Category Archives: Iran

IRAN, IRAN, AND IRAN

BLOG 443
September 9, 2019

iran

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

IRAN, IRAN, AND IRAN

Who’s the greatest threat to Israel in the Middle East? In a television interview, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Iran, Iran, and Iran.”

Netanyahu has been warning the world about Tehran’s global terrorists’ practices for a long time. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic over 40 years ago, their expansion of frightening methods of terrorism have continually escalated. Even when the international community wasn’t slowed in reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran, Netanyahu continually warned of the dangers posed by this Islamic regime. Mossad agents struck and stole thousands of hidden Iranian documents that demonstrated that Iran was lying about having a limited approach to building atomic weapons. From the dealings of the Obama administration with Iran, one concludes that the USA did not take seriously enough the implications of these revealing documents.

For decades, Iran has viewed itself in a supreme contest with Israel. They have seen themselves as taking up the mantle of Gamal Abdel Nasser and pursuing this conflict in religious terms aligned with the Islamic Revolution. Nothing is more frightening and dangerous than a holy war. All restraints are cast aside, and the combatants kill in the name of God. Everyday citizens turn into fanatics, willing to cast their lives into the fire in the name of their god. Personal sacrifice is holy. This is the drum that the Ayatollah and his cronies have been continually beating.

Today Iran acts as if it believes there is no one to restrain them. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard cruises menacingly across the Strait of Hormoz while they shoot down a US Drone. They believe they have called President Trump’s bluff and scored a psychological victim over America. The danger in such exercises is a miscalculation on Iran’s part. Yes, the US could smash Iran, but an “accidental war” is the last thing the world needs.

America is currently rightfully pre-occupied with hurricanes and a stock market swinging like a gate. The average citizen is watching the Fall football games. All is well and good, but don’t take your eyes off Iran. The pot is boiling.

Iran has been playing with fire for a long time. The question before the Middle East today is, “who’s going to get burned?”

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THE ON-GOING STRUGGLE IN THE EAST

BLOG 436
July 15, 2019

iran (2)

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation,
ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

THE ON-GOING STRUGGLE IN THE EAST

Iran continues to enrich uranium and America increases the sanctions. Where’s it all going?

Of course, predictions about what’s happening inside Iran are difficult. Their society certainly doesn’t invite American newsmen to drop by for a story. However, some aspects are discernible.

Some years ago, I was in Damascus, Syria (where Western tourists did not go!) and sitting in a hotel eating breakfast. A group of tourists came filing in. One glance said they didn’t look like Arabs or the usual racial groups one sees on the streets in Damascus. I guessed they looked like Iranians. Everybody in the restaurant had already given me a second once over. My attire, haircut, countenance, screamed American and there usually wasn’t anyone around who looked like me.

In the center of the café (as well as the taxis, rest rooms, lobbies, you name it) were pictures of Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar, the current despot. The impression was clear; the Assads are WATCHING YOU! Not exactly, the most comfortable place for an American to be.

I noticed one couple kept looking at me. I smiled; they smiled back. After a few minutes, they got up and came over to my table. I quickly learned they thought I was a Canadian. They confided that they were trying to get out of Iran and escape to Canada. They were sure I could help them.

Because I had once worked in Canada, I could answer many of their questions. Finally, I asked why they wanted out. The wife said firmly, “The leaders of our government are crazy. The country is ruled by religious lunatics.”

Her response revealed a sharp division in Iran that exists to this day. Groups like the Revolutionary Guard are fanatical extremists while many, many of the average citizens strongly disagree with them. Periodically, there is an explosion between the extremists and the ordinary citizens with revolting in the streets.

In the current situation with sanctions crippling Iran, this division continues to deepen. The average citizen knows that to oppose the government and the Supreme Ruler will bring imprisonment and probably death. On the other hand, the government realizes that a huge percent of the population does not agree with their race to build a nuclear weapon and start a war.

While no one is saying so, probably insiders in the American government are hoping that a revolution will follow before the Islamic extremist government yields.

Keep your eyes open. Who knows what’s coming next!

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THE SITUATION INSIDE IRAN

BLOG 434
July 1, 2019

middle east

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation,
ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

THE SITUATION INSIDE IRAN

The Democratic Party Debates rather effectively captured the headlines this past week, but the serious situation in Iran continues to boil. Politicians in both countries exchanged barbs and insults like children calling each other names on the school ground. President Trump flew off to a G-20 summit and made insensitive jokes about Russia’s interference in the past election. However, there are no jokes inside Iran!

For the average Western citizen, it is difficult to figure out what the actually situation is inside Iran. One must survey a wide swipe of materials to develop an idea of what is actually going on. One of the best sources for information is the international reporting found in The New York Times. You don’t have to like their editorial positions to respect the accuracy of what they discover. Here’s what I’ve picked up from my sources that report from within Iran.

1. Iranian national leaders were furious and frustrated with the tactical commander who made the decision to shoot down the American drone. The public bravado of the Revolutionary Guard mask deeper worries about what the superiority of the American military might do to them. Such mistakes could inadvertently set off a “big time” shooting war.

2. The Revolutionary Guard runs its own independent business and political enterprises. They are the major hard-liners inside Iran. They see shooting down the drone has a victory for Iran. Trump can scream and shout, but the Iranian hard-liners think they won the first-round in the war.

3. Even with the US withdrawal from the nuclear treaty, Iran has avoided direct confrontations with American in the past months. When the Trump administration designed the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and increased sanctions on Iran, this posture change. Iranian now sees itself in economic warfare and declared the same by restarting their nuclear program.

4. The Iranian author Salar Abdoh reports that people on the streets of Tehran already see themselves at war with America. Sanctions have made fruit a luxury and factories are shutting down. The times are increasingly tough.
The previous Iranian ideology to operate as a self-sufficient military prowess is now seen by them as the better way to go. The question will soon be can they really take that road with their economy crumbling. US sanctions continue to take a huge toll on Iran.

So, what comes next from inside Iran? The hard-liners have been emboldened. Many experts do not believe the American cyberattacks will affect much and are seen as relatively unimportant. The crunch is the impact of American sanctions. They are highly effectively.

What’s next? Stay tuned.

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A WAR WITH IRAN?

BLOG 433
June 24, 2019

war iran

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

A WAR WITH IRAN?

Last week I began with the question, “Is the United States getting ready to go to war with Iran?” My, my, what a difference a week can make!

Here we are again with battleships steaming around the Straits of Hormuz and threats being shouted across the bough from Washington to Tehran. The shooting down of an American drone airplane has dramatically upped the ante in this high stakes poker game. Last week, I concluded Iran would be seriously diluted to go to war with the U.S. and that remains the same. However, American sanctions are pushing Iran to a point of desperation and that is no small issue for their side.

What does the situation look like from both sides of the globe?

American political candidate Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren put it squarely on the table. She said, “Trump provoked this crisis. He has no strategy to contain it, he’s burned through our friends and allies, and now he’s doubling down on military force.” While her view is that of a political candidate, Warren is expressing the view that many hold in the Middle East.

Iran is reeling from increased sanctions and U.S. pressure. Their dangerous moves are out of desperation. Of course, that is the reason for this pressure. Iran has been the foremost exporter of terrorism in the Middle East and the U.S. is pressing for a halt. The Revolutionary Guard has now been declared a terrorist organization. As a matter of fact, they have for some time been financing Hezbollah and Hamas at the expense of Israel.

However, President Trump’s sudden retreat a few days ago from military response to the downing of the highly expensive Drone has muddied the waters. Ten minutes before a military strike, Trump backed off. Now the Administration is talking about a cyber-attack. What’s going on? In the Middle East how one reads the mixed signals depends on whether one is a hard-liner or seeking reconciliation. Trump’s vacillation is being read by the hard-liners as the roar of a paper tiger. On the other hand, increased sanctions and computer problems are not inconsequential. Probably the answer lies in whether cyber warfare will make a difference. This is not a good situation and could embolden Iran.

So, the chess game goes on. In the Middle East, President Trump is seen as a real estate manipulator with no long-term strategies or particular insight. They view him as a big-time supporter of Israel. Netanyahu loves it. The problem is that the US has lost the possibility of being a power broker with the Palestinians and now is seen completely on Israel’s side with little regard for the Palestinians and certainly none for Iran.

What’s next? A war is still not off the table, but the manipulations will certainly go back and forth. Iran’s goal is to curtail sanctions. No one’s sure what the American objective is.

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THE SITUATION WITH IRAN

BLOG 432
June 17, 2019

Iran

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation,
ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

THE SITUATION WITH IRAN

Is the United States getting ready to go to war with Iran? Sounds like it.

Isn’t it amazing how often the Middle East pops up out of nowhere and dominates the headlines? Here we are again with battleships steaming toward the Straits of Hormuz and threats being shouted across the bow. Is war really on the horizon?

Recognizing that President Donald Trump is as predictable as a charging rhino and that he is willing to take rash actions to divert attention from his troubles at home makes predicting his responses unpredictable. At this point the idea of impeachment is more that idle talk. Consequently, the recent attacks on oil tankers raises important questions about what comes next.

However, the experts are not predicting a war. H.R. McMaster recently told The Jerusalem Post, “There are two ways of fighting America. One is symmetrically and the other is stupid.” He believes that the only way a country like Iran can fight America is through terrorism and insurgency.

Iran can huff and puff, but they know they can’t square off against the United States. For one thing, their current economy is in shambles. Secondly, the Sunni Saudis are standing at their borders with their guns raised and aimed at the Iranian Shi’ite. Not a good position to be in!

The Iranian Air Force relies heavily on jets sold to them by President Nixon and they now lack spare parts. Consequently, the American Air Force is in a position to overpower their air force, destroy their air fields, and do so at a minimal cost to American lives.

Probably that fleet of American battleships came sailing in more to send a message than start a fight.

American sanctions are breaking their back. The better option is to sit down and hammer out a new nuclear agreement that keeps everyone happy. The best option for them may well be to come out with new negotiations that insure their survival. A little cup of something is much better than a whole bucket of nothing.

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ANOTHER LOOK AT GAZA

BLOG 410 November 12, 2018

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST ~ Each week Robert L. Wise, PhD, explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two  of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

We explored the struggle over Gaza firing rockets in southern Israeli cities in a previous blog. Hamas did not claim responsibility which left the question who pulled the trigger and where did the rockets come from. Not knowing who produced the missiles and where they obtained the materials remained a serious question. If some unknown peripheral group had developed this capacity, the issue would be doubly serious. What have we we learned in a couple of weeks?

Interestingly enough, Yahya Sinwar, Gaza’s Hamas leader, just made the first positive statement about any compatibility with American objectives. While they disagree with almost everything including the time of day, Hamas agreed that Palestinian children have a right to educational opportunities, allowing them any profession they choose. The US government applauded the statement as a step forward.

The problem is in how to achieve such an objective. Hamas chooses terrorism and violence as their modus operandi. While attacking Israeli kindergartens only leads to hitting a brick wall, they continue doing so. Surely, they know they can never defeat the IDF (Israeli military). They must wake up to the fact that the world has passed them by. Violence is no longer acceptable to anybody. Moreover, the 17 rockets fired at the Israeli border town of Sderot were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system. 

Hamas’ last war with Israel destroyed much. Among what does not exist in Gaza today is democracy, cooperation, human rights and freedom. No future there! The real culprit in the last rocket attack on Israel is now known. Iran.

Israeli intelligence has clarified that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard communicated directly with Islamic Jihad to fire the rockets. This Gaza extremist group has been financed from Iran. In addition, Syria played an indirect role. However, information now suggests that Egypt leaned on the Islamic Jihadist group to back off and restore peace. They have now said they will cease firing rockets.

Certainly appears that Hamas with other radical groups never gets it. Constant conflict never leads to peace.

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ASSESSING THE CURRENT SITUATION IN THE MID-EAST

BLOG 354 June 26, 2017

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            A number of issues bear a second look… like the situation in Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, co-author of the nuclear armaments deal with the West was re-elected. He garnered 57% of the vote so no runoff was needed. This is highly significant since the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary guard supported his opponent. The public and particularly young people stand behind Rouhani and strongly support the nuclear agreement that halted Iran’s race for a nuclear option.

Rouhani’s success at the poles boosters the staying power of the nuclear agreement. Such results offer hope for the future.

At the same time, President Trump signed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia to sell the Saudis $380 billion dollars of what Trump called, “beautiful military equipment.” The deal was described in the news as an effort to “counter Iran.” The Saudis want anti-ballistic missiles and a new radar system (THAAD, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). This system will defend against Iran’s missile program. In addition, the Saudis want Lockheed Martin F-35 jets, selling at $100 million apiece. The objective is to provide Saudi Arabia with the strongest military in the region which will outpace Iran’s military and make the Saudis the strongest force in opposition to the Iranians.

From Trump’s point-of-view, the deal brings massive cash infusion into the US defense industry and is getting tough with Iran.

Does this represent an American policy? A critical look at Trump’s campaign rhetoric and subsequent actions raises the question, “what foreign policy?”.

Immediately after America’s November election, Israeli officials were saying that the era of a Palestinian state was over. Eight months later seems like a lifetime ago today. What has happened to countless politicians in the past is now being repeated. The campaign trail to the White House turns out to be filled with hot air exposed in the day light. The plans to move the embassy to Jerusalem have disappeared. No matter what anyone says, Prime Minister Netanyahu is not actually interested in peace talks as he keeps building new settlements on the Palestinian side of the line.

The Israeli public has swung back and forth in a manic-depressive mode from being highly optimistic to dropping into disappointment. The Trump administration will attempt to pressure both Abbas and Netanyahu to get back to the negotiating table for peace. They will respond in some way to appease the Americans, but the fundamental problems haven’t changed  and won’t because of American pressure. Jews and Arabs have been at war with each other for thousands of years. More hot air from Washington won’t change the problem.

Stay tuned.

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AN UNEXPECTED TURN IN THE MUSLIM STORY

BLOG 325 November 7, 2016

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            Forty-five-year old Samar Hijazi fled Syria with her family. For years she had known the abuse of a domineering and violent husband. Once in Lebanon, she found the strength to approach a judge of the Sunni sharia court that set her free. Samar’s story is not unique. Life in Syria has been bitter for countless numbers of wives.

But that’s not the story I want to tell you.

Freedom has come to multitudes in a widely unpublished form. David Garrison’s book A WIND IN THE HOUSE OF ISLAM relates the untold story of thousands of Muslims converting to Christianity. He is now saying that the pace of Muslim conversions has accelerated. The percent of Muslims converting since the inception of Islam has been slow but in the last two decades 84% of all conversions over the last 1,500 years has occurred.

Garrison recently reported that many Muslims have come to recognize that they did not find satisfaction in their faith. Although the civil war in Syria has torn the country apart and killed hundreds of thousands, silently in the shadows, the Holy Spirit has been bringing Muslims to new insights and spiritual discoveries.

For example, Iranian Javad (last name withheld for his protection) had never met a Christian or owned a Bible. Conversion in Iran could lead to death. However, in 2008, Javad immigrated to Athens, Greece, where he was invited to an Iranian Church. He had no idea such a thing existed and came out of curiosity. A new beginning started in his life. Today, he works at a refugee center providing practical aid. He discovered at the center that 2,000 Muslims had turned to Jesus over the last eight years. Javad had gone from total ignorance to becoming a missionary for the new found faith.

During the unparalleled migration of Muslims out of the Middle East, an informal network of new churches has sprung up in Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and other countries. A church in Berlin reported 1,200 conversions during the last three years. In Hamburg, more than 600 Pakistanis and Afghans lined up with Iranians for baptism in one service.

Some will argue these shifts are caused by the need to amalgamate into societies that are hostile to Muslims. Certainly, this is a factor for some seeking better economic opportunity. However, the German magazine Stern reported a young woman saying, “I’ve been looking all my life for peace and happiness, but in Islam, I have not found them.” Another convert said, “In Islam, we always lived in fear. Fear God, fear of sin, fear of punishment. But Christ is a God of love.”

In the Old Testament, Joseph said that what was meant for evil, God used for good. Certainly, this appears to be the first sign of good coming out of the horrors of the Middle East upheaval.

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MIDDLE EAST SHIFTS WITH CONSEQUENCES

BLOG 294 March 14, 2016

A number of important events have transpired across the Middle East that have not been particularly well-reported in the United State. All the headlines go to the political candidates calling each other every name in the book. Sorry. There’s more important matters afoot. For example—

In Iran, moderates have won a majority of seats in the Assembly of Experts. This group is responsible for choosing the supreme leader of the country. They have the ability to question and dismiss the supreme leader. Every eight years, the 88 member Assembly is elected. Consequently, the new group could play an extremely important role in the future of the country. The Assembly was previously dominated by hard-liners who deferred to the decisions of the head of the country.

In the past, the moderates only held 25 percent of the seats. Today, they have won 60 percent. The staunch hard-line head of the previous assembly as well as the spiritual mentor of hard-liners were not re-elected. Moderates recognize the importance of improving relations with the international community and are far more open than the hard-liners. Probably, the next supreme leader they choose will be in favor of further expansion of democratic freedoms and greater openness to the West. Another difference is that moderates believe that government should reflect the will of the people expressed through elections. Hard-liners want to strict interpretations of Islam law regardless of what the people think or vote for.

Undoubtedly, the successful negotiations of a halt to nuclear weapon production and the lifting of sanctions have given many Iranians an improved view of the West. Regardless of the fierce objections of Israel’s Netanyahu, these negotiations may have opened an important door for better relations.

In Palestine, talk is growing of who will replace Mahmoud Abbas at the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The Arabs have almost universally concluded Abbas is ineffective. Palestinian institutions and finances continue to deteriorate. The current budget deficit is $700 million in a small territory with few resources. At this time, Abbas’s Fatah party controls the West Bank and Hamas controls Gaza. Certainly, there is no unity in sight in that division of authority.

While Abbas probably intends to die in office, candidates are already lining up to take his place. They may overtake him before the undertaker arrives. One possibility is the emergence of a collective leadership. Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew of Yasir Arafat, might lead such a collision. The removal of Abbas from power could have a dramatic impact on renewed negotiations with Israel.

Hopefully, these shifts will bring a better and more peaceful day.

 

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THE REAL DEAL IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BLOG 273 October 5, 2015

Barring some unforeseen huge political shift, the negotiations with Iran will be approved and go into effect. This entire episode has been a monumental strain on the American Jewish community as well as for many Americans. President Obama told 22 Jewish leaders at the White House on August 4, that failure to approve the agreement would pressure the US into a war with Iran. The not-so-subtle suggestion was the US Jews could end up being held accountable for dragging the US into a war. This has created severe tensions in the Jewish community between those who support the agreement and those who stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s opposition. Most feel the struggle is now a “done-deal”.

Jewish attorney Alan Dershowitz suggests that we should neither demonize nor lionize Obama. He feels Obama has not treated his relationship with Netanyahu in a mature or productive manner. Dershowitz is also critical of Obama’s suspicion that Netanyahu doesn’t want a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. However, he feels there is far too much extremism at work in these reactions. Well then, what is the real possible quid pro quo coming up for Israel? What will Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iranian agreement cost Israel?

An assumption has existed that any threat from the agreement to Israel or increased pressure from Hamas and Hezbollah will be met by increased armaments. But is this the “real deal?”

Insiders believe this present situation is only the first step in a rapprochement with Iran that will end in the creation of a Palestinian state during Obama’s final years in the White House. In their view Israel is the intransigent and immoral party in the dispute. As this issue is pressed back and forth, the often missed point in all of the problems of the Middle East from ISIS to the Sunni-Shi’ite wars, is that Israel has nothing to do with any of this conflict beyond being a scapegoat. The Iranian nuclear deal is not about The Bomb as much as it is strengthening Shi’ite Iran as a counterweight to balance the power of the Sunni Gulf states. Then, the pressure will be on to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Israel would then be pressured to negotiate a settlement. The vise will tighten. (Or the armaments won’t be shipped.) Quid pro quo.

What is missed in all of these calculations is that many voices doubt that a two-state solution will ever be a viable possibility. The economic viability of a Palestinian state is virtually never discussed. The tax base is almost non-existent and collection of taxes extremely relaxed. They have almost no money to run a state at this time.

In Padraig O’Malley’s book The Two-State Delusion, he notes that Palestinians view a free-standing state only as preparation for the next phase which is the liberating of all of Palestine –or pushing Israel into the sea. By contrast, Israeli Jews support a Palestinian state only with Israeli troops on their soil. O’Malley argues effectively that a two-state solution is a delusion. He concludes, “Ain’t gonna happen.”

If any of these projections are correct, there is significant turmoil ahead.

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