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Lessons in the Appeasement of Iran

Photo: loavesofbread.swiss-image.ch

When I was a little girl growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust, I often asked my parents a troubling question: Why did the international community do nothing to stop Hitler?

They would usually answer with a bewildered shrug.

I was named after my Aunt Sarah, who was murdered by the Nazis. Apparently, she never got the chance to march under the notorious gates of Auschwitz marked with the duplicitous message, Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work Makes You Free”). When the Einsatzgruppen, the group of Nazis specifically trained to hunt down Jews, first invaded Poland, they went to my aunt’s shtetl, the village of Borschchtav. There, together with her neighbors, she was asked to strip down naked and dig a hole. These Nazis were so lustful in their passion to exterminate every Jew from the face of the earth that they would line them up, summarily shoot them in the backs of their heads and watch as they fell into the ditch the Jews themselves had just been forced to dig.

According to Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest and professor at Georgetown University, who has made it his personal mission to uncover these unmarked graves that dot the European landscape, there are at least 1.5 million Jews lying in ditches under cornfields of houses in unmarked graves that have not been recorded. That makes 7.5 million Jewish souls snuffed out during the Holocaust.

Some 74 years after the Holocaust, the European landscape is once again dotted with unabashedly shameless and foul signs of anti-Semitism.

The newly elected chairman of the European Union, Josep Borrell Fontelles, recently said in an interview in Politico, “We are not children following what they [the Americans] say. We have our own prospects, interests and strategy, and we will continue working with Iran. It would be very bad for us if Iran wants to develop a nuclear weapon. … Iran wants to wipe Israel out, nothing new about that. You have to live with it.”

In other words: As long as Iran is not aiming their nuclear warheads directly at Madrid, it’s perfectly acceptable.

He seems to be saying that we can live with another 7.5 million dead Jews (which, chillingly, is roughly today’s Jewish population of Israel).

He, along with many other world leaders, appears exceedingly resentful about the role that America has longed played as a moral leader in foreign policy and believes strongly in multilateralism. On Nov. 6, shortly after America had imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran, the Spanish Foreign Minister said, “We reject any kind of position that resembles an ultimatum from anyone, and also from the United States.”

The Islamic Republic of Iran has found a particularly soft spot in his heart. On the recent advent of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Borrell tweeted, “Today marks 40 years of the Islamic revolution of #Iran. The regional power has changed a lot during this time. In 1976, the literacy rate was 35%, now it is 84%.”Iran is a key country in the Middle East region. He has had an essential role in the #Siria (sic) war, helping Assad while the Americans are pulling out.”

He then compared the relationship that America has had with Iran to that it has had with Vietnam. These are two regions of the world that the newly elected head of the European Union feels have had an indelible effect on America’s psyche, with the Vietnam War ending in 1975 and the Iranian revolution occurring in 1979. He seems to find it difficult to understand why three American Presidents have visited Vietnam, and none have visited Iran since the revolution.

This is a preposterous analogy. I may be missing something, but I haven’t heard any recent reports of the Vietnamese holding Americans hostage, working on a nuclear bomb, arming and equipping Hezbollah and Hamas, attacking shipping vessels in international waters or regularly leading their people ins chant of “Death to America.”

If this is what the European Union has elected for its leader, we are in for some very tough sailing ahead. The Iranians are blazingly defying the limits imposed upon them by the Joint Comprehension Plan of Action (JCPOA), as they are assiduously stepping up their time to have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb. According to a July 10 report by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Iranian nuclear plant at Fordow, which was according to the JCPOA, supposed to have been converted into a “nuclear physics and technology center for international collaboration,” very little or nothing has been converted. It houses a tunnel complex with gas centrifuges, and it has been bolstering a support area to protect the facility from aerial bombardment.

The Iranians are masters of double speak and have brazenly manipulated most of the international community into blaming the United States for violating the terms of the deal. That is because the Trump administration had the courage to break away from a deal that was far too weak to begin with and about which we have ample evidence to believe that the Iranians were cheating.

In the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “He who appeases the crocodile is only eaten last.”

Originally published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/lessons-in-the-appeasement-of-iran/

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Just Taking “No” for an Answer

Photo: BILAL HUSSEIN AP PHOTO

The late Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban, is famously quoted with saying, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Of course, at the time he said this, after the 1967 War, there was no such entity as the Palestinian people, but this adage is particularly germane to the Palestinians today.

This week, the “Peace to Prosperity Workshop” convened in Bahrain. The Trump administration’s long-awaited peace plan for the Palestinians was rolled out this week. Ahead of the conference, the Trump administration released a 40-page document describing a 50 billion dollar investment plan in the region, more than half going directly to the Palestinians, and the other half going to Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

Senior White House advisor, Jared Kushner, opened up the conference by calling the plan “the deal of the century” that the Palestinians should take advantage of, “What we have developed” he said, “is the most comprehensive economic plan ever created specifically for the Palestinians and the broader Middle East. We can turn this region from a victim of past conflicts into a model for commerce and advancement throughout the world.”

Unfortunately, once again, the Palestinian leadership chose victimhood, rather than prosperity for their people. Rather than taking responsibility for their own fate, they continue to play the “victim card.”

This has been the response of the Palestinians ever since the Peel Commission Plan of 1937, then of the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947, the Rogers Plan of 1969, the exceedingly generous Clinton plan presented at Camp David in August of 2000, and the even more generous Ehud Olmert Peace offer of 2008.

The most recent plan put forward by Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinian leader Ehud Barak 98% of the land they wanted, (with land swaps around the Jerusalem corridor for the Negev), a division of Jerusalem and a “right of return” of approximately 150,000 refugees into Israel.

How did Mahmoud Abbas react to this? By initiating a renewed intifada.

The Trump administration had decided to “think outside the box” and rather than go back to that same, tired old refrain of “land or peace” they focused on trying a different route, the economic route, of “peace through prosperity”. However, I am sorry to say that their understanding of the Palestinian leadership is profoundly flawed. The premise underlying the Trump plan is that peace can be bought through economic prosperity.

However, as John F. Kennedy had said, “Peace does not depend on signed documents and charters alone, but in the hearts and minds of the People.” As long as the hearts and minds of the Palestinians have been so inebriated with a culture of hatred, they will prefer for their people to starve, rather than accepting living a peaceful life alongside Israel.

The response from the Palestinian leader has been an indignant one. “We Palestinians cannot be bought off.” The leadership of the Palestinian Authority refused to show up at the conference. And as I write this, there are hordes of Palestinians in the streets of Gaza and Judea and Samaria burning pictures of President Trump in effigy.

There comes a time when we in the West will have to realize that we have got to take “no” for an answer.

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Trump Must Collapse Iranian Regime by Continuing ‘Maximum Pressure’

Photo: File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Many experts and government officials have argued that the U.S. (and its allies) should renegotiate a stronger Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the Islamist regime in Iran. They often make the argument that — as President John F. Kennedy once memorably said — we should “never fear to negotiate.”

I am not sure I agree with this argument.

Dialogue is just one tool of statecraft. For that reason, it should never be categorically excluded. However, in every situation, there must be an evaluation of the context, to see if it would be a positive or a negative at this moment.

Is the U.S. negotiating from a position of strength or weakness? Is the opponent both willing and able to really compromise? Are there any downsides to negotiating?

Let’s examine these three questions as they currently relate to Iran and the JCPOA.

There is no question that today, the U.S. is acting from a position of strength.

After removing the U.S. from the JCPOA, the Trump Administration has re-imposed sanctions — and imposed new sanctions — on Iran. The U.S. has placed sanctions on Iran’s petrochemicals, such as ammonia, methanol and urea, and oil, shipping, bankinggold and other precious metals, such as steel, iron, aluminum and copper.

As a result of this “maximum pressure,” Iran’s economy has slipped into recession. Inflation has gone up to 32% and unemployment is over 12%. 70% of Iranian factories, workshops and mines have been forced to shut down or have gone bankrupt. The IMF has reported that Iran’s economy shrunk by 3.9% in 2018, and has predicted that the Iranian economy will shrink by 6% in 2019.

Because of all of this economic pressure, many Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the Iranian government’s mismanagement of the economy, its corruption, and its decision to send much of the money it earned from the Iran deal to terror groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen.

At demonstrations, some Iranian civilian protestors have chanted “Death to Palestine” and “Leave Syria, think of us,” according to independent videos showing the protests.

The U.S. also has developed a credible military threat against the Iranian regime.

The U.S. has a sizable military force in the region, and recently responded to the Iranian and Iranian proxy threats and/or actual violence by sending another 2,500 troops to the Middle East, and a new carrier battle group.

Perhaps more importantly, President Trump has shown he is not afraid to use force against a rogue regime. Of crucial importance was Trump’s decision to bomb the Assad regime in Syria for their use of chemical weapons. As many should remember, President Obama initially drew that red line in Syria, but then he backed down from enforcing it. This made the U.S. look weak throughout the region.

Unfortunately, the Iranian regime is very unlikely to really compromise on its drive to develop nuclear weapons. Certainly, the culture of the Iranian regime theocrats, and that of Iranians themselves, does not favor compromise. As Bernard Lewis has written, the Iranian regime is comprised of “a group of extreme fanatical Muslims who believe that their messianic times have arrived… with these people in Iran, mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent factor, but rather an inducement. They feel that they can hasten the final messianic process.”

And, as Harold Rhode has written, “In Iran, compromise is seen as a sign of submission and weakness. Compromise actually brings shame on those (and on the families of those) who concede.”

Further, there is a logic to Iran producing nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime realizes that if it develops nuclear weapons, the regime will be unassailable. The people of Iran won’t be able to revolt and remove them. And no nation, whether it be the U.S., Israel, or Saudi Arabia, will be able to attack them without risking nuclear annihilation. The Iranian regimes knows this, as it has seen and learned from the contrasting examples of the communist regime in North Korea, and the Qaddafi regime in Libya.

And finally, as Michael Rubin has laid out in his book, “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes,” the Iranian regime has had a long history of rebuffing U.S. and European attempts at diplomacy, or fooling the diplomats with illusionary agreements and vague promises, including with the JCPOA. There is a reason that Iranians are well known for their haggling prowess and the bazaar. It is extremely unlikely that this time, under President Trump, it will be any different.

There is also a huge risk to engaging with the Iranian regime diplomatically at this point in time. Olli Heinonen, the former deputy head of the UN’s atomic watchdog — the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — has said that despite assertions to the contrary by the current leadership of the IAEA, Tehran has not been adhering to the 2015 nuclear deal; Iran is actually weaponizing uranium enrichment without making a weapon, and could amass within six to eight months the amount of enriched uranium needed to produce nuclear weapons, “if they put in their maximum effort.”

Presumably, Iran would continue this development during any period of negotiations. Even worse, new negotiations between the U.S. and Iran would probably result in at least a partial suspension of sanctions. This would give the Iranian regime even more money to spend on its development of nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, negotiations with the Iranian regime are extremely unlikely to be successful. Negotiating with them would simply give the regime more time to develop nuclear weapons. Instead, I would advise the Trump administration to continue its “maximum pressure” strategy, and to try to collapse the Iranian regime. The U.S. should also fund some of the anti-regime Iranian groups. Aside from military action, that is probably the only way to prevent the radical Iranian regime from eventually building, and using, a nuclear weapon.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/iran-jcpoa-deal-negotiate/2019/06/20/id/921277/

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It is this Deal and War

Photo: Sean McCabe for POLITICO

On July 23, 2015, when the Obama administration was in the throes of trying to push, what they considered their signature, landmark, foreign policy achievement, the Iranian nuclear deal, through Congress, John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and gave the members a stark choice: “It is either this deal or war”.

As it turns out, Congress never really had the opportunity to vote on the nuclear deal. The Obama administration in order to avoid the constitutionally -mandated Senate approval with a foreign power, simply used a linguistic trick, and avoided calling the agreement a “treaty”, but a “deal”.

Rather, the United States, leading the charge, injected itself as only one of six nations, so the international momentum for this deal would take on a life of its own. Then, before Congress even had the opportunity to vote on it, the Obama administration did an “end run” around Congress and took it to the United Nations for a vote.

In an incredibly revealing,  New York Times of May 5, 2015 article by David Samuels of Obama’s Deputy National Security Council Advisor, Ben Rhodes, Mr. Rhodes was very upfront about how the Obama White House orchestrating a campaign to manipulate the news media by generating  false stories to paint Iran as more benign, to a team of newly-minted, guileless reporters.

Rhodes admitted to Samuels that this campaign was manufactured by “legions of arms control experts (who) began popping up at think tanks and on social media”, and who became “sources for clueless reporters.” According to Rhodes, “We created an echo chamber. They were saying things and validated what we were giving them to say.”

Most people have ignored the profound and deeply consequential immorality of what the Obama administration had done here. Many historians have written critical analyses of  how  the Sulzberger family, the publishers of the New York Times, buried the stories f the holocaust on its back pages. However, they did not create false narratives about the Nazis regarding the holocaust.

Iran might shortly have the ability to create a nuclear holocaust, and the Obama administration is guilty of manufacturing stories to whitewash the Islamic Republic, and  kicked the can of what was  then an emerging  danger down  the road. It is quickly, however, becoming a clear and present danger.

We are now approaching 2020. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, (JCPOA) which was agreed upon in July of 2015 has 8 to 10 year sunset clause. Tha sunset is not in the too distant future.

So even if the Iranians were keeping to this extraordinarily generous deal, we would have a problem in a few years.

The truth, however, is that they are not keeping to the deal. When they were intent on selling the deal to a skeptical public, we were told by President Obama that there was going to be “anywhere, anytime inspections”.

Subsequently, we were told that the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) would have 24 hours to get into a nuclear site. Then the Iranians succeeded in pushing the 24 hours to 24 days.

Ultimately, however, the Iranians were able to convince John Kerry and his team of negotiators that “military sites were off limits”.

If I were an Iranian nuclear scientist, and was working on something that I would like to hide from the IAEA, I would simply work on it on a “military site”.

Technically, according to the JCPOA, Iran is in violation of the deal if the IAEA formally requests access to a suspicious site. However, according to an August 31, 2017 Reuters report, the IAEA has not visited a military site since the deal was implemented “because it has no reason to ask”.

Said the official, “We are not going to visit a military site just to send a political signal.”

By not inspecting the military sites, however, they are sending a clear political signal. They are sending a signal that the agency that is set up for the sole purpose of monitoring illicit nuclear activity is asleep on the job because of their political cowardice.

They are sending a signal of vitiation and of appeasement

We all know that Iran has become vastly more enriched, emboldened and empowered in the region because of the nuclear deal, and that they have created a land bridge from Tehran, to Baghdad, to Damascus to Beirut and are involved in military adventurism throughout the region, in Yemen, Iraq, Syria  and  Lebanon.

On May 13th,  Iran  attacked four shipping vessels in the Persian Gulf, two carrying the flag of Saudi Arabia, one of Norway and one of the United Arab Emirates. They are obviously trying to flex their muscles by attacking our allies.

John Kerry, I am afraid you were wrong. Dead wrong. Because of your administration’s policy of Iranian appeasement, this might ultimately become an issue of this deal and war.

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What War with Iran Would Mean for the Kurds

Heightened tensions between the United States and Iran has put the Middle East on edge as the region prepares for the worst. After a war of words between the long-time adversaries, both have propped up their military presence and have alerted their allies and proxies, sending uncertain signals.

But like all major conflicts in the Middle East, the Kurds are likely to be dragged into the mess, whether they like it or not. The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) was created by the United States during the first Gulf war with the implementation of a no-fly zone against Saddam Hussein. Since then, the Kurds and Americans have shared a unique political and military partnership that has benefited both sides. This alliance, however, took an unfortunate turn in 2017 when the Kurds ignored international calls and moved ahead with an independence referendum, without the blessings of the United States. The skepticism from the Kurdish side towards the Americans is still very much alive. After all, strictly from a Kurdish perspective, how can the Kurdistan region afford to openly back the United States against its neighbor Iran, especially when the United States was nowhere to be found in 2017 at a time of need? That legitimate concern still haunts the two allies.

If there is an outright war between the United States and Iran, the Kurds will likely attempt to lay low unless Washington can guarantee 100 percent air and ground protection for decades to come, which is highly questionable. Unfortunately, America has a negative track record of betraying the Kurds when needed most. What is certain is that the Kurdistan region must not risk its stability and cannot afford to find itself in an ambiguous position similar to their brethren, the Kurds in Syria, who face the likelihood of American troop withdrawal.

We know that a war between the United States and Iran will be a costly and long one—after all, Iran is not Iraq, its military is much stronger, it has proxies across the region, its weaponry is more advanced, its terrain is rough and its population is large. Kurdistan will likely be called upon by the United States to hold down its mountainous region and give access to its airspace. Washington will also probably ask for an open border between the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) and Iranian Kurdistan where the Peshmerga and Kurdish armed forces will keep watch, giving access to Iran through Kurdish held areas.

But this is easier said than done, as Iran has deep roots across the KRG between all parties, most notably the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by the Barzani clan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by the Talabani clan. The United States will find it difficult to convince both these parties and their armed Peshmerga forces to simply push away Iran. In the past, Tehran has threatened the destruction of the KRI if they allowed Washington to use Kurdish areas as a launching pad against the Iranian regime. Moreover, Iran has acted on its threats by launching short-range missiles at armed Iranian-Kurdish forces based in the KRI.

Furthermore, tensions between Iran and America will dampen improved relations between KRG and Baghdad. Baghdad too will be forced to choose sides between the two states, and it may bring about the division of Iraq as a whole.

If it were up to the Kurds, they would choose to side with the Americans—but the ties they have with Iran are out of necessity and due to lack of trust with the United States. This has cornered not only Kurdish officials but the Kurdish population as well. Kurds are eager for the destruction of the Iranian regime—after all, it is the same regime which is responsible for thousands of Kurdish deaths. The most likely beneficiary of heightened tensions will be the Kurds in Iran, numbered at an estimated twelve million situated in the northwest, who too desire autonomy and independence. They have been training for the opportunity to strengthen their position and part ways with the Islamic regime militarily. This will possibly see a similar path to the one Kurds in Syria have taken—prove to the Americans they are the most pro-western, secular and reliable force to side with. The Kurds in Syria may benefit too, an increase of U.S. military presence in the Middle East will mean more ground troops in Syria, propping up American allies, including the majority Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Whether war occurs or not, a conflict with Iran only proves that the United States must never abandon its allies, especially the Kurds. Kurdish reliance on U.S. forces in the Middle East benefits both sides, and Kurds are no longer a small minority that can be overlooked. Kurds have proven to be kingmakers in regional conflicts, they have proven to be steadfast, and they are battle hardened. Washington must stand by its Kurdish allies today across the region so when the time comes the Kurds can be there for America.

Originally published: https://nationalinterest.org/feature/what-war-iran-would-mean-kurds-58802

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The Importance of Germany’s Anti-BDS Resolution

Last week, Germany’s Bundestag – or legislature – passeda non-binding resolution condemning the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as anti-Semitic. While the resolution may not have the force of law, it is an important recognition that BDS has little to do with Palestinian rights, and everything to do with isolating Israel, and, more generally, Jews. 

Poignantly, the motion described the BDS campaign as “reminiscent of the most terrible chapter in Germany history” recalling the Nazi slogan, “Don’t buy from Jews.”

The singular focus of the BDS campaign on Israel betrays its intent. As legal scholar, Eugene Kontorovich hasobserved, of the numerous ongoing territorial disputes in the world, only the one between Israel and the Palestinians is deemed serious enough to spark calls for a boycott.

The BDS campaign is not only anti-Semitic in its intent, it is also anti-Semitic in its effect. For example a 2015 Amcha Initiative studyshowed that there exists a “strong correlation between anti-Zionist student groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and antisemitism.”

What Germany has learned through its painful history, and what America has yet to learn, is that words matter,

In recent years there have been numerous examples of how anti-Israel activism morphs into anti-Semitic actions. Many students across the country report feeling intimidated, bullied and threatened because of their Jewish identity or pro-Israel feelings.

A recently settledsuit against San Francisco State University (SFSU) was precipitatedby the exclusion of the school’s Hillel chapter from a “Know Your Rights” fair. According to one of the organizers, Professor Rahab Abdulhadi of the General Union of Palestine Studies of SFSU,  explained that Hillel -was disinvited from the event because Hillel was deemed to be “a privileged white group.” (This is exceedingly ironic, because in the 1930-s there were quotas against the admitting “ Jews and other inferior races” into the United States.)

In April, Rebecca Thau, a student at Harvard and president of the Hillel’s Undergraduate Steering Committee – releaseda statement saying that the campus’s Israel Apartheid Week was “vilifying students for their commitments and even their heritages, turning students away from — rather than toward — one another, and preventing meaningful conversation.”

Jewish students at Emory University in Atlanta were targetedwith “eviction notices,” posted on their dorm rooms as a means of protesting Israeli policy by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). SJP is one of the most prominent campus groups promoting BDS.

Golda Daphna, a student a Columbia University wrotethat the marginalization of Jews on campus through events like Israel Apartheid Week have the effect of making her and others conclude that they “do not feel at home in America because of our anti-Semitic college experience.”

Many university administrators claim that they do not know where free speech ends, and harassment, intimidations and threatening language begins. Our constitutionally inscribed first amendment rights are extremely precious to us all.  However, educational settings have a very fine line to walk.  While ensuring freedom of speech, they also have an obligation to protect students from psychological and emotional harassment so that the environment is conducive to learning.  

There are many protections for many minority groups within the educational setting. However, the one group that has been more singled out for abuse than any other, (according to national data), Jews, and most particularly Jewish students, have absolutely no legal protections.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that university administrators say they have no definition of anti-Semitism, so they cannot recognize it when they see it.  In order to answer this need  Sen. Tim Scott (R – S.C.) introduced the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2019in March. 

The goal of the bill is to extend  the same Title VI protections  to Jewish students as most other  minority groups have on college campuses.  The definition that the bill provides is the very same definition that our State Department uses when instruction our diplomats as to how to recognize and call out anti-Semitism.

The bill uses the  definitionpublished in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as the relevant one for the legislation. Imortant to note is that within this definition is “denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming the the state of Israel is a racist endeavor. “

Given the growing problem of anti-Semitism on campus, it’s time for the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and introduce a companion measure to the Senate bill. Such legislation would protect Jewish students who are threatened by BDS-inspired intimidation and discrimination on U.S. college campuses.

If the House can follow the Senate’s lead and get this legislation passed, it would be because it took a lesson from Germany on how to define and fight anti-Semitism.

It is about time we follow Germany’s lead on this long overdue legislation, before we are forced to learn their lessons of history.

Photo: AFP

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Designating Iran’s IRGC a Terror Organization Was a Smart Move

Recently, the United States designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. The U.S. decision was predicated on the fact that the IRGC “actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”

Although it is unusual for the U.S. to designate the arm of a nation as a terrorist organization, this action was not unprecedented. The U.S. had already designated part of the IRGC, the Quds Force, for its sponsorship of terrorism.

Needless to say, the Iranian regime was not happy with this decision. Prior to the decision, Iranian officials warned of a “crushing” response should the United States go ahead with the designation.

After the designation was made, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei labeled it “a vicious move,” and the Iranian Armed Forces’ general staff, which oversees the IRGC, said it would “use all its means to fight” against the U.S.’ CENTCOM, which Iranian lawmakers promptly voted to declare was a terrorist organization. An IRGC commander also warned “Mr. Trump, tell your warships not to pass near the Revolutionary Guards boats.”

These threats produced the desired result among the foreign policy experts. Dennis Ross, who has worked for every American President from George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama, warned that “(the designation of the IRGC) is likely to produce an Iranian response. Most likely in Iraq, where the Iranians will push on the vulnerability of our presence both politically and militarily. The former, by pushing in the parliament legislation forcing the US to leave; the latter, by potentially having its Shia militia proxies attack American forces and by building their rocket presence in western Iraq.”

The only problem with this argument is that the Iranian’s and their terror allies already have a long history of making threats against the U.S., and, oftentimes, following through on those threats.

Starting in 1979, the Iranian regime began to sponsor demonstrations in Iran where crowds chanted “Death to America.” At least two times each year this occurs — every November, to commemorate the taking of the American hostages in 1979, and every February, to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the current Iranian regime to power.

And the Iranian regime was not making idle threats.

In the 1980’s, the IRGC created Hezbollah in Lebanon. Prior to 9/11, Hezbollah had the distinction of having killed more U.S. citizens than any other terror organization. Most significantly, in 1983, Hezbollah’s bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut murdered 241 American Marines and others.

In 1996, IRGC-sponsored terrorists detonated a load of 15 tons of explosives, killing 19 U.S. military personnel at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

In 2001, the IRGC played a role in the 9/11 attack. In 2004, a U.S. court held that the IRGC was liable for the deaths of 1,008 people whose families sued, because Iran provided assistance, including training, to the 9/11 hijackers.

From 2003 to 2011, the IRGC provided Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), including the more deadly Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs), and other equipment and training to Iraqi militias, which resulted in the deaths of at least 608 American soldiers. Many of these Iraqi militiamen are now part of the Popular Mobilization Forces that Iran is using to build its influence in Iraq.

Since 2011, there have been fewer Iranian sponsored attacks in Iraq against the U.S., although they have not ceased. In 2018, one of the Iraqi militias, trained and funded by Tehran, fired mortars into an area in Baghdad close to the U.S. embassy.

Also during this time period, but continuing through today, Iran, which had previously opposed the Sunni Muslim Taliban in Afghanistan, reversed course to support and train them. This assistance, which again includes IEDs and EFPs, has resulted in many U.S. deaths. Most disturbingly, Iran has put an actual bounty on the head of U.S. soldiers, paying Taliban fighters $1,000 for each one they kill. Thousands of Americans, both soldiers and contractors, have been killed in Afghanistan, although there is no estimate of the number of deaths caused by Iran.

Even when the Iranians were negotiating the Iran deal with the U.S. under President Obama, they did not cease their threats or aggression towards the U.S. A few weeks after the Iran deal, the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, tweeted a graphic of President Obama with a gun to his head. A few months later, Khamenei declared that the “U.S. is the embodiment of the enemy of the Islamic peoples and of Iran. It must be fought with military, cultural, economic, and political jihad, he said, adding that Islamic Iran is not interested in reconciling with it.”

And once again, during those immediate post-deal years, the Iranian navy was increasingly aggressive against the U.S. Navy. U.S. forces operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz were often approached by Iranian warships and aircraft in an “unsafe or unprofessional manner.” According to the Navy, this happened 22 times in 2015, 36 times in 2016, and 14 times in 2017, before stopping in 2018. At one point, the Iranians even violated international law by grabbing two U.S. Navy ships and ten sailors until releasing them the next day. While in custody the sailors were, intimidatedhumiliated and made to “apologize.”

Since 1979, the Iranian regime has been the leading state sponsor of terror, which hates and targets the United States and its interests. The Iranian regime created the IRGC to sponsor and fund this terror. By designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, the Trump administration is just recognizing that reality. This is a smart decision; it would have been ludicrous for the U.S. to refrain from designating the IRGC because it feared threats of terror and violence coming from a nation and its organ that is already threatening and attacking the U.S.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/iran-irgc-foreign-terrorist-organization/2019/05/06/id/914742/

Photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

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Mohammad Zarif’s ‘B Team’ Delusions

During his recent appearance on Fox News last Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sounded a conciliatory tone towards U.S. President Donald Trump, blaming tensions between the United States and Iran on a so-called “B team.”

Zarif described this group, which is comprised of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, as seeking to “lure President Trump into a confrontation that he doesn’t want.”

While he bashed Trump in other parts of the interview and insisted that Iran would never negotiate with him, Zarif also characterized Trump as being manipulated by others into war—a seemingly transparent effort to portray the U.S. president as a reasonable partner for diplomacy.

There are very good reasons why Zarif would seek to portray negotiations with Trump as palatable for Iran. The maximum economic pressure being applied against Iran by the Trump administration, including the reimposition of nuclear sanctions and the recent designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, are hurting Iran’s economy.

Most importantly, Zarif knows that there is no way that Iran can possibly win a war in which the United States will be supporting our national security interests in the region, as well as those of our allies in the region. And he wants to avoid it at all costs.

But Zarif is wrong if he thinks that he is fooling anyone. Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal not just because it failed to dismantle Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, but also because it fueled Iran’s regional aggression. When he announced the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal last year, Trump observed that “since the agreement, Iran’s bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen.”

The conflicts in the Middle East—in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen—have all intensified in the wake of the nuclear deal and been fueled by the money Iran received because of the deal. The “B team,” as Zarif derisively calls them, isn’t pulling the wool over Trump’s eyes and leading him blindly into war. Rather, these nations agree with Trump that Iran’s aggression and destabilization have worsened since the nuclear deal was concluded. Like Trump, Bolton, Netanyahu and the Gulf princes all agree that Iran is the source of the aggression, and that it must be rolled back.

By accusing others of seeking confrontation when it is Iran that has been fueling the violence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, Zarif whitewashed his country’s role in fomenting instability throughout the Middle East.

This wasn’t the foreign minister’s only lie.

Fox News host Chris Wallace challenged Zarif point blank, saying, “The IRGC has killed more than 600 American soldiers in Iraq.” Zarif denied the charge, replying that the “IRGC has never killed Americans. IRGC is there to fight terrorism.”

Of course, it was Iranian-made weapons that have killed at least 600 Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, of course, the newly sanctioned IRGC doesn’t fight terrorism; it is a major source of terrorism. Whether it’s Hezbollah threatening Israel from Lebanon and Syria; the Houthi rebels threatening Saudi Arabia, the UAE and international shipping; or Iraqi Shi’ite militias threatening Iraqi Sunnis, the IRGC is arming and otherwise supporting them.

When Wallace pressed Zarif on the IRGC’s role in killing U.S. service personnel, Zarif replied, “I mean, that’s a new charge that the United States—and it’s a very dangerous accusation.” That’s not exactly a denial. In any case, what’s new is the number; a report a few weeks ago put the number of U.S. soldiers killed with the assistance of the IRGC at more than 600.

Throughout the interview, Zarif portrayed Iran as the wounded party. He said that the United States was not trustworthy because it had withdrawn from the deal. What he did not say was that information contained in the nuclear archives that Israel recovered from Tehran last year raised doubts about any semblance of Iranian compliance with the deal.

In addition to his dissembling over Iran’s foreign adventures, the foreign minister pretended to speak for the Iranian people. Sanctions, according to Zarif, are intended to “put as much pressure as it can on the Iranian people.”

But the Iranian people were protesting prior to the reimposition of the nuclear sanctions. They saw that the windfall that the regime reaped from the nuclear deal go towards foreign military adventures rather than to build a crumbling civilian infrastructure.

That’s why last year, instead of chanting “death to America,” protesters against the regime were saying “death to Palestine,” registering their disapproval of the regime’s generosity in destabilizing the Middle East.

Zarif is quite skilled at evading questions and lying. His performance on Fox News Sunday this week will surely reinforce that reputation. However, nothing he presented is likely to convince Trump, who understands the threat that Tehran poses to the Middle East. That is precisely why the United States just deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Persian Gulf.

Originally published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/mohammad-zarifs-b-team-delusions/

Photo: AP Photo / Petr David Josek

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Erdogan Will Give Up the S-400 on One Condition

Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 defense system has long been a burden not only for the United States but for NATO, too, the security bloc in which Turkey is a member. 

NATO was created to counter Soviet threats. Today it aims to do the same as Russia extends its influence across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Its members are sovereign states with the right to have normal relations with any nation, even Russia. But its members also have the obligation to not undermine the interests of the alliance. Turkey’s purchase of the very military equipment the alliance was created to deter undermines the interests of NATO.

The situation is not complicated. No NATO member can purchase defense systems that are incompatible with NATO defense systems, especially if the missiles were created to shoot down fighter jets like the American F-35.

Turkey’s list of bad decisions against US national security interests is never-ending: from evading Iranian sanctions, standing against designating the IRGC a terrorist organization, condemning the US recognition of US Embassy to Jerusalem and its recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, supporting Venezuela’s Maduro regime, threating America’s Kurdish partners in Syria and more. 

One must ask itself: Why does America need enemies when it has an “ally” like Turkey? Why is Erdogan so adamant on purchasing our adversaries’ weapons, even as the US gave Ankara an option to purchase the Patriot missile system, a much more sophisticated choice? 

The answer may not seem obvious, but as Kurds, we understand Erdogan’s devious tactics. 

Erdogan wants American’s to move out of the way in Syria so he can have his way with the Kurds, with an intent to slaughter them. 

Erdogan is dragging his feet. This is not about America or his country’s defense needs. The United States has gone out of its way to appease his Islamist government, even after multiple warnings. For Erdogan is threatening a shift toward the East, as he has already done and will continue to do, unless America lets go of the Kurds.

But the reality is that Turkey, with or without Erdogan, needs America, Europe and NATO. And if America wishes so, it can shut down the Turkish economy with a blink of an eye, as it nearly did with very basic sanctions in 2018. In addition, Turkey is already in a recession, so threatening the US is not very smart on Erdogan’s part.

Turkey’s policy toward the same Kurds who defeated the Islamic State caliphate, the same Kurds that sacrificed over 11,000 fighters and had nearly 8,000 wounded, should be condemned.

The biggest loser of the defeat of the caliphate is not ISIS itself, but Erdogan. He counted on the radical group to wipe out the Kurds, as we witnessed in 2014 in Kobani. With the threat of Erdogan from the North, ISIS and the Assad regime, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) composed of majority Kurds shattered Erdogan’s dream.

Erdogan’s biggest fear is another autonomous Kurdish region similar to that of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, created by the US in 1991 after it imposed a no-fly zone. There are more than 20 million Kurds in Turkey; the fear that they will demand the same is unfathomable to any Turkish government. 

The Russian S-400 is set to be delivered in July, though Erdogan has threatened to move the delivery date sooner. He has also declared that the purchase is complete and that he will not go back on the deal. 

Due to the reality on the ground, and in the interest of US national security, those in Washington must see Turkey for what it is: an unreliable burden on NATO and America. Erdogan is unlikely to change any time soon and may never. Therefore we must approach his government with realistic expectations and stop going out of our way to attempt to change it. 

America must continue to protect the Kurds in Syria. They are not up for bartering. Set up a no-fly zone for northeast Syria and recognize the Syrian Democratic Council as the best and proven alternative to the Assad regime. And finally, call Erdogan’s bluff so that he cannot use the Kurdish card in America as he has done in Turkey to gain political points. 

Originally published: https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Erdogan-will-give-up-the-S-400-on-one-condition-588098

Photo: Reuters

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Defending Israel in the Era of “Apartheid Walls”

When my father was a little boy growing up in Poland, there were signs that read, “Jews: Get out of Europe. Go back to Palestine.” On today’s college campuses there are shouts of “Jews: Out of Palestine. Go back to Europe.”

These past two weeks have been difficult ones for American Jewish college students. It  has been Israel Apartheid Week, and across many American college campuses, most of our Jewish students are confronted with “mock die ins”, with student actors dressed as menacing Israel soldiers “brutalizing” other student actors dressed as hapless, “innocent” Palestinian civilians, and  “apartheid walls”.  Jewish students at Emory University have had “mock eviction notices” placed in residence halls, that say “Palestinian homes are destroyed as part of the state’s ongoing attempt to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants”. At Columbia University, Students for Justice in Palestine created a poster of an IDF soldier with horns. At Harvard University, one of the speakers for Israel Apartheid Week, Omar Barghouti, supports the “euthanasia of Zionism.”

Many Jewish students do not have the knowledge to be able to respond to these horrific distortions. The few who have both the knowledge and the backbone to fight back, do. However, most put their heads down in shame. It is no wonder that Natan Sharansky has called American Jewish college students, “The new Jews of silence”.

The problem is that many university professors have used their desks for one-sided political propaganda rather than giving them a solid education about the region. A tenured professor at Columbia, Hamid Dabishi, for example has tweeted that “Every dirty, treacherous, ugly and pernicious act happening in the world just wait a few days and the ugly name Israel will pup.” (sic). Marc Lamont Hill, a tenured professor at Temple University in Philadelphia called for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.”  Unfortunately, these statements are no longer the outliers, but have become very much the norm in many classrooms that study the Middle East.

I long to equip our students with some basic facts, if I could only teach them for one semester. I would teach them about how the Palestinian Liberation Organization, whose membership is the same as the Palestinian Authority,(PA) was established in 1964, 3 full years before the 1967 War, and before there was any “occupation” to resist. I would teach them about the Oslo Accords, and how Yitzchak Rabin had reluctantly agreed to negotiate with Yassir Arafat on the one condition that he give up terrorism. I would tell them that after the Accords were signed there was a sharp rise in Israeli civilian victims of Palestinian terrorism, which is now over 1,000 fatalities.

I would tell them how Israel withdrew from all the major Palestinian population centers, putting 90% of the Palestinian population under the PA’s control. I would tell them about the enormous offer Prime Minister Ehud Barak had made to Chairman Arafat in July of 2000, which would eventually have given the Palestinians 91% of the West Bank, Gaza and shared sovereignty of Jerusalem, yet Arafat walked away from the offer and launched an intifada. I would tell them that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, an even more generous offer in November 2008, including making all of Jerusalem an internationally controlled city. And yet again, this Palestinian interlocutor walked away from the negotiating table, launching a renewed intifada.

I would tell them about the Gaza withdrawal in 2005, and how the Israelis trained their soldiers not to feel pain as they uprooted Jewish residents from their homes. And about how Israelis had left the greenhouses to give the nascent Palestinian state some sort of economic infrastructure, and the synagogues to be turned into mosques. And how these greenhouses and synagogues, along with every remnant of a Jewish life had been destroyed in a frenzied atmosphere of chaos and hatred. I would tell them how now Gaza has become a simmering sea of hatred which is unleashed every Friday when mobs try to penetrate the fence and kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. 

I would tell them about the innocent looking balloon bouquets and kites, meant to attract young Israeli children, launched with incendiary devices attached to them, that have destroyed thousands of acres of Israeli agricultural land near Gaza and have created an ecological disaster. I would tell them that over 1,000 missiles have been launched from Gaza, giving neighboring Israeli men women and children just 15 seconds to run for shelter.

Before anyone casts blame on the democratically elected government of Israel, I would ask them to walk a mile in their shoes. 

I know they will not, however. Because anti-Zionism is just the 21stcentury form of ant-Semitism. And as Jean Paul Sartre had said, “The anti-Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith.” Anti-Semitism is hatred, and hatred is an emotion, and one, unfortunately cannot reason with an emotion.

A version of this recently appeared in the Washington Jewish Week.

Photo: Uriel Heilman

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