Archive for September 23, 2018

PM Netanyahu may help Trump preside over UN Security Council session 

September 23, 2018

Source: PM Netanyahu may help Trump preside over UN Security Council session – Israel Hayom

 

Russia blames Israel ‘entirely’ for plane shot down over Syria

September 23, 2018

Source: Russia blames Israel ‘entirely’ for plane shot down over Syria – Israel Hayom

 

Ahvaz attack reveals Tehran under heavy pressure at home and in regional wars – DEBKAfile

September 23, 2018

Source: Ahvaz attack reveals Tehran under heavy pressure at home and in regional wars – DEBKAfile

The terror attack on a military parade the Iranian oil city of Ahvaz on Saturday, Sept. 22, killing 29 and injuring 90, was a direct hit at the Tehran regime’s elite arm, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), which took half of the casualties. The Shiite Islamic Republic is under heavy pressure from two minorities, its foreign warfronts and US sanctions:
  1. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Ahvaz National Resistance, which has for decades fought the Persian Shiite regime for a Sunni Arab state in the oil-rich Khuzestan province. Four underground groups banded under this heading represent some 2 million Arab Sunni adherents, who account for around 40 percent of the province’s population and make up most of the workforce at the oilfields. Sporadic protests and unrest are brutally beaten down by the IRGC with extreme measures like induced famine.
    But the shooting attack on Saturday, by four gunmen clad in Iranian army uniforms, was the worst the elite IRGC had faced and appeared to have meticulously planned well in advance. The gunmen zoomed in on motorbikes, a favored vehicle of IRGC goons, and opened fire on the saluting stand and the military parade marching at the time causing chaos and panic.
    Tehran customarily accuses three parties for inciting anti-Shiite terror: Saudi and UAE intelligence and the US CIA. This time the Iranian military spokesman added the Israeli Mossad to the roster and charged the Saudis with arming and sending the terrorists.
  2. The ayatollahs’ regime also has its hands full against another restive ethnic minority, the Kurds of northwestern Iran. Their underground movement is led by the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI or HDKA) and the armed Kurdish opposition PJAK. From bases on the Iraqi side of the border, they mount periodic raids on Iranian patrols and IRGC border posts. On July 21, they killed 11 Guardsmen in the Marivan area and blew up a large Iranian ammunition store. The IRGC hit back on Sept. 8 with long-range missile mire on the main Kurdish command centers in eastern Iraq, killing 17 Kurds and injuring 40. This cross-border assault by Iran did not raise any international interest.
  3. During August and September, Iran concentrated large numbers of Iraqi Shiite militia proxy fighters in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, recently arming them with long-range surface missiles. They are on standby for (a) intervening in the Syrian war if Tehran deems this necessary; (b) as a reserve force for crossing into Syria in the event of a war erupting between Hizballah and Israel; and (3) to step in to quell the riots and attacks on Iranian institutions and missions raging in Iraqi Shiite cities, including the oil city of Basra. Tehran fears that this tide of anti-Iran disaffection if it gets out of control will eradicate Iranian influence in Baghdad.
  4. Iran is also up against active opposition to expanding its foothold in the Red Sea region from the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.  

All these setbacks are symptomic of a weakening at the core off the Shiite regime in Tehran and its intelligence agencies, under the crushing burdens of mounting terrorist attacks by minority groups in southern and northern Iran and Tehran’s drive for dominance on major external fronts, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, amid crippling US economic sanctions. In these circumstances, the regime in Tehran is bound to hit back at its enemies with the “resolve and swiftness” promised Saturday its military spokesman pledged after the Ahvaz attack.

 

Rouhani says U.S. wants to cause insecurity in Iran but will not succeed 

September 23, 2018

Source: Rouhani says U.S. wants to cause insecurity in Iran but will not succeed – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

A day after an attack on a military parade that killed 12, Rouhani accused Gulf Arab states of providing financial and military support for anti-government ethnic Arab groups.

BY REUTERS
 SEPTEMBER 23, 2018 09:21
Rouhani says U.S. wants to cause insecurity in Iran but will not succeed

DUBAI – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States of being a “bully” that wants to create insecurity in the Islamic Republic, a day after an attack on a military parade that killed 25 people, including 12 members of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

Speaking before leaving Tehran to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Rouhani accused U.S.-backed Gulf Arab states of providing financial and military support for anti-government ethnic Arab groups.

“The small puppet countries in the region are backed by America, and the United States is provoking them and giving them the necessary capabilities,” said Rouhani.

The attack was one of the worst ever against the Guards – the most powerful military force in the country – and is bound to ratchet up tensions with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“Iran’s answer (to this attack) is forthcoming within the framework of law and our national interests,” said Rouhani, adding that the United States will regret its “aggressiveness.”

An Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement called the Ahvaz National Resistance, which seeks a separate state in oil-rich Khuzestan province, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The Persian Gulf states are providing monetary, military and political support for these groups,” said Rouhani.

Islamic State militants also claimed responsibility. Neither claim provided evidence. All four attackers were killed.

The assault, which wounded at least 70 people, targeted a viewing stand where Iranian officials had gathered in the city of Ahvaz to watch an annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic’s 1980-88 war with Iraq, state television said.

“Hopefully we will overcome these sanctions with the least possible costs and make America regret its aggressiveness towards other countries, and particularly Iran,” said Rouhani.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) has been the sword and shield of Shi’ite clerical rule in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Hardliners such as the Republican Guards have gained standing at the expense of pragmatists in Iran’s multi-tiered leadership since President Donald Trump decided in May to pull the United States out of the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran and re-impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

 

Space: Israel’s final frontier 

September 23, 2018

Source: Space: Israel’s final frontier – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

Opher Doron of Israel Aerospace Industries’ Space Division talks moon missions and nanosatellites with the ‘Magazine’ on the 30th anniversary of Israel’s first satellite launch.

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 SEPTEMBER 23, 2018 08:55
SpaceIL's lander - SpaceIl is an Israeli nonprofit, established in 2011, that was competing in the G

‘Space is exciting,” says Opher Doron, when describing the look on the faces of kids who visit Israel Aerospace Industries to learn about how Israel is pioneering in the great unknown. “It’s a big wow,” for them. “They are talking about Mars nowadays and exploration, comets, landings. So space is exciting. It is the ultimate technology. It brings together everything in tech – from physics, engineering and launchers and loaders, you name it and it’s there.”

Today Israel is aiming to be the fourth country to get to the moon. It is also developing nano-satellites – little satellites the size of a milk carton – and Israel is pioneering high-resolution photos from satellites designed specifically to aid environmental research. In an era when space programs in some Western countries seem to be ossifying, Israel is doing what it tends to do best: being innovative and self-sufficient.

Today IAI is celebrating 30 years in space. The origins of the space program begin in the 1980s when Menachem Begin was prime minister. The Israel Space Agency was created in January 1983 under the Science Ministry, which was itself a fledgling ministry. IAI built Israel’s first satellite, the Ofeq-1. The 157-kg. satellite was launched on a Shavit rocket at Palmahim, south of Tel Aviv. It was launched westward because of Israel’s hostile neighbors to the east and entered a low earth orbit, circling the earth every 90 minutes. Israel became the eighth country to put its own satellite into space.

“Thirty years is a long time for everything and a good time to look back and forward,” says Doron. Israel has achieved a lot since then. The space sector is booming, he says.

“We have launched a large number of satellites and we have some of the best satellites in the world up in space, providing amazing resolution and fantastic coverage of large areas.” These can provide sharp high-quality images and they are cost effective. In terms of cost and weight, Israel is a world leader, he says.

The satellites Israel has launched have outlived their expected life spans. Some were designed for four years and survived for 15 years. “So Israel can now look with great detail wherever it needs to look and that is an important part of national strategy. The program achieved not only the goals set out for it in the large picture but also surpassed expectations in quality and number.”

The Ofeq line of reconnaissance satellites that first entered service some 30 years ago is still providing Jerusalem with the best available intelligence. For instance, when the Ofeq-10 entered orbit in April 2014, then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said that it was a testimony to the “impressive ability of the State of Israel to develop and lead on the technological front.” It would improve the State of Israel’s intelligence capabilities, he said, “and enable the defense establishment to better deal with threats that are near and far at any time of the day, in all types of weather.”

In September 2016, the Ofeq-11 became the latest of these reconnaissance satellites to enter orbit.

These satellites have had very important real- world implications. When Ofeq-7 blasted into the night sky from Palmahim in June 2007, Reuters noted that the “spy satellite would provide high-quality surveillance over enemies such as Syria and Iran, rivaling the capabilities of the United States.” Soon after its launch, according to the Sunday Times (London), the satellite was diverted from covering Iran to looking at Syria.

“High quality images of a northeastern area every 90 minutes” were soon coming back. It made it “easy for air force specialists to spot the facility.” The facility in question was the al-Kibar site, the nuclear reactor that the Syrian regime was developing. Based on North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor 1 the site was bombed on September 6, 2007, destroying Syria’s plans. On September 7, an Israeli satellite photographed the damaged site. The photos were published only 10 years later, in September 2017, but show clearly the importance of Israel building and launching its own satellites to defend against threats.

IAI’s space division and much of the cutting-edge technology that Israel is working on is housed in a complex in Yehud, not far from Ben-Gurion International Airport. To enter the warehouse where the satellites are housed, one must don a white smock, a head covering and sterile fabric to cover the shoes. Inside an air conditioned room are a variety of satellites, some of them mock-ups or models. Some of the little nano-satellites, which look like a toy a kid could play with, sit in a case. At the far end of the room, one sees a group of people huddling next to what looks like a lunar lander from the 1960s. And indeed, it is part of Israel’s SpaceIL program at IAI, which, if it reaches the moon, will make Israel the fourth country (after the US, China and Russia) to get there.

It is supposed to be launched at Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Weighing only 600 kilograms, it is not as large as the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, which weighed 4,000 kg. The SpaceIL mission began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which was announced in 2007. For a prize of $30 million, a privately funded team had to land a robot on the moon and have it travel 500 meters and transmit back images. But by January 2018, it became clear that no team had been able to launch a mission to the moon by the March 2018 deadline and the cash prize offer appeared to be ended.

But SpaceIL decided to keep moving forward. In a July press conference, Morris Kahn, president of the non-profit organization SpaceIL, said that after eight challenging years, “I am filled with pride that the first Israeli spacecraft, which is in its final construction and testing phases, will soon be making its way to the moon.” SpaceIL founders Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Weintraub will hopefully fulfill their dream of reaching the moon. The project has grown far beyond the initial competition. According to IAI, it has “ignited the imagination of about 900,000 children nationwide, with the help of a broad network of volunteers.” It has also brought together a wide range of donors, from Kahn to Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Sammy Sagol, Lynn Schusterman and Steven Grand.

FOR DORON, who served in the navy in the 1980s when Israel first went to space, the history of Israel’s space program is made up of visionaries.

“It came from young visionaries who said we can do this; they may have sounded crazy, but they were right and the leadership picked it up. For our safety, we need to be able to look at what is going on over the fence; from that strategy they collected together the best around, those who specialized in military systems, to start learning space. Lo and behold, years later we were looking down and taking pictures and we had our own launcher. Very few countries do that.”

However, Israel can’t rest on its laurels; it must keep running forward.

Israel has put seven Amos communications satellites into space and earlier this month said it would seek to construct Amos-8. One of these satellites, Amos-6, was destroyed in a fire in 2016 in Florida.

“I am very happy that the government decided this was an important national strategic asset and decided to ensure that the next communication satellite is built in Israel. The next Amos will be an amazing satellite,” says Doron. Israel has invested heavily in bringing technology to Israel so that the satellite will have a “sophisticated payload to give users more than they have with Analog satellites. We hope that program will get under way in the next couple of months. It will be by far the most advanced ever built in Israel and one of the more advanced ones in the world.”

One of the hurdles Israel faces, besides being a small country, is that because satellites have generally been a security issue, civilian investment has lagged behind. Israel’s civilian space program has a tiny budget compared to others around the world.

“And I’m not talking about absolute budgets,” says Doron. “We’d love to have a $20 billion NASA budget, but even per capita budget, where NASA gets about $60 a year per capita and in the EU $10 to $20 per capita, Israel is doing $2 to $3 a year per capita.” That means Israel isn’t putting up a lot of research satellites, the way other countries are.

Things changed in August last year, when the Venus agricultural monitoring environmental research satellite was launched in cooperation with the French space agency.

“Venus is further proof of Israel’s immense technological capabilities,” said Technology and Science Minister Ofir Akunis. “We’re a science, technology and space superpower that the entire world seeks to collaborate with. Many countries will enjoy Venus’s findings in the very near future for the purposes of environmental, agricultural, water and food research.”

Doron hopes Israel will begin to invest more in these kinds of endeavors more in the future.

IN THE film Apollo 13, there is a scene where the men in the stricken service module heading for the moon realize that America wasn’t even tuning in to the mission in 1970. Space had already lost its allure. The moon seemed boring. The final US space shuttle retired in 2011. Space has seemed less interesting and inspiring. But Doron says that Israel’s space program and projects like SpaceIL are inspiring a new generation.

“I see it in the kids and I see it in myself – it’s exciting. Is it as exciting as 1969? Probably not, but it’s still a big wow, they are talking about it.” Nothing is more complicated than space and people from age five to 95 are excited. “Wow, we can do anything,” is the spirit among younger people. “The technology is neat. Let’s not all go be lawyers, let’s study engineering.”

When those graduating today with degrees that might lead them to Israel’s space program choose what to work on, they will have a series of projects at their fingertips. Beyond the Amos and Ofeq series, IAI is also working on nano-satellites. This would reduce the weight of the satellite to less than 100 kg. and beyond, down to even only several kilos.

“There are many interesting things that can be done when you put a large number of small satellites in earth observation or communication,” says Doron. “When you have a lot circling the earth, the frequency they will be able to see and communicate is suddenly much greater.” For instance, a normal orbit might mean the satellite passes once or twice a day, but when you have numerous small satellites as part of a kind of array, then you could be monitoring things constantly.

But even when they are small, it’s still expensive propelling them up there. The “operation costs money, so you want them to live a long time, and to make them cheaper – from hundreds of millions to tens of millions of dollars, including the launch costs and they should live a few years, so it’s a big step forward in design methodologies,” he says.

This whole system of building smaller satellites could be called the next frontier or “new space.” It’s “exciting,” says Doron. “We are not standing in place. We have had a fantastic run and we are sprinting on in new directions.”

 

In a rare moment Israel gains UN win

September 23, 2018

Source: In a rare moment Israel gains UN win – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon looks at a turbulent year with some hope.

BY HERB KEINON
 SEPTEMBER 23, 2018 05:12
 Ambassador Danny Danon, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN at the 7th Annual JPost Confer

A peculiar thing happened on the way to the passage of a routine anti-Israel resolution in the UN in June condemning Israel for the violence along the border fence with Gaza: Israel actually won a vote in the General Assembly.

That’s right, in the General Assembly, that body of 193 nations that will formally open its 73rd session next week with its annual general debate and parade of world leaders taking the podium to address the globe’s pressing problems.

And with all of the world’s pressing problems, you can count on leaders of countries such as Algeria, Belize and South Africa to take at least some of their allotted 15 minutes to slam Israel. It’s as much a New York rite of autumn as leaves changing colors and the Yankees making the baseball playoffs.

The General Assembly is a forum where the Palestinians enjoy an automatic majority of Muslim and developing countries that reflexively votes with them and against Israel.

But in June, a plurality of countries in the General Assembly – 62 to 58 – voted for a US-sponsored amendment to a resolution on the Gaza border fence violence that actually condemned Hamas. Because of the procedural necessity for a two-thirds majority, this amendment to the resolution slamming Israel was not adopted, and the anti-Israel resolution passed by a huge margin. But still, that an amendment blaming Hamas mustered a plurality in this forum was an eye-rubbing moment that marked a change of sorts.

Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, who is entering his fourth year as Israel’s envoy to the world body, looks at that moment as one of Israel’s most significant victories last year in the UN.

Danon, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, said another small victory – one indicative of a more aggressive Israeli policy in tackling anti-Israel resolutions at the UN – came in July at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a body he described as the second-most important body – after the Security Council – in the UN.

In response to an anti-Israel resolution on the “social and economic consequences of the Israeli occupation” that included a line accusing Israel of withholding the return of the bodies of terrorists, Israel proposed a counter amendment that called “for the immediate release of the civilians and soldiers being held in Gaza by Hamas.”

According to Danon, the Palestinians – concerned the Israeli amendment might actually pass – went to the European Union, which he said “turned cartwheels in the sky” to propose compromise language that mentioned neither Hamas nor Israel, but rather deplored “the practice of withholding the bodies of those killed, and called for the release of the bodies that have not yet been returned to their relatives.”

What was significant, Danon said, is that both in the General Assembly and at ECOSOC, the Palestinians did not just walk in and get their way. They had to fight. In both cases Israel acted in coordination and conjunction with the US delegation at the UN.

“Together with US Ambassador Nikki Haley, we are in a very active and proactive mode – and the Palestinians know we will not sit back and wait for their initiatives with our arms folded. We succeeded in embarrassing them twice in votes in forums that in the past were very comfortable for them,” he said.

These small successes have provided an impetus and momentum to take such actions in the future, he said, adding that the votes have forced the Palestinians to think twice before every proposal, realizing that they are not ensured an automatic victory, and that they must coordinate their moves closely with the EU.

“They still have a majority in the General Assembly, but they understand that they will now have to sweat and pay a price for every initiative, so they are choosing their battles,” he said.

BUT CHOOSING battles is quite different from avoiding them, and Danon said that in the coming weeks – soon after next week’s speeches by the world’s leaders – the Palestinians will bring additional measures to the UN in an attempt to diplomatically isolate and embarrass Jerusalem.

He said that the Palestinians are considering putting forward a resolution in the General Assembly that would condemn Israel for plans – recently given a green light by the High Court of Justice – to remove the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin encampment near Kfar Adumim.

“This issue is very much in the press, and the Palestinians have a great deal of support in the EU against the eviction,” Danon said. He characterized the EU position, despite the court’s decision on the matter, as “hypocritical.”

“When there is a judgment by the court regarding the eviction of settlements or Jews, they support it and praise it, but when it deals with someone who is not Jewish, they question the legal system and democracy in Israel,” he said. “They know Israel has a strong legal system, and question it only when the decisions are not comfortable for them.”

He said that while a General Assembly resolution on this matter would have no real practical significance, it would be a public relations victory for the Palestinians.

So, too, he said, would be another resolution the Palestinians are considering: slamming the US for cutting funds to UNRWA.
“Here, too, there is no significance to the resolution, because you cannot obligate any country to give money,” Danon said. “But they will get public relations points, get attention, and set the public agenda, not only be on the defensive.”

As was the case over the summer, if the Palestinians decide to go through with either measure, they should expect pushback that could prove embarrassing for them, the ambassador warned.

Though Danon would not spell out what Israel might do, he said “there are issues that need to be discussed, such as the payment of money to terrorists, something that is being addressed by the US, Australia and some countries in Europe. We need to weigh whether to bring this to the international community for discussion.”

Danon said that in light of the tension between the Palestinian Authority and the Trump administration, and before the presentation of the long-awaited US peace plan, the Palestinians feel “they have to do something at the UN” to keep their issue alive and set the agenda. He dismissed reports that US President Donald Trump will present an outline of the principles of his plan during his speech to the UN on Tuesday, saying that the information he has is that the plan will not be rolled out before the beginning of 2019.

One way for the Palestinians to grab attention, he said, would be to go forward with an idea he said had been raised in internal Palestinian deliberations: a request to suspend Israel from the UN in the wake of the recently passed nation-state law.

Although any effort to evict Israel from the UN would surely come up against a US veto in the Security Council and not pass, it “would be a way of making things difficult for us.”

But, Danon said, the message that he is passing inside the UN is that if the Palestinians go through with such a maneuver, “there will be a response.”

Israel has in its toolbox appropriate ways to respond, “not only in the UN, but elsewhere,” he said.

Though the General Assembly can expel a country only upon getting a recommendation from the Security Council, it can suspend a country’s participation in the General Assembly, meaning that the country is unable to vote, speak or propose resolutions. This was done to South Africa in 1974.

Danon said he did not think the Palestinians could muster the necessary votes for this. “This is the type of issue where even countries that support the Palestinians realize there are boundaries beyond which they cannot go,” he said.

Another upcoming challenge, Danon said, will be the Palestinians taking over the chairmanship at the beginning of the year of the Group of 77, a group of developing countries formed in 1964 by 77 countries to promote common economic interests.

Danon said the Palestinians are sure to use this position to further upgrade their position in the UN. Presently they have the status of an observer state, which means they can’t vote and can speak only on issues relating directly to them. Danon said that from this perch they will try to continuously jab at Israel.

“I know that some of the countries in the group are also concerned about this, because this group generally tries to promote common concerns of all the countries in the group, not individual issues relating to different members,” he said.

He said that decisions in the group, which since 1964 has expanded to include 134 states, are taken by consensus, and that Israel does have some friends inside who would prevent the entire agenda being hijacked with anti-Israel resolutions. Among those friends are India, Singapore, Rwanda, Guatemala and others.

DANON, WHOSE tenure has been extended until April by Netanyahu, speaks warmly of the cooperation that exists with Haley and her office, saying that the messages of the two countries on a variety of issues are similar, even without a need to formally coordinate or trade drafts of speeches.

And that is a marked contrast to the situation that existed with the previous administration. According to Danon, the anti-settlement Security Council Resolution 2334 that the US enabled in December 2016 in the waning days of the Obama administration has influence and continues to create headaches for Israel in the UN.

“It was a horrible decision, and we have to deal with its ramifications,” he said. “There are reports that it mandates which we have to relate to every three months. And in every discussion, our adversaries try to insert language that makes reference to this resolution, and that forces us to have to use leverage and work with the US every time. It is being used as a club to hit us with, and we are dealing with it – but it takes time and energy.”