Archive for September 12, 2018

Senior minister threatens Iran with attack if it continues nuclear development

September 12, 2018

Source: Senior minister threatens Iran with attack if it continues nuclear development | The Times of Israel

Israel Katz says Islamic Republic had better accede to Trump’s demands or face ‘direct threat from the US and its allies’

Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz attends a Finance Committee meeting in the Knesset, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)

Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz attends a Finance Committee meeting in the Knesset, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)

If Iran chooses to continue pursuing a nuclear program it will face a “military” response, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz warned Wednesday.

Katz was responding to the Iranian nuclear chief’s statement that the Islamic Republic’s program stands ready to build advanced centrifuges and further enrich uranium.

Ali Akbar Salehi told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Iran wouldn’t be deterred by US President Donald Trump’s sanctions and withdrawal from the global nuclear deal.

But Katz said that if Iran presses forward it will face a “direct threat from the United States and its allies.”

The US withdrawal from the deal in May has already badly shaken Iran’s economy, crashing its currency, the rial. Katz said Iran could either cave to Trump’s demands or watch its economy collapse.

Salehi had said he hoped the atomic deal would survive, but warned the program would be in a stronger position than ever if not.

In a veiled threat to Israel, Salehi said the consequences would be “harsh” if there were any new attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear scientists. A string of bombings, blamed on Israel, targeted a number of scientists beginning in 2010, at the height of Western concerns over Iran’s program.

Israel never claimed responsibility for the attacks on the scientists, though Israeli officials have boasted in the past about the reach of the country’s intelligence services. “I hope that they will not commit a similar mistake again because the consequences would be, I think, harsh,” Salehi warned.

Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi talks at a conference on international cooperation for enhancing nuclear safety, security, safeguards and non-profileration, at the Lincei Academy, in Rome, October 10, 2017. (AP/Gregorio Borgia)

Israel earlier this year removed tens of thousands of documents and other materials from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program archive, stealing them from under the regime’s nose in a Mossad operation in Tehran. The material proved that Iran lied when claiming it was not seeking to build a nuclear weapons arsenal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, and showed that it intends to resume its nuclear weapons program if it can.

Salehi also said that Trump’s decision to withdraw America from the 2015 accord “puts him on the loser’s side” of history. He added, “That deal could have paved the way for building the trust and the confidence that we had lost.”

The 2015 accord, struck under then-president Barack Obama’s administration, saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini (L); Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif (C) and political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran Abbas Araghchi take part in a Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ministerial meeting on the Iran nuclear deal on July 6, 2018 in Vienna, Austria. (AFP/APA/Hans Punz)

Salehi also spoke about Iran’s efforts to build a new facility at Natanz’s uranium enrichment center that will produce more advanced centrifuges. Those devices enrich uranium by rapidly spinning uranium hexafluoride gas.

For now, the nuclear accord limits Iran to using a limited number of an older model, called IR-1s.

The new facility will allow Iran to build versions called the IR-2M, IR-4 and IR-6. The IR-2M and the IR-4 can enrich uranium five times faster than an IR-1, while the IR-6 can do it 10 times faster, Salehi said. Western experts have suggested these centrifuges produce three to five times more enriched uranium in a year than the IR-1s.

While building the facility doesn’t violate the nuclear deal, mass production of advanced centrifuges would. Salehi, however, said that wasn’t immediately a plan.

“This does not mean that we are going to produce these centrifuges now. This is just a preparation,” he said. “In case Iran decides to start producing in mass production such centrifuges, (we) would be ready for that.”

In this frame grab from Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, three versions of domestically-built centrifuges are shown in a live TV program from Natanz, an Iranian uranium enrichment plant, in Iran, June 6, 2018. (IRIB via AP)

Salehi suggested that if the nuclear deal fell apart, Iran would react in stages. He suggested one step may be uranium enrichment going to “20 percent because this is our need.” He also suggested Iran could increase its stockpile of enriched uranium. Any withdrawal ultimately would be approved by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

While the UN repeatedly has verified Iran’s compliance with the deal, Trump campaigned on a promise to tear it up. In May, he withdrew the US in part because he said the deal wasn’t permanent and didn’t address Iran’s ballistic missile program and its influence across the wider Middle East. But Trump meanwhile has tweeted he’d accept talks without preconditions with Tehran.

Asked what he personally would tell Trump if he had the chance, Salehi chuckled and said: “I certainly would tell him he has made the wrong move on Iran.”


Report: Iran has 3,000-4,000 working centrifuges

September 12, 2018

Source: Report: Iran has 3,000-4,000 working centrifuges

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani says number of active centrifuges Islamic Republic currently has at its disposal is still within limit allowed under its nuclear deal with world powers, which allows Iran to operate up to 5,060 first-generation centrifuges at its Natanz plant and 1,044 at its Fordow plant.
Iran has between 3,000 and 4,000 active centrifuges, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Wednesday, according to the Tasnim news agency—still within the limit allowed under its troubled nuclear deal with world powers.The rare announcement of specific data on the nuclear program came days after Iran’s nuclear chief said it had completed a facility to build advanced centrifuges—Tehran has said it will increase its capacity to enrich uranium if the nuclear pact collapses following Washington’s withdrawal in May.

Under the terms of the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Ali Larijani (Photo: EPA)

Ali Larijani (Photo: EPA)

The deal allows the Islamic Republic to operate up to 5,060 first-generation centrifuges for 10 years at its Natanz plant and 1,044 first-generation centrifuges at its underground Fordow enrichment plant.Before the deal, Iran had 20,000 centrifuges installed at Natanz and Fordow, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The remaining signatories to the deal—Russia, China, Germany France and Britain—are trying to salvage the accord.

“America and Israel have a program against Iran and they scrapped a deal they requested,” Larijani said, according to Tasnim.

“After America withdrew, European leaders asked that Iran not give a quick reply to this action and they asked for time, which is passing now,” he added.

The remaining powers say the deal is the best hope of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Iran says its atomic program is for electricity generation and other peaceful purposes.

Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he hopes the atomic deal between Tehran and world powers survives, but warns the program will be in a stronger position than ever if not.

Salehi also said that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from the 2015 accord “puts him on the loser’s side” of history.

He added: “That deal could have paved the way for building the trust and the confidence that we had lost.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.


Netanyahu: 17 years after 9/11 attacks, Europe appeasing Iranian terror 

September 12, 2018

Source: Netanyahu: 17 years after 9/11 attacks, Europe appeasing Iranian terror – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

Netanyahu took European leaders to task for “appeasing Iran,” something he said “helps the unending attack on the values and security of free societies.”

 SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 11:10
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

As the world marks 17 years since the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the time has come for western governments to take part in “the strong and clear effort of the Trump administration against the terrorist regime in Tehran,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu took European leaders to task for “appeasing Iran,” something he said “helps the unending attack on the values and security of free societies.”

Netanyahu again noted the irony that on the same week in June that an Iranian terror cell tried to carry out an attack against an Iranian opposition group in Paris – an attack that Israeli intelligence helped to thwart – European leaders were trying to “appease” Iran and looking for ways to soften the fallout from the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.

Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks, has “passed the torch” of extremist Sunni terrorism on to Islamic State, while the extremist Shia variety of terror is being led by Iran, the premier said.

“They both have the same goals: to destroy the free societies as we know them, to destroy Israel, and also to destroy the west and others. The time has come for the world to unite in a struggle against the terrorist organizations. It did so to a certain degree in the attack against Islamic State, but has not done it against Iran – the opposite is the case,” he said.

Netanyahu also used the start of the cabinet meeting to praise the Trump Administration for its decision on Monday to close the PLO offices in Washington.

Netanyahu called this the “right decision,” saying that at a time when the Palestinians refuse to negotiate with Israel and are attacking it in international fora,  the American decision makes clear to the Palestinians that their tactics not only fail to promote peace, “but are also certainly not good for the Palestinians.”


US issues fresh warning to airlines about using Iranian airspace

September 12, 2018

Source: US issues fresh warning to airlines about using Iranian airspace – Israel Hayom


US takes on anti-Israel BDS activities on university campuses

September 12, 2018

Source: US takes on anti-Israel BDS activities on university campuses – Israel Hayom

Iran is fighting for its status in Syria 

September 12, 2018

Source: Iran is fighting for its status in Syria – Israel Hayom

Dr. Ephraim Kam

Iran has paid a heavy price for its military intervention in Syria since 2014. The Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force, along with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Shiite militias from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have suffered thousands of casualties.

Iran has invested billions of dollars in propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the war Assad is waging against his enemies. That had ramifications back in Iran: In recent months, thousands have been marching in anti-regime protests sparked by economic distress, calling for “Death to Syria” and “Death to Palestine.” The protesters are calling on the Iranian government to stop funding Assad and Hamas and to spend the money on the welfare of the Iranian people. This means bringing the country’s forces home.

Now Iran will have to pay. The Assad regime is stabilized and the governments that have fingers in the Syrian pie are examining their options. Given that, Iran wants to be the main foreign power broker, for a number of reasons: Syria has been the Iranian regime’s only ally since it came to power; Syria is an important base from which Iran can expand its influence in Iraq and Lebanon – both of which have dominant Shiite populations. No less importantly, Iran sees  Syria and Lebanon as its front line against Israel.

To solidify its standing, Iran is seeking to strengthen its security ties with Syria. The most important component of that is to install military forces there for the long term to ensure the stability of the Assad regime, maintain its influence, and up the threat it presents to Israel. At the same time, Iran is working toward closer economic ties with Syria – to recoup some of the massive costs incurred by its military intervention there, among other reasons. Aside from that, Iran is also forming ties with various actors in Syria, such as building Shiite militias for the eventuality that the Assad regime collapses.

But these efforts are turning out to be failures. Since 2015, Russia has also been a player and has been providing Assad with important military aid. Syria placed an air force base and a naval base at Russia’s disposal for dozens of years. Russia gradually usurped Iran’s place as the leading influencer that will determine Syria’s future and took advantage of its status to expand its own economic and military ties, over Iran’s objection and at the expense of Iran’s ties to the Assad regime.

Even Iran’s plan to keep its forces in Syria for the long term has encountered difficulties. Israel, with U.S. support, is consistently attacking Iranian-Shiite military targets where Iranian forces are exposed, and Iran has no viable response. Russia might have made it clear that it cannot remove the Iranian military presence from Syria, but it is willing to take action to ensure that the Iranians stay at least 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the Israeli border. Despite cooperating with Iran in the Syrian war, Russia is not helping it when it comes to the Israeli strikes and is giving the Israeli Air Force considerable latitude.

The situation is further complicated by the defense agreement that Iran recently signed with Syria, which among other things deals with Iranian aid to help the Syrian military and military industry get back on its feet. The deal sends a message to Russia that Iran’s military ties with Syria are still strongly anchored. The deal might just be cover for a long-term deployment of Iranian forces in Syria, under the guise of “advisers.”

Iran’s troubles will get worse when an end to the Syrian war is declared, which could include a demand that all foreign forces in Syria withdraw, including the Iranian military and Shiite militias. The U.S., and apparently Turkey, will support that demand. Russia might, too, because it understands that if Iranian forces remain on the ground, it will lead to perpetual clashes between Iran and Israel that will destabilize the situation in Syria. In that case, not even a defense deal will be able to help Syria.

Dr. Ephraim Kam is a senior research fellow with the Institute for National Security Studies.

Post-war Syria destined to be sanctions-busting hub, the Russian-Iranian-Turkish summit decides – DEBKAfile

September 12, 2018

Source: Post-war Syria destined to be sanctions-busting hub, the Russian-Iranian-Turkish summit decides – DEBKAfile

Shared mechanisms for beating US sanctions against Iran may be built into Syria’s massive post-war reconstruction program, DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources report. This plan was approved by Presidents Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rouhani and Tayyip Erdogan at their Tehran summit on Sept. 7. It topped their agenda, in addition to coordination among Russian, Iranian and Syrian forces in their coming offensive for demolishing the last Syrian rebel stronghold in Idlib. The pause in launching ground operations in Idlib is accounted for by two major hurdles:
  1. Putin and Rouhani are keen to get started on building the new economic mechanisms. A full-scale war in Idlib would disrupt the process, especially if the Turkish president, who is against this offensive, gets in the way.
  2. Turkey continues to pour troops into Idlib for widening its foothold there. Neither the Russian nor the Iranian leader – least of all, Syria’s Bashar Assad – want to see their forces confronted by Turkish troops.

At their conference in Tehran, the three leaders forged an economic-strategic pact to create measures for fighting American sanctions. One measure approved was to contract all business deals among Russia, Iran and Turkey, including gas and oil, in local currencies instead of American dollars. The same rule would apply to banking transactions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov first raised this proposal when he remarked that Russia and Turkey could conduct their bilateral trading deals to their national currencies instead of the US dollar.

US and Israel paid special note to the trilateral decision reached in Tehran to convert the massive projects for Syria’s post-war recovery (after Iran had solidified its military foothold there) into a back-door hatch for escaping US sanctions against Iran. During the Obama presidency, Oman and Abu Dhabi served this purpose; under Donald Trump, it will pass to Damascus, with the added benefit of  protection from the deepening Russian-Iranian-Syrian military cooperation.