Archive for June 2, 2018

NATO chief: Alliance won’t defend Israel In War With Iran

June 2, 2018

Source: NATO chief: Alliance won’t defend Israel in war with Iran – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

A German Green Party politician questioned the statement on Twitter.

BY BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, ANNA AHRONHEIM
 JUNE 2, 2018 19:43

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg enters the new NATO headquarters building in Brussels

Jens Stoltenberg, the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), told a German media outlet on Saturday
that NATO would not side with Israel in the event that the Islamic Republic of Iran attacks the Jewish state..

The NATO chief told Der Spiegel magazine that “the security guarantee [of NATO] does not apply to Israel” because the Jewish state
is not a member of the 29 country alliance.

In response to the Stoltenberg’s announcement, the German Green Party politician and former head of the German-Israel parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Volker Beck, asked on Twitter: “That raises the question. What does this clarification mean for the security dialogue between NATO, EU, Germany and Israel? It points to at least very different starting points and positions of interest.”

Tensions between Israel and Iran have escalated in recent months, with Israel striking Iranian military bases in Syria, including in a May 8 attack that reportedly left 9 Iranian military personnel dead.

Stoltenberg’s statement comes despite growing cooperation between Israeli and the NATO alliance, including Israel’s participation in a joint naval exercise in late May. Earlier Israel-NATO joint naval and air force exercises took place in December.

Israel’s relationship with NATO is defined as a “partnership,” and the country has been a member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue since it was initiated in 1994, along with six other non-NATO Mediterranean countries: Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. The goal of the group is to enable dialogue and cooperation on security and counterterrorism issues.

However, Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, objected to Israel’s cooperation as part of the Mediterranean Dialogue since Israeli-Turkish ties soured six years ago.

Following a Turkish-Israeli reconciliation in 2016, Ankara withdrew its longstanding veto against Israel being accepted as a partner nation to the organization, and Jerusalem opened its first ever diplomatic mission to NATO headquarters in Brussels.

In the face of Russia’s growing military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, especially in Syria, NATO’s strategic interest in the region is increasing — as is Israel’s importance to the alliance.

U.S. considers deploying defense system amid concern over Iranian threat 

June 2, 2018

Source: U.S. considers deploying defense system amid concern over Iranian threat – Diaspora – Jerusalem Post

Iran’s Shahab 3 missiles can already travel 2,000 km, enough to reach southern Europe, and its Revolutionary Guards have said they will increase the range if threatened.

BY REUTERS
 JUNE 1, 2018 14:47
A U.S. Army Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system is seen on Andersen Air Force

BERLIN – The US military has held preliminary discussions about moving a powerful missile defense system to Germany to boost European defenses, according to two sources familiar with the issue, a move that experts said could trigger fresh tensions with Moscow.

The tentative proposal to send the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to Europe predates US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, and comes amid a broader push to strengthen Europe’s air and missile defenses.

While Europe and the United States are at odds over the fate of the nuclear agreement, they share concerns about Iran’s continued development of ballistic missiles.

Iran’s Shahab 3 missiles can already travel 2,000 km, enough to reach southern Europe, and its Revolutionary Guards have said they will increase the range if threatened since the range is capped by strategic doctrine, not technology constraints.

US European Command has been pushing for a THAAD system in Europe for years, but the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord has added urgency to the issue, said Riki Ellison, head of the non-profit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.

A senior German military official cited the need to add more radars across Europe to better track and monitor potential threats, and cue interceptors if needed.

The US Defense Dept said no such action had been decided.

“There are currently no plans to station THAAD systems in Germany. We do not discuss potential future military planning, as we would not want to signal our intent to potential adversaries. Germany remains among our closest partners and strongest allies,” said Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon.

Deploying another US defensive system to Europe could reassure NATO allies in southern Europe already within striking range of Iran’s missiles, said one military official from that region.

Talk of deploying a THAAD system in Europe also comes against the backdrop of rising tensions between the West and Russia.

NATO has long insisted that its missile defense program is not directed at Russia, but the alliance has adopted a tougher tone toward Moscow in the wake of the poisoning of a Russian former spy in England.

Moscow denies any involvement in the poisoning, and blames the tensions on NATO’s military expansion eastward, and its assembly of a ballistic missile shield with a key site in Romania that was declared combat-ready in 2016.

Moving THAAD to Germany could plug a radar gap caused by a two-year delay in completion of a second Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Poland that was initially due to open this year.

The issue may be raised in a new Pentagon missile defense review expected in early June.

The review may draw a closer connection between missile defense and a need to deter Russia that was highlighted in the new US national defense strategy, said Tom Karako, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

MESSAGE TO EUROPEAN ALLIES

One US military official said there had been preliminary talks with German military officials on moving a THAAD system to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, headquarters for the US Air Force in Europe and NATO Allied Air Command.

“It would be a further political message to the Europeans that we’re serious about protecting our allies,” said the official. “The initial assessment is that Germany would very likely not have a problem with a THAAD deployment,”

US General Curtis Scaparrotti, head of US European Command, last week said he was seeking more troops and equipment to deter Russia, but declined further comment.

A second source said German officials were open to the move as a way to better protect civilian populations.

The German defense ministry is working to rebuild its own short- and medium-range missile defenses after years of cuts.

Starting later this year, it also plans to review territorial missile defense needs in a conceptual study that will also look at THAAD and the Arrow 3 anti-missile system built by Israel and the United States, a spokesman said.

The German foreign ministry, which oversees foreign troops stationed in Germany, said it could not confirm sending any signals about a possible THAAD deployment to the United States.

Washington does not need Germany’s permission to move such equipment under existing basing contracts, but the sources said a formal notification would be sent before any move to proceed.

The THAAD system is built by Lockheed Martin Corp with a powerful Raytheon Co AN/TPY-2 radar, to shoot down short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

US vetoes Kuwaiti resolution calling for “int’l protection” of Palestinians

June 2, 2018

Source: US vetoes Kuwaiti resolution calling for “int’l protection” of Palestinians – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

In UN counter-vote, Israel sees a new strategy that puts it on offense.

BY MICHAEL WILNER
 JUNE 1, 2018 23:43
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley vetoes a resolution for protection of Palestinians

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley vetoes a vote as Bolivian Ambassador Sacha Llorenty votes for a Arab-backed resolution for protection of Palestinian civilians. (photo credit: SHANNON STAPLETON / REUTERS)

WASHINGTON — When the Trump administration demanded a UN Security Council vote on Friday meant to counteract a Kuwaiti resolution condemning Israel, the Israelis saw the birth of a new diplomatic strategy that it hopes becomes the norm.

Under the plan, Israel would no longer face hostile votes at the council without the US counter-punching, demanding a vote on language that calls out “the hypocrisy of the council,” Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday.

“This is changing the rules of the game — we are now on the offense,” Danon said. “Its the beginning of a new strategy and of new rules.”

The US vetoed Kuwait’s resolution, in the works for weeks, in a Friday afternoon vote, alongside abstentions from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Poland and Ethiopia. Israel was pleased with the extent of opposition to the measure, and considers the tally a mark of progress, although Israeli officials expressed concern with France’s vote in favor.

“The final text is certainly not perfect– we would have liked it to establish clearly Hamas’ responsibility, and condemn the rocket launches against Israel,” said France’s envoy, Francois Delattre. “But the deep consultations in recent weeks led to significant improvements.”

The Kuwaiti proposal called for “international protection” for Palestinians in Gaza, and declined to mention the role of Hamas in governing the coastal strip. The US measure would have condemned Hamas as a terrorist organization and for its recent firing of over 70 rockets onto Israeli territory, but it too failed, only receiving one vote – from the US itself – in its favor.

“When the United Nations sides with terrorists over Israel, as the Kuwait resolution does, it only makes a peaceful resolution to this conflict harder to reach,” Haley said, explaining the US veto. “It is resolutions like this one that undermine the UN’s credibility in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Haley said she was offering members an alternative in the form of a resolution that explicitly condemns Hamas for its “grip” on Gaza. “There is an alternative,” she said. “This resolution rightly brings responsibility where it belongs.”

It is that alternative that has sparked hope in the Israeli team that a new strategy has taken shape.

“From now on, whenever there’s going to be a resolution like this condemning Israel, it won’t be just a US veto that follows,” Danon said. “There will be a proactive effort to expose the hypocrisy of the council.”

June 12 summit is on, says Trump after 2 hours with top North Korean official 

June 2, 2018

Source: June 12 summit is on, says Trump after 2 hours with top North Korean official – DEBKAfile

Kim Yong Chol, right-hand of North Korea’s ruler, hand-delivered a letter from Kim Jong-un to US President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday, June 1. After they talked for nearly two hours, Trump respectfully escorted his visitor to the car and told reporters: Get ready to travel to Singapore next Friday after the “good will” shown by Pyongyang. The summit with Kim Jong-un would not be a one-day event, he said, but the start of a process of negotiation. Trump also disclosed a plan to mark the end of the Korean war after nearly 70 years.

He said Kim had sent him “a very nice letter,” but then denied having opened it yet. Trump’s talks with Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s former spymaster,  ranged over sanctions, denuclearization, political and security guarantees for the regime and the prosperity awaiting North Korea after denuclearization – in support of which he said Japan, South Korea and China would be involved. He noted that they did not discuss human rights.
Asked by reporters to comment on Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Pyongyang Thursday and his advice to North Korea to give up nuclear weapons,  only in return for the phased lifting of US sanctions, Trump said, “if the Russians are positive, I’m happy. I hope they are.” He also commented later: “We have hundreds more sanctions which we have held back because we are talking. You will see how powerful our sanctions are for Iran.”

DEBKAfile: The signing of a peace treaty for ending the Korean war is widely interpreted as closing down the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas since the war ended in the 1953 armistice accord. This in turn may augur the start of the historic process of reunification.

Iran Wants to Stay in Syria Forever

June 2, 2018

Russia and Israel are ramping up pressure on Iran to withdraw. But Tehran is intent on recouping its investment of blood and treasure.


A Syrian man holds the Iranian flag as a convoy carrying aid provided by Iran arrives in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor on Sept. 20, 2017. (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)

BY BORZOU DARAGAHI | JUNE 1, 2018 VIA Foreign Policy

Source Link:
Iran Wants to Stay in Syria Forever

{Iran is making a big mistake.  They should cut their losses and stop throwing good money after bad.  Of course, they won’t.  Their hate for Israel transcends the very well-being of their own people and will only serve to be their undoing.   – LS}

Hamid Rezai was among the latest batch of soldiers to die for Iran in Syria, killed by an alleged Israeli rocket attack on the T4 airbase near Homs. He was a 30-year-old native of the capital, Tehran, a pious young man whose father had also been a soldier and who left behind an infant daughter. At Rezai’s late April burial service, his weeping mother said there was no stopping him from volunteering to fight in Syria. “It offends me when people ask, ‘Why didn’t you stand in his way?’” she said, according to an account in the hard-line Mashregh News. “My son chose his own path.”

Rezai’s death added to the more than 2,000 Iranian military deaths in Syria since Tehran began pouring troops and tremendous amounts of resources into the country to defend the regime of Bashar al-Assad from an armed uprising. Israel is pressing Russia, the main powerbroker in Syria, and other international players to get Iran to leave Syria, threatening more strikes on Iranian positions near its border at the Golan Heights or anywhere inside the country should it remain. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed Iran’s withdrawal from Syria as one of 12 preconditions for removing sanctions after the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal last month.

But Iranian officials and other experts say the country has invested too much blood and treasure — upwards of $30 billion to date — to fold to international demands, regardless of Israeli airstrikes, or even Moscow’s pressure. Having already made such a massive investment, Iran is determined to reap the potential long-term strategic rewards Syria has to offer — even if it comes at the expense of more lives and money in the short term.

“I don’t think Iran is willing to abandon its presence in Syria,” said the editor of a leading Tehran news outlet, who spoke to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity. “It gives Iran good leverage against Israel. The ground is very important, and Iran is very skillful at managing the ground — the one area where even Russians are weak. The one who has control of the ground doesn’t take seriously those who don’t.”

Iran insists it is in Syria at the behest of Damascus and will only leave at its request. “As long as necessary and as long as terrorism exists there and the Syrian government wants us to do this, Iran will maintain its presence in Syria and will offer its contribution to the Syrian government,” said Bahram Qassemi, the spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, according to the BBC.

Assad said in a Russian TV interview this week that there have never been Iranian troops inside Syria. “We have Iranian officers who work with the Syrian army as help,” he said. “But they don’t have troops.”

Iran, along with its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, originally intervened in Syria to defend a regime that had long been its loyal ally at a time when much of the world had written off Assad as another casualty of the Arab Spring uprisings. Over the last seven years, the Iranian investment in Syria has escalated to billions of dollars in military and economic pursuits, sometimes intertwined. Iran has recruited and trained militia recruits from across the Middle East and South Asia deployed to Syria, and provided for the families of those killed. According to calculations by Mansour Farhang, a United States-based scholar and former Iranian diplomat, Iran has spent at least $30 billion on Syria in military and economic aid. The estimates by Nadim Shehadi, a Middle East scholar at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, are even higher, at $15 billion a year and some $105 billion in total. Either figure would be politically controversial at a volatile moment when Iranians at home are demanding accountability and fiscal prudence.

“They’ve made so much economic and political investment,” Farhang said. “It’s very difficult for them to pick up their bags and go home.”

Iranian forces currently operate out of 11 bases around the country, as well as nine military bases for Iranian-backed Shiite militias in southern Aleppo, Homs, and Deir Ezzor provinces as well as about 15 Hezbollah bases and observation points mostly along the Lebanese border and in Aleppo, according to Nawar Oliver, a military researcher at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank in Istanbul.

Military analysts said Iran is already under Russian pressure to relocate troops and militias now in Syria’s south to Deir Ezzor, west of the Euphrates River. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned this week that Israel would strike against any attempt by Iran to “establish itself militarily” in Syria, “not just opposite the Golan Heights, but any place in Syria.” Former Israeli United Nations envoy Dore Gold insisted Netanyahu was not being hyperbolic, but meant the entire country. “From a clear military standpoint, Israel wants Iran out of Syria,” said Gold, now director of the Jerusalem Center, a think tank. “That means Syria within its boundaries.”

But Iran’s involvement in Syria goes beyond a conventional military presence, and it has already begun to plant there the seeds of its unique financial and ideological institutions. Along with about a dozen other Iran-linked organizations, the Iran-backed Jihad al-Binaa, the Islamic charitable foundation that financed and organized the reconstruction of southern Beirut after the 2006 summer war, is already working on large projects to rebuild schools, roads, and other infrastructure in Aleppo and other towns, as well as providing aid for the families of slain Iran-backed Syrian militiamen.