Monday, October 9, 2017

Israel Strikes Hamas After Rocket Fire From Gaza, How Iran Cheats On Nuclear Deal, What Does Historic Saudi-Russia Meeting Mean For Israel?



Israel strikes Hamas target after rocket fired from Gaza



The IDF struck a Hamas target in the Gaza Strip on Sunday evening after a rocket was fired at Israel from the Hamas-controlled enclave.

According to the army, the rocket fired from Gaza was aimed at Israel but exploded within the Gaza Strip. “Code red” sirens were sounded in some areas bordering the Gaza Strip.


In response, an IDF tank destroyed a Hamas watch tower in the south of the Gaza Strip.

According to an IDF statement, the rocket fire constituted a threat to Israeli citizens and an attack on the State of Israel’s sovereignty. Hamas is held responsible for all terrorist activity within the Gaza Strip, the statement said.

The exchange of fire comes after a spell of relative quiet on the Israel-Gaza border. 

Recent weeks have witnessed new attempts by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to reconcile their differences and put an end to their long-running feud. Last week, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah chaired a meeting of the Palestinian cabinet in Gaza.

Suggestions that a successful attempt at reconciliation should involve the disarmament of Hamas have been rejected by the group. Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in a violent takeover in 2007 following Israel's withdrawal from the territory two years before.










President Donald Trump has dropped teasing hints into the hubbub, high rhetoric and suspense of the run-up to the Oct. 15 deadline, when he must either certify that Iran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord or withhold certification. The former would lend the accord another 90-day lease of life; the latter could entail the re-imposition of pre-nuclear deal sanctions against Iran, if approved by Congress.

Preyed by the same uncertainty as everyone else, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday, Oct. 7: “Even 10 Trumps can’t roll back the benefits to this country of the nuclear deal. We have achieved benefits that are irreversible. If the United States violates (the nuclear deal), the entire world will condemn America, not Iran.”

In the last 48 hours, American media have been awash with predictions that President Trump will deliver a major speech on Oct. 12, to announce his decision to certify the nuclear deal, while at the same time imposing new sanctions on Iran – mainly targeting its Revolutionary Guards Corps over activities (missile development, terrorism sponsorship) that are contrary to US national security interests. Some say Washington will add the IRGC to its list of terrorist organizations.


So what are the facts of the case?
Iran is brazenly cheating on the nuclear deal on which its foreign minister shook hands two years ago with his counterparts from the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.  And not just in spirit. The White House is not saying more than that because Trump and his advisers fear the consequences of a flat accusation of flagrant breaches in deed.


  1. Tehran lied on Jan. 12, 2016 when it assured the international watchdog that the core of the plutonium reactor had been dismantled as required under the nuclear accord and the space filled with reinforced cement to deactivate the plant. The truth is that the core remained in place and the cement was poured into pipes. Replacing them can be done in less than a week and the Arak plant will be running again as good as new.
    Why has the IAEA not reported Iran’s violation in its reports? Because its officials prefer to line up with the pro-nuclear deal advocates in the US, Europe and Russia and Germany and avoid a major international hullabaloo.
  2. The IAEA inspectors who make regular visits to the uranium enrichment facilities at Fordo and Natanz report that the number of centrifuges functioning there is fixed. However, they have not visited the secret factories which are turning out at high speed two “new generation” IR6 and IR8 centrifuges. Installed in place of the old machines, they are capable of very quickly producing large quantities of uranium enriched up to weapons grade for building not just one bomb but an arsenal.
  1. To this day, Tehran has adamantly denied watchdog inspectors access to the military sites, where explosion tests are suspected to be secretly ongoing. The IAEA has been reduced to asking Iran for soil samples from the suspected sites for testing, but its experts have no way to determine from which locations those samples were taken.








Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday wrapped up a four-day visit to Moscow where he met President Vladimir Putin.

It was the first visit by a ruling Saudi king to the Russian capital, a symbolically historic meeting that has wide-ranging implications for the Middle East.


With Iran influence at an all-time high in the region, the visit especially has major implications for Israel as Jerusalem tries to navigate the threats posed by Iran’s involvement in Syria and Lebanon.

Will Moscow heed Israel and Saudi Arabia’s concerns about Iran in the region? Saudi Arabia’s opening to Russia comes in the context of the decade-long decline of US influence in the Middle East.


Israel and Saudi Arabia share common interests in concerns about the Iranian threat to the region; Iranian involvement in Syria; and support for Hezbollah.

Israel has stressed the importance of denying Iran permanent bases in Syria and its concerns about an Iranian presence near the Golan, particularly after a July cease-fire brokered by Russia, Jordan and the US.


“It’s not just a visit of the Saudi King, it’s a change of Russia’s image in the area,” he says, arguing that the Syrian context is important because Russia is the main backer of the Assad regime alongside Iran and Iran is an enemy of Saudi Arabia.


With Saudi Arabia the leader of the Sunni camp in the region, he says there is a “bitter competition” and Israel is involved on the side of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.


Russia has become stuck working alongside Iran in Syria, “but Russia is not interested only in Syria or only to be a friend of the Iranian player on this table. They want to be an important player in the region, together with the US.”


In the complex chessboard of Russia, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Magen says “Israel is not the main factor in this game, but is one of them.”

To get the Russians to try and limit the Iranian footprint in Syria, he says Saudis “are willing to offer investments to Russia, such as an investment fund, and this is payment for what they are asking Russia to do in Syria.”

“Another thing that interests the Saudis in Syria is Saudi investment in rebuilding Syria and the Saudis could do that in the Sunni areas and strengthen the Sunni population,” says Guzansky.

This might be in exchange for Saudi Arabia ending backing for certain extremist rebel groups.

Saudi Arabia understands that the regime backed by Russia and Iran now have the upper hand.

“Assad will remain president for time being so [Saudi Arabia] tries to mitigate risk and lower the losses,” he says.

Saudi Arabia wants stability in the region after six years of chaos in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. To that end, it recognizes the dangers of extremist groups that feed off civil wars. This could lead to trade-offs in Syria as Assad remains in power and Saudi Arabia offers to accept Assad back into the Arab fold in exchange for Iranian influence being rolled back.

That would fit the Saudi goal of reducing Iranian influence in Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq.

Russia benefits by being seen as a wise backer of stability in the region. For Israel, this would be a welcome development as long as Jerusalem can be assured Moscow continues to weigh Israel’s concerns and Jerusalem is not left behind by Saudi overtures to Moscow.
























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