Archive for October 11, 2018

Iran plot in Paris ‘lays bare’ terrorist intentions, Pompeo says

October 11, 2018

Source: Iran plot in Paris ‘lays bare’ terrorist intentions, Pompeo says – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

IRAN PLOT IN PARIS ‘LAYS BARE’ TERRORIST INTENTIONS, POMPEO SAYS

Tehran has ‘ramped up’ terror plans, claims State Department paper.

BY MICHAEL WILNER
 OCTOBER 11, 2018 02:37

WASHINGTON – A plot by Iranian officials to bomb a dissident rally in the heart of Paris “lays bare Iran’s continued support of terrorism throughout Europe,” and justifies the Trump administration’s broad reimposition of sanctions on the state, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

The secretary praised Germany’s decision a day prior to extradite Asadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat accredited in Austria, to Belgium, where officials first hatched a plan to trigger explosives at a June 30 rally of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

“The scale of this plot, which involved arrests of numerous suspects across Europe – including in Belgium, France and Germany – reminds us that Iran remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Pompeo said. “We support our European allies in exposing and countering the threat that Iranian-backed terrorism poses around the world.”

Last week, France seized assets belonging to Iran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals in response to the plot. “An incident of such gravity on our national territory could not go unpunished,” said a joint statement by its foreign, interior and economy ministries.

Two Iranian individuals are already being held in Belgium suspected of involvement in the bomb plot. They were caught in possession of explosive material.

The State Department recently released a glossy 45-page guide to Iran’s “destructive activities,” highlighting its sustained support for terrorism worldwide.

“After a brief lull in the 1990s and early 2000s, Iran has ramped up its active involvement in worldwide terrorist plotting and attacks, with numerous terrorist operations uncovered or disrupted in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia since 2009,” asserts the report, published during the administration’s push for additional pressure on Tehran during the UN General Assembly in New York last month.

“The pace of these activities indicates that Iran remains committed to using terrorism to achieve its objectives and is confident in its ability to operate anywhere in the world,” the report continues. As examples, the paper refers to 17 arrests and searches of Iranian officials linked to terrorism in Bulgaria, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Germany – in addition to those arrested in connection to this latest plot – since 2012.

According to State Department officials, the purpose of the paper was to organize the administration’s argument for the resumption of nuclear-related sanctions. US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and five world powers last May, arguing the agreement should have demanded Tehran moderate its other malign behavior, including its military activities in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Critics of the nuclear deal, including those in Israel, argue that the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program was to provide deterrence and cover for its other destructive activities worldwide. The administration is hoping to make this argument to the five powers– France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia – that have thus far remained in the agreement.

So far, however, these countries have resisted renewed US sanctions, claiming that Iran’s nuclear work should remain decoupled from its other malign activities, including its support for terrorism.

The harshest of Washington’s sanctions, including those on Iran’s oil and gas sector, are scheduled to resume next month.

 

Israel trying to show that S-300 in Syria did not change balance of powers – expert

October 11, 2018

Source: Israel trying to show that S-300 in Syria did not change balance of powers – expert | Muraselon

Israel will continue air operations against Iranian forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group despite Russia’s delivery of S-300 missile systems to Syria, former Russian Ambassador to Damascus and political analyst Alexander Zotov told a roundtable in Moscow on Monday.

“There is a narrative in Israel, among experts, among political analysts and in the media, that is being fueled by statements of Defense Minister [Avigdor] Lieberman and even of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu himself, that generally ‘we [Israel] are not going to deviate from our course of responding to any actions by Iran and Hezbollah which present a potential threat to us, and no one and nothing can stop us’,” Zotov said.

“That is why many people in Israel think that there could be some kind of a demonstrative attack, maybe even at an imaginary facility, maybe far away from all those systems being deployed in Syria now, in order to avoid striking any facilities with Russian servicemen, in order to make it look like everything is fine and everything goes according to plan,” he added.

The expert noted Israel should be able to understand how risky it is to carry out such operations without coordination with Russia.

“In the situation when our air defense systems are given to Syria, the responsibility for retaliatory strikes will lie with Syrians, and we will thus get a room for maneuver,” Zotov said. “Because what Syrians do represents a natural right of any country to defend its territory from an outside threat,” he added

 

Iran summons German ambassador over extradition of ‘bomb plot’ diplomat 

October 11, 2018

Source: Iran summons German ambassador over extradition of ‘bomb plot’ diplomat | The Times of Israel

Vienna-based Iranian envoy Assadollah Asadi accused by France of helping an attempted bombing of an Iranian opposition gathering in Paris

In this file photo taken on July 11, 2018, activists of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) hold placards in front of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin reading 'Deliver the Iranian diplomat-terrorist to Belgium' during a demonstration calling for the extradition of an Iranian diplomat to Belgium over suspicions that he was involved in plotting to bomb an opposition Iranian group's conference in Paris. (AFP Photo/Tobias Schwarz)

In this file photo taken on July 11, 2018, activists of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) hold placards in front of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin reading ‘Deliver the Iranian diplomat-terrorist to Belgium’ during a demonstration calling for the extradition of an Iranian diplomat to Belgium over suspicions that he was involved in plotting to bomb an opposition Iranian group’s conference in Paris. (AFP Photo/Tobias Schwarz)

TEHRAN, Iran — Tehran summoned the German ambassador on Wednesday to protest the extradition of one of its diplomats to Belgium over his alleged role in a bomb plot.

“The German ambassador to Tehran was summoned today to protest against the extradition…of one of our diplomats to Belgium,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said in a statement.

The head of the ministry’s European desk told the ambassador that the arrest and extradition were “caused by a fabricated conspiracy by enemies of Iran and European relations” and called for his swift release, the statement added.

The Iranian diplomat, who had been based in Vienna, was taken into custody in Belgium earlier on Wednesday on suspicion of involvement in an alleged plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in France.

The suspect was previously identified as Assadollah Asadi.

Iran has denied French accusations that he was involved in a plot targeting the annual gathering of the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran on June 30 just outside Paris.

The accusations come at a particularly sensitive time as Iran works with European powers to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, abandoned by the United States earlier this year.

 

Opinion | Kurds Remain First in Iran’s Firing Line 

October 11, 2018

Source: Opinion | Kurds Remain First in Iran’s Firing Line – Jewish Exponent

By Ben Cohen

Iran’s regime is defying the newly found U.S. resolve to counter its malign influence with whatever means it has at its disposal.

On Sept. 8, seven missiles were launched against the headquarters of an Iranian Kurdish rebel group in Koysinjaq, close to the border with Iraq, claiming the lives of at least 15 people — a death toll that the mullahs in Tehran found most satisfying.

The attack on the Kurds was carefully designed to send the region a message. “With a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), our missiles endow the Iranian nation with a unique ability to fight against arrogant foreign powers,” Maj.Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), told the semi official ISNA news agency.

“All those that have forces, bases and equipment within a 2,000-kilometer radius of Iran’s sacred borders should know that [our] missiles are highly accurate,” Jafari continued pointedly. (Tel Aviv, of course, lies 1,900 kilometers to the west of Tehran.) “Our recent vengeance upon terrorists,” he went on, using the official regime term for Iranian Kurds seeking autonomy, “had a very clear message for enemies, especially superpowers who think they can bully us.”

The message is that Iran is not afraid to resort to military force, either through its ongoing ballistic missile program or through interventions on the ground carried out by Iran’s own forces or their local proxies. As the missile attack on the Kurds demonstrated, that is not idle talk.

It is the Kurds, in fact, whose experiences over the last year are the best — and therefore, the grimmest — evidence of what happens when Iran occupies your territory. The latest ordeal facing this nation of 25 million — by far the largest stateless nation in the Middle East, but receiving only a fraction of the media coverage enjoyed by the 5 million Palestinians — was conceived in Tehran after the independence referendum of September 2017 in the Kurdish region of Iraq. That vote resulted in a 93 percent majority favoring independence, but what should have been a cause for celebration for their Kurds and their allies ended up as a disaster.

Many countries, especially those with Kurdish populations, issued barely veiled threats of invasion before the vote even took place. Turkey, Iran and the Iranian-backed Iraqi government all denounced the vote as an attempt to create a “second Israel” in the region, with the term “fifth column” frequently deployed in the media to describe the alleged status of the Kurds within Israel’s strategic calculations.

An Iranian-backed military offensive, involving Iraqi government forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary organization — the Iraqi equivalent of Lebanon’s Hezbollah — smashed through Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq throughout October and November. That operation was directed by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s “Quds Force,” the notorious military agency that coordinates Iran’s regional interventions in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

By the time the offensive ended, more than 50 percent of the territory liberated from ISIS by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, including the city of Kirkuk, lay in the hands of the Iraqi government in Baghdad and Hashd al-Shaabi. “This attack, waged by the Iraqi government, Hashd al-Shaabi and forces associated with the Headquarters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force, is in retaliation against the people of Kurdistan who have asked for freedom,” a Peshmerga statement declared at the height of the fighting.

Yet the outside world remained shamefully disinterested in the Iraqi Kurdish plight last year. That is a key reason why Iran now believes it can make an example of its own 7 million Kurds with impunity. “We have always considered Iran a danger to us,” Mustafa Muludi, the General Secretary of the Kurdistan Independence Party of Iran (KDPI), told the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw after the Sept. 8 missile attacks. “This bombardment has made our fear stronger.”

Their fear should be our alarm bell.

The sorry record of international betrayal of Kurdish aspirations dates back to the end of the First World War, and frankly, betrayal remains at the heart of our policy. The Iranian-led assault last year used artillery and armored vehicles supplied by the U.S. government to the Iraqi government. Our response, as the Iranians openly mocked us by using American-made weapons to attack one of our closest regional allies, was to have the State Department confirm its “One Iraq” policy, effectively closing the door on the Kurdish bid for national sovereignty.

Only Israel came out of last year’s disgrace with any honor, as the one country to warmly welcome the referendum result, and to express the hope that the Kurds would join the Jews as a free nation in the Middle East. Yet as much as Israel has covertly aided the Kurdish national movement over the years, it is not in a position to fight on their behalf. As Kurdish leaders repeatedly state, the task of allies is to ensure that their own seasoned warriors can do that for themselves.

Last year, sadly, the Trump administration helped to tie the Kurds’ hands by equivocating over the referendum and the Iranian onslaught that followed. Iran now seeks to test our resolve by continuing its campaign against the creation of a Kurdish state that would be far more open, far more democratic and far more pacific than any of its neighbors. As yet, there is no sign that our shameful policy is changing.

Ben Cohen writes a column focusing on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics for JNS.org, which distributed this article.

 

US: No Syria reconstruction aid if Iranian presence persists

October 11, 2018

Source: US: No Syria reconstruction aid if Iranian presence persists

‘The onus for expelling Iran from the country falls on the Syrian government,’ US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, adding ‘removal of all Iranian and Iranian-backed forces from Syria is a priority.’
The United States said Wednesday it will refuse any post-war reconstruction assistance to Syria if Iran is present, expanding the rationale for US involvement in the conflict.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to a pro-Israel group, vowed an aggressive push to counter Iran across the Middle East and said that Syria was a decisive battleground.

“The onus for expelling Iran from the country falls on the Syrian government, which bears responsibility for its presence there,” Pompeo told the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Photo: EPA)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Photo: EPA)

“If Syria doesn’t ensure the total withdrawal of Iranian-backed troops, it will not receive one single dollar from the United States for reconstruction,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo’s speech effectively broadens the official explanation for why the United States is involved in Syria’s civil war, which a monitoring group says has killed close to 365,000 people since 2011.

Former president Barack Obama authorized military action with the goal of rooting out the Islamic State group, or ISIS, the extremist force that has boasted of a slew of grisly attacks both in Syria and the West.

The United States has about 2,000 troops in Syria, primarily to train and advise forces other than ISIS that are waging an increasingly precarious fight to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Pompeo acknowledged that Assad was stronger thanks to Iranian and Russian help and said that, with ISIS “beaten into a shadow of its former self,” new priorities had emerged.

“Defeating ISIS, which was once our primary focus, continues to be a priority. But it will now be joined by two other mutually reinforcing objectives,” Pompeo said.

“These include a peaceful political resolution to the Syrian conflict and the removal of all Iranian and Iranian-backed forces from Syria.”

Trump hesitant on Syria

The US funding threats are unlikely to make an immediate impact in Syria.

Trump, a vocal critic of foreign aid as he promotes an “America First” policy, in August pulled the United States out of Syria’s near-term reconstruction, suspending $230 million after Gulf Arab allies made their own pledges.

But Pompeo’s speech marks a new sign that the United States is not leaving Syria anytime soon after Trump, a onetime critic of foreign interventions, earlier this year mused aloud about withdrawing troops.

Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, a longtime hawk on Iran, told reporters last month that US troops would stay “as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad (Photo: Reuters)

Syrian President Bashar Assad (Photo: Reuters)

Iran, ruled by Shiite Muslim clerics, has deployed both troops and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah to prop up Assad, a secular leader who belongs to the Alawite sect and is facing down hardline Sunni Muslim forces.

“Iran has seen instability in Syria as a golden opportunity to tip the regional balance of power in its favor,” Pompeo said.

He warned that Iran, a sworn foe of Israel, would open a new front against the Jewish state if it remained in Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has similarly warned that he will never accept an Iranian presence in Syria.

Trump has withdrawn from an international agreement negotiated under Obama through which Iran slashed its sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief. Pompeo boasted that Trump has imposed on Iran “some of the harshest sanctions in history.”

The Trump administration has closely allied itself with both Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Sunni kingdom which sees Iran as its chief rival in the region.

Pompeo in his speech did not air any criticism of Saudi Arabia, which has been accused by Turkish government sources of killing a prominent Saudi journalist last week inside its Istanbul consulate.

Pompeo also did not demand a withdrawal by Russia, which maintains its only permanent military base outside the former Soviet Union in Syria, a Cold War ally.

 

Moscow officials sending mixed signals on Russia-Israel ties 

October 11, 2018

Source: Moscow officials sending mixed signals on Russia-Israel ties – Israel Hayom

 

IDF destroys Hamas terror tunnel dug 200 meters into Israeli territory

October 11, 2018

Source: IDF destroys Hamas terror tunnel dug 200 meters into Israeli territory – Israel Hayom