If you have not been paying attention, the last thing you heard was that Syria had used sarin gas attack on civilians in 2013. President Obama’s “red line” was washed pink in an agreement with Russia to remove the weapons and destroy them at sea. The U.N. Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) special coordinator Sigrid Kaang, in a remarkably precise statement, said 96% percent of Syria’s declared chemical weapons were destroyed. Not 95% or 87% or 43.5%, but 96% on the nose. Secretary of State Kerry said: “In record time, even amid a civil war, we removed and have now destroyed the most dangerous chemicals in the regime’s declared stockpiles.”
It was good PR, but as a solution to a deadly violation of international law, it was a huge, gaping failure. The word “declared” is the giveaway — Syria was allowed to tell inspectors what it had and where, and the inspectors were allowed only to touch those sites. It you think they cheated, you are right.
This week, the Israel Air Force destroyed a “research center” in Syria, one that “researched” chemical weapons. The attack came the morning after U.N. investigators said the Syrian government was responsible for a sarin gas attack in April 2017. Israel has conducted approximately 100 strikes inside Syria in the six years of civil war, not to change the course of battle or support one side over the other, but to eliminate weapons and facilities deemed unacceptable threats to Israel — including missile factories, a nuclear reactor and now a chemical weapons factory.
Here is the lesson. Focus on the real regional threats and push off peripheral issues.
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Supporters of Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear agreement have, over the past two years, tried almost everything to sustain it.
Nonetheless, weaknesses in its terms, structure, implementation and basic strategic fallacy — i.e., that Iran’s international behavior would “moderate” once it was adopted — are all increasingly apparent. For the deal’s acolytes, however, continuing U.S. adherence has become a near-theological imperative.
At the most basic level, the agreement’s adherents ignore how ambiguous and badly worded it is, allowing Iran enormous latitude to continue advancing its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs without being even “technically” in violation.
The adherents ignore Iran’s actual violations (exceeding limits on uranium enrichment, heavy-water production and advanced-centrifuge capacity, among others). Having first argued strenuously there were no violations, they now plead that the violations are “not significant.”
The adherents ignore the “truth-that-dare-not-speak-its-name”: America does not know with confidence where all of Tehran’s nuclear and missile work is being done.
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US President Donald Trump used the occasion of his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly to announce a profound shift in American foreign policy — most notably on Iran, which once against finds itself cast as a rogue nation, following the relative honeymoon years of President Barack Obama’s two terms in the White House.
Trump slammed the Islamic Republic, declaring that it was “past time to confront” the “murderous regime” in Tehran, and making clear his deep distaste for the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “[W]e cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program,” Trump said.
Iran’s leaders spoke “openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room,” the president noted. Iran stood “in stark contrast to the recent commitments of many of its neighbors to fight terrorism and halt its financing.” Trump accused the Iranian government of “masking a corrupt dictatorship under the guise of a democracy,” condemning Tehran for using “its oil profits…to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbors,” alongside its backing for the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad in Syria — decried by Trump as a “criminal regime” that had used illegal chemical weapons against its own civilians, adults and children alike.
“It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction,” Trump said. “It is time for the regime to free all Americans and citizens of other nations that they have unjustly detained. And above all, Iran’s government must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbors.”
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devoted much of his address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday afternoon to a blistering attack on the Iranian regime, pointedly citing similarly strong remarks made by US President Donald Trump from the same podium a few hours earlier.
MORE: “At UN, Trump Slams ‘Murderous Regime’ in Iran”
“Iran vows to destroy my country every day,” Netanyahu told the gathered delegates, quickly turning to his criticism of the Iran nuclear deal of 2015.
“Two years ago, I stood here and explained why the Iranian nuclear deal not only doesn’t block Iran’s path to a bomb, but paves its way to a bomb,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli leader argued that the deal’s fatal flaw is the “sunset clause” governing restrictions on Iran’s nuclear development — echoing his 2015 speech before the UN in which he stated, “what makes matters even worse is that we see a world celebrating this bad deal, rushing to embrace and do business with a regime openly committed to our destruction.”
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According to the initial narrative of the Khomeinist ideology, the “perfect state” which Muslims should aspire to was the brief period during which Ali Ibn Abi-Taleb exercised the Caliphate against a background of revolts and civil war. However, it now seems that Khomeinist zealots have found another “ideal model” outside the world of Islam.
That model is the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, better known as North Korea, which Khomeinists present as living paragon of heroic resistance against the American “Great Satan.” The daily Kayhan, believed to reflect the views of “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently ran editorials praising North Korea’s “brave defiance of Arrogance” by testing long-range missiles in the face of “cowardly threats” by the United States. In one editorial last month, the paper invited those who urge dialogue with the US to learn from North Korea’s “success in humiliating the Great Satan.”
The editorial provoked some critical responses from the “reformist” wing of the ruling clique with President Hassan Rouhani’s unofficial spokesman expressing regret that Iran was being asked to downgrade to the level of “a pariah in a remote corner of Asia.”
Nevertheless, last month North Korea’s nominal “president” Kim Yong Nam whose official title is Chairman of the People’s Assembly was given red carpet treatment during a 10-day visit to Tehran at the head a 30-man military and political delegation. He was granted a rare two-hours long audience with Khamenei. During his stay, he inaugurated North Korea’s new embassy which includes an expanded military cooperation section.
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