Israeli Army Wants to Increase its Budget to Face Iranian Threats

Israel

Tel Aviv – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s bureau chief Yoav Horowitz have requested that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) help raise 4 billion Israeli Shekel ($1.14 billion) for defense and military budget.

An audio recording of a secret session held two weeks ago was revealed, during which Horowitz was heard requesting the money from the organization to help the state fill gaps in its defense budget.

“The Israeli government, and especially the various security forces, reached the conclusion that the State of Israel needs an additional NIS 4 billion. I will only talk about what you all know, including the Iranian threat and the threat in the north – all of this brings the security forces to request another NIS 4 billion,” said Horowitz.

He indicated that the prime minister, the defense minister and the security forces are deliberating this dilemma and trying to stretch the budget to see where the funds can be raised.

An informed political source revealed that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman are behind this request, adding that the Israeli Army is not concerned to reconsider the financial agreements with the Ministry of Finance. He added that the security budget is already doubled.

The Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry have been discussing for months funding the amounts set two years ago, and that’s why Lieberman went straight to Netanyahu discussing the need for an additional 4.5 billion shekels ($1.3 billion), according to military sources.

The sources also stated that Lieberman informed the PM that the new strategic reality in the region, with a stronger Russia, a revived Assad, and a bigger Iranian threat, mandated the extra funds. He explained that the “demands in question are based on contingency plans that are nothing new and do not stem from a war or emergency military operation.”

In 2015, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon signed a memorandum of understanding between their ministries that covers the years 2016 to 2020.

Some of the details of this deal remain classified, but based on the information to give the media, it promised a stable budget for those five years.

Both ministries and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot agreed that the army’s portion of the defense budget would remain fixed at about 31 billion shekels ($8.8 billion). For the defense budget as a whole, the agreement set a baseline of 56.1 billion shekels a year in addition to US defense aid ($3.8 billion a year from 2019). The total budget is expected to reach about 70 billion shekels a year.

When asked about the budget issue, a Defense Ministry senior official replied: “Haven’t you heard the threats of Iran’s Chief of Staff during his visit to Syria?”

Chief of Staff of Iran’s armed forces Maj-Gen Mohammad Bagheri indicated Wednesday that Tehran would not tolerate violations of Syrian sovereignty by Israel and vowed that the two countries would jointly fight against Syria’s enemies.

“We cannot accept a situation where the Zionist entity attacks Syria from the ground and the air,” Bagheri said his visit to Damascus, Syria.

He said he was in the Syrian capital to coordinate and cooperate “in order to fight our common enemies, whether they are the Zionists or the terrorists. We discussed ways to strengthen relations in the future and outlined the basic principles of this cooperation.”

Lieberman responded to Bagheri’s statement saying that Iran was attempting to spread its control into Syria and establish a military presence in a quest to become the dominant regional power.

“We won’t allow this. We have the tools to cope with this challenge,” reiterated Lieberman.

Sources close to Lieberman stated that he is concerned over the recent developments in the region including the instability and Hezbollah’s mobilization with the support of Iran. He added that Assad regime’s field advancements could lead to the reformation of the Syrian Army.

The Defense Minister also has fears that the army might not be fully prepared, according to the sources.
On Thursday, Lieberman flew to Washington to meet Defense Secretary James Mattis for talks on Iran and other regional issues. Sources stated that Israel is keen on fully coordinating with Washington to face Iran’s threats.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Israel on Monday and held meetings with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli leadership had been trying to recruit Russia as well against Iran’s power.

Pentagon to Send Military Battalions to Contain Iran’s Threats to US Allies

Washington- A US military official has revealed his country’s intention to form forces to send them to the Arab region to help counter Iranian threats.
 
“The United States wants to help the Arab countries deal with Iranian threats,” said General Joseph Votel, commander of the US Central Command at the 26th annual Arab-American Policymakers Conference in Washington.
 
“The Pentagon is working to achieve that desire and ensure its effective implementation. That includes the establishment of US military battalions sent as missions to the region and be designed specifically to provide advice and assistance,” he noted, stressing that such cooperation was an example of “partnership” between Washington and its allies in the region.
 
Votel underlined his country’s keenness to preserve relations with Arab states, adding that the Middle East would remain of exceptional importance to the United States, “considering that opportunities in the region are greater than obstacles and that regional countries want strong relations with the United States.”
 
The US General went on to say that security relations were the factor that maintains political relations, stating that bilateral military cooperation was still strong among the countries of the region, especially in Syria and Iraq and in the war against ISIS and other terrorist groups.
 
Stressing the importance of the US focus on security partnerships in the Middle East and encouraging local solutions in those countries, Votel said that America’s allies were leading their military wars in the region, while the role of the United States was limited to support and assistance.
 
“The United States will help its partners wherever and whenever it is necessary, because this benefits American interests,” he told the conference, which is organized by the National Council on US-Arab Relations.
 
Founded in 1983, the council is an American non-profit, non-governmental, educational organization dedicated to improving American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world.
 
The organization is based in Washington and works on strengthening and expanding strategic, economic, political, commercial, and defense cooperation ties between the United States and Arab countries.

The Iran Deal: the Dog’s Dinner Obama Dished Out

“Trump violates international treaty!” “Trump tears up pact signed by world powers!”

These were some of the headlines that pretended to report US President Donald Trump’s move on the “Iran nuclear deal” last week. Some in the Western media even claimed that the move would complicate the task of curbing North Korea as Pyongyang might conclude that reaching any deal with the world powers, as Iran did, is useless.

But what is it exactly that Trump has done?

Before answering that question let’s deal with another question. Is Obama’s Iran “deal” a treaty?

The answer is: no.

It is, as Tehran says “a roadmap” in which Iran promises to take some steps in exchange for “big powers” reciprocating by taking some steps of their own.

Even then, the “roadmap” or “wish-list” as former US Secretary of State John Kerry described it, does not have an authoritative text; it comes in five different versions, three in Persian and two in English, with many differences.

The “wish-list” hasn’t been signed by anyone.

Nor has it been submitted, let alone approved, by the legislative organs of any of the countries involved.

The various texts do not envisage any arbitration mechanism to decide whether or not it has been implemented. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was not involved in shaping the deal, is charged with the task of assessing and, if possible, certifying, Iranian compliance. But there is no mechanism for assessing and certifying whether other participants have done what they are supposed to do.

Legally speaking, the so-called deal doesn’t exist and thus cannot be “torn up” by anybody.

The trouble with the “deal” starts with its genesis.

Jack Straw, a former British Foreign Secretary and an ardent supporter of Iran, had told me that the idea began at a meeting in his official residence in London with then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. At that time the IAEA had established that Iran had violated the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and had asked the UN Security Council to take action. The UNSC had passed resolutions that Iran had rejected because the mullahs didn’t want to appear to be repeating Saddam Hussein’s “mistake” of walking into “UN resolutions trap.”

Straw came up with the idea of creating an ad hoc group to work out a deal with Tehran, by-passing the IAEA and the Security Council, thus flattering the mullahs that they were given special treatment because their regime was special.

It seems that Rice was receptive and initiated a “bold move” by inviting then secretary of Iran’s High Council of National Security Ali Ardeshir, alias Larijani, to Washington exactly at the time that Straw was about to leave office.

Over 100 US visas were issued for Larijani and his entourage. But Iran’s “Supreme Guide” vetoed the visit at the last minute.

When Barack Obama entered the White House, he revived the scheme and after secret talks with Tehran in Oman, arranged by his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he transformed the idea into a process.

Tehran felt that in Obama it had a friend in Washington.

And, Obama really went out of his way to woo and flatter the mullahs.

He created a parallel Security Council, composed of the five “veto” holding powers plus Germany which was and remains Iran’s principal trading partner.

The concoction, dubbed P5+1, was never given an official status.

It was not formally and legally appointed by anybody, had no written mission statement, implied no legal commitment for members and was answerable to no one.

Tehran accepted the trick with its usual attitude of sulking pride.

Larijani’s successor, Saeed Jalili, boasted that the Islamic Republic’s “special status” was recognized by “big powers”, implying that such things as NPT or even international law as a whole didn’t apply to Iran.

Jalili proved a pain in the neck. He saw talks with the P5+1 as a mechanism for Iran to suggest, if not dictate, the course of events on a global scale.

He was not ready to talk about Iran’s nuclear cheating unless the P5+1 also discussed Iran’s plans for a range of international problems. In one meeting, Jalili displayed his “package” dealing with “problems that affect humanity”, from the environment to the “total withdrawal of the American Great Satan” from the region.

Somewhere along the way, the European Union, encouraged by Britain and Germany, hitch-hiked and secured a side-chair along the P5+1.

The idea was to use the EU foreign policy point-person as a punching bag against Iranians who appeared unwilling to play. Thus the P5+1 was enlarged into a Group of 31, that is to say 28 EU members plus the US, China and Russia. (At one point Brazil, Turkey and Kazakhstan also seemed to have won side-chairs with the group but were quickly disembarked.)

Once Jalili was out of the picture, as the new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, named his Foreign Minister Mohammed-Javad Zarif as point-man, things began to move fast.

During his long years in the US, part of it as diplomat in New York, Zarif had established contacts with the Democratic Party, including John Kerry who took over from Mrs. Clinton as secretary of State. Zarif persuaded his bosses not to miss “the golden opportunity” provided by Obama’s administration which included many “sympathizers” with Iran.

Thus, in just two years what had proved impossible for 10 years became possible.

A vague text was established, fudging the issue, and declaring victory for both sides. The participants in the game agreed to keep the text away from their respective legislatures so as not to risk scrutiny of the witches’ brew they had cooked.

The so-called “deal” was dubbed a non-binding “roadmap”, implying that the “roadmap” isn’t the same as the journey.

Two years after unveiling, the ”roadmap” remains just that.

Neither Iran nor the G31 have delivered on their promises. Iran’s path to developing nuclear weapons remains open, although this doesn’t mean that Tehran is currently making a bomb. For their part, the G31 have not canceled the sanctions imposed on Iran.

Both sides have lied to one another and to their respective audiences.

Obama has left a dog’s dinner of diplomatic deception. Interestingly, Trump hasn’t thrown that dog’s dinner into the dustbin and promises to rearrange and improve it.

Is that possible?

The Dangers of Refusing to Link JCPOA to Tehran’s Behavior

“What is negotiation but the accumulation of small lies leading to advantage?”
(Felix Dennis)

It was a nail-biting moment for many as they waited for President Donald Trump to announce his position on “certifying” the nuclear agreement between major Western powers (plus Russia and China) and Iran; officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Although many leaks and announcements about Trump’s position proved to be true, it was so important that it drew immediate responses.

In the Middle East, the region most directly concerned about Iran’s nuclear plans, contrast in reactions could not have been greater. While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani angrily condemned Trump’s position widespread applause came from Arab countries disadvantaged not only by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but also its political exploitation of the international community’s silence towards it.

It is the silence that has allowed Iran to conquer and expand in the Region, thanks to its militias and conventional weapons.

Indeed, in the Middle East, specifically in the Gulf area, there are two serious threats posed by Iran’s ambitions for hegemony, including the nuclear agreement. The first is political, the second is nuclear.

The political threat is for all to see in the armed sectarian agitation, aided and sponsored by Tehran, whether through geographically dominant militias such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq, ‘Fatemiyyoun’, ‘Zaynabiyyoun’ and Hezbollah militias in Syria and Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen; or through gangs involved in terrorism and clandestine activities as the ones we hear about in Bahrain, other Gulf states, and North African countries.

Sure enough, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which plays a vital role in Iran’s political, security and economic life, continuously highlights its interventions and has openly boasted its ‘control of four Arab capitals’. Moreover, Qassem Suleimani, the Commander of the ‘Quds Brigade’ of the IRGC, never misses an opportunity to appear inspecting the front lines in Iraq and Syria, although he is supposed to be ‘wanted’ and chased by the international community as a terrorist suspect!
As for the nuclear threat, it is no less dangerous from a purely scientific viewpoint.

It has a geological-seismic dimension that has adverse consequences on the safety of the Gulf region; given the fact that Iran straddles highly unstable, and thus, dangerous seismic faults. Furthermore, many Iranian nuclear reactors and installations have been built in vulnerable earthquake fault lines; and if we remember that only a short distance separates the port of Bushehr (home to one the major installations) and the eastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula, we may imagine what disaster may befall the whole region from any leakage like that we witnessed in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011.

Of course, the governments of Germany, France and the UK have every right to oppose or agree with Washington’s policies, but their insistence on defending the nuclear deal with Iran is based, in a large part, on economic interests. These governments, spurred by German, French and British companies and banks eager to enter Iran’s market of 90 million customers, refuse to acknowledge the link between the agreement and Iran’s harsh treatment of opposition at home, or its aggressive interventions in neighbouring Arab countries.

Indeed, Iran’s aggressive interventions have caused two major problems:

1- The refugee problem afflicting the countries of Western and Central Europe.

2- The problem of extremist terrorism under ‘Sunni’ Muslim slogans, provoked by Iran’s ‘Shi’ite’ Muslim slogans.

According to reliable statistics, Iran’s exports to EU countries have risen by % 375 between 2016 and 2017, European companies have invested heavily in the almost ‘virgin’ Iranian market, and there is rapid progress in banking facilities that is running parallel with these investments.

Thus, the three European governments’ positions look no different from that of Barack Obama’s administration which sponsored Tehran’s rehabilitation, accorded it all kinds of excuses, and gambled on making it a regional ally. They, just like the former US Democratic administration did before, are intentionally separating between nuclear technology and political repercussions. The three governments have ignored the fact that Iran’s lies second the World (after China) in the number of executions and first relative to population; and that many of these are of a political nature, mostly targeting ethnic and sectarian minorities.

Furthermore, the three governments, while claiming to defend human rights, have done nothing with regard to Tehran’s maltreatment of figures that were part of its regime’s elite like ex-premier Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and former Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, not to mention the first president of ‘The Islamic Republic’ Abolhassan Banisadr, still living in exile in France!

Berlin, Paris and London, which are repeating Obama’s same excuses that limit Muslim terror to Sunnis, refuse to admit Tehran’s active role in aiding and abetting even extremist Sunni Muslim groups worldwide, and co-operating with them, including Al Qaeda.

The three governments want us to accept former US Secretary of State John Kerry’s inverted logic when he stated, time and time again during the US-Iran nuclear negotiations, that they solely touched on the nuclear side and never included any “other issues”. It is the same “logic” that Kerry reiterated this week as he criticized President Trump’s refusal to “certificate” the JCPOA while taking a tough line too against the IRGC and its appendages after highlighting their destructive role regionally and globally. As for the “other issues” mentioned by Mr Kerry, and ignored then by the Obama administration, were Iran’s political, military and intelligence interventions in Arab countries.

Finally, the three European governments which have always claimed the moral high ground in welcoming refugees from the Middle East, could do better by adopting the maxim “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

The ounce of prevention in this case, is simply, ridding the World of the evils of extremism, destruction and hatred, all of which create and fuel terrorism.

Kurds Suspend Elections, Withdraw to “Pre-ISIS” Borders

Members of Iraqi federal forces are seen in Dibis area on the outskirts of Kirkuk

Erbil, Baghdad, London– Kurdish Peshmerga forces retreated to positions they had held in northern Iraq in June 2014 in response to an Iraqi army advance into the region after a Kurdish independence referendum, a senior Iraqi commander said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish regional electoral commission halted on Wednesday preparations for the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled to be held on November 1 due to the current crisis in Kirkuk province and lack of candidates.

In a statement released, the regional Independent High Electoral and Referendum Commission (IHERC) said it decided to suspend the preparations for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections due to the recent violence in Kirkuk and other disputed territories.

An Iraqi military statement said government forces had taken control of Kurdish-held areas of Nineveh province, including Mosul and the hydro-electric dam.

On Monday, Iraqi forces recaptured the major oil city of Kirkuk to the south shortly after the Peshmerga abandoned it.

Reuters pointed out that Bashiqa residents celebrated in the streets the retreat of Peshmerga and their replacement by Iraqi Troops.

Backed by the US, Peshmerga forces drove ISIS out of the area and gained control over several areas outside of official and semi-independent border of Kurdistan, including Kirkuk which Kurds demand to include as part of their sovereignty.

Peshmerga had advanced into Nineveh and the Kirkuk region over the past three years as part of the war against ISIS militants, filling a void left by a temporary collapse of the Iraqi army in the face of an ISIS onslaught.

“As of today we reversed the clock back to 2014,” the Iraqi army commander, who spoke on condition of animosity, told Reuters.

DW Germany news agency reported Iraqi sources saying that clashes erupted between the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces near Mahmoudiyyah town, northwest of Mosul.

Sources told the agency that an army unit arrived in the town without any prior coordination with Peshmerga which led to the clashes, but commander of west Nineveh operations Lieutenant Karim Shweili arrived in the area and contained the situation.

Meanwhile, Rudaw agency posted a video that has been widely shared on social media showing a young man jumping on a vehicle of the Iraqi police force in Kirkuk. Although the vehicle was moving, the young man was able to take the Iraqi flag down.

The young man was part of a group of people who protested Iraqi forces’ presence.

In addition, a video circulated on social media showing a member of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) standing before photos of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hung on the wall of the Kirkuk governorate’s building. The video angered Kirkuk civilians who refused such actions.

The fighter said that PMF have now taken over the shelters of Peshmerga.

“We reclaimed Kirkuk. Are you not ashamed? Where are the men? Did you not say “we are men coming from Erbil and Sulaimani to preserve Kirkuk and Kirkuk is ours”? Where are you?,” he said.

He also confirmed: “I am now in Kirkuk. We are now inside the governorate’s building.”

PMF and Iraqi forces controlled Kirkuk and nearby areas after Peshmerga forces retreated from it. Commander of Tigris operations Maj-Gen Ali Fadil Amraa told DW that security work within Kirkuk is restricted to local police.

DW also reported a security source saying the Directorate of National Security in Kirkuk had apprehended several persons who claimed they belonged to PMF, searching houses in the city, after which security forces and police toured the Kurdish areas to assures civilians.

Streets between Kirkuk and Erbil were crowded with Kurdish residents who continued to flee Kirkuk, fearing abuse or arrests. Large numbers have headed towards Sulaimania.

Kurdish member of Iraqi parliament Renas Jano believes that the incidents in Kirkuk aim at targeting the strong position of Kurdistan.

Jano told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that Iran entered Kirkuk aiming to weaken Peshmerga capabilities to an extent they can’t do anything in the post-ISIS era.

He explained that real changes will happen after ISIS has been terminated, and stated that after the decision of US concerning the nuclear deal, Iran is trying to fully control Iraq. He believes Tehran wants to do so for two reasons: compensate the financial losses of wars in Syria and Yemen through Iraqi oil, and overcome human losses it suffered during the war in Syria by employing other forces in Iraq like the PMF.

Jano considered the incidents occurring in Kirkuk a genocide against its civilians.

Meanwhile, head of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Kirkuk Aso Mamand announced that he was informed by the Iraqi forces that the city council would convene on Thursday to select a new governor.

He told reporters on Wednesday that some PMF fighters have stormed Kurdish houses, but described the situation as generally “calm.”

In addition, Vice president of Kurdistan and deputy leader of PUK Kosart Rasul Ali warned in a statement that what is happening is another Anfal against Kurds, in reference to a similar campaign they suffered in Baghdad during the residency of late President Saddam Hussein.

“Some apostates abandoned the PUK’s doctrine without returning to our party’s leadership and became the invaders’ assistant to obtain some personal, temporary gains. With this disgusting act, they are slipping themselves into the black pages of the history of our nation, humiliated,” he added.

Iran Announces Strengthening Military Cooperation with Damascus

Damascus, London – Iran’s Chief of Staff for Iran’s Armed Forces Mohammad Bagheri announced drawing a new policy to boost military cooperation between his country and the Syrian regime.

In a joint press conference held in Damascus on Wednesday with his Syrian counterpart Ali Ayoub, Bagheri said: “I am in the Syrian capital to coordinate and cooperate in order to fight our common enemies — whether they are the Zionists or the terrorists. We discussed ways to strengthen relations in the future and outlined the basic principles of this cooperation.”

Tehran would not tolerate violations of Syrian sovereignty by Israel, Bagheri stressed, vowing that the two countries would jointly fight against Syria’s enemies.

Bagheri added that Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani “has made a serious mistake after carrying out the referendum in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, as he took steps to achieve an imaginary independence that may drag the region to future confrontations.”

For his part, Lt. Gen. Ayoub said: “We held plenary talks which included a comprehensive assessment of all the current developments, and we discussed in details the relations binding our armies and the mutual desire to enhance these relations.”

He affirmed that the Takfiri terrorist project “will end and the war against terrorism will continue till eliminating it completely and restoring security and stability to all the territories of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Ayoub accused the United States of trying to impede the progress of the army in its operations to combat terrorism through groups that have been forced to obey terrorist organizations such as ISIS and others to attack the Syrian regime army.

He also considered the entry of Turkish forces into Idlib violates what was agreed upon in Astana, and “we have all the rights to respond to this attack,” Ayoub said.

Haley Urges UN to Confront Iran’s ‘Destructive Conduct’

London- US Ambassador Nikki Haley urged the UN Security Council on Wednesday to adopt the Trump administration’s comprehensive approach to Iran and address all aspects of its “destructive conduct” — not just the 2015 nuclear deal.

She told the council that Iran “has repeatedly thumbed its nose” at council resolutions aimed at addressing Iranian support for terrorism and regional conflicts and has illegally supplied weapons to armed groups in Yemen and Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon.

Haley cited a long list of Iranian violations, including threatening freedom of navigation, cyberattacks, imprisonment of journalists and other foreigners, and abuses of its people by persecuting some religions.

According to the Associated Press, she called Iran’s most threatening act its repeated ballistic missile launches.

“This should be a clarion call to everyone in the United Nations,” Haley said, warning that when Tehran starts down the path of ballistic missiles, “we will soon have another North Korea on our hands.”

Haley said the Security Council has the opportunity to change its policy toward Iran.

“I sincerely hope it will take this chance to defend not only the resolutions but peace, security and human rights in Iran,” she said.

“Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat,” Haley stressed. “Iran must be judged in totality of its aggressive, destabilizing and unlawful behavior.”

Khamenei: We Will Shred ‘Nuclear Deal’ if Trump Tears it Apart

London – Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Tehran would commit to its 2015 nuclear deal with international powers as long as the US Congress did not impose sanctions against his country.

However, he threatened to “shred” the agreement if the United States pulled out, state TV reported.

Khamenei’s remarks came five days after US President Donald Trump decertified the Iranian nuclear deal, asking the Congress to address the “many serious flaws” in the international agreement.

“I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws,” Trump warned.

“In the event, we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.”

In his first response to Trump, Khamenei said: “I don’t want to waste our time to respond to the rants and whoppers of the foul-throated president of the United States.”

“If the US tears up the deal, we will shred it… Everyone should know that once again America will receive a slap in its mouth and will be defeated by Iranians,” the Iranian leader added.

Although Khamenei expressed his relief with the position of the European Union countries in support of the nuclear agreement, he said that it not enough to tell Trump not to tear up the agreement.

“European states stressed their backing for the deal and condemned Trump … We welcomed this, but it is not enough to ask Trump not to rip up the agreement. Europe needs to stand against practical measures (taken) by America,” he stated.

Following a closed-door meeting on Monday, EU foreign ministers appealed to the US Congress to maintain the nuclear deal with Iran and avoid a return to the sanctions option.

“This agreement is necessary for the security of the region,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said, without elaborating on the role the EU could play in countering Iran’s regional activities.

In a joint statement, Paris, London, and Berlin have also expressed concern about the “repercussions on the security of the United States and its allies” that would result from the actions demanded by Trump.

In decertifying the nuclear deal last week, Trump gave the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to impose economic sanctions on Tehran, which were lifted under the 2015 agreement.

During their meeting on Monday, EU foreign ministers also discussed the need to dismantle Iran’s missile program.

“They must avoid interfering in our defense program … We do not accept that Europe sings along with America’s bullying and its unreasonable demands,” Khamenei said, as reported by Reuters.

“They (Europeans) ask why does Iran have missiles? Why do you have missiles yourselves? Why do you have nuclear weapons?” He asked.

What Congress Should Do Now About Iran

You’re a member of Congress who opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the grounds that the plan had critical flaws and the Obama administration had in essence given away too much without permanently cutting off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. However, you correctly recognized that President Trump’s decertification stunt would alienate allies, give Iran the high ground and threaten to unravel the JCPOA with nothing to take its place.

What’s more, you’ve now heard that Trump is threatening to impose sanctions in January to effectively end the deal.

What in the world do you do now, especially if you are a Democrat seeing the president try to make you and your party an accessory to a foreign policy catastrophe?

Maybe Democrats go along with the proposal from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to create penalties for breach of the JCPOA, as well as a penalty in case Iran does not negotiate on removal of the sunset clause. That, however, seems unlikely because Congress does not trust this president and really cannot gauge whether the actions would trigger the end of the JCPOA.

Corker may work some magic, but right now that doesn’t seem to be in the cards unless Congress can manage to pull back Trump’s unilateral waiver authority. (Congress also should take the opportunity to redraft the waiver authority and the recertification requirement. Congress would need to approve reimplementation of sanctions — that is, take unilateral authority away from the president — and do away with certification in exchange for full transparency and information-sharing with Congress on the status of the deal and on Iran’s behavior.)

Democrats understandably want to be partners, not stagehands in the president’s theatrical productions. If Corker’s effort doesn’t bear fruit, Congress might ignore decertification and focus in a bipartisan way to set new standards for dealing with Iran on a list of items including its missile testing, the sunset clause, Iran’s regional aggression and so on.

In other words, Congress could craft the policy the administration won’t, with flexible benchmarks for progress.

That’s the suggestion of long-time Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross. He urges that we “invite the British, French and German ambassadors for quiet discussions before finalizing the legislation and work genuinely to make this a bipartisan product, meaning Democrats need to be involved in crafting this lest it become again not a national policy but a narrow political policy.”

Benchmarks that relate to changes to the JCPOA (e.g., enhanced inspections) would unify the United States and the European Union and provide the negotiating position to bargain with Iran. Benchmarks that are not directly covered by the JCPOA could be the basis for joint US-EU action on non-nuclear sanctions.

The real problem here is winning back the trust of Europeans so we can present a united front and pressure Iran on both nuclear and non-nuclear items.

Ross explains, “The Europeans will be open to some of our concerns as long as they can preserve the JCPOA — and here is the challenge for the administration and the Congress: how to get the Europeans to see that the key to the maintenance of the deal depends on meeting at least some of our concerns.” He suggests that “the administration requires a calibrated diplomacy that reflects our leverage but does not overplay our hand and permits the Europeans the time to see that we are making a good faith effort and not simply seeking a cover to walk away. ” But who thinks this administration is capable of doing any of that?

Ross offers an intriguing proposal: “A premium needs to be put on [the] administration that can orchestrate a complicated set of discussions and in a way that they support and don’t undercut each other,” he says. “That is why I think an outside senior figure who has credibility should be appointed . . . [who] would convey a message of good faith to the Europeans and help give them an explanation with their own publics.”

That would, in essence, take the administration and the president out of the day-to-day haggling over the deal and not make Congress the fall guys if things go wrong (e.g., if legislation triggers a collapse of the JCPOA). Why not former senator Joe Lieberman or former CIA director Robert Gates or former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams? Someone of that caliber could help defuse tensions between the United States and the E.U. and convey a level of seriousness without rattling our allies. If nothing else, appointment of a negotiator could soothe the president, who would be assured that we are doing “something.” (The trick, of course, is getting Trump to be quiet and let such a person do his job.)

Unfortunately, there are no great options here and a very, very problematic American president. We’ll need to find a way to muddle through. Corker has suggested one avenue; we’ve come up with another. Perhaps Democrats have a third approach. Everyone in the effort, however, would need to agree that the purpose is not to destroy the JCPOA and get into a military confrontation with Iran but to strengthen the deal and Western resolve to contain Iran.

The Washington Post

Trump’s Strategy Includes Restricting Iran’s Support for ‘Hezbollah,’ Hamas

Trump

Riyadh, London – US President Donald Trump’s strategy to neutralize Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region includes curbing its support for terrorist organizations and militants in the Middle East and Afghanistan, a US official told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior official at the US State Department said that the strategy included four key elements or objectives.

He pointed out that the first strategic goal is “to neutralize the destabilizing activities by Iran, especially its support for terrorism and insurgents, with a focus on its activities in the Middle East in particular and also in Afghanistan.”

Earlier this week, Trump announced the possibility of terminating the Iranian nuclear deal once and for all, because he was “tired of achieving benefits at [his] country’s expenses”. The European Union, for its part, called on the US Congress to maintain the agreement.

Trump’s new strategy – according to the US official – includes putting an end to Iran’s subversive activities in Syria and its support for terrorism through groups such as “Hezbollah”, Hamas, the Taliban and Iraqi Shi’ite factions, noting that Tehran was seeking to fuel ethnic and sectarian strife in Iraq.

The US president said on Monday that a total termination of the Iran nuclear deal was a very real possibility.

“It might be a total termination. That’s a very real possibility,” Trump said before a Cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday welcomed European support for the nuclear deal between his country and international powers.

Rouhani said in a statement on the Iranian presidency website that the consensus on the support for the agreement, especially by the Europeans, “is an important political achievement for Iran,” according to the German news agency.

Following a closed-door meeting on Monday, EU foreign ministers appealed to the US Congress to maintain the nuclear deal with Iran and avoid a return to the sanctions option.

“This agreement is necessary for the security of the region,” EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said, without elaborating on the role the EU could play in countering Iran’s regional activities.