Thursday, October 26, 2017

'Israel Prepared To Use Force To Stop Iran From Acquiring Nukes', Post-War Syria: The Next Big Crisis Between Russia And America?

'Israel prepared to use force to stop Iran from acquiring nukes' 

Israeli Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) declared Thursday that the Jewish state is prepared to use military force to prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear weapons.

During an interview in Tokyo, Katz said that Israel was hopeful that President Donald Trump’s October 13th decision not to recertify Iranian compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would lead to the renegotiation of the deal, but added that Israel would use whatever means necessary to ensure that Tehran does not achieve nuclear capabilities, Reuters reported.

"If international efforts led these days by U.S. President Trump don’t help stop Iran attaining nuclear capabilities, Israel will act militarily by itself," Katz said. "There are changes that can be made (to the agreement) to ensure that they will never have the ability to have a nuclear weapon."

Israel has in the past intervened militarily to prevent rogue states from obtaining nuclear weapons, including a 2007 strike on a Syrian nuclear reactor widely credited to Israel, and an airstrike in 1981 code-named Operation Opera which destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.

Katz also discussed Israel’s efforts to help President Trump renegotiate the JCPOA, including his own recent talks with the Japanese government, during which he called on Japan’s center-right government to take a firm stand against Iran’s nuclear program.
"I asked the Japanese government to support steps led by President Trump to change the nuclear agreement. The question of whether Japanese companies will begin to work in Iran or not is a very important question."

President Trump is slated to meet in November with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who’s conservative Liberal Democratic party won a landslide victory this Sunday.

During the Obama administration, the hope was that Russia, as the principal backer of the Bashar al-Assad regime, would come to the realization that Assad would need to be abandoned in order to fulfill the U.S. prerequisite that “Assad must go”—and that Moscow would somehow cajole or compel Iran to accept this reality as well. 
The United States would then be able to convene a process that would create a broad-based opposition government for Syria. This aspiration ran up against two hard realities. The first was the willingness of Iran and Russia to commit hard power assets into the fight in Syria and be willing to absorb losses to defend the regime. The second was the inability of the United States to create an effective opposition force that could take the fight to Assad without requiring U.S. ground troops in large numbers—forcing Washington to delegate more of its policy objectives to the fighting strength of the Syrian Kurds—with all of the risks that this entailed in derailing relations with Turkey.
Moscow also proved to be more adept at multilateral diplomacy than the United States expected. 
Building on Turkish anxieties about U.S. military aid to the Kurds, and engaging in realpolitik bargaining with the Gulf Arab emirates and Saudi Arabia, Russia gained support for its preferred solution: maintenance of Assad as the formal head of Syria...
As the Islamic State gives up the metaphorical ghost on the last bits of territory it controls, this Russian approach is now facing some serious tests. 
First and foremost is the fate of Deir al-Zour province, the center of Syria’s oil industry. Who will control these critical assets—the Syrian government, backed by Russian airpower, or the Syrian opposition forces, backed by U.S. military assistance? In government hands, these oil fields will return critical revenues to the coffers of the regime in Damascus, but if held by the opposition, they will help strengthen their negotiating position. Both the Russian and U.S. militaries are said to be in constant contact to prevent any clashes between their allies, personnel on the ground and their assets in the air—but accidents can always happen.
The second test is, as the Syrian government begins to retake key border posts along the Iraqi frontier, the question of Iran’s “corridor to the Mediterranean.” A key strategic objective for Tehran in committing the ground forces of the Revolutionary Guards to the fight in Syria was to preserve the land bridge that connects Iran through Iraq, through Shia and Alawi areas in Syria, to Hezbollah in Lebanon. This has been a critical supply line for the Revolutionary Guards to resupply Hezbollah—and one reason that Israel has launched strikes to destroy convoys bound for Lebanon in recent years. Given the shift in the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran—away from the Obama-era effort at accommodation towards a more confrontational position—preventing the consolidation of that corridor will be a high strategic priority. But either attempting to block Syrian forces (and especially the Iranian units embedded in the regime’s forces) or to insert opposition troops into position again runs the risk of an accidental clash with the Russians.
Finally, there is the ultimate fate of Assad himself. The Trump administration has never formally repudiated the position that “Assad must go” even if it has suggested that Assad’s immediate departure is not an absolute precondition for talks on Syria’s future. But Moscow seems to have made up its mind that the question is settled: Assad will remain as the president of Syria. On Tuesday, Russia vetoed the extension of the mandate of the United Nations investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, suggesting that Moscow considers the matter closed and no longer subject to inquiry. From the U.S. perspective, however, Assad’s potential continued possession and use of such weapons poses a threat—and suggests that even after the Islamic State is eliminated as a holder of Syrian territory, Washington will not consider the Syrian civil war to be over and settled. 
For Russia, which has staked out a position that its intervention is largely completed, continued American involvement not only prevents a withdrawal of Russian forces and a shifting of military resources to other problems, but keeps Syria as a zone of potential conflict with the United States.
The Islamic State is now said to control less than five percent of Syria’s territory. But with that common threat to both Russia and the United States eliminated, the prospects for increased confrontation will be heightened.

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