Mainstream media sources often demonstrate intentional or unintentional bias against Israel. So where do you go to find news about Israel and the Middle East? Once a week, we post an Israel News Recap (sans rhetoric) to keep you up to date on the latest developments.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the world last week surrounded by a half-ton of Iranian files - the product of what he called “a great intelligence achievement.”
Iran Files Pressure the U.S. to Drop Iran Deal
Inside those files are the details of “Project Amad,” a massive trove of stolen information that proves that Iran was lying about their nuclear program goals. The staggering 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs were somehow extracted straight from a secret complex in a Tehran neighborhood, but Netanyahu didn’t go into details of how - just what this means for the world.
The timing of this announcement is no coincidence. U.S. President Trump announced on Tuesday that the U.S. is ditching the 2015 Obama-brokered deal. To fully appreciate what is going on here, we probably all need a quick refresher of what the details of the original deal were. Here is a summary.
- Short name: Iran nuclear deal. Long name: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
- Who signed up? The deal involved the U.S., Iran, UK, Russia, France, Germany, China and the EU.
- The deal? Iran halts nuclear weapons production, and in exchange, the U.S. and others will lift crippling economic sanctions on the country.
- Iran shipped most of their enriched uranium out of the country, dismantled two-thirds of their reactors and filled their nuclear reactor with concrete. They must also submit to inspections of any of their nuclear facilities.
- After that, the U.S. lifted a number of sanctions, but still held sanctions on weapons development and trade.
What this was intended to do is prevent Iran from building nukes, of which they could have built ten by one estimate, without starting a full-scale war. The problem raised by critics of the deal, such as Israel, is that not only are there not enough safeguards but neither Iran nor its largest sponsor, Russia, can be trusted. That’s the platform Trump has adopted, which brings us back to the half-ton of files that Netanyahu says is proof that Iran should not be trusted to keep the deal.
Specifically, the stolen files prove that Iran was covering up a separate nuclear weapons program prior to signing the deal - which is important because it contradicts Iran’s claim that they never intended on pursuing nuclear weapons, just nuclear energy.
The Associated Press reports that the U.S. had already been told about these files and were considering them. Despite the crushing weight of information Israel says it has on Iran’s nuclear program, there wasn’t anything Netanyahu presented that showed that Iran violated the terms of the 2015 deal, only that Iran lied about their intentions that formed the groundwork for the deal.
Iranian officials still deny ever seeking nuclear weapons and brand the Israeli evidence as “fake and fabricated,” but there is no denying that Iran is pushing closer to Israeli borders with its irregular militias and Hezbollah in Syria. For weeks now, Israel has been striking Iranian targets in Syria while simultaneously expecting retaliation from proxy forces. Analysts write in the Jerusalem Post that the most likely attack would be a rocket barrage, an attack that Israeli and U.S. forces prepared for in a joint training only a weeks ago.
On Tuesday, Trump directly cited the Israeli revelation as grounds for pulling out of the Iran deal. This comes as a blow to Iran as harsher economic sanctions are put back into place, but it could also force their hand into taking more extreme action to secure their growing strength and influence.
Hezbollah Fortified after Lebanon Election Win
The votes are in for Lebanon, and it’s a clear victory for Hezbollah’s political wing after they secured dozens of seats in parliament from the former secular majority party.
Here are the very basics of the Lebanese political system.
- Lebanon has a dual-executive system. That means there’s both a president and a prime minister who share power.
- A power-sharing system requires the prime minister to always be a Sunni Muslim, the speaker of parliament a Shia, and the president a Maronite Christian.
- Each religious community also has an allotted number of seats in parliament
- The parliament elects the president, and together they appoint the prime minister.
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said they accomplished their election goal and this win only strengthens their fight against Israel.
Reuters reports preliminary results showing Hezbollah won at least 67 of the 128 seats in parliament. The BBC reports that Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose party lost the majority, will still be expected to create a government coalition but will have much less control over Hezbollah.
Lebanon hasn’t had formal elections since 2009, and since then it has been ruled, technically speaking, by the secular, West-backed Future Movement party. For several years, however, the Shia Hezbollah has been increasingly exercising their clout throughout Lebanon by acting as a paramilitary force to “resist Israel” with strong support from Iran.
Hezbollah has been busy during the past few years getting plenty of combat experience in Syria against the Islamic State and other militias, but their public goal has always been to fight Israel. Branding themselves as a resistance movement, Hezbollah is now moving from a Lebanese militia to the most powerful recognized force in the Lebanese government. The U.S. and other countries still classified the group as a terror organization, so it is yet to be seen if their election will threaten the legitimacy of the standing government in the eyes of the west.
A bit of context: Lebanon is in crisis with powerful Israel to the south and the storm that is Syria to the east. Over 1 million refugees have fled to Lebanon since the start of the Syrian civil war, bloating the population by 25 percent and overwhelming public services, according to the BBC. Under these increasingly overwhelming circumstances, Hezbollah, like Hamas in the Gaza Strip, presents a confident model of resilience with the strength to overcome the difficulties, thereby garnering public support in the midst of suffering regardless of their ability to actually fix the situation.
NDI, a global elections monitoring body, hasn’t issued their final report, but the preliminary report said: “Although inconsistencies were reported, voting was generally peaceful, orderly and well-organized as executed by polling officials and security forces.”
This is not the first time a terror organization has transformed itself into a political party and gained power in standing government. Just south of Israel, Hamas is the ruling party in the Gaza Strip.