The US withdraws from the Iran Deal; Israel’s northern border hots up

Few Middle East watchers, particularly Israelis, were surprised when President Donald Trump made his announcement on Tuesday that the US was withdrawing from the JCPOA, otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.

US President Donald Trump announces his decision on the Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)

What was particularly gratifying for Israel however was the way he dissected the deal and pinpointed its flaws, calling it “defective at its core”, rather than just leaving the announcement standing as is.

From his speech (full transcript at the link):

In 2015, the previous administration joined with other nations in a deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program. This agreement was known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. In theory, the so-called Iran deal was supposed to protect the United States and our allies from the lunacy of an Iranian nuclear bomb, a weapon that will only endanger the survival of the Iranian regime.In fact, the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and, over time, reach the brink of a nuclear breakout. The deal lifted crippling economic sanctions on our end in exchange for very weak limits on the regime’s nuclear activity and no limits at all on its other maligned behavior, including sinister activities in Syria, Yemen, and other places all around the world. In other words, at the point when the United States had maximum leverage, this disastrous deal gave this regime—and it’s a regime of great terror—many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash. A great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States.

A constructive deal could easily have been struck at the time, but it wasn’t. At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear-energy program. Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie. Last week, Israel published intelligence documents, long-concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranian regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons

….

The agreement was so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime could still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time. The deal’s sunset provisions are totally unacceptable

….

Making matters worse, the deal’s inspection provisions lack adequate mechanisms to prevent, detect, and punish cheating—and don’t even have the unqualified right to inspect many important locations, including military facilities. Not only does the deal fail to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it also fails to address the regime’s development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.

Finally, the deal does nothing to constrain Iran’s destabilizing activities, including its support for terrorism. Since the agreement, Iran’s bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen.

It was also encouraging to hear Trump give full credit to Binyamin Netanyahu for presenting Israel’s intelligence coup of the Iranian intelligence haul.

Netanyahu presents the Mossad’s intelligence haul

Again, it was pretty obvious to most Israelis and our supporters that Netanyahu’s speech was aimed at Donald Trump. It has now been confirmed that there was advance coordination between Israel and the US prior to Trump’s announcement.

Unsurprisingly, the moment the announcement was out, all the old Obama-regime brass went into meltdown with dire warnings of “War is imminent”, “Trump is making a huge mistake” etc.

Former US president Barack Obama made a rare public criticism of his successor Tuesday, describing Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal as “misguided” and a “serious mistake.”

Former secretary of state John Kerry said the decision “puts Israel at greater risk.”

“The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working,” Obama said in a statement, referring to the deal his administration brokered in 2015 by its acronym. “That is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current US secretary of defense.”

Well, that was the precise point made by Netanyahu and Trump. The Iranians had no need to break the JCPOA. It was so badly formulated that by keeping to it, the Iranians could still reach nuclear break out within a very short time.

The Europeans meanwhile continue to flog the dead horse, insisting the deal is not dead:

European officials sought to reassure allies that the nuclear deal with Iran would not dissolve because of the US decision to withdraw from the pact, and planned a meeting with Iranian representatives next week.

The EU believes “that this is an agreement which belongs to the international community,” EU ambassador to China Hans Dietmar Schweisgut said during a press briefing in Beijing. “This is not an agreement that will fall apart if you just walk away.”

Trump defied European pleas to stay in the pact, which curbs Iran’s nuclear program, and reimposed crippling sanctions which will come into effect within six months.

The decision marked a stark diplomatic defeat for Europe, whose leaders, repeatedly and in person, had begged Trump to think again.

Le Maire pointed out that the withdrawal gives European firms doing business in Iran the “very short time of six months” to wind up investments — or risk US sanctions.

Sometimes, dear Europeans, certain things are more important than money. Things like peace and life and safety.

The withdrawal announcement was barely out of Trump’s mouth when the shooting began. Israel spotted suspicious activity in Syria and bombed an Iranian weapons convoy in Damascus.

The IDF ordered civilian bomb shelters to be opened in the Golan area, which was just as well as Iranian proxies in Syria made the big mistake of launching around 20 rockets at Israeli sites in the Golan, to which Israel responded massively, destroying  dozens of Iranian weapons bases and killing several dozen fighters, including Iranians:

The Israeli army said Thursday morning that it set back Iranian military capabilities in Syria by “many months” with overnight strikes on “dozens” of targets affiliated with the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps’ al-Quds Force following an attempted large-scale rocket attack on Israeli territory.

The Israel Defense Forces said that it suffered no casualties, either on the ground or in the air, and that no rockets fired from Syria made impact in Israeli territory.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus stressed that Israel was not seeking an escalation of hostilities with Tehran, after some 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military bases by Iranian forces from southern Syria just after midnight, prompting extensive Israeli retaliatory raids.

Four of the 20 projectiles launched by Iranian troops were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and the rest fell in Syria, Conricus said. The rockets included both Grad and Fajr-5 models, according to the military.

The IDF said the initial missile barrage was launched by members of the IRGC’s al-Quds Force. It appeared to be the first time Israel attributed an attack directly to Iran, which generally operates through proxies.

In all, the army said it carried out approximately 50 raids against IRGC targets, including intelligence centers, weapons depots, storage facilities, observation posts, and logistics centers in Syria, as well as the rocket launcher that carried out the initial attack.

An illustrative map showing the general locations of Israeli strikes in Syria in response to a presumed Iranian attack on the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

It was the “largest such operation [by Israel] against Iranian targets,” Conricus said.

“All of the targets that we engaged were effectively destroyed,” he added, causing “significant damage” to the Iranians.

An illustrative map released by the military showed the general distribution of Israel’s strikes in Syria, but did not indicate the exact location of the raids.

The IDF spokesperson said the Iranians still retained military infrastructure to attack Israel, which was being monitored, but that the Israeli strikes set them back by “many months.” He said Israel was not seeking additional confrontation but would respond to any attempts to challenge its sovereignty.

The response to the Iranian missile fire and Israel’s response has been astonishing  – in a good way.

First of all the White House condemned Iran’s “highly dangerous” attack:

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday condemned Iran’s firing some 20 rockets into Israel from Syria hours earlier, a move the White House warned could have far-reaching consequences for the entire region.

“The United States condemns the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens, and we strongly support Israel’s right to act in self-defense,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

That was not so unexpected. What was surprising was the strong support for Israel from the Europeans! Britain didn’t even ask for restraint from Israel!

Germany and France joined in the UK‘s condemnation of Iran and support for Israel:

The three countries issued an unusually strong defense of the Jewish state. The Trump Administration which always stands strong on Israel’s right to self-defense issued a statement as well.

The French Foreign Ministry said its country had an “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security” and that it “condemns any attempt to undermine it.”

It called on both Israel and Iran to exercise restrain. But at the same time the French Foreign Ministry also demanded that “Iran refrain from any military provocation” and “warned it against any temptation toward regional hegemony.”

Most astounding of all though was the support from the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain:

Bahrain has backed Israel’s right to “defend itself”, following dozens of Israeli airstrikes on Iranian military targets in Syria overnight.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa said on Thursday that it backed Tel Aviv’s military response to attempted Iranian missile strikes on an Israeli army base, early Thursday morning, in the occupied Golan Heights.

“As long as Iran has breached the status quo in the region and invaded countries with its forces and missiles, so any state in the region, including Israel, is entitled to defend itself by destroying sources of danger,” the minister, whose country is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, said on his official Twitter account.

Israellycool brings us reports of support for Israel from other Arab countries, like Saud Arabia too:

The importance of these statements of support from Arab countries cannot be overstated. Even though this is more a matter of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” than any real warm relations, it is an enormous step forward for the region. We can but pray that relations will only improve from here on.

For more analysis and background to this whole issue, here are two interesting articles to enlighten you.

Raphael Ahren explains how Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal vindicates Netanyahu’s strong opposition to the deal during Obama’s administration:

“All those who at the time attacked the prime minister for his determination to fight against the agreement, and argued there was no chance the agreement would be rescinded, have to eat their hats today and apologize to Netanyahu,” senior Likud Minister Ze’ev Elkin said.

Many criticized the prime minister for going to Congress in 2015 to speak out against the then looming Iran deal. They argued that the speech would inevitably fail to scuttle the agreement and needlessly anger then-president Barack Obama. Indeed, Netanyahu’s critics later noted, Obama took revenge on Israel by not vetoing an anti-settlements resolution at the United Nations Security Council in December 2016.

So Netanyahu’s camp can feel vindicated by Trump’s announcement to gut one of Obama’s key foreign policy achievements, with the Tuesday speech reading as if it had been written in Jerusalem. It listed nearly all the points the prime minister would have made if he had given the address himself: the fatal flaws of the nuclear agreement, Iran’s support for terrorism, its development of ballistic missiles, and more.

The president even mentioned Israel’s revelation last week of Tehran’s secret atomic archive, courtesy of the Mossad’s staggering operation, saying it “conclusively” proved the regime’s history of seeking nuclear weapons.

Every one of Obama’s mouthpieces and defenders, in whichever country they happen to be, should be crawling to Netanyahu with apologies but of course I’m sure they won’t.

David Horovitz, editor of the Times of Israel, looks back at the deal and says “It should never have come to this”:

A “constructive deal” — that is, a deal to dismantle Iran’s rogue nuclear program — could indeed have been struck in the Obama years, when economic pressure had dragged the Iranian regime kicking and screaming to the negotiating table. The ayatollahs feared for their hold on Iran; the West had maximal leverage. The Russians and Chinese would have sought to resist a stringent agreement that put Iran out of the nuclear weapons business for the long term, but a US administration that made plain the top priority it placed on the imperative for an agreement to keep the world’s most dangerous regime from attaining the world’s mass dangerous weapons of mass destruction could have got its way.

Israel, the Little Satan in the ayatollahs’ rapacious sights, could have injected some Middle East nous into the battle of wills, but was kept at a firm distance by the Americans. The only truly dependable ally of the West in this region, with the best intelligence apparatuses, was told to butt out. Worse, we were haughtily informed that since we didn’t know what was in the deal when it was taking shape we shouldn’t be objecting to it, and then, when it was done, we were falsely accused of being opposed to any deal, no matter what it contained.

Meanwhile, the US-led negotiators were outsmarted and outmaneuvered. The Iranians were let off the hook. The regime got the deal it wanted. And it was entrenched in power — bolder and richer, the better to oppress its people, cause havoc in the region, and keep its eye on the nuclear prize.

The P5+1’s failure to stop the ayatollahs dead in their would-be nuclear tracks is mirrored by the demonstrably lackadaisical approach of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN body charged with policing the deal. How it can allow itself to certify that Iran is complying with the accord when the terms of the deal do not allow it to carry out anytime-anywhere inspections of suspect sites is beyond comprehension. And its response to the Mossad’s astonishing haul of Iran’s own nuclear weapons documentation in the past few days simply beggars belief.

Then imagine that someone else manages, through extraordinary enterprise and courage, to gain access to more core material, much more, than you could ever have imagined existed. And offers to make it available to you.

Would you a) express your profound gratitude and rush to pore over the new discoveries or b) dismiss the material, sight unseen, as irrelevant? No prizes for guessing which course of action the IAEA adopted hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled and began to detail Iran’s own nuclear weapons documentation, spirited out of Tehran from under the noses of the Islamic “We have never sought nuclear weapons” Republic.

Well, those bad days are over now and we are standing on the threshold of a new age. It is not necessarily a brave new world. It is certainly a new era full of danger and volatility.

But Israel has never been in a stronger position regionally, politically, diplomatically or militarily. Israel has never had such strong support from almost across the entire globe. The possibilities seem endless, and yet fraught with peril as an cornered Iran is also an exceedingly dangerous Iran.

Is this Mashiach-zeit, the Messianic era? Or is this just another phase in our roller-coaster history? We will have to hang on fast to find out.

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8 Responses to The US withdraws from the Iran Deal; Israel’s northern border hots up

  1. Pingback: The US withdraws from the Iran Deal; Israel’s northern border hots up – 24/6 Magazine

  2. Brian Goldfarb says:

    In terms of the international law on war, Israel’s response is entirely proportionate (imagine block caps & underlined three times!), as the comments both in and out of the region indicate. The law states that a proportionate response is one that stops the aggressor continuing their attack. Which is what Israel’s response in Protective Edge was all about, despite the carping comments at the time by the likes of Ed Miliband (the then Leader of the UK Labour Party).

    Of equal interest and importance is what on earth were the Iranians thinking? It’s clear that the missile launch was an attack on the nearest and most convenient surrogate for the US (the “Great Satan”), as the major prop to the Iran Nuclear “Deal” and the one that can (and presumably will) deal the most serious harm to Iran’s economy. But did they expect the Israelis to do nothing in response? Or did they expect them just to fire back 20 missiles? Or issue a “strongly worded” diplomatic note?

    The Israelis had clearly formulated their response a long time ago, probably once it became clear (at least a year ago) that Trump was likely to withdraw the US from JCPOA and reinstate US economic sanctions on Iran, and expected this attack, for the reasons stated above.

    Further, they have degraded Iran’s fighting capacity in Syria to the extent that the civil war, apparently on the point of being “won” by the pro-Assad forces (including Iran and Iranian surrogates), will now continue for many more months (years?), as the Iranians attempt to rebuild their strength.

    Fortunately for all of us who care for Israel’s future and her very existence, Iran has roused the (merely waiting, not sleeping) tiger. As I have argued before, you rouse the democracies at your peril, and Israel is very much a democracy: there will be no (or vanishingly little) dissent among Israel’s population as to the correctness of this response and Iran has made a massive mistake which will continue to cost them dear.

    Fortunately!

    • Earl says:

      And factor in two additional facts (h/t Spengler in the AT) that near-guarantee further Iranian actions such as we have seen this week: the environmental collapse in Iran (water shortages predicted for next year across the country) and a demographic collapse. It is the mullahs lashing out in a paroxysm of inchoate (but futile) rage as the financing for their four-decades-long regional hegemonic planning now dries up; as their captive population becomes increasingly restive; and as a malleable Manchurian candidate in the WH is replaced by a group of realpolitik practitioners (Haley; Bolton; Pompeo; Mattis).

      And Tsar and POTUS have now effectively slipped the IDF off its leash. I would not rule out a Buenos Aires-style act by the IRGC- and responding attacks on Iran itself by the IAF. Interesting times…

      • anneinpt says:

        I agree that Iran is also lashing out because it is feeling cornered. But a cornered Iran is a very dangerous Iran.

        I hope your pessimistic forecast is not fulfilled.

        Maybe Iran will feel hampered following the massive support for Israel across the board in the West. It’s quite astonishing. We Israelis can’t quite take it in. We’ve never been so popular since the Six Day war!

    • anneinpt says:

      “What on earth was Iran thinking?”. They were thinking that they had to save face. Honour is all in the Muslim Middle East. They couldn’t let Israel attack its bases without a reaction, and certainly not after Trump’s announcement. Luckily they didn’t cause any serious damage, and Israel had the sense not to over-react either.

      I agree that Israel had its response planned well ahead of time, and also had its response coordinated with both the US and Russia. See Bibi’s visit to Moscow the next day. It wasn’t just for Victory Day. It was to coordinate further action with Putin.

      Whatever we think of Bibi he is a master statesman.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        I suspect that the Ayatollahs are more worldly than they are often given credit for. Thus, it may not have been any question of “honour” that motivated them but a more earthly ideology.

        We all know that the flawed (to put it mildly) JCPOA didn’t in fact stop the Iranians from continuing with uranium enrichment (although continuing the economic sanctions until they complied with full inspections might have done – which is what many of us said at the time). However, until the US decided to withdraw from the JCPOA, the Iranian regime could pretend to be complying with the Agreement. After that, it all hung out, as the slightly vulgar American saying has it.

        With Jeff, I think that this is the second sensible thing that Trump has done (the other was moving the embassy to Jerusalem) and I suspect the hand of Nikki Haley shows in both the decision and the uncharacteristically statesmanlike language of Trump’s speech, without deviation from the script, in announcing this.

        Naturally, the Ayatollahs were furious that they had been found out, but they couldn’t (and can’t) attack the US in any meaningful way. So they decided that they would go for the (in their view – not religiously based, but politically based) weak democracy of Israel, which is, again in their view, a surrogate for the US.

        I have argued in at least one article kindly published by Anne that authoritarian and dictatorial regimes consistently underestimate the will of the democracies to pursue the fight to the end once roused. That is, I am arguing that the ayatollahs made – and will continue to make – the same mistake that, for example, Napoleon (Britain was a nation of shopkeepers and nothing more), Hitler (America was nothing more than beauty queens, silly music and candy floss – or words to that effect) and the Soviets (the West would crumble under the unstoppable logic of Marxism…until the economic might of the free market crushed and toppled the Iron Curtain) – that the democracies will not have the will to fight, because they embrace life as “we [Hamas, in this case] embrace death”.

        They could not imagine that the Israelis (add your own version of the epithets the ayatollahs would have employed) would a) have a plan to respond to Iranian aggression (despite having had a year or more to prepare for this situation) and b) the ability and will to carry it out. They assumed that the Israelis would not have been prepared for the Iranian response to Trump’s announcement nor had the will, training, experience and expertise to carry it through to such a successful conclusion, to the point that it will take the Iranians at least a year to get to where they were…assuming that Israel lets them.

        It is important to note the reaction of the major Sunni Muslim states (Egypt, Jordan – who have said nothing, which is significant in itself)) and more interestingly both the Saudis and Bahrein who have defended Israel’s right to defend itself…not what they would have said before Iran started a serious programme to develop nuclear weapons. These states have come to respect both Israel’s military capabilities AND its ability to know exactly where its borders are and how to act responsibly in an extremely volatile neighbourhood.

  3. Jeff says:

    I did not vote for Trump and still have many reservations.
    However, I am absolutely grateful for his support of Israel and credit his actions far above those of his predecessors. He has paved the way for new ways of fighting aggression by evil forces.

    • anneinpt says:

      I said elsewhere that i think G-d has a sense of humour. I feel we have entered Messianic times, with the US so strongly behind us. Not even behind us. BESIDE us. And the West AND Russia support us!

      But if G-d wanted to indicate that the Messiah is on his way, He certainly chose a funny messenger in the shape of Trump. 😀

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