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

Winning Islam’s War of Ideas, Saudi-Style

March 19 2018

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. policymakers have understood the need to confront jihadism not only militarily but also ideologically; yet, writes John Hannah, they have had little success. Now Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’ reformist crown prince, appears willing and able to take up the fight, and Hannah urges Washington to support his efforts:

By an order of magnitude, al-Qaeda in 2018 enjoys a larger presence in more countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia than it did the day the Twin Towers were felled. . . . What’s consistently been missing from America’s strategy have been powerful partners in the Muslim world who can reliably be counted on to speak out authoritatively on matters of Islamic theology in ways that the United States simply cannot. That’s where Saudi Arabia comes in. It’s the birthplace of Islam and host to the faith’s two holiest mosques. Combined with abundant oil wealth, these assets bestow on the Saudis a measure of soft-power influence unrivaled in the Muslim world. . . .

For months, the crown prince and his closest advisers have relentlessly hammered the theme that Saudi Arabia’s modernization requires an embrace of “moderate Islam.” He’s slammed the extremist ideology that the kingdom did so much to empower after the Iranian revolution and acknowledges that “the problem spread all over the world.” . . . At home, the powers of the kingdom’s notorious religious police have been scaled back. Prominent hardline clerics have been jailed. On the all-important issue of female empowerment, the pace of change has been breathtaking. . . .

Now the U.S. imperative should be pressing Mohammed bin Salman to take his campaign for moderate Islam on the road. . . . There should be multiple elements to such an effort, but some immediate tasks come to mind. First, school textbooks. The Saudis promised to eliminate the hate-filled passages a decade ago. Progress has slowly been made, but the job’s still not done. Mohammed bin Salman should order it finished—this year. Behind the scenes, U.S. experts should provide verification.

Second, working with trusted partners in indigenous communities known for their religious moderation, the Saudis should conduct a thorough audit of the global network of mosques, schools, and charitable organizations that they’ve backed with an eye toward weeding out radical staff and content. Third, [they should] initiate a worldwide buyback of Saudi-distributed mistranslations of the Quran and other religious materials notorious for propagating extremist narratives.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Moderate Islam, Politics & Current Affairs, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, War on Terror