January 18, 2016


Why Israel is keeping a close eye on Iran's parliamentary elections (Ben Caspit, January 18, 2016, Al Monitor)

Senior IDF officials speak of the nuclear agreement in very dissimilar terms, using concepts unlike those embraced by Israel's political leadership.

"It is true," confirmed one top military source, speaking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. "There is not a single expert in the IDF who believes that the Iranians have abandoned their nuclear aspirations. On the other hand, international pressure, sanctions and the clandestine campaign have induced them to sign the nuclear agreement, and it is our assessment that they will implement it meticulously. The agreement creates a 10- to 15-year window, which provides us with an enormous opportunity. We are talking about a strategic turning point. For the last 15 years, Iran has followed a steady vector leading to nuclear capacity. Now it has all been blocked, rolled back and frozen at a reasonable distance from that goal. This is real news." [...]

"The agreement removes the Iranian nuclear threat from the agenda for 10 to 15 years," said another senior defense official on condition of anonymity. "That is a lot more than an Israeli military attack or even an American assault would achieve. An achievement of this magnitude must not be belittled." [...]

The IDF regards this election as a pivotal event that could indicate in which direction the Iranian people are heading. Within Iran, there is a historic clash of titans between two conflicting trends: continued domination of the revolution by the Quds Force and generals like Qasem Soleimani, or the desire for normalcy and the good life shared by the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people -- who, according to most Western experts, are now fed up with the Islamic Revolution.

A top Israeli intelligence official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, "We saw this trend in the 2009 riots, which were suppressed with considerable force. The ensuing election of [President Hassan] Rouhani was evidence that the real will of the Iranian people had not changed. The people want freedom. Right now, we don't know what will happen in the elections for the Majlis. Will the Quds Force be able to stir the pot and tilt the results in their favor?"

Another area where it is possible to identify signs of the structural conflict between the forces of Iranian radicalism and supporters of normalcy within the country is the attitude toward losses suffered by Iranian forces in the war with Syria. According to information that has reached the West, Iran has contributed some 2,500 elite Revolutionary Guard Corps troops to the fight in Syria. They have suffered about 170 casualties, with hundreds more (between 300 and 400) wounded. As a result of these losses, Tehran has ordered at least some of these forces home, replacing them with Shiite volunteer militias from Iraq and Iran.

"It was surprising to see the Iranian sensitivity to casualties," said an Israeli official. "We did not expect that. This is an important statement. Iranian society is drawing closer to normalcy and Western values. The ability to throw thousands of troops into a campaign and sustain heavy losses can no longer be taken for granted. The process is fascinating."

Posted by at January 18, 2016 3:33 PM