The growing Iranian threat
Jul 14, 2023 | AIJAC staff
Update 07/23 #2
Iran’s regime continues to boost its nuclear capabilities, including through research and development and by further enriching uranium, drawing ever closer to testing a nuclear weapon. It continues to violate the JCPOA nuclear deal while the ban in the JCPOA on Iran producing ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear weapons expires in October this year.
In the meantime, the US Biden Administration continues talks aimed at reaching a nuclear deal less comprehensive than the JCPOA, while Iran continues to seek Israel’s destruction.
Today’s Update looks at Iran’s plans and what the US should do to stop them.
First former US Senator and Democratic Party Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman urges the US Congress to stop the “dangerous folly” of the Biden Administration’s efforts to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran. He points out that 2015 legislation – the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act – gave Congress the right to review any such agreement, and that Administration attempts to sidestep such review by calling any agreement an “understanding” should be unsuccessful, given the broad definition of “agreement” in the Act. To read Lieberman’s impassioned call to action, CLICK HERE.
Next, Andrea Stricker, Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program Deputy Director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains that Iran has been breaching its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and JCPOA obligation to notify the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) when it develops new nuclear facilities, and has claimed to have unilaterally renounced this requirement. Now, she says, it is working on a potentially impenetrable new facility. She urges the US and its allies to hold Iran accountable for this at the next IAEA meeting. To read Stricker’s important revelations and advice, CLICK HERE.
Finally, Middle East scholar Bassam Tawil looks at the ultimate goal of the Iranian regime when it comes to Israel – driving out its Jews. It hopes to achieve this by making Israel’s Jews feel unsafe in their own country, through an increase in terrorism by Iran’s terror proxies in the West Bank and Gaza. These groups include not just Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but also Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party which, Tawil warns, Iran has infiltrated, and now makes up the majority of West Bank terrorists. He notes that the Iranians and their proxies regard all Israeli Jews as settlers to be expelled, not just those in the West Bank. He also queries whether the Biden Administration’s apparent policy of letting Iran have nuclear weapons is in the USA’s best interests. For this sobering examination of the mullahs’ strategy, CLICK HERE.
Readers may also be interested in…
- Senior Jerusalem Post correspondent Seth Frantzman warns that Iran believes Israel is losing its deterrence factor, in part because the regime is believing what it wants to see from its reading of Israel’s media, and because it believes it has been achieving symbolic victories.
- Kenneth Pollack, former US National Security Council Director for Persian Gulf Affairs, warns that Jordan may become Iran’s next domino, which would have dire implications for Israel.
- Senior Research Fellow at the Philos Project Farhad Rezaei cautions of the danger in Iran joining the eight member Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
- A brief summary and some expert comment from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Iranian proxy Hezbollah stirring up friction on the Israel/Lebanon border.
- Former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross and Gaith al-Omari, both from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, urge Israel and the US to strengthen the PA (as Israel’s security cabinet has approved) especially if they want a deal with Saudi Arabia.
- Former Legal Advisor to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Alan Baker and Foundation for Defense of Democracies President Clifford May take on the double standards applied to Israel when it defended itself against Iran’s proxies in Jenin.
- Yaakov Lappin, a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, writes that Israel is watching as PA forces slowly enter Jenin, to see if the PA will take control there now that Israel’s operation has driven out many of the terrorists.
- Some examples from the many stories and comments now appearing at AIJAC’s daily “Fresh AIR” blog:
- Justin Amler writes in Algemeiner.com about UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese’s distortion of reality, as seen once again in her latest report.
- Alana Schetzer describes the blossoming relationship between Israel and Fiji, based on their shared interests.
Congress must focus more on Biden’s Iran diplomacy, former Sen. Lieberman says
Only Congress can stop this dangerous folly, former senator writes
By Sen. Joe Lieberman
Posted July 10, 2023
In spite of Iran’s increasingly totalitarian, murderous, and anti-American behavior, the Biden administration is nevertheless trying again to negotiate a nuclear agreement with that terrorist state. It is like trying to bargain with a poisonous snake and will not end well for us.
Only Congress can stop this dangerous folly. Members of both parties need to step in and use their constitutional and statutory powers to pressure the administration not to make a deal with Iran that will seriously compromise our national security and credibility.
Returning to talks with Iran at this time is particularly offensive because of Iran’s brutal torturing, blinding, and killing of hundreds of Iranians who have been fighting for their freedom since the murder of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, by the government’s “Morality Police.” The brave protesters are not chanting for a nuclear deal with the United States. They are calling for the end of the Islamic Republic.
The freedom fighters in Iran are America’s allies. Entering into discussions with the regime now will be seen by them as our siding with their oppressors. It is the absolutely wrong place for us to be.
The same disappointment and anger will undoubtedly be felt by the Ukrainian government and people, who have lost family and friends because of weapons the Iranian regime has sent to their Russian invaders. Hundreds and eventually thousands of Ukrainian and Iranian lives are being added to the hundreds of American lives that have been ended by actions of the current regime in Iran.
Former US Senator Joe Lieberman (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
What can Congress do?
In 2015, Congress gave itself the power to stop such a senseless and dangerous agreement when it passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) with overwhelming bipartisan support. Four hundred members of the House of Representatives and 98 senators voted for INARA. Now is the time for Congress to act in the national interest, and with the same bipartisanship, to use the powers given to them in INARA.
INARA requires that within five days of “reaching an agreement with Iran relating to the nuclear program of Iran,” the president must transmit the agreement to the appropriate congressional committees and leadership of Congress. Lawmakers can then review the agreement and prevent the president from suspending existing statutory sanctions against Iran.
There are rumors now that if the administration reaches a new deal with Iran, it will construe it as an “understanding,” not an “agreement,” and therefore it will argue that it has no obligation to comply with the INARA law.
If the executive branch is considering such an end run on the law, it should read it again. The language in INARA defining an “agreement” could not be more broad. It clearly covers the kind of “understanding” being discussed with Iran at the current talks in Oman. INARA defines an agreement that must be submitted to Congress as “an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran that commits the United States to take action, or pursuant to which the United States commits or otherwise agrees to take action, regardless of the form it takes, whether a political commitment or otherwise, and regardless of whether it is legally binding or not.”
It is past time for Congress to step up its oversight of our Iran policy in general, and to focus first on what is being negotiated in Oman and what information and respect Congress will be given by the administration if an “understanding” is reached. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has only held one public hearing on Iran since President Joe Biden took office in 2021. In fact, the first all-senators briefing on Iran under the Biden administration took place only in May 2023. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has not held a single public oversight hearing solely covering U.S. policy on Iran since at least 2020.
That must change, and there are recent signs that it will. Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul‘s public letters to the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month warning about INARA compliance and requesting the acting U.S. special envoy for Iran and National Security Council coordinator for Middle East and North Africa to appear before Congress in a public hearing were important steps forward in this process. Oversight now is especially important given the concerning reports about how U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley has been placed on unpaid leave following a suspension of his security clearance amid an investigation into alleged mishandling of classified information.
Another very encouraging sign was the recent letter sent by a bipartisan group of 26 senators to Biden ,urging him to concentrate on more strongly deterring Iran, instead of consenting to an ineffective agreement. The letter, which significantly was signed by seven Democratic senators who supported the Iran nuclear agreement of 2015, is a clear, preemptive statement of concern about what the Biden administration is doing with Iran in Oman. It says in part: “It is crucial for your administration to remain aligned with congressional efforts related to Iran’s nuclear program and not agree to a pact that fails to achieve our nation’s critical interests. … We urge you to restore this posture of deterrence and provide leadership to strengthen the resolve of the international community.”
Hopefully, Biden will quickly tell these senators and all of Congress exactly what is being discussed with the Iranians in Oman and promise to submit any “understanding” that may result from those discussions to Congress, as the INARA law and our national security clearly requires.
Joe Lieberman was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000 and a U.S. senator from Connecticut from 1989 to 2013. He is chairman of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).
Iran must notify about new enrichment facilities
Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program Deputy Director and Research Fellow
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
July 7, 2023 | Washington Examiner
A regime official threatened this week that Iran would enrich uranium to higher levels or withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should European countries retain missile-related sanctions against Iran past their planned expiration in October.
Against this backdrop, the Islamic Republic continues work on a potentially impenetrable nuclear facility where at least one Western intelligence agency fears Iran might construct a new plant to enrich uranium and break out to nuclear weapons. Iran began constructing the new facility near Natanz following sabotage incidents at two centrifuge manufacturing and assembly plants. The replacement facility, buried dozens of meters deep under mountains, may be immune even to America’s deepest bunker-buster bombs. Israel says it disagrees, stating that the facility’s location would render strikes more difficult but not ineffective.
However, the site may be an ideal location for a new enrichment facility — one that Tehran may try to conceal from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog.
In February 2021, the Islamic Republic said it would no longer abide by a legal nonproliferation obligation to notify the IAEA and submit relevant design information as soon as it decides to construct a new facility to produce nuclear material. The obligation, known as modified Code 3.1, is part of subsidiary arrangements to Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, an agreement each NPT state party must conclude. Under a CSA, Iran is required to disclose locations and activities related to the presence and use of nuclear material, a stipulation it has violated on many occasions.
In the 1990s, after proliferation cases involving North Korea and Iraq, the IAEA modified Code 3.1 to provide the agency adequate time to prepare safeguards for new nuclear material-producing facilities. The original Code 3.1 allowed countries to notify the IAEA about such facilities only 180 days before introducing nuclear material — essentially, once they were nearly completed.
Yet Iran has already violated modified Code 3.1 at least twice.
In 2002, the Institute for Science and International Security published satellite images of an Iranian uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, which Tehran did not disclose to the IAEA. Under international pressure, the regime subsequently claimed it implemented modified Code 3.1 from 2003 to 2007, after which it suspended adherence in response to U.N. Security Council sanctions.
In 2009, world powers revealed that Tehran failed to disclose the construction of the Fordow facility near Qom, which Iran may have begun building as early as 2002. In violation of its safeguards agreements, the Islamic Republic may have also enriched uranium at other locations.
In 2015, world powers included Iran’s implementation of modified Code 3.1 as a condition of the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Thus, in February 2021, when Tehran announced it would no longer abide by JCPOA transparency measures, it included modified Code 3.1 among them. In June, Iran wrote a letter to the IAEA stating that Tehran can unilaterally suspend implementation of the code since world powers failed to fulfill their JCPOA commitments.
Atomic energy exhibition at the Islamic Revolution & Holy Defence Museum in Teheran, Iran (Image: Shutterstock)
Iran has maintained that implementation of modified Code 3.1 is voluntary, but the IAEA strongly disagrees. The agency reminds Tehran in quarterly IAEA Iran safeguards reports that “implementation of modified Code 3.1 is a legal obligation for Iran” that “cannot be modified unilaterally.” The agency also notes there is no mechanism for a state to suspend adherence.
Washington and its allies must hold Tehran accountable.
At the next IAEA Board of Governors meeting in September, the United States and its European partners must formally censure Iran’s failure to implement modified Code 3.1, a fundamental part of its nonproliferation obligations, and must insist on Tehran’s compliance.
Since Iran has also failed to cooperate with the IAEA’s more than four-year investigation into the regime’s undeclared nuclear weapons work, the board must provide the IAEA with an explicit directive to ascertain the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations — including whether the regime maintains nuclear weapons activities — and set a deadline for Tehran to comply.
The Islamic Republic has often gotten off scot-free for its NPT violations. It is time for the international community to proactively counter the next breach and deter Tehran from building a new enrichment facility that puts it on the precipice of nuclear weapons.
Andrea Stricker is deputy director of the nonproliferation and biodefense program and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow her on Twitter @StrickerNonpro. FDD is a nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.
Iran’s Plan to Drive Jews Out of ‘Palestine’
Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah, who recently visited Teheran and met with Iranian leaders, revealed that the main goal behind his organisation’s increased terror attacks on Israelis was to make the Jews feel unsafe to a point where they would leave their country. Pictured: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) meets with Nakhalah (second right) in Teheran, on June 14, 2023. (Image source: khamenei.ir)
by Bassam Tawil
July 10, 2023
Iran’s mullahs are seeking to create a situation where Jews no longer feel safe in their own country and are forced to leave Israel. To achieve this goal, the mullahs have instructed their Palestinian terror proxies, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), to step up their campaign of terrorism against Israel and Jews.
The mullahs have also succeeded in recruiting to their Jihad (holy war) to destroy Israel members of the Palestinians’ ruling faction, Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has repeatedly stated his intention to support any Palestinian terror group that seeks the destruction of Israel and kills Jews. On June 14, Khamenei wrote:
“Islamic Jihad & other Palestinian resistance movements have found the main key to fighting the Zionist regime. The continually growing authority of resistance groups in the #WestBank is the key to bringing the Zionist enemy to its knees, & this course must be continued.”
Over the past 28 months, Hamas and PIJ and other terror groups have increased their attacks against Israel and Jews to placate their sponsors in Tehran and persuade them to provide them with more money and weapons.
The leaders of Iran, Hamas and PIJ share the same goal: eliminating Israel and killing as much Jews as possible. They do not differentiate between a Jew living in Israel and a Jew living in the West Bank. In their view, all Jews are settlers, regardless of where they live. For them, there is no difference between Tel Aviv and a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. They see Israel as one big settlement that must be removed from the face of the earth.
PIJ Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah, who recently visited Tehran and met with Iranian leaders, revealed that the main goal behind the increased terror attacks on Israelis was to make the Jews feel unsafe to a point where they would leave their country. A Hamas delegation headed by Ismail Haniyeh also visited Tehran to discuss ways of stepping up the terror campaign against Israel.
Nakhalah pointed out that Jews came to Israel so that they can live in safety and stability. “When they don’t find this stability and peace, they will return to where they came from,” he said in an interview with the Iranian newspaper Al-Vefagh.
“The Jews in other countries live in peace and prosperity. The only place where they’re being killed is in Palestine. Therefore, when we continue our fight, they will change their mind and realize that they made a historical mistake by coming to this place. They will realize that there is no chance of life for them and that they therefore should leave this country.”
This statement by the PIJ leader is important because it shows that the Palestinian terror attacks against Israel are not being carried out because of checkpoints, settlements or harsh economic conditions. Instead, the purpose of these attacks is to force the Jews out of their country and replace Israel with an Islamic state controlled by Iran and its proxies, especially Hamas and PIJ.
Those who believe that the Palestinian campaign of terrorism is a legitimate resistance against the “occupation” in the West Bank are totally clueless. If this were true, why are Hamas and PIJ carrying out attacks against Jews in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other Israeli cities? Murdering a Jew in a restaurant in the center of Tel Aviv is not an act of “resistance” against an “occupation.” As Nakhalah, the PIJ leader said, the goal is to make Jews feel insecure and leave Israel. He and his Iranian patrons want to drive the Jews not only out of the West Bank, but all of Israel. He is grateful to Iran’s mullahs for helping the Palestinians achieve this goal.
Thanks to Iran, Nakhalah said, the Palestinian terror groups are now capable of manufacturing their own weapons.
“The Palestinian people have gained a lot of experience and expertise from the [Iranian] Islamic Revolution over the past 40 years,” Nakhalah said.
“Today, the Palestinians manufacture their own weapons, including missiles, mortars, and explosive devices. An important part of this experience was gained by the Palestinian people from our brothers in the Islamic Republic, and this has a great impact. The missiles are being used to strike the occupied cities, in particular Tel Aviv.”
Nakhalah revealed that his group was working to step up terror attacks against Israel in the West Bank on instructions from Khamenei who, he added, affirmed the need to “strengthen the resistance” there.
When Hamas and PIJ talk about “resistance,” they are referring to various forms of terrorism, including firing rockets at Israel, as well as shooting, stabbing and car-ramming attacks.
Also on the instructions of Iran’s mullahs, PIJ is working to form “combat battalions” in all Palestinian cities in the West Bank to carry out terror attacks against Israel and Jews. These groups, responsible for a series of terror attacks over the past few years, include the Jenin Battalion, Lions’ Den, Nablus Battalion, and Balata Battalion, in addition to militiamen affiliated with Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah. These terror groups, according to Nakhalah, are armed and funded by Iran through PIJ.
What is most worrying about Nakhalah’s statements is his revelation that PIJ is also arming members of Abbas’s Fatah faction. The Palestinian Authority and its security forces are dominated by Fatah loyalists who receive their salaries from Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) government in the West Bank.
If true, Nakhalah’s statements mean that Iran and PIJ have infiltrated the PA, which has long been receiving financial aid from the United States, European Union and other Western countries. Now that Fatah members are being funded and armed by Iran and PIJ, this means that’s it is only a matter of time before the entire Palestinian Authority is transformed into a terror organization.
“We have benefited from opening up to the bases of Fatah,” the PIJ leader stated.
“Among the bases of Fatah, there are segments that oppose a settlement [with Israel] and the Palestinian Authority. We decided to open up to these segments, arm them and provide them with aid.”
Abbas’s Fatah faction is already carrying out terror attacks against Israelis. A number of Fatah terror groups have been boasting of these attacks, according to Palestinian Media Watch.
Mohammed al-Masri, Director of the Palestinian Center for Strategic studies, acknowledged that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority security forces are leading the recent terror wave against Israelis. He stated that “63%-65%” of the “martyrs” in the “daily confrontations” with Israel are from Abbas’s Fatah – meaning about two-thirds of the dead terrorists in the West Bank are from Fatah. Masri added that most of those 63%-65% are officers in the PA security forces.
The same statistics were broadcast by Fatah on its own Awdah TV station:
“More than two-thirds of the martyrs in the West Bank over [the last] year and a half belong to the Fatah faction and the Palestinian Authority… More than 355 of our Palestinian people’s prisoners are from the Palestinian security forces.”
The growing cooperation between Fatah and the Iranian-backed PIJ terror group should worry not only Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, but all the Western countries that continue to view the Palestinian Authority as a partner for any peace agreement with Israel. It should also serve as a warning to the Biden administration which continues to explore ways to appease Iran’s mullahs by reaching a new nuclear deal with them. This policy of appeasement, including the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran and rewarding it with billions of dollars in cash, is likely to further empower the mullahs and their proxies and encourage them not only to pursue their Jihad against Israel, but also to “export the Revolution,” as required by their Constitution:
In the formation and equipping of the country’s defence forces, due attention must be paid to faith and ideology as the basic criteria. Accordingly, the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are to be organized in conformity with this goal, and they will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world (this is in accordance with the Qur’anic verse “Prepare against them whatever force you are able to muster, and strings of horses, striking fear into the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them” [8:60]).
Presumably an additional $100 billion infusion would enable Iran to join China in escalating their military presence in Latin America and further their long-term goal of displacing the United States as the world’s leading superpower.
If the Biden Administration is hoping to bribe the mullahs not to use their nuclear weapons — at least on the Biden Administration’s watch (after that would presumably be fine) — while at the same time permitting the mullahs to have as many nuclear weapons as they like, is this plan really in the best security interests of the United States?
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.