Thursday, February 18, 2016

Vic Rosenthal's weekly column:

This may be the worst short-term consequence of the Iranian nuclear deal of all:

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan is on a two-day tour of Moscow to meet with his counterparts about the signing of a new $8 billion arms contract, according to Iran’s state-controlled media.

Iranian leaders are said to have provided Russia with what they call a “shopping list” of various arms and military hardware. The visit by Dehghan is expected to “speed up a number of key arms deal[s]” between the countries, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.

Iran wants to purchase more sophisticated anti-aircraft missile systems and also a new cadre of warplanes, according to the report. The new deals will be in addition to several outstanding arms and military contracts that have already been signed between Iran and Russia.

The troubling part is not that Iran will improve its military capabilities, although of course that will happen in a few years as the arms are delivered and integrated into the Iranian forces. But it’s what happens tomorrow which is worrisome: Iran becomes Russia’s best customer in a very profitable industry. 

The same will be true of other countries. Germany and France sent delegations to Iran for dealmaking before the ink on the deal was dry (except that there wasn’t any ink – nothing has been signed except the various documents required to free up at least $100 billion in frozen Iranian funds and to remove sanctions on Iran’s oil industry). Iran is also expected to buy weapons from China. These deals will give Iran the ability to pressure its suppliers for political favors.

I’ve argued that Israel needs to reduce its dependence on the US for military hardware and should develop relationships with countries like Russia, China and (as Caroline Glick recently suggested) India. But this will be more difficult if it becomes important to those countries to keep the Iranian regime happy. It’s already happening:

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday called for establishing a Palestinian state within the pre-1967-war borders amid efforts by Beijing to assert its economic and political clout in the Middle East.

Addressing the Cairo-based Arab League, Xi said the Palestinian problem "should not be marginalized."

"China supports the peaceful process in the Middle East [and] the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital being eastern Jerusalem," he added through an interpreter. …

The Chinese president had arrived in Egypt Wednesday as part of a regional tour that has already taken him to Saudi Arabia.Iran will be the final stop in his three-nation trip. [my emphasis]

The relationship between Israel and the US, which seems to be getting worse all the time, may suffer even more. Recently, the huge General Electric Company sent the head of its oil and gas division to Iran to explore business opportunities.

In international business/politics, the customer is always right – and the big customer gets big influence. Usually it’s expressed by behind-the-scenes lobbying, but in 1973 oil companies doing business in the Arab world went public, with Texaco, Chevron, and Mobil all publicly calling for a change in US Middle East policy.

After the war began, the oil companies lobbied US President Nixon against resupplying Israel (fortunately, fearing that Israel in extremis would be driven to use nuclear weapons, he did not follow their advice). Will GE and other American companies be pressured to support Iranian goals once commerce with Iran becomes an important part of their business? How could they not?

Under the present addict/pusher arrangement, Israel lacks the leverage it would get if there were competition for its business. Israel receives military aid from the US and then is required to use it to buy arms from US companies (and not only weapons – things like boots, which once were produced by Israeli businesses, are imported from the US).

It doesn’t have clout with the Americans either. For example, Israel wanted access to the source code for the F-35’s computer systems, so that it could modify and improve it. The US refused. Not only does this significantly slow the process of integration of the new aircraft with Israel’s systems, but it raises the specter of possible ‘back doors’ into the code which might enable the US to track or even force the plane down. 

Think about it. How hard would it be to implant a routine in the aircraft’s software that would provide a position report to an American satellite every few seconds? What if the airborne computer could receive a command to disable certain weapons systems? Or the engine? Or even be instructed to do so automatically when, say, the Iranian border is crossed? This isn’t science fiction — it’s a lot easier than many of the things a flight computer has to do.

After the Iran deal was signed, the administration promised Israel that it would be “compensated” with additional aid. Israel wanted to use it to buy F-15SE aircraft and bunker busters, but according to Caroline Glick, the US refused and told it to buy more F-35s instead.

Iran has been given multiple gifts by the Obama Administration, from billions of dollars up front to permission to ultimately build nuclear weapons (and the de facto ability to build them now without getting caught). It was considered Israel’s number one threat even before the deal, and the deal only made it stronger, militarily, politically and psychologically.

Israel, on the other hand, has been hamstrung by the US. The administration interferes when Israel is forced to defend itself from attack by the Iranian proxies on its borders, prevents it from obtaining the weapons it would need to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, subjects it to constant diplomatic pressure over the Palestinian issue, and now – with the recent decision to enforce a rule demanding special labeling for goods produced over the Green Line – joins Europe in encouraging BDS, in practice if not in words.

$3 billion is a lot of money, but unlike the $100 billion that the nuclear deal has made available to Iran, it comes with so many strings attached that we would be better off without it.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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