Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Obama gave Iran the Green Light for Missiles that could hit Israel

From WorldNetDaily.com, 5 Jan 2017:

Just as Iran announced the testing of a ballistic missile and the Trump administration reviewed plans for new sanctions, the rogue Islamic regime claimed that in nuclear negotiations, President Obama allowed Iran to have missiles that could strike Israel, reports Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

In statements, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps “hinted that restrictions on the range of Iranian missiles so that they reach Israel but not Europe were part of the Iran deal,” reported the Middle East Media Research Institute.

MEMRI said that according to Iranian officials, the Obama administration gave unwritten consent in the nuclear talks and in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiations for Iran to develop ballistic missiles with a range of only 2,000 kilometers, or 1,200 miles, which means they could strike Israel but not Europe.

The agreement purports to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, restricting its research and development capabilities. However, critics say it gives Iran the capability of building nuclear weapons once the deal expires.

The deal has been controversial because of the secrecy under which Obama took the action, the unknown side deals and the billions of dollars in cash delivered to Iran in the same time frame.

The MEMRI report questioned whether the Obama permission for Iran to develop missiles with a range up to 1,200 miles was a secret part of the overall nuclear deal or “simply unwritten consent.”
Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Ali Jafari referred to the IRGC’s Nov. 2, 2015, consent to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, saying: “One of the points in this resolution was the matter of restrictions, which some military elements feared. Therefore, we held meetings in [Iran’s] Supreme National Security Council, and also went to the Leader [Khamenei]. The [Iranian] negotiating team told the Westerners that we do not agree to these restrictions. They [the Westerners] said that these issues must be included in the resolution. Even when I met with the Leader, he said that there were no restrictions on developing defensive capabilities. The only restriction relates to nuclear missiles, which, obviously, we never wanted.

The next day, on Nov. 3, 2015, Iranian Army chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi referred to Jafari’s remarks, saying: “I confirm statements by the IRGC commander that Iran’s missile activity is not restricted. We will follow two restrictions: The first is mentioned in the JCPOA, in the matter of no nuclear planning, and the second is the range of 2,000 km, which has already been noted previously by all elements in Iran.”

The MEMRI report confirmed published accounts that Iranian Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi claimed his nation is “entitled to produce missiles with a range of 2,000 km.”

“These statements indicate that although the permission given to Iran to develop missiles capable of striking Israel is likely not a secret annex of the JCPOA, it still constitutes unwritten consent that is an integral part of the nuclear deal. It is convenient for both sides not to publish this understanding in written form – for Iran because it rejects any public reference to its missile program, which it defines as defensive but is in fact offensive; and for the Obama administration, because there would be repercussions if it were to be revealed that it had given Iran permission to develop missiles capable of striking Israel,” MEMRI reported.

Trump's Jordanian Option

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 407, February 6, 2017, by Prof. Hillel Frisch and Yitzhak Sokoloff:

King Abdullah of Jordan, WEF, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons

Instead of fixating on an independent Palestinian state, the new US administration should look east to the Hashemite Kingdom as a stabilizing influence on Palestinian politics. President Trump has an opportunity to help Jordan prosper while furthering the interests of the US and its allies.

In his first meeting with President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to stake out common ground on the issues that have most troubled American-Israeli relations over the past eight years: the problem of Iran, and Israel’s settlement policy in Judea and Samaria. Particularly in light of recent UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which labeled Israel’s settlement activity illegal, Netanyahu will need to seek American support for renewed Israeli building in Jerusalem and the blocs, and a renewal of the guarantees of the “Bush letter.”

Beyond that, the inauguration of a new American administration presents an opportunity for Israel to take the lead in advocating a far more ambitious initiative: a major investment in the economic prosperity and political stability of the Kingdom of Jordan.

The gravitational force of a prosperous Jordan would expand the functional links that have always existed between the cities of the West Bank and Amman. It would encourage Palestinians in the West Bank to look to a link with Jordan as the best guarantee of their political and economic future.

Because of this, Jordan has the potential (once again) to become a major stabilizing influence on Palestinian politics, which would serve the interests of Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian people.

The reemergence of a Jordanian role in the disposition of the West Bank is much preferable to the current international fixation on the concept of an independent, contiguous Palestinian state whose border is based on the 1967 lines. Such a state would be no less of a long-term strategic threat today than it was before the advent of Oslo. So too is Palestinian irredentism a threat to Jordan’s security.

A Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria is likely to succumb to a Hamas takeover and Iranian influence, and to become a theocratic and autocratic state along the lines of the Hamas regime in Gaza. Moreover, it is unobtainable.

Despite Israel’s acceptance of the two-state concept and its agreement to unprecedented territorial dispositions, Israeli concessions have not met the minimal Palestinian demands required for a peace agreement. Nor are they ever likely to do so if the Palestinian Authority is seen as the only possible partner in the peace process.

The inauguration of an American administration uncommitted to the principle of an independent Palestinian state provides Israel with the opportunity to advocate a long-term strategic vision of building up a prosperous Jordan. A strong and stable Jordan could provide an alternative to the model of a two-state solution that depends on the Palestinian Authority.

Such a vision will not only attenuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Equally importantly, it will bolster Jordan, whose importance to regional stability has never been so crucial.

Even more critical is Jordan’s role in containing growing Iranian influence. This is particularly vital now that Iran, along with its terrorist arm Hezbollah, has succeeded in placing its candidate in Lebanon’s presidential palace, making Beirut the fourth capital Iran basically controls in the Arab world. The recent rout of the rebels from eastern Aleppo and the complete takeover of the city by Syrian, Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed forces have major implications for the Sunni-Shiite balance of power.

The pivotal roles Jordan is playing in the fights against IS and against the Iranian-Syrian axis are interrelated. The population of Jordan is Sunni, and is extremely fearful of the growing Shiite menace. If the Jordanian state appears unable to stem the tide, the population might turn to IS, as did many of the Sunni tribes in Iraq in the past.

Jordan has traditionally been a pro-Western state ruling through cooption and consensus. Though Jordan is not quite a Jeffersonian democracy, it is far closer to that ideal than any other Arab state in the region.

Critics of a plan to involve Jordan in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be quick to point out that it would entail thrusting a role on Jordan that it does not want. This is certainly the case rhetorically.

Jordan has been committed to a two-state solution since the Oslo Accords, but there are two pieces of evidence that the Hashemite Kingdom is flexible and open to political opportunity. The first is that the Kingdom, throughout the twenty-five years since its announcement of the severance of ties with the West Bank, has refrained from amending the 1952 constitution, which enshrines a Kingdom that unites the two banks of the Jordan River – the East and West Banks.

The second are the trial balloons the Kingdom raises from time to time regarding the feasibility of renewing the Jordanian option. The last was in May 2016, when former Jordanian prime minister Abd al Salam Majali met 100 notables in Nablus at a meeting arranged by Ghassan al-Shak’a, a Nablus-based member of the Executive Committee of the PLO. Simultaneously, in the Hebron area, Jordanian MP Muhammad Al-Dawaimeh launched the “One Million Hebronites” initiative to promote a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation. The Hebron delegation was to meet with King Abdullah to discuss this issue, though it should be noted that al-Shak’a stressed that such a confederation could only come into being after a Palestinian state is created.

Several actors can play a critical role in making Jordan prosperous, and they all have a vested interest in making it happen.

The Saudis and the Gulf states should provide the finance. The US should prod them to do so for their own good, but also to reciprocate for the American security umbrella under which they have been living ever since Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait. Throughout his campaign, President Trump stressed that he wants US allies to pay for the security umbrella the US provides. This is one way the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia can comply.

Regionally, Jordan has never been a more important strategic asset for Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies or more worthy of investment. It defends what remains of these states’ northern flank against Syrian-Iranian encroachment and helps balance the threat Shiite Iraq poses to Saudi Arabia’s eastern border, critically close to its major oil fields.

Internationally, the current leadership of the EU – the champion of the two-state solution, almost to the point of obsession – has been considerably weakened by events such as the takeover in Crimea and Brexit. With the vast increase in Islamic terrorism on its home ground, the EU might be inclined to join a venture that will be part of the front against terrorism rather than create a state that might well promote it.

Channeling money to the Palestinians through Jordan would also improve transparency and assure that less money is channeled to incitement and terrorism. It will be important to gradually wean international aid away from the PA and towards Jordan to enable the latter to extend its influence in the West Bank. Israeli-Jordanian security cooperation, historically extensive, can also play a vital role in securing the cooperation of the security forces currently operating under the PA.

Recent trends bolster the prospects of such a project. Locally, the possible breakup of the PA into north and south as a result of the struggle over Abbas’s succession could revitalize the links between Nablus and Amman, as well as Hebron and Amman. Should a breakup occur in the PA, its inhabitants will likely pine for the stability Jordanian influence can offer.

Above all, an incoming president who is new to politics, beholden to no political establishment, and a seasoned businessman with a history of making opportunities come true is moving into the White House. The vision of making Jordan prosperous, and the gains of such a venture in the interests of the US and its allies, might well fire his imagination.

The Oslo Disaster

With all that is happening around the world recently, this Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 123, of September 4, 2016, by BESA's new Director, Prof. Efraim Karsh, may have escaped your attention. Now is a good time to absorb it, carefully...

Prof. Efraim Karsh, the incoming director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, indicts the Oslo diplomatic process as “the starkest strategic blunder in Israel’s history” and as “one of the worst calamities ever to have afflicted Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Twenty three years after its euphoric launch on the White House lawn,” Karsh writes in this comprehensive study, “the Oslo ‘peace process’ has substantially worsened the position of both parties and made the prospects for peace and reconciliation ever more remote.”
“The process has led to establishment of an ineradicable terror entity on Israel’s doorstep, deepened Israel’s internal cleavages, destabilized its political system, and weakened its international standing.”
“It has been a disaster for West Bank and Gaza Palestinians too. It has brought about subjugation to corrupt and repressive PLO and Hamas regimes. These regimes have reversed the hesitant advent of civil society in these territories, shattered their socioeconomic wellbeing, and made the prospects for peace and reconciliation with Israel ever more remote.”
“This abject failure is a direct result of the Palestinian leadership’s perception of the process as a pathway not to a two-state solution – meaning Israel alongside a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza – but to the subversion of the State of Israel. They view Oslo not as a path to nation-building and state creation, but to the formation of a repressive terror entity that perpetuates conflict with Israel, while keeping its hapless constituents in constant and bewildered awe as Palestinian leaders line their pockets from the proceeds of this misery.”
Karsh details at length how the Oslo process has weakened Israel’s national security in several key respects.

On the strategic and military levels, it allowed the PLO to achieve in one fell swoop its strategic vision of transforming the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into terror hotbeds that would disrupt Israel’s way of life (to use Yasser Arafat’s words).

Politically and diplomatically, he says, Oslo instantaneously transformed the PLO (and, to a lesser extent, Hamas) into an internationally accepted political actor while upholding its commitment to Israel’s destruction, edging toward fully fledged statehood outside the Oslo framework, and steadily undermining Israel’s international standing.

The ending of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian population of the territories within three-and-a-half years from the onset of the process has gone totally unnoticed (due partly to Palestinian propaganda, partly to Israel’s failure to get this critical point across), with the Jewish state still subject to international opprobrium for the nonexistent “occupation.”

Domestically, Oslo radicalized Israel’s Arab minority, nipping in the bud its decades-long “Israelization” process and putting it on a collision course with Israel’s Jewish community. No less importantly, it made Israeli politics captive to the vicissitudes of Palestinian-Israeli relations, with the PLO and Hamas becoming the effective arbiters of Israel’s political discourse and electoral process.
“On the face of it,” Karsh writes, “Israel’s massive setbacks can be considered Palestinian gains. Yet one’s loss is not necessarily the other’s gain. The Palestinian leadership’s zero-sum approach and predication of Palestinian national identity on hatred of the ‘other,’ rather than on a distinct shared legacy, has resulted in decades of dispersal and statelessness.”
“Even if the PLO were to succeed in gaining international recognition of a fully fledged Palestinian state (with or without a formal peace treaty with Israel) and in preventing Hamas from seizing power, it would still be a failed entity in the worst tradition of Arab dictatorships, in permanent conflict with its Israeli neighbor while brutally repressing its unfortunate subjects.”
Karsh bemoans that fact that “there has been no real reckoning by the Oslo architects and their erstwhile ‘peace camp’ successors, both in Israel and abroad, of the worst blunder in Israel’s history, and no rethinking of its disastrously misconceived assumptions – let alone any public admission of guilt or show of remorse over its horrific costs.”
“Instead, they continue to willfully ignore the Palestinian leadership’s total lack of interest in the two-state solution and serial violation of contractual obligations. They continue to whitewash ongoing Palestinian violence, belittle the extent of Israeli suffering, and blame Jerusalem for the stalled process despite the public endorsement of the two-state solution by five successive Israeli prime ministers: Peres, Barak, Sharon, Olmert, and Netanyahu.”
“Not only has the same terror-tainted Palestinian leadership come to be universally viewed as the prospective government of a future Palestinian state, but its goal of having this state established without negotiating with Israel, or even recognizing its right to exist, seems to be gaining ever wider currency.  This soft racism – asking nothing of the Palestinians as if they are too dim or too primitive to be held accountable for their own words and actions – is an assured recipe for disaster.”
“For so long as not a single Palestinian leader evinces genuine acceptance of the two-state solution or acts in a way signifying an unqualified embrace of the idea, there can be no true or lasting reconciliation with Israel. And so long as the territories continue to be governed by the PLO’s and Hamas’s rule of the jungle, no Palestinian civil society, let alone a viable state, can develop.”
“Just as the creation of free and democratic societies in Germany and Japan after World War II necessitated a comprehensive sociopolitical and educational transformation, so it will only be when Palestinian society undergoes a real ‘spring’ that the century-long conflict between Arabs and Jews can at long last be resolved and a semi-functioning Palestinian state come into being. This requires sweeping the corrupt and oppressive PLO and Hamas rulers from power, eliminating endemic violence from political and social life, and teaching the virtues of coexistence with Israeli neighbors.”
“Sadly, the possibility of a Palestinian spring, which seemed to be in the offing in 1993 when the PLO hovered on the verge of extinction and West Bank and Gaza leadership appeared eager to strike a historic deal within the framework of the Washington peace negotiations, has been destroyed for the foreseeable future by the Oslo ‘peace process’.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Mending the fraying "alliance" opposing Iranian hegemony

In recent years, it has become customary in much analysis of the Middle East emerging from Israel to divide Middle Eastern countries into a series of alliances or ‘camps.’  These camps are identified in a variety of ways.  But the most usual depiction notes a tight, hierarchical bloc of states and movements dominated by the Islamic Republic of Iran.  An alliance of ‘moderate’ states opposed to Iran and including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Israel itself is seen as the principal adversary and barrier to the hegemonic ambitions of the Iran-led bloc.  Some depictions also posit the existence of a smaller alliance of states and entities associated with Muslim Brotherhood-style Sunni political Islam (Qatar, Turkey, the Hamas enclave in Gaza).  The picture is then completed with the addition of the rival Salafi Islamist regional networks of al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
This picture is pleasing to the eye both in its coherence and elegant simplicity. It posits a powerful regional alliance of which Israel is seen as a member.  It is much more questionable, however, whether it conforms to reality.
Specifically, while the bloc led by Iran and the transnational networks of the Salafi jihadis are certainly observable, it is far more doubtful if anything resembling an alliance of ‘moderate’ states really exists at all.
Iran stands at the head of an alliance, which has made significant gains across the region over the last half decade.  Its Lebanese client Hizballah is increasingly absorbing the institutions of the Lebanese state.  Its clients in Yemen (the Ansar Allah movement or ‘Houthis’) control the capital and a large swathe of the country.  Bashar Assad of Syria is no longer in danger of being overthrown and now dominates the main cities and coastline of his country, as well as the majority of its population.  In Iraq, the Shia militias of the Hashd al-Shaabi are emerging as a key political and military player.
The Iranian alliance is characterized by a pyramid-type structure, with Iran itself at the top.  In the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Teheran has an agency perfectly suited for the management of this bloc.  As the Syrian war has shown, Teheran is able to muster proxies and clients from across the region and as far afield as Afghanistan and Pakistan, in order to deploy them in support of a beleaguered member of its team.  This is what an alliance looks like.
By contrast, the so-called moderate bloc in fact consists of countries who disagree bitterly on important issues, while agreeing on some others.
Observe:  Saudi Arabia was the first country to express support for the military coup in Egypt on July 3, 2013.  The friendship between Cairo and Riyadh looked set to form a new Sunni Arab bulwark against both the Iranian advance and the ambitions of Sunni radical political Islam.  That is not the way it has turned out.     On a number of key regional files, the two are now on opposite sides.
In Syria, Saudi Arabia was and remains among the key supporters of the rebellion. The Assad regime, as a client of Iran, was a natural enemy for the Saudis.  The Egyptians, however, saw and see the Syrian war entirely differently –  as a battle between a strong, military regime and a rebellion based on Sunni political Islam. In November, 2016, President Sisi said that Assad’s forces were Syrian government forces were “best positioned to combat terrorism and restore stability” in the country.  Sisi identified this stance as part of a broader strategy according to which ‘“Our priority is to support national armies…and deal with extremist elements. The same with Syria and Iraq.’
This places Egypt and Saudi Arabia, supposedly the twin anchors of the ‘moderate’ bloc at loggerheads in two key areas.  In Libya, in line with this orientation, too, Egypt fully supports General Khalifa Haftar and his forces.  Saudi Arabia, by contrast, is largely indifferent to events in that area.
In Yemen, meanwhile, the Egyptians have offered only half hearted support to Saudi Arabia’s war effort against the Houthis.
This, in turn, relates to a further key difference between the two – regarding relations with Iran.
While the Saudis see the Iran-led regional bloc as the key regional threat to their interests, the Egyptians are drawing closer to Teheran. 
The two countries have not had full diplomatic relations since 1980.  But the Iranians acknowledged their common stance on Syria, when Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif specifically requested of John Kerry to invite Egypt to send a delegation to talks on Syria in the Swiss city of Lausanne on October 15, 2016.  In the same month, to the Saudis’ fury, Cairo voted for a Russian backed UN Security Council resolution allowing the continuation of the bombing of rebel held eastern Aleppo.
In turn, when Saudi oil giant Aramco announced the cessation of fuel transfers to Egypt, Sisi declared that ‘“Egypt would not bow to anyone but God,’ and the government of Iraq agreed to step in to make good the shortfall, at the request of Iran and Russia.
So the core Egyptian-Saudi alliance is fraying.
Israel views its chief concerns as Iranian expansionism and Sunni political Islam, Egypt is concerned only with the latter of these.  Saudi Arabia meanwhile, is increasingly concerned only with the former.  Representatives of King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz met late last year with officials of the Muslim Brotherhood in Istanbul, London and Riyadh.  On the agenda was the possible removal of the Brotherhood – Egypt’s key enemy – from Saudi Arabia’s list of terror organizations.  King Salman has taken a far more forgiving view of Sunni political Islam than his predecessor, King Abdullah.  This in turn has led to Saudi rapprochement with Turkey.
Thus, the three main corners of the ‘moderate’ alliance are drifting in different directions – 
Riyadh appears headed toward rapprochement with political Islam while maintaining opposition to Iran, 
Egypt toward Russia, Syria, Iraq and a stance of support for strong states.  
Israel will seek to maintain good relations with each (and with smaller players in the ‘alliance’ such as Jordan and the UAE), on the basis of undoubted areas of shared interest and concern.  
But any notion of a united bloc of western aligned countries standing as a wall against Iranian and Sunni Islamist advancement is today little more than a mirage.

What might change this would be the return of the superpower that was once the patron of all three countries – the United States.  Alliances work when they have leaders.  Only Washington could-re-fashion the disparate enemies of Iran and Sunni political Islam once more into a coherent unit.  It remains to be seen if the Trump Administration is interested in playing this role.