By Alon Ben-David
The U.S. seems to be poised to leave Iran with the underground facility in Qom – in a position where within weeks it can be turned into a military installation for the production of uranium. Also, it has backed off on the demands for intrusive inspections of military sites not defined as part of the nuclear program, to the resentment of France, the last righteous one in the Austrian Sodom.
Translated by Viktoria Lymar
Edited by Steven Stenzler
7 July 2015
The atmosphere of extreme violence surrounding our neighborhood, under the auspices of ISIL, permeates our Palestinian neighbors, too. But the most significant development in the Middle East is actually happening in Vienna – that is, the dream deal being achieved by Iran.
Only half of Ramadan is over, and it feels like this month’s death toll is still counting. Egypt, Tunisia, Kuwait, France – ISIL [Daesh] proves to surpass its teacher, al-Qaeda, and to be capable of attacking simultaneously on three continents. In Sinai, it is currently focused on the Egyptian army – and less on us [Israel], but the day is not far when we will also have to fight against it on the western border and, possibly, on the northern border as well.
Its effective propaganda machine has already managed to make the name ‘Daesh’ a dreadful word even among Israelis, but one should not exaggerate the size of the threat. ISIL is not the first radical terrorist organization Israel has coped with; we’ve already been able to handle [terror] groups no less daring and equipped than that.
What is more troublesome at the moment, is the wave of lone wolf attacks that comes from the West Bank and Jerusalem – a wave that didn’t begin this Ramadan, but rather a year ago, in Operation Protective Edge and the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. It seems like the loner attacks are now joined by a terrorist cell in the Binyamin region, trying to carry out as many attacks as possible until it’s stopped. And it will be stopped, before long. The terrorism by lone wolves, however, will go on.
The climate of extreme violence that surrounds our region extends to our Palestinian neighbors as well. What is pushing a 20-year-old girl from Bethlehem to get up in the morning and try to slaughter the same age Israeli one standing at the checkpoint? The answer is probably a combination of extremist preaching in mosques, silence tantamount to an encouragement of the Palestinian Authority in face of these attacks, and the general ambiance in the Middle East, most of which is now balanced ‘on a knife edge.’
The ISIL Productions studio have recently realized that the knife is no longer exciting enough and switched to murdering in more creative ways. The last film it spread – ‘Three Ways to Die’ (not recommended for viewing!) – all of it is a sheer disgusting snuff, smelling of desperation and efforts to raise the stimulus threshold of potential recruits. The ISIL expansion to the north came to a halt at the hand of Kurds, which has proved yet again that every time this organization is confronted by a determined ground military, backed by air power – it gets defeated thereby.
Therefore, ISIL headed westward, toward the Syrian city of Homs. If successful there, it could drive a wedge between Damascus and Latakia, the Alawite stronghold, and separate Assad’s two power centers. If it manages to create such a threat, the brutality Assad has demonstrated over past four years may pale next to what he’s going to do if he feels that he’s losing Latakia.
Until today, Assad’s Republican Guard has not yet been deployed in its full strength in the civil war. It cares to stay in Damascus and defend the regime. Should there arise a threat to Latakia and the concentrated Alawite community in Qardaha, Assad will remove the other glove – and fight as someone who is fighting for his life.
Hezbollah hasn’t fought for its life yet, but already behaves like a gambler who, no matter how much he lost, won’t get up from the table and will keep upping the ante. Hezbollah’s casualties in Syria have already amounted to a thousand people – more than it had lost in the Second Lebanon War, while it just continues to sink into the Syrian war. If ISIL successfully breaks through in Qalamoun, on the Syro-Lebanese border, or succeeds in Homs or in Damascus – that would already be for Hezbollah a war for its life.
But above all of this, the most considerable development in the Middle East, that which will affect the future of the whole region, is taking place these days in Vienna. The reports reaching Israel from the powers’ negotiation with Iran are much more disturbing. They paint a picture in which the United States gives up one by one on all the principles in the negotiations, and bestows upon Iran a dream deal that meets all the requirements of the [supreme] leader, Ali Khamenei.
It looks like the United States is poised to let Iran keep the underground facility in Qom – in a position where it can, in a matter of weeks, be turned into a military installation for producing uranium. The U.S. also backed off on the demands for intrusive inspections of military sites that haven’t been defined as part of the nuclear program, to the resentment of France, the last righteous one in the Austrian Sodom. This bad agreement is bound to leave Iran within a short jump to the bomb the day it expires, or when Iran decides that it’s the right time to break it.
So far has the U.S. administration gone in its concessions to Iran, that each day heightens the likelihood of undermining the agreement, whether by the U.S. Congress or the European partners in the talks. That would be an ideal scenario from Israel’s vantage point. The atmosphere of the American concessions plus the setting of the deadline for concluding the talks only increase the Iranian appetite.
And these are merely the compromises on the nuclear issue. This negotiation is conducted like a water polo game: we only see the hits above the water, but underwater, another negotiation is held – in which the United States turns Iran into its regional ally. America grants the latter a status in what used to be Iraq, accepts its presence in Yemen and gives it a strategic foothold at the entrance to the Red Sea – and has no problem with Iran’s continued support for Assad, Hezbollah and Hamas.
In spite of the war that divides the entire region between Sunnis and Shiites, Iran has managed to re-carve the channel of relationship with Hamas in Gaza and to resume supporting it. Iranian money constitutes as of today 60% of the budget of the Hamas military wing, thus making the financier the one who also has a say* – i.e. one influencing the commanders of Hamas’s military wing.
The commander of the Hamas military wing, Mohammed Deif, for now accepts the authority of the political wing interested in quiet vis-à-vis Israel, so to examine the Qatari proposal for a ceasefire. But along with the rising star of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar – released in the [Gilad] Shalit deal, who was one of the founders of the military wing and the kidnappers of Nachshon Wachsman – he is urging for the resumption of fighting against Israel.
Iran’s control of Hezbollah is much tighter. Hassan Nasrallah of the recent years is only the appearance of Hezbollah. The one who really makes decisions on what and how the organization acts is Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds force, and his men.
Iran concludes with satisfaction the two years that have passed since the election of Hassan Rouhani. Last year, despite that sanctions had not been lifted yet, and even as oil prices dropped, Iran has achieved a growth of 1.5%. We’re talking a significant growth, compared to the rest of today’s Middle East. In a week, Iran is about to gain an agreement recognizing its nuclear capabilities and allowing it to resume business with the entire world – and then its economy will take off into the sky.
Once the agreement is signed, Iran will start making an awful lot of money, and apparently, won’t use it for charity. It will establish the Islamic Republic as a regional power that can continue to expand its influence in the region, and can be sure no one will try to put brakes on it in the remaining 19 months of the Obama administration.
What is Israel to do when faced with this agreement? It will be worthwhile to pay attention next week to the conclusions of the committee to examine the defense budget, headed by Yohanan Locker. [Major General (res.)] Locker spent nearly three years alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his military secretary, and Netanyahu’s world view will be reflected in his conclusions. A Prime Minister who wished to preserve and improve the military option vs. Iran will not cut – and will even beef up the defense budget.
Original Hebrew article:
Video & Image credit: IsraeliPM - the official YouTube channel of the Prime Minister of Israel; Ma'ariv,WSJ,
Reuters - Israeli tank on the Sinai border;
EPA/Herbert Neubauer - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) reacts on a balcony at the Palais Coburg where talks between the E3+3 (France, Germany, UK, China, Russia, US) and Iran continue, in Vienna, Austria, 10 July 2015.