Iran, Qods Force, Russia, the Game-changer

Protecting the Iranian nuclear sites?

Wendy Sherman sat with John Kerry every day during the Iran talks. This is a short interview and a must watch. She has bought into believing Iran.

Meanwhile, there is Russia and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The missile deal:

Russia, Iran Ready to Sign S-300 Delivery Contract in Near Future

Fars News Agency

Originally published at

TEHRAN (FNA)- A contract between Moscow and Tehran on the delivery of Russian S-300 missile defense systems to Iran will be signed in the near future, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Wednesday.

“The negotiations are continuing, the contract will be signed in the near future. All political decisions have been made, there are no obstacles there,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Sputnik news website.

In 2007, Iran signed a contract worth $800mln to buy five Russian S300 missile defense systems.

But the deal was scrapped in 2010 by the then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev under the pretext of the UN Security Council sanctions, although the UN embargoes did not include defensive military systems.

Iran filed a $4bln lawsuit against Russia in the international arbitration court in Geneva.

Moscow then struggled to have the lawsuit dropped, including by offering the Tor anti-aircraft systems as replacement, media reported in August, adding that the offer was rejected by Tehran.

Yet, some reports said the Antei-2500 could be a better solution. The system does not formally fall under the existing sanctions against Iran while still being useful for the Middle-Eastern country.

While the S-300 was developed for the use by missile defense forces, the Antei-2500 was specifically tailored for the needs of ground forces, which could also be an advantage for Iran, known for its large land force.

Later, Iran rejected the offer, stressing that it would not change its order.

The S-300 is a series of Russian long range surface-to-air missile systems produced by NPO Almaz, all based on the initial S-300P version. The S-300 system was developed to defend against aircraft and cruise missiles for the Soviet Air Defense Forces. Subsequent variations were developed to intercept ballistic missiles.

The S-300 system was first deployed by the Soviet Union in 1979, designed for the air defense of large industrial and administrative facilities, military bases, and control of airspace against enemy strike aircraft.

In the meantime, Iran designed and developed its own version of the S-300 missile shield, known as Bavar (Belief) 373. The Iranian version has superior features over the original Russian model as it enjoys increased mobility and reduced launch-preparation time.

In April, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan announced that Iran would receive the S-300 air defense systems from Russia in 2015.

“We will sign the contract for the delivery of S-300 air defense systems with the Russian side during an upcoming visit to Moscow in the current year,” Brigadier general Dehqan said prior to his departure to Moscow to take part in 2015 International Moscow Security Conference.

He noted that the Iranian Defense Ministry had studied the details of the S-300 contract and the air defense system would be delivered to Iran before the end of 2015.

“What is important is that since the beginning of talks about this contract, the Americans and the Zionist regime voiced their opposition to the sale of S-300 systems and called for a halt to the implementation of the contract,” Brigadier General Dehqan said.

In April, President Putin removed the ban on the delivery of the missile shield to Iran.

Following the announcement, Brigadier General Dehqan said “the decree came as an interpretation of the will of the two countries’ political leaders to develop and promote cooperation in all fields”.

Putin’s decision was announced hours after relevant reports said the Kremlin also plans to supply China with the advanced S-400 air defense system.

Putin said during a meeting with Iran’s Admiral Shamkhani that his decision to deliver the sophisticated S-300 air defense missile systems to Tehran set a role model at global class that every nation should remain loyal to its undertakings.

“The decision which was taken today bears this clear message that all countries are necessitated to remain committed to their undertakings,” Putin said at the meeting in Moscow.

In January, Tehran and Moscow signed an agreement to broaden their defensive cooperation and also resolve the problem with the delivery of Russia’s S300 missile defense systems to Iran.

The agreement was signed by General Dehqan and his visiting Russian counterpart General Sergei Shoigu in a meeting in Tehran in January.

The Iranian and Russian defense ministers agreed to resolve the existing problems which have prevented the delivery of Russia’s advanced air defense systems to Iran in recent years.

The two sides also agreed to broaden their defense cooperation and joint campaign against terrorism and extremism.

Russian build-up in Syria part of secret deal with Iran’s Quds Force leader

FNC: As the Pentagon warily eyes a Russian military build-up in Syria, Western intelligence sources tell Fox News that the escalated Russian presence began just days after a secret Moscow meeting in late July between Iran’s Quds Force commander — their chief exporter of terror — and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Fox News has learned Quds head Qassem Soleimani and Putin discussed such a joint military plan for Syria at that meeting, an encounter first reported by Fox News in early August.

“The Russians are no longer advising, but co-leading the war in Syria,” one intelligence official said.

The Quds Force is the international arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, involved in exporting terrorism to Iran’s proxies throughout the Middle East including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Intelligence sources told Fox News that — in addition to the previously reported arrival of nearly 50 Russian marines, 100 housing units and armored vehicles delivered by a stream of massive Antonov-124 Condor military transport aircraft and two Russian landing ships in Syria — the Russians have delivered aviation, intelligence and communications facilities to deploy a powerful offensive force.

Officials who have monitored the build-up say they’ve seen more than 1,000 Russian combatants — some of them from the same plainclothes Special Forces units who were sent to Crimea and Ukraine. Some of these Russian troops are logistical specialists and needed for security at the expanding Russian bases.

“Imagine how the Americans came to Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s the same kind of build-up. They bring everything, they build everything they need,” the intelligence official said.

The shadowy Iranian commander Soleimani visited Moscow from July 24-26 — just 10 days after the nuclear deal was announced, despite a travel ban and U.N. Security Council resolutions barring him from leaving Iran. He met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Putin to discuss arms deals. But Fox News has since learned that the Russian and Iranian leaders were also discussing a new joint military plan to strengthen Syrian President Bashar Assad, a plan that is now playing out with the insertion of Russian forces in Syria.

There are indications that Soleimani is not only involved in the Russian build-up in Syria, but may be leading the operation, though he has not been seen in Syria recently.

The Russians want to protect their interests in Syria. When the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the Russians had $4 billion in outstanding arms contracts with the Syrian government. The Russian Navy has maintained a base in Syria since the 1970s. This week, an image also surfaced purporting to show Nusra Front fighters standing by a Russian-supplied aircraft at a captured Syrian air base.

U.S. defense sources tell Fox News that most of Russia’s heavy military equipment has arrived by sea onboard Russian amphibious transport ships. Those ships began arriving in the Syrian port of Tartous in recent days. U.S. officials have confirmed a total of eight military cargo planes from Russia landed in the past few days outside Latakia, a port city on the Mediterranean, becoming an almost daily occurrence.

Onboard those vessels: Russian armored vehicles, tanks, helicopters, unmanned drones that can be armed and used for intelligence gathering. Western intelligence sources also confirm that the Russians have sent a mobile air traffic control system, communication/listening units, and pre-built housing units.

Fox News has learned that the Russian units include  members of the Airborne Rifle brigade, the equivalent of U.S. Army Rangers.

The reason that the Iranians are increasingly concerned about Assad’s future is that they do not want a situation in which the Islamic State makes its way to Lebanon unchallenged, posing a threat to Iran’s proxy Hezbollah, according Western sources. This makes the Iranians natural allies of the Russians.

Iran, these sources say, wants Syria to serve as its buffer zone between ISIS and Hezbollah.

Few think Russia’s military build-up denotes an intent by Russia to join the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition. Despite downplaying the reports last week, the State Department and Pentagon are now so concerned by Russia’s presence that Secretary of State John Kerry called his Russian counterpart twice this week to express his misgivings about the escalating conflict.


Hacking the Department of Energy, the Threat to You

The USDOEnergy is a cabinet level department and while responsibility includes power, laboratories, it includes nuclear. The agency secretary is Earnest Moniz, most notable for being at the side of John Kerry during the Iran nuclear talks.

Hacking this agency is terrifying and added into this equation, in 1999 the FBI investigated how China obtained specific specifications for a particular nuclear device from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Records: Energy Department struck by Cyber Attacks

USAToday: Attackers successfully compromised U.S. Department of Energy computer systems more than 150 times between 2010 and 2014, a review of federal records obtained by USA TODAY finds.

Cyber attackers successfully compromised the security of U.S. Department of Energy computer systems more than 150 times between 2010 and 2014, according to a review of federal records obtained by USA TODAY.

Incident reports submitted by federal officials and contractors since late 2010 to the Energy Department’s Joint Cybersecurity Coordination Center shows a near-consistent barrage of attempts to breach the security of critical information systems that contain sensitive data about the nation’s power grid, nuclear weapons stockpile and energy labs.

The records, obtained by USA TODAY through the Freedom of Information Act, show DOE components reported a total of 1,131 cyberattacks over a 48-month period ending in October 2014. Of those attempted cyber intrusions, 159 were successful.

“The potential for an adversary to disrupt, shut down (power systems), or worse … is real here,” said Scott White, Professor of Homeland Security and Security Management and Director of the Computing Security and Technology program at Drexel University. “It’s absolutely real.”

Energy Department officials would not say whether any sensitive data related to the operation and security of the nation’s power grid or nuclear weapons stockpile was accessed or stolen in any of the attacks, or whether foreign governments are believed to have been involved.

“DOE does not comment on ongoing investigations or possible attributions of malicious activity,” Energy Department spokesman Andrew Gumbiner said in a statement.

In all cases of malicious cybersecurity activity, Gumbiner said the Energy Department “seeks to identify indicators of compromise and other cybersecurity relevant information, which it then shares broadly amongst all DOE labs, plants, and sites as well as within the entire federal government.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Energy Department responsible for managing and securing the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, experienced 19 successful attacks during the four-year period, records show.

While information on the specific nature of the attacks was redacted from the records prior to being released, numerous Energy Department cybersecurity vulnerabilities have been identified in recent years by the department’s Office of Inspector General, an independent watchdog agency.

After a cyber attack in 2013 resulted in unauthorized access to personally identifying information for more than 104,000 Energy Department employees and contractors, auditors noted “unclear lines of responsibility” and “lack of awareness by responsible officials.” In an audit report released in October of last year, the Inspector General found 41 Energy Department servers and 14 workstations “were configured with default or easily guessed passwords.”

Felicia Jones, spokeswoman for the Energy Department Office of Inspector General, said while there have been some improvements, “threats continue and the Department cannot let down its guard.”

Records show 53 of the 159 successful intrusions from October 2010 to October 2014 were “root compromises,” meaning perpetrators gained administrative privileges to Energy Department computer systems.

Manimaran Govindarasu, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University who studies cybersecurity issues involving the power grid, said the root compromises represent instances where intruders gained “super-user” privileges.

“That means you can do anything on the computer,” he said. “So that is definitely serious. Whether that computer was critical or just a simple office computer, we don’t know.”

Govindarasu said while there could be information in Energy Department computer systems concerning security plans or investments related to the nation’s power grid, the grid’s real-time control systems are operated by utilities and are not directly connected to the Energy Department’s computer systems.

The Energy Department federal laboratories, however, sometimes pull data on the operation of the grid from utilities for research and analysis.

Records show 90 of the 153 successful cyber intrusions over the four-year period were connected to the DOE’s Office of Science, which directs scientific research and is responsible for 10 of the nation’s federal energy laboratories.

A USA TODAY Media Network report in March found a physical or cyber attack nearly once every four days on the nation’s power infrastructure, based on an analysis of reports to the U.S. Department of Energy through a separate reporting system which requires utility companies to notify the federal agency of incidents that affect power reliability.

Amid mounting concerns, the oversight and energy subcommittees of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hold a joint hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday to examine vulnerabilities of the national electric grid and the severity of various threats.

The congressional committee’s charter for Thursday’s meeting, citing USA TODAY’s report in March, notes the growing vulnerability of the nation’s increasingly sophisticated bulk electric system.

“As the electric grid continues to be modernized and become more interconnected,” the charter states, “the threat of a potential cybersecurity breach significantly increases.”

Obama and Kerry Have Vertigo Over this Iran Deal

Both Barack Obama and John Kerry are suffering from all the symptoms of vertigo, the spinning of lies, the dizziness of power and the imbalance of a lopsided deal with Iran over the nuclear program.

On September 8, 2015, Former Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at the American Enterprise Institute on the notable terror history and chilling consequences of an Iran deal.

Let us examine some facts with regard to Iran and how the negotiation table was a long flawed dialogue from the start.

During the uprising and war in Yemen last March, the Houthis, an Iranian terror proxy took at least 4 Americans hostage. The State Department chose to keep this a secret during the Iranian talks. It is rumored that 1 hostage has been released, while the conditions of the remaining hostages is unknown. Couple this basis with the 4 Americans jailed in Iran. Yet, no efforts have been forthcoming to ensure Iran releases any of them.

Jeddah, Sana’a and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Iranian embassy in Yemen’s capital Sana’a is offering financial, strategic, and military advisory support to the Houthi rebels in country, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said on Sunday.  

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yassin said Iran’s embassy in Sana’a had become a “Houthi operations room” and that Iranian intelligence and military experts at the embassy were helping the Houthis plan attacks against government loyalists and forces from the Saudi-led coalition targeting the group.  

He added that the embassy is “equipped with resources not even the Yemeni government is in possession of” and that it was also being used to distribute financial support to the Houthi militias currently stationed in different parts of the country.  

The Shi’ite Houthis, backed by Iran and Yemen’s ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, occupied Sana’a in September 2014. They then launched a coup the following February deposing Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and his government.  

Yemeni government loyalist forces and a coalition of Arab counties led by Saudi Arabia are currently engaged in a ground and air offensive against the Houthis, seeking to reinstate Hadi and the government.  

On Sunday coalition warplanes bombed several targets in the capital, according to eyewitnesses speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat.  

They said over 15 individual strikes were carried out, including several targeting the headquarters of Yemen’s Special Security Forces, who are loyal to ex-president Saleh. The sources said most of the HQ’s compound has now been destroyed following the air raids.  

The coalition has announced a plan to retake Sana’a with the aid of government loyalists on the ground, known as the Popular Resistance, to follow gains made in the country’s south which have seen the southern port city of Aden and almost all southern provinces liberated from Houthi control.  

The coalition is now closing in on the Houthis in Sana’a and also in the group’s northern stronghold of Saada. The group last month declared a state of emergency in both areas.  

Local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday the Houthis now have a plan in place in anticipation of the impending attack on the capital.  

They said the Houthis plan to “spread a wave of chaos” prior to the entry into the capital of coalition forces and those from the Popular Resistance, which will include assassinations of any figures they deem may cooperate with the latter against them—such as political activists and university professors.  

Meanwhile, on Sunday Saudi hospitals received 852 Yemenis injured as a result of the conflict, in a joint initiative between the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Works and the Ministry of Health.  

This comes as the King Salman Center on Saturday launched the second phase of a joint humanitarian relief project with the United Nations, delivering aid worth some 22 million US dollars to help Yemenis caught up in the conflict.  

In May Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz increased Saudi Arabia’s aid commitment to Yemen to over half a billion dollars.


Meanwhile, ask any sailor deployed in the region about the daily confrontations with Iran.

Iranian warships confront U.S. Navy on ‘daily basis’

U.S. naval forces operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping lane, are “routinely approached by Iranian warships and aircraft” on a “nearly daily basis,” according to a Pentagon official familiar with operations in the region.

During these interactions between U.S. and Iranian forces, American aircraft and ships are routinely photographed by the Iranians for intelligence purposes, according to the official, who said that most confrontations between the sides are “conducted in a safe and professional manner.”

The disclosure of these daily run-ins comes following the release of footage by the Iranian military purporting to show a reconnaissance mission over a U.S. aircraft carrier station in the Strait of Hormuz. More here from JihadWatch.

Then comes the Iranian Parchin nuclear plant which has been a historical military dimension location going back as far as the Nazi regime that used it for the production of chemical weapons. Today, Iran has declared this location will never be subject to any inspections. Related information on Parchin and images taken from space, click here.

Iran says its construction work at the Parchin military facility, southeast of Tehran, is normal and it will not allow any inspection of the “conventional” site, Press TV reports.  

“Parchin is a conventional military site. The construction there is normal and even it was indeed confirmed by some officials from the United States that Parchin site and the activities there are something normal and it doesn’t have any relevance to the IAEA work,” Iran’s Ambassador to IAEA Reza Najafi said.  

“Of course, this is a military site and Iran will not let any inspector go there,” he added.  

​Najafi’s remarks came after IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano repeated his claims about construction work at Iran’s Parchin military site whose inspection some world powers demand.  

“These activities could undermine the capability of the IAEA on verification but as we do not have inspectors there and by way of observing through satellite imagery, we do not have further insight of these recent activities,” the IAEA chief said.  


He added that “much work needs to be done” to finish the probe, but reiterated that the investigations will be complete by mid-December, as agreed in a roadmap between Iran and the IAEA.   

On July 14, Iran and the IAEA signed a roadmap for “the clarification of past and present issues” regarding Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna, Austria.  

Iran provided some additional information on Parchin by August 15, further proving that it was complying with the mutual agreement with the UN agency.  

On August 27, the US Department of State acknowledged that Iran’s Parchin site is a “conventional” military facility. “I think it’s important to remember that when you’re talking about a site like Parchin, you’re talking about a conventional military site, not a nuclear site,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.  

“So there wouldn’t be any IAEA or other restrictions on new construction at that site were they to occur,” he added.  

Kirby’s remarks mark a deviation from past claims in the US about Parchin. Iran has repeatedly denied Western allegations about nuclear activity at the site. The comments came after the IAEA voiced reservation about the construction of “a small extension to an existing building” at Parchin.  

“Since (our) previous report (in May), at a particular location at the Parchin site, the agency has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment, and probable construction materials. In addition, a small extension to an existing building appears to have been constructed,” the IAEA report said.  

Following the report, Tehran criticized the agency’s statement about Parchin, saying construction work on the site “does not concern” the nuclear agency.



North Korea Expanding Nuclear Abilities

IAEA: North Korea Apparently Building Nuclear Site   

FILE - A satellite image shows the area around the Yongbyon nuclear facility in Yongbyon, North Korea.

FILE – A satellite image shows the area around the Yongbyon nuclear facility in Yongbyon, North Korea.

North Korea appears to be renovating and building facilities at its Yongbyon nuclear site, a central element of its atomic weapons program, the U.N. nuclear agency’s head said on Monday.

A report by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security in April said satellite images showed that activity at the site’s main nuclear reactor may have resumed after a shutdown.

North Korea, which is believed to have carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, has not granted IAEA inspectors access to its facilities since 2009, reducing the agency to monitoring its nuclear activities from outside the country.

“We have observed renovation and construction activities at various locations within the site,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told a closed-door meeting of his agency’s Board of Governors in Vienna, according to a text of his speech.

“These appear to be broadly consistent with the DPRK’s statements that it is further developing its nuclear capabilities,” he said, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Although North and South Korea recently averted a full-scale military confrontation, and agreed to improve ties after a rare exchange of artillery fire over their heavily fortified border, tensions on the Korean Peninsula remain high.

China, North Korea’s closest ally, called on Wednesday for a resumption of talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

The so-called six-party talks — between China, the United States, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas — were last held more than six years ago despite numerous efforts to restart them.

The ISIS report in April said the main reactor at Yongbyon may be operating again at low power or intermittently, and that a centrifuge plant, a facility for the enrichment of uranium, had operated. It also said renovations might be imminent.

Amano did not say where within the Yongbyon site the renovation and construction activities were being carried out.

“We continue to monitor developments at the Yongbyon site, mainly through satellite imagery,” said Amano.

*** There is more:

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea is expanding its capacity to mine and mill uranium ore which could supply its nuclear weapons program or fuel nuclear reactors, according to new U.S. research.

The findings shed some light on how Pyongyang gets the raw material to fuel its nuclear ambitions that are raising international alarm.

The analysis is by Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. It is being published Wednesday by the website 38 North, which specializes in North Korea.

Lewis writes that recent commercial satellite imagery, the latest from this May, shows that over the past year, North Korea has been modernizing a key facility next to its main uranium mine at the southern site of Pyongsan, not far from the frontier with rival South Korea.

That suggests North Korea is expecting to process significant amounts of uranium, although what it will do with the product remains unclear. A uranium mill is where uranium ore is turned into yellowcake, a key step before it is fabricated as reactor fuel or for enrichment in centrifuges.

Lewis says one possibility is that North Korea will enrich the uranium to expand its stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The North revealed nearly five years ago it has a uranium enrichment facility at its main nuclear complex at Nyongbyon, and there are signs the facility has since been expanded.

Another possibility, Lewis says, is that the North plans to produce fuel for an experimental light-water reactor under construction at its main nuclear complex at Nyongbyon and possible future reactors based on that model.

North Korea has conducted three nuclear test explosions since 2006 and its weapons stockpile could grow sharply in the coming years, analysts warn.

“The expansion of North Korea’s uranium mine and milling operation is one more piece of evidence pointing to Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, particularly a growing nuclear weapons stockpile that poses a clear threat to the United States, Northeast Asia and the international community,” said Joel Wit, a former State Department official and editor of 38 North.

International nuclear monitors were expelled from North Korea in 2009, so there’s scant independent information on its activities. But in 1992, North Korea declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had two uranium mines and mills, including Pyongsan.

Lewis says Pyongsan appears to have operated intermittently over the past decade. Satellite images show spoil and residue from the mill has been dumped into a nearby pond that is unprotected and surrounded by farms, which would pose a health risk, he says.

Photos also show the mill has undergone significant refurbishment since 2014, with buildings being renovated and a terminus of a conveyor belt demolished and rebuilt.

Post Iran Deal, the Implications for Israel and Middle East

Netanyahu says will not allow Israel to be ‘submerged’ by refugees

Jerusalem (AFP) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he would not allow Israel to be “submerged” by refugees after calls for the Jewish state to take in those fleeing Syria’s war.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu also announced the start of construction of a fence along Israel’s border with Jordan, according to his office.

“We will not allow Israel to be submerged by a wave of illegal migrants and terrorist activists,” Netanyahu said.

“Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of Syrian and African refugees… but Israel is a small country — very small — without demographic or geographic depth. That is why we must control our borders.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Saturday said Israel should take in Syrian refugees, recalling the plight of Jews who sought refuge from past conflicts.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas also called for Israel to allow Palestinians from refugee camps in Syria to travel to the Palestinian territories, whose external borders are controlled by the Jewish state.

There is already hostility in Israel toward asylum-seekers from Africa and a concerted government effort to repatriate them.

Rights groups say thousands of African asylum seekers have been coerced into “voluntary” departures.

Official figures show 45,000 illegal immigrants are in Israel, almost all from Eritrea and Sudan. Most of those not in detention live in poor areas of southern Tel Aviv, where there have been several protests against them.

– ‘To the Golan heights’ –

The start of construction of the 30-kilometre (19-mile) fence announced by Netanyahu involves extension of a security barrier to part of its eastern border with Jordan in a bid to keep out militants and illegal migrants.

Netanyahu said when it was approved in June that the new fence was a continuation of a 240-kilometre barrier built along the Egyptian border which “blocked the entry of illegal migrants into Israel and the various terrorist movements”.

In its first stage, the new fence is being built along Israel’s eastern border between Eilat and where a new airport will be built in the Timna Valley.

“We will continue the fence up to the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said.

That would take it into the Israeli-occupied West Bank along the Jordan Valley, an area which is already under Israeli military control but is claimed by the Palestinians as part of their state.

Israel has insisted on maintaining troops in the area in any final peace agreement, a stance completely rejected by the Palestinians who say it would be a violation of their sovereignty and merely perpetuate the occupation.

Israel also has a fence that runs along the Syrian frontier through the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Those fences are in addition to a barrier that runs through the West Bank, which Israel began building during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which lasted from 2000-2005.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it 14 years later, in a move never recognised by the international community.


When it comes to the implications in the Middle East due to unrest, terrorism and war, the threat matrix festers. Israel knows this well as describes by experts below with regard to a post Iran deal at the hands and consequence of Barack Obama and those other P5+1 members.

The Middle East After the Iran Nuclear Deal

Negotiations between Iran and major powers were narrow in scope, focused on limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from nuclear-related sanctions.  Nevertheless, the deal they yielded has broader implications for a region strewn with local conflicts that have been exacerbated by the interventions of regional powers. Five experts weigh in on how Middle Eastern states and nonstate actors are calibrating their policies, and what the new regional landscape might portend for conflicts from the Levant to Yemen.

HezbollahLebanese supporters of Hezboollah celebrate in May 2014. (Photo: Ali Hashisho/Reuters)

Farideh Farhi

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) does not announce Iran’s arrival as a regional hegemon, something few among Tehran’s decision-making elite believe Iran has either the ideological or military capacity to achieve. Iranian leaders also know that there is little appetite for such an aggressive posture among a population weary of war with neighbors and hostile relations with world powers. Yet the agreement’s Iranian proponents argue that despite limitations placed on the country’s nuclear program, the deal enhances Iran’s security and consolidates its regional clout.

Major powers learned they must resolve their differences with Iran via diplomatic channels.

Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif, for example, argues before Iranian audiences that in foreign capitals worldwide in recent years, “Iranophobia” had taken root. He blames the broad-based international sanctions that had been imposed on Iran on a widely held belief that Iran is an aggressive or irrational actor that poses a danger to regional and international security.

But since Iran negotiated on rather than gave up its nuclear program, it demonstrated to major powers that it would not be bullied with military threats and economic sanctions, Zarif and like-minded advocates of the deal argue. The two-year-long nuclear negotiations undermined Iranophobia in many foreign capitals as major powers learned they can—and, indeed, must—resolve their differences with Iran via diplomatic channels rather than by coercion.

There is consensus among the Iranian foreign policy and security establishment that its warnings regarding the destabilization of Syria have proven prescient. They also share the belief that Iran’s domestic politics are the most stable in the region and its foreign policy the most consistent: Iran, they say, pursues systemic stability against antisystemic forces of global terror. The spread of Islamic extremism in the form of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, combined with the election of a government in Iran that ran on a platform of Islamic moderation, has helped advance Iran’s argument that regional issues can only be resolved if it has a seat at the table.

Yet despite a consensus that Iran’s position in the region has been enhanced, the JCPOA is not without its critics in Iran. It allows an inspection regime that violates Iran’s sovereignty and places too much trust in the United States, some argue. Others have slammed the negotiators for concealing the extent of Iran’s concessions and challenged the very notion of compromise with the United States, which, they believe, has not abandoned its ambition of regime change in Tehran, only its coercive tactics. A few even foresee the eventual comeback of coercion, noting that after Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi gave up his nuclear program, the West intervened militarily.

But the JCPOA’s Iranian proponents scoff at the comparison of the Islamic Republic to one-man dictatorships and insist that the resolution of the nuclear standoff strengthens Iran’s position, gradually opening the way for diplomatic progress on logjams like Syria. Only time—and the adjustments of other significant players in the region—will prove whether this optimistic and benign assessment of Iran’s ascent in the region is correct.

Sarah Birke

The negotiations deliberately focused solely on Iran’s nuclear program. Now that a deal has been concluded, many are wondering what it might mean for the Middle East, where Iran is involved in many of the region’s conflicts.

A richer Iran is likely to double down on its support for the Assad regime.

Chief among them is Syria. The war there has already killed 250,000 people and displaced nine million. Along with Russia, Iran is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s main backer; the United States, Europe, and Gulf states support his opponents. A Syrian peace deal wouldn’t be viable without Iran’s participation. Hence the flurry of diplomatic activity in the past weeks, as countries have tested the waters after the Iran deal.

Iran is pragmatic. Iranian officials have in the past indicated they aren’t wedded to Assad.

Yet while the nuclear deal might, in theory, lead to more open discussions among the many powers with a stake in Syria, in practice Iran shows no sign of ending its support for the regime. Assad himself certainly views it that way: he called the agreement a “victory” for Iran—and, by unspoken extension, for himself.

Even under sanctions and with domestic troubles, Iran has dedicated billions of dollars to the regime’s survival, funding and training pro-regime militias, including the paramilitary National Defense Force and Shia fighters. As sanctions are lifted and Iran has more money, it is likely to spend more to keep the regime afloat.

Although Iran and its adversaries agree that the self-proclaimed Islamic State is a problem, they are divided over what to do about it. Iran sees the group’s expansion as reinforcing its view that the Syrian regime must stay, backing Assad’s claim to be the only party capable of defeating “terrorism” in Syria. Opponents argue that Assad is a cause of Islamic State—by letting extremists out of prison and killing Muslims—and until he goes, it won’t abate.

Any agreement would require assuring Iran that its interests in Syria will remain intact. Iran says it wants stability and the end of Islamic State, but its main interests lie elsewhere: It likes to assert its power, especially vis-a-vis the United States and its allies. And more important to Iran is that it has a route to send weapons to Lebanon, where Hezbollah acts as a strategic deterrent to Israel, a far greater military power than Iran. The United States, Europe, and Gulf powers are not going to agree to that.

Yet Iran’s hegemony in Syria is not assured. Its influence there is more tenuous than it is in Iraq, where Iran backs the government and some militias. Without the large Shia constituency it has in Iraq, Iran’s influence on Syria relies far more on money and pragmatic alliances than natural affinity. A richer Iran is more likely to double down on its support for the regime than promote a reasonable negotiated settlement.

Matthew Levitt

Iran is Hezbollah’s primary benefactor, giving the Lebanese political party and militant group some $200 million a year in addition to weapons, training, intelligence, and logistical assistance. Over the past eighteen months, however, Iran has cut back its financial support to Hezbollah—a collateral benefit of the unprecedented international sanctions regime targeting Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the fall in oil prices.

A newly enriched Hezbollah would be more aggressive at home and abroad.

The cutback has mostly curtailed Hezbollah’s political, social, and military activities inside Lebanon. Its social-service institutions have cut costs, employees have received paychecks late or been laid off, and funding for civilian organizations, such as the group’s satellite television station, al-Manar, has been reduced. By contrast, Hezbollah’s Syria command, which has been a priority for Tehran given its commitment to defending Bashar al-Assad’s regime, has shown no sign of financial hardship.

If nuclear-related sanctions are lifted in whole or in part, an influx of Iranian money will enable Hezbollah to push back against Lebanese political and social movements that are uncomfortable with its intervention in Syria. Lebanon’s political crises, from its inability to select a president to its failure to collect garbage, is a result of this deep sectarian division. An influx of radicalized Sunnis from Syria could bring further instability to Lebanon.

Increased Iranian spending will also benefit Hezbollah’s regional and international operations. The group is no longer limited to jockeying for political power in Lebanon and fighting Israel. With more money, it could step up its aid to Shia militias in Iraq and Yemen in cooperation with Iran, sending small numbers of skilled trainers to bolster local forces and, in some cases, fight alongside them. In Iraq, Hezbollah is training and fighting with Shia militias. Though they are fighting on behalf of the government, their tactics exacerbate sectarian tensions. Its footprint in Yemen is small, but it could expand with additional resources. Hezbollah is already trying to find long-term support for these operations. In Iraq, for example, it is investing in commercial front organizations.

Finally, increased funding could help Hezbollah reconstitute its capabilities beyond the Middle East. The group has expanded its terrorist operations in countries as disparate as Cyprus, Peru, and Thailand.

Hezbollah is busier than ever, especially in Syria, where it is engaged in expensive militant operations and support activities. Meanwhile, the group has expanded its regional activities further afield, straining its coffers even as it has had to cut back its activities in Lebanon. A newly enriched Hezbollah would be more aggressive at home and abroad, challenging less-militant parties across the Lebanese political spectrum and boosting its destabilizing activities outside of Lebanon.

Hussein Ibish

Despite the heterogeneity of interests and perspectives among the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), they share a broad consensus on the nuclear deal agreed to by major powers and Iran. This common position was expressed in the joint statement issued by GCC foreign ministers and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after their August 3 summit in Qatar.

Riyadh has undertaken a major initiative to unite Sunni states in an anti-Iran alliance.

The statement endorses the nuclear agreement, partly because Gulf states hope that the accord could eventually ease regional tensions. Their endorsement is also a recognition that the deal will go forward no matter what they say, and that they see no benefit in joining Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the lone international naysayers. Instead, the Gulf states are seeking to maximize the benefits they will accrue by consenting to the arrangement, to which they are not a party even though it will affect their security (whether for good or ill remains to be seen).

The GCC response also insists that Iran cease employing subversive means to extend its influence in the Arab world. The nuclear deal comes as tensions between Iran and major Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have reached a historic high.

A newly hawkish Saudi Arabia has demonstrated it is willing to use military force to try to roll back Iran’s influence in the Gulf. The Saudi-led Arab intervention in Yemen has brought GCC forces into direct conflict with the Iran-backed Houthi militia. Riyadh has also undertaken a major initiative to unite Sunni states in an anti-Iran alliance. To this end, Saudi Arabia has reached out to its former antagonists, such as the regional Muslim Brotherhood movement, including Hamas; forged an alliance with Sudan; and strengthened its relations with Turkey.

The Gulf states are hoping that a successful nuclear agreement will strengthen Iranian moderates and eventually make Iran a more responsible regional actor. But they are not counting on that, nor are they relying as much on U.S. leadership as they have in the past.

Gulf countries are moving to strengthen military cooperation with the United States. They are buying new weapons and have received promises of security coordination but are pressing for even stronger commitments. But they are also seeking closer ties to other powers, such as China, France, and Russia, and are developing an independent approach to secure their vital interests.

These interests include preventing Iran from further destabilizing the Arab world by promoting sectarian conflicts and backing armed Shiite groups, including those within Gulf Arab states, as well as ensuring that Iran does not expand its influence in the region at the expense of Arab interests.

If these new tensions come to define the Gulf relationship with Iran and no significant diplomatic steps are taken to create other means of resolving regional crises, the nuclear deal might actually contribute to a more unstable and violent Middle East.

Chuck Freilich

The nuclear agreement is a done deal. Israel must now decide how best to position itself for this new reality in which Iran’s nuclear aspirations have hopefully been postponed, though not eliminated; its regional and international stature has been strengthened by the resolution of the nuclear issue; and its financial ability to carry out its regional ambitions has been increased.

Israel may not be able to continue its policy of noninvolvement in Syria for long.

Many Israeli security experts believe that Israel’s first priority should be to restore strategic cooperation and intimacy with the United States. An important dimension of that would be for Israel to acquiesce to the agreement and use its intelligence capabilities to help ensure that the nuclear inspections regime is implemented.

Assuming the agreement holds, Israel’s biggest strategic concerns will be Iran’s regional ambitions, the rise of the Islamic State and other radical Islamists on its Syrian border and in nearby Iraq, and threats to the stability of Egypt and Jordan. The civil war in Syria has already resulted in attacks on Israel and holds the greatest potential for escalation.

Emboldened by its recent diplomatic success, Iran is likely to pursue its regional objectives with greater intensity and fewer constraints.

Israel may not be able to continue its policy of noninvolvement in Syria for long. The domination of a Syrian rump state by Iran and its Lebanese client, Hezbollah, which has a significant presence along the Golan Heights, would extend the already explosive confrontation with them from Lebanon to Syria and would present an unacceptable danger for Israel; indeed, it has already begun to do so. Hezbollah appears too stretched in Syria to want a confrontation with Israel soon, but this may change.

A takeover of Syria by the self-proclaimed Islamic State or Syrian rebel groups would also prove dangerous. Heinous as it is, Bashar al-Assad’s regime still has many assets to lose in a confrontation with Israel and can thus be deterred. It will take time for non-state actors to develop similar assets.

The borders with Gaza and Egypt remain combustible. After three major conflicts in recent years, Gazans do not appear to want renewed hostilities. Renewed rocket fire is nevertheless likely and will increase Israeli public pressure for Israeli forces “to finish the work” left undone in 2014. Escalation will be especially likely if Iran strengthens its cooperation with Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The growing strength of Islamist extremists in the Sinai makes further border incidents with Egypt more likely as well.

Given their fundamental hostility toward Israel, the current confluence of interests with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states is unlikely to yield significant practical cooperation, media speculation notwithstanding. Turkey will not upgrade relations as long as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in power and seeks closer ties with Iran.

The prospects of an agreement with the Palestinians, already bleak, will diminish in a situation of Iranian regional ascendency. Any attempt to restart talks is destined to fail. It would squander U.S. diplomatic capital, which will be needed when more propitious circumstances arise.