Archive for the ‘Israel Foreign Policy’ Category:
First there are reports about Mossad agents being in Dubai. Now an Iranian MP openly admits that his country’s agents have also been operating there. Iran and Israel do have more in common that meets the eye. Who knows, while there they may have accidentally played Tennis together. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meir-javedanfar/mossad-may-be-wrong-what_b_479772.html
Despite calls from some quarters, the state of Israel should hold its fire and resist the temptation to attack Iran in the near future.
The recent decision by the government of Turkmenistan to allow Israel to open an embassy on its soil will serve to strengthen Jerusalem’s position in Central Asia.
As Turkmenistan shares a border we Iran, we look at how this development came about and what it means for both countries.
The piece also analyzes the domestic implications of this new development.
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By: Meir Javedanfar
The new round of Katyusha attacks by Hezbollah have increased the possibility that a second front may open in the north. There are questions about the timing and motivation of the new attacks.
What these attacks primarily show is that Iran is worried, for a number of valid reasons:
So far, after 19 days of fighting, the international community, especially the West is still not reigning in on Israel’s operation in Gaza. This does not bode well in Iran’s dealings with the EU and the expected upcoming negotiations with the US. Iranian strategists will be justified to ask: if the West is ignoring Iran now, how will it treat Iran over the all important nuclear negotiations? How quickly is this affair reducing Iran’s position vis a vi the West? What will this do to Iran’s position in the future?
There is also the question of Iran’s balance of power politics with moderate Arab states in the region. Since the beginning the fighting, numerous trips have been made by Iranian officials such as Secretary General of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili, and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani to regional countries such as Syria and more recently to Turkey. In all such trips, through their connections, they have tried to place pressure on Egypt, while rejecting the terms of the French – Egyptian peace proposal. Larijani even went as far as calling it a “honey injected with poison”. However these statements and efforts have still nothing yielded results. Egypt is still pressuring Hamas against Iran’s wishes while the EU and US for now seem to extend Israel’s visa in Gaza.
The Katyusha attacks this morning from the north were meant to send a message to Israel that Iran still maintains its powerful Hezbollah card and reserves the right to use it, if Tehran’s interests continue to be ignored or worst, threatened. Therefore current attitudes have to change and Iran’s point of view must be taken into consideration.
However it is probably unlikely that Iran will want a full war between Israel and Hezbollah, and this is why Palestinian militant factions are being used instead of Hezbollah to launch the attacks. Such a war could cost Hezbollah politically in the upcoming Lebanese elections in May 2009. It would make it very easy for Hezbollah’s rivals to justify their claims that Hezbollah is an Iranian puppet.
Also, so far in his career, Ayatollah Khamenei has been known to be a savvy politician. He has already seen how Hamas is in trouble. Would he be willing to risk losing two assets (Hamas and Hezbollah) in one fight? Some Iran analysts would disagree. However if he is willing to do that, Khamenei may be about to make a big mistake as such actions justify claims by Israel and the moderate Arab states that Iran is an element of instability in the region and thus it should be isolated even more. In the future, this could cost the Iranians in their efforts to improve their position in the region, especially if Obama is brought around to the anti Iran camp.
It would be in Israel’s interest to contain its response. For now, Israel seems to be placing significant pressure on Hamas and is winning in the diplomatic front. Focusing on the current struggle against Hamas and winning it will do much more damage to Iran and Hezbollah, than by opening a full second front in the north.
By: Meir Javedanfar
The current conflict in Gaza was caused primarily by Israel’s security concerns. Since its evacuation of the Gaza strip in 2005, 6500 mortars and rockets were fired towards Israel. 2008 was the worst year. Over 3200 rockets and mortars were fired in that year alone. Israel which is considered as a super power in the region was seen as being unable to stop a threat which was making life very difficult for hundreds of thousands of its citizens.
However the political reasons behind Israel’s current assault can not be over looked. Operation “Cast Lead” is a war by the left and moderates wing of Israeli politics, headed by Labor and Kadima, against leaders of Palestinian right, headed by Hamas.
To Israeli moderates, the land for peace idea is the most viable long term solution for peace between their country and the Palestinians. This is why they backed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. Although it was a painful move, former right wing hawks such as Ariel Sharon decided to face reality. This was despite fierce criticism from right wing movements such as Likud, and their leader Benyamin Netanyahu, who showed his disagreement by resigning shortly before the initiation of the withdrawal.
Although many Palestinian moderates support the idea that Israel must withdraw to the 1967 borders, Palestinian extremist movements such as Hamas are opposed to it.
This is why Hamas has tried to its level best to dissuade Israelis from further withdrawals, and what better way to this than by attacking Israel’s southern cities from Gaza. Hamas knows that by turning Gaza into a launching pad for attacks, Israeli moderates will no longer have any justification to call for further withdrawal. Why should the Israeli voter back them, when instead of peace and security, withdrawals seem to bring instability and conflict?
This is why it is imperative not just for Israel, but also for prospects for peace in this region that Israel emerges from the current fighting with a guaranteed ceasefire by Hamas. It must be proved to the Israeli voter that the land for peace idea is still a viable one, and that it is worth defending. Otherwise the future of this region will be determined by those who stand for extremism and elimination in Gaza, and their right wing allies such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The international community must realize this and ensure that maximum pressure is applied against Hamas so that it applies and respects a permanent ceasefire.
At the same time, Israel should ensure that it doesn’t give Hamas extra leeway by making demands which in the long run could strengthen the organization. One of them are current suggestion by Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak that Hamas is excluded from any diplomatic agreement to end the military operation in Gaza. The main reason is because Israel does not want to legitimize Hamas.
This could backfire, and push Palestinian in the arms of Hamas again because delegitimization of Hamas could be viewed as a direct attack against Palestinian democracy. In a bid to restore their battered pride after the Gaza invasion, Palestinians may vote Hamas again in the Parliamentary elections of 2010. This is not an unrealistic scenario, especially since Israel, apart from warm words, photo ops and hand shakes with Mahmoud Abbas, has not done anything meaningful to help Fatah.
There are also security implications as well. Hamas needs to have something to lose, so that it will be worth while for it to maintain the ceasefire. Otherwise it may take up arms again.
After the end of the current conflict, Israel must also try and lure Hamas away from the arms of Ayatollah Khamenei. Despite an eight year war, initiated by the West’s former stooge in Baghdad Saddam Hussein, the Iranian government has managed to survive 29 years in power. Therefore it will have plenty to teach Hamas about how to use isolation as an opportunity to strengthen its position. Having on other option, Hamas could willingly accept it.
Political organizations are not destroyed. They are transformed. The diplomatic push to implement a ceasefire can be used an opportunity to offer carrots to Hamas. Sticks and isolation alone will not be enough to help the moderates in Hamas who have just seen the organizations military capability severely damaged and are most probably looking for a way out.
A weak Hamas should be used as an opportunity to weaken Iran’s influence, not to strengthen it.
By: Meir Javedanfar
Accepting the French plan to start a 48 hour ceasefire would be a tactical victory for Israel, for a number of reasons.
The ceasefire would be used as an ultimatum as well as a face saving option for Hamas to accept a permanent ceasefire. If Hamas does not accept, international backing and understanding for Israel’s actions would increase. This would provide the Israeli Defense Forces with more justification for its actions. In the post 2003 Iraq invasion world order, international backing and credibility is as important, if not more, than the operational radius and weapons load of F-16 fighter jets.
However if Hamas does accept the ceasefire, it would provide both parties with a win-win situation. Israel could say that its military operation achieved its objective, while Hamas could say it did not sign any agreement under fire.
A ground operation in Gaza will be a difficult operation, not just militarily, but also politically.
From the military point of view, judging by the Jenin battles of 2002, one can assume that Hamas has booby trapped houses and road leading into Gaza, and is prepared to use its population as human shield. This could cause heavy casualties for Israel and Palestinian civilians. Israel would also allow Hamas to use the opportunity to create a PR disaster for Israel, just as Arafat tried with the false claim that there had been a massacre in Jenin.
Politically it will be even more difficult. It is accepted across the board in Jerusalem that Israel does not want to reoccupy Gaza for a long period or even permanently. This is why Israel withdrew in 2006.
However once a ground invasion is launched, Israel will become hostage to Hamas’s willingness to accept a ceasefire. Under this scenario, as long as Hamas refuses to accept a ceasefire, Israel would have to stay in Gaza. This would mean that Israel could again become stuck in a long drawn out guerrilla warfare. It would also have to look after Gaza’s 1.5 million population. There would always be the option of unilateral withdrawal. However this would provide Hamas with a political victory.
By: Meir Javedanfar
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Iran has the world’s highest rate of brain drain. Every year, more than 150,000 highly educated Iranians leave their country. The majority emigrate to the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Australia. The damage caused by this phenomenon is estimated to be $40 billion a year.
The rates of Iran’s brain drain are reaching such astronomical figures that the Iranian press is beginning to suspect that a conspiracy is involved, schemed and carried out by the West with the help of Iran’s neighbors. This was indicated recently in an article published by Tabnak, which is Iran’s most popular online news agency. Its owner, Mohsen Rezai, has close connections to government officials such as Ayatollah Rafsanjani, and senior officers within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
One event which has strengthened this conspiracy theory is the defection of Ali Reza Asgari, a top IRGC general, in March 2007. According to Western media reports, he was lured away by the promise of millions of dollars and a better future. His defection is believed to have caused considerable damage to Iran’s intelligence network and nuclear program. Another is a CIA-engineered nuclear brain drain from Iran, which was carried out in 2005 with limited success.
Some pro-government elements in Iran now suspect that the West wants to weaken Iran’s economic infrastructure to the point of collapse by luring away its top graduates and professionals. The methods applied in such cases to lure away Iran’s top talent are much less cloak and dagger, as was the case with Asgari. They include an increase in the number of issued student visas and work permits. And many of those who are moving abroad are succeeding. One only has to look at top technology companies and universities in the U.S. One successful Iranian among many is Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist and leading telecommunications entrepreneur. There is also Firouz Naderi, NASA director of the Mars project, as well as many others.
Those blaming the West for this phenomenon may be getting carried away with their conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, the Iranian government has every reason to be concerned. One example is Iran’s airline sector. Already beset by maintenance problems due to sanctions, it now has to deal with the new phenomenon of pilot shortages. Increasing numbers of Iranian pilots are leaving their $450-a-month jobs in Iran for $7,000 monthly salaries paid by newly established Persian Gulf airlines. This phenomenon is damaging Iran’s struggling tourism and transportation sector.
Other impacted sectors are Iran’s oil and gas. Iran relies on these sectors for 80% of its export receipts. Decaying infrastructure, corruption, and low wages are forcing some of Iran’s top oil engineers to look for new jobs. Increasing numbers of such engineers are finding it easier to get work abroad for higher wages and better conditions due to an increase in investment by oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf.
Perhaps one area which is worrying the Iranian government the most is Iran’s nuclear program. For years, the best and the brightest within Iran have been recruited by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). Its top scientists are reported to receive Western-style salaries and benefits. More importantly, this organization has been the only sector in Iran which benefited from a brain gain by recruiting Iranian engineers and scientists from places such as the United States. With runaway inflation figures and increasing risk against the lives of such scientists, more may now be tempted to defect. Meanwhile, top graduates that the AEOI wants to recruit may now decide to look elsewhere, thus causing further damage to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Proportionally, graduates from Tehran’s Sharif University, dubbed “Iran’s MIT,” seem to make up the largest proportion of graduates who leave the country. The parliament (Majlis) has decided to take the unprecedented step of summoning Saeed Sohrab, the head of the university, to see why so many graduates from Iran’s top university prefer to live and work abroad. This alone will not be enough to stop this damaging phenomenon. What is needed is urgent and concrete action by Iran’s leaders.
However, some officials, such as Ahmadinejad, have no interest in tackling this problem. Unlike some government officials, President Ahmadinejad does not even believe that the brain drain phenomenon exists. During a trip to the UAE in April 2007, he openly stated that there is “no brain drain in Iran.” He even said that he fully supports Iranians “traveling abroad.” Ahmadinejad, who prides himself on being a staunch follower of Imam Khomeini, belongs to a group of right-wing extremists who believe in Khomeini’s teachings, declared publicly in 1980 by the founder of the revolution:
The enemies of the Islamic revolution say that the country’s best brains are escaping. I don’t care that they are escaping. These university-educated people who are always concerned about Western science and civilization should be allowed to leave. We don’t want Western science and know-how. If you think that this is not your place, you are free to go.
The fact that Ahmadinejad and his supporters do not want to address Iran’s brain drain problem is likely to cause more divisions within the Iranian government. This is because more moderate politicians see this phenomenon as severely damaging, and they are right. If unchecked, this phenomenon could contribute to factors which could cause the eventual downfall of the regime. A country of 70 million cannot afford to see its important economic infrastructure fall apart due to a shortage of skills. Especially not Iran, because stability is of utmost importance to its rulers. With oil prices falling and Iran needing to develop its non-oil sector, it is very likely that the extremists will be cornered. It’s either them or the economic progress of the country. One of them will have to win. For the sake of his government, Ayatollah Khamenei should make sure it is the latter.
This article originally appeared in PJM Media
By: Meir Javedanfar
The recent hijacking of ships by pirates in the Red Sea is raising alarm in Iran, for two reasons:
- The pirates have hijacked Iranian ships. This has had an economic and security impact for Iran. So much so, that Tehran has threatened to use force to free its crew and ships.
- Tehran sees the hand of foreign powers, especially Israel, behind the hijackings.
We in the West may dismiss such thought as yet another conspiracy theory, but the Iranians are not. In this morning’s edition of Sobhe Sadegh, which belongs to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), an editorial is dedicated to Israel’s influence in the horn of Africa and how Israel is using this to its advantage. Special emphasis is placed on Israel’s relations with rebels in Somaliland, and reports that the Israeli navy has a presence in some of the Eritrean owned islands in the Bab Al Mandeb strait. The islands in question are the Dahlak and Hunaish islands, and claims that Israel and Eritrea have cooperated militarily in these islands were also made by the Yemeni government and the Saudis.
What strengthened such beliefs was the Karine A affair, in which a Palestinian Authority ship, laden with weapons was captured in the Red Sea in 2002. The fact that the Israeli navy captured the ship 300 miles south of Eilat, and that it had been able to track its docking in Yemen, strengthened these suspicions.
The fact that the pirates of the hijacked Iranian ship, suddenly died of mysterious circumstances afterwards, created more panic. Especially since there were reports which were not confirmed nor denied by the US government, that Washington had offered the pirates $US 7 million just to inspect the vessel.
What the report in Sobhe Sadegh indicates is that Iran is becoming convinced that a silent war is being waged against its interests, at home and abroad. Last week, there was yet another report about the death of an individual working for Iran’s nuclear program. This time a Russian nuclear scientist had frozen to death, during a trip to mountains of Tehran. Previous cases included accidental death by suffocation caused by gas leakage.
Tehran‘s concerns are understandable. Overt wars can be condemned in the UN and can cause damage to America and Israel. But covert wars are more difficult to fight, because unlike Iraq and Lebanon, in this case, Iran is at a disadvantage. That is not to say that Tehran won’t try in the future.