Hamas’ Saleh Arouri in Tehran. Iran pressed ahead with its plans this week, regardless of the loud scorn and threats poured on Tehran from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Cairo and Washington.
On Friday, Oct. 20, less than two weeks after Saleh Arouri, Deputy Chief of the Hamas political bureau, approved an Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement between his party and the rival Fatah, he was leading a large Hamas delegation to Tehran.
On Tuesday, Oct. 17, Israel’s security cabinet laid down conditions for its recognition of the Palestinian unity deal, including Hamas’ recognition of Israel, disarmament and the severance of its ties with Iran.
On Thursday, US Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt issued a statement in support of Israel’s position.
But before taking off for Cairo, Arouri made a point of declaring that Hamas would never recognize Israel, give up “resistance” (terror), disband its armed wing or surrender its weapons.
His briefing to his masters in Tehran on the Palestinian unity talks in Cairo was an apt finish to a week of events which saw Iran, the universally denigrated rogue, going from strength to strength.
- The northern Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk was captured with hardly any resistance from Kurdistan by an Iraqi army, led by pro-Iranian Shiite militias and hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) thinly disguised in Iraqi military uniforms. Those oil fields were a primary source of Israel’s oil.
- The Kurds’ defeat was so devastating that their Peshmerga fighters also withdrew from parts of Ninewa, Salah al Din, Diyala, Mosul and Sinjar.
The scale of this calamity has not been released to the public in the US or Israel, because what it amounts to is that the IRGC is now in control not just of the major Kirkuk oil center and its oil fields, but also of broad swatches of central, eastern and northern Iraq, as well as its northern border with Syria. Iran now has full, exclusive use of an open corridor across Iraq to Syria.
- Although the Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu was on an official two-day visit to Israel, the first since his appointment five years ago, an event that would normally rate top publicity, it passed without a joint communiqué, or any word on the topics they discussed, their areas of agreement or discord – or even a notice of his departure. Was such deep discord registered in the general’s talks with Israeli leaders, or was Moscow at pains to play the visit down?
- On Monday, Oct. 16, a Syrian SA-5 battery 50km east of Damascus fired a ground-to-air missile against Israeli reconnaissance planes over Lebanon. An Israeli air raid then destroyed the battery.
- Tuesday, the Iranian Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri made an unscheduled trip to Damascus. His three-day visit sent a signal that Tehran stood foursquare behind Damascus.
- On Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin announced that they discussed the war in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program and the situation in Kurdistan. In the absence of any changes in Syria or Iraq in the wake of this conversation, it may be assumed that it ended as inconclusively as the Shogu visit.
- On Thursday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman sat down in Washington with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser Gen. H. R McMaster. Before his departure, he announced that an additional four billion shekels ($1.1billion) should be added to the defense budget for the acquisition of “advanced technology” to meet the mounting Iranian threat. No one elaborated on the nature of this high-cost technology; nor was it mentioned again either in Washington or Jerusalem.
- Later Thursday, IDF tanks fired on a Syrian artillery battery near Quneitra after a Syrian shell spilling over from Syrian combat exploded in the northern Golan.
That incident revealed, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, that the shell came from the Beit Jinn pocket which lies opposite Israel outposts on Mount Hermon. In other words, the Syrian army and its constant ally, Hizballah, have edged into an additional military sector that brings them closer than ever before to the Syrian Israeli border and the northern Golan.
So while Israel’s leaders and military spokesmen declare over and over that the entrenchment of Iran or its proxies near its borders is “unacceptable,” what else are they doing to curb their steady advance? And what use are the defense cabinet’s stipulations for Hamas, when Arouri sits down in Tehran with Iranian officials to plot a third front against Israel from the Gaza Strip?