Iran Extends Its Global Reach
This week The Tower reported on numerous signs that Iran is strengthening its position across the Middle East and even the world.
Monday’s election of Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun as president of Lebanon was hailed by several senior Iranian officials. “The election of Michel Aoun as president shows new support for the Islamic resistance (against Israel),” said Ali Akbar Velayati, the top foreign policy adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The presidency of Lebanon had been vacant for more than two years because political parties affiliated with Hezbollah, an Iranian-allied terror organization, would not allow non-Hezbollah-affiliated candidate to win. Aoun himself stated immediately after his election that he would “not spare any efforts to protect Lebanon from Israel and liberate the remainder of our lands; we will address terrorism in a preemptive manner.” (Shebaa Farms, the “reimander” that he was referring to, was captured in 1967 by Israel, which claims that the territory was originally Syrian. The United Nations has rejected Lebanese claims to the territory and the Security Council certified in 2000 that Israel had completely withdrawn from Lebanese territory.)
Shiite militias, some under the command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, are continuing to cause concern to Sunnis in Mosul, Iraq, where forces are poised to retake the city from ISIS. Those militias have been known to commit atrocities against Sunnis living in areas that they have captured. Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter described these forces as a Shiite “foreign legion” fighting on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, the commander of the United States Fifth Fleet, announced Sunday that the U.S. had intercepted five Iranian arms shipments intended for Houthi rebels in Yemen. Houthi forces have fired at U.S. Navy ships several times in recent weeks.
Closer to home, members of Congress warned that President Barack Obama’s plan to share intelligence with Cuba could end up benefiting Iran, which has been developed a close working relationship with the Castro regime over the past few years. And an IRGC commander told Iranian media this week that “the whole world should know that the IRGC will be in the U.S. and Europe very soon.”
Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz predicted in April 2015 that Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East was a likely consequence of the nuclear deal:
Some advocates have suggested that the agreement can serve as a way to dissociate America from Middle East conflicts, culminating in the military retreat from the region initiated by the current administration. As Sunni states gear up to resist a new Shiite empire, the opposite is likely to be the case. The Middle East will not stabilize itself, nor will a balance of power naturally assert itself out of Iranian-Sunni competition. (Even if that were our aim, traditional balance of power theory suggests the need to bolster the weaker side, not the rising or expanding power.)
Fighting Back on Campus
Efforts to counter anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on campus have also been in the news. On Tuesday, more than 170 professors sent an open letter to University of California President Janet Napolitano demanding that the UC system stop anti-Israel activist professors from “using the classroom as a pulpit for anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist political advocacy and activism.” The letter was prompted by the system’s approval of “Palestine: A Settler-Colonial Analysis,” a student-led course at the University of California, Berkeley that sought, as the syllabus explained, to “explore the connection between Zionism and settler colonialism.” The following day, nearly 600 alumni of the UC system published a similar letter, calling on Napolitano “to put an end to the misuse of the classroom by certain faculty and student instructors to indoctrinate their students into their chosen cause.”
Across the pond, the United Kingdom’s official academic arbitrator found that a Jewish student had been harassed by pro-Palestinian activists at Sheffield Hallam University, stating that the school had “failed to properly turn its mind to the question of whether [the student] had experienced harassment as a result of certain aspects of PalSoc’s social media activity.”
PA Praise for Terror
Palestinian leaders are still uncomfortably close to terrorists.
Hamas, the terrorist organization that took over the Gaza Strip from Fatah in 2007, publicly expressed interest in joining the Palestine Liberation Organization, which includes all other major Palestinian organizations and is chaired by Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, based in Qatar, called for a “united authority for inside and outside of Palestine under the umbrella of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.” He also reiterated his organization’s commitment to terror: “The wager on the diplomatic movement on its own has been proven a failure. Let us agree on a national strategy and that everyone is with the [armed] resistance, which is a legitimate right that raises the cost of the occupation.”
Instead of rejecting the Hamas initiative outright, Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told The Times of Israel that the group wants “all of the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to be within the framework of the PLO.” Responding to Meshaal’s stated intent to continue attacking Israel, Abu Yousef said that “the type of struggle the Palestinians wage will be decided by the PLO. We agree on the basis that the Palestinian struggle will be a popular struggle.” A commitment to terrorism apparently doesn’t disqualify anyone from working with the PA or any of its related organizations.
Veteran foreign correspondent Michael J.Totten looks at the challenges that the 45th Commander-in-Chief will face upon being inaugurated in January. Totten advises the next president not to be too ambitious: “You will not be able to democratize the Middle East and drain the swamp of its political pathologies by using regime change or any other tool at your disposal.” Rather, he or she must be resigned to the fact that the issues emanating from the region are “problems to be managed rather than solved.” Drawing on his experience and reporting around the world, Totten then provided advice on American policies towards a series of foreign policy challenges, including with Russia, Iran, the Kurds, Turkey, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.
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Trends We’re Watching
Though Israel’s “startup-nation” reputation largely derives from its expertise in computer technology, many of its most important contributions are in the areas of health and medicine. This week an Israeli team of professors announced the discovery of a therapy that reduces the virus load in patients with AIDS by 97%. This could lead to patients actually being cured of AIDS, rather than merely having to manage the disease. Teva, the Israeli company that is the world’s largest generic drug manufacturer, announced a partnership with IBM to improve management of chronic diseases and research ways to repurpose existing drugs to treat new conditions.
Does Iran’s pleasure with new Lebanese president Michel Aoun signal greater aggressiveness by Hezbollah in dominating Lebanese politics and government, fighting in support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and threatening Israel’s northern border?
The Palestinian Authority has refused to engage in diplomacy with Israel, preferring instead to internationalize the conflict. The fiasco over a UNESCO resolution denying Jewish historical ties to Jerusalem is the one of the most recent manifestations of this tactic. The next step the Palestinians take to pressure Israel and avoid direct negotiations remains to be seen.
Last Year in The Tower
On November 3, 2015, three students were arrested when renowned Israeli professor Moshe Haberthal was shouted down in an appearance at University of Minnesota. The protests were endorsed by the campus branch of Students for Justice in Palestine and was organized by the Minnesota Anti-War Committee, who tweeted before the event asking followers to “help shut down” Halbertal’s lecture.
An event at University College London featuring pro-Israel activist Hen Mazzig was similarly disrupted by violent pro-Palestinian protesters last week.
[Photo: Imadmhj / WikiCommons ]