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It is now obvious to the entire world that Obama’s “Iran deal” called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has pushed the Middle East to the brink of war…”stupidity in action” from Obama and “nuclear war preparations” from Iran

Developments and events in the Middle East following the signing of JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action / The Iran Deal / The Iran Nuclear Deal) in July 2015, clearly indicate that the JCPOA fuels Iran’s aggressive expansion policy, and as a result, has pushed the Middle East closer to a massive regional war.

The JCPOA should not be renewed as is – it should, at minimum, be revised.

Western leaders must design and immediately implement a tough policy towards the Mullah Regime which at its core – uncompromisingly and unyieldingly – blocks Iran’s aggressive expansion policy in the Middle East.

The revised agreement must:

  • Put restrictions on Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program
  • End Iran’s aggressive expansion – either directly or through use of proxies – in other arenas in the region
  • Should these demands not be met – should Iran not agree to these terms, or should Iran cease to comply with the agreed terms, then tough sanctions – with no concessions – must be applied.

Failing to stop Iran’s aggressive expansion policy will very likely result in a massive regional collision with global ramifications.

 

On January 12, 2018, US President Trump announced that he would not renew the waiver of sanctions which principally pertain to transactions with the Central Bank of Iran, which Congress imposed on Iran in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act – unless deficiencies in the JCPOA are addressed. “This is the last chance. In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.” He announced May 12, 2018 as the date he would announce his decision to renew the waiver or not. It has been reported that his announcement has been rescheduled for today – May 8, 2018.

Major Western powers, Germany, the UK and France, as well as the UN Secretary General, argue that the US withdrawal from the JCPOA will increase the risk of war. That argument continues the profound lack of understanding and shocking shortsightedness of the Western architects of the JCPOA, led by Obama and the leaders of his negotiation team, Secretary of State John Kerry and Ambassador Wendy Sherman.  Obama’s rapprochement towards the Mullah regime, guided by the belief that such an approach would cause the Mullah regime to be cooperative, responsible, and a constructive player, was nothing but wishful thinking.

The following facts demonstrate that the JCPOA fueled Iran’s aggressive regional policy,  thus significantly increasing the risk of war.

In October 2015, only few months after the signing the JCPOA, IRG General Mortada Qurbani threatened that under the order of Iran’s supreme leader ‘Ali Khamenei, 2,000 Iranian Ballistic missiles will hit Saudi Arabia.

In August 2016, Mohammad ‘Ali Falqi, a senior leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s (IRG) elite Al-Quds force, announced that the IRG is establishing a military force entitled “The Shi’ite Liberation Army” composed of Iranian and non-Iranian Shi’ites. The army will be placed in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The mission of “The Shi’ite Liberation Army” will be to act as a military force in the service of Iran in arenas throughout the region according to Iranian needs and interests. In addition, in accordance with the order of Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei, the army will be based along the Israel-Syria borders for a period of 23 years. This time frame corresponds with Khamenei’s announcement in 2015 that Israel will not exist in 25 years.

Since the signing of the JCPOA, Iran’s aggressive expansion plan has increased and escalated in different arenas including:

Yemen – According to a January 2018 UN report, Iran has violated UNSC resolutions 2216 and 2231 by sending weapons, including missiles, to Yemen.  Dozens of Iranian-made ballistic missiles have been launched by the Iranian backed Shi’ite Houthi militias in Yemen targeting Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates naval vessels have been attacked while trying to enforce a blockade designed to prevent the transfer of more artillery and missiles to the Houthis.  On February 9, 2018 the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence issued an alert warning commercial vessels about the risk of mines in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait: “The U.S. Government has reason to believe in late January, mines were laid by Houthi rebels in Yemeni territorial waters in the Red Sea close to the mouth of Mocha Harbor.”

The increasingly aggressive involvement of Iran in Yemen alarms Egypt, which has kept a relatively mild position towards Iran’s expansion in the region. On April 15, 2018 during the 29th Arab League Summit Egypt’s President, Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi declared that Egypt will not tolerate the shooting of missiles on Saudi Arabia from Yemen. Egypt also made it clear that any threat to shipping in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait is a severe threat to Egypt’s national security and will be a cause for a war.

Syria – In February 2017, the leader of the Iranian backed Iraqi Shi’ite militia, Harakat al-Nujaba, fighting in Syria in the service of Iran, openly threatened to initiate a war against Israel to “liberate the occupied Golan Heights.” That threat was followed by the Militia’s spokesman’s announcement in March 2017 that Harakat al-Nujaba Militia had established a military force named “The Brigade for the Liberation of the Golan.”

On February 10, 2018 Iranian Revolutionary Guards operating in Syria launched an Iranian drone loaded with explosives from Syria into Israeli territory. Israel intercepted the drone and it landed in Israeli territory. Israeli jets then destroyed the Syrian-based Iranian Command and Control Center from which the drone had been launched. The Syrian anti-air defense system responded by attacking the Israeli jets and launching a dozen – perhaps dozens – of surface-to-air missiles. That massive attack downed an Israeli jet which crashed in Israeli territory. The pilots survived the crash. Following the downing of the Israeli jet, the Israeli air force attacked twelve (perhaps more) Syrian and Iranian military targets in Syria, reportedly causing substantial damage to the Syrian surface-to-air defense batteries, ammunition compounds and military headquarters, and resulted in an unknown number of fatalities and injuries to Iranian and Syrian soldiers. This was the first direct Israeli – Iranian military collision, and it further boosted Israel’s determination to prevent the establishment of an Iranian military threat from within Syrian territory.

On April 9, 2018 an attack attributed to Israel on an Iranian base, located in the T-4 Syrian Air Force Base, killed fourteen Iranian military personnel, including Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers and the commander of the IRG Drone Force.

On April 14, 2018 Israel reportedly destroyed a storage facility housing 200 long range missiles which had been moved by Iran into Syria. According to Iranian sources eighteen Revolutionary Guard personnel were killed in the attack and the Mullah regime vows to retaliate against Israel.

In Lebanon, Iran’s most important proxy, Hezbollah, escalates its threats against Israel.  In December 2017 and again in January 2018, openly ignoring the Lebanese government’s sovereignty and violating UNSC Resolution 1701, Hezbollah conducted a tour next to the Israeli-Lebanese border for leaders of Iranian backed Iraqi Shi’ite militias, who vow to join the fight to eliminate Israel.

Before the ink of the JCPOA had dried, Iranian leaders continued  and increased their provocative and aggressive statements.

Here are some examples:

In December 2015, less than six months after the signing of JCPOA, the Commander of the Revolutionary Guards (IRG), General Mohammad ‘Ali Jafari, said in an interview that Iran is working towards its goal of abolishing the borders between Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

In June 2016, a special consultant for the IRG’s Al-Quds elite force, General Iraj Masjedi, declared that the goal of Iran’s military presence in Iraq and Syria is to defend Iran’s borders.

In September 2016, the former IRG Commander and current Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, Major General Mohsen Rezaee, said in interview that Iran will never give up its strongholds in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen.

In December 2016, the Deputy Commander of the IRG, General Hossein Salami, announced that following the downfall of Aleppo, Iran intends to extend its control to Yemen, Bahrain, and Mosul (South Iraq).

In early 2018, ‘Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Iran’s supreme leader, ‘Ali Khamenei, announced that Iran will continue its regional policy, as it is determined to become the dominant regional power. In that context, Iranian leaders constantly brag the Iran controls four Arab capitols; Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and San’aa.

The JCPOA fuels Iranian aggression, and deepens Iran’s grip in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the Gaza Strip, resulting in a growing whirlpool of violence and destruction.

Lifting the sanctions on Iran, which was part of the JCPOA deal, streamed billions of dollars into Iran’s treasury. Those funds were quickly allocated to increase the Mullah regime’s financing of its network of armed agents and proxies: Afghan Shi’ite militias, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthi Shi’ite militias, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, etc.  At minimum, the western architects of the JCPOA demonstrated a shocking lack of understanding and inconceivable shortsightedness. Amazingly and no less shockingly, despite the disastrous bitter fruits of the JCPOA, major current Western leaders insist on preserving the JCPOA.

The JCPOA should at least be revised, and those revisions should include:

  • Putting restrictions on the Iranian Ballistic Missile Program, which was not addressed in the JCPOA.
  • Ending Iran’s aggressive expansion in the region either directly or through the use of proxies, which was not addressed in the JCPOA.
  • Implementing and enforcing tough sanctions if the regime does not comply with the above.

A major flaw of the original deal was that Western leaders failed to connect the JCPOA with the Iranian aggressive policy.  Western leaders cannot be allowed to make the same mistake again.

In the many articles I have published since 2012 I have predicted that the Western rapprochement towards the Mullah Regime will increase the risk for a massive regional collision. Unfortunately, my predictions were accurate.

 

[From an article by Avi Melamed, published on his website. Avi Melamed is a well-known and respected strategic intelligence analyst who is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew, and English]

 

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

 

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Insight from a keen Israeli observer as to the potential for a positive Middle East outcome…

This article is written in the midst of a fierce war between Israel and Hamas which is taking place inside the Gaza Strip as well in Israeli cities and communities.

As I write this I am fully aware of the fact that the situation is completely fluid. Any minute now something could happen that could change everything, and we may find ourselves in a totally different situation going in a completely different direction. It is very possible that the fighting will escalate. It is also possible that a cease fire will be achieved. That being said, I would like to share with you some reflections and thoughts regarding the potential ramifications of the current violent round.

I believe that this round offers both Israelis and Palestinians a potential for a positive strategic change.

The current round is very different from the previous rounds in its course, intensity, and circumstances. Due to these reasons, and other factors, the current environment, and the possible outcomes and ramifications of this round, are substantially different than in previous rounds.

In my article Mukawama, Money, Missiles (July 15, 2014), I described the circumstances and the reasons for Hamas’ decision to launch this violent round. Hamas initiated this round because they found themselves in a deepening crisis. And, as of now, it seems like Hamas’ decision has only resulted in the deepening of its crisis.

Why?

Hamas’ modus operandi is based upon three major components:

The first is creating a Fear Deterrence. The second is the ideological justification. The third is legitimacy. The current round has created substantial rifts within Hamas’ modus operandi all of which present a substantial challenge to Hamas.

I will go through and elaborate on each one.

The Fear Deterrence. The deterrence based on fear is built on two major components. One is terrorizing Israeli civilians by shooting rockets on Israeli cities and digging tunnels into Israeli territory to be used to kill and kidnap Israeli civilians and soldiers. The second component is Hamas’ assumption that given Israel’s enormous sensitivity to the loss of life – especially the lives of Israeli soldiers – Israeli governments will avoid massive military ground operations inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ deterrence based on fear has been broken in this round. The Israeli “Iron Dome” successfully intercepts Hamas’ rockets and the Israeli government – backed by a strong and decisive Israeli public – launched a massive ground operation fighting Hamas militants in the massively fortified strongholds that Hamas built in urban areas inside, and underneath, the Gaza Strip.

Ideological Justification. Hamas bases its activity and path on the concept known in the Arab world as “Al-Mukawamah” – “The Resistance.”

“The Resistance” ideology envisions the creation of a new political structure in the Arab world guided by the following core values: Eradicating Western influence in the region; making the Islamic religion the most dominant identity that defines Arab societies; and most importantly, the unrelenting struggle against Israel until it is eliminated.

Over the past decades the concept of “The Resistance” gained growing popularity in the Arab world. Organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and others – as well as their sponsors – Assad in Syria and mostly the Iranian regime – who operate under the slogan of “The Resistance,” were praised and admired in the Arab world. The war in Syria has changed that.

The fact that the admired symbols of “The Resistance” – Hezbollah, Assad, and the Iranian regime are responsible for the killing of more than 170,000 Syrians – of whom fifty percent are civilians – caused many people in the Arab world to view “The Resistance” totally differently.

Many Arab thinkers, public opinion shapers and journalists now view “The Resistance” as a deception, a trap that the Arab world fell into misled cynically by the Iranian regime.

As a result, the glory of “The Resistance” is now stained. The admiration for Assad, Nasrallah and other figures identified with “The Resistance” was replaced with hatred. Hamas, an important member of that axis, also found itself under growing pressure and criticism. The Arab world cannot forget the fact Hamas was a member in the Shiite coalition that is responsible for ruining Syria and killing Syrian Sunnis, as well as Palestinians. Nor does the Arab world forget the fact that Hamas – in the name of “The Resistance” – took over the Gaza Strip in a violent coup (June 2007) killing his Palestinian brothers. And, finally, the Arab world does not forget the fact that under the rule of Hamas, the life of almost 2,000,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip became an ongoing story of misery. As far as the Arab world is concerned, the slogan of “The Resistance” has proven disastrous; it ends time and time again with more violence, more destruction, and more misery of Arab societies – and leads nowhere. The current round strengthens that sentiment which results in the weakening of Hamas’ ideological justification.

Legitimacy. In the battle for international public opinion and support an interesting phenomenon happened in previous rounds. Though formally defined by major Western states as a terror organization, Hamas was able to gain the sympathy of major circles in the West like the media, academics, third-sector organizations, etc. For different reasons Hamas successfully convinced theses circles to view the violent rounds against Israel as a “political conflict” or to “end the Israeli occupation” or to “Free Gaza.” As a result, Hamas enjoyed a somewhat “tolerant approach” towards its rocket attacks on Israeli cities (a clear act of war crimes – by the way). That “tolerance” motivated Hamas to generate more violence.

In the current round it is a totally different story. The somewhat tolerant response we saw in the past, has been replaced with a clear and decisive, intolerance. The reaction of Western diplomats and public opinion in the West regarding the shooting of rockets on Israeli cities has changed in this round. The pictures of Israeli women lying on the ground in the streets shielding their children with their own bodies because they are being attacked by rockets has caused even the harsher criticizers of Israel in the West to move uncomfortably in their seats – and it made them realize that the suffering is not only on the Palestinian side. In the battle over narratives, Israel gains points in this round. One example of that turn is the fact that Palestinian protestors accused the BBC of “ignoring the Palestinian suffering while focusing on the suffering of Israelis.” One should remember that BBC was proactively a very harsh critic of Israel during previous rounds.

The most dramatic manifestation of the shift is the formal announcement, signed by all 28 EU Foreign Ministers that: strongly condemns Hamas for the rocket attacks on Israeli cities; accuses Hamas of using the civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields; acknowledges Israel’s right to defend itself; and calls for the disarmament of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

Following the previous round of violence between Israel and Hamas (Operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012) I wrote an article entitled Rocket Attacks on Israeli cities must Echo in the West. In that article I wrote about the growing and escalating threat Hamas poses and I concluded the article with the following statement – “The sounds of sirens in Israeli cities must echo in the West.” It seems that the sirens finally echo in the West.

The major reason for the shift in the European position is the violence in the Arab world. An article published recently in the Economist explores the violence and the gloomy reality of the Arab world. The strengthening of Radical Islamist groups like ISIS, Al-Qaida, Salafi-Jihadi groups and others raises growing concerns in the world, and particularly in Europe. The European concern stems from the fact that hundreds of these militants are Muslim residents and citizens of European States. The concern is that these militants will return to their homeland in Europe and will become a domestic security threat. In the mind of the average person in the West, the Middle East is associated with “massively armed young Muslim men who are wearing masks killing or threatening to kill others.” In the eyes of the average Western audience, Hamas, Jihad, ISIS, Al-Qaida and other groups are all the same. That image puts Hamas in a very difficult position because it diminishes Hamas’ attempts to be recognized by the international community as a legitimate factor.

That being said, it should be clear that Hamas – as in previous rounds – will announce victory. From Hamas’ perspective, the fact that they shot thousands of rockets on Israeli cities, paralyzed air traffic to Israel, and launched attacks on Israeli civilians and military forces inside Israel is a victory. Hamas’ logic is similar to Hamas’ role model – Hezbollah – in Lebanon. After the 2006 War (known in Israel as the Second Lebanon War) Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah announced a “divine Victory.” Once Nasrallah was confronted with the devastation and destruction caused to Lebanon during and after the war and the severe military loses Hezbollah suffered in the war, he changed his tune. He said that had he known Israel would retaliate so forcefully he would not have launched the operation to kidnap and kill the Israeli soldiers. Pushed back to the wall by critics in the Arab world who wondered what exactly Hezbollah accomplished by initiating the war, Nasrallah said “we have fought the strongest military power in the Middle East for 33 days and we are still standing on our feet.” That is the reason Hezbollah named that war as “The 33 Days War.” It is very likely that Hamas will come up with some similar title.

Whatever the victorious claims of Hezbollah were, the fact is that Israel’s strategic reality along the Lebanese border has significantly improved since the 2006 war. Since then Hezbollah has not launched any attacks on Israeli soldiers or civilians in Israel.

The current violent round between Israel and Hamas could potentially result in a better strategic reality for both Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Why?

More than 3,000,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and in the Palestinian territories in the West Bank are watching and experiencing the disastrous results of Hamas’ path. More and more Palestinians realize that Hamas offers them nothing and leads to a dead-end. A widening Palestinian front opposes Hamas’ way. Hamas, who wishes to be the only representative of the Palestinians, is now light years away from fulfilling that desire. Had Hamas fulfilled its aspirations, Israelis and Palestinians would bleed in endless cycles of violence.

In Hamas’ ideology, violence is not only a legitimate tool – it is an ideological value aimed to perpetuate and maintain Hamas’ rule and relevancy. In that regard, Hamas has also reached a dead-end. Western public opinion expresses no tolerance towards the attacks on civilians (including Israelis). A similar process is taking place in the Arab world which is deeply concerned with the rising violence within its own borders, and is horrified with the escalating brutality of Islamist groups who target mostly their brothers-in-faith, as well as religious and ethnic minorities. These trends in public opinion, together with the severe military blow Hamas has sustained thus far, significantly narrows Hamas’ ability to continue its violence. That is good news for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Operation “Protective Edge” coincides with an important process – an inner Palestinian discussion regarding the path, objectives and course of the Palestinians as a nation. It is a slow, winding, process – yet it is taking place. This inner Palestinian dialogue stems from the percolation of two important insights within the Palestinian public opinion and discourse. One is the understanding that the Arab world is engaged with enormous challenges, and has neither the willingness, nor the interest, nor the resources to deal with the Palestinian issue. The other is the understanding that the use of violence against Israel leads Palestinians time and time again to a dead-end. Palestinians are learning – the same way Israel learned – that the use of military power has limitations. In the case of Israel, that understanding prompted the majority of Israelis to realize that the conflict with the Palestinians should be solved through negotiations which inevitably involve concessions and compromises. Operation Protective Edge could accelerate a similar process among the Palestinians.

Operation “Protective Edge” also has the potential for positive strategic ramifications in a different arena – and that is Lebanon. Hezbollah – whose military capacities are ten times bigger than Hamas’ – is watching the events closely. The success of the Iron Dome system; the impressive Israeli military capacities manifested thus far; the strength and endurance of the Israeli home front; the decisive support of Israeli public opinion supporting a massive ground operation despite the price paid in Israeli soldiers lives; the shift in the European position manifested by the declaration of the European Union Foreign Ministers; and the growing resentment in the Arab world towards the violence conducted within its boundaries by militant groups – all of these reasons reduce Hezbollah’s motivation (which is reduced in any event due the fact they are sinking in the war in Syria) to launch another violent round against Israel.

Operation “Protective Edge” has the potential for a positive strategic turn for both Israelis and Palestinians. Once this round is over, both parties will exit into a new space – different than the one prior to the beginning of this round.

It is the responsibility of both sides in this conflict to materialize the potential for a positive strategic change. Palestinians must enhance an inner discussion which will allow them to view the conflict not only from the perspective of being a victim, but also from a proactive perspective that stems from the understanding that it is in their ability to shape their future. That understanding is essential because it will enable Palestinians to internalize the understanding that resolving the conflict is possible only by negotiations which involve concessions and compromises.

Israel must initiate and enhance a much more generous approach towards Palestinians in the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, as well as in the Gaza Strip. Israel – together with regional and international factors – must shape and create the conditions and atmosphere that will offer the Palestinians in The Gaza Strip a future of prospect, hope and dignity.

Avi Melamed, former Israeli Senior Official on Arab Affairs and former Intelligence Official and educator, is today an Independent Middle East Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Regional Expert and lecturer specializing in the current affairs of the Arab and Muslim world and their impact on Israel and the region. Avi is also the Overseas Middle East expert at the Eisenhower Institute, Washington DC. This article is his latest blog entry at AviMelamed.WordPress.com.

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

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