January 16, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Soleimani's Replacement Has Blood on His Hands - Struan Stevenson (The Herald-Scotland)
    The Iranian mullahs have replaced their fallen idol, Qasem Soleimani, with his deputy, Esmail Ghaani, as commander of the terrorist Quds Force.
    With blood on his hands, Gen. Ghaani is the ayatollahs' ideal choice to take command of their equivalent of the Gestapo.
    While Soleimani focused on proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq, Ghaani's job was to bolster terrorist militias in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Africa.
    He was placed on America's terrorist blacklist in 2012 after 13 shipping containers destined for The Gambia were intercepted in Nigeria and found to hold Katyusha rockets and other weapons.
    In 2015 Ghaani assumed command of Iran's proxy forces in Aleppo, supervising and aiding the bloody massacre of the Syrian civilian population there.
    Ghaani will assuredly now be engaged in detailed planning for a major terrorist outrage.
    The writer, a former member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CiC).

Two Iranians Sentenced for Spying on the U.S. (U.S. Department of Justice)
    Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 39, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 60, an Iranian citizen, have been sentenced to prison terms of 38 months and 30 months, respectively, for their criminal convictions relating to their surveillance of American citizens who are members of the group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
    "This case illustrates Iran's targeting of Americans in the United States in order to silence those who oppose the Iranian regime," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.
    "The defendants, working for Iran, gathered information on Americans that could then be used by the Iranian intelligence services to intimidate or harm them or their families."

Albania Orders Expulsion of Two Iranian Diplomats (Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty)
    Albanian Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj said on Wednesday that two Iranian diplomats, Mohammad Ali Arz Peimanemati and Seyed Ahmad Hosseini Alast, were declared persona non grata and asked to "immediately" leave Albania.
    In December 2018 Albania expelled two other Iranian diplomats for engaging in illegal activities that threatened the country's security.

South Dakota Governor Signs Executive Order Prohibiting Israel Boycotts (Capital Journal-Pierre, South Dakota)
    Governor Kristi Noem, on Jan. 14, signed an executive order that joins South Dakota with 27 other states in condemning anti-Semitism and standing against the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
    The executive order directs state entities not to contract with businesses supporting the BDS campaign.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Nuclear-Deal Collapse Would Put European Troops at Risk, Tehran Warns - Aresu Eqbali
    A day after Britain, France and Germany took the first steps toward reimposing sanctions on Iran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the Iranian cabinet on Wednesday that European troops stationed in the Middle East could be in danger: "The American soldier today is not secure. Tomorrow, the European soldier could be insecure too." Britain, France, Germany and the European Union have thousands of troops stationed in the Middle East, including NATO missions. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran Says Uranium Enrichment at Higher Level than before 2015 Pact
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday that Iran is now enriching more uranium than it did before it agreed to the nuclear deal in 2015. The country has lifted all limits on its production of enriched uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran has breached its main limitations under the deal, exceeding the stockpiles of heavy water and uranium allowed, the number and types of centrifuges it can operate to enrich uranium, and the purity of uranium.
        On Jan. 14, Britain, France, and Germany warned that Tehran's actions were "inconsistent with the provisions of the nuclear agreement" and had "increasingly severe and non-reversible proliferation implications."  (Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty)
        See also below Observations: The Nuclear Deal with Iran Was a Charade Right from the Start - Dr. Hans Ruhle (National Institute for Public Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Iran Envoy: The Intelligence Was Very Clear that Soleimani Was Plotting Large-Scale, Mass Casualty Attacks Against Americans - Omri Nahmias
    U.S. envoy for Iran Brian Hook told the Jerusalem Post: "We have weakened the regime dramatically. We've weakened their proxies, and we have disrupted and deterred many Iranian operations. Now, President Trump has taken Soleimani off the battlefield. He was the glue that really held together Iran's proxies in the gray zone so effectively. And we think that his death is much more likely to make the region more stable."
        The American sanctions are "starving the regime of the revenue it needs to fund its proxies," Hook said. During the nuclear deal, "the regime was rich and so were its proxies. When the proxies have less money and the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism has less money, it means fewer attacks....We have put in place a foreign policy that is weakening the regime and its proxies, and the regime knows it."
        "I saw the intelligence, and the intelligence was very clear that Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks against American diplomats and soldiers in the region that were large-scale, mass casualty attacks....If we had done nothing and he had killed hundreds of people, the press would be asking me, 'Why didn't we kill Soleimani when we had the chance?'"  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Four Gaza Rockets Fired at Israel; Two Intercepted - Almog Ben Zikri
    Four rockets were launched at Israel from Gaza on Wednesday. Two were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and the other two fell in open areas. In response, IDF aircraft struck several Hamas targets in Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Announces New West Bank Nature Reserves - Michael Bachner
    Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday approved seven new nature reserves in the West Bank, all located in Area C which is fully controlled by Israel. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority will oversee the sites, which include the Ariel Cave, Wadi Og, Wadi Malha, the Southern Jordan River, Bitronot Creek, Nahal Tirza, and Rotem-Maskiot in the Arvot Hayarden area. In addition, 12 existing reserves will be expanded. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Campus Anti-Israel Craze - Ammiel Hirsch and Joshua Davidson
    As the senior rabbis of two major Reform synagogues, we are deeply worried about the effect that hatred of Israel has on students. Criticism of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic. It is often helpful and motivated by sound principles. But to describe Zionism as racism, to deny Israel's most basic right to exist, is anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent.
        Why is Israel the only country in the world whose right to exist is not just questioned but actively campaigned against? Israel's enemies protest that they are simply anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic, yet their view of justice requires eliminating the one and only Jewish state. And they attack it with such venom. Their hatred of Israel is a primal loathing.
        A hateful obsession with Israel too often descends into hatred of Jews, even if it doesn't start there. Hateful words lead to hateful deeds. This environment produces, teaches, accelerates and normalizes anti-Semitism. Anti-Israel activity on some college campuses has led to verbal and even physical assaults on Jewish students. And we must be honest with ourselves. It is happening in our space - in the heart of intellectual liberalism. Joshua Davidson is senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El. Ammiel Hirsch is senior rabbi at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. (New York Times)
  • Nostalgia for the Iran Deal Is a Dangerous Illusion - Yossi Klein Halevi
    Few in Israel opposed the U.S. killing of Iran's military chief Qasem Soleimani. Israelis take the Iranian regime's genocidal rhetoric seriously, and see in its destabilization of the region proof of its murderous credibility. With Iranian proxy Hizbullah in Lebanon, Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria, and Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza, Israel is now effectively surrounded by Iranian and pro-Iranian forces - a process directed by Soleimani. For Israelis this is about facing a potentially existential threat. A near-total consensus exists here on the need to confront Iranian expansionism.
        Israelis tend to dismiss those voices in the West that blame current tensions on the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal. For Israelis, that deal all but ensured the inevitability of war with Iran by empowering it to become the regional bully. Nostalgia for the Iran deal is a dangerous illusion. The writer is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. (Times of Israel)
  • An Energy War in the Mideast? - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    The discovery of natural gas beneath the Mediterranean has become a main source of regional tension. The government of Lebanon - apparently under pressure from Hizbullah - is claiming ownership of some of the gas deposits that lie on its maritime border with Israel, thereby stalling production at the gas deposits that lie squarely within Lebanese territory and are not disputed.
        In 1974, Turkey occupied northern Cyprus, and since then has treated it as sovereign Turkish territory, allowing Turkey to claim ownership of some of Cyprus' territorial waters and hold up attempts to drill for gas. Now Erdogan signed an agreement with the Libyans allowing Ankara to prevent Israel, Cyprus, and Greece from laying a pipeline to export gas to Europe.
        Egypt has announced that it will not accept the Turkish military presence in Libya, which is in its backyard, and will not allow Turkey to act on its territorial claims in the Mediterranean. The writer is a lecturer in Middle East History at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)

The Nuclear Deal with Iran Was a Charade Right from the Start - Dr. Hans Ruhle (National Institute for Public Policy)
  • In response to the killing of Iranian General Soleimani by a U.S. airstrike, Iran announced that it would no longer adhere to the 2015 nuclear agreement. Now observers are lamenting that a major opportunity for curbing Iran's nuclear activities has been lost.
  • Alas, this view gets it wrong. The nuclear deal never had the significance that many attributed to it. The agreement's portended goal of verifiably preventing Iran's military nuclearization for 10 to 15 years could never have been achieved.
  • In the nuclear deal, Iran demanded that the parties agree that the two known enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow were the only ones actively operated by Iran. However, U.S. intelligence had known for quite some time that Iran was operating about a dozen secret facilities, with one or more of them enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels.
  • Former CIA director Michael Hayden described how at a meeting of the National Security Council in spring 2009, President Obama asked how much fissile material Iran had stored in Natanz. Hayden replied: "Mr. President, I actually know that but let me offer you a different frame of reference. In one sense, it almost doesn't matter. There isn't an electron or a neutron at Natanz that's ever going to end up in a nuclear weapon. They'll spin that uranium at some secret military facility beyond the eyes of the IAEA."
  • Against this background, it is clear that the nuclear agreement with Iran was a charade from the very beginning. U.S. intelligence had always assumed that enrichment for weapons-grade uranium was carried out in secret facilities. This means that the IAEA's regular statements that Iran was complying with the agreement were utterly worthless.
  • The Obama Administration, together with its allies, concluded an agreement with Iran that centered on the long-term prevention of the production of weapons-grade uranium in Natanz, even though they knew that weapons-grade uranium was not produced there, but in secret facilities of the Revolutionary Guards.

    The writer headed the Policy Planning Staff of the German Ministry of Defense in 1982-1988.