Posted tagged ‘Trump and Iran’

The factors of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

January 18, 2017

The factors of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Center for Security PolicyJacub Gorski, January 17, 2017

President-elect Trump’s recently announced plans to have the incoming U.S. ambassador to Israel live in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 already recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and instructs the executive branch to move the embassy or file a national security waiver. With the U.S ambassador to Israel living in Jerusalem what would be the implications for the region if the U.S. moved its embassy to the city as well?

Critics warn that moving the embassy to Jerusalem will spark international protests and cause more instability in the region. Secretary John Kerry warned that “you would have an explosion, an absolute explosion” in the Middle East. The head of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas in a letter to Trump wrote that moving the embassy will “have destructive consequences on the peace process, the two state solution and the safety and security of the region.”

By “explosion” Secretary Kerry probably means an increase in the frequency and strength of Islamic terrorist attacks on the Israelis, Arab states cutting off relations with the U.S. and Israel, or Israel’s neighbors declaring war on the country.

Israel suffered Hamas rocket attacks in the past and is currently undergoing a wave of terror perpetrated by Palestinians. It is the stated goal of the Palestinian terrorists to attack Israel. In its charter Hamas promises to wage jihad against the country and the Israeli Defense Minister suspects that the organization is trying to develop new offensive capabilities in order to do so. So Israel will probably continue to see a spike in terrorist attacks regardless of whether the U.S. moves its embassy to Jerusalem.

Arab states will likely issue condemnations if the U.S. moves its embassy, but they would not cut off ties with America or Israel. Middle Eastern regimes need U.S. help in fighting ISIS and finance their own military operations. Given Arab dependence on U.S. aid it is unlikely they would want to jeopardize their relations with Washington over an embassy.

There is no fear of Arab economic boycotts because Israel’s neighbors have maintainedsanctions on the country for decades.

Also, given Israel’s success in the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars and the subsequent military strength the Arab states are unlikely to ever declare war on the country.

Israel’s neighbors need its help in countering the growing Iranian influence in the region. With Iran and Hezbollah giving military aid to the Assad regime, Israel’s Sunni neighbors might want to consider possible cooperation with Tel-Aviv. In a move that might signal cooperation, the former intelligence chiefs of Saudi Arabia and Israel held a public meeting. If the Arabs want Israeli help then they are unlikely to jeopardize their already fragile relations over the U.S. embassy.

Despite Abbas’ warnings, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem could make the peace process easier. It would send a clear message to the PA that the U.S. considers Jerusalem to be part of Israel. Instead of having our embassy located in Jerusalem U.S. issue waivers that have delayed the move. To the PA this probably looks like America wavering in its support to Israel because the U.S. is failing to keep up its promise. Moving the embassy will send a message that Washington keeps its promises and does not waiver in support of its allies.

Senior National Security Experts Calling for Working with the Iranian Opposition Applauded by Iranian Americans

January 18, 2017

Senior National Security Experts Calling for Working with the Iranian Opposition Applauded by Iranian Americans, Iran News Update, January 18, 2017

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This bi-partisan urge to the incoming Trump administration “to establish a dialogue with Iran’s exiled resistance, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI),” who have called for free elections to establish a secular, democratic, non-nuclear republic in Iran, as well as to end to Tehran’s “religious dictatorship.”

Successive US administrations, offering concessions in a futile attempt to moderate the behavior of the totalitarian regime, have failed, and ignored 80 million freedom loving people in Iran.

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In an article published in the PR Newswire, a Cision Company on Jan. 16, 2017, the Organization of Iranian American Communities-US (OIACUS), the largest, most active and enduring grass root organization of Iranian-Americans in the United States welcomes the letter initiated by nearly two dozen bi-partisan former senior U.S. government officials who have urged President-elect Donald Trump to work with the Iranian opposition, as an integral part of a new policy on Iran.

Signed by 23 former top officeholders during the past five administrations the letter to the president-elect states, “To restore American influence and credibility in the world, the United States needs a revised policy based on universally shared norms and principles reflecting the ideals of peace and justice. A policy highlighting, and demanding an end to, Iran’s domestic human rights violations and malevolent regional actions will attract broad support and generate needed leverage against Iran’s threatening behavior.”

This bi-partisan urge to the incoming Trump administration “to establish a dialogue with Iran’s exiled resistance, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI),” who have called for free elections to establish a secular, democratic, non-nuclear republic in Iran, as well as to end to Tehran’s “religious dictatorship.”

Successive US administrations, offering concessions in a futile attempt to moderate the behavior of the totalitarian regime, have failed, and ignored 80 million freedom loving people in Iran.

The OIAC calls on the new administration to reach out to the Iranian people and their well-organized opposition movement, saying that foreign military intervention is not the answer, and that the United States should recognize the aspirations of Iranian people for a free and democratic future as the only effective and viable policy.

Our members have a range of political and party affiliations. However the members are unified in the belief that democracy and human rights in Iran are imperative to the national security of America, peace in the Middle East, and beyond. “In this honorable endeavor, we shall welcome your engagement and decisive decision-making.”

At a January 24th Congressional briefing, Iranian Americans will also join their representatives to present their policy recommendations on Iran with their representatives in Washington, DC.

Domestic Protests and Trump Inauguration Both Threaten Iran’s Relations with Russia

January 14, 2017

Domestic Protests and Trump Inauguration Both Threaten Iran’s Relations with Russia, Iran News Update, January 13, 2017

(Fascinating article. Please see also, Mystery blasts in Damascus: Syria accuses Israel. “The Russians have taken charge of the Syrian war and no longer bother to consult with the Syrian president or Iran on its conduct.” — DM)

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With the US and Russia strongly at odds, it was understood that Moscow would defend its Iranian partners in disputes over the nuclear deal. But if the US and Russia begin to reconcile and engage in greater political coordination under the Trump administration, this situation could be threatened, especially at a time when Iran’s partnership with Russia is also being openly challenged at home.

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On Wednesday, Voice of America News published an article detailing some of the protests that were seen in Iran on the occasion of the state-organized funeral of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Various slogans were heard to be shouted as part of those protests, and Iranian state media muted the television broadcast of the funeral as a result. These included calls for the release of political prisoners including the Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. But the funeral also served as an outlet for critical sentiments about the Iranian regime’s relationship with Russia and the associated interventions in the Syrian Civil War.

VOA News noted that demonstrators could be heard shouting “Death to Russia” and “the Russian embassy is a den of spies,” in mimicry of slogans that have been used against the United States by supporters of the Islamic theocracy. The report suggested that these demonstrations reflected both a change in the Iranian government’s view of Russia and widespread popular anxiety about that change. That anxiety in turn adds to questions about the durability of the Iran-Russia alliance, which some analysts have characterized not as an alliance but as a tenuous “partnership of convenience.”

Although Iran and Russia have both been backing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad virtually since the outset of the civil war aimed at ousting his government, it has frequently been suggested that the two countries’ interests in the region could begin to diverge in a way that threatened their cooperation. Russia’s partnership with Iran was already threatened by its friendly relations with Iran’s bitter enemy, Israel. And as the Syrian Civil War has dragged on, that threat has apparently intensified with Iran providing anti-Israeli Shiite paramilitary Hezbollah a permanent base in Syria.

Leaving aside the different perceptions of this situation by Tehran and Moscow, it has also been suggested that the latter could be more willing to accept a future for Syria in which Assad is not a long-term player. This difference is arguably reflected in the different degrees of hostility with which the two countries pursue moderate Syrian rebels. Although both have been accused of focusing their efforts on those moderate rebels instead of militant groups like ISIL, Russia guaranteed safe passage to the rebels and to civilians in rebel-controlled territory following the recent conquest of Aleppo. Iran, on the other hand, stopped fleeing Syrians at its own checkpoints and demanded concessions from the rebels to secure their release.

If such differences do reflect broader tensions in the Iran-Russia partnership, it is possible that these could be exploited by other interested parties, particularly incoming US President Donald Trump. Since winning election in November, Trump has continued to advocate for improved relations with Russia, while also maintaining a hard line on such issues as the Iran nuclear agreement.

His prospective Cabinet appointees have largely maintained this same line. The Weekly Standardreports that Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has called for a thorough review of the nuclear agreement, in the interest of strengthening its enforcement mechanisms and making sure that Tehran is held accountable to its provisions to a greater extent than it was under the Obama administration. Meanwhile, UPI reports that Trump’s Secretary of Defense pick, James Mattis, underscored the importance of such a review when he referred to Iran as the worst destabilizing force in the Middle East.

Speaking more concretely during his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis described Iran’s “malign influence” as having grown as a result of recent policies, and suggested that it would be the responsibility of the incoming presidential administration to see that the United States counters that influence, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course this objective, if adopted by the administration itself, will have serious bearing on its strategy with regard to Syria, where improved relations with Russia could also play a part.

Although Mattis also expressed an interest in taking a fairly hard line on Russia, his comments to this effect are at odds with those of the president elect and in any event, they would have to be reconciled with the desire to undermine the power of a Middle Eastern government that could be significantly constrained by Russia.

The Voice of America article indicated that some Iranian officials are noticeably worried about the effects that improved relations between Moscow and Washington could have on Iran’s plans for its Russian partnership. These effects would probably not be limited to the Syrian Civil War but would also include changes in the ways in which the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is understood and enforced.

Earlier this week, the seven parties that had negotiated that agreement met in Geneva, for the last time before US President Barack Obama leaves office and Donald Trump is sworn in. There was some danger of Iran using this meeting to initiate conflict-resolution mechanisms built into the agreement, following comments by the Iranian Foreign Ministry promising “retaliation” and demanding “compensation” from the US for its reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act.

The provisions of that act remain suspended under the JCPOA, but US congressmen almost universally considered it important to keep the law in effect for the next ten years, so as to retain a credible threat of the “snap back” of economic sanctions in the event that Iran is caught cheating on the deal. The Iranians, on the other hand, had insisted that any additional sanctions activity – even unenforced activity – would be regarded as a violation of the spirit of the deal.

However, Reuters reported on Wednesday that Tehran had effectively backed down from its previous threats in the context of the meeting. This apparent change in tone may support a conclusion put forward in a previous Iran News Update article, which suggested that Iran was beginning to reorient its strategies regarding the JCPOA, so as to account for the change in prospective responses under the Trump administration as compared to the Obama administration.

Trump’s own threats to tear up or undermine the nuclear deal are one aspect of this, and they may necessitate that Tehran act differently in order to preserve that deal. Previously, the Iranians themselves had suggested a willingness to tear up the agreement, but some analysts took this to be a ploy to gain further concessions at a time when the Obama White House was paranoid about losing its foreign policy legacy. Some also viewed that ploy as successful, considering that Iran made several perceived violations, including two instances of exceeding heavy water limits, but faced no serious consequences under the deal.

But in times to come, the Iranian regime may have to treat more lightly if it wishes to preserve the agreement, which provided Iran with tens of billions of dollars in unfrozen assets, plus unspecified benefits from sanctions relief and new international business. The changing circumstances reflect not only the loss of a conciliatory opponent in the Obama administration, but also the prospective loss of a strong international backer in the Russian government.

With the US and Russia strongly at odds, it was understood that Moscow would defend its Iranian partners in disputes over the nuclear deal. But if the US and Russia begin to reconcile and engage in greater political coordination under the Trump administration, this situation could be threatened, especially at a time when Iran’s partnership with Russia is also being openly challenged at home.

Iran Steps Up Threats to Israel, U.S.

January 11, 2017

Iran Steps Up Threats to Israel, U.S., Gatestone InstituteMajid Rafizadeh, January 11, 2017

(This can’t be accurate. Obama has told us that Islam is the religion of peace and tolerance. Isn’t it odd that he has not told us that the Islamic Republic has “nothing to do with Islam?” — DM)

“En Sha’a Allah [God willing], there will be no such thing as a Zionist regime in 25 years. Until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists.” — Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, September, 2015.

“If the Supreme Leader’s orders [are] to be executed, with the abilities and the equipment at our disposal, we will raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes.” — Ahmad Karimpour, a senior adviser to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite unit, the Quds Force.

Iran is also attempting to intimidate Donald Trump from taking a tough stance against Iran. Trump ought to be wary of falling into Iran’s tactical game of fear-mongering. For Iran, US concessions and silence in the face of Iran’s threats mean weakness and fear. On the other hand, when Iran sees that the US is taking a robust stance and that the military option is always on the table, Tehran retreats.

As long as Iran’s Supreme Leader is alive and as long as the ruling clerics preserve the political establishment, Iran will maintain the core pillars of its foreign policies and revolutionary principles: these are anchored in anti-Israeli, anti-American and anti-Semitic politics. Iranian politicians across the political spectrum totally agree on these fundamentals.

Iran’s threats against Israel and the US are becoming bolder and louder. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is now repeatedly threatening Israel’s annihilation relatively soon.

According to Iran’s Press TV, Khamenei recently stated:

“The Zionist regime — as we have already said — will cease to exist in the next 25 years if there is a collective and united struggle by the Palestinians and the Muslims against the Zionists.”

In addition, Iranian officials are warning President-elect Donald Trump that if he makes any wrong move, it would lead to a World War, wiping Israel from the face of earth and destroying the smaller Gulf states.

Iranian leaders are adopting their classic tactics and strategy of threatening in advance — and frequently — probably to obtain concessions, push the next US administration to pursue policies of appeasement, and, more importantly, to drive the US to abandon Israel.

In addition, through anti-Israeli and incendiary statements, Khamenei and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are inciting Palestinians and the Muslim world to use violence against the Israeli nation. As a result, Khamenei heightens even further his anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments. Many who follow his beliefs consider it their Islamic duty to fulfill his policies, religious doctrines and prophesies.

Ahmad Karimpour, a senior adviser to the Revolutionary Guards’ elite unit, the Quds Force, previously said that Iran is ready to follow Khamenei’s orders once the leader gives the green light. According to the semi-official Fars News Agency, Karimpour said, “If the Supreme Leader’s orders [are] to be executed, with the abilities and the equipment at our disposal, we will raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes.”

In order to project himself as the leader of the Muslim world (both Shia and Sunni) and to mobilize opposition to Israel and the US, Khamenei reaffirmed the Islamic Republic’s support for groups that stand against Israel and America:

“Despite being engaged in certain regional issues, the Islamic Republic has always announced explicitly that Palestine is the number one issue in the Muslim world and has fulfilled its obligations in this regard.”

Iran’s leader then went on to lash out at the United States as “the most arrogant [power] and the Great Satan.”

Khamenei is correct that his generals and he have previously threatened Israel’s destruction.

In July 2016, the deputy commander of the (IRGC) warned that Iran possesses tens of thousands of missiles outside Iran to hit Israel. According to Iran’s state-owned news agency Tasnim, General Hossein Salami pointed out:

“Hezbollah has 100,000 missiles ready to hit Israel to liberate the occupied Palestinian territories if the Zionist regime repeats its past mistakes… today, the grounds for the annihilation and collapse of the Zionist regime are (present) more than ever.”

In addition, Khamenei has already published a 9-point plan on how to destroy Israel. In September 2015, he called on violence and jihad against Israel, until it is completely destroyed:

“En Sha’a Allah [God willing], there will be no such thing as a Zionist regime in 25 years. Until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists.”

Beside exploiting people’s grievances and inciting violence against Israel, Khamenei primarily relies on Hezbollah, Hamas and the IRGC to pursue his anti-Israel agenda.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, previously disclosed that Iran is lifeline of Hezbollah. In a speech broadcast by the Shiite party’s Al-Manar TV station, he said:

“We do not have any business projects or investments via banks… We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran. We have no money in Lebanese banks, neither in the past nor now. We do not transfer our money through the Lebanese banking system…. We totally reject this [U.S.] law until the Day of Judgment. … Even if the law is applied, we as a party and an organizational and jihadi movement, will not be hurt or affected”.

Nasrallah also insisted that, “as long as Iran has money, we have money… Just as we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it.”

Notably, there are no differences across Iran’s political spectrum when it comes to opposing and threatening Israel. Moderates, reformist, principalists [in Farsi, Osolgarayan: ultra revolutionary and conservatives] and hardliners all pursue the core anti-Israel pillar of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy.

The so-called moderate Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said previously:

“The Zionist regime (Israel) is a regional base for America and the global arrogance … Disunity and discord among Muslim and terrorist groups in the region … have diverted us from the important issue of Palestine… We stand with the dispossessed Palestinian nation.”

Iranian leaders believe that arming groups and people who oppose Israel is critical. Khamenei tweeted that “I announced and it will absolutely happen that, just like #Gaza, the #WestBank must also be armed…”

Iran is also attempting to intimidate Trump from taking a tough stance against Iran. Trump ought to be wary of falling into Iran’s tactical game of fear-mongering. For Iran, US concessions and silence in the face of Iran’s threats mean weakness and fear. The fact is that whenever the US surrenders to Iran’s threats, Iranian leaders become louder and bolder in their threats. On the other hand, when Iran sees that the US is taking a robust stance and that military option is always on the table, Tehran retreats.

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Finally, at least as long as Iran’s Supreme Leader is alive, and as long as the ruling clerics preserve the political establishment, the Islamic Republic of Iran will maintain the core pillars of its foreign policies and revolutionary principles: these are anchored in anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-Semitic politics. Iranian politicians across the political spectrum totally agree on these fundamentals.

Straun Stevenson Blames President Obama for the Legacy of Death and Destruction in Middle East

January 8, 2017

Straun Stevenson Blames President Obama for the Legacy of Death and Destruction in Middle East, Iran News Update, January 8, 2017

(Please see also, In its Last Days, Obama Administration Clings to Hope of a Positive Role for Iran. — DM)

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Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association, former member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14), writes in his January 6, 2017 article for UPI, that the legacy of President Barack Obama will be death and destruction in the Middle East. His vision cooperation between  the United States and Iran “has unlocked a Pandora’s box of conflict and sectarian strife across the zone.”

During the closing days of the Obama administration the controversial nuclear deal with Iran and his policies regarding that ruthless regime have allowed the mullahs to threaten the security of the Middle East, and perhaps, while Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Turkey have tried to prevent Iran’s aggressive expansionism in the region.

The U.S. and other countries is the West failed the Syrian opposition and allowed a civil war to continue into its seventh year, costing hundreds of thousands of lives, and setting off the huge migration crisis in Europe.

$150 billion of frozen assets were released to Iran by the U.S. as part of the nuclear deal, which the Tehran government was expected to use to shore up their economy, on the brink of collapse. Instead, the regime redouble its spending the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Quds Force, both of which are listed terrorist organizations in the West and are involved in many conflicts in the Middle East. Not only does Iran support Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, it funds and supplies Hezbollah in Lebanon and the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq.

The nuclear deal has been breached, which Stevenson says demonstrates Iran’s complete disdain for the West. Two Qadr-H missiles were fired last March, in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution tied to the agreement. “Israel must be wiped out” was marked on the missiles, and the test firing took place on the day that the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel. Vladimir Putin sent the first shipment of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran last August.

President Obama attempted to make deals with the so-called “moderate” and “smiling” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, which he interpreted as having a green light for Tehran’s expansionist policy. Rouhani is in fact in charge of a government which has executed around 3,000 people since he took office in 2013, ten just this year. Mass hangings are now carried out in public, even in football stadiums. Many of the officials in his government were complicit in the 1988 massacre of some 30,000 political prisoners, most of whom were part of the opposition People’s Mojahedin of Iran. In fact, it was supervised by Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who is Rouhani’s justice minister.

Obama began his administration by agreeing with Iran, and backing Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in Iraq. Stevenson writes, “Maliki was a puppet of the mullahs, doing their bidding by opening a direct route for Iranian troops and equipment heading to Syria to bolster the murderous Assad regime. Iran’s support for Maliki in Iraq and for Assad in Syria, two corrupt dictators who repressed and brutalized their own people, resulted in the rise of Daesh, also known as the Islamic State.Thanks to U.S. acquiescence over Tehran, Daesh grew and became a threat to the whole world.”  He continues, “Obama compounded this grievous mistake by providing American military support and air cover for the genocidal campaign being waged by pro-Iranian Shi’ia militias in Iraq. Once again Iran exploited its role in ousting Daesh as a means for implementing its ruthless policy of ethnic cleansing to annihilate the Sunnis in Iraq’s al-Anbar Province. Horrific sectarian atrocities were committed during the so-called “liberation” of the ancient cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. The Shi’ia militias, who formed the main part of the force fighting to recapture these cities from Daesh and are now engaged in the battle to recapture Mosul, are led by Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian terrorist Quds Force. Soleimani has also played a key role in Syria and the massacre in Aleppo.”

Tehran is gaining strength in Iraq. The Iraqi army is poorly trained, and the Iranian has Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s agreement to allowing Iranian-funded militias to take control of military operations. Political disarray in Baghdad, has paved the way for Iran to consolidate its hold in Iraq.

The unenviable task of trying to sort out the Middle East mess will be left to President-elect Donald Trump. Many people on his team believe that Iran is the main source of conflict in the Middle East and poses a greater threat to the West than North Korea or even Russia. It will be interesting to see how Trump will fare.

 

In its Last Days, Obama Administration Clings to Hope of a Positive Role for Iran

January 8, 2017

In its Last Days, Obama Administration Clings to Hope of a Positive Role for Iran, Iran News Update, January 7, 2017

(Iran News Update 

Iran News Update (INU) features news, analysis, and commentary on events inside Iran and the Iranian Diaspora around the world.  News and information is provided in cooperation with the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the parliament in exile of the Iranian Resistance, and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

— DM)

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Kerry’s remarks seem to imply that the Obama administration’s early claims about Iranian moderation will continue to be repeated until it departs the office. But the incoming administration cannot be expected to pick up that thread. And articles like the above-mentioned Fox News editorial indicate that on such issues as Iran’s coordination with America’s enemies, Donald Trump and his advisors will recognize the continuance of Tehran’s worst behaviors.

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On Friday, Fox News published an editorial on the topic of recent nuclear threats from North Korea. As well as being a longstanding thorn in the side of the United States, the Korean dictatorship’s obsession with nuclear weapons development has also variously exposed the cooperation between Iran and other enemies of Western democracies.

This cooperation was highlighted in the Fox News article, with specific reference to a number of instances of Iran helping North Korea with its nuclear program. In the view of the author and other critics of recent US foreign policy, this assistance has effectively been further enabled by a conciliatory approach to dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. As well as failing to address this alleged cooperation while negotiating the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, the Obama administration has also taken very little punitive action against Iran following its post-agreement ballistic missile tests, which were conducted in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions on the matter.

This has arguably given North Korea the impression that the United States is presently either unwilling or unable to react to such tests, of which the Fox News article says the east Asian dictatorship conducted 20 in the past year alone. But to whatever extent Obama-era permissiveness encouraged these activities, that permissiveness is all but certain to end when Donald Trump assumes the presidency on January 20. And the Fox News article concludes with recommendations as to what Trump can do to prevent North Korea’s nuclear development and missile testing.

Those recommendations include bolstering US defensive capabilities along the West Coast, and also constraining “enablers” of North Korean development, chiefly the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, the appropriate means for such constraint remain a serious topic of dispute. On the campaign trail, Trump frequently accused the Obama administration of handing the Iranians a nuclear agreement that brought little benefit to the West. He also threatened to tear it up – a measure that theoretically would have taken the world community back to the drawing board and allowed it to pursue a more comprehensive suite of Iranian concessions.

But subsequent to his election, Trump has taken a different tack, promoting renegotiation of the existing deal instead of its cancellation. Even some Republicans who opposed the deal or viewed it as seriously flawed have taken a similar view. As an example, The Guardian featured an article on Friday that detailed the input offered to Trump by Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has been insistent that tearing up the nuclear deal would create more problems than it would solve, and that the best way forward is to enforce its existing provisions much more strictly than the Obama administration has done.

Iran has at various times been caught in the midst of small violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, including two instances of exceeding the deal’s defined limits on Iranian stockpiles of heavy water, a nuclear byproduct. The absence of consequences for these violations has gone a long way toward promoting the perception of the outgoing administration’s permissiveness. And there has been a great deal of associated speculation and analysis of the reasons for this. The most natural explanations deal with the administration’s fear of endangering Iranian participation in the agreement. But the situation may also be more complex than this and include worries about antagonizing Iran at a time when its participation in regional conflicts is occasionally viewed as a positive thing.

Real Clear Politics points out that this perspective was explicitly expressed by Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “Together, Iran and Russia had to prop [Assad] up, and save him from the possibility that the extremists might take over the country,” Kerry said, apparently deviating from previous US positions calling for Assad’s ouster and promoting the possibility of a victory by moderate rebel groups led by the Free Syrian Army.

Iran and Russia have widely been credited with not only preventing Assad’s fall to these groups, but also with damaging them so severely as to push the Syrian Civil War toward a situation in which the only choices for the country’s future are the established Assad dictatorship and the militant rebels affiliated with ISIL and the Al Nusra Front. Meanwhile, Iran has done its best to advance the notion that its own interests in the region are adverse to Islamic extremism. But Tehran’s pro-democratic opposition the National Council of Resistance of Iran has often referred to the Islamic Republic as the “prototype” for Islamic extremism throughout the world.

On Friday, The Iran Project pointed to recent statements by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, claiming that Iran has always been committed to a political solution in Syria. If taken at face value, those comments can be expected to encourage Kerry’s notion that under current circumstances, a victory for Iran in Syria is a defeat for Islamic terrorism. But the trouble with this claim is that it can only be reasonably defended if one takes “Islamic terrorism” to refer only to “Sunni terrorism.”

As a major part of Iran’s strategy not only in Syria but also in Iraq and Yemen, it has directed recruitment and deployment of multitudes of Shiite militant groups to those battlefields. Previous reports have confirmed that many of these groups swear allegiance to the Islamic Republic over and above the governments of the countries in which they are operating. In this way, Iran is evidently extending its Hezbollah model of foreign influence into other part of the region. And in Syria, it is a well-known fact that Iran is actually utilizing the Lebanese paramilitary group to strengthen its operations and build a large-scale network that spans several nearby countries.

On Thursday, Xinhua News Agency pointed out that the Iranian leadership had fervently disputed rumors that Hezbollah would be withdrawing from the Syrian Civil War. It is not clear what the ultimate source of those rumors was. But they are possibly rooted in Turkey’s demands for such a withdrawal as part of a political solution to the crisis, or else in the outgoing US administration’s optimism about Iranian “moderation” and willingness to cooperate over important foreign affairs. But although Boroujerdi’s comments about a desire for a political solution promote this perception, they are belied by the Iranian leadership’s clear unwillingness to withdraw its militant proxies, even as they continue to violate ceasefire agreements negotiated by Turkey, Russia, and others.

Nevertheless, Kerry’s remarks seem to imply that the Obama administration’s early claims about Iranian moderation will continue to be repeated until it departs the office. But the incoming administration cannot be expected to pick up that thread. And articles like the above-mentioned Fox News editorial indicate that on such issues as Iran’s coordination with America’s enemies, Donald Trump and his advisors will recognize the continuance of Tehran’s worst behaviors.

Bye Bye, Obama

December 26, 2016

Bye Bye, Obama, PJ Media, Michael Ledeen, December 25, 2016

(Please see also, Is real change coming to Iran? Get ready for March 15, 2017. — DM)

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What would President Trump do if Khamenei passed from the scene, and millions of Iranians took to the streets again?  The president-elect has said he’s not a great enthusiast of regime change, but it’s hard to imagine he’d abandon the Iranians as Obama did seven years ago.  He ought to be thinking it through.

Yes, I know good news is hard to swallow, but we are living in a revolutionary moment, of which the Trump election is a dramatic symptom.  The crisis of the Islamic Republic would be a fitting end to the Obama era. He dreamt of a glorious strategic alliance with Iran, and a definitive lethal blow against Israel. How fitting with the Divine sense of humor to have the Palestinians and Iranians to wreck their own enterprises.

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As I promised, as the days of Obama draw down, the jihadis are stepping up the terror tempo.  They know that there will be no reprisals from the Oahu links, and they fear Trump’s lineup of tough guys in the cabinet, so they’re in a hurry to kill infidels while the killing’s good. Therefore we, along with the other Western nations, are at maximum risk right now, until roundabouts January 20th.

And the killing’s plenty good, isn’t it?  Berlin,  Zurich, Ankara, Moscow, with a very nasty plot uncovered in Melbourne, and yet another involving terrorists in Detroit, Maryland, and Virginia.  Not to mention the ongoing slaughter in Syria, and, on Christmas day, Cameroon.

What does the “western world” do in response?  Declare the Western Wall “occupied territory.” This is no accident, since the jihadis believe that they have unleashed holy war against infidels.  That war will not end, in their view, until we infidels have been crushed and subjected to the will of a caliph.  They’ve got plenty of support from the Russians, without whom thousands of Iranians and Iranian proxies would have been killed in Syria and Iraq, and the Assad regime would have been destroyed.

That would have been a better world, but Obama did not want that world.  Nor did the feckless Europeans, who act as if profits on Iran trade compensate for the open subversion of public order.  Indeed, as Christmas arrived we were treated to the spectacle of the bishop of Rome—aka Pope Francis–blaming material misery for the jihadist assault on the West. Thus the first Jesuit pontiff surrenders the moral high ground to his mortal enemies.

Maybe Obama should convert and run for pope.

Paradoxically, the jihadis and their secular allies are launching their new assault just as they are suffering systematic setbacks on the battlefield, their own internal conflicts are intensifying, and there are signs of a religious and patriotic revival within the boundaries of their archenemy, the United States. Walter Russell Mead neatly catches the irony that, just as Obama handed the Palestinians a resounding political victory, a sober look at the situation suggests that the Palestinians have not been this weak, this divided, or this helpless in many decades.

In like manner, the Iranian regime, flush with its success in Aleppo, is increasingly riven.  Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has had two medical events in the past 10 days, and the scrambling for the succession has resumed.  You may have noticed that General Qasem Soleimani has returned to the front pages, which invariably happens when the leader is ill; the Revolutionary Guards want him as the strongman of the next regime (he can’t be supreme leader for lack of theological standing, but he could still be a dominant figure). And it isn’t all peaches and cream for Soleimani, as recent demonstrations in Tehran against the rape of Aleppo make clear. Iranian apologists love to tell us that Persian nationalism  overwhelms internal tribal and sectarian divisions, but Iran has lost thousands in Syria, and the Persian nationalists don’t like their husbands and sons dying to save Bashar Assad.

What would President Trump do if Khamenei passed from the scene, and millions of Iranians took to the streets again?  The president-elect has said he’s not a great enthusiast of regime change, but it’s hard to imagine he’d abandon the Iranians as Obama did seven years ago.  He ought to be thinking it through.

Yes, I know good news is hard to swallow, but we are living in a revolutionary moment, of which the Trump election is a dramatic symptom.  The crisis of the Islamic Republic would be a fitting end to the Obama era. He dreamt of a glorious strategic alliance with Iran, and a definitive lethal blow against Israel. How fitting with the Divine sense of humor to have the Palestinians and Iranians to wreck their own enterprises.

You never know. Life is full of surprises.