New Israeli attacks show blurring of Lebanese, Syrian fronts

By Avi Issacharoff for the Times of Israel (April 27):

Less than 48 hours after the Israeli army reportedly attacked targets in Syria on Friday-Saturday, a Syrian cell on Sunday tried to mount a terror attack against targets inside Israeli territory.

Israel fired on the cell, which was composed of Druze gunmen, scoring a direct hit as its members attempted to plant a large explosive device intended for future use against Israeli army troops or civilians moving near the border.

Contrary to initial reports, the cell was not part of Hezbollah, which has not been operating in this fashion recently. Except for a rocket attack on the Givati troops in late January, Hezbollah has been trying to avoid leaving fingerprints that would draw an Israeli response.

The fact is, however, that most of the Druze on the Syrian Golan Heights remain loyal to the regime of Bashar Assad and to the Hezbollah troops who fight for him. No distinction can be made any longer between the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, or between the Syrian army and the Druze on the one hand and Hezbollah on the other.

Hezbollah has been using Druze, Palestinians and, of course, Assad’s own troops to strike at Israeli targets. For more than a year, this has been one front where Hezbollah has been trying to take advantage of the power vacuum in the Syrian area in order to create a deterrent balance against Israel.

Even after the reported Israeli weekend attack on targets in the Qalamun Mountains, it seemed that Hezbollah would try to mount a limited response, not one that might lead to a large-scale, violent confrontation. Hezbollah has no interest in a conflict of that kind, but it wants to make it clear to Israel that there is a price to pay for what it views as crossing red lines.

Media outlets identified with Hezbollah, such as Al Mayadeen, claimed there was a further Israeli attack on Sunday night. But it seems that the source of those explosions in the hot Qalamun sector was the intensifying battles between Hezbollah and the Syrian army against Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front. While Hezbollah and the Syrian army had succeeded in cleansing the mountain strip of the radical Sunni troops in the past, Islamic State forces has managed to retake various territories in the area.

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100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

Today we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Today marks the centenary of the start of killings of around 1.5 million Armenians, Assyrians and other Christian groups.

Only about 20 countries have recognized the Armenian Genocide which is a disgrace. Those who refuse to recognize genocide are more likely to engage in genocide.

Adolf Hitler used the silence about the Armenian Genocide to justify his plans for the Holocaust.

“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” – Adolf Hitler, August 22, 1939.

This video is about an aspect of the genocide that few are aware of: it is about a man who is known today by the Armenians as the Turkish Oscar Schindler. An amazing story.

Let his story inspire you to take a stand.

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WATCH: Israel comes to a halt during Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars

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At 11 o’clock on Wednesday morning, Israel stood in silence for two minutes as sirens wailed on Remembrance Day. This uniquely-Israel style of commemoration was done to pay respect to Israel’s 23,320 soldiers and civilian victims of war and terrorism.

During the siren, which also sounds on Holocaust Memorial Day and the eve of Remembrance Day, all activity comes to a dramatic stop. All vehicles, whether public or private, stop in the middle of the street while drivers and passengers stand next to their cars; pedestrians on the street stop in their place, arms at their sides; businesses also momentarily stop whatever they are doing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the central memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers at the Mount Herzl military cemetery Wednesday, recognizing the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for the State of Israel and urging Israelis to appreciate the meaning of that loss.

“Our enemies must know they will not break us,” the prime minister said, quoting a widow who spoke Tuesday in the Knesset’s memorial ceremony.

Netanyahu stressed the importance of unity on Memorial Day. “We are one family: Jews and our non-Jewish brothers — Druze, Muslims, Bedouins, Christians, Circassians,” he said.

The prime minister also spoke out against war. “Anyone who has experienced the anguish of bereavement is not eager to go to battle,” he said, mirroring comments the previous day made by President Reuven Rivlin.

“Our sons did not go to battle thirsty for blood,” Rivlin said at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Tuesday night. “Not this past summer, not those before, not in those that, God forbid, are still to come. We are forced to fight.”

“We express our gratitude for everything we have earned,” the prime minister said Wednesday, “for the wonder of our sovereignty, the gift of freedom, the miracle of our renewal.”

The official state ceremony commemorating victims of terror attacks began at 1 p.m. at the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial on Mount Herzl. Rivlin, Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot were in attendance.

There the prime minister lamented what he called the celebration of terrorist acts.

“Many of our neighbors glorify murderers and carry them on their shoulders,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony. “The more they murder, the more they glorify them.”

But, Netanyahu said, “The memory of those killed in terror attacks will be with us forever.”

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Getting the Islamic Republic Wrong

Read this if you want to understand the Iranian Regime and why the international elite (media and politicians) get it wrong.

IRAN/FrontPageMag (April 18) — Mainstream media outlets have been flooded with analysis and articles predominantly from Western scholars, professors and policy analysts discussing the reaction from Iran’s domestic political establishment and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to the recent nuclear deal.

Having lived in the Islamic Republic for over a decade under both the so-called “moderate”and “hardline” governments and having studied Iran for many years, I never cease to be surprised by the mainstream media and many of Western writers’ view of Iran’s politics.

The main narrative being circulated on the media involves the various responses from Iranian politicians: The moderates, hardliners, principlists and the Supreme Leader. The analyses and opinions center on the premise of  “this group vs. that group,” in other words, moderates versus hardliners, the Supreme Leader vs. moderates.

For many of Western writers and politicians, this is a natural way to view and interpret Iran’s political system. Because this is how the politics of Western democracies are often characterized: Democrats vs. Republicans, capitalists vs. socialists, etc.

Hence, it is very challenging for these writers, scholars, politicians and policy analysts to view things outside of this framework and prism.

Domestically speaking, I, like the majority of people who lived in the Islamic Republic, never noticed social, political, economic, or legal differences under either “moderate” or “hardline” governments. The political suppression was the same.

Human rights abuses, stripping people of their basic universal human rights (freedom of religion, speech, assembly, press) were the same under various political parties, and have deteriorated since the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979.

Whether under Rouhani’s rule, Ahmadinejad’s, Khatami’s, or Rafsanjani’s rule, discrimination against women, subjugation of women, suppression and killings of dissidents, persecuting religious minorities persisted and increased.

Similarly, when it comes to the actual implementation of the Islamic Republic’s regional and foreign policy, there exists no difference between the so-called “moderate,” “hardliners,” “principlists,” or different Supreme Leaders.

Instead of analyzing Iran’s nuclear dossier and its regional policy based on the aforementioned categorizations (which reflects a Western mindset rather than the reality on the ground in the Islamic Republic), I actually divide these groups into what I call the “real” face of Iranian politics and the “deceptive,” soft face that serves the political establishment and the theocratic regime.

The real face of the Islamic Republic (the Supreme Leader, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Quds Forces, Basij, etc.) are those whom the West calls “hardliners.” They are clear about their goals and objectives. They desire to pursue interventionist and aggressive foreign policy in the region. They are vocal about matters such as their anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Western sentiments.  They state that they would like to wipe Israel off of the map, that they would like to spread their version of Islam across the region and beyond.

On the other hand, the deceptive, soft face of the regime is represented by those who are depicted as the “moderates.” Many of the politicians in this camp, who have smiles on their faces, are Western- or US-educated (such as Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif, who recovered his PhD from Josef Korbel School of International Studies in Denver), and they have learned  how to manipulate the West’s language and diplomacy in order to fool the US and other powers.

It is worth noting that the underlying objective of all these different camps is not undermining each group as the mainstream media depict. The main goal is to preserve the power of the Supreme Leader and the underlying foundations of the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian leaders learned a crucial lesson under the former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that if they employ their real aggressive face on international arenas and in nuclear talks, they will be hit by more sanctions that will endanger the hold-on-power of the Supreme Leader and the political establishment. As a result, the creation of “moderate” narratives was crucial to preserve the ruling clerics and the mullahs.  By creating this narrative, they became fully capable of preventing the West from understanding the reality of Iran’s political system.

There is no real binary such as moderate vs. hardliners, or the Supreme Leader vs. moderates. There is only the interests of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the underlying foundation of the Islamic Republic.

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The Iran deal: Anatomy of a disaster

By Charles Krauthammer, syndicated columnists and Fox News contributor, for the Washington Post (April 9):

Negotiations . . . to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability . . .

Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, the Wall Street Journal, April 8.

President Obama speaks at the White House about the Iranian nuclear talks. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

President Obama speaks at the White House about the Iranian nuclear talks. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

It was but a year and a half ago that Barack Obama endorsed the objective of abolition when he said that Iran’s heavily fortified Fordow nuclear facility, its plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor and its advanced centrifuges were all unnecessary for a civilian nuclear program. The logic was clear: Since Iran was claiming to be pursuing an exclusively civilian program, these would have to go.

Yet under the deal Obama is now trying to sell, not one of these is to be dismantled. Indeed, Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure is kept intact, just frozen or repurposed for the length of the deal (about a decade). Thus Fordow’s centrifuges will keep spinning. They will now be fed xenon, zinc and germanium instead of uranium. But that means they remain ready at any time to revert from the world’s most heavily (indeed comically) fortified medical isotope facility to a bomb-making factory.

And upon the expiration of the deal, conceded Obama Monday on NPR, Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear bomb will be “almost down to zero,” i.e., it will be able to produce nuclear weapons at will and without delay.

And then there’s cheating. Not to worry, says Obama. We have guarantees of compliance: “unprecedented inspections” and “snapback” sanctions.

The inspection promises are a farce. We haven’t even held the Iranians to their current obligation to come clean with the International Atomic Energy Agency on their previous nuclear activities. The IAEA charges Iran with stonewalling on 11 of 12 issues.

As veteran nuclear expert David Albright points out, that makes future verification impossible — how can you determine what’s been illegally changed or added if you have no baseline? Worse, there’s been no mention of the only verification regime with real teeth — at-will, unannounced visits to any facility, declared or undeclared. The joint European-Iranian statement spoke only of “enhanced access through agreed procedures,” which doesn’t remotely suggest anywhere/anytime inspections. And on Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures.”

The IAEA hasn’t been allowed to see the Parchin weaponization facility in 10 years. And the massive Fordow complex was disclosed not by the IAEA but by Iranian dissidents.

Yet even if violations are found, what then? First, they have to be certified by the IAEA. Which then reports to the United Nations, where Iran has the right to challenge the charge. Which then has to be considered, argued and adjudicated. Which then presumably goes to the Security Council where China, Russia and sundry anti-Western countries will act as Iran’s lawyers. Which all would take months — after which there is no guarantee that China and Russia will ratify the finding anyway.

As for the “snapback” sanctions — our last remaining bit of pressure — they are equally fantastic. There’s no way sanctions will be re-imposed once they have been lifted. It took a decade to weave China, Russia and the Europeans into the current sanctions infrastructure. Once gone, it doesn’t snap back. None will pull their companies out of a thriving, post-sanctions Iran. As Kissinger and Shultz point out, we will be fought every step of the way, leaving the United States, not Iran, isolated.

Obama imagines that this deal will bring Iran in from the cold, tempering its territorial ambitions and ideological radicalism. But this defies logic: With sanctions lifted, its economy booming and tens of billions injected into its treasury, why would Iran curb rather than expand its relentless drive for regional dominance?

An overriding objective of these negotiations, as Obama has said, is to prevent the inevitable proliferation — Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf states — that would occur if Iran went nuclear. Yet the prospective agreement is so clearly a pathway to an Iranian bomb that the Saudis are signaling that the deal itself would impel them to go nuclear.

You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon.

What is the alternative, asks the president? He’s repeatedly answered the question himself: No deal is better than a bad deal.

Click here for original source.

Holocaust remembrance

A powerful op-ed with an important conclusion.

Summary:

The Jerusalem Post reflects on the Holocaust, and finds that little has changed: “We are surrounded by enemies who bay for Jewish blood and teach their tots – a hairbreadth away from Israel – that Jews are descended from monkeys and pigs and should be wiped out.” Linking anti-Israel sentiment to anti-Semitism, the editor states: “The sad fact is that we are accused of being Nazis by Nazi-torchbearers who vilify us in Joseph Goebbels’s Big-Lie tradition,” and concludes: “Our struggle for survival is hardly over.”

Survivors of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz arrive to the former camp in Oswiecim.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Survivors of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz arrive to the former camp in Oswiecim.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jerusalem Post (April 16) —  Even those who were tiny babies then – hidden from the Nazi extermination apparatus that hunted diligently for every last Jew – are elderly today, 70 years after the Third Reich was vanquished.

Soon no one who was alive then will be around to help counter the lies of Holocaust-deniers or the deliberate trivialization and kitschy universalization of the lessons the Holocaust ought to impart to our nation of survivors.

The inexorable march of time is already leaving its stamp even on attitudes here, in Israel, including on Holocaust Remembrance Day. This morning, as we stand in silent vigil for the 6,000,000, there will be those among us tempted to ascribe it all to a one-off regime from long ago, not particularly relevant to today and now.

But, all around us, the hate still thrives and that there are no bounds to the lengths that haters will go to rationalize and justify it.

The falsehoods disseminated by the Nazis and their avid collaborators have been adapted to mutating historical agendas, but the grotesque displays of hypocrisy are no different. The Jewish state is as defamed and demonized as the so-called “Jewish race” had been in order to pave the way for industrialized genocide.

Like their predecessors, the Jewish state’s would-be annihilators posture as morally upright members of the international community and blame the victim for a monstrously magnified set of “unforgivable” sins.

This is evident in many ways, including in ways Israelis have grown accustomed to ignoring. Yet what we ignore and dismiss matters. Campaigns such as that orchestrated against the scheduled appearance in Israel next month of British megastar Robbie Williams are anything but trivial.

BDS groups pressuring Williams accuse Israel of “extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting neo-Nazi insignia.” There is more, much more, in the same vein.

The lie matters because it facilitates the application of double standards against Israel.

Its ultimate logic is that of the ayatollahs who sponsor Holocaust-caricaturizing contests and who declare that their aim to obliterate Israel is “nonnegotiable.” The world’s presumed enlightened democracies not only fail to protest but they appease the Tehran regime and essentially allow it to underpin its intentions with nuclear weapons.

The battle against “the Zionist entity” called Israel was never limited to this country. More than two decades ago the Iranians carried it to far-off Argentina where they carbombed a Jewish community center and murdered scores of innocents for no other crime than being born to Jewish parents.

This scenario was reenacted over and over abroad – most recently at Toulouse’s Jewish school, Brussels’ Jewish museum, a kosher supermarket in Paris and a Copenhagen synagogue. No gripes against Israel can disguise the lethal Judeophobia.

We are surrounded by enemies who bay for Jewish blood and teach their tots – a hairbreadth away from Israel – that Jews are descended from monkeys and pigs and should be wiped out. Their Holocaust-era leader Haj Amin al-Husseini is still revered in their midst.

He was an avid Nazi collaborator who spent the war years as Adolf Hitler’s personal guest in Berlin, recruited Muslims to the SS, plotted the extension of the “final solution” to the Middle East, scuttled any plan even to rescue small Jewish children and at the war’s end sealed the fate of Hungarian Jewry.

He was declared a wanted war criminal but escaped back here to participate in the assault (merely three years post-Holocaust) on the newborn Jewish state (to which Husseini recruited Bosnian SS veterans). It is no accident that Nazis like Alois Brunner (Adolf Eichmann’s assistant) found refuge in Arab lands and that unrepentant Nazi scientists collaborated in outfitting the Arab world with weaponry against Israel’s Jews.

The sad fact is that we are accused of being Nazis by Nazi-torchbearers who vilify us in Joseph Goebbels’s Big-Lie tradition. Our struggle for survival is hardly over.

Click here for original source.

Yarmouk exposes callous double standards of ugly Israel bashers

Jewish News (UK) (April 14) — If there were an award for double standards, for getting crazily angry about some people’s behaviour while turning a blind eye to other people’s behaviour, anti-Israel activists would win it every year.

These are people who take to the streets to march and holler whenever an Israeli warplane leaves its hangar, yet who say next to nothing about the militarism of France, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and too many other states to mention.

They bang on endlessly about Israel being an apartheid state, yet through BDS they have created a system of cultural apartheid. In their eyes, culture created by us, or by China, or by Zimbabwe, is fine, but culture produced by them, those nasty Israelis, must be hounded out of theatres and galleries lest it infect us all with its contagious Zionism.

These are activists who cry “Censorship!” when a conference of theirs is pulled, as happened at Southampton University recently. Yet they spend the rest of their time agitating for the No Platforming of Israeli representatives on campus and for the shutting down of pro-Israel university societies. “Free speech! (For nice people like me, not for rotters like you)” — that’s their fantastically hypocritical motto.

And now we can see that their double standards extend even to the people they claim to care for: the Palestinians.

Even here, even on the question of Palestinian suffering, anti-Israel activists only care some of the time. If you’re a Palestinian whose life is made harder by Israeli forces, they’ll share pictures of you, march in the streets for you, write tear-drenched tweets about you. But if you’re a Palestinian under threat from a non-Israeli force, forget about it. You’re on your own.

This has become clear in recent days, following reports that the Islamic State’s deathly grip now reaches into the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Syria.

Yarmouk has suffered terribly since the start of the Syrian Civil War. It has been the scene of deadly fighting between the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and forces loyal to Assad. Thousands have fled: it is thought the camp’s population has fallen from 100,000 to just 20,000 since 2012. Now, making this bad situation hellishly worse, the Islamic State reportedly controls 90% of the camp and is thought to have massacred citizens.

Where is the Twitter outrage? The talk of holding public protests? The angry articles by Palestinian solidarity activists? The discussions about sending aid to Yarmouk, as those preening politicians, authors and others did in relation to Gaza in 2010?

All these things are conspicuous by their absence. The deprivations of the Yarmouk Palestinians don’t seem to have pricked Western radicals’ conscience, certainly not in the way the Gaza war did last year.

Scour the Twitter feed of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and you will find no mention of Yarmouk. There are stories about Israeli forces stopping a Palestinian school bus for two hours, but nothing about the reported shooting and even beheadings of Palestinians in Yarmouk. These guys should seriously consider a name change: how about ‘Solidarity For Some Palestinians’?

The implicit and ugly separation of Palestinians into worthy and unworthy camps, into groups we should be worried about (the ones impacted upon by Israel) and groups we shouldn’t be so worried about (those impacted upon by anyone other than Israel), is not new.

In Western radical circles, there’s long been a habit of getting angry about some attacks on Palestinians but not others. Few Palestine solidarity campaigners lose much sleep over the bloody expulsion of the PLO from Jordan in 1970 or the Tel al-Zaatar massacre in Lebanon in 1976, when around 2,000 Palestinians were killed by Lebanese forces. But they will talk endlessly about the history of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

What explains this double standard? It’s because, today, what gets dressed up as “Palestinian solidarity” is nothing of the sort. This is no longer a movement devoted in any serious way to assisting the Palestinians; rather, it’s become all about demonising Israel, turning it into a whipping boy for the sins of history that right-minded Westerners can yell about and rage against and ostentatiously oppose.

For these campaigners, Palestinians are, in essence, political props, bit-part players in Western activists’ own narcissistic desire to find one evil entity that they can pin every global problem on. The driving force here isn’t concern for Palestinians — it’s the need of increasingly rootless, ideas-lite, post-Cold War leftists to find one allegedly black-and-white morality play in which they can be the good guys.

Palestinians are wheeled on, not as a real people capable of determining their own affairs, but as permanent victims whose suffering is cynically used by Westerners to boost their own sense of moral righteousness and their fury with Israel and what they think it represents: the excesses of colonialism, of modernity, of the West itself.

So for them, Palestinians who find themselves under attack from Israel are useful tools, nice additions to their invented moral drama, but Palestinians who are screwed over by the Islamic State, or by some other non-Israeli force, are not so useful. And thus those Palestinians suffer largely in silence.

The cynicism and callousness of modern-day Israel-bashers have been graphically exposed by Yarmouk.

Click here for original source.

The Iranian Revolution Lives!

By David Brooks for The New York Times (April 10):

Beyond all the talk of centrifuges and enrichment capacities, President Obama’s deal with Iran is really a giant gamble on the nature of the Iranian regime. The core question is: Are the men who control that country more like Lenin or are they more like Gorbachev? Do they still fervently believe in their revolution and would they use their postsanctions wealth to export it and destabilize their region? Or have they lost faith in their revolution? Will they use a deal as a way to rejoin the community of nations?

We got a big piece of evidence on those questions on Thursday. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, delivered his first big response to the sort-of-agreed-upon nuclear framework. What did we learn?

First, we learned that Iran’s supreme leader still regards the United States as his enemy. The audience chanted “Death to America” during his speech, and Khamenei himself dismissed America’s “devilish” intentions. When a radical religious leader uses a word like “devilish,” he’s not using it the way it’s used in a chocolate-cake commercial. He means he thinks the United States is the embodiment of evil.

Second, we learned that the West wants a deal more than Khamenei does. “I was never optimistic about negotiating with America,” he declared. Throughout the speech, his words dripped with a lack of enthusiasm for the whole enterprise.

President Obama is campaigning for a deal, while Khamenei is unmoved. That imbalance explains why Western negotiators had to give away so many of their original demands. The United States had originally insisted upon an end to Iran’s nuclear program, a suspension of its enrichment of uranium, but that was conceded to keep Iran at the table.

Third, we learned that the ayatollah is demanding total trust from us while offering maximum contempt in return. Khamenei communicated a smug and self-righteous sense of superiority toward the West throughout his remarks. He haughtily repeated his demand that the West permanently end all sanctions on the very day the deal is signed. He insisted that no inspectors could visit Iranian military facilities. This would make a hash of verification and enforcement.

Fourth, we learned that Khamenei and the U.S. see different realities. It’s been pointed out that Iranian and American officials describe the “agreed upon” framework in different ways. That’s because, Khamenei suggested, the Americans are lying. “I’m really worried as the other side is into lying and breaching promises. An example was the White House fact sheet,” he said. “This came out a few hours after the negotiations, and most of it was against the agreement and was wrong. They are always trying to deceive and break promises.”

Fifth, Khamenei reminded us that, even at the most delicate moment in these talks, he is still intent on putting Iran on a collision course with Sunnis and the West. He attacked the Saudi leaders as “inexperienced youngsters” and criticized efforts to push back on Iranian efforts to destabilize Yemen.

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, characterized Iran’s recent bellicosity this way: “It’s about Iran believing in exporting the revolution. It’s part of their regime, a part of their ideology.”

Khamenei’s remarks could be bluster, tactical positioning for some domestic or international audience. But they are entirely consistent with recent Iranian behavior. His speech suggests that Iran still fundamentally sees itself in a holy war with the West, a war that can be managed prudently but that is still a fundamental clash of values and interests. His speech suggests, as Henry Kissinger and George Shultz put it in a brilliant op-ed essay in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, that there is no congruence of interests between us and Iran. We envision a region of stable nation-states. They see a revolutionary anti-Western order.

If Iran still has revolutionary intent, then no amount of treaty subtlety will enforce this deal. Iran will begin subtly subverting any agreement. It will continue to work on its advanced nuclear technology even during the agreement. It will inevitably use nuclear weaponry, or even the threat of eventual nuclear weaponry, to advance its apocalyptic interests. Every other regional power will prepare for the worst, and we’ll get a pseudo-nuclear-arms race in a region of disintegrating nation-states.

If President Obama is right and Iran is on the verge of change, the deal is a home run. But we have a terrible record of predicting trends in the Middle East. Republican and Democratic administrations have continually anticipated turning points in the Middle East: Republicans after interventions, Democrats after negotiations. But the dawns never come.

At some point, there has to be a scintilla of evidence that Iran wants to change. Khamenei’s speech offers none. Negotiating an arms treaty with Brezhnev and Gorbachev was one thing. But with this guy? Good luck with that.

Click here for original source.

The “historic” agreement that ignores history

No-one agrees on what was agreed with Iran, but in any case the precedents are hardly encouraging.

Globes (April 12) — By this time hordes of commentators have chewed over Mr. Obama’s “historic” agreement. Some aspects, however, have been overlooked or misinterpreted:

1. It is not an agreement. It is a “framework” for an eventual agreement to be forged in the period between now and June 30th when the actual “agreement” is to be signed.

2. There is no agreement as to what was agreed. At least three versions of the framework are in circulation: that of the State Department, that of the French and that of the Iranians. They disagree fundamentally on what was agreed.

3. Why does Iran need all those “research and development” nuclear facilities that were apparently agreed to by the six negotiating powers? For nuclear power? That technology is many decades old and can be bought off the shelf from the Russians, the French, the Americans or elsewhere. For medical research? That would require one small facility. Then what for? Why, for the development of the capacity to make nuclear weapons, of course. There is no other possible use.

4. Military facilities are left out of the “agreement”. Why? Military facilities can be used to achieve nuclear “breakout” as well as civilian facilities.

5. Finally, according to the State Department version, Iran will achieve nuclear breakout within two to three months. Come again? If they are right that means that the Iranians will achieve breakout BEFORE June 30th! So what is the point of the whole exercise?

In 1994 President Clinton made a television address from the White House remarkably similar in wording to that of Mr. Obama following the Lausanne meetings. What was it about? It celebrated an “agreement” reached with North Korea to end that country’s nuclear weapons program. Subsequently North Korea violated every aspect of that agreement with impunity, and is now a nuclear power.

The same will happen again with Iran unless (1) sanctions are maintained and strengthened leading to regime change in Iran or (2) military force is used to destroy or seriously damage Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The alternative is living (or dying) with a nuclear weapons-capable fanatical, tyrannical, aggressive regime much more dangerous for the rest of the world than North Korea will ever be.

Too bad the meetings weren’t held in the holy city of Qom. In that case the comparison with the betrayal of Czechoslovakia by the British and French in 1938 would have been even more perfect. That famous meeting, leading to an “historic” agreement, was of course, held in Munich, birthplace of the Nazi Party.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and teaches at the Center for National Security Studies and Geostrategy, University of Haifa.

Click here for original source.

Israel sets out key changes for a better deal with Iran

Minister lists components of a more effective agreement, including no Iranian R&D on centrifuges, ‘anywhere, anytime’ inspections; poses 10 questions about current ‘irresponsible’ framework

US State of Secretary John Kerry with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (left) Minister Yuval Steinitz (second left), and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 23, 2013. Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ POOL/ FLASH90)

US State of Secretary John Kerry with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (left) Minister Yuval Steinitz (second left), and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 23, 2013. Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ POOL/ FLASH90)

The Times of Israel (April 6) — Israel on Monday set out a series of requirements and changes that it said could turn the framework agreement reached last Thursday by US-led negotiators with Iran into a more acceptable final deal.

It also issued a document posing 10 questions that it said underlined “the extent of the irresponsible concessions given to Iran” in the agreement, and that it claimed made clear “how dangerous the framework is for Israel, the region and the world.

The document was distributed by Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, a Likud party member and confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Meeting with reporters in Jerusalem, Steinitz demanded a series of changes to close key loopholes as the final terms are negotiated ahead of a June 30 deadline. He presented the demands after Netanyahu reiterated in a series of US TV interviews on Sunday that Israel does not oppose any deal with Iran, but rather demands a “better deal.”

The changes set out by Steinitz include:

  • Barring further Iranian R&D on advanced centrifuges
  • Significantly reducing the number of centrifuges Iran would have available to press back into service if it violates the deal
  • Shuttering the Fordo underground enrichment facility
  • Requiring Iran’s compliance in detailing previous nuclear activities with possible military dimensions
  • Shipping its stockpile of lower-enriched uranium out of the country
  • Ensuring “anywhere, anytime” inspections of Iran’s facilities.

Such changes, said Steinitz, would render a final deal “more reasonable.”

The document distributed by Steinitz (see accompanying PDF here) reiterated Netanyahu’s assertion that “a better deal” can and must be reached. It protested that the framework agreement reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, and hailed by President Barack Obama as “historic,” “ignores the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program to Israel.” By contrast, it charged, “great consideration” was given to Iran, “an enemy of the Unites States, whose regime, even during the negotiations, continued to conduct aggression in the region and to call for the destruction of Israel.”

It charged that “the framework deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb. By removing the sanctions and lifting the main restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in about a decade, this framework paves Iran’s path to a bomb.”

Apart from what it called “the significant differences in the parties’ interpretations of the framework – reflected in the conflicting statements and ‘fact sheets’ they issued” — the Israeli document posed the following 10 questions:

1. Why are sanctions that took years to put in place being removed immediately (as the Iranians claim)? This would take away the international community’s primary leverage at the outset of the agreement and make Iranian compliance less likely.

2. Given Iran’s track record of concealing illicit nuclear activities, why does the framework not explicitly require Iran to accept inspections of all installations where suspected nuclear weapons development has been conducted? Why can’t inspectors conduct inspections anywhere, anytime?

3. Will Iran ever be forced to come clean about its past nuclear weaponization activity?

4. What will be the fate of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium?

5. Why will Iran be allowed to continue R&D on centrifuges far more advanced than those currently in its possession?

6. Why does the framework not address Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear payloads?

7. Following Iranian violations of the framework, how effective will be the mechanism to reinstitute sanctions?

8. What message does the framework send to states in the region and around the world when it gives such far-reaching concessions to a regime that for years has defied UNSC resolutions? Why would this not encourage nuclear proliferation?

9. The framework agreement appears to have much in common with the nuclear agreement reached with North Korea. How will this deal differ from the North Korean case?

10. Why is the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in about a decade not linked to a change in Iran’s behavior? According to the framework, Iran could remain the world’s foremost sponsor of terror and still have all the restrictions removed. Instead, the removal of those restrictions should be linked to a cessation of Iran’s aggression in the Middle East, its terrorism around the world and its threats to annihilate Israel.”

The document ended with the assertion that “the alternative to this framework is a better deal, one that will significantly dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, bring about a cessation of its aggression in the region and terrorist activities around the world, as well as end its efforts to destroy Israel. The framework deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb. By removing the sanctions and lifting the main restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in about a decade, this framework paves Iran’s path to a bomb. The result will be a dramatic increase in the risks of nuclear proliferation and an increase in the chances of a terrible war.”

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The 5 Major Threats Facing Israel this Passover

IDF blog (April 6) — Passover is a special time of the year in Israel. As we celebrate and remember how we freed ourselves from slavery and escaped persecution to return to the land of Israel, we also look towards the future and the challenges that we will face down the road. These are the security threats facing Israel and its citizens as they celebrate Passover with their families.

tmp640078776201379841The Egyptian Border: Quiet on the Southern Front

The Egyptian Sinai has witnessed a revival of terrorist activities since the beginning of 2010. The wave of violence reached a peak level last year. The Ansar Bait al-Maqdis extremist militant group – which recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State – has been active in the area, leading many attacks against Egyptian Security Force outposts spread out across the Sinai Peninsula, killing many in the process.

This resurgence of terrorist activity has forced the IDF to build a new security fence on the 200 km border between Israel and Egypt. The fence has recently been completed and is monitored 24 hours a day by the IDF’s highly trained personnel. Although it seems that the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis organization has chosen to focus its efforts on the Egyptian Security Forces, it may prove inevitable that they will try and attack Israel and the IDF troops standing guard on the border like other terrorist organizations have done in the past few years.

The Gaza Strip: Rebuilding Terror

Both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, the terrorist organizations in control of the Gaza Strip, have made significant efforts in the past months to rebuild their military capabilities destroyed by the IDF during Operation Protective Edge. Despite the lack of resources in the Gaza Strip, Hamas has allotted a huge amount of its funds, manpower and equipment to restoring its weapons arsenal. The military buildup is particularly shocking when considering the continuing delays in the reconstruction of the civilian infrastructure of the Gaza Strip. This clearly shows that Hamas’ main priority is the rehabilitation of its military and terrorist capabilities even at the expense of civilian needs.

Recruiting and training adolescents has also been one of Hamas’ top priorities. According to Hamas, the military training camps opened by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades has trained more than 17,000 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 17. They received basic and advanced military training (including the abduction of IDF soldiers and exiting terror tunnels) as well as intense religious indoctrination.

Similarly, senior Hamas officials recently emphasized the need to open new fronts against Israel in the next round of fighting and has encouraged the surrounding Arab nations to join the fighting. Special emphasis was placed on Syria and Lebanon: senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar called on the authorities in Syria and Lebanon to permit Hamas to set up military units in the refugee camps. He asked these authorities to do so in order to “manage the resistance from northern Palestine and participate with us in the liberation [of Palestine].” Furthermore, Hamas spokesmen have stated that during Operation Protective Edge, terrorists from the organization’s military wing already launched rockets into northern Israel from Lebanese territory, and implicitly called for the expansion of this phenomenon for the next confrontation.

Judea and Samaria: A Renewal of Palestinian Violence

Since Operation Brother’s Keeper, and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, Hamas has tried to rebuild its infrastructures of terror in the Judea and Samaria area. Regular arrests of terrorist cells planning to kill Israeli civilians have taken place.

As a part of the wave of violence that began last October, on the morning of November 18 five Israelis were killed and seven injured when two terrorists carried out a massacre during morning prayers at a synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem.

Also, Palestinians who illegally entered Israel have carried out two stabbing attacks in Tel Aviv. On November 9, an IDF soldier was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in the Tel Aviv Ha-Hagana train station, and on the morning of January 21, 2015, a Palestinian terrorist injured twelve people in a stabbing attack on a bus in Tel Aviv.

Another type of lethal threat that Israel has faced in recent months is car-ramming attacks that took place in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. These attacks have been praised by Hamas and amongst the Palestinian population on social networks.

Firebombs and stone-hurling have also continued throughout the past month. On December 25, a molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle and caused severe burns to an 11 year-old Israeli girl and lightly injured her father.

The Syrian Border: The War Next Door

The UN’s peacekeeping force stationed in the Golan Heights on the Israeli-Syrian border that was taken hostage by the al-Nusra Front in September 2014 is a recent example of the nearness of the Syrian Civil War and terrorist organizations to Israeli territory.

The fighting around the town of al-Quneitra has caused the sporadic errant fire of rockets and explosives towards Israel. The last time such an attack occurred was on January 27, 2015, when two rockets hit Israeli territory. Sporadic fire in this area resulted in the injury of an IDF soldier in early September 2014. Earlier that year in June, a 15 year-old Israeli teenager was killed by an explosion along the border, in which two other individuals were injured.

Additionally, military aircraft have occasionally crossed into Israeli territory. On September 23, 2014, a Syrian Air Force airplane crossed into Israeli territory, and was shot down by an IDF Patriot anti-aircraft missile. Earlier, On August 31, 2014, an unmanned aerial vehicle attempted to infiltrate Israeli airspace and was directly targeted by a Patriot anti-aircraft missile.

The Lebanese Border: The Hezbollah Threat

Though Hezbollah is also present in the Syrian Golan Heights as a part of its military involvement meant to aid Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian Civil war, Hezbollah’s stronghold remains southern Lebanon. The terrorist organization has repeatedly used its infrastructure located in the area for lethal purposes.

On January 28, two IDF soldiers were killed in a missile attack that targeted their patrol on the Israeli side of the Lebanese border. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for this attack.

The attack revealed that despite UN Resolution 1701 – which stipulates that no armed forces other than the Lebanese Army should be present in southern Lebanon – Hezbollah has maintained its military capabilities in the area. Additional intelligence has estimated that Hezbollah maintains approximately 30,000 fighters, and a stockpile of 170,000 rockets pointed at Israel. Those rockets can reach any point on the map of Israel, and Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, recently claimed that “Israel can’t even imagine the size of our arms stockpile.”

As Jews across the world and Israel plan to celebrate the holiday of Passover, it is important to remember that a number of threats still endanger the civilians and soldiers of Israel. Imminent hazards from the Sinai Peninsula in the south, Judea and Samaria in the east, and Syria and Lebanon in the north surround Israelis on all sides. Despite this, the IDF stands ready on all fronts to defend the Israeli population and Jews worldwide.

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