Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Iranian Jews murdered trying to flee to Israel, Mossad reveals

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 28, 2015

Jewish population shrunk since revolution, but many remain by choice; 15,000-18,000 still living in Islamic Republic.

THIS GRAFFITI on a wall in Iran reads: ‘He who does not give charity dies as a Jew’. (photo credit:Courtesy)
Israel’s overseas intelligence agency, the Mossad, has discovered that Iran murdered three Iranian Jews who disappeared in 1997 as they attempted to flee to Israel via Pakistan.

The three, Nourollah Rabizadeh and brothers Cyrus and Avraham Ghahremani, fled Tehran in February 1997. They were supposed to meet up with a smuggler on the Pakistani border, but disappeared along the way, according to a report in Ynet on Monday.

Newly discovered information led the intelligence agency to conclude that they were captured while escaping and murdered. Their families, which had escaped to Israel via Turkey, were recently informed of the agency’s conclusion.

On the basis of the information, a rabbinical court in Jerusalem has ruled that the wives of the missing husbands are now widows and able to remarry. The families requested meetings with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

An Iranian Jew who lives outside of Iran, and who did not want to be identified, told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview that around 15,000 - 18,000 Jews remain in Iran.

The source – who is up-to-date on the current situation facing the country’s Jewish minority – said that the Jewish population has shrunk since the revolution and that many of those that remain “are there by choice.”

“People have been bending over backwards trying to get them out, yet they stay. It is not a simple situation,” the Iranian explained.

“In many ways, these people are pretty much culturally assimilated, without going all the way. It is a small fraction of what the community used to be.” He noted that Iranian Jews often go abroad.

Harold Rhode, a senior fellow at the New-York-based Gatestone Institute and a former Islamic affairs adviser in the office of the American secretary of defense, told the Post that Iranian government statistics on the numbers of Jews in the country cannot be trusted, as they are trying to paint a nice picture of the situation.

Some Iranian Jews went to Israel, others to America, and those who stayed in Iran “feel very Iranian,” Rhode said, who speaks Farsi and has spent time in the country.

“I do not remember ever reading anything in Iranian literature where a Jew is portrayed positively,” he stated, adding, “Historically, Jews in Iran were not portrayed in a positive way” Rhode shared a picture from Iran of graffiti written on a building, dated March 12, 2015, which states: “He who does not give charity dies as a Jew.”

To read the entire article click here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Analysis: Why are Israeli Arabs joining Islamic State?

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 24, 2015

While marginalization, economic causes and so on could be contributing factors, they usually are not decisive.


Three Israeli Arabs are reportedly in Turkey on their way to join Islamic State, adding to the hundreds from the West making the same decision – to leave a comfortable standard of living in a stable democratic country for jihad and martyrdom in the “Caliphate.”

Earlier this month, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police announced they had arrested and charged six Arab citizens, including four school teachers, with supporting and spreading Islamic State ideology.

Israeli security officials say a few dozen Israeli Arabs have left to fight alongside Islamic State in Syria, usually traveling through Turkey or Jordan.

Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) attributed this phenomenon to “living here without a goal and without a strong sense of identity, which pushes them to these acts.”

She added that to take action against this phenomenon, Israeli-Arab politicians must fight to keep such youths from being pushed to the margins of society, “which has become this country’s policy.”

The MK’s statements ignore that there are many young people in the world lacking a strong sense of identity or clear-cut goals in life, but nonetheless do not travel to join Islamic State. The common thread with these recruits is that they are Muslims and have become true believers in Islamist ideology with its goal of expanding its control in the region, and later on the world.

Zoabi blames the state, however, most Israeli Arabs that feel wronged by the government or its citizens do not travel to join Islamist groups. While marginalization, economic causes and so on could be contributing factors, they usually are not decisive.

Prof. Hillel Frisch, of Bar- Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that according to statistics on the origin of foreign fighters in Islamic State, Israeli Arabs are not joining the group at the same rate as those from other countries.

“The real research question is why Israel’s Arab citizens have so much meaning in their lives that they do not join Islamic State anywhere near the proportion they do anywhere else,” said Frisch.

The answer to this, he said, is that “Israel is a land of opportunity to all its citizens, including its Arab citizens, because they enjoy religious and cultural autonomy and complete political freedom and because they know how lucky they are to live on the right side of the border.”

Daniel Pipes, scholar and president of the Middle East Forum think tank, told the Post that Islamic State “offers a compelling body of ideas that many healthy and accomplished Muslims find seductively attractive.”

“Like Communism and Fascism, Islamism offers a powerful vision; like them, it needs to be defeated and marginalized,” asserted Pipes.

Statistics claiming to estimate the number of foreigners that have joined Islamic State are presented as hard evidence, but obviously are very suspect, he said.

“No one knows how many jihadists try or succeed in getting to Syria. The numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt as mere hints of trends.”

To read the entire article click here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Iran conventional military power overrated, security study says

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 21, 2015

Leading US security expert to ‘Post’ regarding possible IDF strike against Iran: Israel doesn't face modern Iranian air defense threat, but does face large air and surface-to-air missile force.

Iranian soldiers take part in a military procession in Tehran. (photo credit:Courtesy)

A new study by leading US security expert Anthony H. Cordesman says that the Iran nuclear deal could lead to significant arms sales by Russia and China, but that Iran’s conventional forces are currently in a dilapidated state.

Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday: “Iran is not the hegemon or leading military power in the Gulf, and its Arab neighbors have taken a massive lead in military spending and the import of modern arms and military technology.”

“Iran's air and land-based forces are too old and too lacking in capability, its army and IRGC forces are filled with worn and aging equipment and designed for defense in depth and not power projection,” he said.

Iran’s navy is designed for asymmetric warfare that is only credible if the US and its Arab allies do not escalate to major retaliatory strikes, said Cordesman, who has worked for the Defense Department and various other government agencies.

While its conventionally armed missiles do provide for a “terror option" to strike populated targets, they “lack the lethality and accuracy to come close to matching Gulf Arab precision strike power, much less that of a combination of Arab and U.S. forces,” he added.

“Iran's infrastructure is all too vulnerable as Israeli experts warn,” continued Cordesman.

However, he said, “this could change if Iran can give its conventionally armed missiles real precision strike capability.”

The new CSIS study titled, The Arab-US Strategic Partnership and the Changing Security Balance in the Gulf, compares the size of Iranian and Arab Gulf military spending, showing that Gulf states have a massive spending advantage According to estimates for 2014, the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states have spent $114 billion compared to around $16 billion for Iran.

To read the entire article click here.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tehran can be pragmatic, but that doesn’t mean it’s moderate

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 20, 2015

Iran is driven by ideology 'but when there is a clash between ideology and interests, and they have to pay a heavy price, they will reconsider their policy.'

Iran has a history of acting pragmatic when it has its back against the wall, but this should not be confused with moderation, experts told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Prof. David Menashri, a leading Iranian expert and the founding director of The Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University, said Sunday that the Islamic Republic is in constant tension between its ideology and its interests.

“Almost in each and every case of conflict between ideology and interest, interest won over ideology,” said Menashri, who is currently a visiting fellow at Princeton University.

The question is what price it had to pay to uphold its ideology, he said, adding, “If the price was too high, they would change their policy.”

He mentions the decision by former supreme leader ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to accept a cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), even, he said it would have been sweeter to drink poison than accept a cease-fire with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But there was no choice.

In this case, the Iranian regime came to an agreement with the US, the “great Satan,” which ideologically it is committed to opposing.

“At this stage, Iran has not given up on its ideology, but it compromises whenever necessary – heroic flexibility is what current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calls it,” explained Menashri. “Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani are not moderates.”

Menashri goes on to argue that a key turning point occurred when the Obama administration did not uphold its redline relating to the use of chemical weapons by Syria in October 2013.

Tehran closely observed how President Barack Obama did not punish the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and drew the conclusion that the US would act in a similar way with it. Hence, the Iranian regime decided it could gain more through negotiations than through confrontation.

In addition, the regime picked up on the fact that Obama did not support the mass protests in Iran in 2009.

Iran is driven by ideology, he adds, and follows it “as far as you let them, but when there is a clash between ideology and interests, and they have to pay a heavy price, they will reconsider their policy.”

Despite the accord, Iran is not going to stop its anti-Israel or radical policies – it was only about the nuclear file, he said, adding that it did not include compromises in other areas such as its anti-US or anti-Israel slogans.

The biggest achievement for the Islamic Republic in this deal was gaining international legitimacy to the regime and its nuclear program, he said.

Rouhani had promised two things, to return the value of the Iranian passport and that of the currency. And it appears that Iran has achieved these goals as the country has gained a new found dignity as well as an interest by many countries for economic ties, said Menashri.

Regarding Israel, the Iran expert said Israel made itself the leading force against the agreement and so far “this policy failed – Iran is the big winner and Israel the big loser.” Iran has become more accepted and Israel has become more isolated and less relevant on its Iran policy, he added.

Menashri does not rule out the possibility of greater internal change in Iran, possibly pressured by civil society and led by the younger generation that pushes for pragmatism on other issues. But this may take more time, he said.

Shahram Chubin, an Iranian-born scholar who is a nonresident senior associate at the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace organization, echoed Menashri’s comments on the pragmatism of the regime, adding that the Expediency Council is “empowered to trample on anything, including theology.”

The council is a powerful body whose members are appointed by the supreme leader, which it advises.

“In describing enemies as foes of Islam they preclude compromise as being a compromise with evil, which is clearly not possible,” said the former director of studies at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

“Having said that, good versus evil precludes compromise. But regime survival dictates any measure.”

Iran’s Jewish community leader calls Netanyahu ‘narcissistic, delusional’

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 20, 2015

Anti-Semitic discourse is greater now than it was during Ahmadinejad’s rule, says Hebrew University professor

Iranian jews pray in the Iranian city of Yazd, November 2014.. (photo credit:IRANIAN MEDIA)

The head of Iran’s Jewish community, Haroun Yashayaei, has harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an article appearing in a major Iranian newspaper. The piece was published soon after the nuclear deal was struck with world powers last week.

“There is no doubt that the Israeli prime minister is so narcissistic that none of these developments can deter him from following his delusional goals,” the chairman of the Tehran Jewish Committee wrote in an article published last week in the Iranian daily Shargh and translated by the Iran Review website.

Although Netanyahu traveled all over the world trying to block the nuclear deal with Iran, “he was not taken seriously anywhere and by anybody and was finally angry,” he wrote.

Referring to Israel, Yashayaei went on to criticize “the regime that has been occupying a large part of the Palestinian lands since 1967 and has never heeded any of the resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly or Security Council, and has even rejected to temporarily stop building settlements.”

He accused Israel of using rockets fired at it from Gaza as a “pretext” to “turn the Gaza Strip into ruins.”

Yashayaei’s comments against Israel have been perceived as a calculated effort to protect the Jewish community by flaunting their patriotic credentials.

“Jews in Iran have to be careful. The anti-Semitic discourse may have even gone beyond that which was [seen] during the time of [president] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in order to boost the resistance credentials of the regime in light of the nuclear deal with the West,” Eldad Pardo, an Iranian expert at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Post . “Yashayaei’s article seems also to resonate with those Iranians who wish to see decades of Iranian adventurism across the region end.”

The Jewish leader “wisely separates between Netanyahu – described as evil and irrelevant – and those opposing him within Israel; and distinguishes between Israel itself and the territories captured in 1967,” continued Pardo. “Thus he seems to defend not only Iranian Jews, but also puts Israel in the best possible light in an extremely hostile environment, in which anti-Semitic genocidal discourse is the norm.”

The recent increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric could mean that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “wants to show that Iran is still in its revolutionary path which means they are not going to budge, and not going to open up and be less active in the region,” he asserted, adding that the regime is still committed to destroying Israel.

He cited an article from the hard-line daily Kayhan last week, after the nuclear accord was reached, talking about Israel as a “cancerous tumor.” The article claimed that Zionist Jews around the world are mobilizing to promote its cause.

There has even been criticism against the notorious anti-Zionist Neturei Karta fringe ultra-Orthodox sect, Pardo continued.

The Iranian regime “pretends to separate between Jews and Zionists,” he said.

To read the entire article click here.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Iran deal to see Middle East conflicts go on steroids

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 16, 2015

Middle East expert to ‘Post’: deal will mean more regional wars which will lead to more radicalism, more sectarianism, and more terrorism; another says Iran has become a sort of regional superpower

Iranian military personnel participate in war games in an unknown location near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Now that the Iranian regime has the wind at its back after gaining international legitimacy and, soon, unfrozen funds, from the removal of sanctions from the deal on Tuesday, it can be expected to double down on support for its proxies in sectarian conflicts throughout the Middle East.

A stronger Iran will translate into a more robust Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthi movement in Yemen, and Shi’ite forces in Iraq and Syria, and increasing sectarian strife fueled by Shi’ite minorities or Iranian agents throughout the Arab world.

For example, with Iran controlling two Arab states bordering Jordan (Iraq and Syria), the kingdom has become a suitable target for expanding unrest and Tehran’s influence.

Jordanian media reported earlier this month that the country’s security forces had arrested an Iranian operative allegedly planning a terrorist attack in the kingdom.

In the Gulf, Sunni-ruled Bahrain, which hosts the US Fifth Fleet, has experienced sporadic turmoil since mass protests in 2011 led by majority Shi’ites demanding reforms and a bigger role in government – an uprising put down with military help from Saudi Arabia.

More of such uprisings could be forthcoming.

Arab Sunnis are not going to take Iranian escalation in Syria, Yemen, Iraq or elsewhere lying down, and are likely to respond by supporting opposing Islamists or other allied forces and push for their own nuclear option before Iran gains the capability.

Jihad el-Khazen a leading columnist at the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, wrote an article on Wednesday titled, “Very Wanted: Arabic Military Nuclear Program.”

The world powers’ deal with Iran “comes at our expense [and] requires the start of this Arab nuclear program,” he said.

Ayman al-Hammad, writing in the Saudi Al-Riyadh newspaper on Wednesday, said the deal “can be considered as a green light” for the development of a Gulf nuclear program, led by the Saudi program in order to achieve deterrence and maintain a balance of power.

“This is a very bad deal for the Middle East, worse than imagined,” Middle East researcher Ali Bakir told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Bakir, who wrote an article in the Qatari Al-Arab newspaper on Tuesday predicting the Iran deal would probably lead to more wars in the region, said the accord is “wishful thinking” and based on “false hopes.”

The agreement will not prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons and will not cause it to change its behavior in the region, he asserted.

While US President Barack Obama said the deal will prevent war, Bakir said that the opposite is more likely to be the case – more wars.

“Many Arab governments do not trust the Obama administration and certainly not the Iranian regime,” he continued.

The idea of “fighting against radicalism” served as a catalyst for the deal, said Bakir, but since the US administration’s “practical definition of radicalism exclusively refers to Sunni groups, it will mean more regional wars which will lead to more radicalism, more sectarianism, and more terrorism.

“The deal may allow Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to get a Nobel Prize, but Iran would get its nuclear bomb,” he quipped.

Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, told the Post in an interview on Wednesday that Sunni states in the region are worried about the agreement with Tehran.

“Iran has become a sort of a regional superpower,” he said.

To read the entire article click here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Iran deal could lead to improved covert Arab-Israel cooperation

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 13, 2015

Former Prime Minister's Office adviser to ‘Post’: when it comes to the Arab world and Israel, there is “no love, only interests."

The Coburg Palace in Vienna, where diplomats from Iran and world powers are meeting over a comprehensive nuclear agreement.‏. (photo credit:MICHAEL WILNER)

If a nuclear deal is reached between world powers and Shi’ite Iran, it could stimulate covert cooperation between Israel and Sunni Arab states.

However, such improved coordination would not come as a result of any real inherent change in relations between Israel and Arab countries, but because of realpolitik.

Moreover, any concrete coordination would be discreet so as not to create a backlash against cooperative Arab governments.

Mordechai Zaken, an Israeli expert of minorities in the Middle East and a former Arab affairs adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that when it comes to the Arab world and Israel, there is “no love, only interests.”

Even if a deal is reached, he said, the Arabs are not going to attack Iran, but would be happy if Israel does.

“At the end of the day, most of these Arab countries would not have been happy to declare and expose their relations or cooperation with Israel,” continued Zaken, adding that “in the Middle East, it is not something to brag about.”

In recent years, Israeli officials have met counterparts from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf at nuclear non-proliferation talks in Switzerland, gatherings the Israelis say have helped melt a certain amount of ice.

There have also been meetings between recently appointed director-general of Israel's foreign ministry Dore Gold, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and retired Saudi general Anwar Eshki, an informal effort to see where the two countries' interests coincide, especially on Iran.

They appeared together at a Washington conference last month, but took no questions.

Referring to this public event, David Andrew Weinberg, a specialist on Gulf affairs and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post on Monday that his understanding from news reports is that it was totally unofficial.

“It was woefully underreported in Saudi Arabia compared to the coverage in Israel and the US and appears to have had no measurable impact upon policy,” said Weinberg.

“Saudi Arabia’s state news wire still calls Israel an ‘enemy’ and hardline religious preachers embraced at the highest levels in places like Saudi Arabia and Qatar continue to preach absolutely vile hatred toward Jews and toward Israel and yet receive state perks,” he noted.

“Even Israel’s public interest sections in the Gulf are today a thing of the past. So in that regard, the relationship has taken a step backwards in the last two decades, not a step forwards.”

“Sure, there is security coordination and intel sharing behind the scenes, specifically on the issue of Iran and its regional proxies, but that’s been going on for at least a decade,” he continued.

To read the entire article click here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

'Only about 50 Jews left in Syria’s main cities'

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
July 9, 2015

Deputy minister Ayoub Kara speaks to Syrian Jewish leader.

A Jewish man observes Syria from an Israeli army post guarded by UN peacekeepers (L) on Mount Bental in the Golan Heights. (photo credit:THOMAS COEX / AFP)

Likud Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara, the acting minister of the Regional Cooperation Ministry, spoke with a Syrian Jewish leader who informed him that there has been a sharp drop in the numbers of Jews in two main cities in Syria.

Out of around 140 Jews who lived in Damascus, the capital, and the city of Aleppo, only about 50 remain, the unidentified Jewish leader told Kara on Tuesday.

In Aleppo, there are only eight women and no men.

Kara told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Wednesday that the Syrian Jews are reticent and scared of speaking freely, adding that he is one of the few people from Israel in touch with them.

The Syrian Jews are interested in speaking with me, a Druse, he said, because they have close relations with the Druse community there, which also is under threat from Islamic State and other Islamists.

Most of the Jews in Syria are elderly and so it is difficult for them to flee, he said.

Some Jews have fled Damascus and others have been killed, continued Kara, adding that it was his aim to concentrate on saving the Jews, Druse, Christians and Kurds in Syria.

To read the entire article click here.