Archive for August 13, 2018

Iran’s Khamenei bans holding direct talks with United States 

August 13, 2018

Source: Iran’s Khamenei bans holding direct talks with United States – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

“More than the sanctions, economic mismanagement (by the government) is putting pressure on ordinary Iranians,” Khameni said.

BY REUTERS
 AUGUST 13, 2018 15:39
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

ANKARA – Iran’s Supreme Leader on Monday rejected US President Donald Trump’s offer of unconditional talks to improve bilateral ties and he also accused the Iranian government of economic mismanagement in the face of reimposed US sanctions.

Washington reimposed the sanctions last week after pulling out of a 2015 international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions. Trump has also threatened to penalize companies that continue to operate in Iran.

“I ban holding any talks with America… America never remains loyal to its promises in talks,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on policy in the Islamic Republic.

“America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal is a clear proof that America cannot be trusted,” state TV quoted Khamenei as telling a gathering attended by thousands of Iranians.

The sanctions target Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals, its purchases of US dollars and its car industry.

Washington had said Iran’s only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept Trump’s offer to negotiate for a tougher nuclear deal. Iranian officials already rejected the offer but it is the first time Khamenei has publicly commented.

But Khamenei ruled out the possibility of war with the United States.

“They (the Americans) are exaggerating the possibility of a war with Iran. There will be no war… We have never started a war and they will not confront Iran militarily,” he siad.

ECONOMIC WOES

Khamenei, whose remarks on Monday come amid a sharp fall in the rial currency that has prompted angry protests, criticized the government of President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist cleric who championed the 2015 deal aimed at ending Iran’s political and economic isolation.

“More than the sanctions, economic mismanagement (by the government) is putting pressure on ordinary Iranians… I do not call it betrayal but a huge mistake in management,” state TV quoted Khamenei as saying.

“With better management and more efficient planning we can resist the sanctions and overcome them,” Khamenei said, in an apparent effort to deflect public anger over the deteriorating economy towards Rouhani’s government.

European countries, which still back the 2015 deal, fear Trump’s moves will undermine Rouhani and strengthen the hand of his hardline rivals in the clerical establishment.

The rial has lost about half of its value since April in anticipation of the renewed US sanctions, driven mainly by heavy demand for dollars among ordinary Iranians trying to protect their savings.

Iranian officials have blamed “enemies” for the fall of the currency and a rapid rise in the price of gold coins, and more than 60 people, including several officials, have been arrested on charges that carry the death penalty.

“The corrupt people (officials) should be punished firmly,” Khamenei said on Monday.

Thousands of Iranians have protested in recent weeks against sharp rises in the prices of some food items, a lack of jobs and state corruption. The protests over the cost of living have often turned into anti-government rallies.

Defying US demands to curb its missile program, Iran unveiled a new generation of its “Fateh Mobin” short-range ballistic missile on Monday, state TV reported.

“Our will to enhance our defense power in all fields will increase if the pressure mounts on Iran,” Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami said after unveiling the “fully home-made precision-guided” missile.

Trump has said Iran must also stop meddling in conflicts in Syria and Yemen, but Foreign Minister Javad Zarif struck a defiant tone on Monday, telling Qatar’s al Jazeera TV: “Iran will not change its policies in the region because of US sanctions and threats.”

Iran unveils new short-range Fateh ballistic missile

August 13, 2018

Source: Iran unveils new short-range Fateh ballistic missile – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

The latest Fateh missile called the Al-Mobeen or “The Divine Conquest.”

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 AUGUST 13, 2018 14:22
Missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran

Iran has unveiled a new generation of short-range Fateh missiles just days after the Islamic Republic fired a Fateh 110 ballistic missile, the first launch of a ballistic missile in over a year.

The new generation of Fateh missiles was unveiled by Defense Minister Brig.-Gen. Amir Hatami who said that the new agile and precise tactile stealth missile was able to evade enemy radar, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

View image on Twitter

Mahdi Bakhtiari@Mahdiibakhtiari

🔴فوری یک موشک جدید با نام رونمایی کرد.
این موشک از نسل است که دقیق ترین موشک ایران است.

According to Tasnim, Hatami said that the latest Fateh missile called the Al-Mobeen or “The Divine Conquest” and is expected to have a range of 300-500 km has already been tested and will boost Iran’s defensive capabilities.  He stressed that Iran would not stop enhancing their missile capabilities.

“As I had promised the Iranian nation, I will spare no effort to boost the country’s missile capabilities and we will certainly increase our missile power everyday,” Hatami said, adding that “with a powerful, smart and up-to-date defense industry, we will be able to preserve peace and stability, and today, the enemies are fully aware of the Islamic Republic’s defense power.”

“Be sure that the greater the pressures and psychological warfare against the great nation of Iran, our will to enhance our defense power in all fields will increase,” he added.

On Sunday, Fox News reported that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRG) fired a third generation Fateh-110 in an anti-ship configuration from Iranian soil, crossing part of the Strait of Hormuz before impacting a desert test range 100 miles away.

According to the report, the launch from the IRGC’s base in Bandar-e-Jask in southeastern Iran  was detected by US spy satellites is believed to have occurred last week during an IRGC naval exercise.

Iran is said to have conducted over 20 missile tests since 2015 claiming that they are legitimate and defensive in nature.

Despite new US sanctions placed on Iran last week meant to pressure Tehran over its military activity in the Middle East and its ballistic missile program, Tehran is continuing to improve its missile arsenal.

The Islamic Republic possesses more than 1,000 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and has the ability to proliferate weapons to countries and non-state actors such as Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

On Monday the Commander of the Iranian Army Ground Force Brig.-Gen. Kiomars Heidari said Tehran was ready and willing to provide weapons and other military equipment made in Iran to “friendly and brotherly countries.”

“Today, the Armed Forces and the Army Ground Force are self-sufficient in all defense arenas and we can supply the friendly and brotherly countries with these defensive capabilities,” he was quoted by Fars News as telling reporters in Tehran.

It is estimated that Hezbollah has some 30,000 rockets with a range of 10 kilometers, another 40,000 with a range of 40 kilometers, some 200 rockets with a range of 300 kilometers, and only about 10 rockets with a range of up to 500 kilometers.

Israel is concerned that Iran is not only trying to consolidate its grip in Syria where it could establish a forward base to attack Israel, but that it is trying to build an advanced weapons factories in Syria and Lebanon in order to manufacture GPS-guided missiles that could hit targets with greater accuracy.

Israel has reiterated its view several times on any transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah as a “red line” and will work to prevent any such movement.

While the IDF confirms nor denies the strikes, as is their policy regarding foreign reports on purported Israeli strikes, it has admitted to striking over 100 targets in Syria over the past five years. It is suspected of carrying out hundreds of others.

Fearing Gaza crisis, Israel asks US to scale back aid agency cuts 

August 13, 2018

Source: Fearing Gaza crisis, Israel asks US to scale back aid agency cuts – Israel Hayom

( Another example of Israel’s “genocide”… – JW )

In message to Hezbollah, IDF completes ‘war of the ‎future’ drill in north 

August 13, 2018

Source: In message to Hezbollah, IDF completes ‘war of the ‎future’ drill in north – Israel Hayom

Defense minister: War with Hamas is just a matter of time – Israel Hayom

August 13, 2018

Source: Defense minister: War with Hamas is just a matter of time – Israel Hayom

This Startup’s Solution to Attack Drones? Sending in a Bigger Drone 

August 13, 2018

Source: This Startup’s Solution to AttacDrones? Sending in a Bigger Drone – CTech

RoboTiCan’s Goshawk drone can detect, intercept, and destroy hostile drones by colliding into them in midair

Amarelle Wenkert17:4412.08.18

Israeli startup RoboTiCan Ltd.’s solution to attack drones? Sending a bigger drone to hunt them down midair. A drone unveiled last month by RoboTiCan can detect, intercept, and crash into hostile drones, destroying them, according to the company. Dubbed Goshawk, the drone interfaces with radar systems to detect unmanned aerial vehicles from an undisclosed distance and uses machine vision and artificial intelligence technologies to identify threats. Once a hostile drone is detected, the Goshawk can autonomously launch itself to collide with the drone, sending the smaller aerial vehicle crashing down.

The Goshawk is very robust and can crash into multiple drones without being affected, Ofir Bustan, vice president of finance and projects at RoboTiCan, told Calcalist on Sunday. The drone is just under 1.5 meters in diameter, Bustan said. He would not disclose the machine’s flight range.Founded in 2013 and based in the southern city of Beer Sheva, RoboTiCan develops autonomous robotic systems for land and air. The company develops systems for both defense and commercial applications.

Israel’s Top Military Strategist Talks War and Peace

August 13, 2018

Source: Israel’s Top Military Strategist Talks War and Peace – Tablet Magazine

Yaakov Amidror believes Israeli muscle has left the Jewish state with only ‘1 1/2’ security problems: Iran and Hezbollah. But that doesn’t mean the next conflict won’t be ‘a very, very nasty war.’

A retired general and former national security adviser in nearly every Middle Eastern state would live in paranoia and luxury, with servants, bodyguards, hangers-on, and a few odd state or army-owned business interests to keep them busy behind the high walls of their compound. In contrast to his Egyptian or Jordanian equivalents, 70-year-old Yaakov Amidror, perhaps Israel’s most canny and influential security strategist, lives in a suburb of Tel Aviv, on an easily public-transit-accessible street of closely built houses that are spacious by Israeli standards without being notably opulent. On a Thursday in late July, toys were scattered around the entrance—one of Amidror’s young grandkids is a frequent visitor.

Amidror officially left public service in 2014 but was at the center of many of the most important decisions Israel has made over the past decade. During his time in government, Israel reduced a number of once-pressing dangers to mere annoyances. Now that he’s in the think-tank world, Amidror is one of the few people close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who can talk semiopenly about the most recent era of Israeli security policy, in which Israel has emerged stable, prosperous, and powerful without having to make significant concessions to the Palestinians, or to anyone else.

“It is not strategic—it’s a tactical issue,” Amidror said of the threats that Hamas now poses to the country. “We need an address in Gaza and not a chaotic situation in which ISIS will win.” The West Bank is barely even a hotspot anymore. “Ironically, under occupation, meaning we have control on the ground, the Palestinians are suffering less than in areas in which there is no occupation,” Amidror claimed, contrasting the territory to Gaza.

Amidror reckons that in a chaotic Middle East, Palestinians no longer have much reason to risk an ongoing lull in tensions in the name of destroying Israel. “An average Palestinian in Nablus or in Hebron is getting up in the morning asking himself a question: I’m under occupation. It’s bad to be under occupation. Is my situation better than in Amman, Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad? And the answer, if he is an honest guy, is to say my situation is much better—not better, much better. I don’t fear going in the street, my economic situation is better, my freedom is greater than in all these Arab countries. So why should I sacrifice my life for something that in the end might be worse than my situation today?”

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals or the legitimization of the country’s nonstate enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel will be, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with us] will grow,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only 1 1/2 problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hezbollah.”

***

Amidror was national security adviser from 2011 until 2013, a time when an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities was a very real possibility. Thanks to turnover in the security cabinet, Netanyahu could have easily ordered an attack on Iran during much of 2011 and 2012, a window that ended as soon as Israel learned about the United States’ secret Oman-based backchannel with the Islamic Republic that eventually culminated in the 2015 nuclear deal.

Amidror supported attacking Iran’s nuclear sites at that time but says that “no one has the answer” as to whether Netanyahu was correct to hold off. “I was for it but I cannot say that I know what would have happened,” he said. Amidror thinks that the window for a successful attack hasn’t totally closed yet: “We have the military capability.”

Does that mean Israel has a way of overcoming the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft system that Iran has deployed around key locations in the country? “Overcoming is a strong word,” Amidror deflected. “I’m not speaking about details. We know how to do the job in spite of the positions of the S-300. … We said all the time, we attack when we understand that it is the last minute to do it. We ask ourselves every morning: Is it the last day? If tomorrow will be too late, then we have to act.” Amidror added that the “last day” hasn’t arrived yet.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle.

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed nonstate military force on earth. Amidror says another round of Israel-Hezbollah fighting is a “very-high-probability” event even if he doesn’t believe it’s inevitable. Israel’s war aims will be narrow. “We should neutralize the military capability of Hezbollah,” he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” He anticipates that because of Arab and Western antipathy toward Iran, Israel will have a relatively free hand to prosecute such a war and won’t become an international pariah as a result of the conflict. That’s pretty much where the good news ends.

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hezbollah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. “It will be very problematic for us. We don’t have tomorrow morning enough interceptors and they are enhancing their capabilities.”

This will be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.” He recalled that during the 2014 war in Gaza, the families of wounded soldiers called on the prime minister to continue the operation from beside their relatives’ hospital beds. “The cabinet didn’t know how to stop the IDF and tell them to retreat back after they destroyed the [Hamas] tunnels because the atmosphere was: Don’t stop, continue.” Amidror’s point was that the Israeli public is willing to withstand even heavy casualties during war if it’s clear the country’s battlefield aims are being achieved.

In Lebanon, the war will inflict unspeakable suffering. Because the interceptors won’t be able to stop the entirety of Hezbollah’s missile barrages, Israel will have to target rockets on the ground before they can be launched—Amidror pointed out that Israel destroyed many of Hezbollah’s Zelzal missiles during the 2006 conflict with the militant group; as a result, none of the rockets was fired at Israel during the war. “Think of about 120,000 rockets and missiles, 50 percent or 80 percent of them stored by the Iranians within populated areas in private houses. Areas will be evaporated. Think about a missile of half a ton, with all the fuel in it, and Israel hits it with only 100 grams of TNT. … Think about what will be damaged just by the stored missiles. Thousands and thousands of Lebanese will be killed and part of Lebanon will be destroyed.” That’s on top of whatever destruction Israel causes when targeting other Hezbollah bases and infrastructure.

Amidror recalled a meeting with Ban Ki-moon during one of the former U.N. secretary-general’s visits to Israel. He showed Ban photos of Hezbollah rockets stored in civilian areas. “Secretary, what should Israel do?” Amidror remembered asking. “These missiles will be launched into Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Afula, everywhere. What is your advice to Israel? And I’m telling you if we will hit these missiles, many Lebanese will be killed. Many of them even don’t know that they are neighboring a missile and are totally innocent. You are the secretary-general of the United Nations. What is your advice? He didn’t know what to say, and he said nothing.”

***

Amidror has always viewed the Syrian civil war with an icy pragmatism. He claims that in 2011, the National Security Council understood that the conflict would be a protracted sectarian bloodletting, pitting Sunnis, who represent some 80 or 75 percent of the population, against Assad’s Alawite sect, Shiites, and other regime supporters. Even in 2012, when Syria’s defense minister was killed in a suicide bombing on the regime’s national security headquarters, Amidror and his colleagues didn’t think Assad would be toppled. “There was part of the intelligence and I think that Ehud Barak said it loudly that he’s doomed,” Amidror said. “In the National Security Council our conclusion was different. We told the prime minister that we don’t think that he’s going to lose. We don’t know if he will win. But all these very pessimistic approaches to his ability to survive—we didn’t find any basis for it.”

Israel navigated the Syrian morass by keeping its objectives modest. In the early years of the war, Israel refrained from building proxy forces or trying to affect the overthrow of the regime: “When we looked at the map we didn’t see someone where we could say, OK, we will back him and that will be good for Israel.” The Sunni states failed to organize a credible or unified opposition to Assad. When the Russian military deployed to the country in 2015, Israel’s goal was to maintain its “freedom of action” over Syria and to keep its ability to strike at Hezbollah or Iranian targets inside the country.

Amidror and his colleagues didn’t see much of a moral distinction between Assad and his opponents. “We understood that there is no right and wrong,” he said. “Both sides are very cruel and if the Sunnis would have won the war, they would probably have eliminated the Alawites from the earth.”

In reality, Assad and his allies are responsible for the majority of the conflict’s human-rights abuses, but as Amidror hints, the Israel’s national security leadership didn’t believe it had the luxury of passing judgement on the war’s participants. This mindset has resulted in a string of ironies: An Iranian-sustained despot acts as a bulwark against further chaos in a neighboring state, while Russia, which is fighting on the same side of the war as Iran, has entered into a deconfliction agreement that maintains Israel’s ability to strike at its Iranian-supported enemies in the country.

With Iran entrenched in Syria and Iranian proxies in control of much of the border area with Israel, it’s unclear whether Israel’s seemingly careful approach to the war will amount to a strategic victory—just as it’s unclear whether the cold-blooded view of Hamas and the Palestinians will leave Israel safer or stronger in the long run. But the short run has a way of turning into the long run in the Middle East. “What is clear for us is we should be very strong, so that whatever the challenges will be in the future we will have enough capabilities to deal with them,” Amidror said, when asked if the current calm is sustainable. “But we cannot make the decisions for el-Sisi and for Mohammed bin Salman or for King Abdullah or Erdogan or whoever.”