Thursday, June 29, 2017

Eye on Iran: The Iran Nuclear Deal Faces 'Death by a Thousand Cuts'

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President Donald Trump decided against killing off the Iran nuclear deal in a day-one spectacular. It may face a lingering death instead. Trump's administration sends out mixed signals on many issues, but on the need for a tougher line against Iran, it speaks with one voice. And words have been accompanied by action. In Syria, the U.S. military is directly clashing with Iranian allies. In Saudi Arabia, Trump performed a sword-dance with Iran's bitterest foes. In the Senate, new sanctions on the Islamic Republic sailed through with near-unanimous approval. The 2015 accord reined in Iran's nuclear program, and offered the Islamic Republic a route back to the mainstream of the world economy. It was the fruit of many years of work by many governments. Its breakdown would likely add to turbulence in the Middle East, and impose new strains on America's ties with Europe. Yet there's a serious risk that the deal could unravel, according to one former U.S. official who was intimately involved.

Iran used a Star of David as a target for a missile test last year, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations revealed Wednesday. Ambassador Danny Danon shared a startling satellite image of the Jewish and Israeli symbol with members of the UN Security Council, the Jerusalem Post reported. "This use of the Star of David as target practice is hateful and unacceptable," Danon told the Council. "This missile test not only violates Security Council resolutions but also proves beyond doubt, once again, the true intentions of Iran to target Israel." The Star of David was used as a target for a mid-range Qiam ballistic missile test in December, according to a statement from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN.

Lebanon seems to be having a flag sale. Iranian flags, Hezbollah, UN, Spanish, Palestinian flags. They are all flying provocatively along the border with the northern Israeli community of Metulla. Meters from the fence that separates the countries, not far from the site of a 1985 terrorist attack, Hezbollah has festooned the roads with signs of its presence. It's purposely done so Israeli residents can see the flags and the billboards next to them. In Metulla there is a memorial for the 12 Israeli soldiers killed in the March 10, 1985, suicide bombing, while just across the border a huge billboard celebrates the massacre.


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has sufficient cause to reopen its investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran's nuclear research, the agency's former deputy director told Fox News on Sunday. Although the IAEA made a "political" decision in December 2015 to end its investigation into the PMD of Iran's nuclear research, unresolved issues and new revelations-including fresh allegations that Iran is working with North Korea on its ballistic missile program-provide sufficient reasons for the IAEA to reopen the PMD investigation, Olli Heinonen told Fox's James Rosen. While Heinonen said that Iran is not necessarily in violation of the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), "the IAEA cannot prove that everything is okay and all nuclear material is under IAEA verification scheme," he added.


Once expunged from its official history, documents outlining the U.S.-backed 1953 coup in Iran have been quietly published by the State Department, offering a new glimpse at an operation that ultimately pushed the country toward its Islamic Revolution and hostility with the West. The CIA's role in the coup, which toppled Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh and cemented the control of the shah, was already well-known by the time the State Department offered its first compendium on the era in 1989. But any trace of American involvement in the putsch had been wiped from the report, causing historians to call it a fraud. The papers released this month show U.S. fears over the spread of communism, as well as the British desire to regain access to Iran's oil industry, which had been nationalized by Mosaddegh. It also offers a cautionary tale about the limits of American power as a new U.S. president long suspicious of Iran weighs the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran reached under his predecessor.


An overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate sanctions bill targeting Russia and Iran hit a new snag Wednesday, as Democrats sought assurances that House Republicans will not water it down after what the GOP has billed as a simple fix. Senior senators have negotiated with their counterparts across the Capitol since the sanctions bill, passed by the Senate on a 98-2 vote, ran into a constitutional objection in the House last week. But when Democrats - aware that the White House is urging House Republicans to make the sanctions bill more friendly to President Donald Trump - asked the GOP to commit to no new, significant changes in the House, that commitment didn't arrive, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a leader in the bicameral sanctions talks, declared Democrats' response "self-defeating" and "actually accommodating Russia" by furthering the delay in the legislation


In the violent Middle East, Lebanon looks like a miracle. A mix of Christians and Sunni and Shiite Muslims who have fought a brutal civil war, and have weathered aggressive outside interference, Lebanon is still puttering along as a semifunctioning democracy. To encourage and strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces, the U.S. has given more than $1 billion over the last decade. But looks are deceiving. In Lebanon, despite America's help, Iran has won. Step back a few decades and remember the pitched battles of the Lebanese civil war-Sunni vs. Shiite vs. Christian. The kidnapping and killing of countless innocents; the murder of the CIA station chief in Beirut; and finally, the end of the civil war with the 1989 Taif Accords, a rare Arab-led initiative, which dictated terms that enabled weary Lebanese fighters to lay down their arms.

Israel is increasingly obsessed with a new strategic threat-the possibility that eventually it may have to fight a two-front, and even three-front, war against Iran and its proxies. According to Chagai Tzuriel, director general of Israel's intelligence ministry, Iran is now negotiating with Damascus to build a base on the Mediterranean. He called Iran's effort to build a land corridor and establish a permanent forward operating presence on the sea the "most important strategic development in the region." All the rest, he said, was "noise." A corridor through Iraq that allows the Iranian regime to ship weapons and soldiers directly from Iran to proxies in Syria and Lebanon would be a strategic gain that puts Iran directly on two of Israel's four borders. The most promising route for such a corridor, experts say, is from Iran's border through southeastern Syria near Jordan's border at a town called At-Tanf, where Iranian-backed Shiite forces and the Syrian army have been battling American-trained and -supported Syrian rebels.

Recent weeks have witnessed a growing competition in eastern Syria between U.S.-backed forces and Iranian-led militias, putting the two rival countries on a collision course. To secure a "land corridor" between its eastern border and the Mediterranean, Tehran and its proxies have been willing to confront U.S. forces directly, sending drones and jets to target coalition soldiers in southeastern and northeastern Syria. While the shooting down of these aircraft by U.S. jets may give the illusion of decisiveness on the part of Washington, the new U.S. administration is in fact showing a lack of strategy, likely stemming from its inability to decide just how far it is willing to go to stem Iranian expansionism

In Syria, the U.S. is directing the lion's share of its energy toward defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) rather than containing Iran. Reflecting that reality, the caliphate's days on the physical battlefield are numbered, with U.S.-backed forces assaulting their de facto capital in Raqqa. As a result, the other major powers and patrons involved in the Syrian cauldron are redeploying their forces as they vie for political, economic, or military influence over its future. The situation brings into focus the other fronts opening up that have far more to do with Iran than with ISIS. Ready or not, the race is on in the south and east, and how those upcoming battles play out will likely shape the balance of power in the region. It is in this unfolding context that one should view the recent White House warning to Bashar al-Assad over the use of chemical weapons. It comes amid a noticeable escalation in Syria involving pro-Assad regime attacks against U.S.-coalition positions in the north and south, America's downing of a Syrian fighter jet and several Iranian drones, and Iran's firing of ballistic missiles into eastern Syria.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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