In Lebanon and Iraq, Iran Exposes Its Fragility

On October 10, Iraqis went to the polls, delivering disappointing results for the two major pro-Iran coalitions. But, notes Alberto M. Fernandez, the parties that did well are not averse to cooperating with the Islamic Republic. Tehran’s closest allies, however, have focused on a meager ten seats (out of 329) won by an anti-Iranian coalition, with a powerful Shiite militia leader raising accusations of election fraud. Here Fernandez sees a parallel to the recent violence on the streets of Beirut, which likewise pits Iran-backed militias against those who wish to see a diminution of the ayatollahs’ influence:

If Iran’s proxies in Iraq were concerned about ten parliamentarians, in Lebanon Iran’s proxies seem to be concerned about one judge. Judge Tarek Bitar only took over the investigation of the Beirut port explosion earlier this year. . . . Even though many Lebanese already believe that there was a Hizballah connection to the blast (one explanation was that this was a shipment of nitrates used in barrel bombs against Syrian cities during that country’s civil war), the idea of a judge actually clarifying the case and fingering some corrupt officials—a category of which Lebanon has a surplus—seems to have become a Hizballah redline. This led to a violent provocation in Beirut on October 14, as Hizballah and Amal opened fire on unnamed assailants, even firing rocket-propelled grenades at office buildings.

Why have Hizballah in Lebanon and its counterparts in Iraq, near-hegemons in both countries, reacted with such vehemence to what may seem to the outsider to be relatively small reversals? Iran’s proxies in both countries are indeed almost all-powerful, but they are strong only in relative terms. Anti-Iranian-regime feeling is strong in Lebanon, in Iraq, and in Syria (and inside Iran too). Aside from a fanatical and heavily armed hard core—essential henchmen for Iranian hegemony—nobody much likes Iran, even if they also don’t like the U.S. or Israel. It is that small and fanatical core that projects its power—through the triple venues of politics, propaganda, and violence—over much larger populations who serve under Iranian hegemony, at varying levels of willingness, because of fear, weakness, or greed.

The key elements of such an approach are the perception of inevitability and an aura of impunity. It is those elements, coupled with actual violence, that generally keep the masses in line. That is why a single judge in Lebanon, a mere handful of deputies in Iraq, or one lone heroic voice like Lokman Slim constitute a threat. They shatter the narrative of inevitability.

Read more at MEMRI

More about: Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Middle East

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

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