Tag Archives: nuclear armament

THE SHIFTING MIDDLE-EASTERN LANDSCAPE

            Since the beginning of the New Year, I’ve been surveying various aspects of the region to give readers some sense of what to expect in 2014. Of course, such prognostications are always dubious and the Middle-East is particularly unpredictable. Having hedged my bets, I’m batting a 1000 for Egypt. This past week voters poured into the streets to approve the General Sissi backed revised constitution. Voter’s response provides an endorsement for Sissi’s run at the office of  president. The ducks are all in a row.

            In contrast, Israel’s position is good and bad news. Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has been a severe blow to Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip. Dreams of importing terrorist equipment across the Egyptian border are now gone. At the other end of Israel, Hezbollah has had serious setbacks inside Lebanon. In addition, they lost fighters in the Syrian war and are now seen with suspicion because of supporting the Assad regime. Hezbollah had been an irritant for Israel. The lessening of pressure is positive.

One of the most hopeful signs is Iran’s seeming acceptance of nuclear control. T Media reports the centrifuges have been turned off and the possibility of nuclear armament is fading fast. U.N. inspectors will come in on a weekly basis. Iranian hard-liners call the agreement a “poisoned chalice’ and oppose President Rouhani’s efforts. Their opposition is the most positive sign that the deal is for real. Keeping nuclear weapons out of jihadist’s hands is great news for Israel.

On the other hand…

Sunni jihadist units that have connection with Al Qaeda have turned up as a new significant problem. The so-called “Arab Spring” brought radical change to countries like Libya, also sent a wave of political unrest across other countries. A rise in terrorism has been one of these consequences. The struggles in Iraq with endless bombings have given new concern about vulnerability on Israel’s eastern flank.

Syria remains a cause for concern. This week rebel units announced they would boycott peace talks in Geneva if Iran comes to the table. United Nation’s leadership had invited Iran but the rebel threat caused a withdrawal of the invitation. Such instability renews Israeli anxiety. Israel has had the position in regard to Assad “better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know.” They know the rebel movement is now dominated by jihadist’s elements that would turn Syria into another Iran. Israel realizes no one can bargain with these radicals. It is a “to-the-death” fight with these Muslim radicals.

If the extremists prevail, the region will remain unstable. Their anarchical viewpoints make them perpetual enemies of the state of Israel. Israel’s best defense is to make a settlement with the Palestinians (which doesn’t appear likely) and take that problem off the table. Other voices in Israel see an agreement as impossible and suggest the region should be annexed. The Palestinians can take a hike. Such a response would indeed set off a fire storm. However, the pressure inside Israel is to make no concessions to the Palestinians for the sake of their own security.

The bottom line? The coming year will not be easy for Israel. (of course it never has been) Israel must keep their powder dry and be prepared.

Leave a comment

Filed under Egypt, Israel, middle east, Syria

IRAN AND NUCLEAR ARMAMENT

            This week nuclear experts arrived in Tehran to inspect a plant that had been denied to them for years. The team from the International Atomic Energy  Agency will look into the Arak heavy-water system. Iran insists the plant is for energy production, but has the capacity to produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon.

            While the inspection is an important first step, concern remains for whether the recent six month agreement with Iran is a breakthrough or a “bad deal” as the Prime Minister of Israel Netanyahu claims. U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross recently said that the United States and its allies must be prepared to escalate sanctions if change doesn’t occur. Ross believes three procedures must follow.

  1. If there are any loopholes in the Geneva agreement, they must be plugged during this 6 month waiting period.
  2. The West must make it clear that if the agreement isn’t fulfilled, the sanctions will be increased.
  3. Iran must understand they can’t evade sanctions that will be intensified.

The real issue is whether the Iranians will roll back their nuclear program. Everything depends on this singular factor. The negotiators must remember Iran’s leadership is aggressive, anti-American, anti-Semitic, duplicitous, and murderous. The ultimate decisions lay in the hands of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and he has been consistently opposed to negotiations. However, the Iranians have not been irrational or imprudent. The only reason the new president Hassan Rouhani has come to the bargaining table is that it has become too costly to their economy not to do so.

However, there are other factors at work. If they completed a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would follow suit. With the Sunni-Shiite controversy between the two countries, Iran knows this would be a more than justifiable reason to stop short of weaponization. Moreover, Israel has the capacity of a nuclear option. While this is unthinkable, it still stands in the wings. When it is all said and done, economic pressure remains the number one leverage that the West has used successfully. Iran’s economy is hurting too greatly to not pay attention to the consequences of further sanctions.

This isn’t’t a time to take the American hand off the cash register. Let’s not let up.

Leave a comment

Filed under Iran, Israel, middle east