Monday, July 23, 2018

Iran Would Make a Fatal Mistake in Thinking that Israel Is in the Syria/Golan Fight Alone

THE REAL NEWS TODAY IS ALL ABOUT TRUMP, POMPEO, IRAN, AND ISRAEL. Things heated up over the weekend, with President Trump answering an Iranian threat with one of his own. • • • TRUMP UNLEASHES ON IRAN'S ROUHANI. BizPac Review calls it the "mother-of-all warnings." It came in a President Trump tweet after Iranian President Rouhani's threats this weekend, when he said the following : “Mr. Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret. America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars. You are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iran’s security and interests.” • Rouhani got this stinging rebuke from President Trump (it's in Caps because that's how the President wrote it) : "@realDonaldTrump. To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS! 5:24 AM -- Jul 23, 2018." • Them's fighting words, as American cowboys used to say. Rouhani, and surely the Ayatollahs as well, are furious after President Trump pulled the US out of the disastrous Iran Nuclear Deal, a non-binding agreement promoted by then-President Obama in 2015, at the end of his failed presidency. The Iran nuclear deal was meant to prevent Teheran from developing a nuclear weapon, but investigations strongly suggest that Iran may be violating the agreement. Rouhani has previously lashed out against Trump for threatening to re-impose the sanctions, as well as for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and banning travel to the US from certain Moslem-majority countries. • BizPac Review has previously reported that Iran "has increased its defense budget 145% under Rouhani and is reportedly using the billions of dollars that were unfrozen under Obama’s deal to build up its weapons stockpile. In April 2017, Iranian military leaders bragged to local newspapers that the Islamic Republic’s army was being fortified into an 'offensive juggernaut.' In the lopsided Iran nuclear agreement, Obama lifted economic sanctions that had crippled Iran financially for decades, unfroze $150 billion in assets, and gave Iran $400 million in unmarked cash. Basically, the US gave Iran pallets of unmarked cash to build a massive army to annihilate us. Thanks Obama! Predictably, the liberal media sided with Rouhani -- a ruthless dictator who would gleefully chop off their heads for fun -- against the leader of the free world." But, one conservative reporter got it right. Candace Owens tweeted : "@RealCandaceO. America is back. God bless and good night. Donald J. Trump." • • • ARE NUCLEAR ATTACKS ON THE TABLE? Of course, the implied threat according ot the media is that the US would launch nuclear warheads at Teheran. That is highly unlikely for several reasons. The first and most important is that professional militaries -- and the US military is professional par excellence -- do not use more fire power than needed to achieve the goal. In Iran's case, that means we should look at the balance of nuclear power between the US and Iran. The Federation of American Scientists reported in December 2017 that Russia has 6,800 nuclear warheads and the US has 6,600. The third largest nuclear warhead arsenal belongs to France at 300, then China at 270, the UK at 215, then ---- you get the idea, the list stops with North Korea at 20. There are no Iranian nuclear warheads listed. • So, why waste a nuclear attack on a regime unable to launch even one nuclear warhead -- because it doesn't have any. Now, we may want to question the Federation of American Scientists -- FAS was founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs. With 100 sponsors, FAS claims that it promotes a safer and more secure world by developing and advancing solutions to important science and technology security policy problems by educating the public and policy makers, and promoting transparency through research and analysis to maximize impact on policy. FAS projects are organized in three main programs: nuclear security, government secrecy, and biosecurity. FAS has 60 Nobel laureates on its various boards. Past annual Public Service honorees include Carl Sagan and Henry Kissinger. George Soros did slip in there as honoree in 1993. But, I doubt that Soros counts nuclear warheads, so let's go with the FAS December inventory and note that Iran would be wise to remember that a taking a knife to a gunfight doesn't help much. And, let's also remember that a nuclear warhead at a knife fight is overkill. Not America's style. • • • JIM MATTIS HITS FAKE NEWS. The Great American Daily reported last Friday that : "Journalists used the President’s trip to Europe to push narratives that Trump is about to set in motion the collapse of the international world order. The worst offender was NBC, but Secretary of Defense James Mattis just shut down their fake news with just four words. During President Trump’s summit with other NATO leaders in Brussels, the President chided European allies for failing to meet the goal of spending 2% of their Gross Domestic Product on National Defense. Just five of the 29 NATO members reached that benchmark. President Trump declared, 'Many countries are not paying what they should. And, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them.' Immediately after the summit, Deep State sources began leaking to NBC that the Pentagon had to race into full scale 'damage control mode' to put out the fires Trump supposedly started. NBC exclusively reported : "The outreach, directed by the Pentagon leadership, came after President Trump threatened to reassess those commitments during a gathering with NATO allies in Brussels..." Clearly, the media goal is to portray the President as an incompetent oaf bumbling around the world and that his advisors are constantly having to clean up the messes he leaves behind. • It is Fake News. Secretary of State Jim Mattis personally shot down the story in epic fashion : “That was fascinating. I love reading fiction,” Mattis said of the NBC report. “So it was -- it was stimulating to read it. I find out while I’ve been with you with full transparency on the airplane, you watching what’s going on; that I’ve been in damage control. I must tell you, it must have been the most pleasant damage control in the A-5 I ever could have imagined with the level of unity, of purpose that we experienced there. So anyway, people are entitled to their own opinion, even if it’s not fact-based.” • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg backed up Secretary Mattis, crediting Trump for the member nations of NATO increasing their defense spending : “We all agree that we have to do more. But also we’ve seen the biggest increase in defense a generation.” When pressed by Trump as to why NATO members increased their defense spending by the largest amount in a generation, Stoltenberg declared : “IT’S ALSO BECAUSE OF YOUR LEADERSHIP AND YOUR MESSAGE.” • • • WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH TRUMP, IRAN AND ISRAEL? We remember the howls that went up from the Swamp and its lapdog media about President Trump even meeting with Russian President Putin. GOP Swamp Creatures joined in -- they would, wouldn't they. • But, perhaps one concrete "deal" came out of the Helsinki meeting -- a promise from Putin to work with the US to protect Israel from Iran. Breitbart News and Israeli media columnist Caroline Glick noted last month that it would be crucial for Trump to confront Putin over Syria, because Russia was about to allow Iranian and Hezbollah soldiers, dressed in Syrian uniforms, move into southwestern Syria along the border with Israel and Jordan. That, said Glick, was not a situation that the US or Israel could accept. Glick explained : "The US has an interest in preventing Russia from taking over Syria....[T]he physical deployment of Iranian-controlled forces along the Syrian-Israeli border and the Syrian-Jordanian border all but ensures a major war between Israel and these forces -- including Syrian military forces, which are also controlled by Iran. It raises the likelihood of a Jordanian war with these same forces to an unprecedented level. The Iranian-Israeli war will spread to Lebanon, which is controlled by Iran through Hezbollah. It can easily spread to Gaza as well, given Iran’s sponsorship of the Hamas terror regime that rules the area." • Glick noted that in the days leading up to Helsinki, the Trump administration maneuvered to constrain Russia’s options. The US and Israel, exerting both military force in Syria and diplomatic pressure on Moscow, made clear that Putin would not have a free hand in Syria. National Security Advisor John Bolton, as Glick said, announced that Trump was scrapping Obama’s policy of allowing Iran free reign within most of Syria, and would seek a new agreement with Russia that would move Iranian troops out of Syria altogether. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly insisted on compliance with the Israel-Syria Separation of Forces Agreement of 1974, which was brokered by the United Nations, and which was credited with keeping the border quiet for decades. • So, Mattis was, it seems, not only pushing back at the usual Fake News. He was defending the Trump policy shift in Syria and making clear that whatever the Progressive media may report, it is not accurate -- the Trump-led plan is, said Mattis,and it exists at a very high "level of unity, of purpose...” • • • MATTIS WAS SPEAKING AFTER THE HELSINKI PRESS CONFERENCE. At the press conference, Putin, who spoke first, said the US and Russia had agreed on a new course of action in Syria : “The south of Syria should be brought to the full compliance with the treaty of 1974, about the separation of forces -- about separation of forces of Israel and Syria. This will bring peace to Golan Heights, and bring [a] more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel, and also to provide security of the state of Israel.” Trump then referred to the agreement in his remarks, suggesting that both the US and Russia had agreed with the Israeli position on the issue. • Most of the mainstream media was too busy bashing Trump over the No-Evidence Fake News "collusion" of Trump and Russia to win the 2106 election to note either the press conference agreement on Syria or Mattis's defense of the Syria policy announced at the press conference. But, said Breitbart : "the Israeli media noticed, and so did Yaroslav Trofimov, the Wall Street Journal‘s Middle East columnist, who reported that Putin had granted Israel’s request. While it was not clear whether the two leaders had agreed to push Iranian troops out of Syria, it is clear, as Glick observes, that Iranian troops cannot operate within Syria without the help of Russian air cover." • Then, back in Washington, Trump told reporters at the White House that Putin was “very much involved now with us” on guaranteeing Israeli security in Syria. Whether Putin follows through remains to be seen, but it is certainly a step in the right direction -- of peace. As Secretary Mattis noted, while Trump’s critics were 'outraged' that he even shared a stage with Putin, and the Democrats accuse him of treason, the President appears to have scored a victory for American interests in the Middle East. • • • WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ISRAEL? The Washington Institute's David Makovsky wrote a piece last Thursday about the US-Russia deal to protect Israel from Iran. Makovsky wrote : "Moscow has seemingly reaffirmed Israel's right to keep Iranian forces away from the Golan frontier, but it is unclear whether Assad's southern offensive will actually help or hinder that goal in the long term. Lost in the controversy of this week's US-Russian summit in Helsinki was President Vladimir Putin's reference to the May 1974 Syria-Israel disengagement agreement....The day before, Israeli prime minister Binjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting, 'We will continue to defend our borders. We will extend humanitarian assistance to the extent of our abilities. We will not allow entry into our territory and we will demand that the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement with the Syrian army be strictly upheld.' " • Makovsky notes that Netanyahu's comment followed by Putin's could mean that "Russia is cognizant of Israeli concerns about the Assad regime's efforts to retake southern Syria, and that Moscow will help ensure the campaign does not threaten Israel's security. Yet the longer-term implications of having Moscow intimately involved in mediating the situation are unclear -- including for the United States, Israel's original partner in establishing the Golan ceasefire. • Makovsky explains : "For four decades, Syrian-Israeli relations in the Golan have been governed by the 1974 'Agreement on Disengagement,' which facilitated an open-ended ceasefire after the 1973 war and thinned out forces on both sides of the disengagement line. This accord was based on Syria's unwritten, unacknowledged commitment to prohibit terrorist infiltration through the Golan, which Damascus largely observed in subsequent decades. Today, some 510 square kilometers of the Golan remain on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line, with the UN Disengagement Observer Force overseeing a buffer zone about eighty kilometers in length stretching from Lebanon to Jordan. After Syria's civil war broke out, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, repeatedly clashed with UNDOF troops, kidnapping and releasing a few dozen of them in 2013. Although an estimated 1,100 UNDOF monitors remain in the Golan despite these attacks, it is telling that they are now based entirely on Israel's side of the disengagement line. The Syrian part of the Golan encompasses seventeen villages and over 200,000 residents. Israel continues to provide humanitarian assistance in this area, sending medicine and food to villagers in an effort to ensure their goodwill." • The reaffirmation of the 1974 agreement was reportedly one of Netanyahu's key objectives when he visited Putin in Moscow last week, according to Makovsky : "Since Russia first intervened in the war in 2015, Netanyahu has made nine trips to see Putin in order to reach understandings on Syria, particularly regarding Iran's role there. Now that Putin has achieved his objective of consolidating Bashar al-Assad's authority in Damascus, Israeli officials believe there is greater divergence between Moscow and Teheran. Russian forces have not used their S-400 rockets to intercept Israel's numerous airstrikes against Iranian military personnel and proxies inside Syria. Rather, Israeli officials believe that Moscow views Iran as a competitor for influence there and is not necessarily displeased by these attacks -- even if it does not act to constrain Iran itself. Russia is clearly proud that it has been able to maintain relations with both Israel and Iran. Although it does not want to be put on the horns of a dilemma in the event of full-scale escalation between the two enemies, it will continue to play both sides in Syria as much as it can. Therefore, it does not seem to be a reliable partner for either country." • Prime Minister Netanyahu has kept Israel out of the Syrian civil war since it began in 2011. Makovsky says this is because Israel believes "there is no way to ensure a political outcome favorable to Israeli interests -- a lesson the country's defense establishment learned from the 1982 Lebanon war....the IDF has confined itself to a more limited role, namely, hitting back when errant shells fly over the border and interdicting Hezbollah's attempts to transfer advanced weaponry from Syria to Lebanon. According to public statements by IDF officials, this approach resulted in around 100 strikes inside Syria from 2011 to 2017. Israel's policy of conducting targeted strikes while staying out of the war itself did not change after Moscow's intervention. Yet the immediate impact of Russian involvement was to secure the Assad regime's reassertion of control. Thereafter, Israel decided to deal with the repercussions of this outcome, which seemed like a fait accompli given Washington's continued reluctance to expand its own mission in Syria beyond defeating the Islamic State." • Israel sees the Syrian civil war as the excuse Iran needed to entrench itslef in Syria. Makovsky points out that : "Hezbollah's steady takeover of Lebanon, where the group has amassed an arsenal of 100,000 rockets over the years, serves as a cautionary reminder that Israel cannot permit Syria to let Iran or its proxies amass comparable military infrastructure. The Trump administration made clear that it would not militarily confront Iran in Syria but would back Israel if it did so. The IDF therefore concluded that it must depart from its previous practice of avoiding direct clashes with the Iranians in order to nip their Syria presence in the bud, even at the risk of escalation. This dynamic reached a crescendo on May 10, when the IDF struck sixty Iranian military sites throughout Syria after a small number of Iranian rockets were fired at the Golan....From Israel's perspective, Assad understands that his military is no match for the IDF, so there is no need to impede him from retaking the south -- so long as this reoccupation does not involve substantial numbers of Iranian, Hezbollah, or other Shia militia personnel. Israeli news reports on last week's Putin-Netanyahu meeting suggest that Moscow will not object to IDF strikes on Iranian or proxy forces in the south; in return, it expects Israel to leave Assad's forces largely untouched." • Whatever may have been Putin's thinking, Netanyahu clearly pointed to Putin's focus on the 1974 agreement in Helsinki. In doing so, says Makovsky, "he offered another sign that Israel is resigned to Russia serving as the main arbiter of events in southern Syria, and that Jerusalem will try to make the best of that reality by focusing on its main goal : keeping Iran out. Yet the focus on Iran has obscured longer-term questions about how Russia's own presence will affect wider Israeli and US interests." • • • ISRAEL, RUSSIA, AND IRAN IN THE GOLAN HEIGHTS. With that in mind, let's look at what is going on in the Golan now. • Israel Today reported on Monday that the Israeli army saved the lives of 800 members of the Syrian rescue organization "White Helmets" this weekend, while the Russian-Iranian-backed al-Assad regime forces mercilessly pounded the last pockets of resistance in the Yarmouk Basin. The Yarmouk Basin straddles the border with Israel and Jordan on the southern Golan Heights. Israel Today said : "The heavy Russian bombardments on the local ISIS branch Jaish Khalid Ibn al-Walid were audible throughout north-eastern Israel and started on Saturday evening. The London-based Syrian watchdog organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed the Russian air force carried out between 120 and130 airstrikes against the Islamic State affiliate which refused to be part of a new surrender agreement between the Assad regime and other Islamist rebel groups on the Golan Heights. On Thursday, those rebels...agreed to surrender terms dictated by the regime in Damascus and received a safe passage to the predominantly Sunni Arab province Idlib in northern Syria in return. Others who wanted to stay in Quneitra could do so by “settling their legal status” and by accepting terms dictated by Assad regime but almost all Jabhat Fatah al-Sham fighters preferred to leave. Fifty five buses reportedly transported the roughly 4,000 rebels to Idlib, according to Assad’s mouthpiece SANA." • The surrender deal was brokered by the Russian military in Syria and it was accompanied by another agreement between Israel and Russia about a return to the situation which existed before the uprising against al-Assad started in 2011. Israel Today states : "That deal was reportedly based on the Separation of Forces Agreement from May 1974 and includes a return of the 90th and the 61st brigade of the Syrian army to positions they held prior to 2011. The governments of Israel and Russia formed working groups which studied issues like the deployment of Syrian and Israeli forces along the border on the Golan Heights and the re-instalment of demilitarized zones and no-man’s land. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu initially pushed for a 40 kilometer-wide no-go zone for Iranian militias and the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights but failed to enlist Russian president Vladimir Putin for his political offensive against the Iranian presence in Syria." • This refusal of Russia to push Iran back from the Golan, according ot Israel Today, is because "Russia has its own agenda in Syria and Putin doesn’t see Iran as an adversary or a danger to other Middle Eastern countries if we are to believe Levan Dzhagaryan his ambassador to Iran. Dzhagaryan, last week told the Russian paper Kommersant Iran’s presence in Syria is 'legitimate' since it is there at Assad’s request. Iran is not a (small) country you can force it out. Iran is a big country that pursues an independent foreign policy. Working with Iranians can only be done through convincing. Pressuring Iran will have adverse effect." Dzhagaryan added that Russia will do its best to avoid a war between Israel and Iran over the Iranian military build-up in Syria. • But, says Israel Today : "Netanyahu is apparently not convinced Russia will do enough to stop the Iranian encroachment on the Israeli Syrian border" and again called Putin last Friday, reportedly telling him “Israel will continue to act against Iran's military entrenchment in Syria." • • • THE CURRENT ASSAD-IRANIAN OFFENSIVE IN THE GOLAN. The pro-Assad coalition, which includes the Lebanese Shiite terror organization Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shiite militias, is now pushing nearer to the Israeli border on the Golan Heights, a move that endangers the lives of thousands of displaced Syrian citizens who are opponents of the al-Assad regime trapped in the area adjacent to the Israeli border, thinking that Israel will evacuate them as well. • The UK Guardian reported last Saturday : "Refugees have set up tents just metres away from the Israeli-controlled Golan frontier, and early last week dozens risked walking over minefields to approach the border fence, some carrying white flags in an apparent attempt to cross to safety....The numbers in Quneitra were very large, and the humanitarian situation was very difficult. There are no homes, people were staying in tents, and they were lucky if they found tents.” The leftist, often anti-Israel, Guardian omitted to report that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have delivered large amounts of humanitarian aid to the refugees and are transferring wounded Syrians to Israeli hospitals. Israel Today says that last week alone the IDF carried out six special operations to provide the trapped Syrian civilians 72 tons of food, 70 tents, 2,378 gallons of fuel, medicine and medical equipment, clothing and toys, according to the IDF spokesmen office. • Also at the weekend, Israel Today reorted that : "Israel played a critical role in rescuing hundreds of humanitarian workers and their families trapped in southern Syria -- 800 so-called "White Helmets" and their family members had taken refuge in Quneitra, the one small part of southern Syria not already under the control of Russian-backed regime forces. The White Helmets are mostly Syrian nationals who over the past several years have taken it upon themselves to conduct rescue operations following major military confrontations in the war-torn country. They operate mostly in rebel-held territory where nearly all civil services have collapsed. But, that's resulted in them being identified with opposition forces, and therefore a target for the Syrian army. The US, UK, Germany and Canada had all been aiding the White Helmets logistically in recent months. As it became clear that the forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad would reconquer the south of Syria, those same nations lobbied Israel and Jordan to help get them out, with the promise that the White Helmets and their families could then take up residence in the West. Over the weekend, a convoy of buses carrying the White Helmets streamed into northern Israel under cover of darkness. They were then escorted by Israeli and UN forces to a border crossing into Jordan." Israelis involved in the rescue operation said it was one of the most emotional efforts to help Syria to date. "There were lots of children," said one Israeli. • Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has spoken by telephone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, and they agreed that there’s a crucial need to continue the “military operation” and to be in contact on a senior level in the days ahead. The latest news from Israel Today is that "PM Netanyahu will unexpectedly meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Putin’s Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov in Jerusalem to discuss the situation on the Golan Heights where on Monday the IDF used its David Sling anti-rocket shield against two incoming rockets." • • • DAVID'S SLING. Israeli Hayoum reported Monday that in its operational debut, David's Sling air defense system fired at missiles launched in Syria. David's Sling, designed to counter medium- to long-range projectiles, fired an interceptor missile as a precaution against ballistic missiles fired within neighboring Syria, the military said. Israeli Hayoum reported : "Projectiles fired as part of internal fighting between the Syrian army and rebel forces in southwest Syria triggered early warning sirens in northern Israel, but were unlikely to have been aimed at Israeli targets, the IDF statement stressed. An initial investigation into the incident revealed that the missiles had been fired at Israel's direction and the defense system identified their trajectory as being on track to strike within Israeli territory. The David's Sling operators had an extremely short time to decide whether or not to launch an interceptor, and decided to intercept. Ultimately, the projectiles are believed to have hit about 1 kilometer inside Syria. David's Sling is designed to complement the Iron Dome defense system, which regularly intercepts and destroys short-range rockets and artillery shells, as well as the Arrow 2 short- and medium-range ballistic missile interceptor, and the Arrow 3 long-range missile interceptor. According to Israeli Hayoum, "Israeli leaders have expressed concern Assad may try to defy a 1974 demilitarization deal on the Golan or allow his Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah allies to deploy there." • • • ISRAEL HITS SYRIAN WEAPONS FACTORY. Israeli Hayoum Newsletter also reported on Monday that an intelligence source says a major military research center for chemical weapons production, believed to house a team of Iranian military experts, is located in city of Misyaf, where the unconfirmed strike occurred. Syrian state TV reported that Israeli aircraft attacked a weapons production plant in northwestern Syria on Sunday but caused only material damage. Reports from Lebanon noted secondary explosions near the site, suggesting that the location was used to store weapons. Online images showed heavy smoke billowing from the purported weapons factory. An IDF spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny the incident, saying "We do not comment on foreign reports." PM Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that "we are continuing to act in Syria to prevent Iranian entrenchment there." • Earlier Sunday, Russian and Syrian jets bombed an ISIS bastion along the Jordan-Israel border in southwestern Syria, diplomatic and opposition sources said. Israeli Hayoum also reported that a source told it : "Islamic State-affiliated forces entrenched in the Yarmouk Basin, which borders the Israeli Golan Heights and Jordan, also repelled a ground attack by the Syrian army and its allies. The Syrian army said its aerial strikes and shelling of militants in the Yarmouk Basin had killed 'tens of terrorists' in a campaign the army described as aiming to 'crush militants.' An intelligence source told Reuters that 1,000-1,500 ISIS fighters had been holding their ground despite the 10-day bombing campaign that he said had hit villages and caused an 'untold number' of civilian casualties. Another source familiar with the situation said Islamic State had been able to expand its territory recently by seizing at least 18 villages abandoned by other rebels under the banner of the Free Syrian Army. The Syrian army wants full control over Quneitra province, where Israel has deep concerns over the presence of Iranian-backed militias." • The Quneitra area is a haven for Iranian-backed militias including Hezbollah, according to Western intelligence sources. The Israeli government has signaled it would not impede the Syrian army's presence in Quneitra as long as Syrian forces steered away from a demilitarized zone along the Golan-Israel border. The evacuation of hundreds of rebels and their families resumed for a third day from villages along the Golan frontier as part of the Russian-brokered surrender deal that brings the area back under government control and lets Syrian army brigades return to where they were stationed before Syria's seven-year-old conflict -- posts near the 1974 demilitarized zone with Israel on the Golan frontier. • • • AND, POMPEO TAKES A VERBAL SHOT AT IRAN. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a scathing speech on Iran's leadership Sunday, accusing Teheran's ruling ayatollahs of spreading violence across the Middle East and lining their own pockets with ill-gotten gains at the expense of ordinary Iranians. Pompeo said : "The ideologues who forcibly came to power in 1979 and remain in power today are driven by a desire to conform all of Iranian society to the tenants of the Islamic Revolution. The regime is also committed to spreading the Revolution to other countries, by force if necessary." Pompeo spoke during a highly anticipated address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California, home to a significant portion of the Iranian diaspora living in the United States. Many of them fled Iran after the revolution that brought Iran's ayatollahs to power. The Secretary of State and former CIA director accused several members of Iran's leadership, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, of participating in widespread corruption. Khamenei, Pompeo alleged, maintains a personal off-the-books hedge fund worth $95 billion, that is untaxed and used as a "slush fund" by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Crops (IRGC), which is a branch of Iran's armed forces with influence over practically every aspect of Iranian life. Pompeo stated : "The level of corruption and wealth among regime leaders shows that Iran is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government. These hypocritical holy men have devised all kinds of crooked schemes to become some of the wealthiest men on Earth while their people suffer." • Pompeo's speech came just hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's verbal attack on the US and President Trump. Several prominent Iranian-Americans were in the audience, including Washington Post columnist and former Teheran bureau chief Jason Rezaian, who spent months in Iranian detention on what many believed were spurious charges of spying on behalf of the United States. Also in attendance was Makan Delrahim, a US assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's antitrust division, who came to the US as a 10-year-old. • The Trump administration pulled out of the Obama-Iran nuclear deal in May. The President and Pompeo both criticize the deal for not doing enough to limit Iran's destabilizing behavior in the region, such as funding Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The United States has officially listed Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The Trump administration is now expected to re-impose many of the punishing sanctions that were in place before the 2015 agreement was reached, including limiting Iran's ability to sell oil. Pompeo says : "We are asking every nation who is sick and tired of the Islamic Republic's destructive behavior to join our pressure campaign. This especially goes for our allies in the Middle East and Europe, people who have themselves been terrorized by violent regime activity for decades. The goal of our efforts is to one day see Iranians in Iran enjoying the same quality of life that Iranians in America enjoy." • Rouhani has warned that Iran could restart its nuclear efforts if the US re-imposes sanctions, although the European signatories of the deal have pledged to honor it. Pompeo called Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif "wolves in sheep's clothing. These so-called moderates within the regime are still violent Islamic revolutionaries with an anti-America, anti-West agenda." • • • DEAR READERS, the Washington Times wrote on Monday that we are seeing "Trump at his best -- beating Rouhani at Iran's own bully game....President Donald Trump unleashed a few furious rebukes against Iran on Twitter, telling the rebellious nation that its time of talking tough and issuing war-like threats against America had come to an end. Shape up -- or face the consequences of the sleeping America giant, he warned. And kudos, double kudos, to this President. Thank goodness this White House’s idea of fighting off foreign bullies isn’t simply the strongly worded letter." • Trump’s Twitter remarks amounted to telling Rouhani and the Iranian regime to think again. That is “America First” leadership at work. America has no reason to suffer a bully in silence. President Trump is absolutely correct in pushing back directly against Rouhani’s outrageous bombast. As the Washington Times wrote : 'Huddling in the corner in the face of enemy attack never ends well for the huddler....let’s not pretend that hiding is sound foreign policy. Trump’s in-your-face response to Rouhani’s arrogant threat is the proper way to deal here because it puts the ball back in Iran’s court...we’re not ceding any ground. Now Iran will have to put up or shut up." • The rhetoric may bubble and boil for a while, but in the end, Teheran will stop shouting because it knows it would lose quickly and totally against the US or Israeli military. Sabre rattling is one thing. Backing the sabre flourishes with actions is quite another. Iran just doesn’t have the goods to take on America and it knows it. That is why it will bluster and push to the limits in Syria -- hoping that Trump will not intervene. Israel is fully up to the task for now, but it would be a fatal mistake for Iran to think that Israel is in this fight alone.

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