrival of Hamas members who have set up a new command center. From there, Hamas could set up terrorist cells in the West Bank.

Hamas’ new presence in Lebanon could also be used to create a rocket-firing base, or cross-border terror cells operating from Lebanon, with Hizballah’s and Iran’s approval.

One of the Hamas members seen in Beirut recently is its No. 2 man, Saleh Al-Arouri. He has been responsible for remotely setting up terrorist cells in the West Bank. Until recently, Al-Arouri operated out of Hamas’ headquarters in Turkey.

Al-Arouri has been appointed Hamas deputy leader. He took part in a senior Hamas delegation to Iran earlier this month.

Those ties with Iran are one reason why Israel’s cabinet rejected recognition of a fledgling Hamas-Fatah unity government. Israel will not recognize the new Palestinian government until Hamas agrees to give up its weapons, recognize Israel, and cut links with Tehran.

“Our presence in Iran is the practical denial of the third precondition — cutting ties with Iran,” Arouri said. “Undoubtedly, the Palestinian resistance forces will never give up… their arms,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, praised Hamas’ stance. Khamenei’s representative congratulated Hamas “for declaring that you will not set your weapons aside,” according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Renewed Iranian support probably will take the form of suitcases of cash entering Gaza via smuggling tunnels.

Some tunnels linking Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula remain, though many others have been demolished by Egypt.

Iranian know-how in producing rockets, RPGs, mortars, and drones will also, once again, be used to train Hamas engineers, who are in charge of Hamas’ domestic weapons industry.

Iranian guerilla combat doctrines, which already have influenced Hamas greatly, could also reappear in Gaza, in updated forms.

Iran might also try to smuggle materials to make weapons into Gaza via small fishing boats.

Hamas has been open and frank about its intentions in renewing Iranian sponsorship. A senior Hamas official said it was about securing “Iranian financial and logistical support,” according to the Agence France-Presse.

Hamas’ new relationship with Iran will displease Sunni Arab countries who, like Israel, view the Iranians and their regional destructive behavior as a top threat.

But this is a risk Hamas’ leadership is prepared to take in its quest to replenish cash supplies for its military and terrorist operations.

Hamas’s isolation – the force that drove it into Iran’s arms – is also what caused it to enter a reconciliation agreement with its arch Palestinian rival, Fatah.

Seeking to avoid a collapse of its regime in Gaza due to dwindling cash and energy resources, and under pressure from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who had been reducing Gaza’s electricity flow, Hamas decided to feign compromise with Fatah.

This is a short-term tactical move designed to serve the longer-term radical vision. Both Hamas and Iran would like to eventually use the Palestinian reconciliation to depose Fatah from power in the West Bank.

Hamas can be expected to use the coming years to build up its political power in the West Bank, Fatah’s home turf, and then try to take it over through elections. Hamas’s end goal is to create two armed fronts against Israel – from Gaza and the West Bank – with Iran creating the third and most potent third front from Lebanon, in the form of Hizballah.

Hamas and Iran still have their differences, but Hamas’s new leadership, and its distress stemming from isolation, have led it firmly back into Iran’s orbit. So long as Egypt remains under a government that is hostile to Islamists and jihadists, Hamas will continue to see Iran as its state backer, despite the Shi’ite-Sunni divide.

Meanwhile, a senior Hamas member with a history of funneling tens of millions of dollars from Iran to the organization’s military wing has recently been unveiled as a new top-level overseas liaison, according to Israel’s Kan television news service.

Maher Salah, a senior Hamas financier, recently appeared at a Turkish rally for the deceased Egyptian former Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mahdi Akef, in which he eulogized Akef as one who “loved jihad fighters and the jihad for Allah.”

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Salah, together with Al-Arouri, in 2015.

“The fate of your country is to pass from the world,” Salah said, addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The fate of your kingdom is to be eliminated. I promise him that his country will not live to celebrate 100 years.”

Salah could use his ties in Iran to restart large-scale terrorist financing efforts.

The Gaza Strip is the quietest it has been in 30 years, and Hamas today remains deterred by Israel’s military might.

But its recent actions and statements show that Hamas is exploiting the ceasefire to gear up for long-term and destructive conflict with Israel. It is returning to Iran’s fold to help it in this effort.

Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

The coming Israel-Iran confrontation

October 12, 2017

The coming Israel-Iran confrontation, Israel Hayom, Elliott Abrams, October 12, 2017

As one Israeli military commentator recently wrote, “If the Israeli diplomatic move fails to bear fruit, we [Israel] are headed toward a conflict with the Iranians.” That conclusion, and the Iranian moves that make it a growing possibility should be on the minds of Trump administration officials as they contemplate a new policy toward Iran’s ceaseless drive for power in the Middle East.

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In the United States, discussions of Iran have for the last few years been mostly about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama. In the Middle East, things are different.

This is because while we have been debating, Iran has been acting. And Israel has been reacting. Israel has struck weapon convoys in Syria a hundred times in the last five years, bombing when it saw an Iranian effort to move advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Last month Israel bombed the so-called Scientific Studies and Researchers Center in Masyaf, a city in central Syria, a military site where chemical weapons and precision bombs were said to be produced.

Now, there are reports that Iran is planning to build a military airfield near Damascus, where the Revolutionary Guards could build up their presence and operate; that Iran and President Bashar Assad’s regime are negotiating giving Iran its own naval pier in the port of Tartus; and that Iran may actually deploy a division of soldiers in Syria.

Such developments would be unacceptable to Israel, and it will convey this message to Russia and to the United States. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is scheduled to visit Israel soon, after which Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will visit Washington. Previous Israeli efforts (during Netanyahu’s four visits to Moscow in the last year) to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop Iran have failed, which suggests that Israel will need to do so itself, alone – unless the new Iran policy being debated by the Trump administration leads the United States to seek ways to stop the steady expansion of Iran’s military presence and influence in the Middle East.

That remains to be seen. Rumors suggest that the Trump administration may label the IRGC a terrorist group, which could open the door to using counterterrorism authorities to stop its expansion. Whatever the debate over the JCPOA, there may well be a broader consensus in the administration that Iran’s growing military role in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region must be countered.

Whatever the American conclusion, if Iran does indeed plan to establish a large and permanent military footprint in Syria – complete with permanent naval and air bases and a major ground force – Israel will have fateful decisions to make. Such an Iranian presence in the Mediterranean and on Israel’s border would change the military balance in the region and fundamentally change Israel’s security situation. And under the JCPOA as agreed by Obama, remember, limits on Iran’s nuclear program begin to end in only eight years, Iran may now perfect its intercontinental ballistic missile program, and there are no inspections of military sites where further nuclear weapons research may be underway.

As Senator Tom Cotton said recently, “If Iran doesn’t have a covert nuclear program today, it would be the first time in a generation.” Israel could be a decade away from a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and has bases in Syria – and could logically therefore even place nuclear weapons in Syria, just miles from Israel’s border.

As one Israeli military commentator recently wrote, “If the Israeli diplomatic move fails to bear fruit, we [Israel] are headed toward a conflict with the Iranians.” That conclusion, and the Iranian moves that make it a growing possibility should be on the minds of Trump administration officials as they contemplate a new policy toward Iran’s ceaseless drive for power in the Middle East.

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This piece is reprinted with permission and can be found on Abrams’ blog “Pressure Points.”

 

Israel Takes on the SHIA Crescent

October 2, 2017

Israel Takes on the SHIA Crescent, Front Page MagazineJoseph Klein, October 2, 2017

At least, Israel has a more sympathetic ear in the Trump administration than it did in the Obama administration for raising its concerns about Iran’s growing threat, not only to Israel but to U.S. interests in the region and beyond. President Trump’s sharp denunciation of the Iranian regime during his address to the UN General Assembly represented a welcome departure from the Obama administration’s milquetoast approach to Iran. 

As the U.S.-led coalition continues to drive ISIS from its bases of operation in Syria, the Trump administration has proclaimed its intention not to allow Iran to turn Syria into its own satellite, as Iran has essentially done in Iraq. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that the “so called liberation of areas by Assad’s forces and Iranian proxies could actually accelerate the cycle of violence and perpetuate conflict rather than get us to a sustainable outcome.” He claimed that the Trump administration’s “objectives are to weaken Iranian influence across the region broadly,” without discussing the means to accomplish those objectives.

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Despite Israel’s repeated warnings, Barack Obama’s reckless appeasement of the Iranian regime has enabled its rise as a hegemonic threat in the Middle East region as well as a threat to international peace and security. In 2009, Obama turned his back on millions of dissidents in the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, who were peacefully protesting the rigged election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. In 2011, Obama precipitously removed the remaining U.S. combat troops from Iraq, giving rise to ISIS’s re-emergence in Iraq from its bases in Syria. The radical Shiite Iranian regime purported to come to the “rescue” of both countries from the Sunni terrorists, turning Iraq into a virtual vassal state of the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the process. Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran legitimized Iran’s path to eventually becoming a nuclear-armed state, while immediately filling its coffers with billions of dollars to fund its aggression. 

Meanwhile, Syria has become ground zero for Iran’s execution of its regional ambitions, which is to establish its Shiite Crescent connecting with its allies, including Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This plan has included the establishment of a land route that Iranian-backed militias secured in June, beginning on Iran’s border with Iraq and running across Iraq and Syria all the way to Syria’s Mediterranean coast. This road makes Iran’s job easier in supplying arms by land, as well as by air and sea, to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and to equip Iran’s own forces fighting inside of Syria in support of Assad. This helps explain why Iran has placed so much importance on helping the Syrian regime establish control over the Deir ez-Zor area in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border.

“Everything depends now on the Americans’ willingness to stop this,” said an Iraqi Kurdish official who was quoted in a New Yorker article. However, U.S.-led coalition forces apparently have done next to nothing to stop this major advance in Iran’s Shiite Crescent expansion. “Obama ran down our options in Syria so thoroughly, by the time this administration took over,” said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The Iranian influence is spreading because they are so heavily involved in regime activities,” Tabler added. “It’s a new monster.”

Furthermore, Iran has funded and armed its terrorist proxy Hezbollah, which has sent its militia from its home base of Lebanon to fight alongside Assad’s forces.  And Iran has used Syria as a transit point for shipment of sophisticated rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon for future use against Israeli population centers. Despite the fact that Hezbollah has American blood on its hands, the U.S.-led coalition has chosen not to do anything about Hezbollah’s presence in Syria, bought and paid for by Iran.

While Israel chose not to take sides in Syria’s civil war with military intervention of its own, it has bombed weapons storage facilities and convoys inside Syria for its own protection. Just recently, on September 7th, Israeli jets struck a Syrian weapons facility near Masyaf, which was reported to have been used for the production of chemical weapons and the storage of missiles. Israel will also do what is necessary to repel Iranian-backed forces if they edge too close to areas near the Golan Heights, shrinking the buffer between Israel and Iranian controlled territories.

However, such tactical measures may not be enough to thwart Iran’s larger ambitions. In light of intelligence reports that Assad may be ready to invite Iran to set up military bases in Syria, Israeli leaders have concluded that they cannot wait until the Trump administration decides to deal more forcefully with Iran’s growing use of Syria as a staging area for carrying out its expansionist Shiite Crescent strategy.  “Their overriding concern in Syria is the free reign that all the major players there seem willing to afford Iran and its various proxies in the country,” wrote Jonathan Spyer in an article for Foreign Policy. As long as nobody else is addressing the concern Iran’s growing control raises in a satisfactory manner, “Israel is determined to continue addressing it on its own.”

At least, Israel has a more sympathetic ear in the Trump administration than it did in the Obama administration for raising its concerns about Iran’s growing threat, not only to Israel but to U.S. interests in the region and beyond. President Trump’s sharp denunciation of the Iranian regime during his address to the UN General Assembly represented a welcome departure from the Obama administration’s milquetoast approach to Iran.

As the U.S.-led coalition continues to drive ISIS from its bases of operation in Syria, the Trump administration has proclaimed its intention not to allow Iran to turn Syria into its own satellite, as Iran has essentially done in Iraq. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that the “so called liberation of areas by Assad’s forces and Iranian proxies could actually accelerate the cycle of violence and perpetuate conflict rather than get us to a sustainable outcome.” He claimed that the Trump administration’s “objectives are to weaken Iranian influence across the region broadly,” without discussing the means to accomplish those objectives.

Whether the Trump administration follows through remains to be seen. In the meantime, Israel will have to deal with the fallout of Iran’s ambitions in Syria itself.

Ryan Mauro: It’s a Bad Time to Be an Ayatollah in Tehran with Mattis & CIA’s “Dark Prince” Around

September 13, 2017

Ryan Mauro: It’s a Bad Time to Be an Ayatollah in Tehran with Mattis & CIA’s “Dark Prince” Around, Clarion Project via YouTube, September 12, 2017

According to the blurb beneath the video,

Clarion Project’s Shillman Fellow, Prof. Ryan Mauro, reacts to reports that the Trump Administration is planning a more aggressive strategy towards Iran by pointing to the CIA’s “Dark Prince” and Secretary of Defense Mattis as reasons why the ayatollahs in Tehran should be worried.