Posts Tagged ‘Iran Nuclear Deal’

Russia Condemns Iran’s Calls to Destroy Israel, but Also Tells Jerusalem That Tehran Is Not the Problem

February 19, 2018

Russian FM Lavrov admonishes Iranian desire ‘to wipe Israel off the map,’ but insists: Iranian meddling isn’t the only way to understand Middle East

FILE PHOTO: Iran's President Hassan Rohani together with his counterpart Russia's Vladimir Putin Russia on November 22, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: Iran’s President Hassan Rohani together with his counterpart Russia’s Vladimir Putin Russia on November 22, 2017. \ SPUTNIK/ REUTERS

Russia condemned Monday Iranian sentiments that Israel should be destroyed, but also sent a clear message to Israel that solving the Mideast’s regional conflicts should not be viewed solely through the prism of conflict with Iran, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

In comments reported by the TASS news agency, Lavrov said “We have stated many times that we won’t accept the statements that Israel, as a Zionist state, should be destroyed and wiped off the map. I believe this is an absolutely wrong way to advance one’s own interests,” Lavrov stressed.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018Sven Hoppe/AP

Lavrov said that tensions between Israel and Iran are escalating and that “by the same token, we oppose attempts to view any regional problem through the prism of fighting Iran.

“This is happening in Syria, Yemen and even the latest developments around the Palestinian issue, including Washington’s announcement of its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, are largely motivated by this anti-Iranian stance,” Lavrov emphasized.

These comments follow the speeches made by Prime Minister Benjamina Netanyahu and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Sunday at the annual Security Conference in Munich.

Holding up wreckage of the Iranian drone shot down by Israel recently, Netanyahu said Israel “will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies but against Iran itself,” and warning Zarif not to “test Israel resolve.”

On the Iranian side, Zarif accused Israel of using aggression as a policy. When asked about what would Iran do if the United States abandoned the nuclear deal, Zarif said Iran will respond “seriously” if its interests were not secure, adding that the world will be “sorry for taking this erroneous course of action.”

Zarif however said that the deal was struck the accord “in spite” of Netanyahu, adding that the world “will maintain” the agreement, “despite his [Netanyahu’s] delusional attempts” to dismantle it.”


Saudi Arabia backs new UN move to condemn Iran

February 19, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir gives a speech during the Munich Security Conference on February 18, 2018 in Munich, southern Germany. (AFP)
MUNICH: Saudi Arabia on Sunday welcomed a draft United Nations resolution offered by Britain, the United States and France that would condemn Iran for failing to stop its ballistic missiles from falling into the hands of Yemen’s Houthi group.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told Reuters the measure, if passed, would help hold Iran accountable for what he described as its “exports of ballistic missiles” to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and “radical and aggressive” behavior in the region, including support for terrorist groups.
A proxy war is playing out in Yemen between Iran and US ally Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons.
“In order to ensure than Iran comports itself with international law, we must have firmer positions with regards to ballistic missiles and with regards to Iran’s support for terrorism,” Al-Jubeir said in an interview during the annual Munich Security Conference. “Iran must be held accountable.”
He said Iranian missiles were regularly used by Houthis “to target civilians in Yemen as well as inside Saudi Arabia.”
Al-Jubeir also called for changes to two aspects of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran — cancelation of a so-called sunset provision, and expanded inspections to include non-declared and military sites.
The draft UN resolution, which needs to be adopted by Feb. 26, is likely to face resistance from Russia. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain to pass.
Al-Jubeir said he hoped Russia could be persuaded to support the measure.
The draft text to renew UN sanctions on Yemen for another year would also allow the 15-member council to impose targeted sanctions for “any activity related to the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen.” Britain drafted the resolution in consultation with the United States and France before giving it to the full council on Friday, diplomats said.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has been lobbying for months for Iran to be held accountable at the United Nations, while at the same time threatening to quit a 2015 deal among world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program if “disastrous flaws” are not fixed.
Independent UN experts monitoring the sanctions on Yemen reported to the Security Council in January that they had found missile remnants that are of Iranian origin, and “were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo.”
The experts said they had “no evidence as to the identity of the supplier, or any intermediary third party” of the missiles fired by the Houthis into neighboring Saudi Arabia, but said Iran had violated sanctions by failing to prevent supply, sale or transfer of the missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.


Netanyahu says Israel could act against Iran’s ’empire’

February 18, 2018


MUNICH (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel would act against Iran, not just its allies in the Middle East, if needed, reiterating his country’s position that Tehran was the world’s greatest threat.

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, delivers a speech during the International Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. (Sven Hoppe-dpa via AP)

As tensions increase in the Middle East over Iran’s role in Syria and Yemen and as U.S. President Donald Trump presses for a tougher approach on Tehran, Israel is seeking wider support to contain its regional nemesis.

Holding a piece of what he said was an Iranian drone after its incursion into Israeli airspace earlier this month, Netanyahu told the Munich Security Conference: ”Israel will not allow the regime to put a noose of terror around our neck.

“We will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies but against Iran itself,” he said.

In his first address to the annual Munich event, which draws security and defense officials and diplomats from across Europe and the United States, Netanyahu urged his audience to counter Iran immediately, displaying a map showing what he said was Iran’s growing presence in the Middle East.

For its part, Iran pushed back. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who also addressed the conference, called Netanyahu’s presentation “a cartoonish circus, which does not even deserve a response”.

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Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Munich, meeting with UK Labour MP Catherine Ashton

Zarif accused the United States of using the conference to “revive hysteria” against Iran, and denied that Tehran was seeking “hegemony” in the Middle East.

But Netanyahu said Iran was increasing its power as a U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was regaining territory from militants.

“The unfortunate thing is that as ISIS compresses and Iran moves in, it is trying to establish this continuous empire surrounding the Middle East from the south in Yemen but also trying to create a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza,” Netanyahu said.

“This is a very dangerous development for our region.”

Among Israel’s main concerns is Lebanon, where the heavily armed Iran-backed Shi‘ite militia Hezbollah is part of a coalition government. Israel last fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006. Tension between Israel and Lebanon has increased, including over a maritime border dispute.

Lebanon’s Defense Minister, Yacoub Riad Sarraf, who spoke after Netanyahu, said: “Watch out, we will defend ourselves … we also have friends.”

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Lebanon’s Defense Minister, Yacoub Riad Sarraf

Tensions in the region surged on Feb. 10 when anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria.


Netanyahu also reiterated his view, shared by Trump, that world powers needed to scrap or rewrite the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran that curbs Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions in return for economic sanctions’ relief.

“It’s time to stop them now,” Netanyahu said, without specifying any military action. “They’re aggressive, they are developing ballistic missiles, they’re not inspecting, they have a free highway to massive (uranium) enrichment,” he said of the fuel needed for nuclear weapons.

France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, which signed the nuclear deal along with Iran and the United States, say the accord cannot be reopened, that it is working and that Iran is allowing inspections.

Russian senator Aleksey Pushkov said that scrapping the agreement was akin to choosing between war and peace, while John Kerry, the former U.S. secretary of state who helped clinch the agreement, said it was wrong to assume that Iran would obtain a nuclear weapon as soon as the 15-year scope of the deal ends.

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John Kerry, former U.S. secretary of state

“If your house is on fire, are you going to refuse to put it out because you are concerned it will light on fire again in 15 years? Or are you going to put it out and use the intervening time to prevent to ever catching fire again?” Kerry said.

European Diplomats Aim to Curb Iran Actions, Save Nuclear Deal

February 18, 2018

Talks intended to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal

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MUNICH—European diplomats met with a senior Iranian official Saturday in a bid to curtail Iran’s regional muscle-flexing and meet a key Trump administration demand.

The push by the European diplomats to check Iranian meddling in Yemen, Syria and other parts of the Middle East is aimed at persuading U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and show the U.S. that there are other ways to check Iranian aggression.

Mr. Trump has threatened to kill the Iranian nuclear deal in May, when he must decide whether to keep in place sanctions waivers required under the 2015 agreement. He has made Iran’s regional actions a focus of his foreign policy, committing the U.S. to pushing back Tehran’s regional role.

Saturday’s meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference is a new channel of discussions intended to address Iran’s activity.

Chaired by the European Union, it brings together senior diplomats from Italy, Germany, Britain and France—the E4—and Iran, represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. The focus of Saturday’s discussions was the conflict in Yemen.

The meeting comes as concerns rise about Iran’s role in southern Syria and the possibility of direct conflict there between Iran and Israel.

In Munich on Saturday, U.S. national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster said Iran is building a network of proxy forces, like Hezbollah, throughout the region and arming them with increasingly sophisticated weaponry.

“So the time is now…to act against Iran,” Gen. McMaster said.

H. R. McMaster, National security adviser to the US President, delivers his speech on day two of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Feb. 17, 2018. (AFP)

European governments, who have strongly supported the Iranian nuclear agreement, have pledged to work with Washington to address nonnuclear concerns, such as Iran’s missile program and its regional activities. The U.K., France, Germany and the U.S. set up working groups last month to discuss this although people close to the talks say work is at a very early stage.

At the same time, the Europeans agreed in a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that they would open a channel for discussion of regional issues. Saturday’s meeting was the first one.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

According to officials, European governments are looking to broaden the talks over coming months to cover the conflict in Syria, where Iranian forces and proxies have helped give the Assad regime the upper hand.

Those discussions could include the situation in southern Syria, one of the officials said.

Last weekend, Israel launched attacks on Syrian air defenses and Iranian fighters in Syria after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone fired from Syria. An Israeli jet was shot down during the attacks.

Iran Recruits Afghan and Pakistani Shiites to Fight in Syria

Israel has warned repeatedly it won’t accept an Iranian presence close to its border in southern Syria and said it would strike Iranian built precision missile factories for Hezbollah and other military infrastructure.

On Saturday morning, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that while the EU would maintain its support for the Iranian nuclear deal, Europe was ready to work with the U.S. against “the destabilizing influence of Iranian policies in the region and to push them back.”

A senior German diplomat said Berlin had warned Tehran after last weekend’s events in southern Syria that Europe could step up pressure if Iran seeks to entrench its presence there.

Most European sanctions against Iran were lifted after the nuclear deal was concluded. France has said Iranian firms or people could be targeted with sanctions over Iran’s missile program.

Iran has refused to enter discussions on ballistic missiles, saying it won’t compromise on its national defense. Iranian officials have said Tehran can’t rein in its missile program when the U.S. is selling arms to regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Trump has also pressed European countries to agree to a follow-up agreement to the nuclear deal that would threaten action if Tehran ramps up its nuclear activities once the original limits start to expire. Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear program under the deal.

European governments have said they won’t renegotiate the nuclear deal. Officials warn that they want firm commitments from Washington that if they address their concerns, Mr. Trump will stand by the deal. There is still uncertainty among European governments about precisely what commitments Washington is demanding to stand by the deal.

In Munich on Saturday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said Washington was seeking “a commitment that we can credibly show to the president (that) we’re making progress to address” flaws in the nuclear deal and to counter Iran’s nonnuclear activities.

He said that could eventually lead to direct talks between the U.S. and Iran but “there will need to be significant progress” in Iranian discussions with Europe first.

Write to Laurence Norman at


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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (AP-Hussein Malla)

How Israel Could take The Fight Directly To Iran

February 17, 2018


 FEBRUARY 17, 2018 01:15

While conventional military options targeting Iran are unlikely, Israel nevertheless has options.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures as members of Iranian armed forces take part in a rally ma

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures as members of Iranian armed forces take part in a rally marking the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, in Tehran, Iran, February 11, 2018. (photo credit: PRESIDENT.IR/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

he conflagration this past weekend between Israeli and Iranian forces is being billed as a new stage in the longstanding, albeit to date largely covert, war between the two adversaries. For the first time, Iranian troops perpetrated a direct attack on Israel, initially by sending a drone across the border from Syria and then by firing the anti-aircraft missile that downed an IDF jet which had reentered Israeli airspace after conducting a retaliatory mission.

The events were significant both because of the success in downing the Israeli warplane, the first such occurrence in decades, but also because it evidences Iran’s growing foothold in the Syrian theater, a development that Jerusalem vehemently opposes and has vowed to prevent at all costs. Overall, Iran’s actions suggest that it feels sufficiently emboldened to use its own forces to harm the Jewish state.

The incident constitutes a strategic shift, according to Lt.-Col. (ret.) Yiftah Shapir, a career officer in the Israel Air Force and the former head of the Military Balance Project at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, “as it marks the first occasion that the Iranians openly engaged Israel, whereas previously this was done via its proxies. It may be,” he qualified, “that the Iranians misjudged the [intensity of the] Israeli response and that the status quo will be restored for a period of time.”

By contrast, Saturday’s flare-up was not the first time that Israel directly struck Iranian assets. In December, the IDF reportedly destroyed a military facility being built by Tehran ​​in al-Kiswah, just south of Damascus. Notably, in 2015, Israeli strikes killed at least six Iranian troops in the Syrian Golan Heights, including a general in the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Also targeted was Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the notorious former Hezbollah operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, who was himself killed in an Israeli-attributed 2008 car bombing in Syria.

Furthermore, the Mossad has been implicated in the assassination of multiple nuclear scientists on Iranian soil, not to mention the deployment of the Stuxnet cyberweapon, a computer worm developed in conjunction with Washington that wreaked havoc on Iranian nuclear installations even after being discovered in 2010.

So whereas the latest confrontation along the northern border was in some ways exceptional, it does not inevitably entail a long-term escalation or that the conflict be brought out into the open, although these are both distinct possibilities.

In fact, while the political and military echelons have made clear that Israel is not seeking an escalation, its so-called “red lines” – namely, the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria – continue to be violated; this, despite the IDF having conducted well over 100 cross-border strikes to protect its interests over the past 18 months. Additionally, Iran has started construction on a subterranean facility in Lebanon to manufacture long-range precision missiles that could allow Hezbollah to target, with great accuracy, critical Israeli infrastructure in a future war.

Taken together, these developments raise the question of whether Israel’s deterrence vis-a-vis Tehran and its Lebanese proxy may be weakening, which would necessitate modifying its military strategy.

The Iranian drone (inset) that entered Israeli airspace was launched from a Syrian base in the Homs desert, which Israel later bombed (IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)The Iranian drone (inset) that entered Israeli airspace was launched from a Syrian base in the Homs desert, which Israel later bombed (IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

“ISRAEL’S [decision-making process] now depends largely on what the Iranians and Hezbollah do moving forward,” Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, former director of Israel’s CounterTerrorism Bureau, told The Media Line. “Throughout the years Israel has taken action all over [the region] to make sure that its interests are met. Israel needs to use all the tools available to it, including through its allies.”

While one incident is unlikely to cause a dramatic change in Jerusalem’s calculus, it is possible that the IDF could eventually adopt a page out of Tehran’s playbook by taking the fight directly to the Iranian heartland.

To this end, most experts agree that a full-scale military operation targeting Iran’s atomic facilities – the likes of which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly advocated for in 2012, but which was shelved due to opposition from the defense establishment and the Obama administration – is currently off the table. While the debate previously centered on the possibility of setting back Iran’s nuclear program would justify the risks in such an operation, today the political climate has rendered the discussion moot.

The signing of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 effectively ended the possibility for such a mission, the ramifications considered untenable. On the one hand, with the US still committed to the agreement – in addition to Russia, China and European nations – the political fallout from any major military foray into Iran would dwarf the backlash in the wake of the destruction of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1982 and the atomic facility in Deir ez-Zor in Syria in 2007.

On the other hand, since the accord was forged Tehran has deepened its penetration into Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip, all but ensuring that the targeting by Israel of its atomic infrastructure would ignite a war on all three fronts.

Moreover, as US President Donald Trump mulls withdrawing altogether from the deal, any Israeli action targeting Iran’s nuclear program – military or otherwise – could be self-defeating as it could hinder the American leader’s efforts to either reimpose “crippling” sanctions on the Islamic Republic or at the very least strengthen the atomic agreement by addressing, perhaps in a follow-up pact, Tehran’s ballistic missile program and regional adventurism.

Nevertheless, Israel has non-military options according to former Mossad chief Danny Yatom. “Israel should consider all possibilities, including targeting Iran directly, but as part of a grand strategy. I would not exclude the potential that Israel will also use proxies,” he contended to The Media Line.

“This could include mobilizing the People’s Mujahedin of Iran [MEK], for example, which may have carried out the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists on Israel’s behalf. Jerusalem has allegedly provided funding, training and possibly arms to the exiled anti-regime group.

The Paris-based MEK maintains a presence in Iraq and covertly in Iran, from where it has been accused of fomenting civil unrest, including the recent week-long nationwide protests. Recently delisted by the US as a terrorist group, the group also purportedly has links to Saudi Arabia and therefore could act as an intermediary between the Jewish state and Riyadh to facilitate the coordination of their positions. The Iranian dissident organization also monitors Tehran’s nuclear program (in fact it was the first non-state actor to reveal it) and might therefore serve as an additional intelligence source for Israel moving forward.

A scarecrow model is set on fire by Iranian demonstratorson during the annual pro-Palestinian rally marking Al-Quds Day in Tehran, Iran, June 23, 2017. (NAZANIN TABATABAEE YAZDI/ TIMA VIA REUTERS)A scarecrow model is set on fire by Iranian demonstratorson during the annual pro-Palestinian rally marking Al-Quds Day in Tehran, Iran, June 23, 2017. (NAZANIN TABATABAEE YAZDI/ TIMA VIA REUTERS)

IT IS A shadowy game no doubt, but the MEK, among other groups, could also be used as a conduit through which to convey Israel’s increasingly bold message to the Iranian masses, namely: “Jerusalem is not your enemy but rather the Mullahs themselves are.” In this respect, Netanyahu has numerous times over the past year directly addressed the Iranian people, reinforcing the fact that Israel marks a distinction between the regime and the population.

“Israel’s policy of speaking directly to the Iranian people is correct, as today one can send messages not only via television, radio and written press but also through social media, which can reach millions,” Yatom stated. “Why not speak to the population over the heads of the Iranian regime?”

The Israeli premier, in conjunction with US President Donald Trump, also publicly backed the recent demonstrations in Iran, suggesting that Jerusalem and Washington may be on the same page, readying to invest further energies into empowering the Iranian opposition with the aim of promoting regime change.

“It is very important to address the Iranian populace, as relations with Israelis were strong not only under the shah, but also historically there is no real animosity between Iran and Israel,” Eliezer Tzafrir, the former head of the Mossad station in Iran explained to The Media Line.

“The Iranian youth wants a major departure from the radicalism. They want Internet, they want men and women to be able to publicly meet. One day they will succeed.”

Given the high stakes, Israel will in the near future like have to make some hard strategic decisions that could effectively chart its course for years to come. If it is serious about maintaining its qualitative military advantage – not in the region, mind you, but, rather, even along its borders – it may be forced to undertake significant operations in both Lebanon and Syria, which could very well lead to full-blown conflict.

“We cannot preclude the possibility that Israel will take action to destroy the factory [in Lebanon], especially because it says so clearly, which effectively makes it an obligation,” Yatom stressed. “There is a very big difference between tens of thousands of rockets in Hezbollah’s hands that are not as precise and those that can potentially hit specific buildings.

“In this case, the threat to Israel will be much more severe, and it is better to deal with it before they produce the technology than after,” he continued. “We must take into consideration that if that happens it might ignite a medium- or large-scale military exchange. But it appears that the situation is going to deteriorate anyhow unless there will be a coherent international effort to push the Iranians out of Syria and put more restraints on Hezbollah.”

In the interim, Jerusalem might consider indirect action, allowing it to maintain plausible deniability while reducing the prospects of unintended consequences that could lead to a major intensification of the conflict. The impact of such a shot across the bow against the Iranian regime might resonate more loudly given the proximity to home.


    Iran Shows Off New Nuclear Capable Ballistic Missile

    February 13, 2018
    An Iranian medium range missile Zelzal passes by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the annual military parade

    An Iranian medium range missile Zelzal passes by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the annual military parade / Getty Images


    Washington Free Beacon

    Iran unveiled a series of new homemade nuclear-capable ballistic missiles during military parades held over the weekend, a move that experts view as a bid to bolster the hardline ruling regime as dissidents continue efforts to stir protest.

    On the heels of an encounter between an Iranian drone and Israeli forces, Iranian leaders showcased their ballistic missile capabilities, which includes a nuclear-capable medium-range missile that appears to share similarities with North Korean technology, according to experts.

    The nuclear-capable missile can strike Israel even when fired from Iranian territory, raising concerns about an impending conflict between Tehran and the Jewish state that could further inflame the region.

    Iranian military leaders bragged the ballistic missile “can be launched from mobile platforms or silos in different positions and can escape missile defense shields due to their radar-evading capability,” according to reports in Iran’s state-controlled media.

    The latest technology could further inflame tensions between Israel and Iran, which funds and controls terror organizations operating along Israel’s border. Concerns that this nuclear-capable technology could be shared by Iran with its terrorist proxies are fueling longstanding concerns among the Israelis that an attack is imminent.

    As Iranian dissidents continue to protest over the country’s ailing economy, the ruling regime continues to invest millions of dollars it received as part of the landmark nuclear deal with the United States on its military technology, specifically ballistic missiles, which are subject to a ban under international statutes.

    However, Iran has not only continued this work but also invested heavily in it since receiving the cash windfalls from the nuclear deal. Conservative estimates from open sources indicate the Iranian regime has spent at least $16 billion in recent years on its military buildup and rogue operations in Syria, as well as other countries.

    “Thirty-nine years in, the Islamic Revolution has little to show for its decades in power other than growing the country’s asymmetric military capabilities in order to continue their export of the revolution,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Free Beacon. “The Islamic Republic has considerably grown the country’s missile and rocket arsenal, both through production and procurement.”

    The two missiles featured over the weekend by Iran include the Ghadr, a medium-range ballistic missile that was modified and upgraded by the Islamic Republic

    “The Ghadr can strike Israel when fired from Iranian territory, and in March 2016, was flight-tested while bearing genocidal slogans against the state of Israel,” according to Ben Taleblu, who has researched Iranian missile procurement.

    Iranian military leaders also rolled out a rocket called the Fajr-5, which is becoming a new favorite of Iranian-backed terror proxy groups operating against Israel.

    “The Fajr-5 is an Iranian rocket that has been proliferated to anti-Israel groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. It can travel up to 75 km, and is therefore a long-range artillery rocket. It uses solid fuel for propulsion,” Ben Taleblu explained. “Both the Qadr missile and Fajr rocket represents Iran’s commitment to developing stand-off weaponry that it uses for purposes of deterrence and coercion.”

    The new weaponry could fuel ongoing efforts by Congress to crackdown on Iran’s continued proliferation of ballistic missile technology, a large part of which has been incubated by the North Korean regime, which continues to have a technology-sharing agreement with Tehran.

    Iran already has the region’s largest arsenal of ballistic missiles and is seeking to continue building this technology.

    The Trump administration has said that any effort to fix the nuclear deal with Iran must focus on constricting the regime’s access to ballistic missile technology.

    Iran military official: West used lizards for nuclear spying — “Everyone knows locusts make the best drones…”

    February 13, 2018


    © AFP | The former chief-of-staff of Iran’s armed forces has alleged Western spies used reptile desert species like chameleons to spy on the country’s nuclear programme
    TEHRAN (AFP) – The former chief-of-staff of Iran’s armed forces said Tuesday that Western spies had used lizards which could “attract atomic waves” to spy on the country’s nuclear programme.Hassan Firuzabadi, senior military advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was responding to questions from local media on the recent arrest of environmentalists.

    He said he did not know the details of the cases, but that the West had often used tourists, scientists and environmentalists to spy on Iran.

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     Hassan Firouzabadi

    “Several years ago, some individuals came to Iran to collect aid for Palestine… We were suspicious of the route they chose,” he told the reformist ILNA news agency.

    “In their possessions were a variety of reptile desert species like lizards, chameleons… We found out that their skin attracts atomic waves and that they were nuclear spies who wanted to find out where inside the Islamic republic of Iran we have uranium mines and where we are engaged in atomic activities,” he said.

    His comments came after news that a leading Iranian-Canadian environmentalist, Kavous Seyed Emami, had died in prison after he was arrested along with other members of his wildlife NGO last month.

    The deputy head of the Environmental Protection Organisation, Kaveh Madani, was also reportedly detained temporarily over the weekend.

    Firuzabadi said Western spy agencies have “failed every time”.

    He said another espionage case involved a couple from Germany.

    “They got them on a fishing boat from Dubai and Kuwait and sent them to the Persian Gulf to identify our defence systems,” he said.

    “But when we arrested them, they said they had come for fishing and were tourists.”

    Israel-Syria Border Clash Triggers New War Over Iran Nuclear Deal

    February 11, 2018


    Republicans and pro-Israel camp point finger at Obama for being soft on Iran and Syria, while Democrats blame Trump for decertifying Iran deal

    IDF forces in the northern Golan Heights, February 10, 2018.
    IDF forces in the northern Golan Heights, February 10, 2018. Gil Eliahu

    Like every other issue in the United States these days, foreign policy discussion has become fiercely partisan. Every new problem or conflict around the globe triggers a flurry of finger-pointing and accusations as to whether the legacy of President Barack Obama or the current policies of the Trump White House are responsible.

    The stunning exchange of fire between Israel and Iran and Syria on Saturday – when Israel struck 12 targets in Syria, after an Israeli fighter jet was shot down and an Iranian drone intercepted in Israeli airspace – was no exception, reopening a Pandora’s box of accusations and recriminations surrounding the Iran nuclear deal.

    For Republicans and pro-Israel opponents of the 2015 agreement – two groups that often overlap – blame fell squarely on the Obama administration’s lap. It was the controversial Iran nuclear deal, they argue, that both emboldened and financially enabled Iran to set up its military infrastructure in Syria, bolster Hezbollah proxies in Lebanon and set the stage for Saturday’s skirmish.

    Their argument goes that it was the nuclear deal, together with Obama’s unwillingness to forcefully engage at an earlier stage of the Syrian civil war, that led to the chaos that gave Iran the opportunity to plant its flag in Israel’s backyard – with Russian support and agreement.

    skip – Ari Fleischer tweet

    skip – Omri Ceren tweet

    For Democrats, it is President Donald Trump’s decertification and weakening of the Iran deal that’s to blame, sending Iranian leaders a message that they have little to lose by thumbing their nose at the United States. They also point to Trump’s refusal to criticize or pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin’s support and protection of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime would, presumably, put him in a position to rein in the Iranians.

    Trump has been criticized by former Obama officials for failing to speak out more forcefully against the growing Iranian threat on Israel’s northern border, even after Saturday’s events.

    Daniel B. Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, took to the media – as well as to Twitter – highlighting the “crisis” atmosphere in the Trump administration as the reason for what he sees as an insufficient response.

    skip – Dan Shapiro tweet

    “President Trump is obviously distracted by the Russian investigation and the White House staffing debacle,” Shapiro told the Daily Beast. “The State Department is generally sidelined from discussions with Israel. The U.S.-Israel relationship has generally been managed under Trump by only three or four people, which is just not a viable way to manage real time crises that require coordinated responses across the political, military, diplomatic and intelligence spheres.”

    The staunchest opponents of the Iran deal are splitting the blame for Iran’s empowerment equally between Obama and Trump. They are critical both of Obama’s efforts over the Iran deal initially, and then Trump’s unwillingness to move against it more forcefully.

    Despite his decertification of the deal last October, in mid-January Trump once again chose to waive U.S. sanctions on Iran, keeping the Iran deal alive in the short term. But at the same time, the U.S. president accompanied his waiver with a statement that it would be the “last time” he did it.

    Trump said it was his “strong inclination” to withdraw from the deal altogether, but he had chosen not to do so yet. He was ready to make the move, he said, if the deal’s “disastrous flaws” were not fixed – most notably, forcing Iran to curtail its ballistic missile program. But his proposal seems to be a nonstarter: the Iranian government has said it will not accept any modifications to the deal.

    skip – Noah Pollak tweet

    And in the wake of Saturday’s events in Israel and Syria, Aaron David Miller – a former Middle East negotiator in administrations of both parties and now Middle East director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars – laid out a possible doomsday scenario that could ensue if Trump carries through with his promise to end U.S. commitment to the deal.

    “Forget today’s headline re: Iran/Israeli/Syrian clash,” he tweeted. “Consider possible trend line: Trump withdraws from Iran nuclear deal; Netanyahu indicted and looks for diversion; Trump pushes for war against Iran; redlines collapse; and region trips into devastating Israeli-Hezbollah war.”

    skip – Aaron David Miller tweet

    Trump: Palestinians Aren’t Committed to Making Peace – but I’m Not Sure Israel Is Either

    February 11, 2018

    In interview with Sheldon Adelson-owned Israeli newspaper, U.S. president also says Israeli settlements complicate the task of making peace

    U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on February 9, 2018.
    U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on February 9, 2018.Bloomberg

    U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview published Sunday that Israeli settlements in the West Bank complicate the task of making peace with the Palestinians.

    Trump, who spoke in an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper, also said that he is not sure Israel and the Palestinians are committed to reaching a peace agreement.

    According to Trump, “I think both sides will have to make hard compromises to reach a peace agreement.”

    Israel Hayom, which is owned by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, is considered close to and supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Asked when the forestalled U.S. peace plan will be released, Trump answered, “We are going to see what goes on. Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace, they are not looking to make peace. And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens.”

    On the topic of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Trump said they “always have complicated making peace” and added that “Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.”

    When asked if he noticed a change in Iran’s conduct ever since he’s declared them to be under warning, Trump replayed he’s noticed a “noticed very much a change” in their conduct, but would not attest as to what kind of change. “But there has definitely been a change,” Trump concluded.

    Excerpts of the interview were published Friday, in which Trump stated that his December 6 declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was the high point of his time in office.

    According to Trump, Obama was “terrible” for Israel because he facilitated the nuclear deal with Iran.

    U.S. “Sold” Pre-Emptive War with Iraq in 2003 — Now Iran is In The Crosshairs

    February 6, 2018

    Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state, made a case for military action against Iraq to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003. CreditJames Estrin/The New York Times

    Fifteen years ago this week, Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, spoke at the United Nations to sell pre-emptive war with Iraq. As his chief of staff, I helped Secretary Powell paint a clear picture that war was the only choice, that when “we confront a regime that harbors ambitions for regional domination, hides weapons of mass destruction and provides haven and active support for terrorists, we are not confronting the past, we are confronting the present. And unless we act, we are confronting an even more frightening future.”

    Following Mr. Powell’s presentation on that cold day, I considered what we had done. At the moment, I thought all our work was for naught — and despite his efforts we did not gain substantial international buy-in. But polls later that day and week demonstrated he did convince many Americans. I knew that was why he was chosen to make the presentation in the first place: his standing with the American people was more solid than that of any other member of the Bush administration.

    President George W. Bush would have ordered the war even without the United Nations presentation, or if Secretary Powell had failed miserably in giving it. But the secretary’s gravitas was a significant part of the two-year-long effort by the Bush administration to get Americans on the war wagon.

    That effort led to a war of choice with Iraq — one that resulted in catastrophic losses for the region and the United States-led coalition, and that destabilized the entire Middle East.

    This should not be forgotten, since the Trump administration is using much the same playbook to create a false impression that war is the only way to address the threats posed by Iran.

    Just over a month ago, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that the administration had “undeniable” evidence that Iran was not complying with Security Council resolutions regarding its ballistic missile program and Yemen. Just like Mr. Powell, Ms. Haley showed satellite images and other physical evidence available only to the United States intelligence community to prove her case. But the evidence fell significantly short.

    It’s astonishing how similar that moment was to Mr. Powell’s 2003 presentation on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction — and how the Trump administration’s methods overall match those of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. As I watched Ms. Haley at the Defense Intelligence Agency, I wanted to play the video of Mr. Powell on the wall behind her, so that Americans could recognize instantly how they were being driven down the same path as in 2003 — ultimately to war. Only this war with Iran, a country of almost 80 million people whose vast strategic depth and difficult terrain make it a far greater challenge than Iraq, would be 10 to 15 times worse than the Iraq war in terms of casualties and costs.

    If we want a slightly more official statement of the Trump administration’s plans for Iran, we need only look at the recently released National Security Strategy, which says, “The longer we ignore threats from countries determined to proliferate and develop weapons of mass destruction, the worse such threats become, and the fewer defensive options we have.” The Bush-Cheney team could not have said it better as it contemplated invading Iraq.

    The strategy positions Iran as one of the greatest threats America faces, much the same way President Bush framed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. With China, Russia and North Korea all presenting vastly more formidable challenges to America and its allies than Iran, one has to wonder where the Trump team gets its ideas.

    Though Ms. Haley’s presentation missed the mark, and no one other than the national security elite will even read the strategy, it won’t matter. We’ve seen this before: a campaign built on the politicization of intelligence and shortsighted policy decisions to make the case for war. And the American people have apparently become so accustomed to executive branch warmongering — approved almost unanimously by the Congress — that such actions are not significantly contested.

    So far, news organizations have largely failed to refute false narratives coming out of the Trump White House on Iran. In early November, news outlets latched onto claims by unnamed American officials that newly released documents from Osama bin Laden’s compound represented “evidence of Iran’s support of Al Qaeda’s war with the United States.”

    It’s a vivid reminder of Vice President Cheney’s desperate attempts in 2002-03 to conjure up evidence of Saddam Hussein’s relationship with Al Qaeda from detainees at Guantánamo Bay. It harks back to the C.I.A. director George Tenet’s assurances to Mr. Powell that the connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was ironclad in the lead-up to his United Nations presentation. Today, we know how terribly wrong Mr. Tenet was.

    Today, the analysts claiming close ties between Al Qaeda and Iran come from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal and unabashedly calls for regime change in Iran.

    It seems not to matter that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis and none were Iranians. Or that, according to the United States intelligence community, of the groups listed as actively hostile to the United States, only one is loosely affiliated with Iran, and Hezbollah doesn’t make the cut. More than ever the Foundation for Defense of Democracies seems like the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans that pushed falsehoods in support of waging war with Iraq.

    The Trump administration’s case for war with Iran ranges much wider than Ms. Haley’s work. We should include the president’s decertification ultimatum in January that Congress must “fix” the Iran nuclear deal, despite the reality of Iran’s compliance; the White House’s pressure on the intelligence community to cook up evidence of Iran’s noncompliance; and the administration’s choosing to view the recent protests in Iran as the beginning of regime change. Like the Bush administration before, these seemingly disconnected events serve to create a narrative in which war with Iran is the only viable policy.

    As I look back at our lock-step march toward war with Iraq, I realize that it didn’t seem to matter to us that we used shoddy or cherry-picked intelligence; that it was unrealistic to argue that the war would “pay for itself,” rather than cost trillions of dollars; that we might be hopelessly naïve in thinking that the war would lead to democracy instead of pushing the region into a downward spiral.

    The sole purpose of our actions was to sell the American people on the case for war with Iraq. Polls show that we did. Mr. Trump and his team are trying to do it again. If we’re not careful, they’ll succeed.

    Correction: February 5, 2018 
    An earlier version of this article included outdated information about the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Sheldon Adelson is no longer a donor to the organization.