Pivotal Vote on the Iranian Horn (Daniel 8 )

img_1259Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran

Khamenei Doesn’t Trust Babylon the Great. Period.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a live TV speech on the occasion of Eid al-Adha in Tehran, July 31, 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a live TV speech on the occasion of Eid al-Adha in Tehran, July 31, 2020

The Democratic Party’s recently released policy platform was greeted warmly by certain newspapers in Iran. Media outlets associated with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani praised the party’s rejection of “regime change” as U.S. policy. They also welcomed its proposal for a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal from which President Donald Trump withdrew in May 2018. If former Vice President Joe Biden wins in November, the Rouhani camp believes the new American administration will not only revive the nuclear deal, but also lift sanctions. This could save the Islamic Republic of Iran from economic devastation, internal rebellion, and further regional setbacks. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose hatred of America has always been bipartisan, begs to differ.

Khamenei believes the United States can never be trusted. In his eyes, Democrats who prefer “soft” power to “hard” power may be even more dangerous than hawkish Republicans. This good cop-bad cop routine fits perfectly into Khamenei’s paranoia. While Democrats preach engagement, Khamenei views American soft power as “subtle warfare” meant to undermine the “spiritual” basis of the Islamic Republic. According to a senior intelligence officer with whom we spoke and who has a long history of dealing with Iran, “Khamenei is paranoid that the ultimate American goal is to use this soft power to destroy the regime from within.” In his feverish, conspiratorial worldview, Khamenei believes that the Democratic and Republican parties are controlled by “Zionists” bent on overthrowing the Islamic Republic and reversing the “victories” of the 1979 revolution.

Khamenei came to understand that further economic pain from more punishing sanctions might trigger regime-changing protests.

The more Democrats and Trump disavow regime change, the more Khamenei becomes convinced that’s exactly their goal. He understands better than American leaders the enduring appeal of America among Iran’s young and repressed population.

The supreme leader had no illusions about the 2015 nuclear deal. He did not view it as a first step in resolving more than 40 years of mutual enmity. He endorsed Rouhani’s nuclear negotiations with the Obama administration as a policy of “heroic flexibility”, which he compared to the moves of a wrestler who changes tactics “but should not forget who his rival is and what his goal is.” Following the 2009 protests, which saw millions of Iranians in the streets confronting the regime, Khamenei came to understand that further economic pain from more punishing sanctions might trigger regime-changing protests. The 2009 Green Revolution had shocked the regime and, as Khamenei acknowledged, taken it to the “edge of the cliff.” So, he compromised at the negotiating table. This flexibility was made easier by the Obama administration’s extensive nuclear concessions, which gave the Islamic Republic near-zero nuclear breakout time and easier advanced centrifuge-sneakout options, as key restrictions disappeared over time.

Today the regime’s security apparatus is better prepared for popular unrest, as demonstrated by its effective crackdowns on continual protests between 2017 and 2019. As a result of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign, the Islamic Republic faces an even more severe economic crisis today than it did prior to the JCPOA. Yet Khamenei thinks his regime can survive any pressure short of American military action or a massive domestic uprising that overwhelms his security forces.

Khamenei will never trust Americans: He knows that his regime is viewed as dangerous and odious by most of the Washington political and national security establishment, with the exception of a leftist fringe. Most Democrats embrace the JCPOA not because they tolerate the regime. Instead, they believe, as former President Barack Obama said in response to the 2009 Green Revolution, in his often-repeated phrase borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr., that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” They believe more diplomatic engagement with Tehran will, over time, wear down the regime so that it must moderate or disappear. Republicans prefer greater coercion to bend the moral arc more rapidly. For Khamenei, who sees clearly through the partisan noise in Washington, American politics means he gets both devious seduction and regime-punishing pain, as successive administrations open up and crack down. The supreme leader sees both as a mortal threat.

Khamenei could have billions of dollars of Iranian oil flow freely with zero restrictions on hard currency under the Democrats for a few years.

Khamenei is in no mood for a simple “re-entry” into the JCPOA, regardless of who is elected. Under the JPCOA, a previous Democratic administration took away, at least temporarily, a chunk of his nuclear infrastructure in return for economic relief. And then Trump took away that economic relief and imposed crippling sanctions. It’s also been a horrible few years for the supreme leader: Two major internal rebellions erupted. The Israeli Mossad sabotaged key nuclear, missile, and military facilities and embarrassed Iranian security services by removing a nuclear archive from right under their noses that demonstrated the regime’s nuclear mendacity. In operations greenlighted by America and tolerated by Russia, the Israeli Air Force launched hundreds of strikes against Iranian commanders, weapons supply lines, and proxies in Syria and Iraq. And the most humiliating blow: Trump’s killing of Iran’s top battlefield commander, Qassem Soleimani, whom Khamenei considered a national hero.

And Iranian officials expect it to get worse. There’s fear of more popular insurrections like the nationwide November 2019 uprising, which shook the regime to its core. The security apparatus may be more efficient and repressive than in 2009, but a large-scale counterrevolution could overwhelm the regime’s stormtroopers. Khamenei also knows that while the Biden team has discussed a possible return to the JCPOA, meaningful sanctions relief could be ephemeral, since it will be almost unanimously opposed by Republicans. Khamenei could have billions of dollars of Iranian oil flow freely with zero restrictions on hard currency under the Democrats for a few years. That may help him avoid total economic collapse and find more money for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah, and his other murderous proxies.

Khamenei rightly fears that his regime will end up on the ash heap of history. Democrats and Republicans should be dedicated, in their own way, to helping Iranians achieve that goal.

But it’s difficult to imagine a Republican presidential candidate running in 2024 who will not support a return to a policy of maximum pressure. Many international companies and banks will be frightened to invest in Iran knowing that, four years later, a Republican president could yet again pull America out of the JCPOA and reimpose sanctions. (Ironically, since a Trump deal with Iran is more likely to be supported by Republicans and some Democrats and ratified by the Senate as a treaty, it could be more enduring than the Democratic alternative.)

Khamenei knows his days on Earth are numbered and that his legacy can be secured only by handpicking a younger, ideologically fanatical successor. Gone after 2021 will be Rouhani and possibly his mendacious but savvy foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Their successors will not be nearly as masterful at manipulating Western elites, even though some of those elites have shown a disturbing desire to be manipulated. Revealing the true face of the regime, these successors’ bellicosity and revolutionary zeal could strengthen the Washington consensus about the threat from the Islamic Republic. And the painful memories of the regime’s leadership role in the slaughter of over 500,000 people in Syria on their watch may be enough to have awakened at least some senior members of Biden’s foreign policy team to the horrendous depravity of the regime.

Khamenei rightly fears that his regime will end up on the ash heap of history. Democrats and Republicans should be dedicated, in their own way, to helping Iranians achieve that goal.

The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily the views of Radio Farda
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  • Mark Dubowitz is the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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  • Alireza Nader is a senior fellow at FDD focusing on Iran and U.S. policy in the Middle East. He also researches the Islamic Republic’s systematic repression of religious freedom and currently serves on ADL’s Task Force on Middle East Minorities.

Israel Prepares to Attack the Iranian Nuclear Horn

Countdown to Israeli Action on Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot (L) give a press conference in Tel Aviv, on December 4, 2018. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP

Recent mysterious explosions at Iran’s nuclear facilities, which some have attributed to Israel, return to prominence a calculation not seriously considered since 2015: Iran’s dwindling “breakout” clock.

The ensuing damage might successfully turn back time on that clock. But if not, Israel might have to consider military action; a decision lent urgency by the looming American election.

The disastrous 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) emboldened Iran’s aggression and enabled its eventual nuclear capability. President Donald Trump rightfully withdrew from the agreement and replaced it with a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, but Iran responded by attacking US and allied assets, and evidently has been accelerating its nuclear program.

The Trump administration ultimately responded to Iran’s aggression with an airstrike in January that killed Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force and the mastermind behind Tehran’s regional aggression.

However, the United States has had no answer to Iranian nuclear expansion. Having now reportedly produced enough low-enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon, with further enrichment, Iran could reach nuclear weapons capability in 3 to 4 months. This “breakout” window would shrink further if Iran installs advanced centrifuges.

Slowing Iran’s Nuclear Advance

Sanctions haven’t slowed this nuclear advance. Neither will extending Iran’s arms embargo, expiring this October under the JCPOA, which the Trump administration should pursue regardless.

Only credible military threats have convinced Iran to postpone its nuclear ambitions, such as in 2003, after America’s toppled the Taliban and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s literal red-line drawing at the United Nations in 2012, which Iran was careful not to cross.

Sabotage has proven effective at slowing Iran’s nuclear clock, too. Israel has reportedly pursued this strategy repeatedly, with the 2009 Stuxnet cyberattack, the 2010-12 killing of Iranian nuclear scientists, and now perhaps the explosions targeting Iran’s centrifuge construction facility. Covert disruption has the significant benefit of deniability and minimizing the risk of major retaliation.

With Iran’s nuclear clock once again ticking loudly, the question is whether sabotage will continue to buy time. Early reports suggest the explosions at Iran’s Natanz Centrifuge Assembly Center set back Iran’s longer-term plans for an industrial nuclear program (to produce multiple nuclear bombs in short order), but it remains unclear if it also delayed Iran’s breakout time.

While the former is important, it is the latter that more likely determines if some time has been bought. If not, then Israel might not only consider further sabotage but another approach that could more significantly delay a nuclear Iran: overt military action.

Historically, Israel has conducted major military action when time leaves it no other alternative, such as its strikes on nuclear reactors in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007. Israel might be inclined to reserve this option until sabotage has proven no longer materially effective or an Iranian breakout seems imminent.

Looming US Elections

But there is another clock that might push Israel to act overtly sooner: the US political calendar.

American backing could be critical to mitigating the scope and intensity of Iran’s retaliation to an overt Israeli strike and subsequently pressing Iran not to renew its nuclear pursuit. Trump could well do just that; he reportedly instructed former National Security Advisor John Bolton to “tell Bibi [Netanyahu] that if he uses force, I will back him.”

If Trump wins a second term, Israel might feel it has more time – or it might worry that he will pursue a new deal with Iran.

US President Donald Trump salutes at the grave site of former president Andrew Jackson, March 15, 2017. Image: Tennessee National Guard Public Affairs Office

If Joe Biden becomes president, he likely will reengage President Barack Obama’s JCPOA and strongly oppose Israeli action, effectively taking the military option off the table until at least 2025.

Meanwhile, more JCPOA restrictions, including on advanced R&D and ballistic missiles, will lapse by the end of the next president’s term, bringing Iran too close to nuclear capability. Israel might find this risk unacceptable.

Thus, Israel might determine the next four months are its best opportunity to cripple Iran’s nuclear program – a choice Trump might welcome as it would scramble the electoral picture. Alternatively, Israel could wait to see who wins the American election and decide what to do.

Israeli Action

Some American analysts contend that Israel lacks the capability or will to attack Iranian nuclear facilities overtly, or it would have done so already. Yet, we should heed the repeated assertations by senior Israeli military and political leaders of intent to strike militarily when necessary. History suggests that such action – and Israel’s national security, if not very existence – necessitates it.

An overt Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would continue its growing role of rolling back the Iranian threat and advancing US interests. To support its partner, Washington should accelerate weapons deliveries that Israel needs for a military campaign and to blunt Iranian retaliation.

It is possible that if military action is required, the United States will act first. American presidents since Bill Clinton have pledged, in Obama’s 2009 words, “to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”

If the United States, with its immense capabilities, does conduct military action, it is likely to inflict greater damage to Iran’s nuclear program and set it back further than Israel could, while reducing Tehran’s will or capability to retaliate.

Yet, absent American action, or regime collapse in Tehran, Israel can be expected to conduct whatever covert or overt action is necessary to prevent a nuclear Iran.

Michael Makovsky is President and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Defense Post.

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Iran’s Khamenei rejects talks with the Merchant (Revelation 18)

Iran’s Khamenei says sanctions failed, no talks with Trump

AFP July 31, 2020 13:01

TEHRAN: Iran will not open talks with the United States that will only benefit Donald Trump, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday, insisting the US president’s sanctions policy had failed.

Decades-old tensions between Tehran and Washington have soared in the past year, with the sworn enemies appearing several times to come to the brink of war.

The tensions have been rising since 2018, when Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear accord and unilaterally reimposed crippling sanctions.

“There is no doubt that sanctions are a crime,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.

“But the smart Iranian has made the best use of this attack, this animosity and benefited… by using sanctions as a means to increase national self-reliance.”

Khamenei said Western “think-tanks admit that the maximum pressure (policy) of sanctions and US force has not succeeded.”

The 2015 deal between Tehran and major powers promised relief from sanctions in return for limits on Iran’s nuclear program.

After abandoning the accord, the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran’s vital oil exports and its access to the international banking system, and pressured allies and rivals alike to fall in line.

Iran has responded by trying to boost its non-oil exports, particularly to neighboring countries.

“This has caused the country’s economy to be naturally less reliant on oil,” Khamenei said, casting the development in a positive light.

Khamenei condemned calls for Iran to open new talks with the United States, saying he would not agree to meetings that were aimed only at boosting Trump’s re-election hopes.

The 81-year-old even called Trump an “old man,” even though he is seven years older than the US president.

“This old man in charge, he apparently made some propaganda use out of his negotiations with North Korea. Now he wants to use (talks with Iran) for the (November 3 US presidential) election.”

Khamenei said that in return for new talks, the US would demand: “Reduce your defensive capability, destroy your regional power and give up the vital nuclear industry.”

“No logic dictates giving into the aggressor’s demands,” he said.

He also accused European partners to the nuclear deal of “having done nothing” to provide Iran with the economic benefits of the accord and said their barter system designed to bypass US sanctions was a “useless plaything.”

The system, called Instex, is meant to function as a clearing house and allow European companies to deliver medical supplies to Iran without being exposed to sanctions.

Britain, France and Germany announced they had carried out the first transaction through the mechanism in late June, over a year and a half after it was established.

Iran Prepares For The Nuclear Dawn (Revelation 16)

Iran playing the nuclear-dawn game

“A glance at the history of nuclear weapons manufacture shows that all 11 countries that wished to build bombs did so within three to 10 years,” wrote Yossi Melman, intelligence and strategic affairs correspondent for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, on Sunday. So why, he asked, has Iran failed to do it in more than 30 years of trying?

Maybe, Melman suggests, it’s because Iran doesn’t really want to build nuclear weapons. Maybe it just wants to be a ‘threshold’ nuclear power, always able to finish the job quickly if it really needs to.

If Iran’s enemies both nearby (Sunni Muslim countries and Israel) and far away (the United States) know that it can get nukes quickly in a crisis, that’s almost as good a deterrent as having them in hand. But it does not incur the boycotts, sanctions, and risks of ‘preemptive’ nuclear strikes that come with actually having the things.

This is not exactly a new thought, but it’s the first time I have seen it in the Israeli media. It’s also the first time I’ve seen the obvious question put so plainly: how could any country possibly spin the job out that long?

Iran is a country of 80 million people with adequate scientific and technological skills. At any point in the past 50 years it could certainly have built nuclear weapons in less than 10 years if it had gone all out. It didn’t. Why not?

Iran’s original nuclear weapons program was started by the Shah in the 1970s with the blessing of the United States, which was hoping to make him the pro-American policeman of the Middle East.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionaries shut that program down when they seized power in 1979. They reckoned they didn’t need it. The only country in the Middle East that does have nuclear weapons is Israel, and the Iranian assessment has always been that it won’t be reckless with them.

Not only are Israel’s nuclear weapons relatively unthreatening, but Israel has an implicit American nuclear guarantee. There is no point in getting a few Iranian nuclear weapons to deter Israel’s hundreds and America’s thousands of the things. Indeed, when it comes to potential Iranian nukes, it’s never about Israel.

What really does get the Iranians going is nuclear threats from other countries. The first time was after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Iran (with U.S. support) in 1980. Iraq really did have a nuclear weapons program, Iraqi ballistic missiles were already falling on Iranian cities, and so at some point during that eight-year war Iran restarted the Shah’s nuclear weapons project.

Saddam’s invasion of Iran failed, however, and his subsequent invasion of Kuwait and defeat in the 1990-91 Gulf war ended with the dismantling of Iraq’s nuclear facilities under UN supervision. So Iran’s nuclear weapons program went back into hibernation. How can we be sure?  Melman’s ‘10-year rule’: if Iran had kept going, surely it would have nukes by now.

The next panic was in 1998, when India and Pakistan each tested half a dozen nuclear weapons. India is no threat to Iran, but Pakistan potentially is. It is a powerful Sunni Muslim state (220 million people) right next-door to Iran, the world’s only major Shia country.

Sunni extremists have never gained power in Pakistan, but there is a big jihadi influence that even extends into the army. Iran panicked again, and in 1999 it secretly restarted its nuclear weapons program.

That only ran until 2002, however, when an anti-regime Iranian revolutionary group, Mujahedin-e-Khalk, spilled the beans in public. Sanctions were imposed on Iran, and work on nuclear weapons once again ceased.

So the ‘mystery’ is solved. The Iranian nuclear weapons program has not been active for a total of 10 years, let alone 10 continuous years. And Iran was willing to sign the internationally guaranteed 10-year deal to stop all potentially nuclear weapons-related work in 2015, because it is already close enough in terms of being a ‘threshold’ state.

There is the same constant tug-of-war between the rational actors and the ultra-hawks in Tehran as there is in Washington, Moscow and Beijing, but most of the time the grown-ups are in charge. If they lose the argument to the extremists in next year’s Iranian election, it will be because Donald Trump pulled out of that deal and reimposed sanctions in Iran.

Why did he do that when even his own intelligence services were saying the Iranians were keeping their promises under that deal? Because the deal was part of Barack Obama’s legacy, all of which Trump is determined to destroy, and for no better reason.

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does have a rational reason for wanting to destroy the deal, however. His intelligence services also told him that Iran was fulfilling its commitments under the deal, but he needs the Iranian nuclear ‘threat’ in order to win Israeli elections.

Does the phrase ‘rogue states’ spring to mind?

Israel’s Preventive War Against Iran is About to Fail

Israel’s Preventive War Against Iran: Past Successes And Likely Future Failure – Analysis

INEGMAJuly 29, 2020

By Riad Kahwaji*

Iran has been experiencing a series of incidents that involved strategic sites which raised a great deal of speculations about its causes and who could be behind it. The targets have varied and included a nuclear installation and bases associated with Iran’s ballistic missiles program. Iranian authorities have not said much, and often found themselves compelled to report these incidents because of the images that were circulated on the social media by local witnesses. Many analysts and reporters quoting unnamed intelligence sources have blamed Israel for some of the attacks, especially the one against the Natanz nuclear installation where a facility that develops advanced centrifuge systems was blown up, an action that is believed to have set Iran’s nuclear program two years back. A close examination and study of the Israeli military doctrine provides a strong support to this analogy and also reveals that the world could be witnessing the start of an escalation that would test the viability of Israel’s long standing preventive war strategy and whether it can continue under current geopolitical conditions or lead to war.

Israel has since its independence adopted a clear military doctrine based on two principles: Preemptive strikes and preventative wars. Its small size and lack of geographical depth prompted its leaders to resort to an offensive strategy to bolster the country’s defense. This strategy sought to quickly transfer the battle to enemy territory and to end it swiftly in order to reduce risks to the home front. Bolstering early warning capabilities have been essential for Israel’s military doctrine. The open-ended military support and generous funding from the United States and other European powers have enabled Israel in a relatively short period of time to establish a qualitative edge vis-à-vis its Arab and non-Arab neighbors in the volatile Middle East region. Israel has been able after all these years to maintain a qualitative military superiority, which was also made possible through its own domestic defense industries. Israel produces and exports many defense and security systems, especially in the field of cyber warfare.

While a preemptive strike is a military operation to deal with an imminent threat, a preventative war is a series of military and political actions to tackle a future threat, usually to delay it. Throughout its history Israel has carried out preemptive strikes and preventative wars on more than one occasion. But the most noteworthy were the ones that dealt with programs to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by Israel’s adversaries. On such occasions Israel resorted to covert operations before it launched its overt military operations. Best example on this was the Iraqi Osiraq nuclear reactor. Before eight Israeli warplanes launched a successful preemptive strike on June 7, 1981, destroying the reactor, Israeli agents succeeded in sabotaging the plutonium reactor core when it was still in France. This only delayed the program and Israeli political pressure could not sway France from delivering the reactor to Iraq, and hence was the air raid.

The Osiraq raid marked the start of what several Israeli researchers and military strategists refer to as “the Begin Doctrine” – named after late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Former Israeli deputy national security advisor retired General Shlomo Brom wrote that after the Osiraq attack the Israeli government went on to adopt a general preventive doctrine: “Under no circumstances would we allow the enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction against our nation; we will defend Israel’s citizens, in time, with all the means at our disposal.” (http://www.npolicy.org/books/Nuclear_Armed_Iran/Ch6_Brom.pdf) This preventive doctrine was implemented again in 2007 against a clandestine nuclear facility in Syria. The Israeli forces carried out Operation Orchard against the Syrian Al-Kibar nuclear reactor and plutonium refinement facility. The Syrian regime opted to keep quiet about the Israeli attack to avoid exposing its covert nuclear collaboration with Iran and North Korea.

The Israeli way of dealing with Iran’s nuclear program has not been any different. Israel appears determined to apply the preventive doctrine, but so far has resorted to covert operations, which many believe have started a decade ago. The Israeli first strike was in the form of a cyberattack. A cyber weapon known by analysts as Stuxnet – a malware designed to infiltrate and damage systems run by computers – hit the Iranian nuclear program in 2010 causing great deal of damage and setting it back by few years (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/stuxnet-was-work-of-us-and-israeli-experts-officials-say/2012/06/01/gJQAlnEy6U_story.html). Stuxnet is widely believed to have been developed jointly by U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies. Between 2010 and 2012, four leading Iranian nuclear scientists were targeted in separate attacks in Tehran with only one surviving ssassination (https://edition.cnn.com/2012/01/11/world/meast/iran-who-kills-scientists/index.html). Right at the same period a big explosion rocked the Shahid Modarres missile base in Iran on November 12, 2011, killing 17 people including the key architect of the Iranian ballistic missiles program Major General Hassan Moqaddam (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/14/iran-missile-death-mossad-mission). Many defense and security analysts associate Iran’s nuclear program with its ballistic missiles program. Therefore, covert attacks in a 2-year span proved sufficient to delay the Iranian nuclear program, thus meeting the objective of the Israeli preventive war.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) treaty reached between Tehran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany over Iran’s controversial nuclear program in 2015 slowed down the uranium enrichment activities and put a cap on how much low enriched uranium Iran can possess. But after President Donald Trump pulled out of the JCPOA in 2018, Iran started in late 2019 a series of retaliatory steps in the form of increasing level of enrichment and removing the cap on quantity of enriched uranium. This raised concern that Iran, could with advanced centrifuge systems and renewed enrichment activities acquire enough material to build a bomb within a year. This is possibly what prompted a new wave of covert operations in line with Israel’s preventive war against Iran’s nuclear program. It is not yet clear whether the operation against Natanz was a cyberattack or a bomb-attack or maybe both. However, it is clear from initial reports it achieved the objective of delaying the program (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/05/world/middleeast/iran-Natanz-nuclear-damage.html).

Nevertheless, the number of incidents at various sensitive Iranian facilities along with frequent Israeli strikes against bases affiliated with Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and their allied militias in Syria indicate that a much bigger objective is sought from a preventative war that appears to be underway. It is not yet known how the possible Israeli sabotage operations are being carried out inside Iran, whether by commandos units or via local opposition groups such as Mujahiden-e-Khalq (MEK). The MEK regained momentum under the Trump Administration and was removed from terrorists’ groups list and has become highly active on the international scene. The continued attacks are undermining the Iranian regime image as a strong and impenetrable force. This comes at a time Iran is facing acute socio-economic difficulties caused by strong U.S. sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit Iran very hard. Iran has been witnessing sporadic riots in numerous parts of the country by people protesting rising cost of living and high unemployment. Hitting infrastructure, causing blackouts and fuel shortages and tarnishing the regime’s image and posture could wreak havoc onto the Iranian economy and increase instability. If such incidents (attacks) continue much longer, they could lead to major internal unrest with Iran possibly imploding from within and the regime seriously undermined.

Iran’s assets abroad are also under attack, especially in Syria. Israel has been using its air force and cruise missiles to strike IRGC units and Iranian-backed militias such as Hezbollah in Syria. The Israeli attacks appear aimed at degrading the military capability of Iran and its allied militiamen by destroying arms depots and advanced weapons, especially air defense systems and highly accurate ballistic missiles. This is yet another classic example of a preventive war aimed at denying the adversary the ability to attack effectively. The most recent Israel Defense Forces Strategy Document released in 2015 by Chief of Staff General Gadi Eizenkot did not use the terms of preemptive strikes or preventive war (https://www.belfercenter.org/israel-defense-forces-strategy-document#!chapter-iii). Instead it referred to what it called “Routine” deployment of force, or the campaign between wars (CBW). The CBW is a military operation “aimed at reducing the enemy’s freedom of action and increasing Israel’s freedom of action.” In other words the CBW is meant to exert a big toll on the adversary and erode its deterrence posture. However, the big question here is whether the Israeli CBW approach against Iran in Syria is working? Also, how is it affecting Hezbollah status in Lebanon? Iran and Hezbollah seem to see the Lebanese theater as an extension to the Syrian theater of operations in any future showdown with Israel.

Iran seems to have chosen to ignore the strikes in Syria to avoid a confrontation while it is not fully prepared. It is instead focusing on building qualitative capabilities in air defense and precision strike force. Iran’s strategy is to play for time and to take advantage of the vacuum on the Syrian theater to assert itself and grow its capabilities. Tehran and the Syrian regime recently signed a new defense cooperation pact, granting Iranian military involvement in Syria a political cover. In addition to its unabated efforts to sneak in advanced weapon systems, Iran has been massing more fighters from its allied Iraqi and Afghani militiamen in Syria in addition to few thousand highly-trained fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah. Iran appears to be buying time awaiting results of the US elections before it decides its next move. Building forces in Syria and Lebanon will only enhance its deterrence and offensive capability vis-à-vis Israel. At one point Iran hopes to be able to have strong air defenses in Syria to challenge Israeli air dominance and to have precision long range missiles to accurately hit any target in Israel, including sensitive sites like the Dimona nuclear facility.

Therefore, both Israel and Iran are seeking to gain time but for different goals: Israel is hoping that the economic and political pressure campaign led by U.S. maximum pressure policy coupled with CBW strategy in Syria would with time weaken the Iranian regime and compel it to either make concessions or collapse. Iran in turn is hoping that with time some positive political changes could be brought about through U.S. elections and that its forces would have grown stronger on Israel’s northern borders and its nuclear and missile programs made more progress. While Israel appears to have now the upper hand in carrying out offensive operations, it is Iran’s capabilities that appear to be growing stronger: More Iranian weapons continue to make their way into Syria (and possibly Lebanon) despite continued Israeli attacks, and more enriched uranium is accumulated despite U.S. maximum pressure policy and sabotage operations. So the question that presents itself is whether Israel’s preventive war against Iran is meeting its long-term objectives? Based on how much stronger has Iran grown militarily over the past decade the answer would be: Unlikely.

Israel is facing a serious dilemma in dealing with Iran. Its geographical size is way too small compared to Iran. While Israel needs to have its jetfighters travel more than 1000 kilometers over unfriendly territories to strike Iran, the IRGC and their proxies are now right on Israel’s northern borders and can hit it with simple Katyusha rockets, and maybe in few months would have more advanced precision firepower. It is worth noting that some Palestinian Islamic parties like Hamas and Islamic Jihad based in Gaza Strip (south of Israel) are also strong allies of Iran and could be seen joining an all-out Iranian offensive on Israel. Hence, Iran can withstand a military showdown with Israel with conventional ballistic and cruise missiles, while Israel would face large-scale destruction and losses that could amount to existential threat.

Thus Israel could soon be facing the inevitable decision of moving from CBW status to a war to uproot Iran and its proxies from its northern borders. But if Iran decides to step in and engage Israel directly using its large arsenal of ballistic missiles in addition to its proxy forces in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, then Israel would need the United States and other players to join in. If Iran was to succeed in building its capabilities on Israel’s northern borders with effective air defenses and accurate long range missiles, then Israel would be in serious trouble because Tehran would be able to inflict heavy damages onto Israel without having to fire any missiles from its territories.

A war to remove the IRGC and their proxies from Syria and Lebanon would require an Israeli land invasion of territories in both countries, extensive air campaign and heavy caliber diplomatic moves on many fronts to improve chances of success. Israel will likely suffer heavy losses on battlefield and the home front and the collateral damage in targeted areas in Syria and Lebanon would be huge, which means the decision to wage such a war would have to be very well thought of and calculated. Perhaps all political and diplomatic efforts must be exhausted to the extreme and new ideas must be considered to settle the differences with Iran before seeking the war option. Therefore, when it comes to Iran the era of successful Israeli preemptive strikes and preventive wars seem to be losing effect or coming to an end with the changing political landscape and evolving military technology.

*Riad Kahwaji, is the founder and director of INEGMA with a 30 years of experience as a journalist and a Middle East security analyst.

Iran Shows It’s Military Might (Daniel 8:4)

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launches underground ballistic missiles during exercise

Ballistic missile fire detected from the drill resulted in American troops being put on alert at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command in Qatar, the military said.

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched underground ballistic missiles as part of an exercise involving a fake aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz, state television reported Wednesday, the latest barrage in a drill that saw two American bases temporarily go on alert over the launches.

Ballistic missile fire detected from the drill resulted in American troops being put on alert at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi pin the United Arab Emirates and Al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command in Qatar, the military said. Troops sought cover during that time.

Al-Dhafra also is temporarily home to five French-built Rafale fighter jets on their way to India for that country’s air force. Drones separately targeted the bridge of the fake aircraft carrier, according to the state TV report. The TV did not immediately air footage of the launches or the drone attack, nor did it identify the missiles used in the drill. However, the message of the drill was clearly targeted at the United States.

A semiofficial news agency close to the Guard published a graphic overnight that photoshopped the image of an American carrier into the shape of a casket, with a caption quoting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledging to seek revenge for the US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in January.

The drill and the American response to it underlined the lingering threat of military conflict between Iran and the US after a series of escalating incidents last year led to the January drone strike. Tehran responded to that strike by firing ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of American forces in Iraq.

While the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed both Iran and the US for months, there has been a growing confrontation as America argues to extend a yearslong UN weapons embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October.

A recent incident over Syria involving an American jet fighter approaching an Iranian passenger plane also has renewed tensions. Iranian commandos fast-roped down from a helicopter onto the replica in the footage aired Tuesday from the exercise called ?Great Prophet 14.? Anti-aircraft guns opened fire on a target drone near the port city of Bandar Abbas.

State television footage also showed a variety of missiles being fired from fast boats, trucks, mobile launchers and a helicopter, some targeting the fake carrier. A commander said the Guard, a force answerable only to Khamenei, planned to fire ”long-range ballistic missiles” as well during the drill that continued Wednesday.

”The incident lasted for a matter of minutes and an all clear was declared after the threat … had passed,” said US Army Maj. Beth Riordan, a Central Command spokeswoman. Both bases are hundreds of kilometers (miles) away from where Iran put the replica aircraft carrier.

Other footage from the exercise aired by Iran’s state television showed fast boats encircling the mock-up carrier, kicking up white waves in their wake. While Iran’s naval forces are dwarfed by the US Navy, its commanders practice so-called ?swarm? tactics aimed at overwhelming the US carriers that pass through the strait on their way in and out of the Persian Gulf.

It wasn’t immediately clear if all the footage was from Tuesday, as one overhead surveillance image that appeared to be shot by a drone bore Monday’s date. The exercise had been expected as satellite photos released Monday showed the fake carrier being moved into place by a tugboat. A black-and-white satellite photo taken Tuesday by Colorado-based firm Maxar Technologies showed damage to the replica’s bow and several of its fake jet fighters.

Iran Mocks Attack Against Babylon the Great (Daniel 8:4)

In this photo released Tuesday, July 28, 2020, by Sepahnews, Revolutionary Guard’s speed boats circle around a replica aircraft carrier during a military exercise. Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard fired a missile from a helicopter targeting the mock-up aircraft carrier in the strategic Strait…   (Associated Press)

Iran missiles target fake carrier as US bases go on alert | Newser

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched missiles Tuesday targeting a mock aircraft carrier in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a drill that included such a barrage of fire the U.S. military temporarily put two regional bases in the Mideast on alert amid tensions between the two countries. 

The drill — and the American response to it — underlined the lingering threat of military conflict between Iran and the U.S. after a series of escalating incidents last year led to an American drone strike killing a top Iranian general in Baghdad. Tehran responded to that strike by firing ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of American forces in Iraq. 

While the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed both Iran and the U.S. for months, there has been a growing confrontation as America argues to extend a yearslong U.N. weapons embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October. A recent incident over Syria involving an American jet fighter approaching an Iranian passenger plane also has renewed tensions. 

Iranian commandos fast-roped down from a helicopter onto the replica in the footage aired Tuesday from the exercise called “Great Prophet 14.” Anti-aircraft guns opened fire on a target drone near the port city of Bandar Abbas. 

State television footage also showed a variety of missiles being fired from fast boats, trucks, mobile launchers and a helicopter, some targeting the fake carrier. A commander said the Guard, a force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, planned to fire “long-range ballistic missiles” as well during the drill that will continue Wednesday. 

Ballistic missile fire detected from the drill resulted in American troops being put on alert at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command in Qatar, the military said. Troops sought cover during that time.

“The incident lasted for a matter of minutes and an all clear was declared after the threat … had passed,” said U.S. Army Maj. Beth Riordan, a Central Command spokeswoman.

Both bases are hundreds of kilometers (miles) away from where Iran put the replica aircraft carrier. 

Al-Dhafra also is temporarily home to five French-built Rafale fighter jets on their way to India for that country’s air force.

Other footage from the exercise aired by state television showed fast boats encircling the mock-up, kicking up white waves in their wake. While Iran’s naval forces are dwarfed by the U.S. Navy, its commanders practice so-called “swarm” tactics aimed at overwhelming the U.S. carriers that pass through the strait on their way in and out of the Persian Gulf. 

It wasn’t immediately clear if all the footage was from Tuesday, as one overhead surveillance image that appeared to be shot by a drone bore Monday’s date. The exercise had been expected as satellite photos released Monday showed the fake carrier being moved into place by a tugboat. 

A black-and-white satellite photo taken Tuesday by Colorado-based firm Maxar Technologies showed damage to the replica’s bow and several of its fake jet fighters.

“Our policies to protect the vital interests of the dear nation of Iran are defensive, in the sense that we will not invade any country from the beginning, but we are completely aggressive in tactics and operations,” Gen. Hossein Salami, the head of the Guard, was quoted as saying. “What was shown today at this exercise at the level of aerospace and naval forces was all offensive.”

State TV footage also showed Guard scuba forces underwater, followed by a cutaway to a blast hole just above the waterline on the replica carrier. 

That appeared to be a not-so-subtle reminder of U.S. accusations last year that Iran planted limpet mines on passing oil tankers near the strait, which exploded on the vessels in the same area. Iran has repeatedly denied the actions, though footage captured by the American military showed Guard members remove an unexploded mine from one vessel.

The replica used in the drill resembles the Nimitz-class carriers that the U.S. Navy routinely sails into the Persian Gulf from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the waterway through which 20% of all oil traded in the world passes. The USS Nimitz, the namesake of the class, just entered Mideast waters late last week from the Indian Ocean, likely to replace the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Arabian Sea.

It remains unclear when or if the Nimitz will pass through the Strait of Hormuz or not during its time in the Mideast. The USS Abraham Lincoln, deployed last year as tensions initially spiked, spent months in the Arabian Sea before heading through the strait. The Eisenhower came through the strait early last week.

To Iran, which shares the strait with Oman, the American naval presence is akin to Iranian forces sailing into the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Florida. But the U.S. Navy stresses the strait is an international waterway crucial to global shipping and energy supplies. Even as America now relies less on Mideast oil, a major disruption in the region could see prices rapidly rise. 

Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet that patrols the Mideast, said officials were aware of an Iranian exercise she described as “attempting to intimidate and coerce.” 

“While we are always watchful of this type of irresponsible and reckless behavior by Iran in the vicinity of busy international waterways, this exercise has not disrupted coalition operations in the area nor had any impacts to the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and surrounding waters,” Rebarich said.

___

Associated Press journalists Amir Vahdat and Mohammad Nasiri in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

The Deception of the Iranian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:4)

Iran may have enough uranium for a nuclear weapon. Don't panic. - Vox

When Iran Says It Doesn’t Have Nukes and Never Intends to, Maybe We Should Believe It

by 

Though I often disagree with Yossi Melman’s analysis on Israeli security issues, he nevertheless manages to produce reporting that is independent of the group-think that afflicts many, if not most Israeli journalists. He’s done that in his most recent piece analyzing Iran’s nuclear program and intentions.  Despite his loyalty to the State and its security interests, he is willing to expose the fallibility of the official line concerning Iran.  Here is an example:

Israel and the United States have been waging a covert and overt rearguard battle to disrupt and delay Iran’s nuclear program for decades. The toolbox used in this war, according to different reports, has included blowing up facilities and equipment, assassinating scientists, cyberwarfare, diplomacy, and sanctions that are badly hurting the Iranian economy. Yet despite all the difficulties in its path, Iran has not really been deterred and has continued to pursue its nuclear program, adjusting its pace to the circumstances.

Yet perhaps it’s time to change the [consensus] conception that Iran aspires to assemble nuclear weapons at all costs. A glance at the history of nuclear weapons manufacture shows that all 11 countries that wished to build bombs did so within three to 10 years. These include the five major powers; Israel (according to foreign reports); India; Pakistan; and North Korea. Two countries, South Africa and Ukraine, voluntarily dismantled their nuclear weapons. It’s hard to work out why Iran, which has extensive scientific knowhow, which surreptitiously obtained nuclear technology, and whose scientists and universities are at quite a high level, has faced difficulties in building a bomb in 30 years.

Maybe it’s time to infer that Iran could have assembled nuclear bombs long ago, but is not doing so – for its own reasons.

Though he may seem to be stating the obvious, it can’t be repeated enough for the sake of the Iran hawks: you can’t stop a country that is hellbent on developing a nuclear capability.  Unless of course, you’re prepared to invade it and overthrow the ruling regime.  You couldn’t even destroy the nuclear program if you attacked it militarily. This would force delays, but where there is a will there will always be a way.  Damage can be repaired. Murdered scientists can be replaced.

But anyone who claims Iran has a weapon, is intending to produce one, or is determined to use one is not only wrong, but likely to produce the very war that all profess not to want.

The only way to really stop such a program would be to re-engage with Iran, to recognize its legitimate role and interests in the region, to cease the unending vitriol spewing forth from Sunni regimes, the U.S. and Israel.  This would convince Iran that it didn’t need such weaponry to defend itself.  Of course, this is the opposite of what these players are doing.  Hence Iran will continue to perfect its nuclear program, short of producing an actual weapon.  As Melman writes:

…We must also acknowledge that Iran wants to become a nuclear threshold state, and for now is still extremely mixed over whether to build a nuclear bomb.

The second-half of this statement is actually wrong.  Iran is not “mixed” at all over whether to build a bomb.  Not only has the Grand Ayatollah issued a fatwa against such weaponry, Iran has repeatedly said it would not do so, and has not done so.  Furthermore, anti-Iran “experts” have been falsely predicting Iran’s imminent acquisition of a bomb for 35 years.

What may be true, is that Iran wants to be in a position, if it is attacked and existentially threatened, to be able to assemble such a weapon in a limited period of time. This is precisely what Israel actually did in 1967, when it produced its first nuclear weapon as a Doomsday device in the event that it fared badly in the Six-Day War.

Babylon the Great is driving Iran to nuclear weapons

Does Iran really want to build nuclear weapons at any cost? Maybe not – Iran – Haaretz.com

Yossi Melman20:46

Members of the media and officials tour the water nuclear reactor at Arak, Iran, December 23, 2019. Wana News Agency/Reuters

Opinion Does Iran Really Want to Build Nuclear Weapons at Any Cost? Maybe Not

In the past it took nations three to 10 years to build nuclear bombs, yet 30 years since re-launching its nuclear program, Iran hasn’t assembled a bomb. It aspires to be on the threshold

July 13 marked the fifth anniversary of the nuclear accord between Iran and the major powers, which remains in effect until 2025. At about the same time, Iran experienced explosions and fires at missile sites, power stations, industrial plants and, most significantly, at the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz.

The blasts at several of the Natanz buildings were very powerful, badly damaging the advanced centrifuges. The sabotage has been attributed to a secret operation by Israeli intelligence, perhaps in tandem with American intelligence. Various reports say the damage to the centrifuges will delay their development and set back Iran’s nuclear program by about a year.

If the Mossad and Israeli Military Intelligence are responsible for the explosion as well as for other acts of sabotage and fires that may have originated in operations by underground organizations working with them, it is definitely an accomplishment for Israel. But it is a tactical, not a strategic, accomplishment.

Israel and the United States have been waging a covert and overt rearguard battle to disrupt and delay Iran’s nuclear program for decades. The toolbox used in this war, according to different reports, has included blowing up facilities and equipment, assassinating scientists, cyberwarfare, diplomacy, and sanctions that are badly hurting the Iranian economy. Yet despite all the difficulties in its path, Iran has not really been deterred and has continued to pursue its nuclear program, adjusting its pace to the circumstances.

Yet perhaps it’s time to change the concept that Iran aspires to assemble nuclear weapons at all costs. A glance at the history of nuclear weapons manufacture shows that all 11 countries that wished to build bombs did so within three to 10 years. These include the five major powers; Israel (according to foreign reports); India; Pakistan; and North Korea. Two countries, South Africa and Ukraine, voluntarily dismantled their nuclear weapons. It’s hard to work out why Iran, which has extensive scientific knowhow, which surreptitiously obtained nuclear technology and whose scientists and universities are high level, has not been able to build a bomb in 30 years.

Maybe it’s time to infer that Iran could have assembled nuclear bombs long ago, but is not doing so – for reasons it is keeping to itself.

A year and a half after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power, Iraq invaded Iran. For the next eight years, Iran’s leaders were focused on this bloody war that caused a million casualties on both sides, and saw Iraq use chemical weapons against Iranian troops. Developing a nuclear bomb was not at the top of their agenda then. Some reports in Iran, which have not been solidly corroborated, say that Khomeini himself was reluctant to develop nuclear weapons, because he felt it would be counter to Islamic law, which calls to avoid harming innocents.

Whatever the truth may be, after Khomeini’s death in 1989, the nuclear program was restarted by his successor Ali Khamenei. It has continued ever since, despite the attempts by Israel and the United States to obstruct it and despite opposition and condemnation from most of the international community.

When the Iraq war ended, a fierce debate ensued among Iran’s religious, political and military leadership as to what lessons should be drawn from it. The consensus answer was that since Iran’s cities had been bombarded by missiles, the country must develop all types of missiles for various ranges. It did so first with the aid of North Korea and later with its own impressive independent production. Another conclusion was that Iran should develop and produce chemical weapons (this is where the Israeli arms trader Nahum Manbar made his contribution, for which he went to prison) and the countermeasures to monitor and defend against them.

Another conclusion was that Iran should resume its nuclear program that had begun prior to the Revolution by the Shah regime.

In 2015, under pressure from the economic sanctions and under threat by Israel to bomb its nuclear sites, Iran signed the nuclear accord with the five major powers and Germany. The accord, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently opposed, is in force for 10 years. It imposed drastic restrictions on Iran’s nuclear sites, technology and materials, and Iran upheld them.

When it was signed, Israeli intelligence believed Iran was three to six months away from producing its first nuclear bomb, and assessed that the accord pushed this capability three years down the line.

Since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord in May 2018 (the other signatories all still adhere to it) and forcefully renewed the sanctions, Iran has made some measured counter-moves, such as resuming development of advanced centrifuges. These are disturbing violations, but Iran has not withdrawn from the accord and is not “breaking through”  and rushing to a bomb.

While the international and economic pressure, as well as the covert campaign, against Iran should continue, we must also acknowledge that Iran wants to become a nuclear threshold state, and for now is still extremely mixed over whether to build a nuclear bomb.

The Iranian dilemma is as follows: Iran’s leaders look to North Korea and see that a nuclear weapon is a guarantee for the regime’s survival and a barrier against a military strike. But they also know that if Iran builds a nuclear weapon, it will incur the wrath not just of Israel and the West, but also of its friends Russia and China. The economic boycott of Iran will intensify and the general population will be hit even harder. Iran would become a pariah like North Korea and its rivals, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, will be spurred to develop their own nuclear weapons. And this Iranian uncertainty translates into a policy of walking on the brink: Staying a few months to a year away from building a nuclear bomb, but not actually assembling it.

Yet for Israel even a nuclear threshold is a nightmare and this is the reason why Israeli and U.S. intelligence will continue to try to sabotage Tehran’s program.