Archive for February 15, 2018

How Israel Could Take The Fight Directly To Iran

February 15, 2018

By Charles Bybelezer | The Media Line February 15, 2018

Source: How Israel Could Take The Fight Directly To Iran

{No more hiding behind proxies. – LS}

While conventional military options targeting Iran are unlikely, Israel nevertheless has options

The conflagration this past weekend between Israeli and Iranian forces is being billed as a new stage in the longstanding, albeit to date largely covert, war between the two adversaries. For the first time, Iranian troops perpetrated a direct attack on Israel; initially, by sending a drone across the border from Syria and then by firing the anti-aircraft missile that downed an IDF jet which had reentered Israeli airspace after conducting a retaliatory mission.

The events were significant both because of the success in downing the Israeli warplane, the first such occurrence in decades, but also because it evidences Iran’s growing foothold in the Syrian theater, a development that Jerusalem vehemently opposes and has vowed to prevent at all costs. Overall, Iran’s actions suggest that it feels sufficiently emboldened to use its own forces to harm the Jewish state.

According to Lt. Col. (ret.) Yiftah Shapir, a career officer in the Israeli Air Force and the former head of the Military Balance Project at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, the incident constitutes a strategic shift “as it marks the first occasion that the Iranians openly engaged Israel, whereas previously this was done via its proxies. It may be,” he qualified to The Media Line, “that the Iranians misjudged the [intensity of the] Israeli response and that the status quo will be restored for a period of time.”

By contrast, Saturday’s flare-up was not the first time that Israel directly struck Iranian assets. In December, the IDF reportedly destroyed a military facility being built by Tehran ​​in al-Kiswah, just south of Damascus. Notably, in 2015, Israeli strikes killed at least six Iranian troops in the Syrian Golan Heights, including a general in the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Also targeted was Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the notorious former Hizbullah operations chief Imad who was himself killed in an Israeli-attributed 2008 car bombing in Syria.

Furthermore, Israel’s Mossad has been implicated in the assassination of multiple nuclear scientists on Iranian soil, not to mention the deployment of the Stuxnet cyber-weapon, a computer worm developed in conjunction with Washington that wreaked havoc on Iranian nuclear installations even after being discovered in 2010.

So whereas the latest confrontation along the northern border was in some ways exceptional, it does not inevitably entail a long-term escalation or that the conflict be brought out into the open, albeit these are both distinct possibilities.

In fact, while the political and military echelons have made clear that Israel is not seeking an escalation, its so-called “red lines”—namely, the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hizbullah in Lebanon and Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria—continue to be violated; this, despite the IDF having conducted well over 100 cross-border strikes to protect its interests over the past eighteen months. Additionally, Iran has started construction on a subterranean facility in Lebanon to manufacture long-range precision missiles that could allow Hizbullah to target, with great accuracy, critical Israeli infrastructure in a future war.

Taken together, these developments raise the question of whether Israel’s deterrence vis-a-vis Tehran and its Lebanese proxy may be weakening, which would necessitate modifying its military strategy.

“Israel’s [decision-making process] now depends largely on what the Iranians and Hizbullah do moving forward,” Brig. Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, former director of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, told The Media Line. “Throughout the years Israel has taken action all over [the region] to make sure that its interests are met. Israel needs to use all the tools available to it, including through its allies.”

While one incident is unlikely to cause a dramatic change in Jerusalem’s calculus, it is possible that the Israeli army could eventually adopt a page out of Tehran’s playbook by taking the fight directly to the Iranian heartland.

To this end, most experts agree that a full-scale military operation targeting Iran’s atomic facilities—the likes of which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly advocated for in 2012 but which was shelved due to opposition from the defense establishment and the Obama administration—is currently off-the-table. While the debate previously centered on the ability to set-back Iran’s nuclear program by enough time to justify the risks, today the political climate has rendered the discussion moot.

The signing of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 effectively ended the possibility for such a mission—the ramifications considered untenable. On the one hand, with the U.S. still committed to the agreement—in addition to Russia, China and European nations—the political fall-out from any major military foray into Iran would dwarf the backlash in the wake of the destruction of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1982 and the atomic facility in Deir ez-Zor, Syria in 2007. On the other hand, since the accord was forged Tehran has deepened its penetration into Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip, all but ensuring that the targeting by Israel of its atomic infrastructure would ignite a war on all three fronts.

Moreover, as U.S. President Donald Trump mulls withdrawing altogether from the deal any Israeli action targeting Iran’s nuclear program—military or otherwise—could be self-defeating as it could hinder the American leader’s efforts to either re-impose “crippling” sanctions on the Islamic Republic or at the very least strengthen the atomic agreement by addressing, perhaps in a follow-on pact, Tehran’s ballistic missile program and regional adventurism.

Nevertheless, Israel has non-military options according to former Mossad chief Danny Yatom. “Israel should consider all possibilities, including targeting Iran directly, but as part of a grand strategy. I would not exclude the potential that Israel will also use proxies,” he contended to The Media Line. ”

This could include mobilizing the Peoples Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), for example, which may have carried out the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists on Israel’s behalf. Jerusalem has allegedly provided funding, training and possibly arms to the exiled anti-regime group.

The Paris-based MEK maintains a presence in Iraq and, covertly, in Iran, from where it has been accused of fomenting civil unrest including the recent week-long nationwide protests. Recently delisted by the U.S. as a terror group, it also purportedly has links to Saudi Arabia and therefore could act as an intermediary between the Jewish state and Riyadh to facilitate the coordination of their positions. The Iranian dissident organization also monitors Tehran’s nuclear program (in fact it was the first non-state actor to reveal it) and might therefore serve as an additional intelligence source for Israel moving forward.

It is a shadowy game no doubt, but the MEK, among other groups, could also be used as a conduit through which to convey Israel’s increasingly bold message to the Iranian masses; namely, that Jerusalem is not their enemy but, rather, the Mullahs themselves. In this respect, Netanyahu has numerous times over the past year directly addressed the Iranian people, reinforcing the fact that Israel marks a distinction between the regime and the population.

“Israel’s policy of speaking directly to the Iranian people is right, as today one can send messages not only via television, radio and written press but also through social media, which can reach millions,” Yatom stated. “Why not speak to the population over the heads of the Iranian regime?”

The Israeli premier, in conjunction with U.S. President Donald Trump, also publicly backed the recent demonstrations in Iran, suggesting that Jerusalem and Washington may be on the same page, readying to invest further energies into empowering the Iranian opposition with the aim of promoting regime change.

“It is very important to address the Iranian populace, as relations with Israelis were strong not only under the Shah but also historically there is no real animosity between Iran and Israel,” Eliezer Tzafrir, the former head of the Mossad station in Iran explained to The Media Line. “The Iranian youth wants a major departure from the radicalism. They want Internet, they want men and women to be able to publicly meet. One day they will succeed.”

Given the high stakes, Israel will in the near future like have to make some hard strategic decisions that could effectively chart its course for years to come. If it is serious about maintaining its qualitative military advantage—not in the region, mind you, but, rather, even along its borders—it may be forced to undertake significant operations in both Lebanon and Syria, which could very well lead to full-blown conflict.

“We cannot preclude the possibility that Israel will take action to destroy the factory [in Lebanon], especially because it says so clearly, which effectively makes it an obligation,” Yatom stressed. “There is a very big difference between tens of thousands of rockets in Hizbullah’s hands that are not as precise and those that can potentially hit specific buildings.

“In this case, the threat to Israel will be much more severe and it is better to deal with it before they produce the technology than after,” he continued. “We must take into consideration that if that happens it might ignite a medium- or large-scale military exchange. But it appears that the situation is going to deteriorate anyhow unless there will be a coherent international effort to push the Iranians out of Syria and put more restraints on Hizbullah.”

In the interim, Jerusalem might consider indirect action, allowing it to maintain plausible deniability while reducing the prospects of unintended consequences that could lead to a major intensification of the conflict. The impact of such a shot across the bow against the Iranian regime might resonate even more loudly given the proximity to home.



Palestinian Diplomat: ‘We’ll Keep Teaching Our Kids to Throw Rocks!’

February 15, 2018

By: The Tower and United with Israel Staff Feb 14, 2018

Source Link:
Palestinian Diplomat We’ll Keep Teaching Our Kids to Throw Rocks

{First rocks, then explosives.  Shouldn’t they be learning to throw footballs?  – LS}

A member of the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations (UN) told a group of students that Palestinians are “very expert at throwing the stones” and that they would not stop teaching their children to do so, Ynet reported Tuesday.

In the recording obtained by Ynet,  Abdullah Abu Shawesh, who is both a senior adviser to the UN’s Development Group and a member of the Palestinian UN mission, told a group of visiting Canadian students from McGill University’s international relations program that the Palestinians “are very clever and very expert at throwing the stones. We are very proud to do that. We will not stop to learn our kids (to do that).”

“We are very proud that we are stone throwers. I’m one of them. Now I became a little bit older, but I stay resistant in the name of my kids,” he added.

Later, Abu Shawesh added details about  his own stone throwing during the first Intifada. “I was in high school. I never missed an opportunity to throw stones. This is our life. We develop our resistance every day. We’re proud of it.”

When informed of Abu Shawesh’s comments, Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN stated that “the Palestinians are no longer trying to hide the truth. The Palestinian leadership and its representatives are inciting against Israel and openly encouraging terrorism. The international community must not allow it.”

“It cannot be that inside the UN, which is supposed to make peace and protect human rights, a diplomat will incite to violence and terrorism, which wounds and even kills innocent Israelis,” Danon added.

Poisoning the Minds of Palestinian Children

The PA educational system routinely poisons the minds of Palestinian children by educating them to hate Israel and Israelis through terror-promoting messages. It even uses cultural mediums such as school plays, sports events and summer camps for this heinous objective.

Fatah, led by Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas, in December posted on its Twitter account a photo of a young boy using a slingshot to shoot stones, along with instructions on how best to throw rocks:

“In order to hit the target, there are three conditions,” the guide recommends. “1. Stand stably and balance your legs, arms, and body well. 2. Focus your gaze on the center of the target, and do not look at anything else. 3. Keep the desired balance between your body and your weapon. You are the one that controls the weapon, and not the other way around,” the guide stresses, according to a translation provided by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a watchdog that monitors Palestinian incitement to terrorism and anti-Semitism.

“If you did not understand this, read it again, and if you still have not understood, here is an example picture for you,” Fatah posted.



Israel said to fear Assad chemical weapons spillover into Golan Heights

February 15, 2018

In classified cable to envoys in 15 key countries, Foreign Ministry reportedly stresses Israel would respond to such a situation in ‘strongest possible terms’

Illustrative photo: this image, from a video posted on September 18, 2013, shows Syrians in protective suits and gas masks conducting a drill on how to treat casualties of a chemical weapons attack, in Aleppo, Syria (AP)

The Foreign Ministry fears poison gas may leak into Israel if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons against rebels near the Golan Heights, and has reported warned of a punishing response should such a situation unfold.

The ministry sent a classified cable to 15 Israeli ambassadors around the world, providing the envoys with guidelines for sending strong messages against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah to their host countries, following last week’s infiltration of an Iranian drone and subsequent downing of an Israeli F-16, Channel 10 news reported Wednesday.

In acknowledging Jerusalem’s fear of chemical spillover into the Golan Heights, the cable directed the envoys to convey that “it must be made clear that such an incident would require Israel to respond in the strongest possible terms.”

The Foreign Ministry asked its ambassadors to emphasize to the senior political leaders in the countries where they are stationed that Iran’s entrenchment in Syria could increase the Islamic Republic’s desire to carry out additional attacks on Israel, which would lead to an escalation of hostilities in the entire region.

An unconscious Syrian child receives treatment at a hospital in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, following a suspected toxic gas attack on April 4, 2017. (AFP Photo/Omar Haj Kadour)

“We must convey the message that Israel will not allow this and will defend itself, its citizens, and its sovereignty,” the cable said, according to the report.

In July 2012, a similar concern reverberated across Israel that terror groups could gain control of Syria’s large stockpile of chemical weapons. Officials at the time said Assad could transfer the weapons to the Hezbollah terrorist group. The number of gas masks distributed to civilians subsequently saw an immediate and significant rise.

The Syrian government on Wednesday denied it possessed chemical weapons and branded the use of such arms “immoral and unacceptable.”

A joint investigation team comprising experts from the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons concluded that the Syrian government used chlorine gas in at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 and used the nerve agent sarin in an aerial attack on Khan Sheikhoun last April 4 that killed about 100 people and affected about 200 others.

On February 1, Washington said Assad’s regime could be making new chemical weapons and warned it was considering fresh strikes against the regime.

Other messages that the Israeli envoys were asked to convey included calls on the international community to pressure Iran to halt its support of the Hezbollah terror group and to prevent the organization from purchasing and manufacturing precision missiles which could be used to target Israel, Channel 10 reported.

A senior Israeli official told Channel 10 that the ambassadors were asked to pass along the warnings in light of Jeruslem’s “sense” that the international community has not been taking Israel’s willingness to act against Iran’s entrenchment in Syria seriously.

A senior Syrian official on Tuesday warned Israel that it would face “surprises” if it launches any attacks on his country, claiming the Jewish state mistakenly thinks Syrian forces are incapable of defending the country.

Before dawn on Saturday, an Iranian drone was flown into Israeli airspace near the Jordanian border before it was shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter. Israel then conducted a series of airstrikes against positions in Syria, including the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle’s mobile command center, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has since hinted that Israel would continue carrying out airstrikes where necessary, calling on Syria and Iran “to not be silly” or “provocative.”

During the reprisal raid, one of the eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets that took part in the operation was apparently hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed. The Israeli Air Force then conducted a second round of airstrikes, destroying between a third and half of Syria’s air defenses, according to IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.