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Hardliners And The Republican Caucus”: Why Israel’s Security Experts Support The Iran Deal — And Why Iran’s Hardliners Don’t

As congressional Republicans seek to undermine the nuclear agreement between Iran and the international powers, they assert that hardline Islamists in the Islamic Republic are delighted with the deal, while Israelis concerned over their country’s security are appalled. The same theme is now repeated constantly on Fox News Channel and throughout right-wing media.

But that message is largely false – and in very important respects, the opposite is true.

In arguing for the agreement at American University last Wednesday, President Obama noted that the most hostile factions in the Tehran regime aren’t celebrating this agreement – as the cover of the New York Post suggested. “In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo,” he said. “It’s those hardliners chanting ‘Death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus.”

Indeed, while vast throngs of Iranians greeted their government’s negotiators in a joyous welcome, the fanatical reactionaries in the Revolutionary Guard and the paramilitary Basij movement – which have violently repressed democratic currents in Iran – could barely control their outrage. Upon reading the terms, a Basij spokesman said last month, “We quickly realized that what we feared…had become a reality. If Iran agrees with this, our nuclear industry will be handcuffed for many years to come.”

Hoping and perhaps praying for a veto by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, their Supreme Leader, the Basijis, the right-wing media in Teheran, and their regime sponsors pointed to “red lines” that the agreement allegedly crossed. “We will never accept it,” said Mohammed Ali Jafari, a high-ranking Revolutionary Guard commander.

Such shrill expressions of frustration should encourage everyone who understands the agreement’s real value. Iran’s “Death to America, Death to Israel” cohort hates this deal – not only because of its highly restrictive provisions, but because over the long term, it strengthens their democratic opponents and threatens their corrupt control of Iranian society.

In Israel, meanwhile, the alarmist criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – a sage whose confident predictions about Iran, Iraq, and almost everything else are reliably, totally wrong – has obscured support from actual military and intelligence leaders. Like experts in this country and around the world, the best-informed Israelis understand the deal’s imperfections very well — and support it nevertheless.

“There are no ideal agreements,” declared Ami Ayalon, a military veteran who headed the Israeli Navy and later oversaw the Jewish state’s security service, the Shin Bet. But as Ayalon explained to J.J. Goldberg of the Forward, this agreement is “the best possible alternative from Israel’s point of view, given the other available alternatives” — including the most likely alternative which is, as Obama explained, another extremely dangerous Mideast war.

Efraim Halevy, who formerly ran the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, and later headed its National Security Council, concurs with Ayalon (and Obama). Writing in Yedioth Aharonoth, the national daily published in Tel Aviv, Halevy points out a profound contradiction in Netanyahu’s blustering complaints. Having warned that an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose a unique existential threat to Israel, how can Bibi logically reject the agreement that forestalls any bomb development for at least 15 years and increases the “breakout time” from one month to a year — even if Iran ultimately violates its commitments?

Such a deal is far preferable to no deal, the ex-Mossad chief insists, although it won’t necessarily dissuade Tehran from making trouble elsewhere. Halevy also emphasizes that no mythical “better” deal would ever win support from Russia and China, Iran’s main weapons suppliers, whose leaders have endorsed this agreement.

In short, both of these top former officials believe the agreement with Iran will enhance their nation’s security – and contrary to what Fox News Channel’s sages might claim, they represent mainstream opinion in Israel’s military and intelligence circles.

So perhaps we can safely discount the partisan demagogues and feckless opportunists who claim to be protecting the Jewish state from Barack Obama. And when someone like Mike Huckabee – who memorably escaped military service because of his “flat feet”denounces the president for “marching Israelis to the oven door,” let’s remember the sane and serious response of Israel’s most experienced defenders.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, August 6, 2015

August 7, 2015 Posted by | House Republican Caucus, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Israel | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Face-Off: Splintering Of The Iranian Alliance

A long simmering rift between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei, the country’s Supreme Leader, has finally boiled over. For the last two weeks, the two leaders have been locked in a public battle over Ahmadinejad’s decision to fire his minister of intelligence, a close ally of Khamenei. And, in spite of indications in the last few days that a compromise has been reached—not to mention Khamenei’s repeated pleas that factional feuds be kept out of the media lest the dispute embolden foes and dishearten friends—acrimonious attacks by both sides have continued apace. Regardless of how the crisis is resolved, one thing is clear: The confrontation marks a splintering of the once healthy alliance between the two leaders—and a serious blow to unity within the Iranian regime.

Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have had disagreements over key appointments in the past, but typically they have been waged outside the public eye. The president previously refused, for instance, to comply with Khamenei’s publicly stated wish to dismiss Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, all-powerful behind-the-scenes fixer, and his son’s father-in-law to boot. Everything Mashaei did or said—from his talk of “Iranian nationalism,” a concept condemned by many Iranian clerics as a Western colonial trick, to his cavorting with a beautiful actress—became a subject of controversy and backbiting in the media. But Ahmadinejad, in spite of pressure exerted by the Supreme Leader, has never flagged in his support for his beleaguered adviser and relative.

Two weeks ago, however, these often whispered tensions broke into the open when Ahmadinejad dismissed his intelligence minister and Khamenei opposed the move in a surprisingly public fashion. Instead of trying to solve the conflict behind closed doors, Khamenei chose to publish a letter—pointedly addressed not to the president, but to the dismissed minister—that reappointed the man to his post. Ahmadinejad, for his part, maintained a studied silence, but he refused to attend cabinet meetings and his website continued to carry the news of his intelligence minister’s dismissal. Finally, on Monday, he agreed to attend a cabinet meeting, but the controversial minister of intelligence was absent and his fate is still not clear.

In addition, Ahmadienjad’s announcement that he had reconciled with Khamenei has itself become the focus of a new round of controversy. After comparing his relationship with the Supreme Leader to that of a son and his father, Ahmadinejad has been lambasted by conservative clergy members loyal to Khamanei. The relationship isn’t filial, Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards charged, but rather that of an “Imam and Mamoum”—a divinely guided leader and a submissive believer who is led in all matters and at all times. Another cleric declared that refusing to heed Khamenei’s voice is heresy against god himself.

While the facts of the on-going confrontation are more or less clear, the important question is why Ahmadinejad, who began his first term as president by kissing Khamenei’s hand on the day of his inauguration, is now biting the very same hand that was certainly critical in giving him his alleged victory in the contested June 2009 election. According to one theory, Ahmadinejad knows the clergy are increasingly reviled in Iran and is keen on either challenging them or at least distancing himself from them. Others attribute his defiance to the arrogance of power, his tendency to believe in his own lies, and his belief that he, in fact, did win the last election and thus need not play vassal to a weakened Khamenei. Needless to say, the conservative clergy attribute the whole crisis to an Israeli and American conspiracy and claim that “infiltrators” from the ranks of the enemy have bedeviled the gullible president.

Why Khamenei has decided to pick a public fight at this time is no less important to ponder. It appears that, once again, he has chosen a path whose goal is nothing more than establishing and expanding his own authoritarian power—the outcome of which will likely leave the regime fractured and weakened, his power utterly dependent on the whim of the Revolutionary Guards. His rash decision has left him with no good outcome: He must either cave and allow Ahmadinejad to fire the minister—and suffer yet another major blow to his authority—or he can succeed in humiliating Ahmadinejad, creating considerable resentment amongst his base of mainly poor, rural supporters.

A third possibility, however, is that Khamenei and his allies might have chosen this public row as an excuse to offer up Ahmadinejad as a sacrifice and blame him for the country’s impending financial woes. By all accounts, the country’s economic horizon looks bleak. (The only good news has been the price of oil.) Many seasoned economists, including several in key positions in the government, admit that the Iranian economy is heading towards a dangerous moment of hyper-inflation and depression-like unemployment rates. With the economy in rapid decline, the search for a scapegoat will likely intensify. The only thing that’s uncertain at this point is who will take the fall.

By: Abbas Milanti, Contributing Editor, The New Republic, May 6, 2011

May 7, 2011 Posted by | Foreign Governments, Iran, National Security | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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