Dismantling Global Iranian Revolutionary Guard: Key to U.S. Victory in Nuclear Negotiations, 2015 By: Terence Rosenthal

To gain leverage against Iran by the summer of 2015, action must to be taken in addition to the prevailing sanctions. Currently, countries negotiating with Iran regarding its nuclear program seem flummoxed. In addition, none are willing to use force as a means of persuasion. Movement capable of reducing Iran’s ability to bargain must be explored.

 

It is possible that the Iranians will be allowed to keep 4,500 active centrifuges, up from originally 500. Suspected of having 19,000 centrifuges, 9,000 of which are active, Iran has more than enough to create a nuclear device. With its present technology, the Iran is capable of producing nuclear explosives in three to six months, and manufacturing a full-fledged bomb in a year and a half. If current Iranian nuclear technology is updated, or if covert development continues, nukes may be produced in a time frame much shorter than eighteen months.

 

Sanctions have had a dire effect on the Iranian economy, causing leadership to soften their tone with regard to the international community. However, in recent negotiations, the Iran appears to have gained the upper hand. Perhaps action should be directed toward marginalizing Iran’s most divisive militant organization, the IRGC, or Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In short, a global sting operation directed toward illicit activities conducted by the IRGC may be what is necessary to deter the confidence of Iranian negotiators in 2015.

 

When people think of current terrorist agencies sponsored by Iran, it is likely that Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, or Iran’s strategic military partnership in Sudan come to mind. These, however, pale in comparison with Iran’s own Revolutionary Guard (IRGC). The IRGC yields over $12 Billion per year, and is connected with over one hundred companies involved in petrochemicals, fuels, and construction.

Due to emphasis on asymmetrical warfare, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and elite Quds Forces differ from Western military in that their operations outside of Iran are permitted to function independently from a central command. As a result, IRGC will often connect with terrorist agencies, drug cartels, and armed forces of allied countries. The IRGC even links with religious and civic organizations in other countries to pursue fundraising and recruitment initiatives.

 

Iran is alive and well in the Americas. Its presence in Venezuela is alarming. The IRGC has served with the Venezuelan Army, while the Quds Forces have helped supervise transport of drugs from illicit Venezuelan crime syndicates. Conceivably, the most well-known partnership of the global IRGC is with Hezbollah, Iran’s most recognizable terrorist sponsor. The presence of Hezbollah and Quds forces in neighboring Mexico present the United States with a major threat at its southern border.

 

Since 2005, Iran and Hezbollah have developed a presence in Latin America, opening 17 cultural centers, and forming relations with the Mexican drug cartels. 200,000 immigrants from Lebanon and Syria, many of whom are illegal residents, live in Mexico, and have established residence with the help of drug cartels like Los Zetas, the most technically advanced of Mexico’s illegal crime organizations.

 

Doubtless, the most overt terrorist plot against American security took place in 2011 when Quds forces were accused of planning to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. The Quds force was also suspected of collaborating with Los Zetas in a plot to bomb the Saudi Arabian and Israeli Embassies in Argentina, and the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C.

 

Any approach to breaking Iran’s will in the next round of negotiations comes with great risk. However, if U.S. negotiators capitulate in 2015, Iran may become a nuclear power. This is detrimental to the interests of the U.S. and its allies. It is quite possible that a regional nuclear arms race, or war for dominance in the Middle East will follow. Stopping illegal activity on the part of the IRGC may provide a way for John Kerry to mandate terms of negotiation with Iran this summer.

 

Addressing the Sinai: First Step for Israeli/ Moderate Arab Alliance By: Terence Rosenthal

There has been much talk of partnership between Israel and moderate Arab states, Saudi Arabia Jordan and Egypt. Addressing radicalism in the Sinai Peninsula, the land bridge connecting Africa with the Middle East, presents these countries with a golden opportunity to unify. Development of an enhanced buffer zone at the Sinai/Gaza border, bomb resistant pipelines, and reinforced ports in Egypt and Israel provides additional opportunity for this union.

ISIS and the Syrian civil war dominate headlines in the Middle East. Through aggressive PR, ISIS has been attracting followers worldwide. Victory for moderate, pro-Western nations in the in the Sinai would undermine the confidence and charisma of ISIS, directing potential followers away from its radical path.

Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan all have much to gain in fortifying the Gaza border, providing better protection of pipelines, and greater fortification of ports in Israel and Egypt. The effectiveness of the Suez Canal, through which 8 percent of global trade travels, is undercut because of radicalism in Yemen and Somalia. Safety of Israeli and Egyptian ports, from which goods to the West are shipped, are challenged by Hamas, Al Qaida, and the ISIS conflict in Syria. Saudi Arabia, struggling with radical groups like Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula must counter obstruction from Yemen to its South and the Strait of Hormuz to its North. The Saudis depend on passage of fuels to safe ports in the Mediterranean as well. Jordan, having very little of its own natural resources, contends with Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood, and relies heavily on safe transport of fuels from Israel and Egypt.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, Hamas, and the local Bedouin population are the most important actors involved in the Sinai conflict. After the fall of Mohammad Morsi in 2011, many radical Islamists in Egypt, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, see violence as their only means of gaining power. This was highlighted by the return of Ayman Al Zawahiri to Egypt, as well reinvigorated Al Qaida presence in the peninsula.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, rising to prominence in 2013, is a local branch of Al Qaida, recently affiliated with ISIS. ABM gained support from radical Islamists after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood. Some in the Sinai say they have seen Muhammad Al Zawahiri, Ayman’s brother, working with ABM. On a positive note, if ABM becomes too closely linked with ISIS, it may lose credibility as specifically representing Egyptian Islamists disheartened by the fall of Morsi, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Victory against ABM would further hasten this.

Recently, ABM used rockets smuggled from the Palestinian border through Hamas tunnels. It attempted an assassination on Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in Cairo in September, 2013. On October 24th, ABM also attacked a security checkpoint in the Sinai, killing 33 Egyptian security personnel.

Hamas, an offshoot of Muslim Brotherhood based in Gaza, helped enable the car bombing in the October 24th attack conducted by ABM. Black market tunnel trade and logistics at the Gaza border is one tangible way that it can be linked to Al Qaida and ISIS in the Sinai. Hamas may have an agreement with the Palestinian group Jaish al-Islam to train people to fight in Yemen, Syria, and the Sinai. Since its leadership began in 2007, tunnels from the Sinai into Gaza have contributed $230 million in monthly revenue. Radical allegiances are not as simple as Sunni versus Shia. Although Hamas is a radical Sunni group, it has been linked with Iran for funding, weaponry, strategy, and training.

When stakes against Western targets are high, groups funding Sunni and Shia radicalism unite. In the past, the military wing of Hamas has imported Iranian-made long range Fajr-5 rockets. It has been suspected recently that Iranians linked to Hamas were working with ABM to strategize deadly attacks on the peninsula. Recently, the discovery of a Klos-C missile, as well as 40 rockets and 400,000 bullets were intercepted in the region and thought to be in transit to Gaza.

Last, and perhaps most important in the Sinai conflict is the local Bedouin population. The Bedouins are ripe targets for Jihadi groups in the Sinai because of their status as marginalized outsiders in Egyptian society. They are often refused local jobs to those of Egyptian heritage. Many Bedouin families are tied to the Levant and Saudi Arabia, and still maintain close cultural and familial ties to those lands.
Sinai Bedouins often endure many hardships including no running water or property rights. They were able to find employment opportunity in resorts in south Sinai. However, tourism in the south has taken a huge hit due to ongoing conflict. As a result, Bedouins find opportunity in the transport of drugs, weapons, and people. Many have become radicalized, joining local groups like ABM. Some help transport contraband through tunnels into Gaza.

Currently, the status of the Bedouin population in the Sinai is a black eye on the human rights record of the Al Sissi government. If Egypt offered Bedouins greater legitimacy, its current relationship with global trading partners would improve dramatically. Reinforcement of Sinai ports, and pipelines, as well as an enhanced buffer isolating Gaza can provide employment to the Bedouins, vastly improving their current status in Egypt.

Defeat of militant Islam in the Sinai, and development of infrastructure on the part of a moderate Arab/ Israel alliance addresses two goals: first, integration of Bedouins into Egyptian society, second, military and economic victory against ISIS and Hamas. Victory for a moderate, pro-Western alliance in this region also helps diminish the strength of the successful PR war being launched by ISIS. Winning the war against radicalism in the Middle East comes down to global public perception that a successful outcome is possible. Perhaps victory and economic progress in the Sinai is the first step.