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The Coming Confrontation between Israel and Iran

While the debate over the 2015 nuclear agreement, and the question of its continued certification by President Trump, still continues in the U.S., the Islamic Republic has been steadily expanding its presence in Syria and simultaneously advancing its ballistic-missile program. Israel, for its part, has attacked Iranian positions in Syria 100 times over the past five years. Absent American efforts to contain Tehran, warns Elliott Abrams, things are likely to get worse:

Now there are reports that Iran is planning to build a military airfield near Damascus, where the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps could build up its presence and operate. And that Iran and the Assad regime are negotiating over giving Iran its own naval pier in the port of Tartus. And that Iran may actually deploy a division of soldiers in Syria. . . .

[I]f Iran does indeed plan to establish a large and permanent military footprint in Syria, . . . Israel will have fateful decisions to make. Such an Iranian presence on the Mediterranean and on Israel’s border would change the military balance in the region and fundamentally change Israel’s security situation.

[U]nder the nuclear deal reached by Barack Obama, remember, limits on Iran’s nuclear program begin to end in only eight years; Iran may now perfect its ballistic-missile program; and there are no inspections of military sites where further nuclear weapons research may be under way. As Senator Tom Cotton said recently, “If Iran doesn’t have a covert nuclear program today, it would be [for] the first time in a generation.” Israel could be a decade away from a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and bases in Syria—and could logically therefore even place nuclear weapons in Syria, just miles from Israel’s border.

As such a situation would be intolerable for Israel, a larger military conflict between it and Iran is almost inevitable—unless the U.S. begins to constrain Tehran’s regional ambitions.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

Hamas Sets Its Sights on Taking over the PLO

Oct. 20 2017

Examining the recent reconciliation agreement between the rival Palestinian organizations Fatah and Hamas, Eyal Zisser argues that the latter sees the deal as a way to install its former leader, Khaled Meshal, as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and thereby the Palestinian Authority. It wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened:

Even the former Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat . . . took the PLO leadership by force. His first steps, incidentally, were with the Fatah organization, which he cofounded in January 1965 in Damascus, under Syrian patronage. Fatah was meant to serve as a counterweight to the rival PLO, which had come into existence [earlier] under Egyptian patronage. Arafat, however, was relegated to the sidelines in the Palestinian arena. It was only after the 1967 Six-Day War that he exploited the resounding defeat of the Arab armies to join the PLO as the leader of Fatah, which led to his gaining control over [the PLO itself].

Meshal [most likely] wants to follow in Arafat’s footsteps—a necessary maneuver for a man who aspires to lead the Palestinian national movement, particularly after realizing that military might and even a hostile takeover of [either Gaza or the West Bank] will not grant him the legitimacy he craves.

It is hard to believe that Fatah will willingly hand over the keys to leadership, and it is also safe to assume that Egypt does not want to see Hamas grow stronger. But quasi-democratic developments such as these have their own dynamics. In 2006, Israel was persuaded by Washington to allow Hamas to run in the general Palestinian elections, thinking the Islamist group had no chance of winning. But Hamas won those elections. We can assume Meshal will now look to repeat that political ploy by joining the PLO and vying for its leadership.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Fatah, Hamas, Khaled Meshal, Palestinian Authority, PLO, Politics & Current Affairs, Yasir Arafat