Archive for May 10, 2018

The Iran Deal’s Disastrous Legacy Has Nothing to Do with Nukes

May 10, 2018

AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

Noah Rothman / May 9, 2018 Commentary Magazine

Source: The Iran Deal’s Disastrous Legacy Has Nothing to Do with Nukes

{In other words, things are a whole lot worse. – LS}

In March, State Department veteran and former adviser to Barack Obama, Frederic Hof, bid farewell to public life with a stunning admission. Amid a confession regarding his failure to prevent the expansion of the Syrian civil war into a regional crisis, Hof laid the blame for that all-consuming conflict (as well as a notable uptick in Russian aggression) at the feet of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

“[T]he administration sacrificed Syrian civilians and American credibility for the mistaken notion that Iran required appeasement in Syria as the price for a nuclear agreement,” Hof wrote. Today, with 500,000 dead, millions displaced, and the norm prohibiting chemical-weapons use shattered, we can confirm that the price of appeasement is as high as ever.

Indeed, the Iran nuclear deal was supposed to have a variety of positive knock-on effects entirely unrelated to the development of nuclear weapons, but they never materialized. As New York Times reporters David Sanger and David Kirkpatrick observe, Obama “regarded Iran as potentially a more natural ally” of the United States than America’s Sunni allies in Cairo, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh. Iran is urbane, young, educated, and chafing under its theological government. The opening up of the Iranian economy in a post-deal world, so the thinking went, would facilitate—even necessitate—domestic liberalization. Purely out of self-interest, the Mullahs would soon agree to pare back their support for destabilizing activities in the region and cooperate with the West to “defeat the Islamic State.”

All these ambitious objectives went unrealized in the years that passed since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s (JCPOA) adoption. That is not to say that the JCPOA failed to induce some tectonic shifts in the region. The Obama administration’s effort to empower Iran and its Shiite proxies in the region compelled the Middle East’s Sunni states to rethink their alliances. The regularization of contacts between Washington and Tehran for the first time in nearly 40 years forced longtime foes, Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, into a de facto pact. And just like that, the region’s all-consuming Palestinian question faded into the background. The remarkable diminution of the central issue of what we used to call the Middle East Peace Process underscores how stabilizing America’s forward posture can be, for good or for ill. It also demonstrates how American withdrawal can scramble regional dynamics with unforeseeable consequences.

Ultimately, the most welcome revelation the Iran nuclear deal has wrought is one to which only the accord’s most prideful defenders remain resistant. There can be no permanent accommodation with the regime in Tehran. The Islamic Republic can only be contained and weakened, with the eventual—if unstated—aim of nudging it toward radical democratic reform and, ultimately, dissolution.

Since Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, the deal’s defenders and its detractors have largely argued over one another’s heads. The deal’s champions insist that everyone from IAEA inspectors to the Trump administration’s defense secretary and former secretary of state has certified that Iran is abiding by the arrangement. This is a red herring. Most of the deal’s opponents do not dispute that Iran is nominally in compliance with the terms of the deal. That’s the problem.

Iran can unilaterally deny international observers access to military sites, and it can shield an extensive trove of technical knowledge related to its nuclear program from inspectors. It can import tons of low-enriched uranium, manufacture nuclear fuel, test nuclear-capable delivery vehicles, and restart its centrifuges and develop a stockpile of fissionable material within weeks rather than a year. None of this is a violation of the terms of the JCPOA and its annexes. This experience has led even some of the deal’s defenders to confess that the regime in Tehran will never be a stabilizing and responsible force. Even Iran-deal proponents like Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy have confessed as much. “We have to continue to send signals to the Iranian people that, ultimately, what will secure the United States and our friends in Israel, in the long run, is for the Iranian people to demand that moderate, internationalist leadership ultimately prevail in the power struggles that are happening inside that country,” he said.

Bad news, Senator Murphy: This is what “moderate, internationalist leadership” in the Islamic Republic of Iran looks like. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s supposedly moderate credentials led Barack Obama to attempt to elevate and legitimize him through direct personal contacts, but there is nothing moderate about any element of the Iranian regime. A half a million deaths later and with no end in sight, this moderate Iranian president continues to back up the blood-soaked Assad regime. It has used the unfrozen assets and access to new markets attributable to the Iran deal to increase its defense spending by 30 percent and augment its support for rogue elements in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen even as consumer-goods prices skyrocket and the public takes to the streets. This is the moderate regime that holds American sailors hostage and parades them on television in violation of the Geneva Conventions. This regime persecutes and jails journalists, disenfranchises Christians, and executes homosexuals. These acts, Rouhani said in 2014, are “God’s commandments.”

If Murphy’s admission that the current Iranian regime will not be able to guarantee American security or regional peace is a cognitive breakthrough, it is one of many that the Iran deal has wrought. The Saudi awakening, the disillusionment of Obama officials like Hof, and the realignment of the Middle East follow in the wake of the Iran deal, as do bloody conflicts in Yemen, Syria, and Ukraine that resulted from great powers testing their boundaries in a new post-JCPOA environment.

When a full accounting of the Iran deal is done, it will be hard to avoid the conclusion that nuclear weapons were the least of our concerns.


VIDEO: Israeli Missile Destroys Russian-Made Missile Defense System

May 10, 2018

By David Steinberg May 10, 2018 PJ Media

Source: VIDEO: Israeli Missile Destroys Russian-Made Missile Defense System

{Ouch ! That’s got to hurt. – LS}

The Twitter account representing the Israeli Defense Forces, @IDFSpokesperson, posted a stunning video of an Israeli missile descending towards an SA22 Greyhound short range air defense system. According to Military Today, the SA22 is capable of shooting down cruise missiles and guided bombs.

This one wasn’t.

Per Military Today:

The Pantsyr-S1 (Western reporting name SA-22 Greyhound) was designed to protect strategic military and civil point targets. It was originally designed to meet requirements of Russian Air Defense Forces (PVO). This system is capable of engaging a wide variety of aerial targets, such as aircraft, helicopters, ballistic and cruise missiles, guided bombs and UAVs.

Developers claim that it is also capable of engaging stealthy aircraft, such as the F-22 and F-35.

It was first publicly revealed in 1995 and entered service in 2007-2008. The first 10 Pantsyr-S1 air defense systems were delivered to the Russian Air Force in 2010. It is claimed that by 2014 more than 200 of these air defense systems were produced. It has also been exported to Algeria, Syria (up to 40 units) and United Arab Emirates (50 units). This air defense system was recently ordered by Iraq. The Pantsyr-S1 saw action during the military conflict in Ukraine.

Here’s what the SA22 looks like when not evaporated:


Back in 2015, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold specifically mentioned Iran’s attempts to transfer SA22s to Hezbollah as yet another reason for the world to reject the Obama-negotiated nuclear deal with Iran:


Iran is trying to transfer state-of the-art weaponry, including the SA-22 (Pantsir-S1) air defense system and the Yakhont anti-ship cruise missile, from military storehouses in Syria to Hezbollah, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday from Berlin.

Gold, on his first trip to a European capital for high-level talks in his new role, said that Iran is busy trying to convert its signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action into diplomatic benefits in Europe.

[Gold] said that … the regional situation has become more complicated as a result of the Iranian nuclear deal, and … there is no evidence that Iran is moving in a more moderate direction in 2015.

[Gold] briefed his interlocutors on the continued subversive efforts of the Iranians in the Middle East. He said that such efforts have included trying to transfer arms to Hezbollah, recent attempts by the terrorist group to move explosives from Iraq into Kuwait, and efforts over the last six months to set up a new Hezbollah front against Israel on the Golan Heights.

If this type of activity has been going on for the last six months, Gold asked, “then what happens when the sanctions on Iran are lifted, and they get a cash bonus of up to $150 billion?” He answered, “Iran will then be equipped to radically increase its destabilizing activities along Israel’s borders.”

Gold said that his meetings in Berlin come at a time when “there is an underlying assumption in the West that Iran may be adopting a more moderate course of action.”


UN Disengagement Observer Force Evacuating Golan Heights

May 10, 2018

UNDOF multinational force evacuating Golan Heights

Photo Credit: Oshri Weizman / Rotter

Unconfirmed reports said Thursday that the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force is pulling out of the Golan Heights.

The multinational forces were evacuating their positions, according to the report, posted on the Rotter website.

UNDOF vehicles evacuating Golan Heights neutral zone

UNDOF was established by UN Security Council Resolution 305 on May 31 1974, to implement Resolution 338, calling for an immediate cease-fire and disengagement between Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights to end the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The mandate that maintains the force has been renewed every six months since that time and is due to be renewed again on June 30 of this year.

During the Syrian civil war, the buffer zone between Israeli and Syrian forces has led UN observer forces to reconsider the mission “due to safety issues,” stemming from the Quneitra clashes between the Syrian regime forces and the opposition fighters, according to an article on Wikipedia. The violence intensified between 2012 and 2014, spilling into the UN-supervised neutral demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights.

Firing from the war has sometimes also spilled over into Israel as well; in response to such cases, the Israel Defense Force returns fire to remind those behind the gunfire that Israel is not in that war.

It is possible the UNDOF is evacuating due to the current tensions between Iran and its proxies, and Israel. There was no response to a query sent by to the headquarters of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force.

The escalation has led to a direct exchange of hostilities between Iran and Israel for the first time ever, over the past several weeks, with Iran launching its first missile barrage at Israel shortly after midnight on late Wednesday night, May 9.

Constant flow of Iranian missiles replenishes arms destroyed by Israel, including new Fateh 313

May 10, 2018

Source: Constant flow of Iranian missiles replenishes arms destroyed by Israel, including new Fateh 313 – DEBKAfile

Tehran is keeping new missile supplies coming to Syria, undeterred by the Israeli air strikes which destroy incoming consignments,  including the large-scale IDF bombing raids early Thursday, May 10 in the Damascus region. Most of the missiles are shipped in to Syrian airfields by Iranian and Syrian cargo planes.

DEBKAfile’s military sources therefore advise caution in assessing the comment by IDF officers that it will take Iran a long time to recover from Thursday’s raids on their units, missile stores and command centers in Syria. The IDF also reported that Russian commanders in Syria were advised of the coming IDF counter-attack against Iran’s military centers in general terms. Our sources confirm that Iran’s government and military leaders are determined to absorb Israel’s offensive –  and keep going. Therefore, the IDF still has a long haul ahead, running possibly into months, before Israel can be sure that Iran has been stopped in its effort to establish a base in Syria as a platform for aggression. Tehran’s determination to go through with its plan is matched by Israel’s resolve to thwart it. As of now, neither side is willing to break off the confrontation.

Our military sources have learned that the air strike on Al Kiswa, south of Damascus, Tuesday night, directly after President Trump announced US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, hit an Iranian command center for southern Syria headed by Maj. Gen. Hossein Hamadani.  It destroyed a consignment of Fateh 313 missiles. The delivery of this missile means that Iran is upgrading the weaponry being shipped to Syria. Fateh 313 is a short-range ballistic surface missile, whose development by Iran’s armaments industry, extended the range of the Fateh 110 to 500km and far improved its accuracy. It is also easier to install at speed. In the Al Kiswa attack, 8 Revolutionary Guards officers and men as well as Hizballah members were killed. Among them, according to some sources, was Iranian Brig. Gen. Abdul Rasoul. This has not been confirmed. There is no word on the casualties inflicted by Israel’s massive air strikes early Thursday.

U.K., Germany, France back Israel’s strikes against Iran in Syria

May 10, 2018

Israel’s diplomatic and security cabinet is set to meet later Thursday to discuss the strike and counter-strike.

By Tovah Lazaroff
May 10, 2018 14:48
An image grab from a video released on May 10, 2018 by the “Central War Media” and broadcast on Syria’s official TV purportedly shows Syrian air defense systems intercepting Israeli missiles over Syrian airspace. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / HO / CENTRAL WAR MEDIA)
The United Kingdom, Germany and France defended Israel’s right to launch self-defensive strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, after its warplanes struck 50 Iranian targets in Syria early in Thursday morning.

It was one of the heaviest Israeli barrages against Syria since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011.

The three countries issued an unusually strong defense of the Jewish state. The Trump Administration which always stands strong on Israel’s right to self-defense issued a statement as well.

The French Foreign Ministry said its country had an “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security” and that it “condemns any attempt to undermine it.”

It called on both Israel and Iran to exercise restrain. But at the same time the French Foreign Ministry also demanded that “Iran refrain from any military provocation” and “warned it against any temptation toward regional hegemony.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman told reporters in London, “We condemn Iran’s attack on Israel. Israel has every right to defend itself.

“We call on Iran to refrain from any further attacks and for calm on all sides. We call on Russia to use its influence in Syria to prevent further Iranian attacks,” May’s spokesman said.

The German Foreign Ministry said: “We are deeply concerned by reports about last night’s Iranian rocket attacks on Israeli army outposts.

“These attacks are a severe provocation that we most strongly condemn. We have always emphasized that Israel has a the right to defend itself.

“At the same time, it is a key that the situation not escalate any further. This particularly means we must do everything we can to finally arrive a sustainable poetical solution to the conflict in Syria — it is needed to end the suffering of the Syrian population and to not further threaten stability in the region.”

Their statements followed equally strong words by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who told Fox News Wednesday night “Israel absolutely has a sovereign right to defend itself.”

The White House followed her interview with a more formal statement.

“The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East,” the White House said.

“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) bears full responsibility for the consequences of its reckless actions,” the White House said as it demanded that the IRGC and Hizbollah refrain from any further provocations.

The White House also called on “all nations” to “make clear” that Iran’s “actions pose a severe threat to international peace and stability.”

Israel launched its air-strike after Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force fired 20 rockets towards Israel’s front defensive line in the Golan Heights.

The Syrian Army Command said Israel’s attack killed three people and injured two others. A Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the strikes killed at least 23 military personnel, including Syrians and non-Syrians.

The strong exchange of fire stoked international fears of a war between Israel and Iran in Syria.

Israel’s diplomatic and security cabinet is set to meet later Thursday to discuss the strike and counter-strike.

The Syrian foreign ministry said the Israeli attack indicated “the start of a new phase of aggression” against Damascus.

The escalation in tensions comes as the US announced that it had left the 2015 agreement with Iran and the five other world powers that had been designed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambition.

The US warned that the deal had instead funneled billions of dollars into Tehran to fuel its regional military ambitions including an increased military presence in Syria.

The other signatories to the deal — France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China still hope to salvage the deal.

In the backdrop of those efforts, the German, French and British statements in defense of Israel is particularly striking.

The Iranian-Israeli attacks also came after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu had visited Moscow and spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is also active in Syria and back Iran militarily.

Israeli reportedly informed Russia of its intention to strike Iranian targets in Syria.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told TASS on Thursday: “All of this is very alarming and raising concerns. It is necessary to deescalate tensions. We are verifying all the details now.”

Russia’s defense ministry said Syria had shot down more than half of the missiles fired by Israel, RIA news agency reported.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in Herzliya
on Thursday that the IDF had hit almost all of Iran’s infrastructure in Syria.

The targets all belonged to IRGC’s Quds Force and included intelligence sites, logistics headquarters, a military compound and logistics complex in Kiswah near the Syrian capital of Damascus, weapons storage sites belonging at Damascus International Airport, intelligence systems and installations, as well as observation, military posts and military hardware in the buffer zone.

In addition, the Iranian launcher from which the Grad rockets and Fajr 5 missiles were fired at Israel was also destroyed overnight.

Hamas leader calls on rioters to breach Israel border fence

May 10, 2018

Hamas claims border separating Israel from Gaza is fictitious, backs rioters’ attempts to infiltrate into Israel.

AFP, Arutz Sheva Staff, 10/05/18 18:58
Yahya Sinwar-Reuters

A senior Hamas official on Thursday urged “hundreds of thousands” of Arab rioters in Gaza to breach the border fence from Gaza into Israel at protests to coincide with next week’s US embassy move to Jerusalem.

In his first major briefing to international media since becoming Gaza head of the Islamist group in 2017, Yahya Sinwar implied he would like to see hundreds of thousands of Gazans infiltrating into Israel as part of more than a month of violent protests.

Asked what he wanted to see from riots on Monday and Tuesday, Sinwar said out Israel has never specifically defined its borders.

“What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?”

Sinwar said he hoped Israel would not shoot at what he called “peaceful” protests.

Fifty-two rioters and terrorists have been killed by Israeli fire since the six weeks of violent clashes dubbed the “March of Return” began on March 30 along the Israel-Gaza frontier.

Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, attacks and damage to the border fence, while accusing Hamas of seeking to use the riots as cover to carry out violence.

Thousands of rioters are expected to gather along the border on Monday, which coincides with the controversial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

There are fears protesters could attempt to breach the fence en masse, in an attempt to flood into Israeli territory.

Bahrain Joins US Supporting Israel’s Right to Self-Defense

May 10, 2018

An F-16 fighter jet takes off from Ramat David air force base.

Photo Credit: Ofer Zidon / Flash 90

The United States in a statement issued Thursday condemned the “provocative rocket attacks” launched early Thursday by Iran against Israel from Syria, unequivocally supporting Israel’s right to defend herself.

“The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East,” read a statement issued by the White House.

 But in an unprecedented move by a Gulf nation, Israel also won regional support in the fight against Iran’s missile attacks as well: Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa tweeted in Arabic, “As long as Iran changes the current situation in the area and exploits other countries by using its power and missiles, then every country in this region – including Israel – has a right to defend itself by destroying the source of danger.”

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the annual IDC Herzliya Conference on Thursday that Israeli fighter pilots “hit almost all Iranian infrastructures in Syria… They must understand: If it rains on us, it will pour on them.”

Four of the 30 Iranian missiles fired towards Israel were intercepted by Iron Dome anti-missile defense system interceptors; the others fell short within Syrian territory.