Every day, major stories come out of the Middle East. And behind each of these stories are major developments that deserve of our attention and, more often than not, our intense concern. Just this week, major stories have come out of Syria, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Yemen and Pakistan that are all deeply disconcerting.
In Syria, dictator Bashar Assad’s violent repression of the popular revolt against his tyrannical, minority regime has exposed the Syrian leader as a vicious murderer. While there is some room for hope that the Syrian people may successfully overthrow him, given the US’s refusal to provide any tangible assistance to the regime opponents, it is hard to see how such a happy future could come about.
For his part, Assad is the beneficiary of a steady stream of support from the Iranian regime. The mullahs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards will ensure that he never runs out of bullets to kill his people.
As to the Palestinian Authority, this week’s Fatah-Hamas coalition negotiations in Cairo revealed the depth and breadth of Hamas’s control over the unity government now being formed. Despite massive American pressure, Hamas successfully vetoed Fatah’s bid to retain Salam Fayyad as prime minister in the unity government.
Moreover, in the face of significant international pressure, Hamas maintains its refusal to accept the so-called Quartet conditions of recognizing Israel, ending terrorism and agreeing to respect all previous agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel.
Given Hamas’s maintenance of its annihilationist goals toward Israel and Fatah’s inability to convince Hamas to accept its minimal demands, it is obvious that Hamas is the stronger force in the Palestinian unity government. It is also clear that this government will not under any circumstances agree to make peace with Israel.
AND YET, in the face of these realities, US President Barack Obama is intensifying his pressure on Israel to agree to the now-powerless Fatah’s preconditions for negotiating. Indeed, he has adopted Fatah’s preconditions as his own.
Obama is demanding that Israel agree to surrender its right to defensible borders by insisting that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accept the pre-1967 boundaries – that is the 1949 armistice lines – as the starting point for future negotiations. Since Obama surely recognizes that a Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority will not accept Israeli control over anything from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley, he knows that he is requiring that Israel surrender its right to defensible borders before it even begins negotiating.
It is not surprising that the unity talks that crowned Hamas the king of Palestinian politics have taken place in post-Mubarak Egypt. Despite the rosy, post-Mubarak scenarios put forward during the revolution in January by American liberal and neo-conservative intellectuals, post- Mubarak Egypt is shaping up to be a dangerous, frightening place.
With the supposedly liberal Wafd Party merging with the Muslim Brotherhood this week, the Brotherhood took a significant step toward consolidating its rise to political leadership of the country in the elections scheduled for September.
The ruling military junta’s decision to arrest Israeli-American Ilan Grapel on trumped-up espionage charges last week is just one more signal that post-Mubarak Egypt is turning its back on Egypt’s peace with Israel.
And as The Washington Times reported last week, the US has been reduced to begging the Egyptian military authorities to re-arrest a number of top jihadist terrorists freed from Egyptian prisons in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. Yet, not only have the terrorists not been re-jailed, some of them have formed new political parties and are slated to run in September’s elections. Clearly, the US is also being betrayed by the new regime.
If the Muslim Brotherhood controls the next Egyptian government, Egypt will join Lebanon and Turkey as the newest member of the growing club of nations ruled by Islamic radicals. This week, Lebanon’s Hezbollah-appointed Prime Minister Najib Mikati finally formed his Hezbollah- controlled government.
Hezbollah has now officially swallowed Lebanon. The regional and indeed global repercussions of the development are simply mind-boggling.
Then there is Turkey. This week, the Turks went to the polls and re-elected Prime Minister Recip Erdogan and his radical Islamic AKP party to lead the country for a third term. In his victory speech, Erdogan signaled his Islamist and neoimperialist ambitions by stating that former Ottoman empire-controlled cities from Sarajevo to Jerusalem, from Damascus to Beirut to Ramallah should all be cheering his victory. Turkish intellectuals like Sinan Ulgen, who heads the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, are arguing for a more independent Turkish role within NATO.
Both nuclear-armed Pakistan and Yemen are quickly approaching the day when they will be led by al Qaida or its affiliates. The forced departure of Yemini President Ali Abdullah Saleh two weeks ago after he was wounded in an attack on the Presidential Palace was seen as a major victory for al Qaida. Al Qaida forces continue to attack government installations in Aden and other cities throughout the country.
As for Pakistan, the US’s assassination of Osama bin Laden last month exposed the dirty secret of Pakistani military collaboration with al Qaida for all to see. This week’s arrest of five Pakistanis accused of acting as informants to the US in its bid to locate the al Qaida chief is further proof – if any was needed – that the $21 billion in military and economic assistance the US has showered on Pakistan since 2002 has bought it precious little in the way of strategic support or partnership from Islamabad. Recent reports indicate increased concern that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal may eventually fall under the control of al Qaida sympathizers.
AMAZINGLY, WHILE all of these developments are alarming, and while all of them have justifiably dominated much of the coverage of the Middle East in recent weeks and months, the fact is that all of them pale in comparison to what is happening in Iran. And this story is receiving only scant and generally superficial attention from the international media and the major governments of the Western world.
Monday, The Wall Street Journal editorialists summarized the major developments on this front. First, last week the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency released previously classified sections of its latest report on Iran. The report says that in the last six months, Tehran enriched 970 kilos of uranium to reactor-grade levels, bringing its publicly known stockpile of low enriched uranium to 4,105 kilos.
Iran also has enriched 56.7 kilos of uranium to the 20% level, from which it is a relatively simple matter to increase enrichment levels to the 90% needed to make a nuclear bomb.
Iran has also installed upgraded centrifuges in its until recently secret enrichment facility at Qom.
Rand Corporation scholar Gregory S. Jones wrote this month that Iran has reached nuclear breakout capacity. In his words, “Iran can now produce a weapons’s worth (20 kilograms) of HEU [weapons-grade uranium] any time it wishes. With Iran’s current number of operating centrifuges, the batch recycling process would take about two months.”
Apparently owing to their certainty that Iran is an unstoppable nuclear power, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards took their guard down in a recent issue of their in-house journal. The magazine published an article describing the day after Iran performs a nuclear test.
And the beat goes on. Yesterday, Iran successfully launched a second spy satellite into space.
The launch indicates that Iran is acquiring greater prowess in developing intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities. Such capabilities along with Iran’s nuclear program and global ambitions constitute a clear and present danger to Europe and the US.
Iran’s steady progress toward a nuclear arsenal was made all the more frightening in the face of the recent comments by retired Mossad director Meir Dagan. In a shocking breach of protocol and in apparent violation of the law, the man who until a few months ago stood at the helm of Israel’s efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions attempted to take Israel’s military option for striking Iran’s nuclear installations off the table. In press interviews, Dagan stated that it would be disastrous for Israel to strike Iran’s nuclear installations.
Dagan failed to note that it would be far more disastrous to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
At this point, it is inarguable that the policy of sanctioning Iran favored by the US and Europe has failed to dampen Iran’s commitment to developing nuclear weapons. It has also failed to significantly slow Iran’s progress towards the atom bomb. Obviously, the only possible way to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons at this late hour is to attack its nuclear installations.
For years, Israel’s governments have taken a back seat to Washington on Iran. From Ariel Sharon to Ehud Olmert to Netanyahu, since Iran’s nuclear program was first revealed in 2003, Israel has allowed itself to believe that the US could be trusted to take the greatest threat to Israel’s survival off the table.
The belief that the US would lead a military strike against Iran was always based more on blind faith than fact. When, in 2003, George W.
Bush decided to work through the UN Security Council on the issue. despite Russia’s open assistance to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and China’s growing addiction to Iranian natural gas, it was already apparent that the US was not serious about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And when, in late 2007, the US’s National Intelligence Assessment published the demonstrably false claim that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003, it became clear to anyone willing to see that the US had decided not to take any significant action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
This dire state of affairs was reinforced with the inauguration of Obama as US president in 2009.
Obama’s sole policy for dealing with the nuclear weapons-seeking and openly genocidal Iranian regime is appeasement. And Obama doesn’t seek to appease the mullahs in order to convince them to end their nuclear program.
For Obama, appeasement is an end in and of itself. This is why – even after Iran has spurned all his offers of appeasement and has been caught red-handed repeatedly aiding Iraqi and Afghan forces killing US servicemen, and despite Iran’s swift progress toward a nuclear arsenal – Obama refuses to even state openly that he would use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
What this means is that – as was the case in May 1967, when the combined Arab armies gathered with the express purpose of wiping the Jewish state off the map – today again, Israel is alone at its hour of greatest peril. All of the lesser threats now gathering from Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey will become insurmountable if Iran becomes a nuclear power.
As was the case in May 1967, Israel has arrived at a do-or-die moment. And we should all pray for the strength and courage of our leaders, our soldiers and our nation at this time.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.