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April 14, 2015 0

How to Deal With Iranian Expansionism

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

At the very moment that a nuclear deal with Iran is look­ing closer to real­ity, Iran is expand­ing its influ­ence through­out the Mid­dle East. To the Saudis, the Emi­rates and Israel — all of whom see Iran as the great­est threat in the region — this is a dis­turb­ing phenomenon.

Israel has reacted by call­ing on the United States to link the nuclear nego­ti­a­tions to Iran’s broader behav­ior in the region.  In his address before a joint ses­sion of Con­gress, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu said the U.S. should not sign a deal until Iran halts its ter­ror­ist activ­ity and ceases its sup­port of extrem­ist groups. More recently, the prime min­is­ter has called for no agree­ment until Iran accepts Israel’s     legitimacy.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the U.S. rejected those pro­pos­als as unachiev­able and saw them as an effort to block any nuclear deal.

The Saudis, in their usual way, took a more restrained approach, say­ing nice things about the frame­work agree­ment while decry­ing Iran’s activ­i­ties on many fronts in the region. Clearly, at this moment when the U.S. is pro­vid­ing essen­tial sup­port for the Saudi-led mil­i­tary coali­tion against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, they are not look­ing for a full-blown con­fronta­tion with their main ally and sup­porter, the United States.

On the other hand, the Saudis con­tinue to express in many ways their frus­tra­tion with what they per­ceive to be weak Amer­i­can lead­er­ship in the region. While not will­ing to link their cri­tique to the nuclear issue, they have found other ways to get their point across.

Their most extreme reac­tion took place in the fall of 2013 when in an unprece­dented fash­ion they turned down a seat at the United Nations Secu­rity Coun­cil. While they never stated a rea­son it was widely under­stood to be a protest over Amer­i­can pol­icy toward Syria and Iran.

Since then, Saudi con­cerns have only grown as they watch a con­tin­ued Iran­ian role in Syria and Iraq, U.S. coop­er­a­tion with Iran against ISIS and — more recently — the poten­tial for new sig­nif­i­cant Iran­ian influ­ence in Yemen through the Houthis.

Both the Israelis and the Saudis fear that lift­ing the deep­est sanc­tions against Iran through the nuclear deal will fur­ther embolden Iran­ian expansionism.

More­over, what­ever their views on the nuclear deal, they fear that the basic under­ly­ing theme, despite U.S. protests to the con­trary, is that Iran under Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani is an evolv­ing nation that can be moved toward a state of nor­malcy both at home and in its inter­na­tional rela­tions. So they worry that after the nuclear deal is signed, sealed and deliv­ered, the U.S. will be even more reluc­tant to iden­tify Iran for what is and to take action against it.

What is it that the U.S. admin­is­tra­tion can do to reas­sure its allies?

First, its rhetoric about Iran­ian behav­ior must be ele­vated by many deci­bels. The notion that such a change would jeop­ar­dize the nuclear talks does not ring true. The Ira­ni­ans have a huge inter­est in the removal of sanc­tions while also being able to main­tain its nuclear infra­struc­ture. They are not very likely to walk away because of a more hon­est and focused U.S. approach to Iran­ian behavior.

It was encour­ag­ing in that respect that Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry on April 8 on PBS New­sHour crit­i­cized Iran for sup­ply­ing the Houthis in Yemen and added that the U.S. “could do two things at once” – the nuclear deal and con­tain­ment of Iran’s desta­bi­liz­ing activ­i­ties in the region.

Still, a more sus­tained U.S. approach is needed, one which rec­og­nizes that Iran remains unre­pen­tant and extreme — includ­ing recent state­ments by its lead­ers call­ing for Israel’s destruc­tion — and is the great­est threat in the region.

Call­ing atten­tion to the huge arse­nal of mis­siles amassed by Iran­ian sur­ro­gate, Hezbol­lah, is a good place to start.

Using Holo­caust Remem­brance Day on April 15 to denounce Iran’s open call for Israel’s destruc­tion, most recently by the head of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard, would add to the chorus.

And finally, the president’s remarks about hav­ing Israel’s back in the face of any Iran­ian threat should be reflected in clear agree­ments. What exactly does it mean for the U.S. to be there for Israel and Saudi Arabia?

This becomes more sig­nif­i­cant than ever because of the per­cep­tion that the eager­ness for the nuclear deal was partly moti­vated by a U.S. desire to pull back from the region. And, it is sig­nif­i­cant because Saudi con­cerns about a poten­tially expand­ing nuclear Iran could lead them to seek their own nuclear weapons.  The con­se­quences for the region and the world of such nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion would be disastrous.

Even before the nuclear frame­work agree­ment, the U.S. had a lot of work to do to reas­sure its allies in the Mid­dle East.

The need for such reas­sur­ance takes on a greater urgency as the real­ity of the nuclear agree­ment and the prospect of an embold­ened Iran loom larger.

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March 27, 2015 1

Arab Media Cartoons Relating to the Israeli Elections and Tensions with the US

Fol­low­ing Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu’s elec­tion vic­tory ear­lier this month, and the increas­ing ten­sions in the rela­tion­ship between PM Netanyahu and Pres­i­dent Obama, news­pa­pers across the Arab world pub­lished a num­ber of related anti-Israel and anti-Semitic car­toons. Some rep­re­sent unhap­pi­ness within the Arab world over PM Netanyahu’s vic­tory, por­tray­ing him and the Israeli vot­ers as inher­ently vio­lent and racist, while oth­ers resort to the anti-Semitic stereo­type of Jews and Israel con­trol­ling Pres­i­dent Obama and the US government.

The car­toons reflect a wide­spread view within the Arab world that Israeli elec­tion results rep­re­sent a shift towards a more extreme right-wing stance on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which will ulti­mately result in dam­age to the Pales­tin­ian cause. They also high­light a belief that the rift in US-Israel rela­tions will ulti­mately fail to alter over­all US sup­port of and per­ceived bias towards Israel and its policies.

The fol­low­ing are some exam­ples of the car­toons published:

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August 26, 2014 5

Claims That ISIS Has Jewish Roots Grow In Muslim World

isis-jews-adl

Car­toon pub­lished on Al-Iraq Agency News website

Sev­eral promi­nent pub­lic fig­ures in parts of the Mus­lim World, includ­ing reli­gious fig­ures, elected offi­cials and schol­ars, are pro­mot­ing a con­spir­acy sug­gest­ing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)was cre­ated by the Jews and Zion­ists to tear Islam apart.

ISIS has engaged in a mur­der­ous ter­ror­ist cam­paign and has con­quered sig­nif­i­cant ter­ri­tory stretch­ing between Iraq and Syria over the past sev­eral months. In June it declared its advances to be the lat­est Caliphate and renamed itself the Islamic State.

The fol­low­ing are some exam­ples that demon­strate the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the absurd accu­sa­tion that Jews and Israel are respon­si­ble for the cre­ation and rise of ISIS.

  • August 7: The World Asso­ci­a­tion for Al-Azhar Grad­u­ates, an umbrella group based in Egypt for schol­ars con­nected to Al-Azhar Uni­ver­sity, Egypt’s top reli­gious author­ity, pub­lished a state­ment on its web­site describ­ing how ISIS and other extrem­ist groups are “[a] Jew­ish prod­uct under var­i­ous names that change every now and then.” The state­ment cites the head of the association’s chap­ter in Pak­istan, Sheik Sahib Zadeh Aziz, as say­ing, “The ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion ISIS is a Zion­ist plot which aims to mur­der Mus­lims, shed their blood, and rape [their] women and girls.”
  • August 6: Dur­ing an inter­view with Dijlah, an Iraqi-based satel­lite tele­vi­sion sta­tion, pop­u­lar scholar Ahmed al-Kubbaisi said, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi [ISIS leader]…..is no more than a Jew­ish agent… and even Muham­mad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of Wah­habism is a hun­dred per­cent Jew­ish prod­uct.” He added, “I am respon­si­ble for this state­ment before the lord. [I swear] by God, this is an orga­nized Jew­ish move­ment to tear apart the Ummah [Islamic Nation] and it did tear it apart.” In response to his attack on the founder of Wah­habism, the offi­cial ver­sion of Islam imple­mented in Saudi Ara­bia and a num­ber of other Arab-Gulf states, the Mufti of Saudi Ara­bia and other promi­nent schol­ars in the region attacked al-Kubbaisi for affil­i­at­ing ibn Abd al-Wahhab with the Jews — an ulti­mate insult in the Arab world. Con­se­quently, a Saudi lawyer sub­mit­ted charges to the Dubai police, which sub­mit­ted the com­plaint to the attor­ney gen­eral in Dubai.
  • August 4: Iran’s Sec­re­tary of the Expe­di­ency Dis­cern­ment Coun­cil, Mohsen Rezae, said dur­ing a TV inter­view with the Tehran-based Alalam TV that the “Zion­ist Entity” is behind ISIS. He said that because there is a small num­ber of “Zion­ists” world­wide, they usu­ally try to get rid of oth­ers by mak­ing them fight each other. “There is infor­ma­tion that al-Baghdadi him­self [ISIS leader] received train­ing and instruc­tions at the Israeli Entity,” Rezae said.
  • July 29: A promi­nent Shia’a cleric in Iraq, where ISIS has con­quered sig­nif­i­cant ter­ri­tory over the past few months and killed many Shia’a Mus­lims, Aya­tol­lah Sayed Mor­tada Al-Qazwini, report­edly described ISIS dur­ing an Eid ser­mon in Ker­bala as “a Jew­ish Israeli orga­ni­za­tion, estab­lished to tear apart the land of Muslims.”

Sev­eral Arab news­pa­pers and TV sta­tions have also cir­cu­lated a story claim­ing that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a Jew­ish Mossad agent by the name of Simon Elliot. This claim orig­i­nally appeared in the anti-Semitic and con­spir­a­to­r­ial Amer­i­can pub­li­ca­tion Vet­er­ans Today. In addi­tion, an ad cam­paign against ISIS appear­ing on Afaq, an Iraqi satel­lite tele­vi­sion sta­tion, showed a snake with the mark of ISIS com­ing out of the Jew­ish Star of David.

Even the noto­ri­ous anti-Semitism of a group such as ISIS is not enough to pre­vent some in the Mus­lim world from claim­ing Jews are respon­si­ble for the ISIS reign of ter­ror in Iraq and Syria.

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