The Long Arm: Iran Is Expanding Its Influence Abroad
Officials in Tehran are not shy about their aim of spreading influence abroad, nor of their apparent success. Tehran can claim, with only a pinch of hubris, to run three Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. This week it may have added a fourth: Sana'a, Yemen's capital.
Moreover, an Israeli strike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights that killed Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, an Iranian general, exposed Iranian meddling in another part of the Middle East. To its critics, Iran alarmingly holds sway from the Mediterranean Sea to the Fertile Crescent and the Gulf of Aden. "The Iranians are experts at taking advantage of chaos," says Shimon Shapira, a retired military man now at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Iran's Emerging Empire - Charles Krauthammer
Iran's march toward conventional domination of the Arab world has been largely overlooked in Washington. For the Saudis and the other Gulf Arabs, this is a nightmare. They're engaged in a titanic regional struggle with Iran. And they are losing - losing Yemen, losing Lebanon, losing Syria and watching post-U.S.-withdrawal Iraq come under increasing Iranian domination.
The nightmare would be hugely compounded by Iran going nuclear.
Fact Checker: Has Iran's Nuclear Program Been "Halted" and Its Nuclear Stockpile "Reduced"?
- Glenn Kessler
In his State of the Union address on Jan. 20, 2015, President Obama said: "Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we've halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material."
Olli Heinonen, who headed the IAEA's safeguards section, said, "It is true that 20%-enriched uranium stocks have decreased, but Iran is still producing uranium enriched up to 5% uranium. The latter stocks have actually increased when you talk about stocks of UF6 [uranium hexafluoride] and other chemical compounds." Moreover, "it appears that the production of centrifuge components continues. Same with the Arak reactor. No new nuclear components have been installed, but it does not mean that the production of those came to halt."
David Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, said it was not correct that the 3.5%-enriched stock had been reduced; instead it has been converted from one form ("hexafluoride") to another ("oxide"), a step that he said was taken largely for cosmetic (political) purposes. As a practical matter, the conversion of 3.5% to oxide form would only add about two weeks to the break-out period, since Iran could reconvert it back into hexafluoride.
In effect, the amount of nuclear material available to Iran has gone up "about a bomb's worth during the JPOA [interim agreement]," Albright said.
How Congress Can Use Its Leverage on Iran - David B. Rivkin Jr. & Lee A. Casey
Tehran's insistence that existing U.S. sanctions be lifted as part of a nuclear-weapons agreement gives U.S. lawmakers substantial leverage. Congress should insist that any Iranian agreement take the form of a treaty. The Constitution requires that treaties be made only with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Congress should pass legislation now clearly stating the parameters of an acceptable nuclear deal with Iran, emphasizing the need to eliminate any Iranian breakout capability. It should also put the Iranians and our allies on notice that, absent congressional approval, the president cannot deliver comprehensive and permanent relief from the existing sanctions statutes.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Mr. Rivkin is also a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
(Wall Street Journal)
Prime Minister Has "Sacred Duty" to Oppose Iran Deal that "Endangers Israel's Existence"
- Jacob Kornbluh
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer sought to reassure Americans that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no intention to disrespect President Barack Obama or intervene in American politics by accepting House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to address a joint session of Congress in March.
"There may be some people who believe that the Prime Minister of Israel should have declined an invitation to speak before the most powerful parliament in the world on an issue that concerns the future and survival of Israel. But we have learned from our history that the world becomes a more dangerous place for the Jewish people when the Jewish people are silent."
"The agreement that is being discussed today is not an agreement that would dismantle Iran's nuclear weapons capability, but rather one that could leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state. That is an agreement that could endanger the very existence of the State of Israel....The Jewish people are a people who have survived all the evil that history has thrown at us. And we will survive the evil that we face today. But we will not do it by bowing our heads and by hoping that the storm will pass."
New Saudi Ruler Sees Iran Threat - Mohamad Bazzi
No one should doubt that King Salman is as focused on the perceived threat from Iran as King Abdullah was. In a conversation a week ago with six visiting U.S. senators, the new ruler emphasized the threat from a nuclear-armed Iran, said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
Netanyahu: "I Am Obligated to Make Every Effort to Prevent Iran from Achieving Nuclear Weapons Aimed at Israel"
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet: "In the coming weeks, the major powers are liable to reach a framework agreement with Iran, an agreement that is liable to leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, which would endanger - first and foremost - the existence of the State of Israel. This is the same Iran that has taken over Lebanon and Syria and is now taking over Yemen and Iraq. This is the same Iran that is preparing an active front against us both on the Golan Heights and in southern Lebanon. This same Iran cannot advance toward nuclear weapons."
"As Prime Minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons that would be aimed at the State of Israel. This effort is worldwide and I will go anywhere I am invited in order to enunciate the State of Israel's position and in order to defend its future and its existence."
(Prime Minister's Office)
Secret Israeli-Saudi Ties Likely to Continue - Ariel Zilber
The tacit security and intelligence cooperation that has come to characterize Israel's clandestine relationship with Saudi Arabia is likely to remain intact following [the] passing of King Abdullah.
"The changes that the Middle East has experienced in recent years have created a set of joint interests between the two countries," said Dr. Michal Yaari, an expert on Saudi foreign policy and a lecturer at the Open University. "The biggest enemy for both countries is Iran, and there are also the radical terror groups like ISIS that threaten the regional order in the Middle East. It is this overall framework that has created the conditions for cooperation between Jerusalem and Riyadh."
Time to Take It to Iran - Dennis Ross, Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh
American diplomats should not be afraid to walk away from the table and even suspend the talks should they continue to meet an unyielding Iran. They need to clearly signal that we don't need an agreement as much as they do and that we are prepared to create conditions for international support for increased pressure.
About that Invitation to Address Congress - Elliott Abrams
- When Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last addressed a joint session of Congress in 2011, Walter Russell Mead wrote a remarkable comment on the speech Netanyahu made and the reception he received. "Israel matters in American politics like almost no other country on earth....Being pro-Israel matters in American mass politics because the public mind believes at a deep level that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-American."
- Obama administration officials who are trying to argue that Netanyahu's invitation from Speaker Boehner is outrageous and political (just a few days after the president got British prime minister Cameron to lobby Congress directly) will lose the argument.
- Iran's nuclear program is one of the most significant national security issues we face and an even larger issue for Israel.
- I think it's fine that Obama will not see Netanyahu so close to the Israeli election; that's a good practice in general and avoids the inference of U.S. intervention in a foreign electoral contest.
- But the White House's whining about Boehner's invitation is amateurish, and for the reasons Mead explained it will persuade few Americans beyond the Beltway.
- Given the situation in the Middle East and the state of nuclear negotiations with Iran (where the U.S. has abandoned almost every red line it ever set), it's no wonder that Netanyahu wants to speak about Iran and that the Speaker wants to hear him.
The writer is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.