Archive for June 7, 2018

Can and will Iran strike Israel?

June 7, 2018

Source: Can and will Iran strike Israel? – Opinion – Jerusalem Post

Israel today has fewer people and resources than Iraq had in the 1980s, but Iran knows that Israel is a regional power with a formidable military.

BY EHUD EILAM
Missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran

In recent months, Israel bombed Iranian objectives inside Syria several times.

Iran absorbed casualties, serious damage and international humiliation. Iran is eager for revenge, but what can it do? Does Iran want to go to war? Iran still remembers the trauma of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, which cost Iran dearly.

Israel today has fewer people and resources than Iraq had in the 1980s, but Iran knows that Israel is a regional power with a formidable military.

In the war against Iraq in the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of Iranians were killed. Iran does not want to repeat this grim experience. In the war in Syria, Iran lost about 2,100 troops, a sensitive issue in Iran.

Many Iranians, including those who are against their regime, might separate between their loyalty to their homeland and their severe criticism of the regime. They could support the government, particularly if it seems to them that Iran was attacked and it must retaliate.

Yet as long as the fight between Israel and Iran is contained to Syria, then the Iranian regime will have a problem in mobilizing its people against Israel.

There is already opposition in Iran to their country’s ongoing involvement in Syria, where Iran has invested heavily since 2011 – about $20 billion. This money was taken from the Iranian people, who struggle to make ends meet. The more money Iran pours into Syria, the greater the chance that the Iranian people might not tolerate it anymore and confront their regime. The Iranian aid, aimed at saving their Syrian ally, Bashar Assad, might eventually be one of the reasons for the downfall of the Iranian regime. The Iranian-Israeli collision in Syria could turn out to be an Israeli trap, as part of the Israeli strategic goal: to weaken the Iranian regime, hopefully to topple it.

Iran can hit Israel directly from Iran, with its SU-24, a long-range attack aircraft, but the aircraft might not have the range to reach and return from Israel, which is more than 800 kilometers west of Iran. If the SU-24 can land and refuel in Iraq or even closer to Israel, in Syria, it will be easier for Iran. Yet even then, some and maybe all the SU-24s might be intercepted by the Israeli air force (IAF), which has a very impressive reputation in this field and its forces, aircraft and air defense, are on high alert following the growing tension with Iran.

Iran also has the Shahab-3, a long-range surface-to-surface missile that could hit Israel.

Iran can’t launch hundreds of those missiles at the same time, which will enable the Israeli anti missile system, the Arrow, to intercept them. In spite of that, some Iranian missiles might penetrate. In addition, Israeli aircraft and Special Forces will try to destroy Iran’s bases from which Iran can fire its missiles.

Iran might disperse and hide its launchers in its vast territory of more than 1.6 million square kilometers.

Iran might try to pound military targets, since Israel attacked Iranian military objectives in Syria, but Iran might hit Israel’s population centers. In response Israel might not necessarily bomb Iranian cities, but rather strike key facilities that belong to Iran’s energy industry.

The IAF might even strike Iran’s nuclear sites. It could be another Israeli trap, pushing Iran to attack Israel so the latter will have an opportunity to bomb Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

The two states might be dragged into a war that will last weeks and maybe more, even if both sides are not interested in that. In such a case, there is a need of a broker, maybe Russia and/or the European Union, since they have ties with both Iran and Israel. Eventually a cease-fire, even if only an unofficial one, could be achieved, since Israel and Iran, like Israel and Hamas, don’t recognize each other. If Iran raises too many demands, Israel might escalate the war in order to convince Iran to end the fight.

Iran might not seek to risk a war. Therefore Iran can try to limit its retribution and exploit its proxies, its favorite mode of action. It can also conduct terrorist attacks worldwide without taking responsibility and/or use its quite advanced cyber capability.

The current stage is part of the long cold war between Israel and Iran, which started in 1979. Iran has several ways to strike its adversary, which in the worst case might lead to a war.

The writer, a national security analyst, formerly worked for the Israeli military.

How Russia angered Iran in Syria and had to pull its troops from the Lebanese border – Israel News 

June 7, 2018

Source: How Russia angered Iran in Syria and had to pull its troops from the Lebanese border – Israel News – Haaretz.com

A rare case of Russia acting out of sync with President Bashar al-Assad’s Iran-backed allies in the war

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey April 4, 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey April 4, 2018REUTERS/Umit Bektas

A Russian troop deployment in Syria near the Lebanese border this week caused friction with Iran-backed forces including Hezbollah which objected to the uncoordinated move, two non-Syrian officials in the regional alliance backing Damascus said.

The situation was resolved on Tuesday when Syrian army soldiers took over three positions where the Russians had deployed near the town of Qusair in the Homs region on Monday, one of the officials, a military commander, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

It appeared to be a rare case of Russia acting out of sync with President Bashar al-Assad’s Iran-backed allies in the war. Iranian and Russian support has been critical to Assad’s war effort.

“It was an uncoordinated step,” said the commander. “Now it is resolved. We rejected the step. The Syrian army – Division 11 – is deploying at the border,” said the commander, adding Hezbollah fighters were still located in the area.

There was no comment from the Russian military about the incident. Russia has faced calls from Israel to rein in Iran in Syria, where Israel has mounted numerous attacks against Hezbollah and other targets it has described as Iran-backed.

“Perhaps it was to assure the Israelis,” said the commander, adding that the move could not be justified as part of the fight against the Nusra Front or Islamic State because Hezbollah and the Syrian army had defeated them at the Lebanese-Syrian border.

The second official said the “resistance axis” – a reference to Iran and its allies – was “studying the situation” after the uncoordinated Russian move.

Russia and Iran-backed forces such as Hezbollah have worked together against the insurgency. Hezbollah deployed to Syria in 2012. The Russian air force arrived in 2015 in support of Assad.

But their different agendas in Syria have become more apparent of late as Israel presses Russia to make sure Iran and its allies do not entrench their military sway in the country.

Turning point

Israel wants Iranian and Iran-backed forces kept away from its border and, more broadly, removed from Syria entirely.

Last month, Israel said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched a missile salvo from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said it marked a “new phase” of the war in Syria.

Recent Russian calls for all non-Syrian forces to leave southern Syria have been seen aimed partly at Iran, in addition to U.S. forces based in the Tanf area at the Syrian-Iraqi border.

The town of Qusair was the scene of a major battle in the Syrian civil war in 2013, when Hezbollah fighters played a major part in turning the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favour by defeating rebels.

Some details of the Qusair incident were reported by the Lebanese TV station al-Mayadeen, which is close to Damascus and its regional allies such as Hezbollah. It said the number of Russian forces was small.

A military air base in the same area came under missile attack on May 24. The Israeli military declined to comment on that attack.

Syrian rebel-held areas of southwestern Syria at the frontier with Israel have come into focus since Damascus and its allies crushed the last remaining besieged rebel pockets near the capital. Assad has vowed to recover all Syrian territory.

The United States wants to preserve a “de-escalation” zone that has contained the conflict in southwestern Syria. The zone, agreed last year with Russia and Jordan, has helped to contain fighting in areas near the Israeli frontier.

i24NEWS – Netanyahu says Syria regime ‘no longer immune’ from Israeli retaliation

June 7, 2018

Source: i24NEWS – Netanyahu says Syria regime ‘no longer immune’ from Israeli retaliation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embarks on a three-day European tour in Germany on Monday with strategic differences on Iran set to dominate as leaders attempt to rescue the nuclear deal after US withdrawal
Sebastian Scheiner (POOL/AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad  was “no longer immune” from retaliation, while declaring the Iran nuclear deal over after Washington ditched the accord.

Noting that Israel had stayed out of Syria’s protracted civil war, in which Tehran backs Assad, Netanyahu said increasing Iranian encroachment required “a new calculus”.

“He is no longer immune, his regime is no longer immune. If he fires at us, as we’ve just demonstrated, we will destroy his forces,” the Israeli leader said at an event organised by the Policy Exchange think tank in London.

Tensions between Israel and Iran escalated last month when Israel launched an extensive campaign of retaliatory strikes on Iranian-operated bases in Syria, responding to a barrage of rockets and missiles fired by Iran towards the Israeli part of the Golan Heights only hours before.

Even before that, Israel had been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged them.

Haaretz reported last year that Israel has struck targets in Syria more than 100 times since the war erupted in 2011, but the latest escalation between Israel and Iran brought further tension to the region.

“Syria has to understand that Israel will not tolerate the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria against Israel,” Netanyahu added.

“The consequences are not merely to the Iranian forces there but to the Assad regime as well,” he said, adding: “I think it’s something that he should consider very seriously”.

Syrian Central Military Media, via AP
This photo provided early Thursday, May 10, 2018, by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows missiles rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense position and other military bases, in Damascus, Syria.
Syrian Central Military Media, via AP

Netanyahu is on a three-day European tour — visiting Berlin and Paris earlier this week — marked by strategic differences on Iran, as its leaders attempt to rescue the nuclear deal after US withdrawal in May.

He met Wednesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May, who reiterated London’s “firm commitment” to the accord, according to Downing Street.

But the Israeli leader said Thursday “the weight of the American economy” was already dooming “this very bad agreement”.

“It’s a done deal — in the other meaning of the word,” he added, noting companies were already pulling out of Iran under threat of damaging US sanctions.

“You have to choose whether to do business with Iran, or forego doing business with the United States… that’s a no-brainer and everybody’s choosing it effectively as we speak.”

Netanyahu said he had reiterated his dislike for the 2015 deal, which offers sanctions relief in exchange for strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities.

However, the focus of his discussions in Europe had been on reducing Iran’s presence in Syria, he added.

“I found considerable agreement on that goal.”

At the same time, he criticised his European hosts for an outdated approach to the region.

Netanyahu said Iranian expansion had led to a “realignment” of relations with Arab states in the Middle East who also oppose Tehran — something Britain and western Europe were “evidently not understanding”.

“There is a whole realignment taking place in the Middle East — they’re sort of stuck in the past,” he added, displaying a map of the world with numerous countries highlighted to show Israel’s “expanding diplomatic horizons”.

“I think there’s a west European problem with recognizing that the world is changing,” he said.

-Gaza-

Netanyahu was also asked about the IDF’s approach to the protests in Gaza, where more than 100 Palestinians have been killed since March 30.

“We tried water cannons, we tried tear gas and none worked. Given our record, we probably will figure out something. The last thing we want is violence (or) confrontation. We tried other ways, it doesn’t work. Hamas wants them to die.” Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as saying.

The deadly clashes between the IDF and Palestinian protesters in Gaza caused widespread criticism across the international community due to the high death toll.

With 29 votes in favor, two opposed and 14 abstentions, the UN Human Rights Council voted through a resolution on May 18, calling on the council to “urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry… to investigate all alleged violations and abuses… in the context of the military assaults on large scale civilian protests that began on 30 March 2018.”

Mahmud Hams (AFP)
Palestinian mourners carry the body of 21-year-old Razan al-Najjar at her funeral after she was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on the border in southern Gaza
Mahmud Hams (AFP)

The resolution was voted through after more than 60 Palestinians were killed in Gaza protests on May 14, the same day that of the US embassy opening in Jerusalem.

Israel argues that the UNHRC has an institutional bias against the Jewish state and pays it disproportionate attention compared to human rights crises elsewhere

Lebanese official: Iran, Hezbollah to stay in Syria until it is ‘free’ 

June 7, 2018

Source: Lebanese official: Iran, Hezbollah to stay in Syria until it is ‘free’ – Israel Hayom

 

 

Iran launches new nuclear facility for centrifuge production 

June 7, 2018

Source: Iran launches new nuclear facility for centrifuge production – Israel Hayom

Pompeo in stark warning: We won’t let Iran develop a nuclear weapon

June 7, 2018

Source: Pompeo in stark warning: We won’t let Iran develop a nuclear weapon – DEBKAfile

“We’re watching reports that Iran plans to increase its enrichment capacity,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Thursday, June 7. “We won’t allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran is aware of our resolve.”

Pompeo was responding to the statement by Iran’s atomic energy czar Ali Akbar Salehi that the construction of a facility at Natanz to produce advanced centrifuges for speeding up uranium enrichment will be completed within a month. Salehi notified the UN nuclear watchdog the IAEA about the forthcoming opening of a new facility at Natanz for the enrichment of uranium.  Pompeo also warned: “It should surprise no one if protests in Iran continue.”

DEBKAfile: The Trump administration is determined to avoid Iran’s nuclear bazaar which is calculated for interminable bargaining and a constant stream of half-statements for confusing the opposition. This drawn-out process of bewilderment and attrition led the Obama administration and five other world powers into signing the 2015 nuclear deal which Trump quit on May 8 after condemning it as deeply flawed.

Pompeo therefore decided to cut short this tortuous process before it starts sowing confusion as a smoke screen for the nuclear program’s real activities. He therefore cut to the chase with an explicit warning directed against the expansion of Iran’s enrichment capacity before it goes any further. As for the “new facility” at Natanz, far from being completed in a month, as Salehi affirmed, we can report that it was built in fact four years ago – another example of Iran’s tactics of confusion. The finished building is shown in the photo at the head of this item. It is ready for activation at the push of a button.