Saturday, January 31, 2015

Triasian Assymetry: China-Pakistan-India (Daniel 8:4)

US nuclear deal will add to regional conventional asymmetry

* Spokesperson says US-India defence agreement can only add to conventional imbalance in region
By Sardar Sikander Shaheen
January 30, 2015
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ISLAMABAD: Continuing to share concern over India-US defence and nuclear cooperation, Pakistan on Thursday said that the defence agreement between the two sides could only “add to the conventional asymmetry and hence strategic instability in the region”.

It also said India’s massive acquisition of weapons ‘complicates’ regional stability. “India’s defence spending has increased by 12 percent in 2014-15 and stands at $38.35 billion. India has been the top buyer of arms for the last three years. In this backdrop, the US-India ten-year defence agreement can only add to the conventional asymmetry and hence strategic instability,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a weekly press briefing.

Her comments referred to the recent headway made in India-US nuclear, defence and strategic cooperation following US President Barrack Obama’s visit to New Delhi. Separately, in a linked development, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs that Washington’s “growing tilt towards New Delhi could lead to instability and imbalance of power in the region”. The secretary furthered, “US is an all important stakeholder in this region and if South Asia’s peace and stability are challenged, the American interests would be at stake too. We alone would not be at the suffering end.”

In Thursday’s media briefing, the FO spokesperson said Pakistan has been proposing a three-pronged ‘Strategic Restraint Regime’ based on conflict resolution, nuclear and missile restraint and conventional balance. “Pakistan firmly believes that confidence-building and arms reduction in the regional and sub-regional context are of paramount importance,” she said.

On proposed reforms in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the steps being taken by Islamabad to ‘block’ New Delhi’s way from getting UNSC’s permanent membership, Aslam said Pakistan, as a part of the Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group, has always advocated an effective and feasible reform of the Security Council based on consensus among the UN membership. “A reformed Security Council should reflect interests of the wider UN membership. In our view, the idea of new permanent members creates new centres of power and privileges, and could make the UNSC even more undemocratic…India is in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir and the right of people of Kashmir to self-determination. How does a country with such record qualify to become a permanent member of UNSC?”

The spokesperson said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan, which was postponed last year, was “very much on the cards” but exact dates were not finalised as yet. The FO diplomat termed China a ‘global power’. “China is a global power and it is a factor of regional stability. We are engaged with China very extensively and we believe that globally and regionally China has an important responsibility and role to play for peace, stability, prosperity and development,” Aslam said.

Asked whether Pakistan would support China for the membership of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), she said, “I’m not aware that China has evinced interest in becoming a full member of SAARC but China’s engagement has a positive and salutary impact on SAARC. If China’s role increases, it would benefit the organisation as such.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Jordan May Become The Next Nuclear Horn Of Prophecy (Daniel 8)

The Middle East’s Next Nuclear Power?
Kazakhistan Nuclear Missiles
It may not be the one you’re thinking about.

January 28, 2015

The Kingdom of Jordan has for more than a decade watched near-continuous turmoil swirl around its borders—an American invasion of Iraq on one side, an Israeli war with Lebanon on another, and a Syrian civil war to the north that has seen ISIL flourish. For much of that decade, while Jordan absorbed refugees and was targeted by terror, it largely escaped the first-hand effects of war itself. Wednesday’s news that the Kingdom was prepared to trade a terrorist involved in the worst terrorist attack in Jordanian history to free one of its pilots captured by ISIL after his F-16 crashed in December, represents a new chapter in Jordan’s perpetual struggle against the militants on its borders. Over all of these regional challenges has hung another dark cloud—the fear, uncertainty, and tension that’s sprung from Iran’s secret nascent nuclear program.

And yet even as Western attention has focused all around Jordan—and especially on the nuclear negotiations with Iran—in a little-noticed series of moves, the Kingdom’s been edging closer to going nuclear itself. In fact, the Kingdom of Jordan, Washington’s most reliable Arab partner, is the latest Middle Eastern state considering nuclear energy that is refusing to relinquish its right to enrich.
That “right to enrich” uranium has proved to be one of the key sticking points in the Iran nuclear talks and was at the top of the list of why Washington and Tehran missed and subsequently extended their late November deadline to reach an agreement regulating the theocracy’s nuclear program.

To prevent proliferation, the US has long held that Middle Eastern states seeking nuclear energy must forego the right to enrich nuclear material. The principle of no-enrichment has underpinned the so-called “gold standard” of US-bilateral nuclear agreements. While this standard does not uniformly apply outside the region—Washington’s 2014 Agreement on Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation with Hanoi included no such stipulation—in its December 2009 agreement with the US, the United Arab Emirates acquiesced to forego enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Jordan and Washington have been discussing nuclear cooperation for some time, but the conversation gained urgency following the 2011 Egyptian revolution—and the subsequent and repeated destruction of the Sinai natural gas pipeline—when the Kingdom lost its most consistent source of energy. In 2013, these disruptions resulted in a $2 billion, or nearly 20 percent, budget deficit.
Over the past four years, the Kingdom has increasingly focused on nuclear energy, in particular the construction of two 1000-megawatt power plants, to fill this gap. By 2030, Jordanian officials estimate nuclear power will provide 30 percent of the state’s electricity.

Amman’s proposed nuclear facilities have met with opposition both at home and abroad. Washington’s stated opposition to the program revolves around enrichment. Jordan’s resolve to maintain this right has stymied efforts to reach a “123 agreement” governing US international nuclear cooperation. The Kingdom, which has no oil, has significant deposits of uranium ore—reportedly 35,000 tons or enough to last Jordan 100 years—and is hoping to commercially exploit the resource.
Israel, too, has taken issue with Jordan’s nuclear ambitions, primarily due to concerns about safety. One of Jordan’s proposed nuclear plants, at least initially, was slated to be built in the Jordan River Valley, a major earthquake fault line. According to a US diplomatic cable disclosed by WIKILEAKS, Israel highlighted these apprehensions during a meeting with their Jordanian counterparts in 2009—two years before the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe—only to have the Jordanian officials respond by citing Japan as an earthquake-prone country that builds safe nuclear reactors.
The biggest opposition to Jordan’s nuclear project, however, is domestic. It’s not difficult to see why. To start, one of the proposed plants is slated to be built in the heartland of the Bani Sakr, Jordan’s largest tribe. A charismatic young parliamentarian named Hind al Fayez—who hails from the tribe and happens to be married to a prominent local environmental activist—has adopted the no nukes agenda as her cause celebre. In May 2012, she spearheaded a successful vote in parliament to suspend the program.

Among other concerns, Al Fayez questions how a state with such little water will be able to cool a reactor situated more than 200 miles from the shoreline, and whether Jordan has sufficient human capital (i.e., enough nuclear physicists) to safely operate the facilities. She has also expressed dismay with the $10 billion price tag, a sum roughly equivalent to Jordan’s total 2013 annual budget.
Refuting the critics is Jordan’s Atomic Energy Commission Chair Khaled Toukan, who holds a Ph.D in Nuclear Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Toukan is an impressive government advocate for the project.

No access to water, Toukan says, no problem. Like the three nuclear power plants in Palo Verde, Arizona, Jordan will use wastewater from the nearby Khirbat al Samra sewage treatment plant to cool the blistering reactors. The second reactor, closer to the port of Aqaba, will utilize water pumped from the Red Sea—easing Jordan’s water crisis through desalinization.
A dearth of local nuclear technicians? Not for long, says Toukan. The Kingdom is building a research and training reactor, recently established an undergraduate nuclear engineering program, and has sixty-one nationals currently enrolled in graduate programs in nuclear engineering and related fields abroad. As for the financing challenge, according to Toukan, Russia—which is presently slated to build the reactors—will fund and own 49.9 percent, leaving Government of Jordan to finance the remaining and controlling share.

While Toukan’s answers are authoritative, they have not yet succeeded in convincing Jordanian skeptics. Perhaps that’s because serious safety problems emerged at Palo Verde in 2013. Or maybe Toukan’s unsubstantiated 2014 claims before parliament—that radiation leaks from the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona were resulting in increased incidences of cancer in the Kingdom—have further soured Jordanians on nuclear energy. It’s also possible that heightened fears of terrorism fueled by the recent territorial gains by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or ISIS, are dampening enthusiasm for the project.

Last year, Hind Al Fayez said “They’ll build that plant over my dead body.” A year on, her hostility toward the program has not noticeably diminished.

To be sure, Jordan needs energy. Indeed, the requirement is so acute that months ago the palace ignored significant domestic disapproval and signed up to a 15-year $15 billion deal to procure natural gas from Israel. (Amman has temporarily frozen negotiations as Israel deals with anti-trust concerns in its offshore gas sector). While important, however, the agreement is insufficient to meet the Kingdom’s requirements in the decades to come.

In the face of continued foreign and domestic opposition, it isn’t clear that Jordan will actually proceed with the nuclear option. Today the Atomic Energy Commission is calling nuclear power “a strategic choice,” but with nearly a million Syrian refugees in the Kingdom, a stumbling economy, a rising threat of terrorism on the home front, and with a downed Jordanian pilot currently held captive by ISIL, King Abdullah could punt, delaying a decision—and avoiding confrontation with Washington—for the indefinite future. Given the ongoing challenges, for the time being at least, no nukes should be a no-brainer for the Kingdom.

David Schenker is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002-2006, he served as Levant director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Korean Nuclear Horn ReOpens (Daniel 8:8)

North Korea may be trying to restart nuclear reactor: U.S. think tank
A North Korean nuclear plant is seen in Yongbyon, in this photo taken June 27, 2008 and released by Kyodo. REUTERS/Kyodo
A North Korean nuclear plant is seen in Yongbyon, in this photo taken June 27, 2008 and released by Kyodo.

Credit: Reuters/Kyodo

(Reuters) – North Korea may be trying to restart a nuclear reactor that can yield plutonium for atomic bombs, a U.S. security think tank said on Wednesday, citing new satellite imagery.

An analysis issued by 38 North, a North Korea monitoring project at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, said it was too early to reach a definitive explanation for signs of activity at the Yongbyon reactor, including steam and indications that snow had melted on the reactor roof.

“One possibility is that the North Koreans are in the early stages of an effort to restart the reactor after an almost five-month hiatus in operations,” it said, basing its observations on commercial satellite images from Dec. 24 to Jan. 11.

“However, since the facility has been recently observed over a period of only a few weeks, it remains too soon to reach a definitive conclusion on this and also on whether that effort is moving forward or encountering problems.”

It said there were clear differences between the latest 2014-1015 imagery and that from more than a year earlier when the reactor was known to have been operating.

Imagery from December 2013 showed snow had melted off the roofs of all the buildings related to the reactor and foam could be seen at the end of the turbine building’s steam and wastewater drainpipe. It said the absence of the foam in recent images could be related to the installation of new piping.

North Korea announced in April 2013 that it would revive the aged five-megawatt research reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, saying it was seeking a deterrent capacity, a move condemned by members states of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security think tank said last year that satellite imagery from late August and late September 2014 indicated the reactor may have been partially or completely shut down, while images from September 2013 until June last year had shown it was operating.

It said the purpose of the shutdown may have been for it to partially refuel the reactor’s core, or for maintenance or renovation.
North Korea is under an array of international sanctions for repeated nuclear bomb and ballistic missile tests.

It said this month it was willing to suspend nuclear tests if the United States called off annual military drills with South Korea. Washington rejected the proposal as a veiled threat.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Bernard Orr)

Saudi Request Falling On Deaf Ears (Daniel 7:7)

Salman to Obama: Don’t let Iran get nuclear bomb
 Salman & Obama

RIYADH/ON BOARD AIR FORCE ONE: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and U.S. President Barack Obama tackled a range of sensitive regional issues Tuesday during Obama’s one-day visit to Riyadh, as the Saudi monarch highlighted his country’s stance that Iran should not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.

The two leaders touched on the volatile situation in Saudi Arabia’s neighbor Yemen, where Shiite Houthi rebels have launched a power grab, as well as the thorny negotiations between Iran and the West over a nuclear program that Iran insists is for civilian and not military purposes.

King Salman expressed “no reservations” about the ongoing talks but added that Riyadh was adamant that Iran not be allowed to build a nuclear bomb, an administration official said.

The two leaders also touched on stability in the oil market and the king expressed a message of continuity on Saudi energy policy in their talks, the official said.

The talks were attended by Crown Prince Muqrin and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, along with several high-ranking Saudi officials, while Obama was joined by a high-powered delegation that included former secretaries of state and a Republican critic of the administration’s Middle East policy.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One after Obama departed Saudi Arabia, the official said the two men did not discuss current oil prices. He said the king suggested Saudi Arabia would continue to play its role within the global energy market and that one should not expect a change in the country’s position.

During his brief stop in Riyadh Obama held his first formal meeting with King Salman, newly installed on the throne following the death of the 90-year-old King Abdullah Friday.

The roughly hourlong meeting focused on a bevy of Mideast security issues – sectarian divisions in Iraq, the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS, the precarious situation in Yemen and support for Syrian opposition fighting President Bashar Assad, said the U.S. official who briefed reporters traveling with Obama on condition of anonymity, citing the private nature of the talks.

Stepping off the plane earlier in Riyadh, the president and first lady Michelle Obama were greeted by Salman and a military band playing both countries’ national anthems.

Some of the all-male Saudi delegation shook hands with Mrs. Obama while others gave her a nod as they passed by.

Salman formally greeted Obama and the U.S. delegation at the Erga Palace on the outskirts of Riyadh, where dozens of Saudi officials filed through a marble-walled room to greet the Americans under massive crystal chandeliers.

Then they sat for a three-course dinner of grilled meats, baked lobster and Arabic and French deserts.
Obama cut short his trip to India to spend just a few hours in Riyadh. Further underscoring Saudi Arabia’s key role in U.S. foreign policy was the extensive delegation that joined Obama for the visit.

Secretary of State John Kerry joined Obama in Riyadh, along with former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and James Baker III, both of whom served Republican presidents.

Former White House national security advisers Brent Scowcroft, Sandy Berger and Stephen Hadley also made the trip, as did Sen. John McCain, a frequent critic of Obama’s Middle East policy.

CIA Director John Brennan and Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, which overseas military activity in the Middle East, also took part in the meetings with the Saudis.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have worked in close coordination to address evolving security concerns in the tumultuous region. Most recently, Saudi Arabia became one of a handful of Arab nations that have joined the U.S. in launching airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Yet Obama’s presidency has also been marked by occasional strains with the Saudi royal family, particularly as Abdullah had pressed the U.S. to take more aggressive action to force Assad from power.

In his initial days on the throne, the 79-year-old Salman has given little indication that he plans to bring fundamental changes to his country’s policies. He’s vowed to hew to “the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment.”
– See more at:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

US-India Deal WILL Destabilize Pakistani Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:8)

Pakistan Warns U.S.-India Nuclear Ties May Destabilize Region

by Kartikay MehrotraKamran Haider

1:28 AM MST
January 28, 2015

(Bloomberg) — Pakistan has warned that growing U.S. cooperation with India on its civilian nuclear program could destabilize a region with a quarter of the world’s people.

President Barack Obama announced during a three-day trip to New Delhi this week that the U.S. would support India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group. He also said the countries reached a breakthrough that would pave the way for investment in its civilian nuclear power sector.

“The operationalization of Indo-U.S. nuclear deal for political and economic expediencies would have a detrimental impact on deterrence stability in South Asia,” Sartaj Aziz, an adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said in a statement on Tuesday night. “Pakistan reserves the right to safeguard its national security interests.”

Pakistan and China are among nations questioning whether neighboring India deserves to gain further international legitimacy for its nuclear program, putting them at odds with the Obama administration. The Nuclear Suppliers Group, a set of nations exporting atomic reactors and fuel, was created in response to India’s widely denounced nuclear tests in 1974.

Pakistan also objected to Obama’s support for India to get a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, Aziz said. Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The moves may be part of Pakistan’s strategy to build more nuclear reactors with China, said Anit Mukherjee, an assistant professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
India-U.S. Ties

“I don’t think either country understands that by pressurizing India, they’re pushing them to the U.S.,” Mukherjee said on Jan. 28. “China should be afraid of this, as a strong bond between India and the U.S. could threaten their own regional freedom.”

In a joint statement on Jan. 25, Obama said India was ready for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. He agreed to work with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi toward “phased entry” that would include joining three more global non-proliferation assemblies: The Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group.

An agreement with the U.S. in 2008 helped India gain a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which barred trade with any nation that hadn’t endorsed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which India has refrained from signing. Pakistan isn’t a member of the group and doesn’t have a waiver.
China noted Obama’s trip to New Delhi and said that India still needs to take more steps to meet the requirements of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Jan. 26.

Strategic Balance

“Pakistan values its relations with the United States and expects it to play a constructive role for strategic stability and balance in South Asia,” Aziz said.

Nuclear cooperation highlighted the meetings between Modi and Obama, who was India’s chief guest for its annual Republic Day parade. Among the breakthroughs was an end to a years-long deadlock on obstacles that blocked the U.S. from installing nuclear plants in India, which plans a $182 billion expansion of its nuclear industry.

U.S. technology suppliers have questioned the depth of the agreement between Obama and Modi. Westinghouse Electric Co., the Monroeville, Pennsylvania-based nuclear builder owned by Toshiba Corp., said it would study an offer by India to create an insurance pool to shield suppliers from liability in the event of an accident.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kartikay Mehrotra in New Delhi at; Kamran Haider in Islamabad at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at Arijit Ghosh

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Extremism Is No Longer Extreme, Welcome To Mohammed’s Vision (Quran Sura 2:161)

Former U.S. Military Leaders Outline Extremist Threat
Published: • Updated: January 27, 2015 7:00 PM
Undated photo of ISIS fighters.
Former senior U.S. military leaders outlined the threat that violent Islamist extremists pose and put it into a larger global security context at a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on global threats.

Gen. John Keane—a former vice chief of staff of the Army—recognized the split between the radical Shi’ia branch of Islam and the role Iran plays not only in the Middle East but beyond, using “proxies to attack the United States”—such as Hezbollah did in Lebanon or its sectarian militias did in Iraq—while developing its own nuclear and long-range missile capabilities and radical Sunnis.

The radical Sunnis, through al Qaeda and its affiliates, “exceed Iran” in attracting recruits and threatening Europe and North America. He cited the recent attack in Paris at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket as an example of radical Sunni reach outside of the Middle East.

“We sure as hell are opinionated” as witnesses, he said. “[But] it is unmistakable that our policies have failed” in rolling back the Islamic State (sometimes called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) or in using drones to attack suspected terrorist targets in Yemen and Pakistan. Those actions “guarantee we will be incrementally engaged” without an overall strategy, Keane said.

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a former Central Command (CENTCOM) commander, described the Middle East “as a region erupting in crisis” and the United States and its allies need to decide whether “political Islam is in our best interest.” Including Afghanistan in his assessment, he asked rhetorically “Are we asking for the same outcome [when the United States pulled its troops] out of Iraq?”

“We can’t have everything,” Adm. William Fallon, who also served as CENTCOM commander, said. “We’ve got to make choices,” he added, noting that it is impossible for the United States to solve the centuries-old divide between Shi’ia and Sunni and the even longer battle between Persians [Iran] and Arabs over control of the region.

Fallon warned against, “the hype about everything that happens with these characters [radical extremists],” characterizing extremists as mostly, “a pick-up band of jihadists.”

Zeroing in on Iraq, Fallon said it is critical that Sunnis there believe they “are getting a fair shake going forward” from the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. If they believe that, the tribes would be more likely to join the Kurds and largely Shi’ia Iraqi military in fighting ISIS.

“We know ISIS and ‘reconcilable Sunnis’ are on a collision course,” Keane added. He said the Abadi government and its military do not want to wait any longer to retake Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul.

“I don’t know if we will be ready by summer” to assist them with forward air controllers and air strikes, increased intelligence-gathering and sharing, special forces and additional trainers to be with Iraqi front-line forces in an attack on Mosul, Keane said. “We’ve got to have people on the ground with them,” he said. When asked, he put the number at 10,000 in that advise and assist role.

He added that several brigades of ground forces, including coalition troops, should be in place in Kuwait if the attempt to retake the city stalls or fails.

Mattis agreed on embedding forces with the Iraqis. Using forward controllers as an example, “you are seeing a much faster decision process” when they are available for planning and follow-up on a military operation that could keep an enemy off-balance.

Across the Iraqi border, Keane called the situation of the Free Syrian Army “as complex a thing as we have had on our plate” as it tries to battle ISIS with its roots in among Sunnis and the regime with its ties to Shi’ia at the same time. Most coalition nations assisting the Iraqi government have limited air strikes against ISIS to that country. Iran is supporting the Syrian regime with forces and equipment.

On halting Iran’s nuclear program, Fallon reminded the committee that the United State negotiated with the Soviet Union during the Cold War over limiting these weapons. “We didn’t trust them. They didn’t trust us. The key thing is to verify.”

“Rigorous inspection” was the way Mattis described it. He said, “Economic sanctions worked better than I expected” in bringing Iran to the negotiations. Other steps could include a blockade, striking Hezbollah and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria if talks fail.

Keane said he had “no confidence that the Iranians will not move to undermine” any agreement. “The supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] is on a path for a nuclear weapon.”

“The threat has shifted” in Europe, Keane said pointing to the Russian seizure of Crimea, support of separatists in Ukraine and threats to the Baltic States, now members of NATO. “Let’s put some permanent bases there,” closer to the Russian border, and re-look the decision to pull the missile defense system from Eastern Europe.

As for a pivot to Asia and the Pacific, Fallon said the difference is rather small. During the Cold War, the Fleet was about evenly divided between the Atlantic and Pacific and the shift now would allocate 60 percent of the Navy’s 280 ships to the Pacific, a move of 28 ships. But it would be a step to reassure allies and partners in the region and China that the United States was still engaged, he and Mattis said.

When asked about a return to the draft, all said that would not be a good idea, but the growing divide between the 1 percent who serve voluntarily and the American public is “a huge problem,” Fallon said. Mattis said the All-Volunteer Force “has been good for the military [in terms of quality] but bad for the country” [in terms of the divide].

“The force looks like America, and they want to be there,” Keane said.

A Nuclear Deal With Iran Will Cause Chaos With Oil (Rev 6:6)

A Nuclear Deal with Iran: The Impact on Oil and Natural Gas Trends

January 27, 2015

In last week’s State of the Union Address, President Obama threatened to veto new legislation affecting five issues, four of them in the domestic policy arena and just one covering foreign policy. The foreign policy issue in question involved the prospect of new sanctions legislation targeting Iran. Correspondingly, the administration has recently ramped up efforts to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran.

Should the United States and its partners in the P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany — strike a deal with Iran, the global oil and gas markets would no doubt be affected. Indeed, several leading oil and gas companies are already preparing for a return to business in Iran in the event sanctions are lifted. Such jockeying would only intensify once the Iranian oil and gas sector became fully available to international markets.


In mid-2012, sanctions were imposed against Iran’s oil exports, precipitating a drop from 2.5 million exported barrels a day to close to 1.4 million a day. If sanctions were lifted now, Iran might need a full year to bring its production to pre-sanctions levels. Moreover, given current market conditions, only limited international investment will likely be available to help restart its production. For one thing, Iran has not offered particularly attractive terms to investors, and at today’s oil prices, investors are cutting back everywhere. Such realities cast major doubt on Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh’s recent claim that if sanctions were to end, “Iran will double its oil exports within two months.”

However, the announcement alone of an agreement with Iran that removes international sanctions would accelerate the current steady downward trend of the global oil price. Thus, the oil price would be affected even before increased physical supplies of Iranian oil reached the market. And more oil would gradually return to the market, helping keep global oil prices low and perhaps depressing them even further. Burdened by sanctions, Tehran has offered discounts to regular buyers such as China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey. The end of sanctions would most likely mean that such consumers would pay a price more in line with global prices. Accordingly, this could create an opportunity for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf producers to increase their market share.

Natural Gas

Since the Russia-Ukraine crisis erupted last year, Tehran has tried to position itself as a reliable alternative to Russia as a gas supplier to Europe. Indeed, Iran is the only state close to Europe’s borders that possesses enough natural gas to rival Russia’s dominance in most European gas markets. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani even stated recently that “Iran can be a secure energy center for Europe.” And Iran’s deputy oil minister, Ali Majedi, boasted in official Iranian media that “Iranian natural gas is Russia’s only competitor for Europe.” He continued that European countries could import Iran’s gas through three separate routes: Turkey, Iraq, or a pipeline running through Armenia and Georgia, and then under the Black Sea.

The notion of Iran as a future alternative gas supplier for Europe is acknowledged by European officials as part of their recent drive to lessen dependence on Russian imports. In April, the EU’s foreign policy arm — the Directorate-General for External Policies — published a study of the EU’s natural gas import options in light of the Ukraine crisis and concluded that “Iran is a credible alternative to Russia.”

However credible an option Iran might be for supplying Europe, two main obstacles would slow Iran’s entry into Europe’s gas markets: one, the need to produce more gas and, two, the need to build infrastructure to get it to Europe. To be sure, Iran is a significant natural gas producer, generating 160 billion cubic meters a year, third globally behind just Russia and the United States. Its output constitutes about 35 percent of annual EU gas consumption. Iran also has vast reserves. Yet interestingly, Iran is a net gas importer, with the country consuming a larger proportion of natural gas than any other country in the world. Iran’s high natural gas consumption rate is due in part to its very low domestic gas prices and thus low energy efficiency. Iran imports gas from Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, while it exports a bit less to Turkey and Armenia.

In Turkey, energy industry sources have reported that Ankara is preparing its pipeline infrastructure to enable transit of Iranian gas to Europe once sanctions are removed. However, natural gas production requires much larger investments than oil production, and concluding a supply contract generally takes a number of years. In addition, either long-distance pipelines or liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities cost billions of dollars, with these costs recovered only over many years. Such investments are therefore not undertaken lightly. Accordingly, after sanctions are removed, it will probably take at least five years, and possibly much longer, until meaningful volumes of Iranian gas hit European markets. Europe will also compete with Asia for Iran’s gas exports, since LNG exports into lucrative Asian markets may be more attractive to Tehran than European markets. If Iran seeks to sell LNG to Asia, U.S. LNG exports to the region could find themselves challenged by a new competitor. However, this would take close to a decade to play out.

Geopolitical Impact

A lifting of sanctions on the Iranian oil and gas industry would have a number of geopolitical ramifications. Regarding the export of oil in particular, the strongest effect would undoubtedly be heightened tensions with Saudi Arabia, including on OPEC policy. Recently, Iranian president Rouhani explicitly criticized Saudi Arabia for what he views as Riyadh’s intentional policy to keep oil prices low and threatened that “[the Saudis] will suffer.”

On gas, Russia would take steps to block Tehran’s entry into European markets, as it has done in the past. In 2007, when Tehran inaugurated gas supplies to neighboring Armenia, Russia’s Gazprom immediately bought up the pipeline project within Armenia and built it with a small circumference to preempt its future use for transiting gas to European markets.

Moscow and Tehran could also find themselves competing for gas market share in neighboring Turkey. Already Russia’s second largest gas export market, Turkey’s role in Russia’s gas export strategy has recently grown with Russia’s proposed route change of the South Stream export pipeline from Bulgaria to Turkey.

Overall, cooperation between Russia and Iran rests on a rocky basis, and once Iran is released from sanctions and its conflict with the West, many issues of strategic competition between Tehran and Moscow will resurface, including in the sphere of gas markets.

Another potential conflict that may emerge once sanctions are removed and Iran’s natural gas industry revives is with Qatar over the delimitation of their shared South Pars/North Dome field. This natural gas field is one of the world’s largest and the main source of Qatar’s massive LNG exports as well as the main area where Iran has been investing in new gas and oil capacity. Conflict between Doha and Tehran over delimitation has been forestalled somewhat by sanctions and the corresponding lack of investment in Iranian production in the contested field.


If the United States and its partners can reach a deal with Iran, all players must understand the potential consequences of Iran’s reentry into the global oil and regional gas market. Most immediately, tensions could surge with other energy producers, such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The downward spiral of global oil prices would also be reinforced. Tehran, it must be noted, could face serious difficulties finding markets for expanded output and attracting the needed investment in production and gas transit facilities. But in the long term, expanded Iranian output could create more supply options for European and Asian gas markets.

Brenda Shaffer, a specialist on international energy issues, is currently a visiting researcher at Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies (CERES), on sabbatical from the University of Haifa, where she is a professor in the School of Political Science. She authored the Washington Institute study Partners in Need: The Strategic Relationship of Russia and Iran.

The Australian and Kazakhstan Nuclear Horns (Daniel 8:8)

Australia and Kazakhstan report uranium production

27 January 2015

Last year saw Australia’s uranium production reach its lowest point since 1998 while Kazakhstan maintained its position as the world’s largest uranium producer.
Olympic Dam produced two-thirds of Australia’s uranium output in 2014 (Image: BHP Billiton)
Australian production of 5897 tonnes U3O8 (5000 tU) was down from 2013 production of 7488 tonnes U3O8 (6350 tU) despite the start of operations at the Four Mile in situ leach uranium project in South Australia, and was the lowest for the country in 16 years.

The figures reflect the loss of production at Energy Resources of Australia’s (ERA) Ranger mine, out of action until June 2014 following the rupture of a leach tank in December 2013. The mine had ramped up to full throughput by the end of September and by year end, Ranger had produced 988 tU.

Four Mile also started operations in June and by the end of the year a total of 640 tU had been produced. Uranium from Four Mile is processed at the Beverley plant. Beverley’s own wellfields contributed 21 tU to the annual total, although production has been suspended since early in the year.
The lion’s share of Australia’s 2014 production – 3351 tU – came from BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam, where uranium is produced as a by-product of copper.

Kazakhstan tops table

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan remains the world’s largest uranium producer with 2014 total production of 22,829 tU, according to state nuclear company KazAtomProm. The company’s own share of production accounted for 13,156 tU of the total. The figure is slightly up from the 22,548 tU recorded for 2013, and Kazatomprom says it is in line with its expectations for the year.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Pakistan Left Out In The Nuclear Cold (Daniel 8:8)

Pakistan Criticizes India’s Inclusion in Nuclear Suppliers Group

By SALMAN MASOOD | New York Times
JANUARY 27, 2015

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In an unusually critical statement, a senior Pakistani official said that Pakistan remained opposed to India’s inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and feared that the country’s growing nuclear cooperation with the United States could harm deterrence efforts in South Asia.

The statement by Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistani national security adviser, came after President Obama wound up his visit to India, during which the United States and India announced an array of trade and strategic agreements.

Pakistan and India have had an antagonistic relationship since the end of British rule and their partition in 1947. In recent years, Pakistan has viewed growing United States-India cooperation with apprehension.

In addition to Mr. Aziz’s criticism, the Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, went to China on Sunday for a two-day visit with political and military leaders. The trip directly coincided with Mr. Obama’s visit in India, and Pakistani news organizations covered the parallel trips prominently — particularly statements by Chinese officials that “Pakistan’s concern is China’s concern.”

“Pakistan is opposed to yet another country-specific exemption from N.S.G. rules to grant membership to India, as this would further compound the already fragile strategic stability environment in South Asia,” Mr. Aziz said Tuesday in the statement. The Nuclear Suppliers Group is a 48-nation body established 40 years ago to ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military purposes.

In addition to opposing India’s membership in the group, Mr. Aziz also criticized American support for granting a seat to India on the United Nations Security Council.

“A country, in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions on matters of international peace and security, such as the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, by no means qualifies for a special status in the Security Council,” the statement read, referring to the Himalayan region of Kashmir, over which Pakistan and India have fought three wars.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Islam Is A GEOPOLITICAL Ideology (Daniel 8:8)

Al-Qaeda Has “Grown Fourfold in the Last Five Years
January 27, 2015
PJ Tattler

The former vice chief of staff of the Army warned the Senate Armed Services Committee today that al-Qaeda has “grown fourfold in the last five years.”

“AQ and its affiliates exceeds Iran in beginning to dominate multiple countries,” retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane testified.

Using a term that the Obama administration now eschews, Keane called radical Islam “the major security challenge of our generation.”

“Radical Islam, as I’m defining it for today’s discussion, consists of three distinct movements who share a radical fundamentalist ideology, use jihad or terror to achieve objectives that compete with each other for influence and power,” he said.

“In 1980, Iran declared the United States as a strategic enemy and its goal is to drive the United States out of the region, achieve regional hegemony, and destroy the state of Israel. It uses proxies, primarily as the world’s number one state sponsoring terrorism. Thirty plus years Iran has used these proxies to attack the United States. To date, the result is U.S. troops left Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, while Iran has direct influence and some control over Beirut, Lebanon, Gaza, Damascus, Syria, Baghdad, Iraq, and now Sana’a, Yemen,” the general continued.

“Is there any doubt that Iran is on the march and is systematically moving toward their regional hegemonic objective? Iran has been on a 20-year journey to acquire nuclear weapons, simply because they know it guarantees preservation of the regime and makes them, along with their partners, the dominant power in the region, thereby capable of expanding their control and influence. Add to this their ballistic missile delivery system and Iran is not only a threat to the region, but to Europe, as well. And as they increase missile range, eventually a threat to the United States. And as we know, a nuclear arms race, because of their nuclear ambition, is on the horizon for the Middle East.”

Keane detailed the growth of al-Qaeda in its quest to “eventually achieve world domination.”
“Third, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS, is an outgrowth from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was defeated in Iraq by 2009. After U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS reemerged as a terrorist organization in Iraq, moved into Syria in 2012, and began seizing towns and villages from the Syria-Iraq border all the way to the western Syria from Aleppo to Damascus,” he reminded the committee.

That leads to an “unmistakable” conclusion that “our policies have failed,” Keane added.

“And the unequivocal explanation is U.S. policy has focused on disengaging from the Middle East, while our stated policy is pivoting to the east,” he said. “U.S. policymakers choose to ignore the very harsh realities of the rise of radical Islam. In my view, we became paralyzed by the fear of adverse consequences in the Middle East after fighting two wars. Moreover, as we sit here this morning, in the face of radical Islam, U.S. policymakers refuse to accurately name the movement as radical Islam. We further choose not to define it, nor explain its ideology, and most critical, we have no comprehensive strategy to stop it or defeat it.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

Obama Visit Isolates Pakistani Horn (Daniel 8:8)

India, U.S. Reach Nuclear Deal
By Jameel Khan, David Sterman
January 26, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday announced a landmark nuclear deal amid Obama’s historic three-day visit to New Delhi, where expectations have been high for a revival of bilateral relations between the world’s largest democracies (BBC, VOA News, White House, Times of India, Post). “Today we achieved a breakthrough understanding on two issues that were holding up our ability to advance our civil nuclear cooperation,” Obama said on Sunday at a joint conference with Modi in New Delhi. “And we are committed to moving towards full implementation,” he said (Post). Replying in English, Modi said, “I am pleased that six years after we signed our bilateral agreement, we are moving toward commercial cooperation consistent with our law, our international legal obligations, and technical and commercial viability.” The deal makes it easier for U.S. and foreign firms to invest in India’s nuclear industry (Post).

Other milestones include a renewal of the 10-year Defense Framework Agreement in which both countries will agree to joint development and production of defense systems; an expressed commitment to reducing carbon emissions and a “strong climate change agreement” in Paris later this year; and a host of other bilateral efforts which both countries detailed in a joint statement released on Sunday (DNA News, White House). On Monday, Obama will join Modi to attend India’s 66th Republic Day Parade, where he will become the first U.S. president to attend the occasion. Obama is also expected to join Modi for meetings on Monday at the U.S.-India CEO Forum, where they will discuss trade, investment, and visa issues with India’s leading business leaders (NDTV). Despite the trip’s grand nature, not all was smooth. Obama’s trip was cut short by the White House’s decision for him to travel on Tuesday to Saudi Arabia, where he will pay his condolences to the late King Abdullah and meet the new monarch (Guardian). On policy specifics, India and the United States fell short of a China-like climate change deal to specify goals on cutting carbon emissions (Times of India). And on stage presence, Obama was caught chewing gum during the Republic Day Parade according to media reports (Times of India). The recent revival of ties follows a year of strained relations after the 2013 arrest of senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York. Commenting on better relations today, Obama said, “the United States and India have declared a new declaration of friendship that elevates and formalizes our partnership” (Post). Deplaning Air Force One, Obama and Modi on Sunday greeted each other on the tarmac with hugs and handshakes.

China’s official state-run news agency Xinhua in a commentary report on Sunday said that U.S. President Barack Obama’s “shortened three-day [India] visit is more symbolic than pragmatic, given the long-standing division between the two giants, which may be as huge as the distance between them” (Hindustan Times, Xinhua). While acknowledging the apparent “closeness between the two countries,” the report pointed out past quarrels and a “superficial rapprochement” amid the warming ties, saying: “After all, only one year ago, U.S. diplomats were expelled from New Delhi amid widespread public outrage over the treatment of an Indian diplomat in New York and Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister and then chief minister of Gujarat, was still banned from entering the United States” (Xinhua). Liking Obama’s trip to a needed foreign policy win to report progress back to the U.S. Congress, the report also said the bilateral meetings would not see agreement on the pressing issue of climate change — a priority of the Obama administration — saying that “India is heavily dependent on coal-fueled plants” and that “economic growth and eradication of poverty is more urgent for Indian officials than cutting carbon emissions” (Xinhua).

Across India’s border, Pakistan on Sunday sent its Army Chief Raheel Sharif to Beijing on a two-day visit to meet senior Chinese military officials to discuss defense and security issues (India Today, Zee News). Sharif’s trip comes amid recent pressure from India and the United States to reign in extremism within its borders. Meeting with defense counterpart General Qi Jianguo and General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), the bilateral talks touched on a range of regional security issues including long-term defense collaboration, counterterrorism cooperation, intelligence sharing and training exchanges. Infiltration by Uygur militants in China’s restive Xinjiang region remains a shared security concern between the two countries. “China will, as always, give firm support to Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism,” General Fan was quoted saying in a Xinhua report (Zee News).

First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to receive a gift of 100 hand-woven banarasi saris — a traditional Indian silk garment worn by women — from the holy city of Varanasi, according to several news outlets and local businessman Pervez Matin (Al Arabiya, Economic Times, Deccan Chronicle, Indian Express, NDTV). “We have used pure gold and silver threads for the sari that we have prepared for Michelle,” said Pervez Matin, whose family has been in the weaving business for three generations (Deccan Chronicle). Months of painstaking preparations have gone into the saris, which normally cost around 150,000 Indian rupees ($2,400). Some reports suggest that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the request to gift the saris.

Banarasi saris are those specifically made in Varanasi, where the city has earned a reputation for weaving India’s finest garments with the staple embroidery of gold and silver. Varanasi’s 40,000 weavers are mostly Muslim and have been in the craft for generations (NDTV). Despite its fame, India’s centuries-old sari industry is facing competition from countries like China, where garments are increasingly made with cheaper costs. Ahead of the Obama’s visit, an excited Indian media doled out fashion pleas for the First Lady to sport a sari during her trip (Hindustan Times). While the verdict is still out on the First Lady’s remaining outfits, one saving grace was Michelle Obama’s choice to wear a tailored dress and matching jacket made by Indian-American designer Bibhu Mohapatra as she stepped off Air Force One with husband and U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday in New Delhi (Economic Times).

— Jameel Khan

Even The IAEA Warns Of Nuclear Attacks (Revelation 15:2)

IAEA chief warns of nuclear terror attacks
Published: 7:46 pm, Monday, 26 January 2015

The head of the UN's atomic watchdog has said that 'terrorists' could attack countries weak in security.

The head of the UN’s atomic watchdog has warned that ‘terrorists’ could attack or sabotage nuclear facilities in countries where security is weak, and urged governments not to let their guard down.
‘This is a very serious issue for the international community now,’ Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Monday in a lecture in Singapore.

‘In this area, international cooperation is extremely important because terrorists always target the weak link,’ he said.

‘The country which does not recognise the threat of terrorist sabotage or attacks on nuclear power plants or facilities is the most dangerous country,’ he added, without referring to any specific threats or countries.

Media reports in July last year cited Iraq’s United Nations ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim writing to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon about insurgents seizing nearly 40 kilograms of uranium compounds kept at Mosul University.

The Islamic State group has overrun parts of Syria and Iraq since last June and declared a Muslim caliphate in those areas.

Speaking to reporters later, Amano declined comment on the prospect of global powers and Iran reaching an agreement by the end of June on Tehran’s nuclear program.

‘The IAEA has long been insisting that the solution needs to be found through dialogue. We welcome if and when the agreement is reached,’ Amano said.

‘We have communications with them, we provide assistance as necessary and as appropriate, but we are not a party to this negotiation.’

Iran and the so-called P5+1 group – the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – have been seeking a comprehensive accord that would prevent it from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of economic sanctions.

Iran says its nuclear program only has civilian aims.

– See more at:

Israel And Iran Sharing Love Letters (Daniel 8:4)

Iran: “Killing of Senior Hizbullah and IRGC Officials Will Hasten Israel’s Destruction”
By Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
web posted January 26, 2015
A Generational Embrace 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei posted on the main page of his personal site and tweeted on his Twitter account (in Persian, English and Arabic) rare “unseen” pictures of him hugging and kissing Jihad Mughniyeh and his father, Imad. These testify to the profound tie Khamenei maintained with Imad Mughniyeh, a favorite of his from the start of Mughniyeh’s activity in Lebanon until his February 2008 assassination in Damascus, and with his son. It also illustrates the depth of Iran’s involvement in Lebanon including its special and strategic ties with its “favorite son,” Hizbullah.
The Iranian media and social networks also highlighted Jihad Mughniyeh’s special tie with the commander of the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, who reportedly was seriously injured in a recent ISIS suicide bombing in Iraq. The Twitter account that may belong to Soleimani tweeted: “RIP Jihad Mughniye followed the steps of his father.” Moreover, Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, a senior IRGC official who was killed in the attack, was very close to Soleimani and also served under his command, as various publications in the Iranian media have made clear since his death.

The Iranian news agency Tabnak, which is associated with former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaei, reported shortly after the attack that several IRGC members including Allahdadi were also killed. The report was removed from the site soon after it was posted. It was also reported that Allahdadi had been in Syria to advise the regime on the war against the Salafi-Takfiri [apostate] terrorists.
An extensive background report on Allahdadi’s military career and close ties with Soleimani was posted on the Mashregh News site. It related that when the IRGC’s 41st Sarallah Division was established in the Karaman Province under Soleimani’s command, AllahDadi joined it and fought alongside him until the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988. After holding a number of other posts in the IRGC, the most recent of which was commander of the Al Ghadir division in the Yazd Province (until June 2011), he was invited by Soleimani to join the Quds Force and fight the “Zionist regime” in Syria and Lebanon. The article sheds light on the methods of the Quds Force and its commander and on the veterans of the war in Iraq who are loyal to him and who Solomeini recruits for the most consequential Iranian security roles in Syria and Lebanon. AllahDadi’s funeral was held January 21 with the IRGC Commander attending.

A lone report by a Fars News journalist in Syria indicates that a senior IRGC official named Asadi was also killed in the attack, saying that he was a commander of the IRGC advisers in Syria. The names of the other IRGC fatalities have not yet been published.

Devastating Thunderbolt 

In a special and stern message after the attack, IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to continuing the struggle against Israel until its destruction. Jafari said:
As the recent rounds of fighting in Lebanon and in Palestine have already demonstrated, the IRGC will continue to stand firm [beside Hizbullah and the Palestinian organizations] until the destruction of the Zionist regime and its removal from the geostrategic equation in the region…. The martyrdom of the members of the Ummah constitutes a further springboard for the destruction of the oppressive, satanic, and terrorist political system of the Zionist regime…. The martyrdom again proved that we must not distance ourselves from the jihad and that the Zionists must prepare themselves for the “devastating thunderbolt” of Iran.
The Iranian defense minister, Hussein Dehqan, who has played a central role in the IRGC’s activity in Syria and Lebanon and also was involved in the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, stated that the Israeli operation in Syria was a continuation of its “crimes” in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon and that “its support for the radical, heretical (or Takfiri, the Iranian term for the extreme Sunni organizations operating against the Assad regime) Islamists also highlights Israel’s shameful nature.”
The Arming of the West Bank 

Ali Larijani, chairman of the [legislative] Majlis, sent condolences to Hizbullah and said,The Zionist regime’s role in the terrorist attacks in the region is well evident, especially in the terrorist operations in Syria and Iraq, and a global unity is needed to annihilate the [Zionist] regime.” Mohammad Reza Mohseni-Sanihead of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee said that the “killing of the resistance (Hizbullah) commanders would not go unanswered” and that in his opinion “the response would defeat the Zionist regime for the fourth time and bring about its destruction.” The committee’s spokesman Hussein Naqavi-Husseini threatened:
Lebanese Hizbullah is capable of raining an ongoing missile offensive onto the occupied territories [Israel] and retains the right to respond militarily to the killing of its people…. Hizbullah has long-range missiles that can hit military bases [in Israel]…. It is easy for Hizbullah to respond militarily.

Also addressing the issue of the West Bank and Khamenei’s call to arm the Palestinians there, Naqavi-Husseini said that Israel’s actions would not succeed to stop the arming of the West Bank and that the Palestinians there would undoubtedly be armed for the anti-Israeli struggle.

The Border Guard of the Islamic World

Hesam al-Din Ashena, head of the Center for Strategic Studies of the Iranian presidency and adviser to Rouhani for cultural affairs, said that the events in Syria in recent years are meant to prevent it from becoming the front line of the battle against Israel and therefore “it is only natural that Hizbullah, as the border guard of the Islamic world, will be present at the border of Syria [with Israel] and will continue to maintain this presence so that the confrontation will continue.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned the killing of the Hizbullah and IRGC commanders in Syria, which foreign media attributed to Israel. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “We condemn all actions of the Zionist regime as well as all acts of terror.”

Revenge…Not Long in Coming

The conservative Iranian media hastened to draw a connection between the Israeli operation and “a few Arab regimes,” headed by Saudi Arabia. An editorial in the newspaper Kayhan, Khamenei’s mouthpiece, stated that the “destructive process” in Syria (which had almost led to Assad’s fall) had played into the hands of Israel and Saudi Arabia until the Iranian and Hizbullah advisers began to change the equation in Syria. The paper further wrote that if Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad had managed to fire rockets at Israel for 51 days, Hizbullah could similarly fire rockets at Haifa and Tel Aviv whenever it wanted to. The revenge against Israel, Kayhan promises, will not be long in coming. On January 21, its lead headline was “Harsh Revenge, Hizbullah the Nightmare of the Zionists.” A day earlier the paper’s lead headline quoted Nasrallah, who had called on Israel’s residents to get their bomb shelters ready.

Syria: The First Line of Defense against Israel

The killing of the senior Hizbullah and IRGC officials finds Iran in the midst of debilitating warfare in Syria and Iraq against ISIS and the other organizations opposing Assad’s regime. Iran and Hizbullah have been incurring heavy losses, including senior IRGC commanders. One of these, General Hamid Taghavi, was one of Soleimani’s senior aides and was killed in Iraq at the end of 2014 while advising the Iraqi army in its war against ISIS. Recently the death of another senior IRGC official in the Mosul area was reported.

Syria constitutes a central axis of these two campaigns. At the same time it is, as attested by the Iranian political and military leadership, a crucial element in Iran’s overall strategy of struggle and containment of Israel. Hence in recent years, since the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring, Iran has devoted abundant resources of skilled manpower, advisers, money (despite the drastic decline in oil revenues), arms shipments and logistics to preserving Assad’s regime.

Iran has injected Lebanese Hizbullah into the campaign in Syria and Iraq while creating cells of “Hizbullah Syria,” which Hizbullah Lebanon has been tutoring. The timing of the attack a few days after Nasrallah’s boastful speech about Hizbullah’s offensive capabilities, with threats against Israel, puts the organization and its patron in a difficult dilemma concerning the nature and characteristics of the response, which could spark an escalation and an expansion of the fronts they have to deal with despite limited resources.

Not only has Iran intensified its activity in Syria and assumed control of the operational issues affecting the Assad regime’s survival in its battle with the opposition organizations, Iran has also gradually begun to turn the Golan Heights into an active theater of combat with Israel. Thus the younger Mughniyeh, who was the symbol of his mythological father and enjoyed open and intimate channels of communication with Supreme Leader Khamenei, was appointed to the sensitive task of establishing and activating the terrorist infrastructure on the Golan.

These groups carried out attacks in the Har Dov area (October 7, 2014) and were preparing for further attacks of new kinds, as Nasrallah implied in his latest speech — including the conquest of Israeli settlements and “other surprises” involving missiles and rockets. At the beginning of next week, Nasrallah is expected to deliver an additional speech in which he will probably hint at how Hizbullah will respond.

The joint patrol of Hizbullah and IRGC officials that was struck may have been part of Hizbullah’s preparations, under Iranian tutelage, to intensify attacks against Israel along the Golan border using improvised explosive devices (IED), antitank weapons, and other means of asymmetrical warfare, with the aim of forcing Israel to expand its activity in Syria.  Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station confirmed that the fighters were killed in Quneitra “during a field reconnaissance mission.”

Difficult Decisions

The decision on the timing, location, and nature of the possible response to the killing of the IRGC and Hizbullah officials will be made in Tehran according to its strategic interests beyond the Syrian-Lebanese theater. The new midyear target date for reaching a nuclear agreement with the West, increasingly a subject of controversy within Iran, could figure in Iran’s considerations regarding Hizbullah’s response. Iran is now in domestic distress because of the drastic decline in oil prices, making it difficult to continue its assistance to Hizbullah and the Palestinian organizations. Although no significant decline in this assistance is evident, and recently there were even reports of improved relations with Hamas, the issue of sustaining the assistance continues to foment within a difficult internal dispute between the IRGC on one side and Rouhani and his government on the other.

In any case, the last word on the nature and timing of the response is reserved for Khamenei, who holds a special place in his heart for his favorite Imad Mughniyeh, whose death has not yet been avenged. Now he is joined by his son.  Soleimani’s longstanding ties with Allahdadi could also be a factor leading to “personal” and painful revenge. For Iran and Hizbullah the series of assassinations that have not been avenged (Imad Mughniyeh in 2008, Hassan al-Laqis in 2013), which have damaged Hizbullah’s prestige, tip the scales toward those who favor a painful and imminent response. This could lead the IRGC, which sets the tone in Iran, to decide to allow Hizbullah to respond in an irregular fashion that carries the risk of an escalation. ESR

IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and at Foresight Prudence.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pakistani Horn Now In Army’s Hands (Daniel 8:8)

Pakistan’s Ongoing Existential Crisis – Analysis
January 24, 2015
By Dr Subhash Kapila*

Pakistan’s existential crises generated by Pakistan Army’s repetitive onslaughts on Pakistan’s democratic fabric are widely recognised. Constitutional abdication once again stands forced by the Pakistan Army on PM Nawaz.

In wake of TTP suicide attack on Peshawar Army Public School, the Pakistan Army instead of shouldering responsibility for its institutional inadequacies deflected Pakistani public reaction and outcry by demanding a Constitutional Amendment for setting-up Special Military Courts for trial of terrorists.

Pakistan Army’s not so subtle manoeuvre in this direction is nothing but a “Back-Door Coup” in which Constitutional organs of the Pakistan nation-state like the Prime Minister, the Government and the Pakistan Supreme Court stand short-circuited and by-passed. Implicitly and effectively, the Pakistan Army Chief and his generals have taken over the administration of Pakistan.

Regular readers would recall that at the height of Imran Khan and Qadri’s protest movement besieging the government of incumbent PM Nawaz Sharif I had pointed out that this prolonged besieging of Pakistan Parliament and government offices in Islamabad was a Pakistan Army facilitation as a prelude to a possible coup or a soft coup. What has occurred in the wake of Peshawar suicide bombings was a subtle operation by the Pakistan Army without sending soldiers on the streets forcing PM Nawaz Sharif to virtually hand over effective reins of government to Pakistan Army Chief.

To give respectability to this insidious manoeuvre Pakistan’s polity was scared by the Pakistan Army General into passing the 21st Constitutional Amendment approving the setting-up of Special Military Courts for trial of all terrorism-related crimes. The Pakistan Army Act was also suitably modified.

Preposterous is the reality that with PM Nawaz Sharif having been returned to power on a solid majority and with the Pakistan Supreme Court in recent times asserting with judicial activism, the Pakistan Army had no faith in these Constitutional organs of the Pakistan State and goaded the political establishment for setting-up Special Military Courts. The Pakistan Army Sharif has done-in the Political Sharif.

The Pakistan Army would have gone in for a regular military coup and declaration of Martial Law except for the fear of international backlash and withholding of billions of dollars of US and Western aid.

The Pakistan Army Generals were smarting under the perceived insult of General Musharraf’s trials in civil courts and PM Nawaz Sharif’s conciliatory gestures towards India and hence all these contrivations. Further, the solid image of the Pakistan Army was being dented in public perceptions beginning with US liquidation of Osama bin Laden deep in the midst of Pakistan’s major military garrison and thereafter continuing terrorism attacks.

The question that arises is as to why the Pakistan Army never made demands for Constitutional Amendment and setting-up of Special Military Courts earlier when right from Karachi to Lahore similar suicide bombings had taken place?

The second question is more major and profound. Is Pakistan condemned to alternate currents of Pakistan Army’s political interventions and control and aborting democracy taking roots in Pakistan which recently showed promise when governance passed from one political regime to another through the ballot box rather than bullets?

Does this plague of Pakistan Army military interventions and short-circuiting of democratic transformation not represent that the Pakistan nation-state is in an existential crisis? Would then not the question be ceaselessly asked regionally and globally that how long Pakistan can survive as a nation state with such debilities?

Pakistan’s existential crisis has been the subject of incessant debates in the strategic community and strategic analyses. Moreso, concerns arise because Pakistan is a rogue nuclear weapons state with the nuclear triggers in the hands of an adventurist Pakistan Army. They can be expected to act impulsively and brashly without caring for the consequences.

Reflective of the above was an interesting scenario of “Pakistan 2018” included in an article in the British newspaper ‘The Telegraph ‘of September2010 which spelt out that in 2018 as Pakistan returned to civilian rule after five years of military dictatorship, the Pakistan Army refused to hand over the codes and keys for the nuclear arsenal. The ousted Pakistan Army also seized missiles silos with the Pakistan Army splintering into those supporting the civilian regime and those unwilling to take orders from the civilian Government. The latter join the Taliban in Afghanistan and resort to cutting off of supply routes to US Forces remaining in Afghanistan

In response a UN Coalition led by US Task Forces with support from Chinese Task Force attack Pakistani missile silos. But the Pakistani Army rebels manage to launch two nuclear warheads towards Mumbai which are intercepted and destroyed by US Forces. The UN Coalition Forces eventually defang Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal

The above is not a far-fetched alarmist scenario and requires serious consideration by United States, Russia and China as major powers as to how Pakistan Army’s nuclear arsenal is de-fanged to prevent doomsday scenarios. How can China guarantee that a 9/11is not repeated on China by Pakistan based radicals supporting their co-religionists in Xinjiang?

Even ardent supporters of Pakistan within the US strategic community now express doubts over the survival of the Pakistan nation-state. Their logic is that if Pakistan stood partitioned by emergence of Bangladesh within 24 years of the first partition what guarantee is there that with the uninterrupted crumbling of Pakistani governing institutions currently underway that Pakistan could survive as a nation-state in the coming 36 years.

It needs to be highlighted that Pakistan’s existential crisis underway is not the handiwork of any Indian diabolical plot but the havoc wreaked by the Pakistan Army on the survival of democracy and democratic institutions in Pakistan. This author has been propagating that ‘Pakistan’s Democracy is a National Security Imperative for India” in his SAAG Papers so entitled.

Concluding it needs to be stressed that Pakistan’s long entrenched strategic patrons like the United States, UK and China would have to re-write their strategic narratives on the Pakistan Army if Pakistan has to be retrieved from its ongoing existential crisis before it irretrievably stumbles into an abyss with dangerous implications for the region.

*Dr Subhash Kapila is a graduate of the Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley and combines a rich experience of Indian Army, Cabinet Secretariat, and diplomatic assignments in Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA. Currently, Consultant International Relations & Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at

60% Uranium Is Used For Only One Purpose (Rev 15:2)

New Sanctions to Trigger Iran’s 60% Uranium Enrichment, MP Warns
Iranian centrifuges
Iranian centrifuges
January 25, 2015 – 23:45

Member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Mohammad Hassan Asafari said in a radio interview on Sunday that the plan will take effect if the parties engaged in nuclear talks with Iran are perceived to be trying to impose fresh sanctions and be reluctant to lift the previous sanctions.

In similar comments on Saturday, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani unveiled retaliatory plans should the US imposes fresh sanctions on the country over its peaceful nuclear program.
The legislature has “seriously considered scenarios” to make the US regret if the Congress decides to slap new sanctions on Iran, Larijani said.

He pledged that a “jump in Iran’s nuclear technology” will occur in case of fresh sanctions, saying Tehran is absolutely capable of doing that.

Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) are in talks to hammer out a final agreement to end more than a decade of impasse over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.

It Matters Because The Final Horns Of Prophecy Are Forming (Daniel 8)

What’s happening in the Middle East and why it matters
By Greg Botelho, CNN
Updated 9:44 AM ET, Sat January 24, 2015
(CNN)The Middle East has never been a simple place.
Yet nowadays, this region is especially turbulent — with waves rocking several countries, so big that their effects are being felt worldwide, including the West.
It’s not like this uneasiness is concentrated only in one country, or all for a common reason. There’s Islamic extremism, political turnover, faltering oil prices and, let’s not forget, age-old sectarian tensions that are contributing in different ways in different places to the tumult.
Many countries in the region have issues, such as Egypt’s delicate political and human rights situation and Turkey’s dealing with the impact of the war raging right over its border in Syria. Still, a few stand out because of the unique — some might say intractable — challenges they face.
What’s going on
Chaos is one way to describe it.
The country’s government is in a shambles. Violence — some of it sectarian, some of it thanks to militancy from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — has been raging nationwide for months, if not years. And it’s far and away the poorest nation in the region, with a per capita GDP of $1,473, according to the World Bank. (Compare that with Saudi Arabia’s $25,962.)
Let’s start with the still unfolding political crisis. Yemen’s President and Prime Minister abruptly resigned Thursday after Houthi rebels moved on the capital, Sana’a.
How Yemen’s new government will look is still unclear, if it’s going to have a functioning government at all. If the Houthis take the lead, that would mean Shiites ruling a country that’s mostly Sunni. While the Houthis and previous government both fought against al Qaeda, this instability can only help that terror group. And none of this is helping the average Yemeni stuck in poverty, with little time, money or effort seemingly focused on improving their straits or the economy as a whole.
Why it matters to the West and beyond
For the rest of the world, political stability is a good thing for any country in this region; on the flip side, instability is always a concern. There’s also the fact that Yemen has enough oil and natural gas for its people and export, though unrest makes it challenging to tap into these resources, the U.S. Energy Information Administration notes.
All those worries and impacts are real. But, for the West, it’s about AQAP.
Ever since Osama bin Laden was flushed out of Afghanistan, the terrorist organization he founded has spread out and evolved. Rather than one overarching entity, al Qaeda is now more of an association of groups — each with its own goals, even if they all share a philosophy of lashing out at the West and promoting their extreme brand of Islam.
And of those, AQAP is widely considered the most dangerous to the West.
It’s the only al Qaeda affiliate to send terrorists from Yemen to the United States. There was Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, better known as “the underwear bomber” for his attempt to blow up a commercial airliner on a Detroit-bound flight in December 2009. Then there are the suspects in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings and Nidal Hassan, who reportedly were inspired by American-born cleric and top AQAP figure Anwar al-Awlaki.
The United States isn’t the only place affected. AQAP has claimed to be behind the January 7 Charlie Hebdo massacre, and one of the brothers involved — Cherif Kouachi — told CNN affiliate BFM that he trained in Yemen on a trip financed by al-Awlaki.
Al-Awlaki is dead, but his organization is not. With both Yemen’s government and the Houthis focused on each other, AQAP has more space to recruit and train terrorists, as well as devise ways for them to strike.
Yemen’s political upheaval is especially unsettling for countries like the United States, which had a strong, working alliance with now-departed President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and his government. As of Thursday, U.S. officials haven’t held any talks with the Houthis, nor did they know their intentions.
What’s going on
Since its founding in 1932, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been one of the most stable, not to mention richest, countries in not just the Middle East, but the world. It had a new new leader Friday, and let’s just say the timing could have been better.
Saudi Arabia has had political transition before, with six kings (from the same family) in its modern-day history — the latest being King Salman, who took power Friday following the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. The new leader has already signaled that he won’t diverge much from his predecessor’s policies, saying “we will, with God’s will and power, adhere to the straight path this country has followed since its establishment.”
Still, change is change, and King Salman will be challenged from the get-go.
Riyadh has long played a part in stabilizing the region, a role that is needed as much as ever. Iraq is battling ISIS militants, who already control much of the country and are threatening to take the rest. The Sunni-led government in neighboring Yemen is out, with uncertainty of what comes next or whether some of its violence will spill over into Saudi. And there’s the threat from across the Persian Gulf in Iran.
On top of all this, the price of the Arab nation’s economic driver — oil — has plummeted over 50% since the summer to less than $50 a barrel. That’s key, because oil revenues are a bit part of Saudi government’s revenues, and a big reason it’s so important on the world stage.
Why it matters to the West and beyond
The Middle East is unstable enough, especially since the Arab Spring. The Saudi government was one a few regional governments to weather that storm smoothly. But now, there’s even more need for stability — something that having a new leader may not help with.
It is very possible that Saudi policy doesn’t change much under King Salman. Even if that’s true, it’s much too early to tell whether or not he can be a leader throughout the region. Can or will he try to help broker peace between Palestinians and Israel, as did King Abdullah (who was praised by past and present Israeli presidents after his death)? Can or will he be able to have any influence keeping Yemen under control?
Likewise, it’s not yet clear how the transition will affect the Saudi government’s relationship with the United States, whose leaders have long been able to count on Riyadh for counsel and support.
Another possible impact of King Salman’s ascension has nothing to do with geopolitics, but rather how much you pay at the gas pump. The new King could decrease the amount of oil pumped in Saudi Arabia, which would decrease supply and increase prices.
Even without any Saudi action, the price of oil has already started climbing after King Abdullah’s death.
What’s going on
Syria’s upheaval began in spring 2011, with protests in the nation’s streets. President Bashar al-Assad’s government responded with a deadly crackdown, an act that only seemed to fuel the unrest.
And it only got worse from there.
Eventually, the dissension and violence devolved into a full-fledged civil war. It’s been a bloody war, with the United Nations estimating nearly 200,000 killed as of last August. It’s been a disruptive war, with more than 3 million Syrians now refugees and at least 6.5 million more displaced inside the country. And it hasn’t been a simple war, given all the warring parties involved.
That’s because there isn’t just one united opposition group fighting against al-Assad, who is still in power and entrenched in Damascus. There are more moderate fighting groups, some of which have gotten support from Washington and beyond. And there are extremists who have been able to attract new recruits, gain more influence and take over territory amid the chaos.
One of them is al-Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate the U.S. State Department has designated a terrorist organization that’s taken over territory in northwestern Syria.
Another is ISIS, which first emerged in Iraq but got a second life in Syria thanks to the ongoing war. It has terrorized many in both countries in recent months, a time in which its taken over vast swaths of territory, established a de facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqaa and rebranded itself the Islamic State in accordance with its quest to be a caliphate governed under its strict interpretation of Sharia law.
Why it matters to the West and beyond
Even before ISIS made daily headlines, the horrors of what’s been happening in Syria was enough to get the world’s attention. With large numbers of civilians dying, with the alleged use of chemical weapons, with neighboring countries like Turkey and Jordan finding themselves swarmed by refugees, it couldn’t be avoided from a practical and personal standpoint.
None of those concerns have gone away. Syria borders Turkey, a NATO member, as well as Jordan and Israel, two staunch U.S. allies. Besides the refugee issue, there is a constant threat that the violence will spill over the Syrian border. Even without that, a seemingly endless civil war in this part of the world is never good for most anyone, the West included.
It’s not just that there’s violence, it’s who is behind it and, in many ways, thriving because of it. ISIS wouldn’t be what it is without the Syrian civil war. That means it wouldn’t be a focal point for U.S. President Barack Obama and his government.
Already, ISIS has beheaded a number of U.S. and British hostages — all of them civilians — and threatened more. There’s also the real threat that the group may take its campaign out of the Middle East to strike in the West. That may have happened this month in France. One of the three terrorists there, Amedy Coulibaly, proclaimed his allegiance to ISIS in a video, and investigators discovered ISIS flags along with automatic weapons, detonators and cash in an apartment he rented, France’s RTL Radio reported Sunday, citing authorities.
The West and some of its Middle Eastern allies are striking back with targeted airstrikes not only in Iraq, where the coalition has a willing partner, but in Syria, where it is not working with al-Assad. (In fact, Obama and others have said they want the Syrian President out of power.)
U.S. diplomatic officials said Thursday that estimates are that this coalition has killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters. Yet their work is far from done. The group boasts upwards of 31,000 fighters, not to mention fresh recruits seemingly coming in regularly.
What’s going on
Iraq is no stranger to war in recent decades, from its war with Iran in the 1980s, to the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, to a U.S.-led invasion in 2003. And it has seen plenty of bad actors in that stretch, like late leader Saddam Hussein — who used chemical weapons against his enemies, including the 1988 attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja.
Even then, ISIS stands out.
The group began in 2004 as al Qaeda in Iraq, a particularly destructive arm of bin Laden’s terror network with an affinity for attacking coalition forces as well as those (particularly Shiite) locals who didn’t accept this Sunni group’s extreme Islamic beliefs. International military efforts helped to beat back the group, but it never totally went away.
Rebranded as the Islamic State, the terror group came back stronger and seemingly more brazen than ever. It killed and kidnapped, including many civilians, using tactics so extreme that even al Qaeda disowned it. Members of the minority Yazidi group reported being “treated like cattle” as their men were slaughtered and their women and girls were raped and sold. It distributed a pamphlet in Mosul justifying its enslaving and having sex with “unbelieving” women and girls.
It’s not just that ISIS is despicable. It’s been successful. The terror group has taken over large tracts of territory in Iraq, including oil fields and the key city of Mosul, and even threatened its capital of Baghdad.
Why it matters to the West and beyond
Iraq matters because it has been a place where Islamist extremists can strike the West. For years, that meant attacking coalition military forces based there. Now that they are gone, the fear is that Iraq will become a training ground for ISIS militants to prepare for strikes outside the Middle East.
That’s why, in August, Obama authorized the first of what have come to be hundreds of “targeted airstrikes” — conducted with international allies — to counter militants in Iraq as well as Syria.
It appears to have made a difference, not only in killing the estimated 6,000 ISIS fighters but in helping Iraqi forces reclaim territory. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that Iraq has taken back more than 270 square miles (700 square kilometers). Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this week he expects ISIS — even if it is not eliminated entirely — should be gone from his country within months, claiming the group’s “onslaught … has been reversed.”
“I think we have the capability now, with enough support from the international coalition,” al-Abadi said.
Any such predictions need to be taken with a grain of salt. That’s especially true in Iraq, where terrorists have been reportedly ousted before only to return.
Plus, it is not as though the end of ISIS necessarily will signal an end to Iraq’s problems. Like Saudi Arabia, this big-time oil producer has to cope with the impact of lower prices. And there was violence before ISIS’ surge — including a good number of terrorist attacks — so it seems unrealistic to expect that will go away.
What’s going on
The Islamic Revolution happened in 1979. There has been occasional protests since then, but none have amounted to anything. In some ways, politically, Iran has been the picture of stability with two overarching leaders in the past 36 years, with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his successor Ali Khamenei.
Yet Iran’s relations with the rest of the world haven’t been so calm.
Part of it has to do with Iranian leaders’ hard-line stance against Israel, as illustrated in Ayatollah Khamenei’s nine-point explanation last November for why Israel should be “annihilated.” The Ayatollah and his supporters haven’t been much kinder to the United States, with spirited anti-American rallies and harsh criticisms of Washington common.
Then there’s Iran’s nuclear program, one that since 2003 has fueled concern worldwide that Tehran’s plans are not simply energy development, as Iranian officials have said, but may be to develop nuclear warheads that could strike Israel and beyond.
This dispute has led to major sanctions on Iran, hurting that nation’s economy and isolating it from much of the world.
But there’s been some signs of hope since the 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani. Since then, the rhetoric has notably calmed. And while there’s been no conclusive deal, at least Iran has engaged in “constructive” talks with Western officials on the nuclear issue.
Why it matters to the West and beyond
Think of it this way: Would you want leaders of a country known for “Death to America” chants to have a nuclear weapon?
The United States sure does not. Nor do its European allies. And certainly, neither does Israel.
One concern is that all of these recent negotiations are simply smokescreens. Iran, some skeptics say, may be inching closer to producing nuclear weapons behind everyone’s backs while they talk peace.
And it’s not as though every leader in Iran is embracing peaceful rhetoric. Nuclear weapons or not, seemingly anything could tip the scales toward war. The latest point of contention relates to an Israeli attack in Syria’s Golan Heights that killed a senior Iranian commander and six Hezbollah members.
Speaking about that incident Thursday, according to state-run Press TV, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami said: “(Israel) should be waiting for crushing responses.”
What’s going on
Israel is one of most modern, progressive, prosperous countries. But ever since its founding in 1948 it has also been one of the most challenged when it comes to security — and that hasn’t changed.
Hamas and Israeli forces fought for seven weeks this summer in Gaza, a conflict that killed more than 2,130 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations. Sixty-seven Israelis — 64 of them soldiers — have been killed, the U.N. reported. A foreign worker in Israel was killed as well.
The violence has died down since then, but it hasn’t gone away. There was a November attack at a Jerusalem synagogue that killed four worshipers and a police officer. An Israeli soldier was stabbed to death on a Tel Aviv street, with another killed at a West Bank hitchhiking post. Many Palestinians have been caught up in everything as well, like a senior Palestinian Authority official who died after a confrontation with Israeli troops.
No 3rd intifada yet — but few signs of hope, either
Meanwhile, there’s an election coming up in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is contending to stay in the office he’s held since 2009, hoping to convince voters that he’s the right person to address a faltering economy, recent attacks against Israelis in Jerusalem and this summer’s inconclusive war against Hamas.
In fact, he’s taking his appeal on the road to the United States. House Speaker John Boehner has invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress on March 3.
But he won’t be meeting with Obama then, a fact that some see as the latest evidence of the reportedly frosty relationship between the two leaders.
Why it matters to the West and beyond
Israel is important to the United States for a few reasons.
Some of that has to do with the countries’ common democratic ideals. There is also the shared strategic and security interests, as it is no coincidence that many of Israel’s foes (like ISIS or Iran) are also U.S. enemies. And there’s a political component as well, with many in the United States valuing the country’s relationship with Israel — and sometimes poking their political opponents claiming they’re not sufficiently supportive.
If the leaders of these two longtime allies aren’t on the same page, that could be a problem.
Obama won’t personally meet with Netanyahu during his next visit, because, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “we want to avoid even the appearance of any kind of interference with a democratic election” on March 17.
Then there’s the prospect that Netanyahu will press for stronger sanctions on Iran. This thrusts him into the U.S. political fray, since the Iran talks have pitted Obama against Republicans and Democrats alike.
This visit certainly won’t help mend what Aaron David Miller, a former U.S.-Middle East peace negotiator, has described as “a dysfunctional relationship between Netanyahu and Obama.”
As a senior official with a prominent pro-Israel policy organization in Washington said last fall: “These guys don’t like each other. They don’t pretend to like each other.”