By Ariel Pinsky

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FIDF Southeast Executive Director Seth Baron introduces the speaker.

The Iran nuclear deal and “aggressive, expansionist, fascist systems” in the Middle East were the hot topics discussed Monday, July 27, in an address titled “Israel: What Now” by Maj. Elliot Chodoff, the Israel Defense Forces’ deputy chief of staff for the northern population in the Home Front Command and a political and military analyst.

The lecture was hosted at the Marcus Jewish Community Center by the Southeast Region of Friends of the IDF, which promotes the well-being of Israeli soldiers and their families.

Security was tight at the lecture, attended by about 175 people. Israel’s new consul general to the Southeast, Judith Varnai Shorer, made her first public appearance and praised FIDF while formally introducing herself to the community.

Chodoff was introduced by Garry Sobel, FIDF’s Southeast chairman, and Seth Baron, FIDF’s regional executive director.

Chodoff, who made aliyah in 1983, jumped into the Iran nuclear deal and its regional implications by saying “the mess just got messier” in the Middle East.

“It was said no deal is better than a bad deal. This isn’t a bad deal — it’s a disaster,” said Chodoff, who reminded the audience that the reason Iran was sanctioned in the first place was because it violated the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970. Chodoff likened the agreement to a block of Swiss cheese — more holes than cheese.

Criticizing the wording of the deal, he said one provision could obligate the United States to protect Iran from any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, including cyberattacks by Israel: “America has essentially become an ally of Iran against Israel.”

Chodoff said a common misconception is that nuclear damage to Israel from Iran would result in the destruction of Israel and its people. Instead, he said, an Iranian nuclear arsenal could destroy Israel by making it a “nonviable state.”

“Nonviable” means Israel could revert back to Stage 1 after years of progress, suffering losses in infrastructure, investment, economic stability and human capital as people, fearful for their safety, flee the country.

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Maj. Elliot Chodoff says the Middle East is breaking into a series of quasi-empires.

Chodoff also said that Iran, the world’s greatest state sponsor of terrorism, won the negotiations with added prizes of ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons potential, and hundreds of billions of dollars to finance terrorism throughout the Middle East.

He questioned Iran’s credibility in international politics: If the West agrees to a treaty with Iran, giving it permission to violate a previous treaty, what makes anyone think it won’t violate this one?

He cited Albert Einstein’s famous observation that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In that sense, Chodoff sees a historical connection between the Iran deal and the Munich agreement of 1938, in which British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain succumbed to Adolf Hitler’s demands by giving Germany the Sudetenland.

“You cannot appease fascists because they keep moving forward nonetheless,” Chodoff said.

If you read the above statement correctly you’ll notice that he used the term “fascists” to also describe the Iranian regime.

Chodoff said he described the Iranian regime as fascist because its Muslim foundation is overstated and its primary goal is to undermine democracy. He said fascist regimes are perpetual expansionists that perceive the classic elements of democracy such as free speech as inherent weaknesses in the system.

Chodoff, who serves 90 to 130 days of active reserve duty per year, can see from his experiences along the northern Israeli border that any “semblance of an orderly, organized Middle East is now gone.”

“We’re moving into a time of empires once again — Persian, Ottoman, Egyptian and Russian,” he said. These “wannabes” are a result of the void left by failed states such as Syria, Iraq and Libya that have disintegrated one by one, shifting the fundamental balance of power in the Middle East.

Borders, armies and governments are meaningless in today’s “fiction of the Middle East,” which has reverted back more than 100 years into an imperial system from the system of Arab states that emerged from the rise of pan-Arabism, he said.

Using hand gestures with his fingers interlocked, Chodoff explained that in a system of states, the borders interlock perfectly — it is clear when you leave one state and enter another. Spreading his fingers, he illustrated that in an imperial system, gaps result from hubs of concentrated power and create jagged edges and unclear borders. That is where he said the Middle East is heading.

As for the Iran deal, Chodoff would not answer when or if Israel will strike Iran — “Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you” — or why he thinks President Barack Obama pushed the deal through.

But when asked his advice on the title of the lecture — what now — he said: “First of all, standing up to them. Sometimes regimes like that will back down. I’m not hopeful, but be prepared for the reality that if they don’t, they’re on a collision course.”

Chodoff concluded the hour-long lecture by saying, “I wish I could give you something more optimistic, but the truth is I cannot because the situation is dire.”