The capture of a ship on its way to Gaza and carrying rockets supplied by Iran has made the news. The cargo includes dozens of M302 rockets with ranges of over 100 miles, which would bring most of Israel into range.
The incident is reminiscent of the capture a ship called the Karine A in January 2002, also carrying Iranian arms to Gaza. The recipient was Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, significant then because Arafat was at the time telling officials of the new Bush administration that he was committed to peace and had totally abandoned violence and terror. The key issue was the recipient, not the donor, and the incident helped the Bush administration make up its mind about Arafat–especially when he lied to U.S. officials about his own involvement. There is a direct line from the Karine A to Bush’s speech of June 24, 2002 breaking permanently with Arafat and telling Palestinians they would have American support for a state only when they had new leadership. Arafat had to go.
This time, in a kind of “Karine B” case, we have Iranian arms going to Gaza again, and it is a reminder that whatever peacemaking Secretary Kerry is undertaking with Palestinian authorities in Ramallah, Hamas remains in charge in Gaza and is dedicated to violence. But the larger issue this time is the donor rather than the recipient.
While we talk of outreach to Iran and unclenched fists, Iran continues to be the largest state sponsor of terrorism. During the nuclear negotiations the Obama administration seems to think it must be on its best behavior lest the regime in Tehran become offended and walk away from the table. So, the administration stops Congress from enacting additional sanctions–even sanctions never to be imposed unless negotiations fail. News reports say that there was administration pressure on Israel to stop its covert action program inside Iran. And we hear endless discussions of how Rouhani is a moderate and we have to help the moderates in their struggle against hard liners inside the regime.
But during this period, while the administration says we must carefully watch our conduct lest we offend Iran, Iran ships advanced missiles to Hamas in Gaza. Iran ships arms to opposition groups Bahrain. The regime in Iran continues a brutal campaign of repression at home. Whatever our approach, theirs is to use this period of negotiations to destabilize the entire region and crush all internal opposition.
It’s a reminder, once again, of just who is across the negotiating table. These are not “moderates,” in essence folks just like the EU and U.S. negotiators but dressed a bit oddly in our eyes. They are the representatives of a brutal regime and they take orders from its Supreme Leader. And while our representatives and his talk about how to achieve a balanced and fair deal, their government is bending every effort to creating chaos in the entire region.