The Obama administration has promised Iran to ease progress toward a nuclear accord by treating Tehran’s aggressive regional policies as a separate issue and so keeping the path clear of any obstacles which may be raised by such opponents as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Monday, Jan. 14, senior administration sources admitted: “The United States and Iran have sought to insulate the nuclear negotiations from the tensions over Iran’s regional policies.”
Washington has thus given Tehran a free ride to a nuclear accord over the heads of regional objectors and also a license for continuing its destabilizing military intervention in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon – just so long as Iran sticks to productive nuclear diplomacy.
Sunday, the White House issued this welcome: “Beginning January 20th, Iran will for the first time start eliminating its stockpile of higher levels [20 pc] of enriched uranium and dismantling some of the infrastructure that makes such enrichment possible. Under the landmark deal reached in November, Iran will also halt parts of its enrichment program for six months in exchange for modest relief from international sanctions.”
The US statement confirmed the starting date of Jan. 20 announced by Iran’s Dep. Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi with European Union concurrence.
US officials translate “modest sanctions relief” into $5 bn of revenue. debkafile reports that this figure has no relation to the real amount of revenue about to pour into Iranian coffers. The oil-for-goods transaction Moscow has just signed with Tehran is alone worth $18 bn a year and many more international bidders for business were knocking on Tehran’s door before the nuclear negotiations with the six world powers got started in Geneva last November. The penalty regime is crumbling and even if Tehran fails to abide by its commitments under the six-month interim accord, sanctions are history.
In addition to Israel, Lebanon stands to pay the price for the US-Iranian agreement to separate nuclear and regional issues.
The late Ariel Sharon, during his years at the helm of Israel’s defense, gave high priority to the high strategic importance of Lebanon as pivotal to Israeli security, a policy which his posthumous admirers found unacceptable at the time.
This tradition is consistently avoided by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Gen. Benny Gantz.
Since the former prime minister passed away Saturday, Jan. 11, those leaders have immersed themselves in funeral arrangements and nostalgic memories of the fallen hero, possibly in an attempt divert Israelis from the security disasters unfolding around the country in neighboring Damascus and Beirut.
Vice President Joe Biden, who leads the US delegation to the funeral, will no doubt act as though nothing is amiss in Syria and Lebanon. And even if it was, it has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian question, which alone should concern the Netanyahu government.
President Barack Obama, in his message of condolence, cited Ariel Sharon’s care for Israeli security as akin to his own. The gap between words and actions was as wide as ever.
Secretary of State John Kerry was unable to attend the Sharon funeral because he was preoccupied with the Syrian question, the State Department spokesperson explained.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is just as busy: He plans to visit Damascus Wednesday, Jan. 15 and continue to Beirut, while the same day, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem arrives in Moscow at the head of a large party.
There is nothing spontaneous about this flurry of diplomatic travel; it is well coordinated between Washington, Moscow and Tehran – the outcome, debkafile’s sources reveal, of Obama administration approval of the new Russian-Iranian strategy, which is to shunt the Syrian conflict onto two outside tracks, Iraq to the east and Lebanon to the west of Syria – and north of Israel.
Al Qaeda’s Iraqi arm (ISIS), having just taken a beating in Syria, is grabbing territory in central and western Iraq. Al Qaeda-Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, is falling back against superior Syrian army strength and redeploying in Lebanon which has an exit to the Mediterranean.
The two al Qaeda branches, rivals on the battlefield, are after the same spoils of war: a share of Syria’s oil industry and an assured outlet to the sea.
It is worth remembering how, in the not- so-distant past, Bashar Assad strongly supported al Qaeda’s campaign of terror against the American troops massed there from 2003 to 2009, and how Iran abetted that campaign with training facilities and arms for the suicide bombers.
Today, the rulers of Tehran and Damascus are preparing to sacrifice parts of Iraq and Lebanon to rid Syria of the brunt of al Qaeda’s military drive.
This strategy works for Moscow – anything goes that keeps the jihadists focused on Iraq and away from Sochi, the Russian Black Sea resort where the Winter Olympics open on Feb. 7.
The Obama administration sees great advantage in removing radical Islamic forces to countries outside Syria: it reduces the complexity of the effort to reach an agreement or, at least, an understanding, between the Assad regime and the fractured opposition camp at the Geneva 2 conference meeting in the Swiss town of Montreux on Jan. 22 for a political solution of the Syrian conflict.
Sharon’s eulogizers commended his extreme tenacity and capacity for unexpected action. It is hard to believe he would have let Israel be drawn into the dangerous trap to its national security taking shape across its borders. He would have come up with a surprise tactic for jumping clear and even turned the tables.
The contrast between his proactive style of government in defense of Israeli security and the attitude of Israel’s incumbent leaders could not be greater. Obama and Putin, well acquainted with their passivity, feel free to cut Israel out of their regional considerations to the point of absolving Iran of its troublemaking in Iraq and Lebanon as a separate arena from its nuclear conduct.
Although governments near and far will attend Geneva 2, there is no thought of inviting Israel, although the events taking place in next-door Syria and Lebanon directly impinge on its security. Sharon would not have taken this snub lying down. He would have been on the phone to Putin (in fluent Russian) and given him and John Kerry a piece of his mind.