Archive for July 6, 2018

Iran Threatens to Shut Down Key Oil Shipping Route

July 6, 2018
Dhows, fishing boats and cargo ships are seen in the Strait of Hormuz

Dhows, fishing boats and cargo ships are seen in the Strait of Hormuz / Getty Images


Iranian military officials are threatening to enact a naval blockade in the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping lane for oil in the Persian Gulf, if the United States follows through with efforts to block all of Iran’s oil exports under a rash of new economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, according to regional reports.

Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, warned the Trump administration to not “make any stupid move to halt Iran’s oil export,” vowing that if the U.S. administration follows through with this threat, Iranian forces will shut down the Strait of Hormuz for all nations, a move that could cripple the regional flow of crude oil products.

“We stand ready to put in action President Hassan Rouhani’s latest position that if Tehran were not able to export its crude oil through the Strait of Hormuz, no other country would be able to do so,” Jafari was quoted as saying in Iran’s state-controlled press.

The plan to shut down the critical shipping lane is said to be endorsed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who, along with other top Iranian officials, has been working on contingency plans to combat U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran following President Donald Trump’s decision to walk away from the nuclear agreement.

Meanwhile, Iran’s representative to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, blamed Trump for rising oil prices, claiming that the president’s rhetoric could force oil prices to rise to $100 per barrel.

As war edges toward end, Iran faces hard fight to keep its influence in Syria 

July 6, 2018

Source: As war edges toward end, Iran faces hard fight to keep its influence in Syria | The Times of Israel

Israel and the US are actively trying to force Tehran out, and even its allies Russia and the Assad regime don’t seem eager for the Islamic Republic to stay

This file photo provided on Friday Oct. 20, 2017 by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows Iran's army chief of staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, left, looks into binoculars as he visits and other senior officers from the Iranian military a front line in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria.  (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

This file photo provided on Friday Oct. 20, 2017 by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows Iran’s army chief of staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, left, looks into binoculars as he visits and other senior officers from the Iranian military a front line in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

The civil war in Syria is far from over. Syria’s citizens, certainly in Daraa in the south and Idlib in the north, could be in for long months of hardship before it’s over. And news of more battles, from Daraa to the Jordanian frontier, come on a regular basis now, as the Syrian army continues its advance southwards.

According to the Syrian army’s top spokesperson, its troops seized nine objectives along the Jordanian border this week in areas that had been under the control of rebels for the past few years.

“Syrian troops advanced toward the village of al-Mataiya,” the military said, “and from there toward Nasib on the Jordanian border.”

It’s important to note that the Syrian army has not yet completed its takeover of Daraa, nor has it begun to deal with the Quneitra region next to Israel on the Golan Heights. Similarly, the largest concentration of opposition troops are now in Idlib, and Bashar Assad’s forces have not even begun to address it.

Smoke rises above rebel-held areas of the city of Daraa during reported airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on July 5, 2018. (AFP/Mohamad Abazeed)

Still, all the parties involved in some way in the Syrian conflict — Assad’s regime, Iran, Hezbollah, Israel, the United States, Russia, the Kurds, the rebels — already feel that “the day after” the civil war in Syria has arrived. Everyone is busy with the battle to shape the new Syria. Perhaps that should be the title of the planned summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled for July 16, a day after the end of the World Cup soccer finals in Moscow.

A quick checklist of each side’s accomplishments in Syria should satisfy both leaders. The US succeeded, with the help of quite a few of its friends, in removing the Islamic State group from the scene as a political entity; IS has ceased to exist as it once did.

Russia succeeded in forging a decisive victory for its client Assad. Now, both powers are looking to shape the Syria that survives the war in a way that will benefit them in the future. And while they haven’t said as much publicly, both leaders seem, finally, to have found common ground. Both want Assad to survive, and neither wants too much Iranian involvement in Syria.

For Iran, the Syrian issue is only the tip of the iceberg in the long list of troubles it faces because of the Trump administration’s policies — not only from the US backing out of the nuclear agreement, but also the very real blow to Iran’s economy delivered by new and restored US sanctions, even before many have had a chance to go into effect. These shifts have undermined Iran’s internal stability, at least to some extent, and reduced its influence in the region. One clear sign of the times: the American and Israeli actions in Syria against Iranian-backed forces and interests, as well as the persistent attacks of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

It seems that Iran and the ayatollahs’ regime will have to deal with one of the most difficult and problematic periods that they have known in recent decades. This includes external pressures from the US and Sunni Arab states together with growing hardship at home in the form of demonstrations and strikes. All this creates a feeling that the ground is burning beneath the feet of Iran’s rulers.

A group of protesters chant slogans at the old grand bazaar in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 25, 2018. Protesters in the Iranian capital swarmed its historic Grand Bazaar on Monday, news agencies reported, and forced shopkeepers to close their stalls in apparent anger over the Islamic Republic’s troubled economy, months after similar demonstrations rocked the country. (Iranian Labor News Agency via AP)

It is no wonder that after the American statements regarding the wish to restrict the export of crude oil from Iran to the lowest amount possible, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Ismail Kowsari threatened (yet again) to close the Straits of Hormuz.

Iran in Syria? Not necessarily

The amounts that Iran has spent in recent years on establishing itself in the region range have been huge. For a country suffering from inflation, unemployment, severe poverty and drugs, it is hard to understand how the authorities could decide to spend approximately $30 billion over the past seven years on the project known as “exporting the revolution.”

It is no wonder that the slogans “Death to Syria” and “Death to the Palestinians” were heard in demonstrations that took place in Iran over the past two weeks. If we look at Iranian policy in Syria and Yemen over the past several years, it seems that Tehran’s officials made an unequivocal strategic decision that Iran would do anything necessary to increase its regional influence.

Yet the combination of the Trump administration’s desire to put a stop to this trend, together with severe economic problems, decisive actions carried out by Israel (according to the foreign press) in Syrian territory, and mainly a change in direction from Russia are making the entire assessment of the situation, which had been so clear for Iran, much more vague.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar Assad during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, May 17, 2018. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

In other words, it suddenly seems that the price of the policy of “exporting the revolution” could turn out to be too high for the regime. If priorities are at issue, then with all due respect from Iran to Syria, Yemen and even Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the survival of Assad’s regime will take priority over the many other considerations.

On the eve of the Trump–Putin summit, the critical question regarding the Syrian issue is, of course, Russia’s position. The US strongly opposes any sort of Iranian presence in Syria on the day after. Russia wants to make sure that there is no Iranian presence 80 kilometers away from the Israeli border. But does Russia really want an Iranian presence beyond that? Not necessarily. It is true that Russia cooperated with Iran and Hezbollah during the civil war in order to ensure the survival of Bashar Assad’s regime. But now that its survival is assured, do the Russians still see a continued Iranian presence there as a positive thing? The answer seems to be no, and the signs of that are evident even now.

The Russians did not agree to an Iranian presence near their port in Tartus. They also want Russian companies, not Iran, to benefit from the reconstruction of Syria. In the end, even officials in Moscow realize that a permanent Iranian presence in the new Syria will be a burden, not a blessing, for Assad.

It may well be that Assad himself, whom the Russians and the Iranians rescued, realizes that too much influence from Tehran over what goes on in his country will interfere with his efforts to rebuild Syria. He also has come to understand that an ever-increasing Iranian military presence that will lead to Israeli and American actions will be an obstacle to any possibility of rebuilding Syria, and certainly keep investors away.

These developments pose a complex problem for Iran. Any celebration would be premature. At least at this stage, Iran is strongly determined to act on its policy of establishing itself in Syria. It will also be quite some time before Syria goes back to being the country that it once was.

While the Islamic State may have vanished from the earth as a state, it still exists as a concept, and it and similar organizations are responsible for quite a few terror attacks. The Kurdish enclaves, together with those of the opposition in the Idlib region, will not be disappearing from the Syrian map anytime soon. At present, the road to redemption still seems long.

The European Commission calls for European Investment Bank to defy US sanctions and fund Iran, and is supported in this by British Government

July 6, 2018

By – on

”It’s beyond comprehension that the European Union, including the British Government are prepared to open up lending again to Iran, especially as we know that their nuclear ambitions are far from over. The Trump Administration will take a very dim view of this.” Yes, that is true. But in Britain they’re too busy readying a snarling Trump blimp to fly over London while the President is visiting to think about trivial matters such as funding Iran’s nuclear program and violent repression of its own people. The European Commission and the Theresa May government in Britain deserve the condemnation of all free people for this, and if the Iranian mullahs succeed in firing off nuclear weapons, the blood will be on their hands.

“‘Beyond comprehension’ that European Commission wants EIB to lend money to US-sanctioned Iran – Nigel Farage,” UKIP Press release, July 4, 2018:

The European Commission has called for the European Investment Bank to fund US-sanctioned Iran and is supported in this by the British Government. Because all international loans are denominated in US dollars, it would mean the EIB could be shut out of the lending market and pushed into default.

The European Parliament today heavily rejected an UKIP objection to a delegated act from the European Commission allowing the EIB to lend money to Iran.

At an EP Budget Committee 28th May 2018, the EIB rep (quotes below) says raising funding on the international market was a life and death issue for the EIB. And if the EIB lent money as the European Commission wants, to Iran, the EIB would be shut out of the dollar market and effectively pushed into default.

The UK representation in Brussels has clarified that the British government has supported the European Commission in calling for the EIB to lend money to Iran.

UKIP MEP Nigel Farage said:

”It’s beyond comprehension that the European Union, including the British Government are prepared to open up lending again to Iran, especially as we know that their nuclear ambitions are far from over.

The Trump Administration will take a very dim view of this.“

Unless objected to by Council or European Parliament, the delegated act proposal will be adopted by Commission on 6th August 2018….

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As I see it: The Iran opportunity and European infamy 

July 6, 2018

Source: As I see it: The Iran opportunity and European infamy – Opinion – Jerusalem Post

Iran’s brave dissidents desperately need Western support if they are to continue pitting their lives against the regime.

 JULY 6, 2018 09:22
As I see it: The Iran opportunity and European infamy

A senior Iranian official has accused Israel of stealing its clouds. Yes, you read that right. Clouds as in the sky.

Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali, head of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization, has said: “Israel and another country in the region have joint teams which work to ensure clouds entering Iranian skies are unable to release rain. On top of that, we are facing the issue of cloud and snow theft.”

His evidence? A survey showing that all mountainous areas higher than 2,200 meters between Afghanistan and the Mediterranean were covered in snow except for Iran.

Case closed, eh? Although the general’s claim was refuted by the head of Iran’s meteorological service, it fits the regime’s generally paranoid and deranged statements about, and threats against, Israel and the Jews.

Such lunacies should constitute a red flag against having any dealings at all with such people. Yet Britain and the EU continue to insist on treating them as rational negotiating partners instead of the genocidal religious fanatics that they are.

This illustrates a refusal to acknowledge the real point about antisemitism: that it is not just a prejudice but a marker of paranoid derangement and an eclipse of reason.

Britain and the EU regard the Iranian fanatics as people with whom they can to do business – both diplomatic and economic. But the only reasonable, moral and self-defense position is to regard them as a regime beyond the pale which must be destroyed.

No one wants war; the aim should be to prevent the terrible war that is almost inevitable unless the Iranian regime is removed. The best and most likely way to achieve this is for the people of Iran to rise up against it.

For the last few months, that has been happening. From December to January, nearly 5,000 people were arrested during protests in which at least 21 people died.

Last week, thousands demonstrated in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar with unconfirmed reports that four protesters were killed.

The unrest is driven by Iran’s crippling economic conditions. Unemployment is soaring as Iran’s currency, the rial, has plummeted. Khorramshahr in southwest Iran has been without potable water for more than two weeks.

The result is popular demand for an end to the regime itself. In stark contrast to uprisings that have erupted in the Arab world, the Iranian demonstrators support Israel and the West. The Iranian regime regularly pronounces “Death to Israel.”

The protesters have been shouting instead “Death to Palestine” and demanding that the regime stops funding Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria’s President Assad and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

SUDDENLY, what seemed impossible is now being talked about as a distinct possibility: that a regime which until now has been strutting across the region imposing increasing control may in fact collapse.

So what’s changed? In two words: President Trump. By withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal, he has changed the entire power dynamic within Iran and in the region. Now sanctions have been reimposed and are about to bite far more severely.

With tacit backing by both the US and Russia, Israel has been attacking Iranian military assets across Syria.

The game is now afoot to achieve what until now no one contemplated as a serious possibility: to pry Russia away from Iran and squeeze Iran out of Syria, thus smashing the fulcrum of Iranian power in the region.

While the Left in Britain, Europe and America froths and fulminates that the forthcoming US-Russia summit proves that US President Donald Trump is in the pocket of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a bargain is being developed between them which may deal a fatal blow to Iranian power.

Russia is coming to realize that, having used Iran to gain a foothold in the region, its asset is turning into a liability. That’s because the regional stability Russia now needs is actively threatened by the growing reality of Israeli war in Syria against Iran.

So Russia is throwing Iran under the bus.

That’s why it sided with Saudi Arabia over increasing oil production to restrain oil prices which can cripple Tehran. Russia has previously said Iran must pull out of Syria once the war there is over.

Now Putin reportedly wants to strike a broader deal with the Trump administration.

This would apparently involve the US pulling its troops out of Syria while Russia pushes Iran at least away from proximity to Israel, if not out of Syria altogether.

Clearly, much remains murky and alarming about such a complex dance of deterrence.

America’s ultimate strategic goal, however, is clear: to weaken, stymie and ultimately destroy the Islamic regime in Iran.

Yet, incredibly, Britain and Europe are still attempting to support it. This weekend, the five powers still party to the nuclear deal – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – are meeting Iran’s foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in Vienna to discuss how it might continue without US support.

This, even though earlier this week, six people were arrested in Belgium, France and Germany, including an Iranian diplomat posted to Vienna, over an alleged Iranian terrorist plot to attack an Iranian-opposition rally in a Paris suburb this weekend.

BRITAIN, FRANCE and Germany may realize very soon that they will need to choose between trading with Iran and trading with the US. The State Department has threatened to punish sanctions violators, while major European companies such as Peugeot, Siemens and Total are reportedly preparing to halt their dealings with Tehran.

Both Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have made a point of telling the Iranian people that they have American and Israeli support and that the fight by the US and Israel is merely against the regime that oppresses them.

Iran’s brave dissidents desperately need Western support, both material and psychological, if they are to continue pitting their lives against the regime. Yet, appallingly and shamefully, their protests are receiving virtually no coverage at all in the British or American media. Instead of the wider support needed to help them bring down the regime, they’re being ignored.

Trump is trying to do something which for the first time looks like it might just be possible: to neutralize the Iranian regime, and thus not only rid the world of its most deadly threat to life and liberty but make the defeat of other malign actors such as North Korea more likely.

It may not work. But whatever happens, the role being played by Britain, France and Germany and the decadent Western media will surely be bracketed by future historians with Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in the annals of political infamy.

The author is a columnist for The Times (UK)

IDF deploys Iron Dome air defense along Gaza border

July 6, 2018

July 6, 2018

The IDF has deployed several Iron Dome air-defense batteries along the Gaza border, where tensions have heightened dramatically.

By: World Israel News

An Iron Dome system intercepts Hamas rocket in Ashdod. (IDF/File)

The IDF on Thursday deployed several Iron Dome anti-missile batteries along Israel’s border with Gaza, following a military assessment.

The defense ministry reported last week that Palestinian terrorists in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired 289 rockets and mortar shells into Israel.

According to Ha’aretz, “this is more than any recent year – including the period in 2014 that preceded Operation Protective Edge that began on July 8 of that year.”

“The IDF is prepared for several scenarios and ready to defend the citizens of the State of Israel and its sovereignty,” the IDF said in a statement.

100 days since launch of arson terror from Gaza

Since the start of the Hamas-led “March of Return” on March 30, tensions have heightened dramatically.

Saturday will mark 100 days since the beginning of the arson terror launched against Israel’s southern communities from Gaza, where terrorists have been sending incendiary kites and balloons over the border.

To date, approximately 50 dunams of land in the south has been scorched, including farms and nature reserves. The damaged land is roughly equivalent to the size of Greater Tel Aviv.


Europeans Warn Israel: Don’t Move Bedouin from Illegal Shantytown to Modern Village

July 6, 2018

Police clash with Bedouin and supporters at Khan al-Ahmar, July 4, 2018.

Photo Credit: Yaniv Nadav/Flash90

The Europeans are warning Israel against the destruction of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, where, as of 2018, there are 173 Bedouin residents, including 92 children, living in tents and huts. Khan al-Ahmar is located between the Israeli settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim. In May 2018, Israel’s High Court of Justice determined that its residents could be evicted, as per a 2010 Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories demolition order.

Three senior European diplomats on Thursday told Channel 10 News that the ambassadors of the five largest countries of the European Union—Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain—had met with the deputy national security adviser at the Prime Minister’s Office, Oded Yosef, to warn him that the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar would lead to a stern response from many European countries.

According to the diplomats, the ambassadors asked that Israel reconsider the demolition of the village and stressed that they were very concerned that the demolition was in preparation for building a new settlement in Area C, which would prevent territorial contiguity in a future Palestinian state.

Israel rejected the appeal and announced that the demolition would continue as planned.

Yosef said at the meeting that the Supreme Court had approved the demolition of the village and noted that in its current location it constituted a safety hazard.

He added that the residents had been offered a number of alternatives and that Israel would continue to prepare for the demolition of the village as planned.

Israel has prepared a permanent neighborhood for the residents of Khan al-Ahmar, where each evicted family will receive a developed plot for free.

The Regavim movement issued a statement saying, “The hypocritical European countries have led and financed the illegal construction in order to help the Palestinian Authority take control of the Ma’aleh Adumim area, and with great insolence are exerting unacceptable pressure with the help of radical left-wing organizations, while further exploiting the High Court of Justice in an attempt to delay the enforcement of the law and the implementation of the ruling.”

Ma’ale Adumim at the center of E1 / Courtesy Google Maps

The crux of the struggle is nothing short of the viable future of a Palestinian State. It comes down to who would control Area E1, which stretches along the narrowest part of Judea and Samaria. Should E1, which is part of Area C, according to the Oslo Accords, meaning it is under complete Israeli control, be filled with illegal Arab construction and be kept alive with European pressure, then an eventual Palestinian State could count on a contiguous, north-to-south territory.

But should the city of Ma’ale Adumim, 4.3 miles east of Jerusalem, population 40,000, be permitted to link with eastern Jerusalem, then the dream of a Palestinian State would effectively die, as communication between its southern and northern part would involve crossing a protected, sprawling Israeli urban barrier.

Or, as Regavim put it this week, “Khan al-Ahmar has become a litmus test for the State of Israel, which must stand firm against the pressure campaign and complete the outpost’s relocation.”

Lieberman tells Iranian people regime is sacrificing them

July 6, 2018

Source: Lieberman tells Iranian people regime is sacrificing them

BItay Blumenthal and Moran Azulay|Published:  07.06.18 , 10:29
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman addressed the Iranian population on Thursday, saying that the regime in Tehran is sacrificing its people for terror and radical movements in the Middle East, making it the second time in two weeks that the Yisrael Beytenu leader has attempted to communicate directly with the people.

“I have no doubt that you all see what correct economic policies really do and what benefits they can really bring to the Iranian people,” Lieberman said in a special interview with internet radio station “Fayam Ashrail” which airs daily news in Farsi and is transmitted to Iran.

“I appreciate the Iranian people very much. Despite the cruel regime of oppression, the youth are protesting and making their positions clear. You have to admire them for their willingness,” he told his interviewer, Menashe Amir, who serves as the anchor of the Voice of Israel station in Farsi.

Defense Minister Lieberman (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)

Defense Minister Lieberman (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)

“Iran is a country that sacrifices the lives of its citizens for terror and radical movements in the Middle East and not only in the Middle East. Despite all the difficulties, despite the unemployment, despite the economic situation, Iran has so far invested $14 billion in Syria,” he said, repeating a message he wrote on his Facebook page in Farsi at the end of June.“In 2018 Iran will spend $2.5 billion on supporting Hezbollah, on activities in Syria, on supporting Houthis in Yemen and Shi’ite militias in Iraq, as well as on supporting Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip,” he continued.

“Only recently, Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani allocated $70 million to a series of measures and logistical operations in Syria,” Lieberman added as he echoed his Facebook post.

“That says something about the priorities. Where is the citizen and where is the extremist concept that requires the Iranian regime to support terrorism and fighting in every corner of the Middle East?” he asked.

In answer to the question of whether Israel is gearing up for war with Iran, Lieberman said that he hoped not.

Protests in Iran

Protests in Iran

“No one wants war. We want a strong economy, we want to promote science but we won’t agree under any circumstances to tolerating the presence of Al-Quds forces on Syrian soil. We will act extremely decisively to any attempt by Iran to entrench its military forces in Syria,” the defense minister vowed.

Calling on the Iranian people to take responsibility for their own destiny, Lieberman urged them not to “leave it in the hands of the Al-Quds Forces or the Revolutionary Guards or any other radicals who only bring about disaster, suffering and more wars and deaths.”

Iran has witnessed in recent weeks a rare wave of protests in the wake of a weakening economy as US sanctions close in on the country following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark Iranian nuclear deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the fresh US sanctions were part of a “psychological, economic and political war”, adding that Washington would pay a high price for its actions. He also blamed Israel for allegedly playing a part in the unrest.

Associated Press contributed to this report.