Pakistan Government Protected By Its Nuclear Status

Pakistani generals will continue using proxies under their nuclear umbrella

December 24, 2014, 4:04 AM IST Seema Sirohi in Letter from Washington | Times View, World

The generals in their labyrinth know they are under watch after the Peshawar tragedy. The slaughter of 132 innocent Pakistani children and 13 others by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the TTP, demands both answers and action.

There is brave talk. There are a few honest appraisals. The politicians are making the right noises. A few voices even started #AskGHQ as a Twitter hashtag to challenge the generals who created the mess. All respect to those Pakistanis who still dare to stand up and those killed because they did.
But the questioning and the soul searching are largely in the English press where the slim slice of liberals resides. The Urdu media is another world altogether. Those who monitor that wild, wild world see a dystopia. The blame is either on the TTP without a mention of other terrorist proxies run by the military-ISI or simply on Indian intelligence agents. Many, including former president Pervez Musharraf, have shamelessly named India’s external intelligence agency, RAW.

The well-oiled disinformation machinery was at work before the bodies of little children were even buried. Hafiz Saeed, the “mainstreamed” terrorist now posing as a religious leader, was out blaming India for the attack and vowing revenge. America, India and Israel were named as places for Allah’s wrath as Pakistan’s parade of jihadists met for a “memorial” service.

The truth is the generals will do what they have always done — continue using proxies under their nuclear umbrella to keep the world perpetually scared of their potential madness. They will satisfy the blood lust with mass-scale executions of convicted terrorists — none of whom would include men who attacked in India or Afghanistan.

Six men have already been hanged for attacks on the Pakistan army and 500 more reportedly are to follow. The prime-minister-in-name, Nawaz Sharif, helpfully lifted the moratorium on executions in the wake of the Peshawar attack.

But only the “bad” Taliban or TTP will be hunted for their sins because they dared to take on the state. The “good” Taliban, who kill Afghans and Indians, will be used as pieces in the lethal chess game of 2015. The same goes for the “good” Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Jamatud-Dawah, Haqqani Network and the rest of the dangerous zoo reared by the succession of generals.

You may think the Peshawar attack would have punctured Gen. Raheel Sharif’s bubble but you would be wrong. If anything, he will proceed as planned — push the Afghan government on the west and the Indian government on the east by maintaining the snake pit of “good” terrorists he controls.

The bigger picture emerging explains the Pakistan army chief’s swagger who apparently took home American blessings from his US visit. Senior Pakistani officials were heard bragging about the visit’s success and how Sharif told his US interlocutors a thing or two. A new addition to the army’s platoon in the US would be Maleeha Lodhi as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York. She is not Nawaz Sharif’s but Raheel Sharif’s choice.

The Paksitan army knows American subsidies will continue to come even if the terrorist mart remains open because the United States cannot “muster the requisite scrotal fortitude to deal appropriately with this twinned menace of nuclear weapons and terrorism,” as Pakistan expert Christine Fair wrote recently.

America’s inducements multiply the swagger. And surely Musharraf is the most insufferable of the lot. He told the BBC’s Impact programme that “we have our own ways of dealing with Afghanistan” and “you should leave the modalities to us” instead of micromanaging. The puffed up arrogance of the man was breathtaking.

Since the US combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, the time for the grab is near. By waiting out the Americans — whose perpetually confused policies on Afghanistan didn’t help — the Pakistan army is all set to try to force “strategic depth.”

So the Afghans must make a deal with men who kill their children, their soldiers and constantly threaten the country’s security. And pay obeisance to the likes of Musharraf. Nawaz Sharif’s foreign policy adviser and lately the dropper of “gems,” Sartaj Aziz, has said Taliban are Pakistan’s “historical friends.”

As for India, an uptick in activity among jihadists in the region is already being noticed. Those at the bottom rung of the chain are displaying some of the swagger of their bosses — always a worrying sign.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Iranian Hegemony And The Shia Horn (Daniel 8:8)

How Iraq Became a Proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Iranian Hegemony

Iranian Hegemony
Co-authored by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

The Islamic Republic of Iran is looking to expand its jihadi empire even further—this time, with the help of American air support.

The United States and its Western allies have recently undertaken airstrikes and other military measures against the Islamic State (I.S., also known as ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq. Contrary to the spirit of most statements coming out of Washington, however, this military action cannot be properly viewed as simply an effort to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State—mainly because the Western actions are limited only to air strikes, which would be ineffective on their own in achieving that end. Rather, this campaign is quite obviously meant to help the main ground forces currently fighting the I.S.—namely, the Iraqi government and Shia militias in Iraq—in the hopes that the Islamic State may be defeated through their combined efforts.
What has been very little discussed in the West, however, is that it is the Shia militias who are quickly eclipsing the Iraqi government forces in importance in Iraq; and that these militias are largely dominated by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Indeed, many are Iranian proxies.
In other words, the U.S. and its allies have launched an air campaign whose most important effect, if successful, would be to advance Iran’s agenda of dominating Iraq and eventually becoming the hegemonic power in the region.
How did this happen, and what might its consequences be?
The fall of Mosul in June to a Sunni insurgent offensive spearheaded by the I.S.—which quickly asserted decisive authority in the city at the expense of its allies—revealed the incompetence of Iraq’s conventional armed forces, which are plagued by the same rampant corruption and nepotism that are pervasive in Iraq’s post-Saddam political order.
The Shia militias, backed and coordinated by Iran, are now filling the vacuum left behind by the regular army. This phenomenon was rapidly if unintentionally bolstered by a fatwa from Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Sistani, on the obligation to defend the country in the face of the I.S. threat. While Sistani had intended to encourage people to enlist in the official security forces, in practice his fatwa midwifed the broad umbrella of Shia militias conventionally dubbed al-hashad al-sha’abi (“the popular mobilization”) in the Iraqi press. The militias themselves, however, like to call themselves, somewhat ominously, al-muqawama al-islamiya (“the Islamic resistance”).
Due to the wave of enlistment set off by Sistani and the weakness of the official security forces, there is scarcely a single area in which at least some of the Shia militias are not operating. In many cases, such as the recent successful offensive to clear the I.S. out of Jurf al-Sakhr—a predominantly Sunni area of Babil province, south of Baghdad—and the ongoing fighting to dislodge the I.S. from al-Muqdadiya in Diyala province, it is clear that the fighting has been or is being led by Shia militias.
The growing importance of the Shia militias’ resistance to the I.S. in Iraq is not simply the result of their own combat skills. It is very much a product of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Iranian regime’s elite paramilitary force, whose role in regional conflicts—and, it should be noted, terrorism—is large and expanding. The Shia’s success in Iraq reflects the effectiveness of IRGC doctrine regarding the construction, support, and use of sectarian political and military proxies as a central tool—sometimes the central tool—of Iranian policy in the region.
Iran has displayed a peerless ability to harness and utilize forces of this kind in the Middle East. It is a major factor in Iran’s ongoing success in building political influence in surrounding countries.
The prototype for this approach was the establishment and sponsorship of the Shia terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon. Following the end of Syria’s occupation of Lebanon in 2005, Hezbollah rapidly emerged as the dominant political actor in the country, able to conduct its own military policy of aggression against Israel without any need to consult with other Lebanese factions.
For a considerable period, Iran’s success in Lebanon appeared to be unique. Its clients elsewhere were far less powerful and influential. However, the current unrest in the Middle East, characterized by the contraction or collapse of state authority in a variety of countries, has created an environment in which Iran’s skills have become extremely effective.
As a result of the weakening of the central government in Yemen, for example, the Iran-supported Houthi militia is now the decisive force in the capital, Sana’a, and looks set to determine the makeup of the next government.
Most importantly, however, and most relevant to Iraq, the Iranian ability to utilize sectarian paramilitary formations was perhaps the crucial factor in turning the tide of the Syrian civil war and preserving the Iran-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The darkest days of the Assad regime were the closing months of 2012. At that time, with the rebels having succeeded in entering the city of Aleppo and the eastern suburbs of Damascus, it looked as though the regime’s days were numbered.
The problem for the Assad regime—similar to the current government of Iraq—was that, while the Syrian dictator possessed a large army on paper, the loyalty or reliability of many units was suspect. Hence, only a certain percentage of the armed forces could be reliably deployed. Assad’s power base is Syria’s Alawi minority, which is relatively small in numbers. Because of this, many analysts thought that the defeat of the Assad regime in Syria was simply a matter of time, because the narrow sectarian base of the regime meant that Assad would simply run out of men willing to take a bullet on his behalf.
The Iranians, however, spotted something different: On both sides, the number of men actually engaged in the fighting was relatively small. The Syrian civil war was one of small militias, not massive conventional armies. This meant that the establishment or insertion of a relatively modest number of committed men could make a major difference. In early 2013, under Iranian supervision, the number of Hezbollah fighters operating in Syria was increased. In tandem with this, the Iranians and Hezbollah began to train members of the Alawi paramilitary groups known as the Shabiha, which were reformed into a group called the National Defense Forces (NDF).
The NDF was a light infantry force of about 40,000 men that was deployed in the spring of 2013 alongside Hezbollah and reliable elements of the Assad-controlled Syrian Army, as well as some Iraqi Shia paramilitary forces. This closed the Syrian regime’s gap in manpower, and played a key role in pulling it back from the precipice.
In the summer of 2014, the army of another Iranian ally—the Iraqi government—faced a similar situation in regard to the Islamic State. At that time, a number of analysts predicted that the Iranians were likely to follow a similar strategy to that of Syria. It is now clear that Iran has pursued precisely such a policy, and with considerable success.
Almost immediately, Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC—the agency tasked with the creation and use of proxy political and military forces—was sent to Baghdad. Very clearly, his task was to coordinate the Iraqi response.
His influence appears to have been decisive in shaping the Iraqi response. Predictably, it involves the use of militias and Shia sectarianism along the lines pioneered in other countries. As an Iraqi official quoted by The Guardian put it, “Who do you think is running the war? Those three senior generals who ran away? Qassem Suleimani is in charge. And reporting directly to him are the militias.” Since then, Suleimani has guided much of the fighting against the I.S., and has even been physically present at a number of key engagements.
Alongside the Quds Force leaders, there are reliable reports of dozens of IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah advisers on the ground in Iraq. In addition, Iraqi paramilitaries deployed in Syria have been returned to Iraq in order to join the fight.
So, what is happening in Iraq today is directly analogous to what happened in Syria. The Iran-aligned, Shia-dominated government in Baghdad is being protected from Sunni insurgents through the efforts and methods of the IRGC’s Quds Force, the most effective instrument of Iran’s regional policy. This, of course, has major implications for Western policy, which at the current time is acting as the air wing for this campaign.
Precisely who are these militias, and how is Iran aiding them?
There are, at the very least, dozens of Shia militias in Iraq. The oldest date back to the days of the U.S. occupation prior to 2011 and are clearly proxies of Iran. They receive training and weapons from the IRGC, and are dedicated to implementing Iran’s ideological system of governance in Iraq.
Iran, however, does not want any of these groups to become powerful enough to break off and follow its own agenda. To prevent this, it maintains multiple proxy militias competing against each other. Among the main proxies in question are Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), which developed particularly close relations with ex-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; Kata’ib Hezbollah (with its front group Saraya al-Difa’ ash-Sha’abi); and the Badr Organization. All three of these organizations have deployed fighters to Syria to assist the Assad regime, and have also been participating in the Iraqi government’s military efforts in Anbar since the beginning of this year, when Fallujah and parts of Ramadi first fell out of government control.
Besides these three important actors, other Iranian proxies exist, including Saraya al-Khorasani, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, and Harakat al-Nujaba’, all of which have also deployed in Syria. These groups make no attempt to hide their ideological affinities with Iran, featuring portraits of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on their social media sites and “martyrdom” funeral banners for slain fighters.
Besides the direct Iranian proxies, a number of other Shia militias exist, the vast majority of which can be tied to one Shia political figure or another. The most well-known of these is undoubtedly Saraya al-Salam [“The Peace Brigades”], the reconstituted Mahdi Army of Islamist political leader Muqtada al-Sadr. Another interesting case is a militia known as Liwa al-Shabab al-Risali, which claims legitimacy through the Najaf-based cleric Ayatollah Muhammad al-Yaqoubi and ties itself to the legacy of Muqtada al-Sadr’s father, Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr. Also of interest are Sadrist-leaning militia brands that first emerged in Syria but have since withdrawn to Iraq, such as Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar.
Elsewhere on the mainstream Shia political spectrum, there are militias linked to figures from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), a Shia Islamic political party. These includeSaraya Ansar al-Aqeeda, led by Sheikh Jalal ad-Din al-Saghir, and Saraya Ashura’, led by Ammar al-Hakim. These militias appear to be an attempt by ISCI figures to create their own military forces to rival the Badr Organization, which originated as a break-off from ISCI.
Other militias exist that can be tied to figures known for strong pro-Iranian tendencies, for example Kata’ib al-Ghadab, which is tied to the pro-Iranian Da’wah Party (Tanẓim al-Dakhil). Still other groups can be readily identified as clear attempts to emulate Iranian proxies or other Shia militias, such as “Kata’ib Hezbollah – the Mujahideen in Iraq” led by Abbas al-Muhammadawi of the Abna’ al-Iraq al-Ghayyara political bloc, and the Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Forces, based on the famous Syrian Shia militia, Liwa Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas.
Naturally, the Shia militias are by no means a monolithic ideological bloc. The most obvious tension is between the Iranian proxies and those who follow the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr. This is the case even though their rhetoric often overlaps. They both emphasize the “defense of the homeland and the holy sites,” and attempt to claim they are unified behind the common cause of “resistance” and Shia sectarian pride. Nonetheless, the groups that are not explicitly aligned with Iran are by no means outside Iranian influence or control. Their relationship with the Islamic Republic is simply more complex and ambiguous than others.
It is clear, however, that the overall leading role in the militia movement is played by the Iranian proxies, something that is most apparent in the appointment of Muhammad al-Ghaban of the Badr Organization as Iraqi Interior Minister under the new Abadi government. Under Badr’s leadership, Operation Ashura was launched to expel the I.S. from Jurf al-Sakhr. As a source in the Interior Ministry put it to the pro-government outlet al-Masalah, “The factions of the Islamic Resistance – Kata’ib Hezbollah, Badr, AAH, recruits and the popular mobilization, along with Saraya al-Salam, participated in Operation Ashura which was launched today under the leadership of the Interior Minister Muhammad Salim al-Ghaban to cleanse the Jurf al-Sakhr district in north Babil from the Da’esh [I.S.] gangs.” [emphasis ours]
In an interview with Aws al-Khafaji after the capture of Jurf al-Sakhr, the Shia militias that participated are listed as “The heroic brothers of Badr, Saraya al-Salam, Asa’ib [Ahl al-Haq], [Harakat] al-Nujaba, the Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Forces … and some of the other Islamic factions.” That Badr was mentioned first seems to confirm the group’s leading role in the operation.
Needless to say, the proliferation of Shia militias in Iraq, with Iranian proxies as the strongest players, has important implications.
Due to the security situation in Iraq, the Shia militias will be necessary for the foreseeable future in the fight against the Islamic State. It is also highly unlikely that these militias will simply disband even if told to do so. Thus, it is worth assessing the implications of their rise to prominence and power.
First, it demonstrates the extent to which Iran considers the government of Iraq a client or proxy regime; one that Tehran will not allow to develop its own powerful, independent institutions and military. The government in Baghdad, like the regime in Damascus, is to be saved from those who would destroy it, but only in such a way that its future is to be an instrument of Iran’s will. The Iranians’ innovative use of sectarian militia power and the cultivation of a variety of paramilitary clients ensures that, if they get their way, no Iraqi government will be in a position to disobey them.
Moreover, Iran’s role in Iraq is clearly part of its desire—tracing back to the regime’s founder, Ayatollah Khomeini—to spread its ideology throughout the Shia population of the Middle East. What this means is that, while the new sectarian military formation being developed by the Iranians in Iraq is likely to prove sufficient to stem the advance of the overstretched I.S. forces, they are also part of Tehran’s larger regional strategy to produce a contiguous line of pro-Iran states between the Iran-Iraq border and the Mediterranean Sea.
The fragmentation of Iraq and Syria may well thwart that ambition. But Iran has shown that its practice of creating and utilizing proxy political and military forces as a key instrument of policy is sufficient to defend its own interests—if not always to entirely defeat or destroy its Sunni enemies. The Quds Force is now proving this once again in Iraq.
For the U.S. and its allies, this may represent a short-term advantage, but it is a long-term threat. The Iranian proxy militias, quite naturally, also embrace Iran’s ideology, which is intensely anti-American, anti-Western, and indeed, anti-Semitic. They parrot, for example, Iran’s official propaganda line, according to which the I.S. is supposedly a creation of “the Great Satan” (i.e., the United States) and/or the Jews.
Nor does the eventual creation, or attempt to create, an Iranian sphere of influence across the Middle East bode well for American or Western interests. However effective they may be in fighting the I.S., Iran’s proxy militias in Iraq are part of this agenda and are helping Iran pursue it.
Thanks to current Western policy, this time they are doing it with Western air support.

Antichrist’s Men Assuming The “Mark” On Their Hand (Rev 13:16)

Iraqi volunteers’ victories don’t justify atrocities

Armed Shi'ite volunteers from brigades loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr walk during a patrol on the outskirts of Samarra
Armed Shiite volunteers from brigades loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr patrol the outskirts of Samarra, Aug. 2, 2014. (photo by REUTERS)

Al Monitor
AUTHOR Mustafa al-Kadhimi

POSTEDDecember 22, 2014
Two opposite phenomena are increasingly spreading in an unprecedented manner in Iraq. These two trends are related to the groups of popular mobilization, which includes armed Shiite factions and volunteers who joined in response to the “righteous jihad” fatwa issued by cleric Ali al-Sistani in June to prevent the Islamic State (IS) from advancing farther in Iraq. At the time, IS took advantage of the Iraqi forces’ collapse by trying to storm into Baghdad.

The first phenomenon lies in sanctifying the popular mobilization forces, banning any criticism of their behavior, or raising questions about their mechanism of action or their decisions on the ground. This is particularly true because many factions do not operate under the banner of the popular mobilization alone; they raise their own flags and follow their own military order.

While this sanctifying phenomenon is on the rise in the media and among politicians in Iraq, particularly among Shiites, another trend is growing in the other direction. Many media outlets and Sunni politicians are trying to “demonize” the popular mobilization, portraying its members as thieves, murderers and sectarian actors, rather than being noble volunteers who responded to the call to defend their country.

Undoubtedly, the two sides are hurling accusations at one another, blowing facts and events out of proportion in an attempt to prove their point of view.

Sunni religious, tribal and political leaders who recently participated in the Sunni forces conference in Erbil on Dec. 18 also had accusations to make. These said that [the popular mobilization forces] have carried out attacks and looting operations, burned bodies of IS fighters and punished IS affiliates in the absence of a legal trial, as well as punished local people without proof of affiliation to IS. Add to this other matters deemed illegal and contrary to human rights.

This happens for various reasons, including the belief that these regions have constituted a favorable environment for IS and deserve to be punished or to avenge the brutal actions of IS. These attacks — perpetrated against Sunni inhabitants in some of the areas liberated from IS, especially in Diyala province, east of Baghdad — are believed to have come from fighters in the popular mobilization forces.

Meanwhile, Shiite parties reject these accusations and view them as an attempt to save IS.
Nevertheless, the truth has waned amid this conflict; in fact, the popular mobilization fighters are not angels. Many violations and mistakes have been committed on the battlefield, which the popular mobilization leaders ought to own up to, and the perpetrators ought to be punished for.

On the other hand, the volunteers are not “demons” either. They have been fighting under dire conditions for more than four months, liberating lands from IS’ grip, making qualitative shifts in the battles against the organization. This is especially true in the towns of Amirli and Jurf al-Sakhar, among others.

The popular mobilization forces have made a fundamental difference on the battlefield, as they have undermined the superiority of IS at the level of guerrilla warfare. They have been able to make swift movements, making decisions on the ground without military intricacies and the need to refer to higher orders.

The popular mobilization forces have been following military tactics similar to those that IS has also been capitalizing on. This has been a major game-changer. However, there was another factor that changed the equation.

Psychological warfare, which IS was employing during the first days of its invasion of Mosul, is known to everyone. The organization capitalized on rumors and the media, presenting itself as an invincible force that would not hesitate to commit the most heinous of crimes. This has deeply affected the Iraqi army’s morale.

The popular mobilization forces have also tried to capitalize on this element, even if symbolically. They have done so by intensifying media campaigns, parading their victories and by shunning public criticism of the group’s members.

What needs to be stressed in this context is that the popular mobilization achievements are not an excuse for the excesses of some of its members, whatever these excesses are.

Today, the popular mobilization operates under the banner of the state, alongside the army and the police. It is not an armed group working outside the bounds of the law. Therefore, the group’s forces ought to completely abide by the same rules and regulations followed by the army forces.
In the same vein, one ought to mention that Sistani warned against the violations that could be committed by the volunteers during battle. This warning stems from his vision of the need for these forces to be exemplary in their commitment to the law, preventing the behavior of some members from affecting the entire group. This is why Sistani urged media outlets and politicians not to generalize about the behavior of some members to the entire popular mobilization force.

Today, it has become necessary to view the experience of this force as a unique experience that has truly helped Iraq from falling in the hands of IS. The popular mobilization forces have protected many Iraqi cities and liberated many others. Yet, this is not an excuse to condone the excesses of certain members, which contribute to deepening the sectarian rift or undermining trust in the state apparatus, which the popular mobilization will not replace at any stage.

Reinforcing and restructuring the state’s security and military forces and eliminating all corruption is what Iraqis are waiting for. Yet, they ought to understand that the current phase is of great sensitivity and danger for Iraq and the existence of the popular mobilization is necessary, until it is no longer needed. This is when IS is defeated and the security and military forces take full control of the situation.

Iran Extends The Shia Horn (Daniel 8:3)

Iran accelerates arming of Hizbullah and Hamas for possible clash with Israel

By Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
web posted December 22, 2014
In recent months, parallel to the key stages of the nuclear negotiations, Iran has completely removed the secrecy surrounding its provision of rockets and missiles to anti-Israeli terror organizations. Today, Iran frequently and publicly acknowledges this assistance, with no fear of the West’s reaction.
In Iran’s eyes, Operation Protective Edge, the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas and the other Gaza-based Palestinian organizations, provided further proof that its long-term investment in supplying rockets and know-how for their manufacture to Hizbullah and Palestinian organizations is bearing fruit. As the end of the time allotted for the nuclear talks drew near (before it was decided to extend them again to June 2015), Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials made threatening statements about Iran’s rocket and missile capabilities and those of the organizations it supplies – indicating that in light the possible outcomes of the nuclear talks, Iran’s fears of an Israeli attack had grown.
The Encirclement of Israel
Iran does not obscure its security concept but rather gives it public expression. Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank form inseparable components of this doctrine, which Iran updates from time to time. In Iran’s view, the steadily developing rocket capabilities of both Hizbullah and the Palestinians – capabilities that Iran, with Khamenei’s encouragement, is striving to extend to the West Bank as well – constitute a main element of the deterrence against Israel that Iran seeks to develop. The aim is to deter Israel from attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities – or, if Israel nonetheless decides to attack, to use these rocket capabilities as a key part of its retaliatory response.
In this context, under Khamenei’s direction, Iran views the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as a single unit under Hamas’ leadership. Consequently, Iran is gradually improving its relations with Hamas after they hit a nadir with the eruption of the Arab Spring in Syria and the removal of Hamas’s headquarters from Damascus. Iran now hopes that Hamas will rule the West Bank as well as Gaza, and will develop similar capabilities in the West Bank to threaten Israel.
From a broader perspective, Iran, as statements by its senior officials suggest, is working to encircle Israel from the north (Hizbullah), the south (Gaza), and the east (the West Bank) and to turn the rocket threat into an unbroken ring around Israeli territory.
This Iranian activity is incessant, and it includes persistent smuggling of weapons into Gaza as well as shipments and convoys to Hizbullah via Syria. According to foreign reports, sometimes Israel thwarts these weapons shipments in Syrian territory; they are viewed as posing a threat to the IDF’s freedom of action in Lebanon or to Israeli naval craft and strategic sites. These reports note that some of the weapons destroyed in an attack on December 7, 2014 included advanced Russian-made antiaircraft systems (perhaps the S-300 SA), Fateh-110 missiles (see below), and Iranian UAVs.
Syria and Iran have long wanted to purchase the advanced S-300 antiaircraft system from Russia. In an unusual manner, Russia protested the recent operation and demanded explanations from Israel. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at the beginning of November 2014 that Russia was providing Syria with the advanced S-300PMU2 system for defense against attacks by American planes operating against ISIS. According to foreign reports, in January 2013 Israel also attacked a convoy at the Al-Jamraya Research Center that was on its way to Lebanon carrying advanced Buk-M2E (SA-17) antiaircraft missiles. In May 2013 Fateh-100 missiles were attacked at the airport in Damascus; in July 2013, at the port of Latakia, Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles (P-800 Oniks) with upgraded radars were attacked; and in October 2013 weapons were again attacked at Latakia that apparently were intended for Hizbullah.
A few hours before the most recent alleged Israeli attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, met with Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah as part of the activities marking the seventieth anniversary of Russian-Lebanese diplomatic relations. Iran, Russia, and Hizbullah have a common interest – the survival of Bashar Assad. To that end Hizbullah is paying with hundreds of casualties on Syrian soil, but it is also gaining greater access to advanced weapons from Iran and Russia, some of which it is trying to transfer to Lebanon.
On another front cultivated by Iran – Gaza – about a week after the attack in Lebanon that was attributed to Israel, and during a rally on December 14, 2014 to mark the anniversary of Hamas’ founding, Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida specially thanked those who had aided the organization during Protective Edge and “first and foremost Iran, which was unsparing in its financial and military and other assistance and provided us with missiles that pulverized the defense of the Zionist enemy and with antitank weapons that shattered the myth of the Merkava tank.” During the rally, Hamas showcased a UAV of the Ababil model (developed in Iran) as well as advanced sniper rifles it had received from Iran.
Hamas media outlet Al-Risalah suggested that mending fences with Iran will help Hamas solve some of its finnencial difficulties4. Nasser Al Sudani, head of the Majlis’s Palestine committee, added that Khalid Mashal, Head of Hamas political bureau, will visit Tehran soon. Al Sudani said that Iran regards Hamas as the “first line of defense” in confronting Israel and supporting Hamas is one of Iran’s revolution key principals. “Destroying Israel will only be possible by arming Palestinians, including in the occupied West Bank….The death of the occupation is near and Tehran supports this.
Khamenei: Arm the West Bank
Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei – and following his lead, the heads of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Majlis, and other senior spokesmen – continue to express support publicly for “all who fight against Israel” in general and for the Palestinians in particular. As Khamenei said during the “International Congress on Extremist and Takfiri [apostasy] Orientations from the Viewpoint of Islamic Scholars”:
…We have passed through the barrier of denominational discord. We helped Hizbullah of Lebanon – which is a Shia group – in the same way that we helped [Sunni groups] Hamas and Islamic Jihad [PIJ] and we will continue to do that. We did not become a prisoner of denominational limits. We did not differentiate between Shia, Sunni, Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi’i and Zaidi denominations. All Palestinian areas have to become armed…. We looked at our main goal and we offered help. We managed to strengthen the fists of our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and by Allah’s favor we will continue to do that. I announced – and this will definitely happen – that the West Bank should be armed like Gaza and be prepared for defense…. (emphasis added)
“We Love Fighting Israel”
At the same platform, Khamenei marketed his “We Love Fighting Israel” campaign, saying, “Our people love fighting against the Zionists and the Islamic Republic has proved this as well.” Social networks both within and outside of Iran occasionally post caricatures and pictures in the “spirit of the Leader.” On Twitter and on Instagram, for example, the hashtag #fightingthezionists was launched; it features pictures vilifying Israel and Zionism and calls of “death to Israel.”
Khamenei’s Military Solution
Khamenei’s combative spirit has also permeated Iran’s political and military echelons, and appears to provide a basis for an overall Iranian plan of action that is part of its national security strategy. Majlis Chairman Ali Larijani, at a meeting in Tehran with Mohammad Nasr, a member of Hamas’ Political Bureau, again promised that Iran would keep supporting the Palestinian people and the resistance movements until the final victory over “Israeli forces.”
Ahmad Bakhshayesh, a member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, emphasized the fact that Iran is arming the West Bank as a lever for exerting pressure on Israel. He explained that Khamenei, by calling for the arming of the West Bank, is signaling to Israel that it cannot attack Iran, and that Iran, by means of weapons transfers to the West Bank, “can easily strike an effective blow against Israel’s security.”
Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hussein Dehqan declared in an interview published on December 20, 2014, “The resistance movement in occupied Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria have remarkable military [and] industrial infrastructure, and they are capable of designing and producing missiles.” In his interview to the Iranian Arabic-language Al-Alam TV, Dehqan continued, “At some point, following Khamenei’s orders we cooperated with the resistance movement in the fields of industry and technologies. We have officially announced that we will cooperate with the resistance in these fields. The Supreme Leader has also said that the western bank of Jordan River must be armed just like Gaza Strip. Supporting resistance is within the general strategy of the Islamic Republic of Iran and we will follow this.”
Hussein Sheikholeslam, secretary-general of the Tehran-based Committee for Support for the Palestinian Intifada, an adviser to Larijani, and a former ambassador to Damascus, was more clear-cut about the purpose of the aid Iran is providing to Hizbullah and the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank:
Our main enemy [Israel] possesses nuclear weapons and missiles, and therefore the main strategy we have adopted to counter these threats is a missile and rocket capability…. By transferring technology for missile manufacture and by providing training [in the launching of missiles], Iran is building up the capabilities of its friends in the region who are fighting its enemies. The use of missiles and rockets enables Iran to create a balance of terror and a defensive shield against a possible attack by Israel. We hope the missile strategy that Iran is inculcating in Hizbullah in Lebanon and in Gaza, will also spread in the direction of the West Bank in the near future…. The latest campaigns in Gaza and in Lebanon proved that this strategy is very well suited to dealing with the Zionist enemy.
“There Is Not a Single Secure Place in Palestine from the North to the South”
The top leadership of the IRGC has also extensively addressed the issue of the arming of West Bank Palestinians. IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said there is not a single place in Palestine, from the north to the south, that is safe from the missiles of the Palestinian resistance movements and that this heralds “the coming collapse of this filthy, wicked, and illegal regime.” Jafari added that the liberation of Jerusalem is high on the Islamic Revolution’s order of priorities and that the final victory is assured. He further stated, “Iran also detects the signs of American surrender both from a political and a military standpoint, as in the [nuclear] negotiations…. America’s capitulation to Iran is clear in every step it takes toward Iran.” On the ideological plane, Jafari said on a different occasion that “the exporting of the Islamic Revolution to the world, the security and the stability that Iran enjoys and its pride and dignity were obtained thanks to its sacrifices in battle” and now it is at the forefront of the struggle against Israel.”
IRGC Deputy Commander Hussein Salami added in a similar vein that “the Palestinians on the West Bank will continue to uphold their principles and it is not long before the day when the Palestinians in Gaza and on the West Bank will join hands and the West Bank will become a hell for Israeli security.” He added that Israel can no longer achieve security because “the entire territory of occupied Palestine is within range of Hizbullah’s missiles (from Lebanon) and those of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.” The IRGC’s aerospace commander, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, noted in this regard that with Iran’s help, Tel Aviv had become susceptible to crossfire between Hizbullah’s missiles from Lebanon and the Palestinian organizations’ missiles from Gaza.
Hajizadeh also asserted that Iran’s missile capabilities, which it makes available to Hizbullah and that also include surface-to-sea Khalij-e Fars, Hormuz 1, and Hormuz 2 missiles, pose a threat to Israel’s advanced naval craft and to its natural gas facilities and reserves in the Mediterranean, and could cause great destruction to Israel’s navy and its gas fields.
Likewise the IRGC’s public relations director, Ramazan Sharif, declared, “The main duty and mission of the Quds Force under the leadership of its commander, Qasem Soleimani, is to make Islamic society powerful so that it can pave the way to the liberation of Jerusalem – which is the duty of every Muslim…. That is the goal for which Soleimani and the Quds Force that he leads strive ceaselessly.”
Iran Is Playing a Leading Role in Expanding Hizbullah’s Missile Arsenal and Capability
In November 2014 the Tasnim News Agency, identified with the IRGC, interviewed Nasrallah’s deputy Sheikh Naim Qassem, who acknowledged that Iran is playing a leading role in expanding Hizbullah’s missile arsenal and capability in Lebanon both in terms of quality and quantity, and that this involves training, maneuvers, and the creation of various missile units. Qassem remarked, “Israel is well aware that Hizbullah has missiles of pinpoint accuracy [a broad hint at the Fateh-110 missiles] and thanks to the Iranian materiel and aid, the next round of warfare will be very difficult for Israel.” He emphasized that: “When we are talking about the missile capability, it does not mean that only a number of Iranian missiles are delivered to the resistance [movement], but such capability includes the entire necessary items for missiles.” Qassem also referred to the missiles that Hizbullah fired during the Second Lebanon War (Fajr, Raad), which helped move the fighting into Israeli territory. He added that rockets had also played a central role in the Palestinians’ rounds of warfare with Israel in 2008 and in 2014, when rockets struck the heart of Tel Aviv and other sensitive locations in Israel.
“Fateh-110 for All”
IRGC’s aerospace commander Hajizadeh’s deputy, Seyyed Majid Mousavi, said that Palestinian and Lebanese (Hizbullah) resistance organizations possess Fateh-110 missiles developed in Iran, and that Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam, the head of the IRGC Missile Research Center who was killed in an explosion in 2011, had helped these organizations develop their capabilities in the missile and rocket field. Mousavi claimed that given the range of these missiles, the organizations can now hit targets in all parts of Israel from north to south. He further remarked that some of the capabilities (involving the use of the Fateh-110) are under wraps and they will be put in action when the time comes. Musavi added that the Fateh-100 is manufactured in plants in Syria that were built by Iran, which also trained Hizbullah and the Palestinian organizations in its use and manufacture. These organizations, according to Mousavi, have become very skilled in this area. Iran periodically upgrades the Fateh-110 mainly for accuracy.
As part of Iran’s effort to demonstrate its missile capabilities at various ranges, Iranian media have published diagrams of the ranges of rockets that are in the hands of the Palestinians in Gaza and of Hizbullah in Lebanon, including solid-fuel, surface-to-surface, 300-km Fateh-110 missiles with a 500-kg warhead, and Khalij-e Fars solid-fuel, surface-to-sea, 300-km missiles with a 450-kg warhead. It has been noted in publications that the nuclear reactor in Dimona is within range (from Gaza) of the Fateh-110, and a number of large towns (Haifa, Netanya, Herzliya, Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Beersheba) have also been mentioned as being within range.
In sum, at the same time that it engages in the nuclear talks, Iran continues to arm and train Hizbullah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Central to the Iranian effort are rockets and missiles (surface-to-surface), as well as UAVs and advanced antiaircraft weapons, mainly for Hizbullah, intended to constrict the Israeli air force’s room for maneuver in Lebanon. Other weapons Iran provides include antitank weapons, sniper rifles, mortars, and more. This issue, along with the issue of human rights in Iran, is not part of the nuclear talks and Iran maintains a resolute refusal to discuss these subjects. The West, for its part, does not want to “pressure” Iran and seeks to avoid “complicating” the already complicated negotiations.
Decision-makers in Tehran are creating a direct link between progress in the nuclear negotiations and the effort they are investing in supplying advanced offensive rocket capabilities to Hizbullah and the Palestinian organizations that operate in Israel’s vicinity. The various spokesmen now highlight what they preferred to keep secret in the past: that they view Gaza and Lebanon, and ultimately the West Bank as well, as part of Iran’s envelope of defense, deterrence, and response with regard to its nuclear program. Thus, Iran promotes the goals of a Hamas takeover of the West Bank and the strengthening of the anti-Israeli rocket capability, via assistance to Hizbullah and to the Hamas Quds Force.
Over the next half-year of the extended nuclear negotiations with the West, Iran will intensify its efforts to equip Hizbullah and the Palestinian organizations with advanced rockets and missiles. In parallel, the political and military leadership will continue to shore up Iran’s deterrence by threatening “a painful response” and “the destruction of Israel.”
The tense relationship between President Hassan Rouhani and the IRGC plays an important part in the externalization of the threats to foreign actors, as the IRGC tries to signal that it is not Rouhani who sets Iran’s policy in the domain of foreign relations and exporting the revolution. Recently it was also reported that the IRGC is maintaining a kind of shadow cabinet to counteract the Rouhani government, with former ministers of Ahmadinejad’s government as members. The matter was brought to Khamenei’s attention, and he chose to ignore it.
The IRGC and Khamenei also support the “militant economy.” The dramatic decline in oil prices to less than $60 a barrel has further intensified the internal struggle and has worsened the difficult budgetary straits (the Iranian budget is planned according to revenues of $130 a barrel) that hamper Rouhani’s ability to advance the welfare policy he promised Iranian voters.
It should be emphasized that, along with its threats against Israel, from time to time Iran also boasts of its capacities to strike – using long-range (2000-km) missiles and asymmetrical swarm attacks by speedboats – U.S. bases and ships in the Persian Gulf area and beyond.
The weakening of the American presence in the Gulf and the strengthening of Iran’s influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, along with the Palestinian organizations’ successes, from Iran’s perspective, in the recent rounds of conflict with Israel, inspire great confidence in Iran. In the window of time left until the nuclear talks expire, Iran is likely to escalate its declarations while on the ground boosting its assistance to the “resistance front.” Iran views itself as setting the stage – on the propaganda, ideological, and military levels – for an inevitable confrontation with Israel and the West. ESR
IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and at Foresight Prudence.

Pakistani Horn Having To Keep Up With India’s Nuclear Capabilities

Assessing India’s Nuclear Capabilities

Indian Nuclear Submarine

India’s offensive nuclear capabilities are coming of age with sea-trials for its first ballistic missile submarine. The INS Arihant is expected to be introduced into service by early 2015. New Delhi plans to field between four to six similar vessels by the end of 2025 to boost its second strike capability.
Pakistan is also likely to develop sea-based nuclear capabilities. Both foes are seeking to develop their own version of the nuclear triad, which incorporates air, land and sea-based systems. Some scholars have argued that second-strike capability will have a positive influence on strategic stability in the region while others have raised concerns about the dangers of a nuclear arms race. And considering the history between India and Pakistan, there is real concern that the next shooting war could spiral out of control.

For India, sea-based nuclear weapons have a credible second-strike nuclear deterrence. Nuclear submarines are capable of lurking undetected and are nearly invulnerable to even the most modern anti-submarine warfare measures. They offer a qualitative advantage to a country’s ability to retaliate after absorbing a nuclear first strike. This will dissuade an adversary, in India’s case, Pakistan, from attempting a dangerous preemptive nuclear attack.

India’s nuclear doctrine draft in 1999 envisioned the necessity for an assured survivable deterrent capability by developing and maintaining credible minimum deterrence based upon a strategic triad of nuclear forces. Threats from both China and Pakistan prompted India to work towards this goal.
India’s rise as a naval power has been in part a reaction to Pakistan, but also China’s “blue water” aspirations where by it feels threatened by the regional superpower. Beijing strategists, on the other hand, see the Indian nuclear ballistic missile submarine capability as threatening to its access to the Indian Ocean through the Malacca Strait, where eighty percent of China’s oil trade takes place. India could use its submarine to block Chinese oil imports through the strait, thereby causing major disruption in the Chinese economy.

For Pakistan, the rationale for developing a naval nuclear capability is to acquire second-strike capability against India and this would also provide the country with greater strategic depth. In 2012 Pakistan inaugurated its Naval Strategic Force Command (NSFC). The navy is being integrated into the country’s command and control structure, which is dominated by the army.

Pakistan’s financial constraints prevent it from acquiring a sea based nuclear deterrent. Pakistan has no plans to deploy nuclear propelled submarines over the next few decades. Instead, naval planners have focused on acquiring more sophisticated conventional submarines, like the recently announced purchase of six Chinese built submarines, and equip them with Babur cruise missiles.

Regarding the submarine purchase from China, a senior Pakistani official told Jane’s, “the contract is in an advanced stage and discussions will not linger on for too long. Realistically, we should have a deal by the end of 2014.” In this way Pakistan can offset India’s increasingly conventional advantage in the Indian Ocean, much in the same way it managed to balance India’s conventional advantage on land.
Both countries, however, need highly secure command and control system for sea-based systems. There is a strong possibility that submarines can lose contact with their bases, leaving the submarine officials to decide about the use of nuclear weapons during a crisis. To prevent the unauthorized or accidental use of nuclear weapons, India and Pakistan have been keeping the warheads separate from their delivery systems.

Nuclear arsenals at sea also increase the risk of terrorist elements getting hold of these weapons. The international community is particularly concerned about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons due to its culture of political instability and extremism. There are several examples in which Pakistan’s naval forces were attacked by terrorist groups.

The lack of political will has prevented India and Pakistan from averting an arms race, both conventional and now nuclear. It is important for both countries to enhance strategic stability by reducing reliance on nuclear weapons and taking measures to reduce their nuclear arsenals. India-Pakistan relations have long been cleaved by deep antagonism, repeated military crises, and a costly arms race. Both countries have rarely interacted in a non-hostile political sphere and the presence of non-state actors has further exacerbated the situation. In order to avoid catastrophic misinterpretation it is essential to negotiate arms control agreements and increase transparency through exchanging information and signaling intent to improve strategic and crisis stability.