Archive for September 2, 2018

Khamenei says no likelihood of a military war 

September 2, 2018

Source: Khamenei says no likelihood of a military war – International news – Jerusalem Post

Iran supreme leader’s comments come after increasing tensions surrounding future of nuclear accord.

BY REUTERS
 SEPTEMBER 2, 2018 15:07
Khamenei says no likelihood of a military war but calls for boosting defense capacities

DUBAI- Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday war was unlikely but called on Iran’s armed forces to boost their defense capacities, according to his official website.

On Saturday, Iran announced plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines to boost its defenses as the country faces increased tension with the United States following the US pullout from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers.

“Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized that based on political calculations there is no likelihood of a military war but added that the armed forces must be vigilant … and raise their personnel and equipment capacities,” the website quoted Khamenei as telling commanders of Iran’s air defense forces.

Saturday’s news of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran’s future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it.

 

Global coordination vital to curb Iran ‎ 

September 2, 2018

Source: Global coordination vital to curb Iran ‎ – Israel Hayom

Yoav Limor

Recent reports that Iran has deployed missiles ‎in western Iraq speak of the Islamic republic’s ‎attempts to entrench itself militarily in the ‎region. ‎

While Tehran has denied the reports and says they aim ‎to undermine Iran’s ties with its neighbors, it is ‎hardly a secret that Iran is trying to increase its ‎influence across the so-called “Shiite crescent,” ‎which stretches through Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria ‎and Lebanon, and has an offshoot in the Gaza Strip.‎

Iran’s Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards’ elite ‎extraterritorial black-ops arm, has been tasked with ‎overseeing this mission, which enjoys an annual ‎budget of billions of dollars despite the economic ‎hardships plaguing the Islamic republic. ‎

The regime in Tehran had hoped to be in a different ‎position by now, especially in the Syrian arena.

However, ‎Israel’s substantial counter-operations over the past ‎year have thrown a wrench in their plans, so it ‎stands to reason that the Iranians have temporarily ‎shifted their focus to Iraq, where it is less ‎dangerous for them to operate.‎

This is most likely also why Iran deployed missiles ‎in western Iraq. The 1991 Gulf War may have taught ‎us that any missiles in that area pose ‎a clear and present danger to Israel, but the reality is ‎far more complex. ‎

Iran wants to control Iraq, which is the scene of a ‎fierce battle between pro-American and pro-Iranian ‎forces. Controlling Iraq means more than money and ‎power; it means continuous land access between Iran ‎and the Mediterranean nations. From Iraq, Iran would be able to have direct, ‎more effective influence on Syria.

Israel is not the ‎only one threatened by these entrenchment efforts. ‎Saudi Arabia and the emirates are high on Iran’s ‎list of objectives, as are the moderates in Iraq.

Above all, Iran wants to undermine the United ‎States, which challenges all of Iran’s regional interests. ‎

For this reason, it is likely that the reports of ‎the Iranian deployment in western Iraq sought to ‎send a message to the U.S., at a time when Washington is considering pulling its troops ‎from Syria. ‎

It was also a message to France, Britain and ‎Germany, illustrating how while they are scrambling ‎to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal in the wake of the ‎U.S. withdrawal, Iran is sparing no ‎effort to undermine their regional interests.‎

International coordination is vital to stop the ‎Iranian plan in its tracks. Israel cannot accomplish ‎this unilaterally, not only because chances of an ‎Israeli strike in Iraq are slim (so as not to hinder ‎U.S. interests) but mainly because this is a long-term game that requires a balance of carrots and ‎sticks only the world’s powers can provide.‎

If world powers stay on the sidelines, Iran will ‎forge on with its plan, including the development of ‎local missile production capabilities. ‎

However, one must remember that it is highly ‎doubtful that the Iranian missiles deployed in ‎western Iraq would be launched at Israel anytime ‎soon. This option does exist, but its likelihood is ‎slim as Iran still prefers to wage a covert campaign ‎against Israel, rather than an overt one. ‎

Much like in the theater, where a gun seen ‎in the first act will be fired in the third, Iran is ‎planning ahead. Once it reintroduces the threat of ‎having missiles in western Iraq trained at Israel, ‎it will undoubtedly deploy long-range missiles in ‎Yemen that will also allow it to threaten Israel. ‎

Iran says it plans to boost ballistic, cruise missile capacity 

September 2, 2018

Source: Iran says it plans to boost ballistic, cruise missile capacity – Israel Hayom

Iran’s power play shows depth of missile threat 

September 2, 2018

Source: Iran’s power play shows depth of missile threat – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

Tehran’s goal is to pressure Israel on two or more fronts, making any Israeli moves more complex in this dangerous chessboard of missile threats.

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 SEPTEMBER 2, 2018 04:29
Iran’s power play shows depth of missile threat

Two recent reports reveal the depth of Iran’s missile threat emanating from Iraq and Syria. In Syria, a clandestine surface-to-surface missile (SSM) facility at Wadi Jahannam will likely be completed by early 2019. In Iraq, the Iranian regime has deployed medium-range missiles with Shi’ite militia proxies that are capable of hitting Israel.

Together the missile threats represent a creeping power play by Tehran at the same time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted Jerusalem will continue to act against threats, and after John Bolton visited Jerusalem in mid-August.

By reportedly basing its missiles near Russian forces in northern Syria and near US-led Coalition forces in Iraq, Iran is trying to protect its missiles while threatening Israel and potentially dragging Israel into a regional conflict should Jerusalem strike at these facilities. Tehran seeks to play this dangerous regional missile game as it carves out an arc of influence from Baghdad via Damascus to Lebanon.

On August 30th, ImageSat International released a report noting that “Tehran is a major contributor to the Syrian missile project, including building the new SSM facility near Baniyas.” ImageSat International had previously released satellite images of the Wadi Jahanamm site last August. But the new details link the Wadi Jahannam facility to the nearby Masyaf facility which was repeatedly hit by IAF air-strikes. Both Masyaf and the other site are “located within the operational range of an S-400 deployment” because they are close to Russian facilities at Tartus on the coast.

The warnings about the development at the Syrian site come as a new report emerged that Iran has sent missiles to its allies in Iraq. Iran has transferred three missile types into Iraq, including its latest Zolfaghar (Zulfiqar) missile, which is a solid-fueled short range ballistic missile capable of reaching a range of 700 km. It was first used in a strike by Iran against Islamic State in June 2017, and was fired from Kermanshah, Iraq. Its deployment there puts it within range of Israel.

The Zolfaghar is complimented by Fateh 110 short range, road-mobile missiles that can reach up to 300 km. To reach Israel, these missiles would have to be deployed in Iraq’s Western Desert. According to the report, Iran also transported Zelzal-3 rockets that can reach up to 250 km. Iranian and Iraqi sources told Reuters that Iran had made a decision to produce missiles in Iraq. A Western source said that factories had been established east of Baghdad and north of Kerbala. “It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base.” Kata’ib Hezbollah, a Shi’ite militia in Iraq that is allied to Iran, controls the areas where the missiles are located. It shares a similar name and role as Lebanese Hezbollah, but is a separate militia.

There are two interesting details here. First, that the missiles or warheads for them are being produced in Iraq, and that Shi’ite militias run the factories. Second, that Kata’ib Hezbollah is specifically mentioned. These militias are part of a group of militias that make up the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) which helped Iraq fight ISIS. In 2016, the PMU was incorporated into Iraq’s official paramilitary structure. In 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, said that these Shi’ite militias were the “hope” of the future of Iraq. In 2018, the militias gained even more influence when their political party, the Fatah alliance, came in second in the May elections.

This puts militias like Kata’ib Hezbollah close to the center of power in Baghdad. US officials said in May that these militias “posed the greatest threat to the safety of US personnel” and could harm the stabilization of Iraq. The US Department of Treasury has not only sanctioned Kata’ib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis but also sanctioned Iraq’s al-Bilad Islamic Bank, accusing it of transferring funds to Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In June, an air-strike in Syria near al-Bukamal on the Euphrates River near the Iraqi border allegedly killed numerous members of Kata’ib Hezbollah. The militia is operating in Syria aiding Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The militia blamed the Americans for the air-strike but Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida blamed Israel. It now appears that Iran has transferred new missiles to Iraq since June, according to the Reuters report. This also took place as the Fatah alliance was jockeying for control of a coalition government in Iraq. So the transfer of weapons into Iraq to be managed and run by the Shi’ite militias gives these militias new power and leverage over Iraq, allowing them to act not only as an official force of the government, but as a parallel state with their own missiles capable of striking Israel.

In effect, this allows the militias like Kata’ib Hezbollah to be the long arm of the IRGC and Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani. Iran can use Iraq as a base to threaten Israel, and not only do Iraqis pay the potential consequences, but Iran’s proxy forces hope that the US coalition would have to defend Iraq from any potential Israeli retaliation for the presence of these missiles. The US is still training and equipping the Iraqi army.

This is the strategic paradigm that underpins Iran’s goals in Syria and Iraq. It wants to build missile factories underneath the S-400 air defense umbrella in northern Syria near Russian forces in order to protect its facilities. In Iraq, it wants to locate missiles near coalition air bases and facilities in Anbar province.

Jerusalem has the multi-layered missile defense to confront these threats, including David’s Sling, the Arrow and US Patriot batteries. But Tehran’s goal is to pressure Israel on two or more fronts, making any Israeli moves more complex in this dangerous chessboard of missile threats.

Tehran denies providing ballistic missiles to Iraqi militias

September 2, 2018

Source: Tehran denies providing ballistic missiles to Iraqi militias | The Times of Israel

Foreign ministry spokesman calls report on weapons reportedly capable of reaching Tel Aviv an ‘unfounded lie’ intended to ’cause panic among countries in the region’

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi (YouTube screenshot)

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi (YouTube screenshot)

Iran on Saturday denied a Reuters report that it has transferred ballistic missiles to militias loyal to it in Iraq.

“The lie disseminated by some media on shipment of Iran-made missiles to Iraq is totally irrelevant and unfounded,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.

“Such news comes merely to cause panic among countries in the region and is in line with their policy to spread Iranophobia,” Qasemi said.

They seek to influence Iran’s foreign relations mainly with its neighbors, he said.

The Friday report stated that several dozen rockets capable of hitting Israel and Tehran’s Sunni rival Saudi Arabia had been deployed with Iran’s Shiite proxies in Iraq.

It added that Iran was working to provide its allies with missile manufacturing facilities, and has been training militia members in operating the new weapons.

Fighters from the Badr Brigades Shiite militia clash with Islamic State fighters at the front line on the outskirts of Fallujah, Anbar province, Iraq, Monday, June 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

The deployment is meant to improve Iran’s ability to retaliate against any Western or Arab attacks on its territory, as well as to expand its options for attacking opponents in the region, Reuters said.

The report cited “three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources.”

Iran’s proxies, allied militias as well as its own forces are involved in internal conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.

The move makes Iran’s allies in Iraq better able to attack US troops in the country in the event Iran is attacked.

“We have bases like that in many places and Iraq is one of them. If America attacks us, our friends will attack America’s interests and its allies in the region,” one top IRGC commander said.

Iran has long used its Shiite proxies and allies in Iraq to hit back at its opponents. According to transcripts of interrogations in 2007 of a top Shiite military and religious figure in Iraq declassified earlier this year, Iran was heavily involved in Iraqi Shiite militias’ attacks on US troops in the years following the American invasion of the country in 2003.

Qais al-Khazali, who now heads the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia that won 15 parliamentary seats in the country’s May elections, detailed the scale of Iranian involvement in the country in the 2007 interrogation, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing recently declassified documents.

Missile attack reported at Damascus military air base

September 2, 2018

Source: Missile attack reported at Damascus military air base | The Times of Israel

Syria denies reports of Israeli strike after large explosions seen at Mazzeh airfield, targeted by Israel in the past. Says blasts caused by electrical fire at ammo depot

A missile attack reported at Mazzeh air base in Syria, September 2, 2018. (screen capture: Twitter)

A missile attack reported at Mazzeh air base in Syria, September 2, 2018. (screen capture: Twitter)

Large explosions were reported at a Syrian military air base early Sunday in an attack widely attributed to Israeli warplanes. However, Syria denied an attack had taken place.

The reported strike occurred just after midnight at Mazzeh air base near Damascus, a key regime facility thought to have been targeted by Israel in the past.

The military airport of Mazzeh, in the west suburbs of Damascus, was hit by a “possible Israeli missile, which hit a munitions store setting off successive explosions,” the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahmane told AFP.

The observatory also said there were casualties, according to reports.

The Lebanese al-Meyadeen news outlet, seen as closely linked to Bashar Assad regime, claimed that the explosions were the result of an Israeli missile strike.

Five missiles were reported to have targeted the air base.

Eyewitnesses reported large blasts and pictures shared on social media showed large explosions, as well as what appeared to be air defense missiles streaking in the sky.

However, Syria’s official SANA news outlet reported that the blasts were the result of a technical problem.

“The explosions heard were due to an explosion at a munitions deposit close to the airport which was due to an electrical short circuit,”  a Syrian military source said.

Aghiad AL Kheder@aghiad_alkheder

Israeli warplanes makes magic in , change the night to day pic.twitter.com/fKaAadTgzv

View image on Twitter

Aghiad AL Kheder@aghiad_alkheder

Another footage shows how big the explosions targeted airbase in pic.twitter.com/363vEyRQrZ

A Syrian official had earlier said that the base was targeted by a missile strike. It claimed that missiles had been intercepted by Syria’s air defense systems.

Israel generally does not comment on reports of strikes in Syria.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

EHSANI2@EHSANI22

strike is on Mazze airport around Damascus

The reported strike came as senior US officials from the State Department were in Israel to discuss Syria with Jerusalem officials.

In January 2017, Syria accused Israel of launching missiles that hit the Mazzeh base, and threatened repercussions. Israeli missiles also reportedly targeted the base in late 2016.

Officials in Jerusalem have said they take action to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to terror groups and to keep Iran from gaining a foothold in the country; Dozens of strikes inside Syria have been attributed to Israel.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel would continue taking action against Iran and its proxies in Syria, and would not be affected by a defense cooperation agreement signed between Damascus and Tehran.

AFP contributed to this report.