Archive for February 21, 2018

In Iraq, Hezbollah’s Got U.S. Tanks, and Washington Wants Them Back

February 21, 2018

David Axe 02.20.18 4:39 AM ET Via The Daily Beast

Source Link: In Iraq, Hezbollah’s Got U.S. Tanks, and Washington Wants Them Back

{Still cleaning up the mess left behind by Barack Barry Sotero Hussein Obama…and dealing with the Iraqi government this former sorry excuse of a POTUS so greatly admired. – LS}

The Pentagon is pressuring Iraq to seize any M-1s that are still in the hands of Iran-backed militias but is vague about how many have been recovered––or not.

Pro-Iranian militias in Iraq got their hands on at least nine high-tech, U.S.-made M-1 tanks as early as 2015, the U.S. government acknowledged earlier this month. Along with the belated admission, the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department say they are trying to take back the tanks. But to a great extent, the damage is already done. The militias have already deployed them against some of America’s longtime Kurdish allies.

“We are aware that not all U.S.-provided defense articles are under the control of the intended recipient,” a spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria told The Daily Beast via email. “The U.S. continues to work with the government of Iraq to continue acting as quickly as possible to ensure all defense articles are with their intended recipients.”

The Iraqi army has reclaimed “several” of the tanks, the spokesperson said.

The 70-ton M-1A1 Abrams, the most numerous tank in the arsenals of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps and a mainstay of U.S. allies’ own armies, is one of the most powerful fighting vehicles in the world. The four-person tank boasts a 120-millimeter cannon, thick armor and a gas-turbine engine that can propel the vehicle as fast as 40 miles per hour.

Iraq bought 140 refurbished M-1s from the United States starting in 2008 in order to rebuild armored divisions that American forces had destroyed during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The unit cost can vary, but each one is worth approximately $4.3 million.

When the so-called Islamic State swept through northwest Iraq in 2014, Iraqi M-1s were in the thick of the fighting. Militants quickly destroyed five of them, damaged dozens more, and captured several intact M-1s. For a few months at least, ISIS possessed operational M-1s. Then pro-Iran Shia militias—collectively known as “Popular Mobilization Forces” or PMF—recaptured some the tanks, the coalition spokesperson said.

In January 2015, a video appeared online that showed an M-1 flying the flag of the Hezbollah Brigades, a U.S.-designated terror group that’s part of the PMF and fights alongside the Iraqi army. A separate video that appeared in February 2016 showed an M-1 sporting the flag of Kata’ib Sayyid Al Shuhada, another PMF militia.

Recaptured vehicles that the PMF seized from ISIS account for only “some” of the at least nine M-1s that have appeared in the militias’ arsenal, according to the coalition spokesperson. The Iraqi army appears to have supplied the balance of the tanks directly to the PMF, in violation of Iraq’s original contract for the M-1s.

The Shia militias deployed at least one M-1 against Kurdish Peshmerga forces during skirmishes in the contested Iraqi city of Kirkuk in October 2017 when the Kurdish Regional Government was making an ill-fated bid for independence. Although the U.S. did not back that effort, the Kurds remain some of Washington’s closest allies in the region, and Iran its most important adversary.

In this instance the Peshmerga knocked out the tank, reportedly using either a Chinese- or German-made anti-tank missile.The Kurdish Regional Government circulated aerial photos of the burned-out M-1 as proof of the tank’s use by the PMF.

The disabled M-1 quickly disappeared from the battlefield, and a Kurdish commander accused the government of Iraq of moving the tank in order “to hide the truth that they have used Abrams tank against the Peshmerga.”

In any event, the U.S. State Department finally confirmed the PMF’s possession of M-1s in a February report from the inspector general for the Iraq and Syria campaigns. “This quarter, the [Department of State] acknowledged that some U.S.-provided military equipment sent to support the mission, including as many as nine M-1 Abrams tanks, had fallen into the hands of Iranian-backed militias that fought against ISIS in Iraq,” the report stated.

The Pentagon is pressuring Iraq to seize any M-1s that are still in the PMF’s hands. “As recipients of U.S.-origin defense equipment, Iraqi authorities have an obligation to adhere to end-use requirements as outlined in agreements concluded with the United States government.”

Besides withholding future arms shipments, Washington can end support for the scores of M-1s in the Iraqi army’s armored divisions. There have been reports that General Dynamics Land Systems, the Michigan-based company that builds the M-1s and provides spare parts and technicians for the tanks, recently threatened to cut ties with Baghdad over the militia’s use of M-1s. A General Dynamics spokesperson declined to comment on the reports.

Israeli Writer: Israel Is Proof The NRA Is Right

February 21, 2018

February 21, 2018 by Tom Knighton Via Bearing Arms

Source Link: Israeli Writer: Israel Is Proof The NRA Is Right

{What’s easier… confiscating over 300 million firearms from unwilling USA citizens or placing a few armed guards in our nation’s schools? I’ll give you a minute or two to think about it.  As a lifetime member of the NRA, I find the answer quite obvious.  – LS}

If we step aside from our cynicism at a time like this, we can probably assume that everyone on the planet wants to see the end of mass shootings. The few that don’t are generally the sick bastards who are planning the next ones. While there are plenty of opportunists who are seizing the moment following such horrific events, I’d like to believe that even they would prefer to see the end of such attacks.

Many people have pointed to Israel as proof of how gun control should be. The Jewish state, that is otherwise an anathema to the left, has some pretty strict gun laws, making it a role model for us to consider, some argue.

Well, one Israeli writer, Tzvi Lev, thinks it’s proof of something, it’s just not what the anti-gun zealots would like.

Gun rights advocates contend that the way to stop mass shootings is by ensuring that there are always well-armed citizens present who can neutralize the shooter. As NRA chairman Wayne Lapierre always says, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”. A bedrock of the NRA’s philosophy is that criminals will always acquire guns illegally, and draconian gun laws only render law-abiding citizens defenseless.

Enter Israel: When the knife intifada erupted in September 2015, the Israeli government’s response was to ease the process for the civilian populace to obtain weapons. After a particularly bloody Jerusalem shooting attack that killed four, then-Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan drastically changed the gun laws in order to significantly raise the number of armed civilians on the streets. Instantly, graduates of Special Forces units and IDF officers with the rank of Lieutenant and above were permitted to purchase guns at their will, security guards were allowed to bring their guns home after work, and the minimum age for a license was reduced from 21 to 18.

Erdan explained that “civilians well trained in the use of weapons provide reinforcement in the struggle against terrorism”, while Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called for every resident to carry a gun, and was even photographed traveling the city carrying a Glock 23.

In addition, the overwhelming majority of terror attacks in Israel are stopped by armed civilians, not law enforcement. For example, the terrorists in the 2016 Sarona market attack were stopped by armed passersby. A pistol-carrying tour guide put an end to the 2017 ramming attack in Arnona that left four soldiers dead.

In Israeli eyes, guns are a valuable deterrent against terrorism. In fact, terrorists have told the Shin Bet internal security service that they often target haredi Jews due to the high likelihood that they are unarmed.

Gun control supporters would answer that the mandatory military service that every Israeli undergoes justifies the trust Israel has of its citizens. However, this argument doesn’t hold water. The vast majority of IDF soldiers aren’t combat soldiers and are certified as 02 riflemen. To be 02 requires one to shoot between 40 and 70 bullets. The pistol course needed to obtain a license takes less than four hours. It is a far cry from the highly trained population that the Left imagines.

In other words, more guns meant fewer attacks.

This isn’t rocket science. If a would-be attacker is planning something, the last thing he or she really wants is to get there and find themselves outgunned. That’s a possibility everywhere except gun free zones, which is why more than 90 percent of all mass shootings take place in gun free zones.

Proof of that can come from the most recent attack we know of that wasn’t necessarily a gun free zone: Las Vegas. In that shooting, the killer created a plan where he would negate any number of armed citizen due to distance. He didn’t want to get shot dead early in his rampage, so he planned accordingly.

Most shooters don’t get that kind of opportunity. They have to operate differently because they lack the Las Vegas killer’s resources. So, they go for gun free zones.

Put more guns in more people’s hands and see the difference.

 

IDF cyber warriors thwart major aviation terror attack

February 21, 2018

Source: IDF cyber warriors thwart major aviation terror attack – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

Spread across the country, the online soldiers of Unit 8200 are on the front line of Israel’s cyber wars 24/7, 365 days a year to identify possible threats and effectively neutralize them.

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 FEBRUARY 21, 2018 16:59

female soldier

 Female IDF soldier in the J6/C4I Cyber Defense Directorate.. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

Soldiers in the IDF’s Unit 8200 thwarted a major Islamic State terror attack this past summer which aimed to bring down a civilian airliner headed from the Australian city of Sydney to Abu Dhabi, the army has revealed.

In cooperation with Israel’s intelligence community, soldiers provided exclusive intelligence that they had gathered on an attack that was being planned. This information led to the arrest of the suspects, even as they were in a very advanced stage in executing their terror plot, the army said.

“The thwarting of the attack led to the saving of the lives of dozens of innocent people and demonstrated that Unit 8200 is a player in the intelligence war against the Islamic State,” the army stated.

With operations similar to those of the NSA in the United States, the soldiers of one of the IDF’s most coveted units, Unit 8200, intercept and collect digital communication and intelligence on Israel’s enemies.

Spread across the country, these online soldiers of Unit 8200 are on the front line of Israel’s cyber wars 24/7, 365 days a year to identify possible threats and effectively neutralize them.

“About half of Unit 8200 is engaged in operational activity beyond Israel’s borders,” a senior officer in Unit 8200 told military reporters on Tuesday, referring to the interception and analysis of signal intelligence gathered by troops. “Because of our abilities, we are very attractive to foreign countries,” he added.

The ISIS-inspired attack against an Etihad Airways flight originating in the Australian city of Sydney to Abu Dhabi was thwarted by Australian officials in July. Four men were arrested in Sydney suburbs for planning two separate attacks. One of the attacks involved planting an improvised explosive device on an unwitting “mule,”  who would carry the device on board the plane where it would be detonated in the air.

Local press at the time quoted Australian police as stating that one suspect planned to plant military-grade explosives that had been sent by a senior ISIS operative through international air cargo to the suspects in Australia.

For that plot, the New South Wales Joint Counter Terrorism Team charged 49-year-old Khaled Mahmoud Khayat and 32-year-old Mahmoud Khayat with two counts each of acts in preparation for a terrorist act.

While the loss of the Islamic State group’s territorial “caliphate” may have crumbled, the IDF does not believe it to the be the end of the threat posed by the terror group, as militants have moved from Syria and Iraq to places like Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel.

Unit 8200 soldiers were also responsible for thwarting a recent Iranian hacking attack against private and public organizations in Israel.

The attack by a hacking group was thwarted in cooperation with the Defense Division of the Telecommunications Department by the “close monitoring of the operations of the Iranian network and the early identification of attempts to attack Israel,” the IDF said.

According to ClearSky, an Israeli cyber-security company that has studied the malware behind cyber-attacks across the region, the group has been targeting multiple organizations in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries such as in Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon since 2015.

In one attack against the UAE government uncovered by Palo Alto Networks, another cyber-security company which has been monitoring the group, sent spear-phishing emails with the subject line “Important Issue” that were in reality malware-infected documents.

A January 2017 report by ClearSky stated that the hacking group set up a fake VPN web portal and targeted several Israeli IT vendors, financial institutions and the Israeli Post since the end of 2015.

“Today, cyber is an additional front on which Israel has significant offensive and defensive capabilities,” a senior officer in Unit 8200 said Tuesday.

“Iran is a very smart country with advanced technology and a lot of motivation,” the officer stated, adding that he respects the intelligence of his enemy, which is “increasing its offensive capabilities.”

According to the senior officer, the unit has also been very effective in thwarting dozens of potential attacks by lone-wolf Palestinians in the West Bank since the beginning of the latest wave of violence, which broke out in 2015.

“When we see talk of an attack that can happen in the next 10 minutes, we need to act in an effective and quick manner in order to stop it,” he said. “There is a lot of responsibility sitting on the shoulders of these young officers.”

To Push Iran Back, Israel Ramps Up Support for Syrian Rebels, ‘Arming 7 Different Groups’

February 21, 2018

Two men, not specified which group of rebels, ride a motorcycle towards an abandoned UN base at Syria’s Quneitra border crossing between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. The Israeli military says it has carried out an air strike in Syria on a building used by Islamic State militants to attack Israeli forces. The overnight air strike Monday targeted an abandoned United Nations building that Israel says was used as a base by the militants. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Amos Harel Feb 21, 2018 2:10 PM Haaretz

{Sooner or later, Obama’s money will run out. – LS}

With the Assad regime’s advances the civil war and America’s reduced involvement in the region, Israel has been forced to make significant changes in its policies in the Golan Heights.

The recent tensions along the Israeli-Syrian border have been mainly aerial. But due to developments in the Syrian civil war, real changes are also taking place on the ground in the Golan Heights.

The Assad regime, which has gained the upper hand in the war, is now focusing on aggressively attacking rebel enclaves east of Damascus and in the northern Idlib province. But it is also gradually bolstering its presence in southern Syria, including in the Syrian Golan Heights. And accordingly, Israel is altering its deployment to prepare for what’s to come.

The de-escalation agreement for southern Syria, which the United States, Russia and Jordan signed last November, included a promise to keep Iran and its affiliated Shi’ite militias away from the Israeli border. Israel wanted the Iranians and their agents to be kept almost 60 kilometers from the frontier, east of the Damascus-Daraa road. But it didn’t get its wish; the agreement committed to keep them only 5 kilometers from the front lines between the regime and the rebels.

What this means in practice is that the Iranians are allowed to come to within 20 kilometers of Israel’s border in the central Syrian Golan and within just 5 kilometers in the northern Syrian Golan, which is controlled by Assad’s army. But it’s safe to assume that Hezbollah operatives and even members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards sometimes come right up to the border.

The Assad regime has posts overlooking the Israeli border near Quneitra in the northern Golan, and it’s possible that senior Hezbollah operatives and Iranian representatives visit these posts, which are quite close to Israeli territory.

That isn’t the only important development in recent months. About a month ago, the regime retook the enclave of Beit Jin in the northern Golan from Sunni rebels; it’s located less than 15 kilometers from the Israeli border. Israel Defense Forces officers believe that sooner or later, Assad will make an effort to regain control of the rest of the Syrian Golan, in part because of the symbolic importance of sovereignty over the border with Israel. Members of the security cabinet, who toured the Golan with senior IDF officers almost two weeks ago, think the same.


FILE PHOTO: Iran’s army chief of staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, left, looking at a map with senior officers from the Iranian military as they visit a front line in the northern province of Aleppo, Uncredited/AP

Analyst Elizabeth Tsurkov, who has followed events in Syria closely for the last several years and has interviewed many rebel militiamen and residents of the Syrian Golan, published a detailed survey of developments in southern Syria in the War on the Rocks blog last week.

Tsurkov said the scope of Israel’s involvement in southern Syria has changed in recent months in response to the regime’s successes in the civil war and Iran’s consolidation in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns about the latter on every possible occasion and has repeatedly said Israel will work to thwart it.

According to foreign media reports, over the past few months Israel has begun carrying out airstrikes against Syrian army facilities and targets linked to Iran and its Shi’ite militias, in addition to its longstanding targeting of convoys carrying arms to Hezbollah. Tsurkov also reported on other developments taking place.

Dozens of rebels who spoke with Tsurkov described a significant change in the amount of aid they receive from Israel. Moreover, she said at least seven Sunni rebel organizations in the Syrian Golan are now getting arms and ammunition from Israel, along with money to buy additional armaments.

This change has taken place at a time when America has greatly reduced its involvement in southern Syria. In January, the Trump administration closed the operations center the CIA ran in Amman, the Jordanian capital, which coordinated aid to rebel organizations in southern Syria. As a result, tens of thousands of rebels who received regular economic support from the U.S. have been bereft of this support.

At the same time, Israel has also increased its civilian aid to villages controlled by the rebels, including supplying medicine, food and clothing. Last summer, Israel admitted for the first time that it provides civilian aid to villages in the Syrian Golan, but declined to confirm claims that it also provides military aid.

Tsurkov said these Israeli moves are intended to help block the Assad regime’s advance in the Golan and its conquest of rebel-held villages near the Israeli border. Nevertheless, she wrote, there’s an expectations gap between the two sides. The rebels expect unlimited Israeli support, and some are even hoping for help in their efforts to topple the regime. Israel’s plans are much more modest, and are intended as a holding action.

Relatively moderate Sunni rebels, whom the Israeli defense establishment terms “the locals,” control most of the Syrian-Israeli border, aside from two areas – a regime-controlled area in the northern Golan and a section of the southern Golan controlled by a branch of the Islamic State, Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid. According to Tsurkov, Israel is also helping the rebels in their war against the Islamic State.

There have been skirmishes between ISIS and other rebel organizations over the last several years, but these battles have produced no significant change in the forces’ deployment. However, rebels told Tsurkov that Israel has recently begun helping them by launching drone strikes and antitank missiles at Islamic State positions during these battles.

Nikki Haley responds to Palestinian officials: ‘I will not shut up’

February 21, 2018

Nikki Haley addressed the U.N. Security Council during a speech Tuesday, during which she responded to an earlier speech from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as comments made last month by Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

by Melissa Quinn | Feb 20, 2018, 2:31 PM Washington Examiner

Source Link: Nikki Haley responds to Palestinian officials: ‘I will not shut up’

{A tough response from a strong woman, especially if you consider a woman’s position in a Muslim society. – LS}

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley issued a sharp response to Palestinians leaders and its top negotiator Tuesday, saying she “will not shut up” after the official made derogatory comments about Haley last month.

Haley addressed the U.N. Security Council during a speech Tuesday, during which she responded to an earlier speech from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as comments made last month by Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator.

Erekat said Haley “needs to shut up and realize the Palestinian leadership is not the problem.”

“We welcome you as the leader of the Palestinian people here today,” Haley said of Abbas. “But I will decline the advice I was recently given by your top negotiator, Saeb Erekat. I will not shut up. Rather, I will respectfully speak some hard truths.

“The Palestinian leadership has a choice to make between two different paths. There is the path of absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence. That path has led, and will continue to lead, to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people.”

Haley then reminded the Palestinians of the “path of negotiation and compromise,” which she said has proved to be successful for Egypt and Jordan.

“That path remains open to the Palestinian leadership, if only it is courageous enough to take it,” she said.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. went on to criticize the body for “elevating the tensions and grievances” between the Israelis and Palestinians, and said the U.N. should focus on other issues facing the Middle East, such as the threat of the Islamic State and Hezbollah.

“These immense security and humanitarian challenges throughout the region should occupy more of our attention, rather than having us sit here, month after month, and use the most democratic country in the Middle East as a scapegoat for the region’s problems. But here we go again,” Haley said.

Haley also reiterated the Trump administration will move forward with its decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, despite opposition from the Palestinians.

“You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept this,” she said. “But know this: That decision will not change.”

Abbas addressed the U.N. Security Council earlier Tuesday and called for an international Middle East peace conference to be held later this year. He did not remain in the chamber to listen to Haley’s speech.

I will not shut up,’ Haley tells Palestinians at UN + video

February 21, 2018

February 20, 2018

The US ambassador to the UN responded to a previous comment from the top Palestinian negotiator suggesting that she “shut up,” cautioning the Palestinians that the US will not “chase after them.”

By: World Israel News Staff

https://worldisraelnews.com

Following a speech by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday, US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hale, delivered a blunt message before the international body.

At the outset of her address, Haley explicitly referred to comments from Palestinian brass earlier in the month, stating, “I will decline the advice I was recently given by your top negotiator Saeb Erekat. I will not shut up. Rather, I will respectfully speak some hard truths.”

“The United States stands ready to work with the Palestinian leadership,” Haley remarked, addressing Abbas, who had left the UNSC session after his own speech. “Our negotiators are sitting right behind me, ready to talk. But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours.”

Haley did not mince words, contrasting the various approaches available to the Palestinians, with “absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence” representing one path and “negotiation and compromise” representing a different approach.

“You can choose to denounce the United States, reject its role in peace talks, and pursue punitive measures against Israel in international forums like the UN. I assure that path will get the Palestinian people exactly nowhere toward the achievement of their aspirations,” she warned. “Or you can choose to put aside your anger about the location of our embassy and move forward with us toward a negotiated compromise that holds great potential for improving the lives of the Palestinian people.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, spoke even more forcefully, arguing that Abbas’ speech exposed the Palestinian leader as opposed to peace with Israel, not in favor of it.

“You have made it clear, with your words and with your actions, that you are no longer part of the solution. You are the problem,” Danon declared.

 

Video added by JK