Archive for August 15, 2018

Mystery Russian satellite’s behaviour raises alarm in US

August 15, 2018


The US says it does not know what the satellite is or why it is behaving strangely

By BBC News, 08/15/2018

Source Link: Mystery Russian satellite’s behaviour raises alarm in US

{Not a moment too soon for a formal Space Force. The race is on and I’m betting Russia can’t afford it no more than they did when challenged by Reagan years ago. – LS}

A mysterious Russian satellite displaying “very abnormal behaviour” has raised alarm in the US, according to a State Department official.

“We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it,” said assistant secretary Yleem Poblete at a conference in Switzerland on 14 August.

She voiced fears that it was impossible to say if the object may be a weapon.

Russia has dismissed the comments as “unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicious”.

The satellite in question was launched in October last year.

“[The satellite’s] behaviour on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities,” Ms Poblete told the conference on disarmament in Switzerland.

“Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development,” she added, citing recent comments made by the commander of Russia’s Space Forces, who said adopting “new prototypes of weapons” was a key objective for the force.

Ms Poblete said that the US had “serious concerns” that Russia was developing anti-satellite weapons.

Alexander Deynko, a senior Russian diplomat, told the Reuters news agency that the comments were “the same unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions and so on”.

He called on the US to contribute to a Russian-Chinese treaty that seeks to prevent an arms race in space.

‘Lasers or microwaves’

Space weapons may be designed to cause damage in more subtle ways than traditional weapons like guns, which could cause a lot of debris in orbit, explained Alexandra Stickings, a research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute.

“[Such weapons may include] lasers or microwave frequencies that could just stop [a satellite] working for a time, either disable it permanently without destroying it or disrupt it via jamming,” she said.

But it was difficult to know what technology is available because so much information on space-based capabilities is classified, she added.

She also said it would be very difficult to prove that any event causing interference in space was an intentional, hostile action by a specific nation state.

Ms Poblete’s comments were particularly interesting in light of President Donald Trump’s decision to launch a sixth branch of the US armed forces named Space Force, added Ms Stickings.

“The narrative coming from the US is, ‘space was really peaceful, now look at what the Russians and Chinese are doing’ – ignoring the fact that the US has developed its own capabilities.”

The BBC has asked the UK’s Ministry of Defence for comment.

 

Netanyahu picks the perfect time to lay a trap for Corbyn – and he fell for it – Haaretz.com

August 15, 2018

Source: Netanyahu picks the perfect time to lay a trap for Corbyn – and he fell for it – Israel News – Haaretz.com

( Sour grapes from the extreme leftist Haaretz… – JW )

The U.K. Labour leader is the only politician hapless enough to lose the moral high ground to Bibi

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's Labour Party, in Stoke-on-Trent, August 14, 2018
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s Labour Party, in Stoke-on-Trent, August 14, 2018\ DARREN STAPLES/ REUTERS

Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent record of standing up for Jewish communities in the Diaspora that are facing anti-Semitism has hardly been a stellar one. Over the last two years he has failed American Jews by remaining silent as Donald Trump endorsed and legitimized white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Despite the express wishes of the Hungarian Jewish community, he has embraced Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has launched an anti-Semitic-style campaign against Jewish financier George Soros and tried to expunge the pro-Nazi record of Hungary’s wartime regime.

And only two months ago, Netanyahu received a rare rebuke from Yad Vashem’s historians for signing a joint statement with Poland’s government clearing the Polish people of their well-documented abandonment of Polish Jews during the Holocaust. Also, he rushed to congratulate Austria’s new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, when the center-right leader formed a government with the former neo-Nazi members of the Freedom Party.

On the basis of this record, it would take a particularly inept politician to lose the moral high ground against Netanyahu in a public spat about anti-Semitism. Arise Jeremy Corbyn, the man who constantly claims to have been a campaigner against racism all his life and to have not one anti-Semitic bone in his body. But he seems to have the incredible misfortune of being unable to keep himself from joining platforms with and endorsing blood libelers, Holocaust deniers and convicted terror bombers.

Cover of the Daily Mail reporting Jeremy Corbyn visited graves of Munich terrorists
Cover of the Daily Mail reporting Jeremy Corbyn visited graves of Munich terroristsScreen shot
Corbyn has been Labour Party leader for nearly three years now, but doesn’t seem to have appeared on Netanyahu’s radar before this week. Actually, Corbyn and politicians of his mold who can’t help themselves from insulting local Jewish communities with their open associations with anti-Semites are a godsend to Netanyahu. In his dysfunctional relationship with the Diaspora, a “progressive” leader who makes Jews feel unwanted in their own country bolsters Netanyahu’s siege-mentality brand of Zionism.

The euroskeptic Corbyn, who is defying the majority within Labour who want to resist Brexit, is useful to Netanyahu in this as well. Corbyn is doing nothing to prevent the United Kingdom from crashing out of the European Union without an orderly deal, weakening both Britain and the EU in the process. This is furthering Netanyahu’s goal of seeing the EU that has criticized his policies and upheld the Iran deal become a diminished voice on the global scene. It’s also strengthening the voices of his allies, the populist right-wing governments, within the EU.

A gift from Tunis

In recent weeks, some of Netanyahu’s media proxies have taken to talking up Corbyn and his anti-Semitic scandals, partly to deflect some of the criticism of their leader for his ties with right-wing populists like Orbán and the farce of the joint statement with the hard-right Polish government. But Netanyahu himself remained silent, anxious, as one aide said, “not to descend to Corbyn’s level. He’s just a party leader, not a prime minister.”

Still, the increasing interest in Corbyn in the Israeli media was galvanized this week by the reports that in 2014 he had lain a wreath at the Tunis graves of planners of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Netanyahu couldn’t remain silent. His advisers noted that Corbyn was by now featuring in the line-up of the evening news shows and that the only prominent Israeli politician responding to Corbyn was Israel’s Labor leader, Avi Gabbay, who four months ago announced that after decades of warm ties between the sister parties he was suspending all relations with Corbyn’s office.

As for Corbyn’s wreath laying in Tunis, his office initially denied that it ever happened, but then Corbyn himself owned up to having been there, his version of events evolving from eye-rolling and exasperated interviews to insisting that he had been paying his respects to “all victims.” This gave Netanyahu his opening. It wasn’t another round in the interminable flurry of insults to British Jews, but a direct insult to Israelis who still feel the trauma of the Munich massacre 46 years later. And who better than Netanyahu, the man whose entire career has been based on his fabled expertise in fighting terror, to deliver the rebuke?

Netanyahu is no Trump, tweeting in his pajamas from his bedroom. He doesn’t even own a smartphone. Instead he has a team planning and crafting tweets and Facebook posts, sometimes days and weeks in advance. And the tweet saying that the “laying of a wreath by Jeremy Corbyn on the graves of the terrorist who perpetrated the Munich massacre and his comparison of Israel to the Nazis deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone – left, right and everything in between” was no exception.

Frustrated Labour MPs

No sooner had the flunky in the Prime Minister’s Office pressed “send” Monday evening, releasing Netanyahu’s first-ever acknowledgment of Corbyn’s existence, than political commentators in London were predicting that it was a mistake that would let Corbyn deflect attention from his troubles and pivot to attacking Netanyahu. And of course, he did so.

Corbyn’s Twitter feed has to be one of the slowest to the draw of any major Western politician. This time, with unusual alacrity, within less than two hours, Corbyn was hitting back at Netanyahu, lambasting him for the deaths of 160 Palestinians at the Gaza border in recent months and Israel’s passage of the nation-state law. But the swift deflection quickly backfired.

The followers of Corbyn’s cult leapt to his defense on Twitter. But they’re his die-hard supporters anyway. It may have been expected that given the choice between Corbyn and Netanyahu, Labour’s mainstream parliamentarians would stand up for their leader. But the MPs, tired and frustrated by the way Corbyn has run roughshod over their concerns with his repeated insults of British Jews, remained silent.

Much worse for Corbyn, if he had any hope that the furor over every new revelation about his checkered past would finally begin to die down, after dragging on for weeks, he walked into Netanyahu’s trap. Now the media was bound to continue harrying him about wreathgate for at least another 24 hours. And now it wasn’t just an internal British affair but a high-profile international feud.

It’s not that Netanyahu is a popular politician in Britain. Far from it. But Corbyn, despite his lifelong passion for foreign policy issues, failed to grasp that ultimately Netanyahu isn’t going to be on the ballot in Britain. By taking on Netanyahu in a Twitter spat, he didn’t gain any media sympathy beyond his hardcore base. But British papers don’t need Corbyn to remind them of Gaza; they’ve covered it extensively. A local political scandal in which a party leader visibly squirms as he tries to account for his actions is always a better story.

The Labour Party had a golden opportunity this summer to overtake the Conservative government in the polls. The Tories are an embarrassing shambles, with Prime Minister Theresa May under fire from the insurgent former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, increasingly incapable of controlling her wayward ministers and steering a clear course toward Brexit.

Corbyn’s predecessors as opposition leader enjoyed double-digit leads in the polls. But instead of making ground and presenting his own policies, Corbyn is digging an ever-deepening hole into his anti-Semitic morass. With one tweet, Netanyahu helped him dig a bit more, prolonging the Labour leader’s summer of misery.

Amid ethnic protests, Iran warns of foreign meddling

August 15, 2018

Source: Amid ethnic protests, Iran warns of foreign meddling – Modern Diplomacy

Iran has raised the spectre of a US-Saudi effort to destabilize the country by exploiting economic grievances against the backdrop of circumstantial evidence that Washington and Riyadh are playing with scenarios for stirring unrest among the Islamic republic’s ethnic minorities.

Iran witnessed this weekend minority Azeri and Iranian Arab protests in soccer stadiums while the country’s Revolutionary Guards Corps reported clashes with Iraq-based Iranian Kurdish insurgents.

State-run television warned in a primetime broadcast that foreign agents could turn legitimate protests stemming from domestic anger at the government’s mismanagement of the economy and corruption into “incendiary calls for regime change” by inciting violence that would provoke a crackdown by security forces and give the United States fodder to tackle Iran.

“The ordinary protesting worker would be hapless in the face of such schemes, uncertain how to stop his protest from spiralling into something bigger, more radical, that he wasn’t calling for,” journalist Azadeh Moaveni quoted in a series of tweets the broadcast as saying.

The warning stroked with the Trump administration’s strategy to escalate the protests that have been continuing for months and generate the kind of domestic pressure that would force Iran to concede by squeezing it economically with the imposition of harsh sanctions.

US officials, including President Donald J. Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, a long-time proponent of Iranian regime change, have shied away from declaring that they were seeking a change of government, but have indicated that they hoped sanctions would fuel economic discontent.

The Trump administration, after withdrawing in May from the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program, this month targeted Iranian access to US dollars, trade in gold and other precious metals, and the sale to Iran of auto parts, commercial passenger aircraft, and related parts and services. A second round of sanctions in November is scheduled to restrict oil and petrochemical products.

“The pressure on the Iranian economy is significant… We continue to see demonstrations and riots in cities and towns all around Iran showing the dissatisfaction the people feel because of the strained economy.” Mr. Bolton said as the first round of sanctions took effect.

Mr. Bolton insisted that US policy was to put “unprecedented pressure” on Iran to change its behaviour”, not change the regime.

The implication of his remarks resembled Israeli attitudes three decades ago when officials argued that if the Palestine Liberation Organization were to recognize Israel it would no longer be the PLO but the PPLO, Part of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

In other words, the kind of policy changes the Trump administration is demanding, including an end to its ballistic program and support for regional proxies, by implication would have to involve regime change.

A string of recent, possibly unrelated incidents involving Iran’s ethnic minorities coupled with various other events could suggest that the United States and Saudi Arabia covertly are also playing with separate plans developed in Washington and Riyadh to destabilize Iran by stirring unrest among non-Persian segments of the Islamic republic’s population.

Mr. Bolton last year before assuming office drafted at the request of Mr. Trump’s then strategic advisor, Steve Bannon, a plan that envisioned US support “for the democratic Iranian opposition,” “Kurdish national aspirations in Iran, Iraq and Syria,” and assistance for Baloch in the Pakistani province of Balochistan and Iran’s neighbouring Sistan and Balochistan province as well as Iranian Arabs in the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan.

A Saudi think tank, believed to be backed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, called in 2017 in a study for Saudi support for a low-level Baloch insurgency in Iran. Prince Mohammed vowed around the same time that “we will work so that the battle is for them in Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”

Pakistani militants have claimed that Saudi Arabia has stepped up funding of militant madrassas or religious seminaries in Balochistan that allegedly serve as havens for anti-Iranian fighters.

The head of the State Department’s Office of Iranian Affairs met in Washington in June with Mustafa Hijri, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), before assuming his new post as counsel general in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said last weekend that they had killed ten militants near the Iranian border with Iraq. “A well-equipped terrorist group … intending to infiltrate the country from the border area of Oshnavieh to foment insecurity and carry out acts of sabotage was ambushed and at least 10 terrorists were killed in a heavy clash,” the Guards said.

The KDPI has recently stepped up its attacks in Iranian Kurdistan, killing nine people weeks before Mr. Hijri’s meeting with Mr. Fagin. Other Kurdish groups have reported similar attacks. Several Iranian Kurdish groups are discussing ways to coordinate efforts to confront the Iranian regime.

Similarly, this weekend’s ethnic soccer protests are rooted in a history of football unrest in the Iranian provinces of East Azerbaijan and Khuzestan that reflect long-standing economic and environmental grievances but also at times at least in oil-rich Khuzestan potentially had Saudi fingerprints on them.

Video clips of Azeri supporters of Tabriz-based Traktor Sazi FC chanting ‘Death to the Dictator” in Tehran’s Azadi stadium during a match against Esteghlal FC went viral on social media after a live broadcast on state television was muted to drown the protest out. A sports commentator blamed the loss of sound on a network disruption.

A day earlier, Iranian Arab fans clashed with security forces in a stadium in the Khuzestan capital of Ahwaz during a match between local team Foolad Khuzestan FC and Tehran’s Persepolis FC. The fans reportedly shouted slogans reaffirming their Arab identity.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arabs have a long history of encouraging Iranian Arab opposition and troubling the minority’s relations with the government.

Iranian distrust of the country’s Arab minority has been further fuelled by the fact that the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran or Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), a controversial exiled opposition group that enjoys the support of prominent serving and former Western officials, including some in the Trump administration, has taken credit for a number of the protests in Khuzestan. The group advocates the violent overthrow of the regime in Tehran.

Two of Mr. Trump’s closest associates, Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, and former House speaker New Gingrich, attended in June a gathering in Paris of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq.

In past years, US participants, including Mr. Bolton, were joined by Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of the kingdom’s intelligence service and past ambassador to Britain and the United States, who is believed to often echo views that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prefers not to voice himself.

“The mullahs must go, the ayatollah must go, and they must be replaced by a democratic government which Madam Rajavi represents. Freedom is right around the corner … Next year I want to have this convention in Tehran,” Mr. Giuliani told this year’s rally, referring to Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Mujahedeen who is a cult figure to the group.

Tehran ‘categorically’ denies al-Qaida leaders growing stronger in Iran

August 15, 2018

Source: Tehran ‘categorically’ denies al-Qaida leaders growing stronger in Iran – Israel Hayom

Hezbollah is now stronger than Israel, Nasrallah declares 

August 15, 2018

Source: Hezbollah is now stronger than Israel, Nasrallah declares – Israel Hayom

Deterrence against Hamas is evaporating 

August 15, 2018

Source: Deterrence against Hamas is evaporating – Israel Hayom

Isi Leiber

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral support will plummet unless he finds a better solution to the barrage of Hamas rockets and incendiary kites than bombing empty buildings. What we see now is a return to the tit for tat that disrupted the lives of Israelis near the borders, forcing them to spend half their lives in shelters.

Netanyahu is to be commended for initially avoiding an open conflict with Hamas in the south while facing the threat from Iran and Hezbollah in the north. Egypt, which has no love for Hamas, has been acting as an intermediary and pressing Israel to display restraint.

But the principal inhibiting factor has been the legitimate concern that a military operation would result in considerable casualties, although Israel would crush Hamas.

In addition to the casualties, the removal of Hamas would create a vacuum, obligating Israel to assume full responsibility for the welfare of the civilians, a nightmare that the government is understandably loath to contemplate.

But despite these legitimate concerns, red lines have been crossed; unless Israel now gets much tougher, Hamas will become emboldened and the next round will be more extreme.

The aftermath of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict was three years of quiet with swift and powerful retaliation when Hamas initiated acts of aggression.

But alas, Israel’s deterrent effect has been eroded with the substitution of empty threats or bombings of installations that do not appear to unduly concern Hamas.

The recent attacks have escalated to as many as 200 missile launches in one day, even landing in Beersheba. In addition, the “kite intifada” has burned thousands of acres of agricultural land. And the violent protests at the border continue unabated.

The government had announced it would not reopen the crossings without the release of two Israeli civilians and the remains of two soldiers held captive by Hamas. Hamas has refused and demanded the release of 80 Palestinians, many of whose hands are drenched in blood. The government cannot afford a repeat of the Gilad Schalit deal after many of those then released returned to terrorism.

In this environment, both Hamas and the government have been proclaiming that they wish to avoid war and restore calm. But every time a truce is announced, Hamas breaks it.

Moreover, journalist Nadav Shragai revealed in Israel Hayomthat the government provided safe passage to Gaza for Saleh Arouri, deputy leader of Hamas’ political wing. Arouri had served 18 years in prison for terrorism. On his release, he was involved in negotiating the Schalit exchange and was subsequently responsible for some of the most bestial recent acts of terror including the kidnap and murder of the three youths in 2014. It is mind-boggling that Israel is engaged in direct negotiations with Hamas and actively abetting a monstrous murderer like Arouri as an intermediary in negotiations.

At this stage, Hamas has only offered a temporary halt in launching missiles. It refuses to discuss the release of the two Israelis and remains of the soldiers. It refuses to stop the incendiary kites and balloons and insists that the violent demonstrations at the border will be maintained until Israel accepts the so-called “Palestinian right of return.”

The recent media reports from the government suggest that “Hamas suffered a severe blow” and that Israel, after many denials, has now accepted the truce. This is nonsense. The people of Israel deserve better. They are entitled to more than meaningless tweets. Netanyahu should address the nation and explain what is happening.

Since the launching of the very first primitive rockets that our leaders dismissed as insignificant, our citizens in the southern area have suffered considerably and been transformed into refugees in their own country. After successive wars that temporarily achieved deterrence, Hamas now disregards our empty threats.

We have not learned from the past. We are again acting with restraint as the terrorists gauge our response. After the events of the past few weeks, we should demand that our government display leadership and strength and adjust its policy of restraint instead of accepting a situation where Hamas tactical considerations determine the quality of life for citizens in the south.

Appeasement only emboldens our enemies. And the absence of deterrence will inevitably, as in the past, lead to war.

We should inform our allies and adversaries that we will no longer engage in restraint, but will employ the full might at our disposal to bring an end to such assaults against our citizens.

We have one of the most powerful armies in the world. If Hamas will not cease its terrorism, notwithstanding the difficulties referred to above, we will have no choice but to destroy it.

All Israelis are willing to make great sacrifices to achieve peace. They would dearly love to live side by side with Palestinians. But the road to peace is not paved with illusions.

Isi Leibler’s website can be viewed at http://www.wordfromjerusalem.com. Email: ileibler@leibler.com.

Experts say Iran, N. Korea might manipulate, wait out Trump 

August 15, 2018

Source: Experts say Iran, N. Korea might manipulate, wait out Trump – International news – Jerusalem Post

North Korea is already a nuclear state, while Iran can still be prevented from becoming one.

BY YONAH JEREMY BOB
 AUGUST 15, 2018 04:56
Experts say Iran, N. Korea might manipulate, wait out Trump

Two experts on North Korea and Iran have told The Jerusalem Post that in light of ongoing developments, they fear both states might succeed at obtaining nuclear weapons. However, the experts view many of the issues involved differently.

Emily Landau, the director of the Institute for National Security Studies Arms Control, is concerned that Iran might try to play for time, waiting out US President Donald Trump in the hope a new, less confrontational president will replace him in 2020.

From there, she worries that the few remaining options for preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon may not succeed.

Landau does hold out hope that Trump’s process of pressure can achieve a better deal than the one cut by the Obama administration, which she viewed as too weak.

She is also pessimistic that North Korea can be convinced to give up its nuclear weapons. She says the high-profile nuclear summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un was, in reality, merely about reducing tensions and never about actual denuclearization.

Jeffrey Lewis, of Middlebury Institute’s East Asia Nonproliferation Program, is concerned that Trump will just call any agreement stronger and better than the Obama deal simply because Trump negotiated it, and then close his eyes to Iranian duplicity.

Regarding North Korea, Lewis said there was not the slightest evidence that denuclearization would be achieved by the summit, other than that Trump kept repeating it.

Not that Lewis is against reducing tensions, with him mentioning his fictional book, “The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States” as the very unlikely nightmare scenario if Trump and Kim do not reach some kind of understanding.

The two experts disagree about the connection between North Korea and Iranian strategic decision-making. Landau views them as mostly unrelated, while Lewis sees them as closely connected. (Landau, however, does believe the states have cooperated in the nuclear arena in the past.)

Landau said North Korea’s goal has always been to get a bilateral audience with a US president, whereas for Iran, “Talking to the US almost goes against the essence of the Islamic Republic. ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’” are part of their motto, so the two countries “come from very different starting points.”

She noted that North Korea is already a nuclear state, while Iran can still be prevented from becoming one.

Because of that – and because Iran’s troublemaking in the Middle East disturbs the US more than North Korean adventurism – Landau said the Trump administration has treated the two tracks differently “since day one.”

She said it was positive that Trump’s team has been aggressive in dealing with Iran as a strategic decision since the start of his term. She faulted the Obama administration and the EU for letting Iran push them around.

“Of course, a big problem is that… the Europeans were not forthcoming from February to April, when the US was trying to strengthen the deal before Trump left [the deal]. And now we see the extent that the EU is going to in shielding European companies to undercut Trump’s sanctions. They want to save the Iran deal even at the cost of opposing the US,” she said.

“There is a race now regarding the economic pressure. There will be more pressure in November. There is still a chance to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear state. But if it happens, then it’s over and we face all the terrible consequences.”

In contrast, Lewis said Iran’s saw the North Korean success in teasing and toying with the Trump administration, just enough to keep the president staying publicly positive. And he feels that will make the Islamic Republic more likely to try to do the same.

Lewis said Trump could only “hang onto this fiction” of progress with North Korea for so long and that negotiations will likely deteriorate eventually when Pyongyang “feels the need to test something.”

Likewise, he said that at some point Iran’s patience with sanctions will run out, or it will violate some new deal it signs with Trump and then start testing “longer range solid-fuel missiles” under the guise of non-nuclear tests.

He said for Iran, the North Korean case, along with “India and Israel, shows that if you go ahead and get it done and it is a fact that people will be sore about it for a while, but then people get used to it.

“I do not want to say we need to live with a nuclear Iran. We should try to prevent that outcome. But if things keep going the way they are going, that is where we are headed.”