A Key Border Crossing between Iraq and Syria Is about to Fall into Iranian Hands

March 27 2019

In November 2017, Iran-backed militias drove Islamic State forces from the Syrian town of Abu Kamal, which lies on the west bank of the Euphrates near the border with Iraq. Since then, Iran and its proxies have used back roads in the area to send military equipment into Syria. Iraq now plans to open the official border crossing at the adjacent Iraqi city of al-Qaim, which, however, according to Andrew Gabel and David Adesnik, will allow the Islamic Republic to make far more efficient its “land bridge” for sending troops and weapons to Israel’s borders:

Kataib Hizballah, [one of the most important Iran-backed militias in Iraq], has [already] established a presence on the Iraqi side of the border. Although the population of western Iraq near the Syrian border is overwhelmingly Sunni, [Shiite] Kataib Hizballah participated in operations to reclaim the area from Islamic State. Residents of al-Qaim say the militia has kept them from returning to the town’s 1,500 farms by declaring the land part of a security zone. It also controls the roads in and out of al-Qaim. . . .

If Iran secures this improved land bridge running through al-Qaim and Abu Kamal, it could move greater volumes of cargo at a lower cost per unit. At present, Iran’s “air bridge” relies on a very limited supply of commercial aircraft, each with a limited carrying capacity. Sea vessels can accommodate more goods than trucks or planes, but the U.S. has interdicted weapons shipments and is enforcing sanctions on illicit shipments of crude oil as well.

The U.S. should press firmly for the Iraqi government to put al-Qaim and its border crossing in the hands of security-force units loyal to Baghdad, not Tehran. It may also be necessary to step up surveillance of the area. Al-Qaim’s position astride Iran’s emerging land corridor to the Mediterranean makes it too important for the U.S. to ignore. While American policymakers must be sensitive to Iraq’s domestic political pressures—especially with the Iraqi parliament set to consider two bills that could jeopardize the status of American troops in Iraq—the administration must deny Iran access to a gateway for weapons, fighters, and other illicit goods.

Read more at FDD

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

The Assassination of a Nuclear Scientist Is a Reminder That Iran Has Been Breaking the Rules for Years

Nov. 30 2020

On Friday, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the chief scientist behind the Islamic Republic’s nuclear-weapons program, was killed in what appears to have been a carefully planned and executed operation—widely thought to have been Israel’s doing. In 2011, Fakhrizadeh was given a new position as head of the Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research (known by its Persian acronym SPND), which was a front for Tehran’s illegal nuclear activities. Richard Goldberg explains:

Last year, the State Department revealed that SPND has employed as many as 1,500 individuals, including nuclear-weapons scientists [who] “continue to carry out dual-use research and development activities, of which aspects are potentially useful for nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons-delivery systems.”

How could Fakhrizadeh and SPND continue to operate during the 2015 Iran nuclear deal when the deal was premised on Iran’s commitment to an exclusively peaceful nuclear program? Indeed, the existence of SPND and the discovery of Iran’s nuclear archive [by the Mossad in 2018] paints a picture of regime that never truly halted its nuclear-weapons program—but instead separated its pieces, keeping its personnel fresh and ready for a time of Iran’s choosing.

That reality was deliberately obfuscated to sell the Iran nuclear deal. Iran-deal supporters wanted the world to believe that the ayatollahs had left their nuclear ambitions in the past. . . . We now know Iran lied to the International Atomic Energy Agency, [which is charged with policing Tehran’s compliance], and to the participants of the nuclear deal. Today, the IAEA is again investigating Iran’s concealment of undeclared nuclear material, activities, and sites.

President-elect Joe Biden can no longer pretend that the Iran deal prevented the Islamic Republic’s nuclear advancement. It did not. Nor can Biden’s incoming secretary of state or national security adviser—both of whom were instrumental players in putting the deal together—pretend that Iran can return to compliance with that flawed deal without addressing all outstanding questions about the archive, SPND, and its undeclared activities.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy