ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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AnalysisOp-ed

As the cash flows to Iran’s regime, a dark day for the Middle East

With sanctions lifted under the nuclear deal, billions will now flow into Tehran’s coffers, part of which will fund a great deal more weaponry, conflict, bloodshed, and death throughout this area

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Houthi Shiite rebels protest against Saudi-led airstrikes during a rally in Sana'a, Yemen, March 26, 2015. (AP/Hani Mohammed)
Houthi Shiite rebels protest against Saudi-led airstrikes during a rally in Sana'a, Yemen, March 26, 2015. (AP/Hani Mohammed)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Saturday that “it’s now time for all — especially Muslim nations — to join hands and rid the world of violent extremism. Iran is ready.”

That assertion coincided with the latest report that another resident of Madaya, the Syrian city besieged by the forces of (Iranian ally) President Bashar Assad, had died of starvation. It also came amid the ongoing daily news of the killing of civilians in Syria by Assad’s forces, backed by fighters from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian-armed Hezbollah. About 250,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war, the vast majority of them by Assad’s Iran-assisted forces.

The Islamic State’s contribution to the relentlessly rising Syrian death toll cannot be ignored. Just this weekend, its forces reportedly perpetrated another massacre of Assad forces and their families in the Deir el-Zour area.

But if anyone in the Obama administration or the European leadership believes that the Syrian fighting is a case of “good guys” (Assad, Iran, Hezbollah) against “bad guys” (Islamic State), they need to check the facts.

The removal of sanctions from Iran is not a festive day for the Middle East. It is, rather, a grim day for the region, which will see billions flowing into the Iranian regime’s coffers, part of which will lead to a great deal more weaponry, conflict, bloodshed, and death throughout this area.

To Iran’s great benefit, the Islamic State is devoting a huge amount of money and resources in order to ensure that it is perceived as a force of absolute evil. One consequence is to create the impression that the Iranian regime, by comparison, is relatively pragmatic, an entity with which one can negotiate. But then comes the news from Madaya — as well as many, many places beyond — to remind us about the true face of the Iranian regime. A glance at the numerous areas of conflict in our region underlines Iran’s ubiquitous involvement in the bloodshed — everywhere from Yemen, to Iraq, to Syria, Lebanon, and even the Gaza Strip.

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice speaks during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee 2015 Policy Conference, March 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. (photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)
US National Security Adviser Susan Rice speaks during the AIPAC 2015 Policy Conference, in Washington, DC, on March 2, 2015. (AFP/Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This should have long since set alarm bells ringing in the White House. But the likes of Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes are locked into the delusion that Iran will save the world from Sunni Islamic extremists. It would be amusing if it wasn’t so tragic.

Apart from Iran’s citizens, of course, those who are about to benefit from the lifting of sanctions on Iran include: Hezbollah, which already has some 150,000 rockets and missiles of various ranges and accuracy, and which is now set to receive much-increased financial assistance from Iran; the popular militias in Iraq; the Houthis in Yemen; and Hamas in Gaza (as well as Islamic Jihad there, should Iran feel so inclined).

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna on January 16, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool/AFP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna on January 16, 2016. (AFP/Kevin Lamarque/Pool)

For relatively moderate Sunni states, this a grim day, indeed — a day on which Iran is welcomed back to the international community and is simultaneously assisted in deepening its capacity to back terrorist and destabilizing forces in those Sunni states and beyond.

True, the Arak heavy-water plant is unlikely to produce a plutonium bomb in the near future. But the nuclear deal and the removal of sanctions will only exacerbate Shiite terrorism, and it won’t do anything for the starving people of Madaya.

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