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February 2, 2017 3:51 pm

Israeli Security Analyst: Trump Administration’s Open Acknowledgement of Iranian Terror Proxies ‘Highly Significant’ for Jewish State Facing Hezbollah

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Eran Lerman. Photo: Shalem College.

Dr. Eran Lerman. Photo: Shalem College.

A former foreign policy deputy at Israel’s National Security Council told The Algemeiner on Thursday that the new US administration’s warning to the Islamic Republic that it was “officially being put on notice” was “highly significant,” both in general and for the Jewish state, which is targeted by Tehran’s regional representatives, such as the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group.

Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman — a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Affairs (BESA) at Bar-Ilan University and a member of the Shalem College faculty, who served in IDF Military Intelligence and subsequently as Israel director of the American Jewish Committee — was referring specifically to US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s statement during Wednesday’s White House press briefing, in which he pointed not only to Tehran’s “provocative ballistic missile launch,” but also to the role of one of its proxies — the Houthis in Yemen — whose “attack against a Saudi naval vessel,” Flynn said, “underscore[s] what should have been clear to the international community all along about Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the entire Middle East.”

Lerman said that former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who was confirmed as secretary of state by the Senate on Wednesday, reflects the new out-and-out pro-Saudi stance in Washington. “And though Flynn’s remarks related to Riyadh, they are relevant to Israel, which now — as it happens — has the same enemy and speaks in the same voice,” Lerman noted.

The Obama administration, Lerman said, “was playing a balancing act, unlike President Donald Trump. It’s clear what side he’s on, and that’s Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s against Iran.”

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This echoed Flynn’s message. “The Obama administration failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions — including weapons transfers, support for terrorism, and other violations of international norms,” Flynn said. “The Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk.”

Asked whether this stance indicates that the next time Hezbollah, another Iranian proxy, attacks Israel, the Trump administration will consider it an act of Iranian aggression, Lerman said, “No question about it.”

“I’m not sure the Americans would join Israel militarily in such a conflict, or even provide us with supplies,” he added. “But the significance here is that they would definitely acknowledge Iran as the aggressor, and respond accordingly, for example by strengthening and reimposing sanctions, and things like that.”

However, he stressed, “There is not a high probability that Hezbollah will be attacking Israel any time soon, due to its deep involvement in Syria. It simply cannot afford to open up that front now.”

On Thursday, the heads of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations praised Flynn and the Trump administration for taking “another step toward holding Iran accountable for its provocative and belligerent behavior which threatens Israel and other US allies in the region and vital US national security interests.”

“We look forward to working with the administration and the bipartisan majority in Congress on appropriate and effective responses to Iran’s repeated provocations and belligerence,” Conference of Presidents Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein said in a statement.

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