Iranian police arrested around 100 money changers on Wednesday (Feb 14) as it scrambled to contain the decline of the rial, which has lost a quarter of its value in six months.
Israel warned Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop letting his war-torn country be used by Iran as a launching pad for attacks, and tensions in the region remained high Tuesday following a weekend skirmish and a new Syrian threat of "more surprises."
“I think both sides don't want to go to war and the very delicate decisions between escalation and containment will continue to be the main dilemma for the decision makers in Tehran and Jerusalem," said Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli army intelligence chief. He's worried about Iran using the chaos in Syria as a pretext to attack Israel. "This is about Iran building a force, a military power and bases in Syria against Israel, and Israel's determination not to let it happen," Yadlin said.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
Back in 2015, Obama tended to pepper his statements about the JCPOA with hopes and even expectations of moderation in Iran, like election of Rohani, as well as improved relations with the US and even with its regional neighbors… But what we have seen over the past two and a half years is anything but moderation, neither within Iran, nor in its foreign policies and rhetoric. The deal ironically left Iran feeling emboldened to pursue its aggressive regional policies due to the new level of support it had not only from Russia, but from the EU as well.
NUCLEAR & BALLISTIC-MISSILE PROGRAMS
The United States’ insistence on addressing Iran’s missile program and the newly expressed European willingness to cooperate in this endeavor should be welcomed. To effectively cope with the Iranian missile challenge, however, the administration should abandon its current focus on long-range missiles, because the threat is tied to the warhead, not the missile’s range. Rather, the United States and European countries should be encouraged to embrace the already well-established “gold standard” for combating missile programs capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction that has existed for 30 years: namely, the Missile Technology Control Regime, which they helped establish in 1987.
In a span of a week, another Israeli minister from the 12-member security cabinet has made tough statements about Iran’s presence in Syria, this time threatening President Bashar al-Assad.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should stop in Israel during his current trip to the Middle East, after Israeli and Iranian forces clashed over the weekend, a senior Democratic senator urged Monday. “To omit a stop in Israel after Iran’s escalation last week would be nothing short of diplomatic malpractice and strategic folly,” New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the foreign relations panel, said Monday.
Israel’s own campaign against Iran has been waged in secret intelligence operations occasionally – according to foreign media sources – also using proxies from the opposition groups to the Islamist regime in Tehran. But at no point has there been a direct military confrontation between the two countries… This sudden departure from established Iranian strategy, in which the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force has for the first time carried out its own incursion of Israeli airspace, still has many Israeli officials baffled.
Israel will not sit back and watch Iran expand its threat as it further entrenches itself in southern Syria. That means that it will likely raise the stakes for the regime in Tehran along with its puppet in Damascus. It would be helpful if the U.S. were to adopt a similar position in actions—not just rhetoric—because when it comes to Iran, the U.S. and Israel share the same goals. A more forward-leaning American role would provide some balance to the Russia-dominated chess game in Syria.
There are still many unanswered questions about the reported incident with the Iranian drone in northern Israel last week, but two things should be clear. First, the 12-year-old lull between Israel and Hezbollah will come to an end if a new understanding about the rules governing conflict in this region is not reached. And second, Russia will need to help broker that new understanding.
Tehran’s vision of Syria as the ideal place to set up militarily alongside Israel cannot go unchecked. Israel will be spinning its wheels if it tries to thwart Iran’s plans on its own. It needs to team up with Washington. So far, though, that kind of collaboration has been missing in action.
Iran properly felt harsh military consequences for meddling with Israel this weekend — in a skirmish that could foreshadow growing regional conflict if Russia doesn’t move to rein in its allies in Syria… Trump has made it a priority of his presidency to cultivate a relationship with Putin. What is it good for? Let’s find out.
The wedge-shaped drone looks like a flying saucer when seen in the black and white hues of a thermal scope. The Israeli helicopter pilot is tracking its smooth, steady path from the cockpit of an Apache. It's not hard to ID the model and owner of the unmanned aircraft. It’s flying from Syrian airspace and from a base staffed with Iranian military. The shape and size of the drone pegs it as a Simorgh, a pilotless jet with a stealthy shape.
Over the past few years, Israel has intervened sporadically in its neighbor’s civil war to prevent Iran from using it as a conduit for weapons to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. What’s different is that now Iranian military forces are themselves at Israel’s door and Israel is engaging them directly, as opposed to playing cat-and-mouse with Iranian proxies and arms convoys. That means Syria could become the theater for a direct confrontation between two of the most powerful states in the Middle East.
Are Israel and Iran at war? Will Israel be intervening more in Syria’s civil war? How will this affect Israel’s dormant but never-ending conflict with Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and Iranian proxy? Here’s a rundown of what happened, where it’s all coming from and what — if anything — it means for the future of Israel and its neighbors to the north.
Now is the time for Trump to re-establish a robust military deterrent toward Iranian expansionism in close collaboration with regional allies. His administration declared the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist entity in October, and he should target key Guards’ bases and weapons in Syria accordingly. Such an approach could help prevent a larger-scale conflict.
Like most moments in the passionate Turkish-Persian relationship, incidents of Muslim-to-Muslim fraternity are misleading. For the mullahs in Tehran, Turkey remains too western, too treacherous, and too Sunni. For the neo-Ottomans in Ankara, Iran remains too discreetly hostile, too ambitious, too untrustworthy, and too Shiite.
SYRIA & IRAN
A war that began with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad is rapidly descending into a global scramble for control over what remains of the broken country of Syria, risking a wider conflict. Under skies crowded by the warplanes of half a dozen countries, an assortment of factions backed by rival powers are battling one another in a dizzying array of combinations. Allies on one battlefront are foes on another. The United States, Russia, Turkey and Iran have troops on the ground, and they are increasingly colliding.
It has poured billions of dollars and hundreds of lives into bolstering President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Yet Iran may struggle for a return on its investment in Syria. On paper, the Iranian government and entities linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps have been granted big economic prizes in Syria — a memorandum of understanding to run a mobile phone operator and a role in one of its most lucrative phosphate mines. It has been given agricultural lands, and plans to develop university branches. But businessmen and diplomats in Syria say implementing those agreements has been stalled by regime officials more eager to attract Russian and Chinese business — and wary of Tehran’s ambitions to increase its influence.
IRAQ & IRAN
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on allies in the fight against the Islamic State militant group to contribute more in Iraq’s reconstruction—but Iran has also pledged its support after contributing heavily to the battle against the jihadis next door.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
On Jan. 28, at an event celebrating 50 years of capital markets in Iran, the head of the Central Bank of Iran, Valiollah Seif, publicly stated, “The formidable power of illegal stakeholders on Iran's economy has rendered reforming the economy difficult.” These illegal stakeholders, who have also been referred to as shady interest groups, are most accurately described as “corrupt networks.” One key question is why no Iranian government has managed to push back against these networks… it is difficult to conceive that the entirety of Iran’s top leadership wishes to combat corruption and fails miserably. The corrupt practices in Iran are not invisible and, in fact, can be traced clearly. Stakeholders openly speak about mafia structures in various parts of the economy, such as the automotive sector, sugar imports, football clubs and hard currency.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's proposal to hold a referendum to resolve the issues and differences between conservatives and Reformists have led many to harshly attack him.