Iran Plans a Maritime Expansion

Dec. 28 2016

Last month, the chief of staff of the Iranian military publicly stated his government’s intention to set up naval bases abroad, possibly in Syria and Yemen. Although it is difficult to know the extent to which this statement is bluster, a reflection of an actual plan, or an indication of a project already underway, Ephraim Kam argues that it would behoove Israel and the U.S. to take it seriously:

The [chief of staff’s] remarks . . . derive primarily from Iran’s fundamental hegemonic aspirations in the Middle East and, in some respects, beyond. . . . Although the Iranian naval fleet still uses partially outdated equipment, it poses a significant threat to its rivals in the Gulf region, due to its rocket and mine-laying capabilities and due to Iran’s complete control over the entire length of the eastern shore of the Gulf. . . . The prevailing assessment is that the Iranian fleet is incapable of blocking navigation in the Gulf over an extended period, due to United States capabilities in breaking through any Iranian obstacle, but Iran is capable of disrupting marine traffic in the Gulf with rockets, mines, and shore-to-ship artillery fire. . . .

If . . . Iran succeeds in establishing naval bases on the shores of Syria and Yemen, this will have troubling implications, mainly for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, as well as for Egypt and Turkey. It is unclear whether Iran is thinking in terms of establishing a permanent base—as per the chief of staff’s remarks—or whether at issue is a temporary and limited presence and the receipt of port services. The worst-case scenario is the construction of a permanent base in Syria, which connotes a permanent naval arm in the Mediterranean Sea and an Iranian military presence in proximity to Israel, while creating a threat to, and establishing deterrence against, Israel.

Moreover, the establishment of a naval base in Syria will enable Iran to transport regular supplies and other assistance to Hizballah, without being dependent upon overland convoys or aerial transport through Syria, Iraq, and/or Turkey, and will serve its intelligence-collection needs. The establishment of a naval base in Yemen will exacerbate the Iranian threat from the south against Saudi Arabia, and will provide Iran with the ability to pose a threat at the entrance to the Red Sea as well as a capacity to affect the navigation of ships toward the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Eilat in the event of a confrontation. . . .

The establishment of the naval bases relatively close to Israel gives the Jewish state the possibility of destroying them if necessary, for example, in retaliation for an Iranian provocation. At the same time, any military operation against an Iranian naval base in Syria—whether overt or covert—is liable to trigger an Iranian response, either directly or through Hizballah.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Middle East, Naval strategy, Politics & Current Affairs

Israel Has Survived Eight Years of Barack Obama’s False Friendship

Jan. 20 2017

In his speech justifying America’s decision to allow passage of the UN Security Council resolution declaring it a violation of international law for Jews to live in east Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Golan Heights, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that “friends need to tell each other the hard truths.” John Podhoretz comments:

The decision in December by President Obama to abstain on the UN Security Council vote . . . marked the moment he crossed the finish line in the course he had charted from 2008 onward. The turn against Israel was complete. And, as he had when he began it, in farewell interview after farewell interview he characterized his assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish presence in the Holy Land as an act of tough love. . . .

Which raises the key question: why [only] abstain [from the resolution]? If “hard truths” define friendship, then by all means they should have made the truths as hard as possible. If Barack Obama and John Kerry truly believe the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem is illicit, then they should have voted for the resolution. Instead, they took the coward’s way out. They opened the vault to the criminals and placed the jewels in their hands while wearing white gloves so there would be no residual trace of their fingerprints. The abstention was in some weird sense the mark of their bad conscience. They wanted something to happen while maintaining some historical deniability about their involvement in it.

In the eight years of the Obama presidency, war broke out twice between the Palestinians and the Israelis and nearly broke out a third time. In each case, the issue was not the West Bank, or east Jerusalem, or anything near. . . . The idea that the settlements and the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem are the main barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians was proved to be a lie right before Obama’s eyes in 2009, and 2012, and 2014. And he didn’t care to see it, because he is blinded by an antipathy he wishes to ascribe to Israeli action when honesty would compel him to find it in his own misguided leftist ideology—or within his own soul.

Israel has survived the horrendous blessing of Barack Obama’s false friendship.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Barack Obama, Israel & Zionism, John Kerry, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations