US officials say Iran behind recent drone attack on American base in Syria

Posted October 26, 2021 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

As many as 5 Iranian-made explosives-laden UAVs were used in assault last week, but not launched from Iranian territory ; Pentagon spokesperson doesn’t rule out a response

By LOLITA C. BALDOR and ROBERT BURNSToday, 12:58 am

The US military outpost al-Tanf in southern Syria, October 22, 2018. (AP/Lolita Baldor)

The US military outpost al-Tanf in southern Syria, October 22, 2018. (AP/Lolita Baldor)

WASHINGTON (AP) — US officials say they believe Iran was behind the drone attack last week at the military outpost in southern Syria where American troops are based.

Officials said Monday the US believes that Iran resourced and encouraged the attack, but that the drones were not launched from Iran. They were Iranian drones, and Iran appears to have facilitated their use, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not been made public.

Officials said they believe the attacks involved as many as five drones laden with explosive charges, and that they hit both the US side of al-Tanf garrison and the side where Syrian opposition forces stay.

There were no reported injuries or deaths as a result of the attack.

US and coalition troops are based at al-Tanf to train Syrian forces on patrols to counter Islamic State militants. The base is also located on a road serving as a vital link for Iranian-backed forces from Tehran all the way to southern Lebanon and Israel.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the termsMembers of the Maghawir al-Thawra Syrian opposition group receive firearms training from US Army Special Forces soldiers at the al-Tanf military outpost in southern Syria on October 22, 2018. (AP/Lolita Baldor)

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to provide details when asked about the report during a news conference Monday. He called it a “complex, coordinated and deliberate attack” and said the US has seen similar ones before from Shia militia groups that are backed by Iran. But he would not go into specifics and said he had no update on the munitions used in the attack.

Kirby also declined to say if troops were warned ahead of time or whether the US intends to make a military response.

“The protection and security of our troops overseas remains a paramount concern for the secretary,” Kirby said, referring to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, “and that if there is to be a response, it will be at a time and a place and a manner of our choosing, and we certainly won’t get ahead of those kinds of decisions.”

Pro-Iran media outlets have been saying that the attack on Tanf was carried out by “Syria’s allies” — an apparent reference to Iran-backed groups — in retaliation for an attack days earlier near the historic Syrian town of Palmyra. Israel has been blamed for the attack, but US officials say America was not involved with it.

The al-Tanf attack came in a period of rising tensions with Iran. The Biden administration this week said international diplomatic efforts to get Iran back into negotiations to return to a 2015 nuclear deal were at a “critical place” and that patience is wearing thin.

The last major Iranian attack on US forces was in January 2020, when Tehran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles on al-Asad air base in Iraq. US and coalition troops were warned of the incoming missiles and were able to take cover, but more than 100 US service members received traumatic brain injuries as a result of the blasts.

The Iran attack was in response to the US drone strike earlier that month near the Baghdad airport that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Two months after the al-Asad assault, US fighter jets struck five sites in retaliation, targeting Iranian-backed Shiite militia members believed responsible for the January rocket attack.

IDF said to resume practicing potential strike on Iranian nuclear sites

Posted October 25, 2021 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Military chief Aviv Kohavi reportedly orders air force to ‘intensely’ drill for possible attack on Iran, after 2-year pause in training

By TOI STAFF21 October 2021, 9:32 pm  

An Israeli Air Force Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker and F-16 fighter jets perform during an air show over Tel Aviv, on May 9, 2019, as Israel marks its 71st Independence Day. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Illustrative: An Israeli Air Force Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker and F-16 fighter jets perform during an air show over Tel Aviv on May 9, 2019, as Israel marks its 71st Independence Day. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Israeli Air Force has resumed training for a possible strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, Israeli television reported Thursday.

According to Channel 12 news, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi ordered that budgetary funds be set aside for drilling such a scenario, after a two-year hiatus.

The network said Kohavi had also ordered that the air force train “intensely” in simulating a strike on Iran’s nuclear program.

The orders were reportedly given during a meeting Kohavi held at his office in recent days.

The report did not cite a source and there was no comment from military officials.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

On Monday, Channel 12 reported that the government planned to allocate NIS 5 billion ($1.5 billion) for an attack on Iran, with NIS 2 billion ($620 million) coming from the 2022 defense budget and the rest coming from the current budget.

A day later, Defense Minister Benny Gantz defended the government’s requested budget increase for the military, warning that the additional funds are necessary in order to prepare for a potential strike on Iranian nuclear sites.IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi (left) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defese Committee meeting, on October 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Kohavi publicly declared in January that the IDF was preparing fresh “operational plans” for a potent military strike, and in August that Iran’s nuclear progress has prompted the IDF “to speed up its operational plans,” with a fresh budget to do so.

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared that “Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning… We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

United States President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is still seeking a joint US-Iranian return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, while acknowledging that it will not wait indefinitely for Tehran to return to the negotiation table.

If it fails to do so, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid this month that “every option” will be on the table — an apparent uptick in rhetoric after Biden told Bennett in August that Washington was willing to consider “other options” if the nuclear deal cannot be revived.

US moves to Arabian Gulf a new robotic marine-air task force operated by AI – DEBKAfile

Posted October 19, 2021 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized


 
Arabian GulfIranTask Force 59US robotic stealth drones

The first of its kind, the US Task Force 59 aims to enhance deterrence against Iran by the use in the region of integrated unmanned systems and artificial intelligence. The innovative force of stealth Loyal Wingman drones was established to address the growing need to deter Iran from harassment of US and allied shipping including Israeli vessels.

Although the nature of Task Force 59’s activities (and most platforms) remains secret, the Loyal Wingman drones and other remote-controlled technologies are known to be extremely versatile, armed for providing support for manned aircraft in disputed airspace, such as F-35 stealth fighters, as well as equipped for cyber warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. These futuristic drones are even capable of carrying out such diverse operations from beginning to end by themselves, while operating under, on and above the radar.

Task Force 59 has begun to be deployed in sensitive areas and regional chokepoints, such as the Straits of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb Straits, the northern Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

Tehran was quick to react to the new stealth, remote-controlled US force, DEBKAfile’s military sources report, by adding six units to its squads of armed speedboats and operational UAVs with the ability to launch cyberattacks to disrupt the Force 59’s systems. Such attempts are hampered, however, by an inability to keep track of autonomous low-flying self-operating stealth drones like the Wingmans.

Still, Iran while, boosting its missile and other military capabilities, is also making strides in the development of drone warfare. For the US too it is important to enhance surveillance on Iranian activities in the region, especially the movements of “civilians” in coastal areas.

On September 11, Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz warned that Iran is training militias in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria to use advanced drones at the Kashan military base. Iran believes that Task Force 59 is to the potential nucleus of a US-Gulf-Israeli front. With the drone danger increasing, many countries are on the lookout for sophisticated anti-drone weapons Task Force 59 can be seen as an initial attempt to test these arms.

Israel said to approve $1.5 billion budget for potential strike on Iran

Posted October 19, 2021 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized


Sum said to include funds for aircraft, intel-gathering drones and unique armaments needed for attack; report comes days after US announces successful test of new bunker buster

By TOI STAFFToday, 12:58 am  

An Israeli Air Force F-15 takes off during the Blue Flag air exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 8, 2017. (Jack Guez/AFP)

An Israeli Air Force F-15 takes off during the Blue Flag air exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 8, 2017. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Israel has approved a budget of some 5 billion shekels ($1.5 billion) to be used to prepare the military for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program, Channel 12 reported Monday.

The NIS 5 billion budget is made up of NIS 3 billion from the previous budget and an additional NIS 2 billion from the next budget slated to be approved by the government in November,

It includes funds for various types of aircraft, intelligence-gathering drones and unique armaments needed for such an attack, which would have to target heavily fortified underground sites, the unsourced report said.

The report comes days after the US Air Force announced that it had carried out a successful test of its new “bunker buster,” the GBU-72 Advanced 5K Penetrator. The 5,000-pound bomb could be used as a tool to strike Iranian nuclear sites.

Crucially, the GBU-72 is designed to be carried by a fighter jet or a heavy bomber. Israel does not have bombers capable of carrying the massive bunker busters in the current US arsenal.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

A smaller bunker buster bomb, the GBU-28, was secretly sold to Israel in 2009, though it is not thought to have the ability to penetrate Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility, which is buried deep under a mountain.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1448488984598958082&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.timesofisrael.com%2Fisrael-said-to-approve-1-5-billion-budget-for-potential-strike-on-iran%2F&sessionId=a3521ee036e5edf0773acc56d6e982a96b741c54&siteScreenName=timesofisrael&theme=light&widgetsVersion=f001879%3A1634581029404&width=550px

The American test was based on experience gained by Israel in its bombing of Hamas’s underground tunnel network in Gaza during last May’s war, Channel 12 said.

The network speculated that in publicizing its 35,000 foot-drop of the bunker-buster at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base, the US is seeking to warn Iran not to stay away from negotiations at Vienna aimed at reviving the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Iran walked away from indirect talks with the US last June and elected as president ultraconservative hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, who has spoken out against the JCPOA, in the interim.IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi during a graduation ceremony at the National Security College in Glilot, central Israel, on July 14, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Last month, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told the Walla news site that Israel has “greatly accelerated” preparations for action against Iran’s nuclear program.

Kohavi said that “a significant chunk of the boost to the defense budget, as was recently agreed, was intended for this purpose. It’s a very complicated job, with much more intelligence, much more operational capabilities, much more armaments. We’re working on all these things.”

Kohavi had publicly declared in January that the IDF was preparing fresh “operational plans” for a potent military strike, and in August that Iran’s nuclear progress has prompted the IDF “to speed up its operational plans,” with a fresh budget to do so.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly last month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared that “Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning… We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”This Nov. 4, 2020, satellite photo by Maxar Technologies shows Iran’s Fordo nuclear site (Maxar Technologies via AP)

The Biden administration says it is still seeking a joint US-Iranian return to compliance with the JCPOA, while acknowledging that it will not wait indefinitely for Tehran to return to the negotiation table.

If it fails to do so, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid that “every option” will be on the table — an apparent uptick in rhetoric after US President Joe Biden told Bennett in August that Washington was willing to consider “other options” if the JCPOA cannot be revived.

Blinken and Lapid talk publicly of ‘other options’ to stop Iran nuke program

Posted October 14, 2021 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

US secretary warns ‘time running out for return to nuclear deal,’ adds US moving to reopen Palestinian consulate; UAE’s foreign minister pledges to visit Israel ‘soon’

By LAZAR BERMAN13 October 2021, 10:15 pm  

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, accompanied by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, speaks at a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, accompanied by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, speaks at a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

During a joint press conference Wednesday with his American and Emirati counterparts, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke of “other options” — understood to include military action — should diplomacy fail to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.(From left to right): Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a press conference in Washington, DC on October 13, 2021. (GPO)

“Other options are going to be on the table if diplomacy fails,” Lapid said. “By saying other options, I think everyone understands, here, in Israel, in the Emirates, and in Tehran, what is it that we mean.”

Lapid added in Hebrew that his three-day trip to Washington centered around “the other options” but did not repeat that line in his English comments.

Using the same “other options” phrase, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also hinted at the possibility of military action against Iran if Tehran does not return to the 2015 nuclear deal, known also as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“We will continue to look at every option to deal with the challenge that is posed by Iran. We believe that diplomacy is the best way to do that, but it takes two to engage in diplomacy,” Blinken said.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

“We’re united in the proposition that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Blinken added, while noting that Iran has already had nine months since Biden’s election to demonstrate its commitment.

“With every passing day, and Iran’s refusal to engage in good faith, the runway gets short,” Blinken said. “Time is running short. We are getting closer to a point at which returning to compliance with the JCPOA will not in and of itself recapture the benefits of the JCPOA.

“We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn’t change course,” he warned.Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington, DC, on October 13, 2021. (Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP)

The US has yet to publicly entertain alternative options to the JCPOA in detail, insisting that it is still pursuing the diplomatic path to blocking Iran’s nuclear ambitions. President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in August that if that effort fails, the US will be prepared to consider other options.

Lapid said in his prepared remarks at the beginning of the press conference that “Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment, in any way. That is not only our right, it is also our responsibility.”

He added: “Iran has publicly stated it wants to wipe us out. We have no intention of letting that happen.”Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on October 13, 2021 (Shlomi Amsalem GPO)

On September 21, the day Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi blasted US sanctions on Iran in his address to the UN, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that Tehran would return to the talks within weeks.

The 2015 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in return for tight controls on its nuclear program. In 2018, then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the multilateral accord and began reimposing sanctions.Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, right, speaks at bilateral meeting at the State Department in Washington, DC, on October 13, 2021. (Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP)

In the interim, Iran has openly breached some terms of the accord, including enriching to higher than permitted levels, stockpiling more enriched uranium, introducing advanced centrifuges, and moving ahead on other processes with bomb-making applications.

The US negotiator on Iran, Rob Malley, said Wednesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: “We feel like coming back would still be the best outcome, but we’re realistic.

“We know that there’s at least a good possibility that Iran is going to choose a different path, and we need to coordinate with Israel and with our other partners in the region,” he said.

After taking part in the talks with Israel and the UAE, Malley said he would head in the coming days to the UAE, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.Robert Malley in 2018 (YouTube screenshot)

Lapid addressed the Palestinian issue as well, quoting John F. Kennedy that “all people are entitled to a decent way of life.”

“This includes of course the Palestinians,” he said. “Our goal is to work with the Palestinian Authority to ensure that every child has that opportunity.”

On the Palestinian issue, Blinken pledged to “deepen our diplomatic ties.”

“As I said in May,” he continued, “we’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening those ties with the Palestinians.”

Blinken also emphasized that the Biden administration is “committed to continue building on the efforts of the last administration to expand the circle of countries with normalized relations with Israel in the years ahead.”

He announced two new working groups that the US, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will participate in: one on religious coexistence and the other on water and energy.

UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said his country was “extremely impressed with our growing relationship with Israel.”United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan listens during a joint news conference with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the State Department in Washington, DC on October 13, 2021. (Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP)

Bin Zayed announced that he would visit Israel “soon.”

“Foreign Minister Yair was kind enough to invite me to visit Israel and I’m going to visit soon to meet a friend and also a partner,” he said.

Referencing the Palestinians as well, bin Zayed said that the Abraham Accords help Israel and the UAE “to be more candid with each other, but also to encourage the others whenever there is more to be done.”

He referred to Israel’s arch-enemy Hezbollah during his comments on the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

“We have to keep in mind that we don’t end up with a situation where we have another Hezbollah threatening the borders of Suadi Arabia,” bin Zayed said. “And the Houthis have managed to develop their capabilities over the law few years in a way which is much faster than the trajectory of Hezbollah developing its capabilities.”In this Aug. 22, 2020 file photo, tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels raise their weapons during a protest against the agreement to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP/Hani Mohammed, File)

“We have to make sure we have enough partners and enough international understanding that we don’t have another southern Lebanon situation in Yemen,” he stressed.

On Tuesday, Lapid met with Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Israel’s top diplomat will meet with AIPAC leaders Thursday before flying back home.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

Why Israel is stepping up its planning, and its rhetoric, for a strike on Iran

Posted October 5, 2021 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

For perhaps 3 years after the JCPOA was inked, Israel essentially discarded its operational planning and capability to decimate Iran’s nuclear facilities. That’s all changed now

By DAVID HOROVITZ1 October 2021, 4:16 pm  

In this photo released Jan. 8, 2021, commanders of Iran's paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps walk past missiles during a visit to a new military base in an undisclosed location. (Sepahnews via AP)

In this photo released Jan. 8, 2021, commanders of Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps walk past missiles during a visit to a new military base in an undisclosed location. (Sepahnews via AP)

There is a fundamental disconnect at the heart of the Biden administration’s strategy for preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.

The US is trying, without success thus far, to persuade Iran to resume compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and is more than ready to return to that deal itself after the Trump administration withdrew from it in 2018. But it also says it seeks a longer and stronger deal that would address the gaping flaws in the JCPOA.

In other words, it is having a very, very hard time persuading an emboldened Tehran to return to a lousy accord, and yet ostensibly hopes it will subsequently be able to somehow convince the ayatollahs to agree to a more effective one.

That the 2015 deal was an Iranian victory and a Western catastrophe was clear from the get-go.

Foremost among its many lacunas were its “sunset clauses”: After 15 years, it permits Iran to enrich as much uranium as it wants to 20 percent. And after 10 years, it allows Iran to manufacture and utilize advanced centrifuges. It also allowed Iran to continue R&D on advanced centrifuges — which the regime has done with alacrity — and other elements that would hasten a breakout to the bomb. It didn’t even purport to try to rein in Iranian advances on ballistic missile delivery systems. Far from dismantling Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, the JCPOA does not even achieve the much more limited goal of freezing and effectively inspecting it.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

Since the Trump administration pulled out, Tehran has been openly breaching the deal — including by producing advanced centrifuges, enriching fast-growing quantities of uranium to 60%, and stockpiling (as of August) some 85 kilos of 20%-enriched uranium.Iran’s then-president Hassan Rouhani, right, is shown new centrifuges while visiting an exhibition of Iran’s new nuclear achievements in Tehran, April 10, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AFP)

The US approach, and that of the other P5+1 nations party to the 2015 accord, reflects their particular priorities and assessments. Certainly, where the US, UK, France and Germany are concerned, the combination of the ayatollahs and a devastating nuclear weapons capability is seen as a strategic danger.

For Israel, however, a nuclear Iran is an existential threat.

For perhaps three years after the JCPOA was inked, Israel essentially discarded its operational planning and capability to decimate Iran’s nuclear facilities. Not many years earlier, extremely robust military attack plans were in place and arguably close to being implemented. But with the international community, led by the US, locked into a diplomatic arrangement, Israel recognized that such an operation was unthinkable.

Of late, however, in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s withdrawal, and the open Iranian breaching of the accord, such extremely serious planning is again the order of the day.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly last week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared that “Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning… We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

With quite dramatic candor, meanwhile, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi publicly declared (in January) that the IDF was preparing fresh “operational plans” for a potent military strike; (in August) that Iran’s nuclear progress has prompted the IDF “to speed up its operational plans,” with a fresh budget to do so; and (in September) that the IDF has “greatly accelerated” preparations for action against Iran’s nuclear program.IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi during a graduation ceremony at the National Security College in Glilot, central Israel, July 14, 2021 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israel has not seen signs that Iran is about to break out to the bomb. Notably, while Iran declared in July that it can enrich uranium to 90%, weapons-grade, it has not moved to do so. Such a move, it likely calculates, would be regarded as proximate to a declaration of war.

And even amassing enough enriched material for a bomb, which Iran is assessed now to be able to do in 2-3 months, is emphatically not the same as attaining a deliverable nuclear weapon. That’s still a lengthy process — perhaps eight months to a year from a decision to break out, according to one assessment by ex-IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin.Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden have coffee in the White House private presidential dining hall on Aug. 27, 2021. (White House/Twitter)

What the recent, repeated, public declarations that Israel is preparing operational attack plans underline, however, is the recognition that while Biden assured Bennett at the White House in August of the US “commitment to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon,” Tehran is manifestly unfazed and undeterred.

“We’re putting diplomacy first and seeing where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options,” said Biden. But that vague formulation — delivered as the US essentially pleads with Iran to return to a leaky deal, deeply breached, that allows it to close in on the bomb — is not regarded in Israel as constituting a credible military threat. The more so because the US president is grappling with a host of other priorities, is on the defensive after the fiasco of his withdrawal from Afghanistan, and, again, does not regard a nuclear Iran with the same degree of concern as Israel does.The scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of Tehran, Iran, on November 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP); Inset: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo. (Courtesy)

And therefore Israel is ramping up both its rhetoric and its concrete practical preparations.

It is avowedly preparing to strike, with the added credibility of a track record of recent successful actions against the Iranian program. And it is doing so, genuinely readying for action, in the profound hope that the very candid sincerity of that planning will deter the rapacious extremists in Tehran, rendering such a strike unnecessary.

Iran suspected of damaging watchdog cameras to cover up 90pc weapons grade uranium enrichment – DEBKAfile

Posted September 23, 2021 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

The gaps in the nuclear watchdog’s coverage of Iran’s nuclear operations were not assessed by the IAEA director Rafael Grossi when he announced in Tehran ten days ago that he and Iran had agreed to restore the cameras installed at sensitive sites. He did admit that some were damaged by mysterious explosions or were disabled, leaving a monitoring gap of several months. Grossi did not accuse the Iranians of deliberately damaging the cameras. He insisted however, that for him the new deal with Tehran was “a stopgap measure to allow time for diplomacy.”

However, DEBKAfile’s sources report that the cameras at the Natanz and Fordo uranium enrichment facilities are still not working. The new head of Iran’s nuclear agency Mohammed Eslami admitted later: “A large number of the cameras had been shut off.” No explanation was offered.
American and Israeli nuclear experts are convinced that they were deliberately vandalized to conceal the next stage of Iran’s progress towards weaponizing its nuclear program. Free of international oversight, that program is believed to have used the gap in surveillance to clandestinely jump its uranium enrichment from 60 percent grade to 90 percent, tantamount to weapons grade.

This stage of enrichment is easier to conceal than the early stages and has most likely been moved to small, secret sites not covered by 2015 nuclear accord that the Biden administration is seeking to renegotiate. In addition, the broad information gap of several months generated by disabled cameras leaves uncharted territory for any future diplomatic process with Iran alone in command of the true facts and no means of verification..

Mossad killed Iran’s top nuke scientist with remote-operated machine gun — NYT

Posted September 20, 2021 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

From command center far away, Israeli team reportedly used AI-powered weapon built into abandoned-looking vehicle to take out Fakhrizadeh; hit would have needed Trump’s ‘assent’

By TOI STAFF18 September 2021, 5:32 pm  

The scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, in Tehran, Iran, on November 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP); Inset: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo. (Courtesy)

The scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, in Tehran, Iran, on November 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP); Inset: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo. (Courtesy)

Top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in November 2020 in a sophisticated hit led by a Mossad team that reportedly deployed a computerized machine gun, required no on-site operatives, took less than a minute, and did not injure anyone else, including the scientist’s wife who was with him at the time.

According to an in-depth New York Times report published on Saturday, the weapon used in the high-profile assassination last year of Fakhrizadeh — regarded by Israel and many Western officials as the “father” of Iran’s nuclear weapons program — was a modified Belgian-made FN MAG machine gun attached to an advanced robotic apparatus and powered with artificial intelligence technology. The whole device weighed about a ton and was smuggled into Iran in small parts ahead of the operation and then reassembled.

The Mossad team handled the whole operation from a command center outside the country, according to the report which the publication said was based on interviews with American, Israeli and Iranian officials, “including two intelligence officials familiar with the details of the planning and execution of the operation.”

The report detailed how Israel had been closely following Fakhrizadeh’s career and movements since at least 2007 and began making preparations for an assassination operation in late 2019 and early 2020, following a series of meetings between Israeli officials led by then-Mossad director Yossi Cohen and high-ranking United States officials, including then-US President Donald Trump, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the CIA director Gina Haspel.

These preparations moved into high gear by the summer of 2020, according to the report, and Israel decided to press ahead, driven by two factors: Iran’s tepid response to the January 2020 killing of its top general Qassim Suleimani in a US drone strike facilitated by Israeli intelligence, and the rising likelihood that Trump would lose the national election that November to Joe Biden, who had indicated he would return the US to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

“If Israel was going to kill a top Iranian official, an act that had the potential to start a war, it needed the assent and protection of the United States,” the New York Times reported, noting how much Trump and then-premier Benjamin Netanyahu “saw eye to eye.”Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo. (Courtesy)

“In Mr. Netanyahu’s best-case scenario, the assassination would derail any chance of resurrecting the nuclear agreement even if Mr. Biden won,” the report read.

Fakhrizadeh, 59, a physicist, an officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a professor at the Imam Hussein University in Tehran, was killed on November 27, 2020, while en route with his wife from their vacation home on the Caspian Sea to their country house in Absard, east of Tehran. He was driving his own vehicle, a black Nissan Teana sedan, with his wife sitting in the passenger seat beside him and his bodyguards in separate cars behind him.

The report detailed how the scientist had disregarded warnings of a possible assassination attempt as well as the advice of his security team, insisting on driving himself in the unarmored car. He no longer took threats to his life seriously having been subjected to them for years. He had previously been targeted for assassination, most recently in 2009 when a hit team was ready to carry out its plan but the operation was called off as the Mossad feared an ambush, the report said.

Meanwhile, that November, the Mossad’s computerized weapon was affixed to an abandoned-looking car, a blue Nissan Zamyad pickup truck, stationed by Iranian agents working with the Israeli agency at a junction on the main road where drivers heading for Absard had to make a U-turn, according to the report. The truck was laden with a camera and explosives so it could be destroyed after the hit.

When the team got word that Fakhrizadeh was heading out, “the assassin, a skilled sniper, took up his position, calibrated the gun sights, cocked the weapon and lightly touched the trigger” — all from an “undisclosed location thousands of miles away” and no longer in Iran.An illustrative photo of a Belgian FN MAG mounted on a Eurocopter EC 725 Cougar MkII at the 2007 Paris Air Show. (Jastrow – Own work, Public Domain, Link)

The hit team had to overcome several obstacles, including a slight time delay as well as the recoil of the weapon after a shot that could change the trajectory. The report said that “AI [articificial intelligence] was programmed to compensate for the delay, the shake, and the car’s speed,” without going into further detail.

Once Fakhrizadeh’s vehicle arrived at the junction, another vehicle with his bodyguards made way to the vacation home to inspect it before his arrival, leaving him exposed. The remaining vehicles in the convoy slowed for a speed bump just before the parked truck, at which point the operatives could positively identify Fakhrizadeh as the driver of the Nissan. They unleashed a hail of bullets, hitting the car below the windshield.

The report said that it was unknown whether Fakhrizadeh was injured but the car swerved and came to a stop, after which he stepped out and crouched down before the open door. He was then hit with three more bullets that “tore into his spine” and collapsed on the road.

The first bodyguard arrived at the scene with a weapon and “looked around for the assailant, seemingly confused.”

Fakhrizadeh’s wife ran to him and sat beside him on the road. The blue truck then exploded but most of the equipment remained largely intact though severely damaged.

A total of 15 bullets were fired and the whole assassination was over in less than 60 seconds, the New York Times reported. No one else was hit or injured.

The operation was deemed a success, according to the report, given “serious security failures by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, extensive planning and surveillance by the Mossad, and an insouciance bordering on fatalism on the part of Mr. Fakhrizadeh.”

“The souped-up, remote-controlled machine gun now joins the combat drone in the arsenal of high-tech weapons for remote targeted killing,” and is “likely to reshape the worlds of security and espionage,” the New York Times reported.

Iran could have enough enriched uranium for a nuke in a month – report

Posted September 14, 2021 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

But experts say Tehran would still need more time before actually creating a deliverable weapon; estimate comes with talks stalled between US and Iran over new nuclear deal

By JUDAH ARI GROSS and AFPToday, 8:31 amUpdated at 9:09 am  

In this image, made from April 17, 2021 video released by the state-run TV station Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility. (IRIB via AP)

In this image, made from April 17, 2021 video released by the state-run TV station Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility. (IRIB via AP)

Iran may be able to amass sufficient weapons-grade uranium for an atomic bomb within a month, a new report warned Monday, as the Islamic Republic continues to ramp up its violations of the 2015 accord limiting its nuclear program for sanctions relief.

Critically, the estimate did not include the time it would take Iran to actually assemble a deliverable nuclear bomb — one that could be installed in a warhead on a ballistic missile — which would be far longer. Last month, the Israel Defense Forces assessed that the process would take at least several months and potentially up to a year.

The report released on Monday was written by experts from the Institute for Science and International Security, who examined a recent report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, concerning Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Overall, the IAEA’s latest report shows Iran’s rapidly advancing nuclear activities and steps to limit IAEA monitoring, while inspectors have a diminishing ability to detect Iranian diversion of assets to undeclared facilities. The IAEA is sounding an alarm to the international community accordingly,” the report warned.

The experts, led by former UN nuclear inspector David Albright, noted Iran has continued to grow its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in recent months, predicting that in “a worst-case breakout estimate” Tehran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in a month.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

After three months, the report said, Iran could have enough enriched uranium for two weapons; after five months, for three.Illustrative: IAEA inspectors at Iran’s nuclear power plant in Natanz on January 20, 2014. (IRNA/AFP Kazem Ghane/File)

Unnamed US federal officials would not confirm the possible breakout time, but acknowledged to The New York Times that Iran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in a few months.

Israeli officials have indicated a similar timeline. Last month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Iran was “only two months away from acquiring the materials necessary for a nuclear weapon.” He called for the international community to develop a “Plan B” should the stalled nuclear talks fail, including sanctions and the credible threat of military action.

Albright said Iran’s recent conduct suggested it is trying to improve its hand at the negotiating table under new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, with the aim of securing more favorable terms in talks on restoring the 2015 agreement following former US president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal and reimposition of sanctions on Tehran.

“We have to be careful,” he was quoted as saying at a Friday press conference by the Times, “not to let them scare us.”

Former Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Nagel, who is generally considered to be hawkish on Iran, issued a similar warning in an interview on Army Radio on Tuesday after the report was published, alleging that the findings in the Times article were political spin by the US government.

“All of the information that was revealed by the New York Times came from American government officials because now there is pressure to return to the nuclear accord and even to improve the conditions for Iran,” he said.

President of the Institute for Science and International Security David Albright, left, accompanied by Former State Department Director of Policy Planning Jake Sullivan speaks during a hearing on Iran before the House Foreign Affairs Committee at Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The report came a day after the IAEA and Iran clinched a deal over access to surveillance equipment at Iranian nuclear facilities.

The footage will be handed over to the IAEA if and when there is an agreement between Iran and world powers on the revival of the 2015 nuclear pact.

Talks to revive the agreement are currently stalled, with Iran warning it may be months before they restart.

Little progress has been made on another issue relating to longstanding questions the IAEA has had about the previous presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites in Iran.

The agency has said in numerous reports that Iran’s explanations about the material have not been satisfactory.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters Monday at the start of a meeting of the agency’s board of governors that it was a delicate moment for international diplomacy on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Asked whether now was the time to be tougher with Iran on the issue, Grossi replied that “from day one I have had an approach with Iran which is firm and fair.”

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi, from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference regarding the agency’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear energy program at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, on June 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

In the run-up to this week’s board of governors meeting there had been speculation that Western countries may push for a resolution censuring Iran, but a diplomatic source told AFP that the deal struck over the weekend had “in principle removed” that possibility.

Iran’s conservative press, meanwhile, on Monday celebrated the weekend’s deal.

The Javan daily said it meant “Iran had not revealed its secrets to the agency,” while the Vatan-e-Emrouz newspaper titled its coverage “Eyes wide shut.”

Asked how difficult it would be to reconstruct information once the IAEA gains access to the footage, Grossi admitted that “it’s something that has to a certain extent never been done before but it’s not… beyond the capacity of my technical teams.”

However, he confirmed that the agency still has access to footage “as often as required” from sites such as Iran’s enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordo.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

Iran could have enough enriched uranium for a nuke in a month – report

Posted September 14, 2021 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized


But experts say Tehran would still need more time before actually creating a deliverable weapon; estimate comes with talks stalled between US and Iran over new nuclear deal

By JUDAH ARI GROSS and AFPToday, 8:31 amUpdated at 9:09 am  

In this image, made from April 17, 2021 video released by the state-run TV station Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility. (IRIB via AP)

In this image, made from April 17, 2021 video released by the state-run TV station Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility. (IRIB via AP)

Iran may be able to amass sufficient weapons-grade uranium for an atomic bomb within a month, a new report warned Monday, as the Islamic Republic continues to ramp up its violations of the 2015 accord limiting its nuclear program for sanctions relief.

Critically, the estimate did not include the time it would take Iran to actually assemble a deliverable nuclear bomb — one that could be installed in a warhead on a ballistic missile — which would be far longer. Last month, the Israel Defense Forces assessed that the process would take at least several months and potentially up to a year.

The report released on Monday was written by experts from the Institute for Science and International Security, who examined a recent report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, concerning Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Overall, the IAEA’s latest report shows Iran’s rapidly advancing nuclear activities and steps to limit IAEA monitoring, while inspectors have a diminishing ability to detect Iranian diversion of assets to undeclared facilities. The IAEA is sounding an alarm to the international community accordingly,” the report warned.

The experts, led by former UN nuclear inspector David Albright, noted Iran has continued to grow its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in recent months, predicting that in “a worst-case breakout estimate” Tehran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in a month.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

After three months, the report said, Iran could have enough enriched uranium for two weapons; after five months, for three.Illustrative: IAEA inspectors at Iran’s nuclear power plant in Natanz on January 20, 2014. (IRNA/AFP Kazem Ghane/File)

Unnamed US federal officials would not confirm the possible breakout time, but acknowledged to The New York Times that Iran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in a few months.

Israeli officials have indicated a similar timeline. Last month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Iran was “only two months away from acquiring the materials necessary for a nuclear weapon.” He called for the international community to develop a “Plan B” should the stalled nuclear talks fail, including sanctions and the credible threat of military action.

Albright said Iran’s recent conduct suggested it is trying to improve its hand at the negotiating table under new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, with the aim of securing more favorable terms in talks on restoring the 2015 agreement following former US president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal and reimposition of sanctions on Tehran.

“We have to be careful,” he was quoted as saying at a Friday press conference by the Times, “not to let them scare us.”

Former Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Nagel, who is generally considered to be hawkish on Iran, issued a similar warning in an interview on Army Radio on Tuesday after the report was published, alleging that the findings in the Times article were political spin by the US government.

“All of the information that was revealed by the New York Times came from American government officials because now there is pressure to return to the nuclear accord and even to improve the conditions for Iran,” he said.President of the Institute for Science and International Security David Albright, left, accompanied by Former State Department Director of Policy Planning Jake Sullivan speaks during a hearing on Iran before the House Foreign Affairs Committee at Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The report came a day after the IAEA and Iran clinched a deal over access to surveillance equipment at Iranian nuclear facilities.

The footage will be handed over to the IAEA if and when there is an agreement between Iran and world powers on the revival of the 2015 nuclear pact.

Talks to revive the agreement are currently stalled, with Iran warning it may be months before they restart.

Little progress has been made on another issue relating to longstanding questions the IAEA has had about the previous presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites in Iran.

The agency has said in numerous reports that Iran’s explanations about the material have not been satisfactory.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters Monday at the start of a meeting of the agency’s board of governors that it was a delicate moment for international diplomacy on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Asked whether now was the time to be tougher with Iran on the issue, Grossi replied that “from day one I have had an approach with Iran which is firm and fair.”Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi, from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference regarding the agency’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear energy program at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, on June 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

In the run-up to this week’s board of governors meeting there had been speculation that Western countries may push for a resolution censuring Iran, but a diplomatic source told AFP that the deal struck over the weekend had “in principle removed” that possibility.

Iran’s conservative press, meanwhile, on Monday celebrated the weekend’s deal.

The Javan daily said it meant “Iran had not revealed its secrets to the agency,” while the Vatan-e-Emrouz newspaper titled its coverage “Eyes wide shut.”

Asked how difficult it would be to reconstruct information once the IAEA gains access to the footage, Grossi admitted that “it’s something that has to a certain extent never been done before but it’s not… beyond the capacity of my technical teams.”

However, he confirmed that the agency still has access to footage “as often as required” from sites such as Iran’s enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordo.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.