May 9, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Missiles Aimed at Israel Targeted in Syrian Strike - Liad Osmo (Ynet News)
    A senior Syrian army official said Tuesday that "Israel targeted a Syrian army position south of Damascus."
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported nine militiamen affiliated with the regime were killed.
    The attack came after the IDF instructed Israeli communities in the Golan Heights to open public bomb shelters amid reports of "irregular Iranian movements" in Syria.
    The base attacked in Damascus housed Iranian forces and was attacked by Israel in the past, Arab media reported.
    Yediot Ahronot military correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai surmised that the targets of Tuesday's attack were missile silos and rocket launchers the Iranians took out of hiding and intended to use.
    See also U.S. Officials Growing Increasingly Concerned Iran Could Attack Israel - Barbara Starr (CNN)
    There are increasing concerns Iran is on the cusp of an attack against Israel, several U.S. military officials told CNN.

Israel Seeks to Neutralize the Iranian Threat in Syria While It Is Still Manageable - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    The defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has paved the way for Iran to overrun large parts of the Middle East.
    "The argument that a bad agreement is preferable to no agreement is nonsense," a senior official said last week.
    "Without an agreement, Iran is exposed to an attack, to sanctions, and to diplomatic pressure. The agreement frees it from all this, and allows it to sail comfortably toward achieving its goals."
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen and Israel Security Agency Director Nadav Argaman believe this is the time to take action, even if it means going to war, so as not to pay a heavier price later.
    This position is based on the belief that this threat should be neutralized while it is still manageable.
    In the absence of a credible threat, it is doubtful that Iran will blink first.
    Iran must face losing everything before it agrees to give up anything.

Israel and the U.S. Are in Tune on Iran - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The president's announcement that the U.S. was withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear agreement heralds a strategic change for the region.
    The messages at Trump's press conference seemed totally coordinated with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
    Trump repeated all the flaws Netanyahu had cited in the nuclear agreement over the past few years and announced that he saw the Mossad's exposure of Iran's nuclear documents as definitive proof of Tehran's intention to continue to deceive the international community.

Regimes that Have Peaceful Intentions Don't Behave This Way - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
    Tehran doesn't allow nuclear inspectors access to many military sites. Regimes that have peaceful intentions don't behave this way.
    When South Africa decided to denuclearize in the early 1990s, President F.W. de Klerk ordered the destruction of all sensitive technical and policy documents and gave UN inspectors "anytime, anywhere" access to inspect nuclear facilities.
    In Moammar Gadhafi's case, U.S. officials physically removed sensitive nuclear-weapons documents, uranium and equipment from Libya.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump Says He'll Exit Iran Nuclear Deal and Reinstate Sanctions - Margaret Talev and Toluse Olorunnipa
    President Donald Trump announced Tuesday at the White House that the U.S. will withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reinstate financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic. "The fact is this was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never ever been made," Trump said. "We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement. The Iran deal is defective at its core."
        "If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East," Trump said. "Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs." He said international inspectors are "not able to prevent, detect or punish cheating" by Iran and "don't have the unqualified right to inspect many important locations" including military bases.
        Trump has complained that the Iran deal doesn't address threats from the country's ballistic missile program or its involvement in fomenting regional conflicts, and that provisions of the deal that expire in the next decade would allow Iran to resume nuclear work. National Security Adviser John Bolton said after the announcement that the administration will try to pursue a broader deal with Iran that would satisfy the president's concerns.
        The sanctions halt $40 billion in aircraft sales by Boeing Co. and Airbus SE to Iran. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said export licenses permitting the sales would be revoked. The Treasury Department said that sanctions that had been waived under the deal would take full effect after Nov. 4 after "wind-down periods."  (Bloomberg)
        See also Video: Trump Announcement to Withdraw from Iran Nuclear Deal (PBS)
        See also Text: Trump Statement on Ending U.S. Participation in Iran Deal (White House)
        See also Text: Explanation regarding the Reimposition of Sanctions on Iran (U.S. Treasury Department)
  • Secretary of State: We Will Work with Our Allies to Find a Lasting Solution to the Iranian Threat
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday: "As we exit the Iran deal, we will be working with our allies to find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian threat. We have a shared interest with our allies in Europe and around the world to prevent Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon. But our effort is broader than just the nuclear threat and we will be working together with partners to eliminate the threat of Iran's ballistic missile program; to stop its terrorist activities worldwide; and to block its menacing activity across the Middle East and beyond."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also UK, France and Germany Pledge to Remain in Iran Nuclear Deal as U.S. Withdraws - Ben Riley (Telegraph-UK)
  • Rouhani Says Iran Will Remain in Nuclear Deal - Parisa Hafezi
    President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran would remain committed to the nuclear deal despite U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 agreement. However, Rouhani warned that Iran was ready to resume its curbed nuclear activities if Iran's interests were not guaranteed under a deal without the U.S. (Reuters)
        See also Iranian Lawmakers Shout "Death to America," Set U.S. Flag Ablaze at Parliament - Nasser Karimi
    Iranian lawmakers lit a paper U.S. flag on fire at parliament Wednesday after President Trump's nuclear deal pullout, shouting, "Death to America!"  (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Fully Supports U.S. Decision to Reject Nuclear Deal with Iran
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday: "Israel fully supports President Trump's bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran. Israel has opposed the nuclear deal from the start because we said that rather than blocking Iran's path to a bomb, the deal actually paved Iran's path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs, and this within a few years' time."
        "The deal didn't push war further away, it actually brought it closer. The deal didn't reduce Iran's aggression, it dramatically increased it.... Since the deal, we've seen Iran's aggression grow every day - in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Gaza, and most of all, in Syria, where Iran is trying to establish military bases from which to attack Israel."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Rivlin: U.S. Withdrawal from Nuclear Deal Is Significant to Israel's Security
    President Reuven Rivlin said Tuesday that the decision "made by the President of the United States constitutes an important and significant step in ensuring the security of the State of Israel, the security of the region, and the security of the entire free world. Alongside the nuclear threat we do not, for a moment, forget the arms race Iran is leading on our borders."  (Ynet News)
  • Gallant: Conflict between Iran and the U.S. Could Directly Affect Israel
    In response to the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoav Gallant, a member of Israel's Security Cabinet, said Tuesday: "When the Iranians realize they shouldn't mess with Trump, and when they face harsh sanctions - meaning anyone who trades with Iran doesn't trade with the U.S. - it would have far-reaching consequences. I hope they return to their natural place and become a nation that acts like other nations and stop supporting terrorism."
        Gallant compared the Iran nuclear deal to the Munich Agreement that Europe signed with the Nazis in 1938, "which only postponed the war by a year, and they got that war under far worse conditions." Gallant said a conflict between Iran and the U.S. could directly affect Israel. "If an armed conflict erupts between the U.S. and Iran, the weapon Iran would try to use against the U.S. would be Hizbullah against Israel. We're prepared for such a scenario."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • A Courageous Trump Call on a Lousy Iran Deal - Bret Stephens
    "The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and it is not a signed document," Julia Frifield, then the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, wrote in 2015. The Obama administration refused to submit the nuclear deal with Iran to Congress as a treaty, knowing it would never get 2/3 of the Senate to go along. Just 21% of Americans approved of the deal at the time it went through, against 49% who did not, according to a Pew poll. The agreement "passed" on the strength of a 42-vote filibuster, against bipartisan, majority opposition.
        The deal weakened UN prohibitions on Iran's testing of ballistic missiles, which cannot be reversed without Russian and Chinese consent. That won't happen. The easing of sanctions also gave Tehran additional financial means with which to fund its depredations in Syria and its militant proxies in Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere. Any effort to counter Iran on the ground in these places would mean fighting the very forces we are effectively feeding. Why not just stop the feeding?
        The goal is to put Iran's rulers to a fundamental choice. They can opt to have a functioning economy, free of sanctions and open to investment, at the price of permanently, verifiably and irreversibly forgoing a nuclear option and abandoning their support for terrorists. Or they can pursue their nuclear ambitions at the cost of economic ruin and possible war. But they are no longer entitled to a sweetheart deal of getting sanctions lifted first, retaining their nuclear options for later, and sponsoring terrorism throughout. (New York Times)
  • The New Iranian Expansion into the Sahara - Amb. Dore Gold and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    Tehran is widening the scope of its expansionism into North Africa, seeking to intervene in the conflict over the Western Sahara by backing the Polisario forces fighting the army of Morocco, a long-term Western ally. The Polisario seek to break off the area of the Western Sahara from Morocco, creating an irredentist movement that will threaten the territorial integrity of the Moroccan Kingdom.
        Iran used its embassy in Algeria as a conduit for the supply of weapons and financial aid. Morocco now has documentation of arms deliveries that were made by Hizbullah to the Polisario that included SAM-9 and SAM-11 surface-to-air missiles that could take down commercial aircraft.
        A new conflict over the Western Sahara could potentially create an additional center of instability leading to a further wave of refugees into Europe. Moreover, the suggestion appearing in the Arab press that the Iranians hope to recruit terrorists for destabilizing the Middle East and even threatening Europe should not be dismissed. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

U.S. Chooses Not to Ignore Iran Deal's Flaws - Reuel Marc Gerecht (USA Today)
  • Trump has chosen not to ignore the deal's sunset clauses, which make restrictions on Iran temporary. He hasn't ignored that Revolutionary Guard bases, where we know Iran has engaged in nuclear-weapons research, are now effectively off-limits to inspectors. He is not ignoring the regime's development of long-range ballistic missiles that only makes sense if armed with atomic warheads.
  • He is not ignoring the strategic and moral absurdity that monies delivered to Iran under the deal abet Tehran's imperialism, especially its savage campaign in Syria, which has now claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
  • Stunningly, Trump is not doing what democracies almost always do: Punt problems down the road, where they inevitably become far worse.
    See also Devising a Post-Nuclear Deal Approach to Iran - Reuel Marc Gerecht (Atlantic)
  • It isn't that hard to devise a credible post-nuclear deal approach to the Iranian clerical regime. We can use America's approach to the Soviet Union as a model: Contain, roll back, and squeeze.
  • The Islamic Republic now resembles the Soviet Union of 1979: a police state, incapable of reforming itself while drowning in corruption and economic ineptitude, expands abroad to protect the nation and its "faith."
  • America is the stronger party, by far. Let us try to crack the regime. The contradictions that gnaw at the regime are as great as those that debilitated the Soviet Union.

    The writer, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, served as a Middle Eastern targets officer with the CIA.