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July 7, 2016

The Iran Nuclear Deal: One Year Later

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

As we approach the first anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) it is an appropriate time to reassess the merits of the deal. ADL was among the nuclear deal’s critics.

Beyond the nuclear restraints it would impose on Iran, our concern it is that it would normalize an expansionist, militant regime whose unrepentant and fundamentalist ideology was not tamed by the deal.

Unlike previous major arms control treaties in our country’s past that signaled a strategic turn in relation with historic adversaries, the Iran nuclear deal promised no such realignment. That is why we felt the sunset of the JCPOA’s most important constraints posed such a troubling problem. That is ultimately why we could not abide by it.

Iran Deal-condensed

During the past year, Iran has taken key steps outlined in the JCPOA to limit its nuclear program, including shipping the vast majority of its enriched uranium out of the country and dismantling centrifuges. In this sense, the Administration has delivered on its immediate term objectives of significantly lengthening the breakout time for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, the international community successfully has implemented a far reaching verification system across the entire supply chain of the production of uranium, making it far less likely for Iran to successfully maintain a covert uranium enrichment capacity. Indeed, as retired Israeli general and former director of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin has pointed out, if Iran remains fully compliant with the terms of the JCPOA, the deal will significantly reduce the immediate threat of a nuclear conflict in the Middle East.

Any reasonable observers must acknowledge this important reduction of nuclear risk in the short term. However, it would be foolish not to consider the wider effects of the JCPOA in the region — as well the challenges the deal will present over the long term. Iran reached an accommodation with the international community due to the tremendous economic damage it suffered under the unprecedented sanctions regime. Together with the precipitous drop in oil prices, the Islamic Republic of Iran essentially made a deal to postpone its nuclear options for 10–15 years.

But even before Iran is — under the terms of the deal — allowed to engage in research and development on advanced centrifuges, we can evaluate its behavior to determine whether early compliance was a good measure of the long term effectiveness of the JCPOA in terms of helping to facilitate Iran’s reentry into the community of nations. Theoretically there is much we can learn by looking at the early warning signs rather than waiting for a decade to determine progress. Indeed, in that timeframe, when sanctions are only a distant memory and with business and foreign investment likely flowing, a regime still committed to hostility could try to violate aspects of the agreement, testing the international communities’ willingness to enforce its provisions. Perhaps at first, these violations will not be egregious. But, slowly, an unrepentant Iran is likely to test the limits of enforcement.

So is Iran normalizing? Does the JCPOA herald a new era in its relations with the West? The early signs are not encouraging.

“Today the most impor­tant point for the Islamic world is unity against Israel and who­ever breaks this unity would be a trai­tor. Peo­ple of Iran never aban­don their goal. I hope that a third intifada will lead to the destruc­tion of Israel.”

— Grand Aya­tol­lah Hos­sein Nouri Hamadani

Iran’s continued development of ballistic missiles while not included in the terms of the JCPOA, continues in clear violation of existing UN Security Council Resolutions. So far it has faced few consequences.

It maintains the unenviable title of the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism” in the world.

As manifested in recent Quds Day demonstrations, its continued genocidal rantings toward Israel — including threats by Iran’s Supreme Leader that “God willing, there will be no such thing as a Zionist regime in 25 years. Until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists,” — are far outside the pale, indicative of its role as leading fomenter of regional instability.

Indeed, in the eyes of its neighbors, the Iranian threat has grown, not diminished since the deal was signed. More troubling is that few countries have confidence that Iranian expansionism will be contained by reliable American leadership are low. Reports indicate that it is increasing its funding for the Lebanese terror militia Hezbollah whose leader recently admitted that for his group, “its budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Beyond Lebanon, Iran works to spread its revolutionary ideology in order to destabilize other countries throughout the region including IraqBahrain,Yemen and others. The noted Syrian-Palestinian activist Kassem Eid publicly described the Islamic Republic as “a religious dictatorship, the Shia face of ISIS” that “uses its resources to establish a sectarian empire across the Islamic world.”

Iran’s record on human rights at home is deplorable. Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, recently reported that there “is an alarming surge in the rate of unlawful executions in the country, and ongoing arbitrary arrests, detentions and prosecutions of individual for the exercise of their fundamental rights.” Ethnic and religious minorities including Baha’i,Christians, and Sunni Muslims continue to suffer the cruel whims of the regime. Similar sorry fate is what is faced by juveniles and journalists targeted by the regime.

One year after it signed the supposedly historic agreement with the United States and its partners in the P5+1, the Islamic Republic remains the leading exporter of deadly conspiracy theories and hostile propaganda against the Jewish people and the Jewish state. In recent months we have seen a revival of their notorious Holocaust cartoon contest, which encourages Holocaust revisionism and outright denial. The regime is a font of global anti-Semitism. Wild accusations of Zionist plots abound, such as blaming imports of genetically modified products to infect Iranians with diseases on the Zionistsor accusing “Jewish actors” of conspiring Saudis to spread Wahhabism. In the last few days when the rest of the world has mourned the loss of noted peace activist Elie Weisel, Iran opted to slander the Nobel Laureate as a “criminal Zionist and fake witness of Holocaust.”

And while the lifting of sanctions was the trade-off in the deal, it is still troubling to see the Islamic Republic land large contracts with venerated Western firms, such as Boeing’s $25 billion deal with Iran to build up its air fleet. Not only might some of the planes be used for Iranian military activities, this sends an unambiguous message that Iran has become a fully-accepted member of the international community, a viable partner for business, without changing its extremist course.

All of these signs speak to a reality that Iran remains a belligerent actor whose norms and rhetoric do not line up with those of other nations, save perhaps North Korea. Despite the early benefits of the JCPOA, the regime appears more interested in hostility than normalcy. It is clear, given its regional behavior, that Iran does not sufficiently fear consequences for its actions. In short, it is undeterred. This is all the more alarming because as the robustness of the provisions restricting Iran’s nuclear ambitions wane towards the end of the life of the deal, credible deterrence will be the only force keeping it from crossing the hair-thin threshold to nuclear weapons.

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January 22, 2016

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is Still…..A Jew

Saud Al Shureem anti-semitic Tweet

Saud al-Shuraim’s anti-Semitic tweet about the Jewish-Iranian alliance

Over the past month, escalating tension in the Middle East between Iran and the Arab Gulf States helped fuel a resurgence of anti-Semitic statements and conspiracy theories about a supposed link between Israel and Jews to Iran.

Angered by Iran’s increasing influence in the region, prominent Arab figures including politicians, religious leaders and journalists have accused Jews and Israel of secretly supporting Iran and Shi’a Muslims in their war against the Sunni Muslim world.

Just last week, prominent Saudi scholar, Saud al-Shuraim, an Imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca wrote the following statement on his Twitter account: “It is no wonder the Safavids [Iranians] ally with Jews and Christians against Muslims because history testifies that this is the case. What is strange are the minds which took too long to understand this fact.”

Some went as far as accusing “the Jews” of orchestrating Iran’s war against the Sunni Muslim world. Jordanian online news agency Ammon News published an article on January 19, titled “Iran started its holy war on the Sunnis with the blessing of the Jews.”

The online publication, Al Khaleej Affairs, which specializes in Arab Gulf States’ Affairs, interviewed Iraqi Sunni activist Falih Al Shibly on January 21 to talk about the Iranian involvement in Iraq. In the interview Al Shibly claimed, “Unfortunately, there is ignorance in the region about the Jewish supported Persian plot.” He added that “This plot is against all Arab countries from the Arabian West to the ‘Arabian’ Gulf.”

Other anti-Semitic accusations included conspiracy theories that the Jewish lobby in the U.S. is responsible for driving America’s policy in Iran’s best interests. Dubai Police Chief, Dahi Khalfan, whose bizarre statements in the past included accusing the Jews of being linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, claimed on January 18 that President Obama is of Shi’a roots and “the sons of Zion” [the Jews] helped him  reach presidency to “bring Iran and America closer.” Khalfan’s statements were widely circulated in the Arab world.

Such a claim about Jewish support for Iran was the subject of several tweets by former Manager of the Dubai Government Media Office, Dherar Belhoul Al Falasi, on January 11. He claimed that Jews revere Iran because it is considered a “holy” country in Judaism. He wrote “Jews revere Iran more than ‘Palestine.’”

The terrorist organization ISIS is capitalizing on this anti-Semitic trend as well. The featured article in their most recent English-language magazine Dabiq issue included a 14-page screed linking Jews and Shi’as. The back cover of the magazine also featured a full page image of Jews praying in a synagogue with a clear reference to the Jews of Isfahan in Iran.

This anti-Semitic rhetoric is more than just a delusional perspective. It is a tool that has been used time and again to galvanize Arab public opinion.

These conspiracy theories also fail to recognize both the very real threat Iran represents to the Jewish state and the centrality of anti-Semitic propaganda in the ideology embraced by Iran’s ruling regime. It is ironic that such accusations emerge while Iran is organizing  an international cartoon contest–on the Holocaust.

Tension between Iran and the Arab world has a long history, but it has escalated notably over the past few months as a result of the Iran nuclear agreement and growing concern among Arab Gulf States about Iran’s expanding regional influence and its involvement in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Arab world. Both sides have used the media to propagate anti-Semitic accusations against the other through the lens of their own agendas. It seems that  Shi’as  and Sunnis can agree on one thing: blaming the Jews for their problems.

In the past, ADL documented a number of similar conspiracy theories in the Arab world including that ISIS has Jewish roots and that Israel and Jews are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

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December 17, 2015

International Book Fair In Saudi Arabia Features Anti-Semitic Titles

jeddah-book-fair

Advertisement for the Jeddah International Book Fair

The Jeddah International Book Fair in Saudi Arabia, which hosts more than 350 publishing houses from 21 countries, appears to feature anti-Semitic books for sale.

The book fair, taking place December 12-22, includes on its “Book Lists” works such as My Awakening: The Jewish Influence in the United States by the notorious anti-Semite David Duke. Duke’s book, classified as “Political Science” on the list from the Dar Alfiker Al Mua’sir publishing house in Lebanon, is listed for SAR53 (US$14).

Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which served as a blueprint for the extermination of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust, is listed to be sold at the book fair for SAR45 (US$12). Classified as “History,” Mein Kampf, is on the list from Ibn Al Nafees publishing house in Egypt. A book titled Free Masons, The Jews and The Torahby Dr. Noman Al Samarayi, which promotes conspiratorial theories about a Jewish role in dominating the world, was listed for sale for SR8 (US$2).

The Jeddah Governorate, the Saudi Ministry of Culture, and a number of private sector corporations co-organized the book fair, which attracted more than 150,000visitors in its first three days according to the fair website.

Unfortunately, selling anti-Semitic books at book fairs in the Middle East is an ongoing problem. For example, another book fair in the region, the Doha International Book Fair in Qatar, which ended on December 12, also included anti-Semitic titles, such as the Arabic-language anti-Semitic Jewish Encyclopedia.

Featuring anti-Semitic titles in the right context may at times serve to expose their vicious nature. However, it is clear that in the case of the Jeddah Book Fair and several other book fairs in the region, such books are displayed to readers who may not be aware of the bigoted agenda behind such books. Including editorial language or contextualizing the books appropriately as hateful material is extremely important.

Over the past few years, ADL has documented the availability of similar problematic books at several book fairs in the region. Below are few examples:

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