Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, challenged the international community to hold Iran to account on Thursday, Aug. 31, after the Islamic Republic showed its “true colors” by restoring its ties with the Palestinian extremist Hamas. In her statement, she described as “stunning” the Hamas leader’s boast that Tehran is again the biggest provider of money and arms. The breach between them followed the terrorist group’s refusal to side with Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war.
“Iran must decide whether it wants to be a member of the community of nations that can be expected to take its international obligations seriously, or whether it wants to be the leader of a jihadist terrorist movement. It cannot be both," Haley said in her statement
Islamic Iran has long made that decision, as the ambassador knows very well from the intelligence reports she sees. But her brave words were meant as a wakeup call for the rapid advances made by Iran and Hizballah during August to impose their will on the Middle East, often with great stealth.
Haley will have learned about the Aug. 2 meeting in Beirut between Hamas’s military chief Salah al-Arouri and Iranian officials, following which Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah confirmed that the Palestinian rulers of the Gaza Strip were worthy of restored military and financial aid.
That deal was clinched at the highest level in Tehran, after Arouri and a delegation from Gaza were received by top Iranian officials, including Revolutionary Guards General Qassem Soleimani. He is not only commander of Iran’s Middle East warfronts, but also head of Al Qods, which runs Iran’s intelligence, subversion and terror networks.
These events and their ramifications were itemized in the latest issue of DEBKA Weekly, out Friday, Sept. 1.
It was Soleimani who assigned Hamas and its military arm with its next tasks. Since both parties are dedicated to violent tactics (terror) to achieve their ends, one of which is the destruction of the State of Israel, all that remains to be seen is the precise form the Iranian-backed Hamas-Hizballah partnership will take - and where. Those practicalities were aired at the secret sessions between Hamas and Al Qods in Tehran
Present at some of those sessions were also Soleimani’s secret agents and heads of the terrorist networks he runs across the Middle East and in the Gulf emirates.
The inauguration ceremony for Hassan Rouhani’s second term as Iran’s president on Aug. 5 provided a convenient cover for these get-togethers.
Nikki Haley’s warning to the international community was prompted by these dangerous events. Although her words were powerful, telling and timely, it is hard to see any sign of their being followed up by other parts of the Trump administration.
With the southern front against Israel in the bag, Iran and Hizballah this week put together its northern front, just two or three kilometers from Israel’s Golan border with Syria. This could not have happened without the Trump administration submitting to Russia’s demand to revise their de-escalation zone project for the Syrian Golan, so that Iranian and Hizballah forces are no longer required to distance themselves 40-50km from the zone, but only 8km.
Iran and Hizballah in Syria have in consequence been quietly shortening their distance from the Israeli border. But this week, they made a major leap forward, when the Russian monitors brought a group of Iranian and Hizballah officers all the way to Quneitra. There, they were given a base under Russian protection within sight of the Israeli Golan.
Tehran and its pawn therefore used the month of August to climb into position for drawing a noose around Israel and tightening it at will.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu this week boasted that his tenure was marked by relative calm. Israel, he said, had successfully avoided getting embroiled in any major war.
That is correct. However, his policy of preserving the calm and maintaining a purely defensive stance has carried a price. That price was totted up on Sept. 1. By then, Iran and Iran had been able to move unopposed into position on Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon in the north and had crept up to the Gaza border in the south.
Seen from the strategic-military angle, Israel can be said to have regressed 11 years to 2006, when two foes were poised menacingly on its northern and southern borders. Israel was then compelled to fight a war against Hizballah in Lebanon. This time, the conflict could potentially flare up simultaneously on three fronts - Lebanon, Gaza and Syria.