Tag Archive | Iran

PAST US MIDEAST BLUNDERS – REPEATED OR AVOIDED?

By retired Ambassador Yoram Etteringer

 

Western policy in the Middle East – from Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, through Jordan, Egypt and North Africa – has largely failed due to a multitude of erroneous assessments made by well-intentioned policy-makers, researchers, academicians and journalists.

 

For example, the State Department “wise men” opposed the 1948 establishment of the Jewish State – which they viewed as a potential ally of the Soviet Bloc – contending that it was doomed militarily, demographically and economically.

 

In 1977-79, the US foreign policy establishment courted Ayatollah Khomeini and deserted a critical strategic ally, the Shah of Iran, assuming that Khomeini was seeking human rights and peaceful-coexistence. In 1981, the US punished Israel – militarily, economically and diplomatically – for destroying Iraq’s nuclear reactor, which spared the US a potential nuclear confrontation in the 1991 Gulf War.

 

Until Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the US showered the ruthless Iraqi dictator with intelligence-sharing and commercial agreements. In 1993 and 2005 the US embraced the Israel-PLO Oslo Accord and Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, maintaining that they would advance peace, while in fact they fueled Palestinian hate-education and terrorism.

 

The 2010-11 eruption of the still-raging Arab Tsunami was greeted as an “Arab Spring,” “Facebook Revolution” and “Youth Revolution;” supposedly, leading Arab societies closer to democracy. During 2009-11, the US sacrificed pro-US Egyptian President Mubarak on the altar of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Sunni-Muslim terrorist conglomerate.

 

In 2011, the US led the NATO toppling of Libya’s Qaddafi – who previously surrendered his infrastructure of weapons-of-mass-destruction to the US and systematically fought Islamic terrorism – contending that a post-Qaddafi Libya would be more democratic and pro-Western. In 2018, Libya is one of the largest platforms of Islamic terrorism.

 

In 2015, the US led the JCPOA accord with Iran’s Ayatollahs, which provided the inherently anti-US rogue regime with an unprecedented tailwind to topple all pro-US Arab regimes, intensify terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, and try to push the US out of the Persian Gulf.

 

Notwithstanding the failure of all well-intentioned US initiatives to advance Israel-Arab peaceful-coexistence, the US may introduce another peace initiative, overlooking the face that the only successful peace initiatives were directly negotiated between Israel-Egypt and Israel-Jordan. And the list goes on….

 

Such a track record provoked systematic criticism by “The Gang of Four,” who were the leading experts/authors on the Middle East: Prof. Elie Kedourie (London School of Economics & Political Science), Professor P.J. Vatikiotis (London School of Oriental and African Studies), Prof. Bernard Lewis (Princeton University) and Prof. J.B. Kelly (University of Wisconsin). Their criticism, which has been in publication since the 1960s, has been resoundingly vindicated by the Arab Tsunami, which has traumatized the Middle East, and threatened the West, since 2010.

 

The four luminaries highlighted the Western tendency to oversimplify the highly-complex, fragmented, unpredictable, unstable, intolerant, violent, frenzied and tenuous inter-Arab reality of the Middle East – irrespective of the Arab-Israeli conflict – which is dominated by ruthless minority-regimes, and is yet to experience inter-Arab peaceful coexistence.

 

For example, Prof. Elie Kedourie exposed the fumbled US policy which energized Iran’s Ayatollahs, stabbed the back of the Shah of Iran – the US Policeman in the Persian Gulf – dealt the US a game-changing setback, and placed a machete at the throat of each pro-US Arab regime in the Middle East: “An emergency was in the making, which involved the regime in Iran, a pillar of US and Western interests.

 

This emergency was the most serious foreign policy test… which President Carter and his leading officials failed…. The Carter Administration was willing to see [the Shah] go because it had persuaded itself that the alternative would institute democracy and human rights…. From Teheran, Ambassador Sullivan argued that Khomeini was anti-Communist, that the young officers were generally pro-Western, that economic ties with the West would subsist, that Khomeini would play a ‘grandpa like role’, and that election would be likely to produce a pro-Western Islamic republic. In Washington, there was a chorus of academic and official voices singing the praises of Khomeini and the National Front….”

 

According to Prof. P.J. Vatikiotis: “For the foreseeable future, inter-Arab differences and conflicts will continue…. Inter-Arab relations cannot be placed on a spectrum of linear development… Rather, their course is partly cyclical, partly jerkily spiral and always resting occasionally at some ‘grey’ area…. What the Arabs want is not always – if ever – what Americans desire; in fact, the two desires may be diametrically opposed…. Even without the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Arab Middle East would have been a conflict-ridden and conflict-generating area…. Arrangements or alliances made by foreign powers with [Arab] regimes are problematic, dangerous, transient and even meaningless….”

 

Moreover, “a political challenge to any of these [Arab] regimes can come only in the form of a violent confrontation. Opposition is subversion; political disagreement is treason. The tolerance of opposition is scarce – in fact, nonexistent…. Power changes are therefore possible only via rebellion or revolution….”  

 

The litany of books and essays on the Middle East by Prof. Bernard Lewis have exposed a self-defeating Western policy, sacrificing realism on the altar of wishful-thinking and oversimplification. Many of them were authored before the 1979 toppling of the Shah, the bombing of the US Embassy and Marine Headquarters in Beirut in 1983, the 1998 bombing of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, the 2001 Twin Towers devastation and the current proliferation of Islamic terrorism in Europe.

 

Prof. Lewis highlighted features of Islam, which have not been fully-comprehended by Western policy-makers, who tend to sacrifice reality on the altar of rapprochement with Islam: “[Non-Muslims] may receive the tolerance, even the benevolence, of the Muslim state, provided that they clearly recognize Muslim supremacy…. That Muslims should rule over non-Muslims is right and normal…. That non-Muslims should rule over Muslims is an offense against the laws of God and nature…. Islam was associated with power from the very beginning…. The world is divided basically into two. One is the community of the Muslims, the other that of the ‘unbelievers.'”

 

Western policy in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf was severely criticized by Prof. J.B. Kelly: “While the Russians may have miscalculated at times, they have attempted to ground their policy upon reality, not upon wishful-thinking.
Western policy, on the other hand, has been based upon illusions, self-deception and calculations of short-term advantage. Nowhere is this more evident than in the formulation and execution of American policy towards Arabia and the Gulf…. In Arabia and the Gulf, the US government allowed itself to be seduced into adoption and implementing ARAMCO’s plans and those of its Saudi Arabian clients…. The State Department lent its unobtrusive support…. Just how great a part-illusion, self-deception and willful-obtuseness have played in fostering [this policy] is clearly revealed in the transcripts of hearings on the subject of American relations with the Gulf states held by the Senate Foreign Relations and the House International Relations Committees from 1972 onward…. None of this [former Secretary of State Joseph Sisco’s Congressional testimony] bore the remotest resemblance to reality…. It was then, and remains still, a mirage….”

 

Prof. Fouad Ajami, who was the Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University, wrote: “Arabs and Israeli are ready for peace, it is said by many in the US and in the Middle East. The missing ingredient, they argue, is the American role and American peace plan. The other side of this promise is a threat: dire consequences are predicted, for the region and for American interests, if the [US] Administration fails to embark on an activist policy.
In reality, the promise is a mirage, the dire consequences an empty threat…. The notion of [the US’] indispensability is a trap. We should not walk into that trap when others set it for us. Certainly, at least, we should be able to avoid entrapping ourselves.”

 

Have Western policy-makers learned from precedents by avoiding – or repeating – costly mistakes? Are they aware that unrealistic policies tend to be self-defeating, yielding more injustice and casualties than that which they intend to cure?!

Iran opens a war against Israel from Gaza

by Caroline Glick

 

A Kornet anti-tank missile hit a civilian bus transporting Israeli soldiers adjacent to Israel’s border with Gaza at 4:30 in the afternoon on Monday.

According to the bus driver, 50 Israeli soldiers had alighted the bus just moments before it was hit by the missile. The missile struck while the bus was moving slowly towards a parking lot. One soldier, who was standing next to the bus, was critically wounded in the blast.

Immediately after the missile strike against the bus, Hamas and its partner, Islamic Jihad, initiated the largest bombardment of Israel they had ever undertaken from Gaza. By late Tuesday morning, the two terror groups had fired more than 400 projectiles into Israel. Fifty Israelis were wounded in the onslaught. One person was killed when a mortar hit an apartment building in Ashkelon. Hundreds of mortars and rockets and missiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile batteries. And the government announced it was rushing more Iron Dome batteries to the area.

In the hours following the joint Hamas-Islamic Jihad assault, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (who stepped down Wednesday) ordered the Israel Air Force (IAF) to carry out a large-scale air assault against Hamas command posts and other facilities in the Gaza Strip.

In a media briefing, a senior Air Force commander said the IAF strikes since Monday night have been the most far-reaching raids Israel has ever conducted in Gaza. More than a hundred targets were hit in under two hours, he said.

Israel’s Security Cabinet, which is authorized to order the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to open large-scale operations, including war, convened on Tuesday morning. Its final decision was to walk back the conflict and agree to a ceasefire, with no terms.

The cabinet’s decision was met with fury by residents of the south. They came out in droves, blocked a major highway leading to the embattled border town of Sderot, and set fire to tires while attacking the government for opting not to go to war against Hamas.

Defense Minister Liberman held a press conference Wednesday afternoon announcing his resignation in protest against the decision to walk away from the conflict.

Netanyahu, for his part, defended the government’s decision in a speech on Wednesday morning. With Liberman’s resignation imminent, Netanyahu said that he was acting on information about Israel’s enemies that he cannot share with the public. And he insisted that Israel would take action to defeat them at a time and in a manner of its choosing.

What might he have been talking about?

In all likelihood, he was talking about Iran.

To understand the role Iran is playing in Gaza, it is important to take a close look at the missile strike against the bus on Monday.

Hamas terrorists in Gaza filmed the blast. According to Israel’s Hadashot news network’s veteran Arab affairs commentator, Ehud Ya’ari, the footage of the blast was first broadcast on Iranian television in Lebanon and only later rebroadcast on Palestinian television.

This is highly significant. The initial Iranian broadcast indicates that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not independent actors in their aggression against Israel. Rather, they are Iranian proxies. They receive their orders from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s Lebanese army, Hezbollah. And they report to their Iranian and Lebanese commanders.

When Hamas and Islamic Jihad go to war against Israel from Gaza, they do so not merely because they have become convinced that Israel will go to great lengths to avoid a major military operation against Gaza that would require the IDF to deploy large numbers of military forces and assets to Gaza. (Although surely their awareness of Israel’s deep-seated desire to avoid another major war with Hamas-Islamic Jihad in Gaza empowers them to attack.)

And they shower Israel with missiles, rockets, and mortars merely because by agreeing to enable Qatar to transfer cash and fuel to Gaza to keep the Hamas regime afloat to secure a ceasefire, Israel showed Hamas that it can be extorted. (Although the knowledge that Israel is willing to be extorted to avoid war certainly also played into the Hamas-Islamic Jihad’s decision to attack Israel.)

The main reason Hamas and Islamic Jihad attacked Israel is because Iran told them to do so.

So when Israel decides not to take the bait but rather accepts a humiliating and – in an election year – politically costly ceasefire, we have to think about the relative balance of power today between Israel and Iran.

Outside of Lebanon, which Iran effectively controls through Hezbollah, Iran’s chief area of operations in Israel’s neighborhood is Syria, where Iran has been going from strength to strength. With each passing day, the Russian- and Iranian-Hezbollah-controlled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad reasserts and reinforces its control over much of Syrian territory. As it does so, the threat of a major war that will pit Israel against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, and against Hezbollah, Iranian, and Syrian forces operating under Russian protection in Syria, rises.

Gaza plays a role here, as it has in the past, because if Israel is sucked into deploying large numbers of forces to Gaza to fight Hamas, it will leave its Northern Front vulnerable. That is precisely what happened in the summer of 2006.

One of the most forgotten aspects of Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon is that it began in Gaza. Two weeks before Hezbollah opened hostilities against Israel by attacking a military patrol along the border, killing eight IDF reserve soldiers and stealing the bodies of two of the dead, Hamas carried out a similar operation in southern Israel.

On June 25, 2006, a combined force of terrorists from Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Fatah faction entered Israel from Gaza through an underground tunnel. They reached an IDF position along the border and attacked a sleeping tank crew. Two soldiers were killed, and three were wounded. One of the wounded, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, was captured and taken to Gaza.

Following the cross-border attack, Hamas and its terrorist allies carried out a large-scale bombardment of Israel with mortar and rocket fire.

Israel deployed a large number of ground and air forces to Gaza. So when Hezbollah attacked two-and-a-half weeks later, Israel was far more vulnerable than it would otherwise have been.

There are two main reasons that the prospect of war between Israel and Iran-Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria has grown. First, Iran is interested in fighting before U.S. sanctions drive it into bankruptcy. And second, Russia’s recent turn towards Iran and Hezbollah and away from Israel has emboldened Tehran.

Until September 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin was sitting on the fence, with everything concerning Russian relations with Israel on the one hand, and Russian relations with Iran-Hezbollah on the other hand. Until September 17, Putin was interested in preventing an Iranian war against Israel even as he enabled Iran to assert control over Syrian through Hezbollah and the Assad regime. To thatw end, while fighting with Iran to secure Assad’s continued hold on power, he agreed to a coordination mechanism with Israel that enabled Israel to attack Iranian targets in Syria that directly threatened Israel. According to the Israeli government, in the 12 months preceding September 17, Israel carried out more than 200 airstrikes – or more than 4 strikes a week – against Iranian targets in Syria.

On September 17, Russia abruptly changed its posture. That day, Syrian forces manning an S-200 surface to air missile battery in Damascus accidentally downed a Russian spy plane.

Rather than blame the incompetent Syrian forces that indiscriminately shot off missiles that downed their plane, the Russians blamed Israel, which had completed a strike in Syria 15 minutes before the Russian jet was downed.

Russia’s seemingly irrational assault on Israel, blaming it for an action undertaken by Syria, was a calculated move. By attacking Israel, Russia was able to use the episode as a means to end its tactical cooperation with Israel in Syria and swing entirely to Iran’s side.

Russia moved rapidly to complete its pivot to Iran.

Right after the Syrians shot down the Russian plane, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it was deploying the more advanced S-300 surface to air missile system in Damascus. Barely a week later, the S-300 landed at Russia’s Khmeimim air base in Syria and was quickly assembled and deployed.

According to media reports, Israel has severely constrained its air activities in Syria since Russia delivered the S-300 battery. In the meantime, Iran has continued and stepped up its missile shipments to Hezbollah through the Damascus airport.

Last week, Israel carried out a major air exercise with the Greek air force. According to Israeli media reports, the purpose of the exercise was to train pilots to operate in the presence of an S-300 battery. Greece fields an S-300 system.

Since September 17, Netanyahu has tried on multiple occasions to meet with Putin, only to be rebuffed. Netanyahu met with Putin briefly in Paris over the weekend. The Israeli media reported that their brief exchange provoked Netanyahu to brief his cabinet that “the crisis with Putin is far worse than we thought.”

President Donald Trump was scheduled to meet with Putin in Paris. But shortly before Trump left for Paris, the meeting was postponed until November 30.

Given the inflamed situation in the north, Russia’s betrayal and Iran’s clear interest in provoking a two-front war, Netanyahu’s rationale for accepting the politically damaging and humiliating ceasefire with Hamas becomes clear. The main reason that Israel has gone to such great lengths to avoid a major conflict with Hamas is because it is mainly concerned with Hezbollah and Iran in the north. The IDF and the government have no interest in deploying thousands of troops to Gaza, where they will be unavailable to fight in the north when they are needed.

Presumably, Netanyahu is hoping that Trump will succeed where he has apparently failed in weakening Russia’s sudden determination to stand with Iran against Israel. Presumably he is hoping to delay major action against Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran until circumstances are less propitious for Iran both economically and militarily.

But as the missile attack on the bus, and Hamas’s unprecedented, ferocious rocket assault on southern Israel showed, the longer Israel waits to strike its enemies, the more powerful they become. So the longer Israel delays action, the more difficult it will be for it to defeat its enemies in a strategically significant way.

And as Lieberman’s resignation and the protests against the government from the beleaguered and infuriated residents of southern Israel demonstrate, the political price of delaying the inevitable may become prohibitive for Netanyahu and his political partners in his coalition government.

HAMAS LEADER THREATENS TO ATTACK “SETTLEMENTS”

Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar: If Israel attacks Gaza, we’ll attack the settlements inside Israel.
Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar on Sunday warned the IDF against operating in Gaza in response to the “March of the Return”, in which Gazans are marching en masse toward the border with Israel.
In an interview with the Hamas-affiliated newspaper Felesteen, Zahar said that “Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman wants to send a message of intimidation, but he knows that we are not afraid.”
Asked about the possibility of an Israeli attack in Gaza, Zahar replied, “The message is clear, an eye for an eye. If it attacks inside Gaza, we will attack the settlements that are deep inside Israel.”
“The Palestinian people are the guide today, because the Palestinian people are stronger than any organization and the roots of the people are stronger than the 1967 borders and stronger than the 1948 borders,” Zahar continued.
“Among the Palestinian, Arab and Israeli leadership there are those who believe that the (Palestinian) people have forgotten their land. The Palestinian people today emphasize that they have not forgotten a single inch of Palestine and will not give up any holy place in it, and we will not stop the resistance until we realize this goal,” he threatened.
Tensions along the Israel-Gaza border have worsened in recent weeks, following the beginning of six weeks of violent demonstrations and attempted infiltrations into Israel along the Gaza security fence.
On March 30, rioters kicked off the “March of the Return” demonstrations, which drew tens of thousands in clashes with IDF forces along the border.
According to Gaza health officials, 29 rioters have been killed during the clashes with the IDF, with close to 3,000 more wounded.
The IDF has reported that at least 12 of the rioters killed in the disturbances are terrorists with known ties to the Hamas organization, while others approached the security fence and attempted to cross into Israel, despite warnings by the IDF prior to the riots.
On Sunday, several terrorists from Gaza infiltrated Israel through the security fence near northern Gaza, resulting in the IDF launching an artillery barrage on terrorist positions in the region.
ISRAEL ON HIGHEST ALERT AS IRAN THREATENS TO ATTACK!

Israel Today Staff
Israel’s military forces have been put on high alert after Iran threatened to retaliate over the bombing early Monday of an air base in central Syria.
The T-4 Air Base had reportedly been a headquarters for Iranian drones being used in support of the Syrian regime. Israel viewed that and all other Iranian military forces in Syria as an unacceptable threat to the security fo the Jewish state.
While Israel maintained its policy of ambiguity regarding the T-4 base bombing, Russia, Syria, Iran and the United States all said that Israeli aircraft had been responsible.
“The crimes will not remain unanswered,” insisted Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
While still not explicitly admitting to the T-4 base strike, Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the Jewish state would not back down in confronting creeping Iranian hegemony.
“Israel will not allow Iranian entrenchment in Syria. Whatever the cost,” Liberman told reporters. “Accepting Iranian entrenchment in Syria would be to accept Iranians putting a chokehold on us. We cannot allow that.”

Notes On Our Next War

BY VIC ROSENTHAL/ABU YEHUDA

.

There is a feeling of calm before the storm here in Israel. Everyone thinks war is unavoidable, and most people understand, at least on an intellectual level, that this war is going to be one of the toughest in Israel’s history.
.
I’ll say at the outset that I’m convinced that we will survive this one too, and even achieve a measure of victory. But the cost will be very high in soldiers, civilians and property, and the price we will have to exact from our enemies will be even higher.
.
As in the past, they have worked themselves into a frenzy, listening to their own propaganda. And as in the past, they will be sorry. But there’s no stopping them, particularly since the Iranian regime thinks it will be able to destroy us by proxy, without getting its own hands dirty.
 .
Our government and military will do their best to deter the various actors. Don’t join in, and nothing will happen to you, they will say, as they said to King Hussein of Jordan in 1967. But our enemies’ lack of understanding of our capabilities, their misconceptions about the nature of the Jewish people in Israel, and their incandescent hatred for us will continue to dazzle them.
.
We are facing some 130,000 rockets in Lebanon which can hit almost all of Israel, and some of which can be accurately guided to their targets. There is also an unknown number of missiles in Syria, which can carry chemical weapons. And Iran herself has missiles that can strike Israel from her territory.
.
There are battle-hardened Hezbollah fighters and Shiite militias in Lebanon and Syria, prepared to bring the war to our territory. And unlike the IDF, they will not spare civilians that they encounter.
.
Hamas has also built up its missile forces since the last war, and have hardened their launchers and buried them underground. There is a threat from ISIS in the northern Sinai. Once the war begins we can expect an upsurge in terrorism from Arabs in Judea and Samaria, and possibly even from terrorist cells based in the Triangle area. How many fronts does that make?
.
The IDF expects incursions in the North and has made plans for evacuation of areas threatened by fighting or heavy rocket barrages. Possibly there may also be evacuations in the area around Gaza.
.
The enemy’s first act will probably be massive rocket attacks from Lebanon, perhaps with precision-guided missiles aimed at military targets and sensitive infrastructure. Only some of the incoming rockets will be intercepted by our anti-missile systems, which can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of projectiles.
.
I expect that there will be incursions by elite enemy forces at the same time, in order to create panic and jam the roads with people moving south. Thousands of rockets a day will be fired at first, until our forces can destroy the launchers and stockpiles.
.
The IAF and artillery will hit the launch areas in southern Lebanon, causing massive damage and probably great loss of life to civilians among whom the rocket launchers are placed. IDF ground troops will enter Lebanon to root out the launchers that can’t be destroyed from the air.
.
Heavy fighting is expected in an area that is honeycombed with tunnels and bunkers. Casualties to both the home front and the IDF in this phase may be quite high.
 

I can’t estimate how long it will take for the rocket fire from Lebanon to be stopped, but in 2006 it continued for an entire month until a cease-fire was signed. The IDF says that it has learned its lessons from that war, but then so has Hezbollah. I think it is true that this time we have far better intelligence and will know how to hit more targets in less time. We may even succeed in decapitating Hezbollah by killing its top leadership early on.
.
But it is impossible to predict what will happen in a four- or five- front war. There are credible estimates of thousands of civilian and military casualties on our side. The war will probably be the most painful of any of Israel’s previous wars (at least in the sheer number of casualties).
.
I think that the Israel of massive construction projects and burgeoning economy will suffer a severe setback from this war, because of the human and financial costs. The “golden age” that we are experiencing today will not continue, or at least will be suspended for some years.
.
The worldwide hate machine will go into overdrive, holding us responsible for the deaths of thousands or even tens of thousands of human shields in Lebanon and Gaza. There will be demonstrations against Israel and Jews everywhere.
.
What can we do to reduce the impact of the war? It seems to me that there are several possible strategies:
.
One is to wait for the enemy to attack and then hit them as hard as possible. This has one main advantage – at least, its proponents claim that it does – which is that world opinion and the diplomatic climate would be more favorable, since we would not be viewed as the aggressor. Our enemies would have violated international law by attacking us, and theoretically a  negotiated settlement would favor us.
.
The main disadvantage of this strategy is that a huge amount of damage can be done before we respond. Especially if critical infrastructure is destroyed, our response could be delayed, and the difference could be measured in thousands of deaths.
.
Since ground troops would be required to deal with incursions and hardened rocket launchers, we would be in a difficult spot until the reserves could be called up, especially if we have been attacked on multiple fronts.
.
But the truth is that our diplomatic isolation stems from other nations’ perceptions of their national interest and by their prejudices, and not on the true moral or legal nature of our actions. World opinion is manipulated by governments and media and is also not reality-based. Therefore I doubt that any such abstract advantages would justify the price we would pay for it. And the price would be high.

.

The second strategy is to preempt and attack first. Martin Sherman has done a good job in arguing for preemption:
.
Given the assumption that, bolstered by its patron’s pervasive physical presence, Hezbollah will in all likelihood, eventually, use the vast arsenal at its disposal, the inevitable question is: Will Israel allow its deadly adversary to choose the time, place and circumstances for a major attack against it? Indeed, more to the point, can Israel afford to allow Hezbollah such a choice?
.
Sherman goes on to show that Israel cannot, particularly because the small size of the country and her technological sophistication make her especially vulnerable to destruction of critical infrastructure, such as power plants, desalination facilities, refineries, natural gas platforms, and similar facilities.
.
A preemptive strike might not be quite as effective as it was in 1967, but it would certainly reduce the damage that Israel would need to absorb. If done properly it might result in a quick end to the war. I’ve argued the same thing here and here.
.
Sherman argues correctly that the idea that Israel has been successful in deterring its enemies is wrong. Rather, our restraint has been exploited to allow our enemies to build up and harden their capabilities. The choice, says Sherman, is “between incapacitating the enemy while you can; or continuing to deter the enemy–until you can’t!”
.
A third strategy is to continue as we have been doing, preventing Iran from establishing bases in Syria and arming Hezbollah by means of limited strikes. But this is a delaying tactic that is only partially effective, and, Sherman notes, “it is liable to lead not only to the hardening of targets– for example by converting them from surface to underground sites–but to familiarizing the enemy with Israel’s methods and capabilities.”
.
There is always the question “what will the great powers do?” That means, of course, the US and Russia. The rest of the world will talk, but does not have the power to act (the Sunni Arabs will condemn us in public but smile in private). It is hard to predict what the Trump Administration will do, but it is certain that a Democratic administration would be worse, which argues for taking action sooner rather than later.
.
Will the Americans insist on prior knowledge of the operation? Can we take the risk of telling them? What will happen if we don’t?
.
As far as Russia is concerned, part of our plan will have to include guaranteeing Russia’s interests in the region. What this would mean in detail would have to be worked out, but I don’t think our interests and Russia’s have to contradict each other.
.
The problem is that time is not on our side. The longer we wait, the more expensive in lives and money the inevitable war becomes. The comforting argument that because of our strength our enemies will continue to be deterred falls apart with every new report that Iran has built this or that facility, or introduced this or that militia into Syria.
.
Sherman asks: do we want a triumph like 1967 or a trauma like 1973? I don’t know if we can achieve a victory as total as 1967, but only preemption will save us from an outcome that could be much worse than 1973.

 

Israel Is Fighting A Five-Front War

By Yochanan Visser/Arutz Sheva
.

Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western Journalism.com in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authored a book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva

Israelis used to talk about the “next war” and are familiar with warnings about imminent threats to the existence of the Jewish state or, alternately, theories which offer a “solution” to our hundred-year-old conflict with the Arabs. Often, the various theories are based on wishful thinking or on Einstein”s definition of insanity.
If Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was to hold a “State of the Nation” address in the Knesset today, he would most likely say Israel is strong, thriving and flourishing. He would add that he has managed to keep Israel out of the Middle Eastern quagmire once called “The Arab Spring” which has devastated countries and contributed to the rise of ISIS and Iran in the region.
In short, Israel appears enjoying a “quiet” period, that”s the general line of thinking.
There”s more than meets the eye, however, and an assessment of the reality on the ground shows a very different picture and makes clear that Israel is already engaged in a war, a covert one.
One could call it a “low-intensity conflict” but the fact is no day passes by without news which supports the conclusion that the IDF is fighting an asymmetrical war against implacable foes on five fronts.
Over the last year we have witnessed the heating up of the northern border in both Syria and Lebanon, an uptick in Palestinian terror attacks, a renewal of rocket fire from Gaza, continuing attempts to infiltrate Israel via so-called terror tunnels and most recently a sharp increase in attempts to attack the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
For example, in Gush Etzion, the largest bloc of Jewish communities in Judea, there were three attempts by Arabs to infiltrate the city of Efrat and Carmei Tzur, a small Jewish village along Road 60 to Hevron, this over the past month alone.
In all cases, local security and emergency teams managed to foil the terror attacks, but it is an indication that terrorists are heeding Fatah”s recent call to attack “settlers”, meaning Jews living in Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland of Israel.

Then there is Gaza, where Hamas again allows rocket fire against villages and towns in southern Israel and continues to organize infiltration attempts via tunnels and the security fence surrounding the enclave.
The worsening of the humanitarian situation in Gaza could easily spark a new conflict with Israel according to Israeli security experts, and Hamas is reportedly again preparing for war as a way-out of its self-created Gazan swamp.
Over the past few days, Hamas-leader Yahya Sinwar has raised the level of alert among the various Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip and has moved the command echelon to underground facilities. He thinks Israel intends to launch a pre-emptive assault on Gaza within the next few days.
Sinwar ordered the measures after the IDF stepped up its retaliatory attacks against Hamas targets in the Gaza strip and because he mistook a joint American-Israeli drill and an exercise by the IDF”s Paratroopers Brigade as preparation for imminent war.
In reality, the joint American-Israeli drill, dubbed Juniper Cobra, is a biennial exercise which will this year focus on missile defense in a two-front scenario, while the Paratrooper drill could be a preparation for military action against Iran and its proxies.
Another front where Israel is fighting a covert war is the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt where Wilayat Sinai, the local ISIS branch, continues to pose a serious threat not only to the regime of President el-Sisi but also to the Jewish State.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that Israel has carried out airstrikes on positions of Wilayat Sinai a hundred times.
The Israeli intervention in Sinai was coordinated with the el-Sisi regime, according to the NYT, and started after the ISIS affiliate downed a Russian civilian plane in northern Sinai in 2015, killing all aboard.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) uses drones and unmarked helicopters and warplanes in the campaign against Wilayat Sinai, which formerly operated under the name Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

The NYT report, which was based on intelligence obtained from unnamed American officials, formed the first concrete evidence of the changing relationship between moderate Arab countries and Israel. This relationship is now based on the idea of the “enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
Most attention in Israel, however, went to developments along the two northern fronts last week.
On the Syrian Golan Heights, the Iranian-Russian-backed pro-Assad coalition launched an offensive against the ISIS-affiliated Jaysh Khaled bin al-Walid militia, which still controls a pocket of territory near the Yarmouk river.
According to citizen-reporters in the area and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the IDF was also involved in the battle and launched rockets at the ISIS affiliate. SOHR later erased the report about Israel”s intervention.
The Syrian army offensive against the Jihadists on the southern Golan comes after Assad”s forces re-conquered an area adjacent to the Druse town of Khader and the demilitarized zone near Mount Hermon in northwest Israel.
The fifth front were Israel is facing huge challenges is Lebanon, as became apparent last week when Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that Lebanese residents of Beirut would spend a lot of time in bomb shelters whenever Hezbollah and its allies dared to launch rockets at Tel Aviv and other Israeli population centers.
Liberman made his remarks after Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow to discuss the growing Iranian threat via Hezbollah in Lebanon with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Netanyahu reportedly shared intelligence with Putin which proved Iran is building missile production facilities in Lebanon, and works on the production of advanced missile guidance systems which can convert crude rockets into precision weapons.
These guided missiles form a strategic threat to Israel, and this is the reason the government in Jerusalem embarked on yet another diplomatic offensive to draw attention to the growing Iranian threat against the Jewish state from Lebanon and Syria.

The urgency of the matter was further underlined by a rather unusual action by IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis who wrote an open letter to the Lebanese people. In the letter, he warned of danger to the entire future of Lebanon because of “the takeover of those who take their orders from Tehran.”

The latest diplomatic offensive by the Netanyahu government to draw international attention to Iran”s encroachment on Israel”s northern border via Hezbollah and Shiite militias in Syria which operate under the command of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), is doomed to fail.
While the Americans recently targeted Hezbollah by imposing new sanctions on the terror organization, they still support the Lebanese army despite evidence it has become another Iranian division controlled by Hezbollah.
The European countries are even worse and in the main, still view Hezbollah as an umbrella organization with a banned military arm and a legitimate political division. As a result, Hezbollah is able to operate freely in most European countries, recruiting new members and raising funds.
Israeli experts such as Dr. Ely Karmon of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya now advocate another approach, in which Israel takes Iran directly to task about its belligerent activities in Syria and Lebanon.
Karmon says Israel”s deterrence policy in Lebanon is not working because Iran and Hezbollah are not impressed by threats to destroy Lebanon”s infrastructure or the prospect Lebanese citizens will have to spend time in shelters in a possible future conflict.
Karmon recalled how Iran finally gave in during the eight years it was at war with Iraq.
“It should be remembered that the decision of Ayatollah Khomeini to accept the end of the eight-year Iraq-Iran war in 1988 came only after a wave of deadly missile bombings of Iran”s capital,” Karmon said.
“Israel should threaten Tehran directly,” he asserted.

ARAB CONNECTION TO JERUSALEM! 

 
By Dr. Mordechai Kedar – Arutz Sheva News

.

Orientalist and Bar-Ilan University lecturer Dr. Mordechai Kedar spoke to Arutz Sheva about demonstrations by Iranian citizens against the regime, the effectiveness of the death penalty law for terrorists, and reactions in the Arab world to American recognition of Jerusalem.
.
Iranian authorities claim the demonstrations have been defeated, but Kedar says “additional waves are expected. It’s true this is not on the scale of those a week ago, but the reasons that caused this wave didn’t disappear, and I don’t think they will disappear, so the next wave is only a matter of time.”
.
Dr. Kedar predicts that in March there is a high chance of renewed riots. “On March 21, there’s a holiday in Iran that is very sensitive every year because of all sorts of occurrences there in the streets with bonfires and such, which can certainly lead to demonstrations and disturbances. There is also traditionally a mess there on this holiday.”
.
Will the death penalty deter future terrorists?   “Yes and no; nothing works for everyone all the time. It will deter some people and it will give more motivation to others. There will be those who precisely want to avenge blood – say Israel executes one of these murderers, who will probably deserve it. There are those who will be deterred from avenging him and there are those who will be encouraged.”
.
Dr. Kedar explains how the American Administration’s announcements will affect UNRWAs defunding. He said the organization would not fire essential workers, and that the first to be harmed would be teaching staff, and schools would be emptied. 
.
“What will tens of thousands of students do in Gaza or elsewhere? This creates an immediate problem.”
.
He said Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz’s announcement on resumption of electricity supply to Gaza may be intended to ease the economic and psychological blow to Gaza residents and thereby prevent a deterioration of the security situation. “In Gaza, cessation of UNRWA funding is a far greater blow than recognition of Jerusalem because Jerusalem has never been the capital of Palestine and therefore nothing was taken away from them that they once had. However, when you take money you withhold something that once existed. And they are not prepared for a situation where there will be no money so they are facing a hopeless situation.”
.
Dr. Kedar also notes the lack of support from the Arab states in the face of Gaza’s difficult situation: “The Saudis will certainly not support them; the Qataris are also in trouble because of the siege on them. The Egyptians are not eager to help Hamas; Iran maybe yes, but it’s unclear how exactly they’ll manage to transfer the money when there are no tunnels. There are formidable problems here.
.
“Apparently then Israel decided, so it doesn’t explode in our faces in the form of demonstrations near the fence, to renew electricity to Gaza in order to soften what has been happening in the past few days. If the Israeli government decided so, apparently they thought about it. This isn’t a decision that’s made just because some unknown person ‘feels like it’, so I trust them that they made a decision that has sound logic behind it.”
.
We heard an Egyptian statement that accepts American recognition of Jerusalem and offers to recognize Ramallah as the capital of Palestine.
.
“Many in the Arab world know that the Palestinian story with Jerusalem is ‘fake news’ because the sanctity of Jerusalem in Islam is something invented by the Umayyad people when they sought an alternative place for Haj instead of Mecca because of the revolt in Mecca in 682 CE. This was fifty years after Muhammad died – all the stories about Jerusalem are complete nonsense.
.
“The Egyptians know all these things and are fed up with the Palestinians, their issues, their disagreements, the fact that the Palestinians don’t want any rapprochement between any Arab country and Israel until they get everything they want, which they will never get. Therefore the Arabs at some point 3-4 years ago began to turn a cold shoulder to the Palestinians to such an extent that today Egypt has no problem saying this.”
.
Dr. Kedar notes that the US threat to deny aid to countries that do not conform to its position affects Cairo. “Egypt is very concerned about the American aid they receive. The moment Trump sets American policy, even if the Egyptians don’t like it with regard to Jerusalem, Egypt can’t go to bat for the Palestinians against America because Egypt will stop getting American aid.
.
“People in Egypt will starve because the Palestinians haven’t reached an agreement with Israel regarding Jerusalem? Why should they suffer?”

.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Only the LORD GOD of ISRAEL knows the truth, and the opposition in the Middle East against Israel will not go unrecognizable by God – His revenge upon the nations that hurt Israel is a clear Biblical understanding. May God give us all the wisdom that God alone possesses!

Trump’s quarterly Iran headache

by Caroline Glick

It’s that time of the year again. In accordance with the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act, by Sunday US President Donald Trump must either certify that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal his predecessor Barack Obama concluded with the Iranian regime, or he must announce that Iran is breaching the accord.

Last October, after angrily certifying compliance at his two previous deadlines, Trump decertified Iranian compliance.

Trump could have walked away from the nuclear deal by reinstating the sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas industries, its banking sector and other foundations of Iran’s economy that were lifted when the deal was implemented. Doing so would have effectively killed the nuclear accord.

But Trump opted instead to pass the burden on to Congress. He gave lawmakers 90 days to put together a new sanctions bill that he would sign that could punish Iran’s misbehavior while presumably leaving the nuclear deal intact.

Congress failed to respond. No sanctions were passed. Democrats, keen to protect Obama’s most significant foreign policy legacy, have promised to filibuster any sanctions bill.

So now it is Trump’s problem to deal with, again. And he faces the same options.

Trump can stick with the deal, or he can walk away.

Media reports from the past two days indicate that Trump has opted to stick with the deal. Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has convinced him to certify Iranian compliance.

Reportedly, Trump’s biggest problem with the nuclear deal is not that it gives Iran a clear path to the bomb inside of a decade. It is that the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act requires him to revisit the issue every 90 days.

The certification process puts Trump in a no-win situation. If he certifies Iranian compliance, he angers his supporters and the overwhelming majority of Republican lawmakers. If he refuses to certify Iranian compliance, he will face the wrath of the media, the Washington foreign policy establishment, and the European Union.

All of the deal’s defenders argue that canceling it will destabilize the international security environment while empowering Iran’s “hard-liners.”

On Wednesday The Washington Free Beacon reported that McMaster, together with Sens. Bob Corker and Ben Cardin, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, respectively, are lobbying Trump to agree to a package that would amend the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act to strip him of the need to recertify Iranian compliance every 90 days. As for sanctions, the amended law would call for sanctions to be reinstated in six years, if Iran is not complying with the agreement.

The implications of McMaster’s reported proposal are enormous. Trump would lose his power to abrogate the deal, while Iran would be immune from sanctions until a really long time from now. The US would lose its leverage against the deal in respect not only to Iran but toward the Europeans, Russians and Chinese as well.

On the face of it, McMaster is right to want to keep the Iranian nuclear issue on the back burner. After all, there is the nuclear crisis with North Korea to consider. Moreover, the Europeans are dead set on protecting the deal.

On Thursday, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Commissioner Frederica Mogherini and her French, British and German counterparts met in Brussels with Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif to pledge their allegiance to the nuclear deal and stand as one against a possible US pullout from the agreement.

The Europeans will certainly be very angry if Trump walks away from the deal they made with Obama. But then, it isn’t clear why that should matter. Aside from passive aggressively voting against the US at the UN, as they did last month, Mogherini and her comrades don’t have much leverage. Will they prefer economic deals with Iran to their trade with the US?

THIS BRINGS us to North Korea.

Iran and North Korea are partners in nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation. They partnered in building the nuclear installation in Syria that Israel reportedly destroyed in September 2007. Iran’s ballistic missiles are based on North Korean designs. Iranians have reportedly been present during North Korea’s nuclear tests.

All of this information is public knowledge, and we can only speculate how much deeper their collaboration actually is. Given what is known and must be assumed about their collaboration, it is beyond foolish to treat the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs as unrelated to each other.

If North Korea cannot be set aside, neither can Iran.

Then there is the fact that hundreds of thousands of Iranians have been on the streets for weeks calling for the overthrow of the regime due to its squandering of Iran’s national wealth on wars and graft.

Nuclear deal supporters insist that reinstating sanctions will only harm the protesters. The regime, they argue, is not harmed by sanctions. The regime passes the economic losses Iran incurs from sanctions onto ordinary citizens. They suffer while the regime prospers through whatever sanctions busting trades they concoct with the Turks, Qataris, Russians and Chinese.

This claim is both morally repugnant and contradicted by the protests themselves.

If the regime were able to support itself without pilfering from the public, there wouldn’t be any protesters on the streets calling for Iranian dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to die.

Iran received more than $100 billion in sanctions relief from the nuclear deal. Obama administration officials promised the regime would not use the sanctions relief windfall to underwrite terrorism and war and develop advanced weapons. Instead, Obama and his underlings promised it would go to ordinary Iranians. Iranian prosperity, they offered, would cause the regime to become moderate and peaceful.

On Thursday Iran sanctions expert Jonathan Schanzer from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tweeted, “A US official I spoke to today believes Iranian expenditures on foreign adventures, nuclear research and missiles, coupled with losses from graft and corruption, have cost the regime $150b.-$200b. since the signing of the [initial draft nuclear deal with Iran in late]… in 2013.”

In other words, the regime is a parasite that has lives on international welfare and the wealth of its people. Instead of developing Iranian society, Khamenei and his henchmen steal the people’s wealth and national treasure and use both to line their pockets and pay for their wars abroad.

In an interview with Lee Smith at RealClearPolitics, Iranian banking expert Saeed Ghasseminejad revealed that in addition to squandering their earnings from sanctions relief, the regime has been stealing the savings of the Iranian middle class. First, regime-controlled banks, (including those that will be barred from the international financial system if Trump reinstates the sanctions) gave large loans to regime officials who never repaid them. The losses were passed to the regular account holders.

Second, Ghasseminejad related details of a regime-licensed Ponzi scheme. Private banks offering high interest rates appeared out of nowhere. Their high rates attracted middle class investors who deposited their life savings.

When depositors tried to withdraw their money, the banks declared bankruptcy.

No one has been prosecuted and a large number of formerly middle class Iranians are now impoverished.

According to Ghasseminejad, these newly impoverished Iranians are now in the streets calling for the regime to be overthrown.
If Trump decides to keep sanctions frozen, it will serve as a rebuke to the protesters. And if media reports that the protests are dissipating are to be believed, then a decision by Trump to certify regime compliance with the nuclear deal will be their death knell.

It isn’t that there is no risk to killing the nuclear deal. As The Jerusalem Post reported this week, in an interview with Iranian television Wednesday, Behrooz Kamalvandi, the deputy chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, threatened Trump that if he reinstates sanctions, “Iran is ready to increase the speed of its nuclear activities in various areas, especially enrichment, several times more than [in the] pre-nuclear deal era.”

And he may be telling the truth.

But the financial pressure on the regime will be far greater and the headwinds now facing the protesters calling for its overthrow will become a tailwind if Trump walks away from the deal. Middle class families that have not joined the protesters are more likely to take to the streets if sanctions are reinstated. Not only will they be hurt financially, they will become convinced that the regime is not invincible.

Whereas the deal’s proponents insist that leaving killing the deal will harm “moderates” in the regime, if the protests tell us anything, they tell us – once again – that there is no distance between so-called “moderates” like President Hassan Rouhani and Zarif, and so-called “extremists like Revolutionary Guard Corps terror boss Qassem Suleimani. Their theft of the wealth of the Iranian people, their corruption and sponsorship of terrorism is no different than Suleimani’s. The only way to help the Iranians on the streets is to weaken the regime as a whole, because the regime as a whole oppresses the Iranian people and robs them blind.

Israeli experts who were close to the Obama administration are calling for Trump to keep the deal alive. A paper published on Thursday by the left-leaning Institute for National Security Studies called for Trump to keep the deal alive, but enforce it fully.
Co-authored by Obama’s ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and former security brass who oppose the Netanyahu government, the paper claimed that the US should insist that Iran open its military nuclear sites to UN inspectors.

The problem with the recommendation is that there is no chance it will be implemented. Iran refuses to open its military sites to inspectors, and the Europeans side with them against the US.

Trump is right that he’s damned if he maintains Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and damned if he kills the deal. But his supporters are right on this issue and the Washington establishment, Europe and the media are wrong.

If Trump walks away, he will empower the Iranians calling for a new regime. He will weaken the regime’s ability to maintain its global war against the US and its allies. He will force the Europeans to abandon their love affair with the corruption kings in Tehran by making them choose between the US market and the Iranian market.

And he will accomplish all of these things while freeing himself from the quarterly requirement to either lie and pretend Iran is behaving itself and be pilloried by his supporters, or tell the truth about its behavior and be pilloried by the people who always attack him.

Most important, by walking away from a deal built on lies, distortion and corruption, Trump can quickly pivot to a policy based on truth. Unlike the nuclear deal, such a policy would have a chance of ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its oppression of its long-suffering people once and for all.

From Amman to Jerusalem

By Caroline Glick

 

Five months ago, 28 year old Ziv Moyal, an Israeli security officer at Israel’s embassy in Amman, was stabbed in his apartment by a Jordanian assailant, whom he shot and killed.

Moyal also accidentally killed his Jordanian landlord, who was present on the scene.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, incited by the state-controlled media, the Jordanian public was whipped into an anti-Israel frenzy. In short order, a mob surrounded the embassy, to which Moyal and another 20 Israeli diplomats fled immediately after the shooting.

For 24 hours, those Israeli diplomats, led by Ambassador Einat Schlein were besieged.

Despite the fact that they are barred from doing so under the Vienna Convention, Jordanian authorities demanded to interrogate Moyal. By refusing to enable the diplomats to safely return to Israel until Moyal submitted to questioning, they effectively held Schlein and her colleagues hostage.

It took the intervention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the life-threatening crisis. The price Jordan’s King Abdullah II exacted for the freedom and protection of Israel’s diplomatic personnel was high. In exchange for their safe passage, Netanyahu agreed to permit Jordanian officials to be present during Moyal’s questioning by Israeli officials. He also succumbed to Abdullah’s demand that Israeli police remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount, which had been deployed a few days before amid wide-scale violence by Muslim worshipers against Jews.

Since its diplomats were evacuated in July, Israel’s embassy has been closed. Jordan has refused to permit Schlein to return to her duties and has insisted that Moyal be tried for the death of his assailant and his landlord.

It was reported Wednesday that in the interest of ending the diplomatic crisis and reopening Israel’s embassy, Netanyahu has decided to promote Schlein to a senior position in the Foreign Ministry and appoint a replacement.

But Jordan isn’t interested in ending the crisis it deliberately precipitated.

On Thursday, Reuters quoted a Jordanian diplomatic source saying that a new Israeli ambassador “will not be welcome in Jordan until a due legal process takes its course [against Moyal] and justice is served.”

So, unless Israel criminally prosecutes its diplomat who was attacked in his home by a terrorist, Jordan will continue to breach its peace treaty with Israel and bar the Israeli embassy from operating in Amman.

Jordan’s latest round of diplomatic war against Israel took place while Abdullah was in Washington on a “working visit.”

More often than not, Abdullah, who is touted by the US as a moderate leader and a US ally, spends his visits in Washington lobbying against Israel. And, given his reputation as a moderate, he is usually successful.

This week’s visit was no different.

According to the Jordanian media – which he controls – Abdullah is devoting significant time in his meetings with senior administration and Congressional officials to attacking Israel.

Specifically, Abdullah is lobbying against President Donald Trump’s intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, in accordance with US law.

By December 4, Trump will have to sign a semi-annual waiver of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.

The act requires the State Department to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If Trump doesn’t sign the waiver, the embassy will automatically be moved to Jerusalem, in accordance with the law.

Speculation that Trump may refuse to sign the waiver was raised this week by Vice President Mike Pence. In his speech at a UN event marking the 70th anniversary of the UN vote to end the British Mandate in the land of Israel and partition the land between a Jewish state and an Arab state, Pence made clear that moving the embassy is being actively discussed.

According the Times of Jordan, Abdullah told senior US lawmakers that “moving the embassy… could be potentially exploited by terrorists to stoke anger, frustration and desperation in order to spread their ideologies.”

During his visit, Abdullah also met with Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.

Although Jordanian media reports of those visits did not include information regarding the possible move of the US embassy, it stands to reason that Abdullah made similar points to Pence, Tillerson and McMaster.

It can only be hoped that Abdullah’s warnings were rebuked by his American interlocutors.

Because, if terrorists are motivated to act in the wake of a US decision to move the embassy, Jordan will hold a significant share of the blame.

To understand why, it is important to remember what happened last July in Amman. Had Abdullah ordered his media organs to either tell the truth about what happened at Moyal’s apartment or simply not report the incident at all until the embassy staff were safely in Israel, the diplomatic crisis would have been averted.

Abdullah chose, instead, to stoke the passions of his people, which wasn’t difficult. Thanks to decades of antisemitic incitement at the hands of his media, school system and religious authorities, the people of Jordan are overwhelmingly antisemitic. And this suits Abdullah just fine. He, too, is largely sympathetic to anti-Israeli terrorism and terrorists.

Last March, for instance, Abdullah rejected the US’s extradition request for Hamas terrorist and mass murderer Ahlam Tamimi, the mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem.

Fifteen people, including eight children were murdered in the attack. Tamimi selected the Sbarro pizzeria as her target because of the large number of children who frequented the eatery during summer vacation.

She was sentenced to 16 life-in-prison sentences, but was released in Israel’s exchange of Hamas terrorists for captive IDF sergeant Gilad Schalit in 2011. Upon her release, she moved to Amman where Abdullah gave her the red carpet treatment. In her new home, Tamimi hosts a show on Hamas’s television station. She uses her platform to incite terrorism and indoctrinate her viewers to aspire to murder Israelis, as she did.

Several of Tamimi’s victims at Sbarro were American citizens, including 15-year-old Malki Roth and 31-year-old Shoshana Judy Greenbaum.

Greenbaum was five months pregnant when her body was blown apart.

By harboring Tamimi, Abdullah tells his subjects they are right to hate Israelis and to work toward Israel’s destruction.

This brings us to the question of Trump’s possible decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Israel’s capital.

By having his media spew a constant diet of genocidal antisemitism, Abdullah is all but guaranteeing that the terrorism he warns of will occur if Trump enforces US law and moves the embassy. So he is not speaking as a worried friend when he tells his American hosts of the dire consequences of moving the embassy. He is threatening them with an outcome for which he will have significant responsibility.

One of the reasons Abdullah feels comfortable making the argument that moving the embassy will provoke terrorism is because that is the argument that has been used successfully to block the transfer of the US embassy to Israel in the past.

But, in October, we received a clear indication that these Chicken Little warnings are untrue.

In October, Trump overruled Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster, and chose not to tell Congress that Iran was in compliance of the nuclear deal the Iranians were breaching. Supporters of the nuclear deal in the administration and outside of it warned that such a move would have a deeply destabilizing impact on the region and endanger the US.

As the past three months have shown, those warnings were entirely wrong.

The world did not explode after Trump rejected the received wisdom of the foreign policy establishment in Washington. Instead, the US’s Sunni-Arab allies have been empowered to join forces to combat Iran. Economically and diplomatically, Iran is far more isolated globally today than it was three months ago.

Moreover, freed from the need to pretend that Iran is a credible actor in the international community, Trump can base US policy toward Iran on reality.

No, Trump has not mapped out a clear strategy for containing and scaling back Iranian power. If he had, the US would have stopped arming and funding the Iranian-controlled Lebanese Armed Forces by now.

But, at least he hasn’t based an Iran policy on fantasy as his predecessor Barack Obama did.

Moreover, even the limited steps Trump has taken toward developing a strategy for dealing with Iran have been effective and rational. For instance, to protect the nuclear deal and maintain its claim that Iran was formally complying with its terms, the Obama administration paid the Iranian regime $8.6 million to buy heavy water that Iran produced in excess of the quantities permitted under the nuclear deal.

This week, the White House announced that it would stop this practice. As a National Security Council spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon, “The United States is not planning to purchase any Iranian heavy water. We have made it clear to Iran that it is their responsibility to remain under the heavy water limit.”

In summary, disaster did not strike after Trump bucked the collected wisdom of the entire foreign policy elite in Washington, including his top three national security advisers. To the contrary, things improved. By basing his policy on reality, Trump expanded his maneuver room, empowered US allies and began basing US policies toward Iran on reality.

By the same token, if Trump disregards Abdullah’s threats posing as warnings, and disregards the advice of Abdullah’s many friends in Washington, and moves the US embassy to Jerusalem, the sky will not fall. By recognizing the basic fact that Jerusalem is and always will be Israel’s capital, Trump will give himself the ability to develop Middle East policies that are similarly grounded in reality.

By calling the bluff of the myriad experts that insist recognizing reality will bring war, Trump can expand US power, credibility and deterrence in an unstable region. Far from causing a war, Trump can diminish the chance of war by demanding that Jordan and other disingenuous allies stop empowering jihadists and terrorists.

To this end, rather than heeding Abdullah’s threats of violence, Trump can tell Abdullah to prevent that violence by ending his media’s antisemitic incitement; extraditing Tamimi to the US; accepting the credentials of the Israeli ambassador; and reopening the Israeli embassy in Amman.

Truth is a powerful weapon. Once you base your foreign policy on it, there is no limit to the potential effectiveness of that policy in preventing war and expanding the prospects of true and lasting peace.

Portents of a quagmire in Syria

by Caroline Glick

 

Is the war in Syria won?

The images broadcast this week from Sochi, the Russian vacation town on the Black Sea coast, were pictures of victory – for the bad guys.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin stood beside his Syrian client, President Bashar Assad, who licked Putin’s boots, as well he should have.

Assad owes his regime and his life to Putin.

The next day, Putin was joined by his allies – the presidents of Iran and Turkey.

Hassan Rouhani and Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the pilgrimage to Sochi to stand at Putin’s side and declare victory in the war and dedicate themselves to the cause of “peace and reconciliation” in post-war Syria.

To achieve their lofty goals of peace and reconciliation, Putin and his partners declared that, in the near future, Sochi will be the sight of a peace conference where all the relevant factions in Syria will be represented. The parley they described is set to take place parallel to – and one assumes at the expense of – the sixth round of Syrian reconciliation talks scheduled to take place under UN auspices next week in Geneva.

Several Israeli commentators viewed Putin’s Sochi talks precisely as he wished them to.

Ehud Yaari, Reshet/Keshet’s veteran Arab affairs commentator declared: The US is finished in the Middle East! The capital of the Middle East is now located in Sochi, he proclaimed in back-to-back newscasts.

In certain respects, Yaari is right. Things are looking good these days for the axis of evil.

Wednesday was a particularly good day for Iran. Not only did Rouhani do his victory dance with Putin and Erdogan, but as they were showering themselves in triumph in Sochi, Iran’s Lebanese puppet, Saad Hariri, was returning to Beirut after his misadventures in Saudi Arabia.

As expected, Hariri canceled the resignation he announced dramatically a week-and-a-half earlier in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after accusing Iran and its Hezbollah army of controlling Lebanon.

On the surface, Hariri’s return is a boon for Iran. If he had remained in Saudi Arabia, Iran would have lost its fig leaf.

Hariri’s duty as prime minister is to snow the West into believing that his government and the Lebanese Armed Forces are a counterweight to Iran and Hezbollah, even though they are controlled by Iran and Hezbollah.

Until his trip to Riyadh, Hariri had been doing a good job.

Hariri’s lobbying efforts won Lebanon billions of dollars in US military and civilian aid. Congress would never have agreed to appropriate the assistance if Hariri hadn’t been so persuasive.

But it is far from clear that Hariri will be much of a fig leaf after he let the Iranian/Hezbollah cat out of the bag in Riyadh.

A rising chorus of US lawmakers are demanding an immediate end to US assistance to the LAF. And Hariri’s return to Beirut didn’t dim those voices.

In August, Hariri visited President Donald Trump at the White House. Trump praised Lebanon as “an ally” in the war on terrorism. He increased US aid to the LAF and deployed US special forces to Lebanon where they fought at the side of the LAF under effective Hezbollah command.

It’s hard to imagine Trump welcoming Hariri back to the White House anytime soon.

As for Erdogan, he arrived in Sochi a spent force.

Erdogan is perhaps the biggest loser of the war in Syria. He was the principal sponsor of the anti-Assad opposition that morphed into Islamic State. Erdogan’s cooperation owes mainly to his lack of better options. The US stopped supporting his campaign in Syria two years ago.

Since the failed military coup against him in July 2016, Erdogan has become ever more hostile to the US. This hostility informed his recently concluded deal with Putin to purchase Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system. The S-400 threatens every fighter craft in the US arsenal. US officials have responded to his move by seriously considering the possibility of canceling the sale of 100 F-35s to Turkey.

Turkish expulsion from NATO – once a taboo subject – is now regularly discussed in Washington policy circles.

The main reason Erdogan has sided with Putin in Syria is because the US has sided with Syria’s Kurds. Erdogan views the Syrian Kurds as a threat to the stability of his regime. He expects Putin to support his determination to destroy Kurdish autonomy in Syria.

If Putin fails to meet his expectations, Erdogan may abandon his new friends. Or he may stick with them and just become ever more dependent on Putin.

Whatever the case, he won’t be empowered by his membership in Pax Putin.

And this brings us to Putin and Russia.

Certainly it is true that the Sochi summitry has cemented Putin’s position as savior of Mother Russia.

A mere generation ago, Russia was a washed up, fifth-rate power. At the end of the Cold War, the world belonged to America. Today, world leaders beat a path to Putin’s door.

But not everything is roses and sunshine.

Russia’s alliance with Iran and Turkey is predicated on Russia remaining in Syria – come what may.

And what is coming is not likely to be pretty.

While Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani were congratulating themselves in Sochi, another conference was happening in Riyadh. There, leaders of the anti-Assad militia were meeting to discuss their next moves ahead of the UN-sponsored talks next week in Geneva.

True, the forces represented in Saudi Arabia aren’t as powerful as the Iranians, Hezbollah and Russia. But they have guns. And they are disgruntled. And if any number of governments want to give them more guns, they will have more guns and bullets. And they will shoot them at the people keeping Assad in power.

Commentators declaring the dawn of a Russian-controlled Middle East where the US is dead to rites ignore another basic fact. There are a lot of US forces in Syria.

In late October, US Major General James Jarrard, commander of the US’s anti-ISIS task force in Iraq and Syria, “accidentally” told reporters that there are 4,000 US troops in Syria. When reporters pounced on his statement, Jarrard quickly backtracked and said he made a mistake.

There are only 500 US forces in Syria.

Whoopsie daisy.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the administration does not intend to withdraw US forces from Syria now that the mission against ISIS is largely complete.

US forces in Syria are concentrated in Syrian Kurdistan. If the US protects the Kurdish autonomous areas along the border with Iraq, Erdogan will again lose a big bet in Syria. His alliance with Putin will have brought him nothing but a deterioration of his ties with the US and instability at home as Turkish Kurds expand their ties to the autonomous Syrian brethren.

Angry, unreconciled, well-armed rebel forces and autonomous Kurds are far from the biggest threat to Putin’s victory in Syria. The biggest threat to his triumph is Syria itself.

Thanks in large part to Putin and his allies, Syria, today, is one vast ruin.

According to UN assessments, reconstruction costs for the country will run anywhere from $200 billion-$350b.

Does Putin intend to finance Syrian reconstruction? How about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or Erdogan or China? Of course not.

And, if Syria remains a ruin, Syria will not be pacified; and, if Syria isn’t pacified, it will continue to bleed.

The media made a big deal about Putin’s phone call to Trump after his meeting with Assad. Some commentators viewed the call as proof Putin is calling the shots in the Middle East. Others saw the opposite – that Putin doesn’t dare move too far ahead of the Americans.

But those views are likely both wrong.

Putin’s record indicates that he cares about two things: reasserting Russia’s great power status and money. For his victory in Syria to avoid becoming a Pyrrhic one, he needs lots of American money to finance Syrian reconstruction.

This brings us to the US, and what Washington wants to do in Syria and the wider Middle East.

So far, the Americans have made every possible mistake in Syria and Iraq.

Then president Barack Obama allowed Assad to commit a genocide of Syria’s Sunnis and foment the refugee crisis in Europe. He allowed Iran and Hezbollah to take over Syria and Iraq. He allowed Erdogan to organize an anti-Assad rebel force dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, which over time morphed into ISIS. He allowed the Russians to use the war as a means to reassert their position in the Middle East 33 years after the Soviets were humiliated and expelled from the Levant.

For his part, Trump has maintained Obama’s Syria policies in relation to Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Assad. He expanded US military assistance to the LAF. He permitted Iranian militias controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to cooperate with US-trained Iraqi forces in seizing Kirkuk from Kurdish forces. In so doing, Trump betrayed the Kurds, the US’s only reliable allies in Iraq.

If the Americans wish to maintain their record of failure, they have many options for doing so. They can abandon the Syrian Kurds. They can help Putin by underwriting Syrian reconstruction.

They can continue to arm the Hezbollah-controlled LAF. But the Americans do have an option to succeed, as well.

If Trump keeps US forces in Syrian Kurdistan, and if he refuses to help pay for Syrian reconstruction so long as Assad remains in power and Iranian and Hezbollah forces remain on the ground and if the US ends its civilian and military assistance to Lebanon, the US and its allies will be strengthened, and Russia and its allies will be weakened.

If the Americans do not interfere as Syrian “freedom fighters” defend against Iranian or Russian “aggression,” it won’t matter what terms the Iranians give Putin for gas, or oil or nuclear deals. He will seek a way out of Syria.

On May 1, 2003, then president George W. Bush landed a S-3 Viking fighter craft on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln dressed in a flight suit. Before an audience of cheering troops and against the backdrop of a banner that read “Mission Accomplished,” Bush declared: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

A month later, the real Iraq war started.

In the years that followed, probably not a day went by when Bush didn’t regret his victory dance on the USS Lincoln.

Putin, Rouhani and (to a much smaller degree) Erdogan are right that, as of now, they are the victors in Syria. But let us not empower them by believing them invincible. Their victory against ISIS – achieved with massive US assistance – is certainly an achievement. But it isn’t the end of the story. If the Americans do not save them, the situation on the ground augers quagmire, not triumph, for their axis and for their separate regimes.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

The potential of the Saudi purges

by Caroline Glick

 

The purges in Saudi Arabia are a shocking development with strategic implications. But to understand their potential promise, it is important to understand the context in which they are taking place.

For 70 years, Saudi Arabia served as the largest and most significant incubator of Sunni jihad. Its Wahhabist Islamic establishment funded radical mosques throughout the world. Saudi princes have supported radical Islamic clerics who have indoctrinated their followers to pursue jihad against the non-Islamic world. Saudi money stands behind most of the radical Islamic groups in the non-Islamic world that have in turn financed terrorist groups like Hamas and al-Qaida. Saudi money to universities and think tanks has insulated radical Islam from scrutiny by Western governments and academics.

As Mitchell Bard documented in his 2011 book, The Arab Lobby, any power pro-Israel forces in Washington, DC, have developed pales in comparison to the power of Arab forces, led by the Saudi government. Saudi government spending on lobbyists in Washington far outstrips that of any other nation.

According to Justice Department disclosures from earlier this year, since 2015, Saudi Arabia vastly increased its spending on influence peddling. According to a report by The Intercept, “Since 2015, the Kingdom has expanded the number of foreign agents on retainer to 145, up from 25 registered agents during the previous two-year period.”

Saudi lobbyists shielded the kingdom from serious criticism after 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were shown to be Saudi nationals. They blocked a reconsideration of the US’s strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia after the attacks and in subsequent years, even as it was revealed that Princess Haifa, wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to Washington at the time the September 11 attacks occurred, had financially supported two of the hijackers in the months that preceded the attacks.

The US position on Saudi Arabia cooled demonstrably during the Obama administration. This cooling was not due to a newfound concern over Saudi financial support for radical Islam in the US. To the contrary, the Obama administration was friendlier to Islamists than any previous administration.

The Obama administration’s placed Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters in key positions in the federal government. For instance, in 2010, then secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano appointed Mohamed Elibiary to the department’s Homeland Security Advisory Board. Elibiary had a long, open record of support both for the Muslim Brotherhood and for the Iranian regime. In his position he was instrumental in purging discussion of Islam and Jihad from instruction materials used by the US military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The Obama administration’s cold relations with the Saudi regime owed to its pronounced desire to ditch the US’s traditional alliance with the Saudis, the Egyptians and the US’s other traditional Sunni allies in favor of an alliance with the Iranian regime. The administration’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood was due in large part to the Brotherhood’s close ties to the Iranian regime.

Those ties — long deemed impossible by scholars and policymakers due to the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is a Sunni group which, it was assumed was intrinsically hostile to Shiite Iran — became increasingly overt.

In 2013, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president Mohamed Morsi hosted Iranian leaders in Cairo. Morsi was poised to renew Egypt’s diplomatic ties with Iran before he was overthrown by the military in July 2013. Morsi permitted Iranian warships to traverse the Suez Canal for the first time in decades.

Due to the open alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, Saudi Arabia joined Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group in 2014.

The growing Saudi anxiety over Iran, and over the US’s cold shoulder convince Riyadh to do what would have been unthinkable in other circumstances. Due to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s leading role in opposing Iran’s nuclear program and its rising power in the Middle East, and due to Israel’s open support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a key Saudi ally, the Saudi regime began changing its position on Israel.

Netanyahu’s long-time foreign policy adviser, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs president Dr. Dore Gold, authored the 2003 bestseller Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism which exposed Saudi Arabia’s role in promoting jihadist Islam, . And yet, less than a decade later, he spearheaded a process of developing Israel’s security and diplomatic ties with Riyadh. Those ties, which are based on shared opposition to Iran’s regional empowerment, led to the surprising emergence of a working alliance between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE with Israel during Israel’s 2014 war with Hamas – the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is in the context of Saudi Arabia’s reassessment of its interests and realignment of strategic posture in recent years that the dramatic events of the past few days in the kingdom must be seen.

Last Saturday’s sudden announcement that a new anti-corruption panel headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the near simultaneous announcement of the arrest of more than two dozen royal family members, cabinet ministers and prominent businessmen is predominantly being presented as a power seizure by the crown prince. Amid widespread rumors that King Salman will soon abdicate the throne to his son, it is reasonable for the 32-year-old crown prince to work to neutralize all power centers that could threaten his ascension to the throne.

But there seems to be something more significant going on. While many of the officials arrested over the weekend threaten Mohammed’s power, they aren’t the only ones that he has purged. In September Mohammed arrested some 30 senior Wahhabist clerics and intellectuals. And Saturday’s arrest of the princes, cabinet ministers and business leaders was followed up by further arrests of senior Wahhabist clerics.

At the same time, Mohammed has been promoting clerics who espouse tolerance for other religions, including Judaism and Christianity. He has removed the Saudi religious police’s power to conduct arrests and he has taken seemingly credible steps to finally lift the kingdom-wide prohibition on women driving.

Mohammed has also escalated the kingdom’s operations against Iran’s proxies in Yemen.

And if that weren’t enough, also on Saturday, the Saudis staged the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri amid Hariri’s allegations that Hezbollah and Iran were plotting his murder, much as they stood behind the 2005 assassination of his father, prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

It is hard to imagine that the Saudi moves were not coordinated and synchronized with the Trump administration. Just day days before, the administration released most of the files US special forces seized during their 2011 raid of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The files, which the Obama administration refused to release, make clear that Obama’s two chief pretensions – that al-Qaida was a spent force by the time US forces killed bin Laden, and that Iran was interested in moderating its behavior were both untrue. The documents showed that in 2011 al-Qaida’s operations remained a significant worldwide threat to US interests.

Even more significantly, the bin Laden documents showed that Iran was al-Qaida’s chief state sponsor. Much of al-Qaida’s leadership, including bin Laden’s sons, operated from Iran.

Just as it ignored Iran’s open alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Obama administraiton insisted that Shi’ite Iranians and Sunni terrorists from al-Qaida and other groups were incapable of cooperating. The documents reveal that this claim was a deliberate distortion of reality in the service of the Obama administration’s unsupported assertion that the Iranians are a credible actor with whom the US can develop an alliance and for whom it is worth abandoning the Saudi, Egyptians and Israelis.

By moving to highlight Iranian sponsorship of al Qaida and other Sunni terror groups now, as Saudi Arabia takes more determined steps to slash its support for radical Islamists, and separate itself from Wahhabist Islam, the administration drew a clear distinction between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Given Saudi Arabia’s record, and the kingdom’s 70-year alliance with Wahhabist clerics, it is hard to know whether Mohammed’s move signals an irrevocable breach between the House of Saud and the Wahhabists.

But the direction is clear. The events of the past week make the lines between the forces of jihad and terrorism led by Iran, and the forces that oppose them are clearer than ever before. And the necessity of acting against the former and helping the latter has similarly never been more obvious.