A war on who’s terms

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We are entering troubling times. The conviction that war is upon us grows with each passing day. What remains to be determined is who will dictate the terms of that war – Iran or Israel.

 

Iran has good reason to go to war today. The regime is teetering on the brink of collapse. Last week, the bellwether of Iranian politics and the commercial center of the country – the bazaar – abandoned the regime. In 1979, it was only after the bazaar merchants abandoned the shah that the ayatollahs gained the necessary momentum to overthrow the regime.

 

Last Tuesday the merchants at the all-important Teheran bazaar closed their shops to protest the government’s plan to raise their taxes by 70 percent. Merchants in Tabriz and Isfahan quickly joined the protest. According to the Associated Press, the regime caved in to the merchants demands and cancelled the tax hike. And yet the strike continued.

 

According to The Los Angeles Times, to hide the fact that the merchants remain on strike, on Sunday the regime announced that the bazaar was officially closed due to the excessive heat. The Times also reported that the head of the fabric traders union in the Teheran bazaar was arrested for organizing an anti-regime protest. The protest was joined by students. Regime goons attacked the protesters with tear gas and arrested and beat a student caught recording the event.

 

Crucially, the Times reported that by last Thursday the bazaar strike had in many cases become openly revolutionary. Citing an opposition activist, it claimed, “By Thursday, hundreds of students and merchants had gathered in the shoemakers’ quarter of the old bazaar, chanting slogans [such] as, “Death to Ahmadinejad,” “Victory is God’s,” “Victory is near” and “Death to this deceptive government.”

 

The merchants’ strike is just one indication of the regime’s economic woes. According to AP, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is under pressure to carry out his pledge to cut government subsidies for food and fuel. Although he supports the move, he fears the mass protests that would certainly follow its implementation.

 

FrontPage Magazine’s Ryan Mauro noted earlier this week that there is growing disaffection with the regime in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps itself. A recent documentary produced by the Guardian featured four IRGC defectors speaking of the discord in the ranks. The regime is so frightened of defection among the IRGC that it has removed many older members and replaced them with poor young men from the countryside.

 

The regime’s fear of its opposition has caused it to crack down on domestic liberties. Last week the regime issued hairstyle guidelines for men. Spiked hair and ponytails are officially banned as decadent.

 

On Sunday Mohammed Boniadi, the deputy head of Teheran’s school system, announced that starting in the fall, a thousand clerics will descend on the schools to purge Western influence from the halls of learning. As he put it, the clerics’ job will be to make students aware of “opposition plots and arrogance.”

 

These moves to weaken Western influence on Iranian society are of a piece with the regime’s new boycott against “Zionist” products. Late last month Ahmadinejad signed a law outlawing the use of products from such Zionist companies as Intel, Coca Cola, Nestle and IBM.

 

ALL OF these moves expose a hysterical fear of the Iranian people on the part of their unelected leaders. Regime strongmen themselves acknowledge that they have never faced a greater threat. For instance, the Guardian quoted IRGC commander Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari saying recently, “Although last year’s sedition did not last more than around eight months, it was much more dangerous than the [Iran-Iraq] war.” 

 

As is its wont, the regime has chosen to defend itself against this threat by repressing its internal enemies and attacking its external enemies. In an article last month in Forbes, Reza Kahlili, a former CIA spy in the IRGC who maintains connections inside the regime, claimed that the IRGC has set up concentration camps throughout the country in anticipation of mass arrests in any future opposition campaign against the regime.

 

As for the outside world, Iran is ratcheting up both its nuclear brinksmanship and its preparations for yet another round of regional war. In an announcement on Sunday, Iran’s atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi told the Iranian news agency ISNA that Iran has produced 20 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent. Salehi also said that Iran is building fuel plates to operate a nuclear reactor.

 

Iran’s nuclear progress has frightened the Arab world so much that for the first time, Arab leaders are giving public voice to the concerns they have expressed behind closed doors. In public remarks last week, UAE Ambassador to the US Youssef al-Otaiba made a series of statements whose bluntness was unprecedented. 

 

Otaiba said that the Arab states of the Persian Gulf cannot live with a nuclear Iran, that he supports military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities and that if the US fails to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the Arab states of the Gulf will abandon their alliances with the US in order to appease Iran. Otaiba rejected the notion that a nuclear-armed Iran can be contained stating, “Talk of containment and deterrence really concerns me and makes me very nervous.”

 

Otaiba’s concerns were echoed last Friday by Kahlili in a public lecture at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He asserted that if Iran develops a nuclear arsenal it will use it to attack Israel, the Gulf states and Europe.

 

IRAN IS seeking to divert international attention away from its internal troubles and limit the possibility of a strike against its nuclear installations by inciting war with Israel. On Sunday the regime announced that Ahmadinejad will soon visit Beirut. Recent activities by Iran’s Hizbullah proxy in Lebanon indicate that if his visit goes through – and even if it doesn’t – the announcement signals that Iran intends to fight another proxy war against Israel through Hizbullah.

 

As the IDF announced in a press briefing last Wednesday, Iran has tightened its control over Hizbullah forces. It recently sent Hossein Mahadavi, a commander of the IRGC’s Jerusalem Force, to Beirut to take over Hizbullah’s operations.

 

As for Hizbullah, it is poised to launch a witch-hunt against its domestic opponents.

 

Hizbullah MP Muhammad Ra’ad said earlier this month that the proxy army will “hunt down,” collaborators. As MP Sami Gemayel noted in an interview with LBC translated by MEMRI, this that means is that Hizbullah is poised to conduct mass extrajudicial arrests and wholesale terrorization of Lebanese civilians.

 

Likewise, Hizbullah-allied former Lebanese minister Wiam Wahhab effectively called for armed attacks against UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon in a recent television interview translated by MEMRI. His remarks followed some 20 Hizbullah ordered assaults on UNIFIL forces in Shi’ite villages in recent days. French forces were the victim of two of those assaults and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri travelled to Paris last week in the hopes of convincing the French government not to remove French forces from the country.

 

And of course, all of these provocations are being carried out as Hizbullah deploys its forces south of the Litani River.

 

Accordin
g to the IDF briefing last week, those forces have some 40,000 short- and medium-range missiles at their disposal.

 

Those missiles have been augmented by hundreds of guided long-range missiles north of the Litani with warheads capable of bringing down skyscrapers in Tel Aviv.

 

Moreover, they are further augmented by Syria’s massive Scud missile and artillery arsenals and by a frightening potential fifth column among Israeli Arabs in the Galilee. Sunday’s assault on police forces operating in the Syrian-allied Druse village of Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights is a mild indicator of what is liable to transpire in Israeli Arab villages in the North in the next war.

 

For its part, the IDF is seeking to deter such an attack. Wednesday’s briefing, in which the IDF made clear that it knows where Hizbullah has hidden its missiles, was aimed at deterring war.

 

Unfortunately, the IDF’s warnings will likely have no effect on Hizbullah. If Hizbullah goes to war, it will do so not to advance its own interests, but to protect Iran. Here of course, there is nothing new.

 

Four years ago this week Hizbullah launched its war against Israel and not because doing so served its interests.

 

Hizbullah launched its war against Israel because Iran ordered it to do so. Then as now, Iran sought a war with Israel in Lebanon to divert international attention from its nuclear weapons program. And now, with the Iranian regime besieged by its own people as never before, and with just a short period required for it to cross the nuclear threshold, Iran has more reason than ever to seek a distraction in Lebanon to buy time for itself.

 

Four years ago, Israel was taken in by Iran’s Lebanese proxy war. Rather than keeping its eye on Teheran, it swallowed Hizbullah’s bait and waged a war against hapless Lebanon while leaving Iran and its Syrian toady immune from attack. The results were predictably poor and strategically disastrous.

 

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given Iran every reason to believe that Israel will respond in an identical manner if Hizbullah strikes again today. In repeated statements over the past several months, he has maintained that Israel will blame Lebanon – not Iran or Syria – for any Hizbullah action against it.

 

Four years ago, Israel was reined in by the Bush administration. Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice ordered Israel not to attack Syria despite the fact that without Syrian support for Hizbullah, there could have been no war. Israel obliged her both because its leaders lacked the strategic sense to recognize the folly of Rice’s demands and because the Bush administration was Israel’s firm ally.

 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu just returned from yet another visit with US President Barack Obama. Although the background music was cheerful, from statements by both men it is clear that Obama is not a credible ally. He does not understand or accept the strategic logic behind the US alliance with Israel and will not support Israel in future armed conflicts.

 

Indeed, in the face of the growing Iranian menace, Obama insists on limiting his interests to the irrelevant faux peace process with Fatah while allowing Iran and its proxies to run wild.

 

What this means is that for better or for worse, under Obama the US is far less relevant than it was four years ago. And this frees Netanyahu to fight the coming war on Israel’s terms. Iran’s domestic troubles and the Arab world’s genuine fear of a nuclear armed Iran provide Israel with a rare opportunity to radically shift the balance of power in the region for the better. It is time for Netanyahu to lead.

 

Originally published in the Jerusalem Post.
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15 Comments

  • Marcel 07/13/2010 at 11:46

    Israel can’t bring itself to understand that the US in now irrevelant too well trained to take orders from nuts who decree that it is impermissable to define the enemy as anything Islamic and redefines jihad as a noble pursuit.
    PC insanity has defeated the West and Israel can’t break from the pack.
    ‘It is time for Netanyahu to lead’
    Netanyahu failed to lead in the late 90’s and has again failed to lead and you think this Washington,CFR groupie will magically change into what he has proven incapable of doing ?
    Maybe he’s still waiting for Obama or Sara for permission or maybe Rham hasn’t gotten back to him yet ?
    Amadinejad and the mad Mullah’s have been foaming at the mouth for their apocalyptic Mahdi War for a long time and and Israel has done everthing to help.
    From dropping South Lebanon into the UN’s lap after failing to defeat Hizbollah and another failure to defeat Hamas.
    Your marriage to US policy is a dismal failure.
    Well Israel ,you bought your ‘firm allies’ lies of land for peace and now the Piper has come to collect his due.
    There never was any peace coming with the Map you chose to follow. When the dust of war settles this will the conclusion of the matter.
    “I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. 22 So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day forward. 23 The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them. I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. 24 According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them.”……And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD.”Ezekiel 39

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  • Marc Handelsman, USA 07/13/2010 at 12:41

    The upcoming regional war must be on Israel’s terms. The only way to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-armed is for the IAF to preemptively attack Iran’s nuclear installations. There can be no tolerance for a totalitarian nation like Iran having nuclear weapons at its deposal. The civilized world cannot afford Islamic nuclear proliferation, nor can it ignore Persian radical Islamists like Ahmadinejad. Iran is seeking regional hegemony, and the destruction of the region’s only democracy, Israel. And Prime Minister Netanyahu knows the situation, and will lead at the right time.

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  • SoCal Mother 07/13/2010 at 19:18

    “whose terms,” not “who’s terms?”
    “Whose” is “belonging to whom”
    “Who’s” is “who is”
    Please!!!!

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  • lkg 07/13/2010 at 21:41

    If Iran were to attack Israel with nuclear weaponry, they’d be attacking not only Israelis, but Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians. There is no nuclear weapon small enough to avoid such a scenario. Arab states next to Israel need to recognize this immediately.
    Iranian leadership often says they’ll “wipe Israel off the map.” This is not possible without wiping out most Arabs in region.

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  • Bill K. 07/14/2010 at 1:25

    In any war with Iran, Israel will inevitably have to deal with Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas – probably at the same time. Undoubtedly the IDF will be stretched to the limit in multiple attacks on Iran. Will it have enough reserves to deal with Iran’s minions too?
    It is a criminal waste of time for Netanyahu to devote one second to negotiations with the Palestinians when he should feverishly preparing for war. In order to prevent massive rocket attacks on Israeli cities Hezbollah and Syria will have to be stopped in their tracks. This means they will literally have to be bombed back to the Stone Age, and in very short order.
    This will be total war that will defy all the norms of the bogus “international community”. Pre-emption, massive non-proportionality and the inevitable civilian deaths will be necessary for victory in this war. Are Netanyahu and Israel confident enough to withstand the storm of criticism that will ensue and intellectually armed to present their case to the world?

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  • beniyyar 07/14/2010 at 4:18

    The next war will not be fought on Ehud Barak’s flimsy and ineffective terms simply because the Iranian enemy and it’s proxies will force Israel’s hand.
    For some time now Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Hizballa, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and even elements among Israeli Arabs have taken into account the weak and inconsistent Middle East policy of the United States under Barack Obama. These groups realize that Barack Obama is largely fearful and largely impotent abroad, no matter how influential and powerful he may be domestically.
    These rogue groups also realize that with US elections in November there will come a huge shift in power in America and the United States may become more engaged and forceful in it’s Middle East policy.
    Couple this with instability in Iran itself, and a Middle East war on Israel becomes more likely.
    Or less likely given that these rogue groups also realize that Israel is quite capable of defending herself and inflicting catastrophic, if not existential, damage on any nation or group of nations, or alliance foolish enough to open hostilities on the Jewish State.

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  • naomir 07/14/2010 at 8:24

    Caroline, Concise and blunt. If ever there was a time for Israel to act it is now. Iran is in turmoil, her factions divided. Obama has proven once and again that he is not equal to the task of leader of a great nation. He certainly isn’t Israel’s ally contrary to all the sweet words. Waiting for him can G-d forbid sign Israel’s death warrant. Netanyahu and the Israeli government must realize this before it’s too late.

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  • anonymous 07/14/2010 at 10:24

    It is clear that the Obama tactic is like that of the Communists two steps forward and one step back. The step back merely consists of some nice talk and is not even substantive. The steps forward are sending high level emmasaries to Gaza and Syria to validate their dictatorial regimes, dismantling the Gaza blockade, making demands on what gets constructed in Israel with a view of returning to the green line, allowing Iran to develop nuclear bombs, making absolutely no protest when a huge convoy is sent through Iraq to Syria (the American troops there must have waved them by), and continuing to arm and train Fatah (yes yes they are very impressive now).
    Why call on Netanyahu to lead? He never will.

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  • Anonymous 07/15/2010 at 10:24

    Strike at the heart of the Axis of Evil: IRAN

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  • Geoffrey Britain 07/15/2010 at 20:30

    ” Iran’s domestic troubles and the Arab world’s genuine fear of a nuclear armed Iran provide Israel with a rare opportunity to radically shift the balance of power in the region for the better. It is time for Netanyahu to lead.”
    Netanyahu’s ability to lead is directly obstructed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak who in repeated statements over the past several months, has strongly indicated that Barak will not blame Iran or Syria – for any Hizbullah action against it and instead use Lebanon as a strawman to avoid real confrontation.
    Obama will support Barak’s position and threaten Netanyahu should he not wish to go along with ‘the program’.
    Notwithstanding the very real problem that Iran and Hizbollah present to Israel, the “800lb Gorilla in the room” is the Israeli appeasers like Ehud Barak.
    Until the real problem is faced and confronted, Israel is being led in fits and starts to the gallows, merely delaying the inevitable.

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  • yuval 07/16/2010 at 2:24

    Those missiles have been augmented by hundreds of guided long-range missiles north of the Litani with warheads capable of bringing down skyscrapers in Tel Aviv.
    And that is the whole point. Israel will not fight a war to victory if 1. no major bloodshed is incurred 2. Tel Aviv is not severely hit, with major damage to the economy. So this is exactly what Netanyahu expects to do: Wait for the calamity, inclusive of and not ilimited to major blood shed and a million Jewish refugees from the coastaal region, and then aim for a victory. The ONLY real victory is the repatration of Arabs from this side of the Jordan to the east.

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  • Terry, Eilat - Israel 07/16/2010 at 6:29

    Ever the optimist, you’re still waiting for Netanyahu to lead. I don’t think we have time to wait until Mr Netanyahu finally wakes up.
    Anyway, as long as Ehud Barak is Minister of Defense, all we can expect is another strategic blunder.
    You can almost guess the scenario, some incident, some provocation, we retaliate in as weak a manner as possible, Hezbollah escalates, perhaps missiles aimed at Haifa or Tel Aviv.
    There are immediate calls for restraint from everywhere but a few missiles on Tel Aviv make restraint politically impossible.
    So we escalate again, still the strict minimum.
    Then, more pressure to show restraint.
    More missiles, perhaps hundreds.
    And, we repeat the same stupidity of the last Lebanon war.
    This scenario would only change if Syria actually joined in the fighting from her own territory. Then, even a moron like Ehud Barak would have to take some action.
    Should there be an uprising of Israeli Arabs, you can bet anything that the politically correct response will be very weak & ineffectual.
    No matter the internal problems of Iran, they will absolutely not stop their race to obtain nuclear weapons. The regime will not fall no matter how many Iranians they kill.
    But, will Netanyahu have the political courage to pull the trigger on Iran?
    Don’t count on it.

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  • Terry, Eilat - Israel 07/16/2010 at 7:28

    By the way, DebkaFile has a post on Russia helping Iran avoid the consequences of the lackluster sanctions, ”Moscow Pledges Teheran Oil Products – Against US Embargo.”
    http://debka.com/article/8910/
    For Israel, it means that Netanyahu’s faith in sanctions against Iran’s oil industry to stop Iran’s nuclear project has lost what little sense it had to begin with.

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  • Terry, Eilat - Israel 07/17/2010 at 3:33

    I couldn’t help noticing that this post was not published in the JPost. Could it be that you were censored?
    I find that most troubling, my low opinion of the Israeli media confirmed yet again.
    It’s really sad that the best analyses in English on the Middle-East & Israel are to be found in the various blogs on the internet, mostly American.
    As I’ve said before, the JPost has really gone down-hill of late.
    No other topic is even close to the importance of dealing with Iran & it’s proxies, Syria & Hezbollah. Yet, the media is filled with nonsense about the Palestinians, almost everything is about ”Abbas said….”, ”Hamas said…”, direct talks – about what, exactly, is beyond me, etc. etc.
    Then there is the flotilla nonsense, the sad business of Gilad Shalit, & plenty of BS about Obama.
    There is virtually no serious analysis of the Iranian threat nor the necessity of military action. And when finally someone writes seriously on this existential threat, it’s censored so it receives no wide audience.
    What is wrong with us? Have we, as a nation, become passsive observers of our own fate?
    You know that I’m a recent immigrant, that I made aliyah from an Arab country. I can’t help but think that I made a mistake, that I was actually safer in an Arab country than here in Israel. Now isn’t that the saddest commentary anyone could make about this country?

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  • jay 07/20/2010 at 1:55

    how is it that the major newspapers do not report on these details, i have not seen any other reports of the Iranian Market Strike. this is amazing news and could bring the total collapse of the regime in Iran.

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