November 20, 2018

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11/14 Links Pt1: Without Victory, There Can Be No Peace; The day Palestine gave up

From Ian:

Without Victory, There Can Be No Peace
Ninety-four years ago, on November 4 1923, Ze’ev Jabotinsky published an essay that would shape the worldview of the nationalist Israeli Right. Known as the “Iron Wall” doctrine, it stated that, so long as the Arabs have even a sliver of hope regarding the outcome of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the conflict will not end.

Peace would only be achievable, Jabotinsky argued, once the “Iron Wall” of Israeli military superiority was completely solid. Even so, in the years following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the foundational ideas of the Iron Wall doctrine have steadily faded from Israeli political discourse.

The first “crack” in the Iron Wall occurred the moment that the Oslo Accords were signed. The Israeli government imported a group of certified terrorists, in the hope that they would become converted to our way of thinking — that they would combat terror “without Bagatz or B’Tselem” (without the Supreme Court or far-left NGOs).

To some Arabs, the Oslo Accords represented a bright new hope; the first stage in the multi-step plan to achieve their dream of driving us out of the country, as first devised in the 1974 PLO Phased Plan. Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, continues on the same path — securing whatever concessions possible from Israel through negotiation, while using violence to achieve the rest of his goals.

In 2014, Abbas explained as much in Cairo at an Arab League meeting, stating that he would never recognize Israel as a Jewish State: Meaning that he would continue to work towards a Palestinian State encompassing as much territory as possible, while at the same time working towards turning Israel into a second Palestinian state.

PMW: Fatah’s narrative: Israel is a “monster” killing Palestinian “rebels”

While honoring terrorist Hussein Abayat who murdered one Israeli and was also involved in numerous attacks against Israelis during the PA’s terror campaign (2000-2005), Fatah’s Bethlehem Branch stated that his blood will not have been spilled “in vain,” and neither will that of “all the [other] Martyrs.”

Fatah promised continued violence and many more terrorists, stating that for every “rebel” killed by “the monster” Israel a thousand more will appear:

Posted text: “The 17th anniversary of the death as a Martyr (Shahid) of commander Hussein Abayat (i.e., terrorist, involved in numerous attacks including murder of 1) When the men cried over the passing of the one who fired the first bullet of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (i.e., PA terror campaign 2000-2005) in the first assassination operation that was carried out by the Israeli planes of hatred…
Martyr Hussein’s blood and the blood of all the Martyrs who today are writing the lines of the future history will not be in vain When the monster kills one rebel, the ground sprouts a thousand others
O pride of the wound, if we die, the graves will fight”
[Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Bethlehem Branch, Nov. 9, 2017]

Palestinian Media Watch reported recently that Fatah’s Bethlehem Branch glorified the PA terror campaign – the second Intifada – and posted “a souvenir picture” from it, showing rows of masked men apparently belonging to Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades carrying rifles.

Over 1,000 Israelis, the vast majority of whom were civilians, were murdered during the PA terror campaign, mostly in suicide bombings by Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is considered a terror organization by the US and the EU.

John Bolton: Lebanon’s Fall Would Be Iran’s Gain

Apparently, neither the Pentagon, nor the State Department, nor the National Security Council advised the new Trump administration of the implications of facilitating Iran’s Middle East grand strategy. Obama’s approach is, ironically, easier to understand, given his determination to secure his “legacy” by conceding vital U.S. national interests to nail down the Iran nuclear deal. Seeing Iran enhance its hegemonic aspirations throughout the region was, in his view, just another small price to pay to grease the way for the nuclear deal. Trump’s advisers have no such excuse.

Hariri’s resignation shows the inevitable consequences of blindly following Obama’s approach. Very little now stands in the way of Hezbollah’s total domination of the Lebanese government, thereby posing an immediate threat to Israel. In recent years, Tehran continued supplying the Assad regime and Hezbollah with weapons systems dangerous to Israel. Even more Israeli self-defense strikes are now likely, as Iran’s conventional threat on Israel’s borders grows.

Nearby Arab states also see the potential dangers of an unbroken Shia military arc of control on their northern periphery. The Middle East thus faces an advancing Syria, backed by Iran’s imminent nuclear-weapons capability, deliverable throughout the region — and likely able to reach America in short order.

The Trump administration cannot continue idly watching Iran advance without opposition. Washington and its regional allies need a comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran, not a series of ad hoc responses to regional developments. Time is fast running out.

Melanie Phillips: The political frenzy in Britain where a government minister, Priti Patel, was forced to resign as a result of her holiday activities in Israel

Please join me here as I discuss with Avi Abelow of Israel Video Network the political frenzy in Britain where a government minister, Priti Patel, was forced to resign as a result of her holiday activities in Israel; the re-emergence as a result of some ripe antisemitism from within the Conservative Party; and the calamitous mistake by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson which worsened the desperate plight of a British-Iranian woman behind bars in Iran – but over which he has not been forced to resign (well, not yet).

‘Israelis Are Ambitious About Saving Anyone’s Life’: An Interview with Sheba Medical Center Director General Yitshak Kreiss

Israel’s Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer gained a luminary when it appointed Brig. General (Res) Professor Yitshak Kreiss, MD, MHA, MPA, as its director general in 2016. For more than three decades Kreiss has dedicated his life to saving lives on the battlefield, in Israeli hospitals, and around the world.

Believing that Israelis “are moral and ambitious about saving anyone’s life because these are Jewish values, ” Kreiss has traveled the world leading humanitarian missions to achieve that goal.

The Jewish Press: Describe your background both in the army and as a doctor. In what way does your army experience distinguish you from other doctors?

Prof. Kreiss: I dedicated my life, until I took over as CEO of Sheba, to two goals. One is to treat and save the lives of soldiers on the battlefield and the second is to extend a hand and treat people all over the world in humanitarian missions. I think serving as a surgeon in the IDF combines professionalism in medicine and leadership, which are the two things that differentiate my career from other physicians.

PM: If not for Israel, Iran would already have nuclear weapons

If Israel had not taken action, Iran would already possess nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, in response to a joint U.S.-Russian statement Saturday outlining principles for post-war Syria.

Iran is a longtime backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Israel has long complained about the involvement of Iran and Iranian proxy Hezbollah in the ongoing civil war in Syria. Israel has said it will not tolerate the presence of Iran or its Shiite allies in Syria, particularly near Syria’s shared border with Israel.

Israel signaled on Sunday that it would keep up military strikes to thwart the delivery of weapons to Hezbollah, as well as to prevent any encroachment by Iranian-allied forces.

“We are making sure Israel is secure, and we are doing it well – you know that,” Netanyahu told his Likud party at their weekly meeting on Monday.

“We are doing it with a balanced combination of strength and responsibility. We are defending our borders, we are defending our country and we will continue to do this,” he said.

“I have communicated to our friends in Washington, first of all, and also to our friends in Moscow that Israel will take action in Syria, including southern Syria, as we see fit and according to our security needs. That is the deciding factor, and it will continue to be the deciding factor.”

Russia: Moscow never promised withdrawal of Iranian troops from Syria

Russia never promised the United States that Iran and Iranian-backed forces would withdraw from Syria, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday, adding that their presence in the war-torn country is legitimate.

Lavrov, who was quoted by RIA news agency, denied comments made by senior US officials that the recently announced ceasefire agreement in southern Syria included a Russian commitment to ensure that Iranian-backed militias would be withdrawn from the country.

The Iranian presence in Syria is “legitimate” Lavrov was quoted as saying, adding that it was the United States who posed the biggest threat in Syria.

“If you look at who is the greatest danger, it’s just the wards of the United States, various foreign terrorists, militants who are attached to those groups of armed opposition that the US supports,” Lavrov said.

Who benefits from the Russia-US-Jordan ceasefire deal in Syria?

The US has bought into the vague language as well because the US is not yet serious about removing Iranian-backed forces from Syria. This is because it has not acted against Iranian-backed Shi’a militias in Iraq that have been officially incorporated into Iraqi security forces since 2016. If the US was concerned about “foreign” forces, then it would have done more about them in Iraq.

Israel is in a bind. Jerusalem wants to rely on Moscow, Washington and Amman in relation to standing by a cease fire in southwest Syria. But Israel particularly wants Russia’s cooperation, because Russia is a close ally of Damascus.

Russia’s interest is the stability and perpetuation of the Syrian regime. Iran’s interests in Syria differ from Moscow’s.

To the degree that Israel has a way to guarantee keeping Iran and Hezbollah away from the Golan, it can set red lines relating to their presence. It has done this through its air strikes that have targeted weapons transfers to Hezbollah. It can also encourage Moscow to see that this presence is not in Russia’s or the regime’s long-term interests.

There is evidence Assad does not want to be too beholden to Iran. Ambiguity in the cease-fire deal will benefit Iran. Time will tell if the “foreign” forces actually do begin to withdraw from Syria.

Report: Saudi document lays out plans for peace with Israel

Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar exposed Tuesday morning “The secret document of the Saudi Foreign Ministry,” that it claims includes a road map towards rejuvenating the 2002 Saudi Peace Initiative and hints at meetings and understandings between Israeli and Saudi officials.

The document, claims the paper, proves everything that has been leaked over the last few months since US President Donald Trump’s visit to the region in May. According to the leaks, Washington aims to mediate a peace agreement between Israel and the oil-rich kingdom. The document, said to be signed by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, also allegedly confirms mutual visits by senior officials including the rumored visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to Tel Aviv.

According to the Lebanese paper, which is aligned with Hezbollah and has a history of fabrications, the document also includes “the compromises Riyadh will offer to end the Palestinian issue,” and in addition, “Riyadh’s efforts to gain support against Iran and Hezbollah.”

“Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement with Israel involves a risk to the Muslim peoples of the Kingdom, because the Palestinian cause represents a spiritual and historical and religious heritage,” reads the report claiming to quote the document. “The Kingdom will not take this risk unless it feels the United States’ sincere approach to Iran, which is destabilizing the region by sponsoring terrorism, its sectarian policies and interfering in the affairs of others.”

A key demand of the Saudis, according to the report, is the dismantling of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons capabilities.

The day Palestine gave up

On November 1, against all expectations, Hamas officials dismantled the checkpoints the organization maintained inside the Israeli-controlled crossings on the Israeli-Gazan border.

It was a dramatic step. No longer would Palestinians leaving Gaza for Israel or the West Bank face questioning by Hamas intelligence officials about their business. No longer would Palestinians entering Gaza face the exorbitant import taxes and other fees imposed by Hamas.

That bears repeating. In taking this step, Hamas, a group choked on almost every side by enemies foreign and domestic, willingly surrendered a lucrative source of income that fed many millions of shekels each year into its coffers.

More startling still: it was a step beyond what Hamas was strictly required to do at this stage under the reconciliation agreement signed with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in Cairo last month that handed some control over Gaza to the PA.

It is not enough to simply say these actions are part of “reconciliation.” Hamas’s commitment to “national reconciliation” has never extended this far in the past. What changed? What could possibly drive Hamas to surrender part of its rule over Gaza and renounce vital sources of influence and money?

New campaign to try Israeli leaders in international court

Raji Sourani, head of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said that an international campaign is expected to be launched in early 2018 by anti-Israel NGOs in an attempt to motivate the International Criminal Court in The Hague to prosecute Israeli leaders.

In an interview with Hamas newspaper Filastin, Sourani said that the campaign would be directed to the Prosecutor of the International Court of Justice, so as to expedite the completion of the processing of documents transferred to it regarding supposed “crimes” that Israel carried out in the “Palestinian territories,” thus enabling the court to deliberate on the documents in question.

The documents submitted to the Prosecutor deal with the war in Gaza (July-August 2014), including the military response in Rafah to the kidnapping of an IDF officer, the 11-year security blockade on Gaza, and “settlement” construction.

Surani added that at the end of this month, the Prosecutor will be presented with an additional document dealing with thousands of complaints and claims filed in Israeli courts for “crimes” committed by the IDF, in which only five soldiers were convicted.

In tacit rebuke of Russia, Israel backs UN report on Syria chemical weapons use

Roundly rejecting Russian criticism of the task force, Israel on Sunday endorsed a UN watchdog report on Syria’s use of chemical weapons, saying it “unequivocally” proves Assad used poison gas and must therefore be punished by the international community.

Last month a report by a joint UN-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) panel said the Syrian air force on April 4 had dropped a bomb on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhun, releasing the deadly nerve agent that killed more than 80 people, including children.

The OPCW has a team called Fact Finding Mission, which investigates whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria. The JIM was set up by the Security Council to apportion blame for such attacks.

But Russia has dismissed the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) report, saying the experts did not travel to Khan Sheikhun and worked with samples Moscow maintains may have been tampered with by Western intelligence.

Israel reportedly threatens to shelve Jordan water deal until embassy reopened

Israel has reportedly told Jordan that a joint agreement for the construction of a pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea will not go ahead until Israel is allowed to reopen its embassy in Amman.

In an escalating war of words and threats, senior officials in Jerusalem told Channel 10 that Israel notified Jordan that the water project will not move forward until Ambassador Einat Schlein and her staff are permitted to return to their posts.

Two weeks ago Jordan said it would not allow the embassy to reopen until an embassy guard who shot dead two Jordanian nationals was brought to trial.

Jordan refused to allow Schlein to return as Jerusalem’s envoy after she was photographed along with the guard, named as Ziv Moyal, during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the deadly incident occurred on July 23.

The incident has put a damper on the so-called Red-Dead project. Several weeks ago Israel and Jordan were to have finalized the details before calling for tenders from international companies to do the work.

Adelson rejects Bannon’s challenge to GOP establishment

Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate, will not back Steve Bannon’s planned challenges to establishment Republican senators.

“The Adelsons will not be supporting Steve Bannon’s efforts,” Andy Abboud, an Adelson spokesman told Politico on Monday, referring to Adelson and his wife, Miriam. “They are supporting Mitch McConnell,” the Kentucky senator who is the Senate majority leader, “100 percent. For anyone to infer anything otherwise is wrong.”

Bannon, President Donald Trump’s strategic adviser from January to August, had praised Adelson lavishly at a gala dinner Sunday organized by the Zionist Organization of America, one of an array of right-wing pro-Israel groups heavily backed by Adelson. Adelson was not present at the dinner.

Bannon, has since returned to his old job, helming Breitbart News.

He is still close to the president, and has vowed to mount primary challenges to all but one incumbent Republican in the 2018 midterm elections, as well as to establishment picks in the 25 races where Republicans will challenge Democrats. Eight Republicans are up for reelection. Bannon’s exception among the incumbents is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Israel’s US visa waiver said to hinge on flight rights for American Palestinians

Washington is demanding Palestinians with American citizenship be allowed to fly out of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, as a precondition for being admitted into the US visa waiver program, Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2) reported Monday.

Currently, all Palestinians traveling abroad do so via Jordan, using the Allenby Bridge border crossing administered by Israeli authorities.

According to Hadashot news, Israel’s security establishment is opposed to the demand. Officials are said to be concerned over general security threats, but also of the legal precedent — and of the likelihood of Israel being accused of a double standard towards Palestinians with other dual nationalities.

Another issue holding up Israel’s entry into the program is the requirement that visa refusals be under 3 percent. Hadashot reported that one possibility being considered is that the waiver program not apply to the age group considered problematic by US authorities — young Israelis aged 21-30 who often seek to work in America illegally.

Jewish-Austrian MP: Now’s not the time to move our embassy to Jerusalem

The sole Jewish parliamentarian from Austria’s ruling party is currently opposed to moving the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In an email interview with The Times of Israel, Martin Engelberg, a freshman lawmaker for the People’s Party (OeVP), endorsed the international consensus on the matter, arguing that any such steps should only be taken after an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement has been signed.

Engelberg — an active member of Vienna’s Jewish community — was sworn in Thursday, marking the first time that two Jews are sitting in the country’s parliament since World War II. The other is David Lasar, a second-term legislator for the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe).

The OeVP, which with 31.5 percent of the votes became Austria’s largest party in the October 15 election, is conducting coalition negotiations with the FPOe. Many Jews consider the FPOe taboo due to its past as a haven for neo-Nazis and current populist policies. Israel has a no-contact policy with the FPOe, although some members of the Likud Party advocate for the government to change this position.

FPOe and OeVP are widely expected to agree on establishing a government in the coming weeks.

Elite Israeli, Indian Combat Search-and-Rescue Units Conduct First-Ever Joint Drill

Elite Indian Air Force combat search-and-rescue soldiers took part on Monday in a first-ever joint drill with their Israeli peers.

The Indian troops — from the Garud Unit, the equivalent of Israel’s 669 Unit — are part of a delegation now in the Jewish state for the biennial “Blue Flag” exercise — in which the air forces of eight different countries are participating this year.

Israel and India are currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of official diplomatic relations. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel in July.

Ties between the two countries — including in the military realm — have flourished in recent years.

Iron Dome battery placed near Tel Aviv

One of the Iron Dome batteries recently deployed in the center of the country in response to rising tensions with terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip was placed in the Dan region, which includes Tel Aviv, the IDF cleared for publication Tuesday.

Iron Dome batteries have been deployed in several locations in the center of the country, in case the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip fire rockets at Israel in retaliation for the destruction of a terror tunnel leading from Gaza into Israel. Several terrorists were killed in the destruction of the tunnel.

The IDF has stepped up its forces near the fence closing off the Gaza Strip in order to deal quickly with any attempts by the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, which lost a senior member and several other operatives in the destruction of the tunnel, to enact revenge.

Major General Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), on Saturday night warned the terrorist organizations in Gaza that Israel will respond to any act of retaliation for the destruction of the terror tunnel.

“We are aware of the plot being planned by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad against Israel. They are playing with fire on the backs of the residents of the Gaza Strip and at the expense of internal Palestinian reconciliation and the region as a whole,” Mordechai said in an Arabic-language video he posted to YouTube.

PM Netanyahu: Hamas “Responsible” for Any Attack Launched from Gaza Against Israel

As concerns grow that the Iranian-backed terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) could strike from the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that his country would hold Hamas, which rules Gaza, “responsible” for any attack that targets Israel.

The prime minister’s warning underscored the complete military and political control that Hamas, which has recently been aligning itself more closely with Iran, exerts over the Gaza Strip.

Tension between Israel and PIJ have escalated since Israel destroyed a terror tunnel inside Israeli territory late last month, reportedly killing twelve terrorists, mostly from PIJ. It was later revealed that Israel recovered the bodies of five of the terrorists.

Hamas is currently trying to implement a reconciliation deal with Fatah, the Palestinian faction that rules the West Bank and controls the Palestinian Authority (PA). While the PA has assumed control of Gaza’s border crossings as part of the deal, Hamas has not relinquished its weapons.

Last week, PA police chief Hazem Atallah told reporters that as long as Hamas maintained its arsenal of rockets and guns the PA would be unable to provide security for Gaza.

Greenblatt: Islamic Jihad threats ‘significantly harm the people of Gaza’

Islamic Jihad provocations against Israel threaten Gaza’s civilian population and are dangerous, said the US after the IDF moved its Iron Dome batteries to the center of the country out of concern for the potential of an attack from Gaza.

“Extremist statements & provocation vs. Israel by Islamic Jihad significantly harm the people of Gaza & are very dangerous,” the US special envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted early Tuesday morning.

“The PA must resume full responsibility in Gaza. [The] US is working with the PA, Israel, Egypt & others to try to improve the situation. Gaza deserves better,” he said.

Earlier this week the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov also chastised the group.
View from Gaza as IDF blows up Hamas tunnel reaching into Israeli territory, October 30, 2017. (Courtesy)

“The reckless actions and statements of militants in Gaza risk a dangerous escalation. Palestinians have embarked on a course to solve the humanitarian crisis in the Strip and bring back the legitimate authorities. They should not be distracted by extremists,” Mladenov said.

Israel seizes products ordered from AliExpress headed to Gaza terrorists

Israeli authorities have seized hundreds of parcels of prohibited products bought online and destined for terror groups in the Gaza Strip, the Defense Ministry announced Tuesday.

In the past few weeks security officials identified various elements in the Gaza Strip using online shopping sites, including AliExpress, to smuggle prohibited products into Gaza under the guise of
innocent packages.

Officials from the Crossing Authority of the Ministry of Defense along with representatives from the Gaza District Coordination Office (DCO) and the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) seized the products at the Erez Crossing.

According to the Defense Ministry, the products seized in October include laser sights, telescopes, binoculars, laser pointers, metal detectors, radios, camouflage devices, miniature drones, cameras and night vision goggles.

Among other products discovered in the packages by Israeli authorities were computer motherboards and electronic circuits, inverters, optical cable cutter, optical magnification device, mini electric drills, professional headlamps, voltage stabilizers, power supplies and optical connectors.

The products, which are viewed by the defense establishment as dual-use because they can also be used for civilian purposes, were examined by COGAT officers. “It is suspected that some of the devices seized could have been used as improvised weapons,” read the Defense Ministry statement.

Far-right activist faces charges for encouraging anti-Arab violence

The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, with the approval of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, on Monday announced it would submit an indictment against the head of far-right organization Lehava Ben-Zion Gopstein, on suspicion of inciting violence, inciting racism, inciting terrorism, and obstruction of justice.

Gopstein is accused of issuing calls to violence in statements he made to media outlets between 2012 and 2017.

In an interview with the Hadashot evening newscast, Gopstein said, “The first condition for me to go to a wedding is that we do not have Palestinians at our wedding. There are no Arabs at the wedding. With us, it is strictly Hebrew labor. Let’s just say that if there was an Arab waiter, he would not be serving the food.”

Asked what he would do if there was an Arab waiter, Gopstein replied, “I think he would be looking for the nearest hospital.”

In addition, Gopstein is suspected of showing support for the actions of Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Muslim worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994.

According to the statement of prosecution, Gopstein took hold of a microphone at a wedding in Modiin Illit and began to sing a song praising the massacre.

Lebanon’s Hariri says he will return in next 2 days

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who plunged the country into crisis with his surprise resignation during a trip to Saudi Arabia, said on Tuesday he will return home in the next two days.

In his first tweet in more than a week, Hariri told his followers that he is okay, and that he would be returning without his family, who will stay “in their home” in Saudi Arabia.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has refused to accept the November 4 resignation, which came under mysterious circumstances, until Hariri returns to the country.

Lebanon has insisted the resignation was forced by Hariri’s Saudi patrons and that he is being kept in the kingdom against his will. Hariri denied those reports in a Sunday TV interview and said he’ll return to Lebanon within days.

Some Lebanese officials have said he should return with his family, so he could be free of any Saudi pressure.

Iran’s Missile-Cap Offer Is a Sham

Following talk in Congress of imposing sanctions on Tehran for its ballistic-missile program, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced a decision to restrict the program to weapons with a range of no more than 2,000 kilometers. The move seemed like a preemptive concession, but, Richard Goldberg and Behnam Ben Taleblu explain, it is merely a ruse:

According to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the regime can already “strike targets up to 2,000 kilometers from Iran’s borders,” a range sufficient to hit both U.S. military bases in the region as well as the entire state of Israel. In other words, the alleged cap on Iran’s ballistic missiles locks in the threat rather than rolling it back, while doing nothing to curtail the wide range of activities Iran is undertaking to improve its missile force. . . .

Neither the Trump administration nor Congress should take solace in Iran’s promise to cap its ballistic missiles at 2,000 kilometers. If anything, this declaration is an attempt by Tehran to overvalue something for which it has no immediate need—what are called intermediate-range ballistic missiles—in the hopes of forestalling coercive economic measures against its ballistic-missile program. During negotiations that culminated in the 2015 nuclear accord, Iran [likewise] strategically overvalued the few concessions it gave, including [giving up] its unreliable first-generation centrifuges. . . .

Now, by proposing an illusory cap on missile ranges, Iran is looking to dupe the West again. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic is expected to continue improving the quality of its missile force, which . . . constitutes the Middle East’s biggest arsenal.

Mattis: US to fight Islamic State in Syria ‘as long as they want to fight’

The US military will fight Islamic State in Syria “as long as they want to fight,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday, describing a longer-term role for US troops long after the insurgents lose all of the territory they control.

As US-backed and Russian-backed forces battle to retake the remaining pockets of Islamic State-held terrain, Mattis said the US military’s longer-term objective would be to prevent the return of an “ISIS 2.0.”

“The enemy hasn’t declared that they’re done with the area yet, so we’ll keep fighting as long as they want to fight,” Mattis said, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon about the future of US operations in Syria.

He also stressed the importance of longer-term peace efforts, suggesting US forces aimed to help set the conditions of a diplomatic solution in Syria, now in its seventh year of civil war.

“We’re not just going to walk away right now before the Geneva process has traction,” he added.

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin affirmed joint efforts to stabilize Syria as its civil war wanes, including with the expansion of a July 7 truce in the southwestern triangle bordering Israel and Jordan.

Mattis said he believed the southwestern zone was working, and spoke hopefully about additional areas in the future that might allow for more refugees to return home.

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