Trump delivers an almost picture perfect Iran policy speech
Saudi Arabia’s reaction to US President Donald Trump’s more confrontational posture toward Tehran was strikingly similar to Israel’s, highlighting the two countries’ common desire for a more determined American effort to counter Iranian influence in the region.
King Salman telephoned Trump to voice support for his “firm strategy” against “Iranian aggression and its [Iran’s] support for terrorism in the region,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.
“The king praised the Trump administration, which recognizes the magnitude of these challenges and threats and the need for concerted efforts on terrorism and extremism and its primary sponsor, Iran.”
That followed an announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Friday that praised Trump for the same reasons and said the US president “has created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism.”
Since Trump’s election, the Saudis have been hoping for a tougher American posture toward Tehran, which they view as the great and growing threat to their interests.
In May, they gathered Islamic leaders for a summit with Trump in Riyadh that highlighted Iran as the epicenter of subversion and terrorism in the region. Trump’s decertification of the nuclear deal, his sanctioning of the Revolutionary Guards and his vow to stand up against Iran’s fueling of “conflict, terror and turmoil” are seen by the Saudis as initial crystallization of the more assertive, some would say, aggressive, approach they had hoped for.
The Trump speech was music to the ears of Abdulrahman al-Rashed, former editorin- chief of the London-based, Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He echoed Netanyahu’s choice of the word “courageous” to describe Trump’s approach.
By decertifying the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the president is, in fact, signaling his intent to strengthen it, with the help of Congress, so that the deal advances U.S. national security interests. Right now, the Iranians are hindering inspection of military sites, working feverishly on their ballistic missile program, and banking on the nuclear deal's sunset clauses, which all but guarantee Tehran an advanced nuclear program in roughly a decade.
In response to decertification, Iran's leadership will undoubtedly threaten to walk away from the table. But it's not that simple. There are benefits the Iranians have yet to reap from the deal - beyond the more than $100 billion in released oil funds - ranging from increased foreign investment to greater integration with the global economy after years of economic isolation. In other words, Iran can still cash in considerably, but not if it balks at Trump's calls to fix the deal.
The writer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury, is senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
*Hate Trump, Love His Stance on Iran - Jonathan Tobin
Given Trump’s intemperate nature, his lack of detailed policy knowledge on most subjects and his contempt for diplomacy, the assumption - on the part of most people outside of his loyal base of supporters - is that he’s as wrong about his desire to end the nuclear deal with Iran as he was about violent racist marchers in Charlottesville.
But in this instance it is Trump's detractors who are divorced from reality.
Trump’s position is not irrational. As the deal’s critics feared all along, Western silence about Iran’s willingness to push the envelope on illegal purchases of nuclear equipment also raises questions about whether these governments are too committed to the deal’s preservation to effectively respond to violations.
Rather than taking advantage of what Obama termed an opportunity to "get right with the world," Iran has continued to behave like a rogue nation. It remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and its military adventures in the region and continued political intrigues have enabled it to create a functional land bridge via Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, where its Hezbollah auxiliaries rule. Its renewed alliance with Hamas also should raise suspicions.
It is dereliction of duty on the part of Western leaders to simply sit back and rest on Obama’s faux laurels while Iran not only gets closer to a nuclear option but works toward its goal of regional hegemony. Yet that is exactly what the supposedly wiser heads - attacking Trump for stirring up a hornet’s nest on Iran - have been doing.
Should it be necessary, the U.S. can declare that no entity that does business with Iran can legally interact with the American financial system, and it can therefore drag the Europeans and even the Russians and Chinese back to a position in which Iran will again be effectively isolated.
Trump is right that the West must start thinking about how to restrain an Iranian regime that was both enriched and empowered by the JCPOA. Hard as it may be for non-Trumpists to admit, his speech should push the international community to undertake a discussion that is long overdue.[Ha'aretz]
*UPDATE: Trump's Iran Initiative - Caroline Glick Trump’s address has the potential to serve as the foundation of a major, positive shift in US policy toward Iran. Such a shift could potentially facilitate the achievement of Trump’s goals of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, containing its regional aggression and empowerment and defeating its terrorist proxies.
Unfortunately, it is also likely, indeed, it is more likely, that his words will not be translated into policies to achieve these critical aims.Trump’s decision to transfer immediate responsibility to Congress for holding Iran accountable for its hostile actions on the military and other fronts is a risky move. He has a lot of enemies, and the nuclear deal has a lot of supporters on Capitol Hill. Obama would have never been able to implement his nuclear deal if Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, hadn’t agreed to cast the Constitution aside and ignore Obama’s constitutional duty to present the nuclear deal to the Senate for ratification as a treaty. Over the past week, Trump and Corker have been involved in an ugly public fight precipitated by Corker’s announcement that he will not be seeking reelection next year. Today Corker has nothing to restrain him from scuttling Trump’s agenda. If he wishes, out of spite, Corker can block effective sanctions from being passed. And he may do so even though the implications for his Senate colleagues would be dire and even though doing so would render him an unofficial protector of Iran’s nuclear program.What is true for Corker is doubly true for the Democrats.Trump created the possibility for such a strategy. It is up to members of Congress, and US allies like Israel and the Sunni Arab states to help Trump conceive and implement it. If they fail, the possibility Trump created will be lost, perhaps irrevocably.
|Hamas's new deputy leader Salah al-Aruri (L) and Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad (R) sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017. |
Fatah and Hamas Sign New Reconciliation Agreement - Elior Levy
The reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas signed in Cairo is their third in the past six years. The parties decided that a unity government headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas will be responsible for Gaza's electricity, road construction, sewage, education, welfare, and tourism by Dec. 1. The rival parties chose to set aside all of the difficult issues, which are what ultimately led to the failure of the other agreements of reconciliation in the past.
Hamas: With Unity Deal "We Can All Work Together Against the Zionist Enterprise"
Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement with Fatah "so that we can all work together against the Zionist enterprise," Hamas deputy political leader Saleh al-Arouri said in Cairo on Thursday.
(Times of Israel)
Netanyahu: PA-Hamas Reconciliation Must Honor International Agreements, Recognize Israel, and Disarm Hamas
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the announced agreement on Palestinian Authority-Hamas reconciliation: "Any reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas must include honoring international agreements and the Quartet conditions, first and foremost among them, recognizing Israel and disarming Hamas. Continuing to dig tunnels, manufacture missiles and initiate terrorist attacks against Israel are incompatible with the Quartet conditions and the efforts of the United States to renew the diplomatic process."
"Israel demands that these conditions be met and the immediate release of Israeli civilians Avra Mengistu and Hisham a-Said, who are being cruelly held by Hamas, and the remains of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin."
"As long as Hamas does not disarm and continues to call for the destruction of Israel, Israel holds it responsible for all terrorist actions originating in the Gaza Strip. Israel opposes any reconciliation that does not include these components. Israel insists that the PA not allow any base whatsoever for Hamas terrorist actions from PA areas in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] or from Gaza, if the PA indeed takes responsibility for its territory."
(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Reconciliation Deal: Abbas to Rule the Land and Hamas the Underground - Jack Khoury
Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza, realize that it's premature to celebrate reconciliation in the broader sense of national and strategic unity. Many see the agreement as a compromise between two organizations that divided the nation for a decade and were forced to reconcile due to massive pressure from Egypt.
Gaza's Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has shown a willingness to concede civilian control over Gaza, but not to disarm. If there is any chance that President Trump can come up with an effective peace plan, Abbas cannot afford to speak only for the West Bank. In view of this, the reconciliation seems like the only option open to Abbas and Fatah. The PA and Fatah will rule aboveground and Hamas will rule underground.
Egyptian intelligence led the reconciliation move as a matter of national security. Egypt, grappling with Islamic State terror in Sinai, saw Gaza under Hamas rule as an Islamic State base and a refuge for terrorists from Sinai. Its only option was to return the PA to Gaza as part o the deal signed in Cairo six years ago.
Egypt Wanted Fatah-Hamas Unity Deal - Avi Issacharoff
If indeed, [this] agreement actually goes into effect, and responsibility for the Gaza border crossings is transferred to the PA, the Gaza economic situation would likely improve dramatically. For a start, there'll no longer be a blockade on the Egyptian border. Gazans will be free to come and go. There'll also be a huge jump in the supply of electricity to the Strip. Water supplies will improve too. Jobs are likely to be created.
But there was no reference to the fate of Hamas' terrorist mini-army in the agreement. That would mean the digging of tunnels toward and under the border with Israel will continue. And so, too, Hamas' relentless rearming and its rocket development. Indeed, Hamas would be able to focus more exclusively on its military arsenal, boosting its capabilities, while Abbas and the PA take care of the ongoing, financially costly needs of the Gaza citizenry.
The Egyptians wanted a reconciliation deal, even if it leaves key problems unsolved. And they got it. Egypt wants to signal to all Arab and Muslim nations that it is the Arab heavyweight, when it comes to the Palestinians and more generally. It also wants to ensure quiet for itself and for Israel where Gaza is concerned, and this agreement, it believes, will hobble Hamas, and prevent it from embarking on dangerous military escapades.
(Times of Israel)
Will Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation Deal Succeed? - Jonathan Cook
The Egypt-brokered reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas only addressed civil and administrative matters. Far more contentious issues - such as national elections, reform of the PLO, and the status of Hamas' armed wing - were set aside for consideration at the next meeting in late November.
"Reconciliation is something everyone wants now," Khatib said. "Abbas wants to extend his jurisdiction to Gaza. Hamas wants to be rid of the burden of the day-to-day governance of Gaza....Even Israel has an interest in a solution to Gaza's humanitarian problems. After all, Gaza's untreated sewage ends up on Israeli beaches, too."
But it is hard to see how national elections can be conducted. It was Hamas' upset election victory 11 years ago that led to a civil war with Fatah. Polls indicate that Abbas or any of his likely successors would lose the presidential election to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
Little Difference between the PA and Hamas regarding Israel
- Nave Dromi
The latest PA-Hamas reconciliation, like its predecessors, won't hold water, but will remind us that there isn't much of a difference between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. There are almost no gaps between the PA and Hamas with regard to relations with Israel.
Over the years there has developed an erroneous perception that the PA is more moderate than Hamas and therefore there's someone to talk to in Ramallah. But the truth is there is no difference other than in their public relations image.
Reconciliation between the PA and Hamas doesn't just bring the PA into Gaza, but brings Hamas closer to Ramallah.
The writer is head of the Blue & White human rights organization, an arm of the Institute for Zionist Strategies.
The Iraqi Kurds held a dignified, orderly referendum Sept. 25 that conformed with all the rules of a democratic vote. Afterward, they refrained from declaring the independence that is their right and that a century of treaties promised
them. Yet all the region's dictatorships immediately unleashed their ire on the Kurds, a small population whose only crime is to express the desire to be free, to flourish as an island of democracy and peace. Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria are threatening an air blockade, a land blockade, an oil embargo, and military intervention.
Are we facing Munich-grade appeasement? Are we agreeing that might makes right? Will we give in to the world's consummate blackmailers?
Is the West - and the U.S. in particular - making a colossal error of judgment in not grasping that there is something suicidal about abandoning a brave and loyal ally in favor of its adversaries? Or perhaps the Kurdish people - who are not Arabs, are secular, believe in pluralist democracy, practice equal rights for women, and have consistently protected, rescued and taken in minorities - are one more of the world's expendable peoples.
There is something absurd about allowing authoritarian regimes to preach constitutional law to a people who only yesterday were under their boot. Iraqi authorities should respond, without delay or precondition, to the offer of dialogue the Kurds have extended to them.
(Wall Street Journal)
The Kurds Are the Largest Stateless People on Earth - Michael J. Totten
Roughly six million of the world's 28 million Kurds live in Iraq. They are the most staunchly pro-American and anti-Islamist people in the entire region by far and were, for a time, the only ones truly willing and able to take on ISIS and win. None of the Iraqi Kurdish parties and movements are terrorists. Kurdistan is a nation in all but name while Iraq is a nation in name only. Of course the Kurds want out.
Iraqi Kurdistan does not threaten anybody. Iraq's Kurds have never invaded anybody, have no interest in invading anybody, and have never supported terrorists or militias on anyone else's territory, and especially not on their own.
The Kurds are far better friends of the U.S. than Turkey or Iraq ever have been or ever will be. By punishing our friends and taking the sides of enemies and non-friends, the predictable result is the empowerment of our enemies at the expense of our friends.
(World Affairs Journal)
Century-Old Kurdish Statehood Dream Not Handiwork of Israel
- Bashdar Ismaeel
A frequent line emanating from Turkey and Iran is that the Kurdish drive toward independence is an initiative fostered by Israel, seeking to divert attention from a peaceful vote where the voice of millions of Kurds was abundantly clear.
First, any support from Israel, a key power in the Middle East, is not a stain on the Kurds. Second, Kurdistan was promised a country of its own long before Israel was even created. As the largest nation in the world without a state, and the fourth largest ethnicity in the Middle East, even hostile regional players struggle to justify why Kurdistan is not worthy of the principle of self-determination. Kurdistan has continuously suffered under the Iraqi umbrella.
It is the Kurds who were betrayed by imperial powers over a century ago, then through repressive policies of respective governments, and again in 2003, under the promise that a new Iraq would usher in a new plural, federal, and democratic chapter in the country. Having waited decades for their time, the majority of Kurds would choose statehood in spite of the costs this may entail.
A short, poignant video from Honest Reporting
A short video reminder that the threat of jihad has not gone away
In the year 712, the Muslim general Tariq led the Muslims from Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar and took over the Iberian Peninsula. Therefore, from an Islamic point of view, Spain belongs to the Muslims - forever. Professor Bernard Lewis wrote in his autobiography that in the early 1980s he was at a conference on Islamic affairs in Cordova, Spain, with a group of Turks. They assumed he was also a Turk because he was speaking in Turkish. He heard them say, "We're not just worrying about the preservation of Islamic culture here, we are preparing for the Islamic re-conquest of Spain, because we of course know it's ours."
Classic Islamic warfare is based on pre-Islamic Arabian warfare which involved raiding parties, which we call terrorism today. It's small groups that attack, terrorize, instill fear in the other side, and withdraw. Attack and withdraw. When they use daggers and they use swords, that's what their Prophet Muhammad and those around him used. they're just imitating what their prophet and his generals did.
A Sunni Muslim friend who is totally secular told me in Baghdad: "You're missing the point of ISIS. They're appealing to our Muslim soul. They say that the whole world must be Muslim, and eventually it will be. And it must be under a Caliph who will take the place of the Prophet Muhammad, and be under Muslim law. That is what we learned from the time that we were little children."
We're witnessing the islamification of Europe. The Russians understand this very well and Putin understands that he's in an internal battle against Islamic orthodoxy that wants to take over the world. The Chinese have the same problem in northwestern China in Xinjiang that was conquered by Islam in the 1100s, and so, just like Spain, is Islamic territory forever.
And it's the same story in Israel. The State Department is worried about settlements in the West Bank, but Islam conquered what is all of Israel and the West Bank in the year 637. So Tel Aviv is as much a settlement in the Muslim mind as any settlement in the West Bank - it's all the same. According to this view, all of this territory must be and will be eventually returned to Islamic rule.
According to Islamic holy law, there is no such thing as a permanent peace between Muslims and non-Muslims. Bygones are not bygones. You may have a temporary truce, but there is an eternal battle between the Islamic world and the non-Islamic world. Europe is considered part of the non-Islamic world which is in the process of becoming part of the Muslim world. An ISIS magazine had the Vatican on its cover. They see it as the center of the Christian world. So if they capture the Vatican, they've captured the Christian world.Dr. Harold Rhode, a Fellow at the Jerusalem Center, served for 28 years as an advisor on the Islamic world in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Modern Islamic Warfare: An Ancient Doctrine Marches On
- Dr. Harold Rhode
Islam is not just a religion. It is a civilization which certainly includes religion but also includes important political and military dimensions. In order to understand the true nature of Islam, therefore, it would be more useful to label it an ideology. Our problems with Islam are not religious. But we do have serious problems with the political and military nature of Islam.
(Center for Security Policy)