Archive for February 5, 2019

Iran Again Threatens to Attack Israel

February 5, 2019

Source: Iran Again Threatens to Attack Israel |

An Iron Dome antimissile battery seen in the Golan Heights. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Iran has again threatened to attack Israel. Iranian National Security Council head Ali Shakhmani said Tuesday that if it continues to hit Iranian assets in Syria, Tehran will strike out at Israel. Iran had no intention of leaving Syria, he said.

“We will use well thought-out strategies and respond appropriately, to teach the lying, criminal leaders of Israel a lesson.” Shakhmani made the comments Tuesday afternoon, as unconfirmed reports said that another Iranian plane had taken off from Tehran on its way to Syria.

The threat Tuesday echoed one from last week, in which Shamkhani said that advanced weapons with “high levels of accuracy are already in the hands of the resistance in Gaza and Lebanon. They are prepared to burn to the ground the [Israeli] foolishness.”

Shamkhani, who was speaking at a conference on space technology in Iran, also referred to the Gonen Segev affair and the Hezbollah terror tunnels. “There has been no greater embarrassment for the Zionist entity,which claims it is advanced technologically and scientifically, than for one of its ministers to spy on them, and the discovery of hundreds of kilometers of tunnels under it.”

Last week, a Lebanese newspaper reported that Iranian forces have been assembling on the Syrian side of the Golan border. In recent weeks, Iranian troops and militia forces associated with Iran – along with Hezbollah forces – have been taking up positions in Syria, very close to the Golan border, Al-Jadid said in the report.

Some of the forces have positioned themselves within Druze villages – creating a dilemma for Israel, which would prefer to avoid attacking villages with Druze populations so as not to alienate its own Druze residents, the report said. The area is one that Iran has been told to stay away from by Russia, the report added.


Iran warns ‘criminal Israel’ against further air strikes in Syria

February 5, 2019

Source: Iran warns ‘criminal Israel’ against further air strikes in Syria

Reuters Agency

Iran warned Israel on Tuesday of a “firm and appropriate” response if it continued attacking targets in Syria, where Tehran has backed President Bashar al-Assad and his forces in their nearly eight-year war against the Syrian opposition.

Israel, which views Iran as its biggest security threat, has repeatedly attacked Iranian targets and those of allied militia in Syria. With an election looming in April, Israel has been increasingly open about carrying out its air strikes.

In a meeting with Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moalem in Tehran, the secretary of Iran’s National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said the Israeli attacks violated Syria’s territorial integrity and were “unacceptable”.

“If these actions continue, we will activate some calculated measures as a deterrent and as a firm and appropriate response to teach a lesson to the criminal and lying rulers of Israel,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that Israeli forces would continue to attack Iranians in Syria and warned them to “get out of there” fast.

In January, Israeli warplanes carried out an attack on what they called an Iranian arms cache in Syria.

Syria’s Moalem was quoted on Tuesday by a Hezbollah-run media unit as saying: “The Syrian government considers it to be its duty to keep Iranian security forces in Syrian territory.”

Iran has also repeatedly said it will keep military forces in Syria.


Givati recon battalion completes drill simulating war with Hezbollah

February 5, 2019

Source: Givati recon battalion completes drill simulating war with Hezbollah – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Maj. Alon Peiser: ‘The Lebanese shouldn’t try us. But if they try something, they will pay a price.’

 FEBRUARY 5, 2019 17:04
Givati recon battalion completes drill simulating war with Hezbollah

With tensions high along Israel’s northern border, hundreds of soldiers from the IDF’s Givati reconnaissance battalion are completing a drill simulating war with Hezbollah.
Some 200 to 300 troops drilled along the Lebanese border “against a challenging enemy which has been getting stronger over the past few years,” Maj. Alon Peiser, deputy commander of Givati’s Gadsar reconnaissance battalion, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
The drill, which ends on Thursday, is part of a four-month-long drill carried out by the Givati infantry brigade in northern Israel. It saw troops train on a variety of scenarios alongside tanks, Namer heavy armored vehicles and helicopters from the Israel Air Force.
The IDF has significantly stepped up the scope and frequency of its combat training to improve its readiness. As part of the IDF’s five-year Gideon plan, the military has returned to 17 weeks of consecutive training, an increase from the 13 weeks soldiers trained for the past 15 years.
Last week, the troops belonging to the 450th battalion from the IDF’s school for Infantry Corps Professions and Squad Commanders (also known as Bislamach), completed a large scale drill in northern Israel, also simulating war against Hezbollah.
“Every drill is different, it is more challenging every time, be it physical or regarding the small details,” Peiser said, adding that “every drill is carried out as per how the enemy changes.”
“In war, our troops will march toward the enemy and when they meet him, they will kill him. We will defeat the enemy in the minimum amount of time and with the minimum amount of collateral damage,” he said.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006, and in recent months tensions have once again risen along the northern border.
In December, Israel launched Operation Northern Shield to detect and neutralize cross-border attack tunnels dug by the Iranian-backed Shi’ite organization. Israel believes that the tunnels would have been used by the Hezbollah’s elite Radwan unit to infiltrate into Israel in an attempt to take control of several communities and kill as many civilians and troops as possible.
Israeli officials have also repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran’s presence in Syria and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish state. To prevent Iran’s military entrenchment in the war-torn country, Israel has carried out numerous airstrikes over the past five years.
On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused Israel of “being the main opponent to peace in the region,” during a meeting with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem, who was in Tehran to discuss ongoing coordination and consultation between Syria and Iran.
Moallem met earlier with Iran’s Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Rear Admiral, Ali Shamkhani, who warned that Israel would “receive a decisive response” if it were to continue to carry out airstrikes in Syria.
But for Peiser, his troops are ready.
“I hope, for the sake of Israeli civilians, I hope there won’t be a war,” Peiser said when asked if he was expecting a war with Hezbollah in the near future. But, he warned, “the Lebanese shouldn’t try us. But if they try something, they will pay a price.”
“We are ready for war now, we were ready yesterday. We are prepared,” Peiser told the Post. “You can count on us in the next war.”



Israeli UN Amb. Danny Danon on Defending Israel Globally 

February 5, 2019



U.S. ambassador to Germany: ‘horrific actions’ of Iran equal to ISIS 

February 5, 2019

Source: U.S. ambassador to Germany: ‘horrific actions’ of Iran equal to ISIS – Diaspora – Jerusalem Post

“The recent press reports that the Iranian regime publicly hanged a 31-year-old man for being gay should be a wake-up call for anyone.”

ISIS fighter beheading boy, 16, in Syria

The most high-profile US ambassador in Europe, Richard Grenell, compared on Saturday the Islamic State’s brutality with the execution sprees in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The US ambassador to Germany wrote in the federal republic’s largest circulation paper BILD: “The recent press reports, first carried by The Jerusalem Post, that the Iranian regime publicly hanged a 31-year-old man for being gay should be a wake-up call for anyone who supports basic human rights. Politicians, the UN, democratic governments, diplomats, and good people everywhere should speak up – and loudly,” adding “Iran’s horrific actions are on par with the brutality and savagery regularly demonstrated by ISIS.”

Islamic State has engaged in public executions of gay men, including tossing gay men from buildings.

Iran’s mullah regime and the Islamic State despise the LGBT community and both prescribe capital punishment for gays and lesbians.

As of 2016, the LGBT human rights advocacy organization OutRight Action International documented 90 murders carried out by the Islamic State during the period 2014-2016.

According to a 2008 British Wikileaks dispatch, the Islamic Republic of Iran executed “between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians” since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.

Grenell wrote: “This is not the first time the Iranian regime has put a gay man to death with the usual outrageous claims of prostitution, kidnapping, or even pedophilia. And it sadly won’t be the last time they do it either. Barbaric public executions are all too common in a country where consensual homosexual relationships are criminalized and punishable by flogging and death. In Iran, where children as young as nine can be sentenced to death, gay teenagers are publicly hanged in order to terrify and intimidate others from coming out.”

He noted, “Being gay is a death sentence in eight countries and criminalized in 70 more. LGBT status or conduct means arrest, imprisonment, and violence for people who are simply dating or falling in love. Governments that are members of the United Nations have an obligation to protect, respect, and uphold the dignity and fundamental freedoms of their people.”

The Post first reported in the major media about the Iranian regime’s public hanging of a 31-year-old man based on the clerical regime’s lethal anti-gay law.

Grenell said in his opinion column: “While a student at Evangel University, a Christian liberal arts college in Missouri, I was taught by biblical scholars that ‘all truth is God’s truth, no matter where it is found.’ The truth for LGBT people is that we were born gay. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the idea that all of us are born free and equal in dignity and rights. People can disagree philosophically about homosexuality, but no person should ever be subject to criminal penalties because they are gay.”

He concluded his article noting, “India, Trinidad and Tobago, Angola, and Belize have recently decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual conduct. But there’s still much more work to be done. Reasonable people can help by speaking out when young gay men are publicly hanged in Iran or shot in Chechnya. And government officials must work harder to demand that UN members decriminalize homosexuality.”


In Yemen’s chaos, jihadists and Iran are getting hold of US weapons 

February 5, 2019

Source: In Yemen’s chaos, jihadists and Iran are getting hold of US weapons | The Times of Israel

Pentagon investigating apparent Saudi, UAE violations of commitments not to transfer American arms to Yemeni factions

A US-made MRAP, or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, armored vehicle in Yemen in the hands of a radical Salafi faction backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (CNN screen capture)

A US-made MRAP, or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, armored vehicle in Yemen in the hands of a radical Salafi faction backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (CNN screen capture)

The Pentagon has launched an investigation into alleged Saudi transfers of US military hardware, from rifles to armored vehicles and tanks, to the hands of Islamist radical groups in Yemen.

Some of the hardware, which was transferred in contravention of legally binding commitments to obtain US permission before doing so, has even ended up in the hands of Iran-allied Houthi militias, opening up the possibility that Iran could study sensitive American military technology and ultimately endanger US forces elsewhere in the region.

The revelation came in an exclusive report Monday by CNN, which sent undercover reporters into Yemeni towns to find the weapons.

In one weapons shop in Taiz, a city in the country’s southwest, a dealer confirmed to CNN that he had US weapons, saying they’re “expensive and sought after.”

The “not-so-hidden black market” is helping to drive “the demand for hi-tech American weapons and perpetuating the cycle of violence in Yemen,” the report said.

Firearms for sale at a weapons shop in the southwestern Yemeni city of Taiz. (CNN screen capture)

Some of the weapons systems have made their way to the Yemeni affiliate of al-Qaeda, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has fought in the Taiz area and once paraded US-made Oshkosh armored vehicles through the city’s streets. Today the group, labeled a terror organization by the US, fights as part of the Saudi-backed Yemeni army.

Other systems, such as the MRAP, or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, armored vehicles, were found in the port city of Hodeida in the hands of a radical Salafist group known as the Giants Brigade.

The vehicles were built by Navistar and sold in 2014 to Abu Dhabi, where they were incorporated into the United Arab Emirates armed forces, which transferred them to factions in the Yemeni war, according to the report.

Reached by CNN, an unnamed senior UAE official denied “in no uncertain terms that we are in violation of end-user agreements in any manner.”

FILE – In this March 3, 2016 photo, Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, hold a poster of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during a rally in support of Hezbollah, in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

He insisted the Giants Brigade was “part of Yemeni forces,” and its possession of the MRAP vehicles amounted to “collective possession” of the UAE-backed coalition.

But Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael told CNN “the United States has not authorized the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates to re-transfer any equipment to parties inside Yemen.”

He added: “The US government cannot comment on any pending investigations of claims of end-use violations of defense articles and services transferred to our allies and partners.”

MRAPs are a vital part of the US military’s efforts to protect American soldiers from roadside bombs, also known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are responsible for most combat deaths each year.

A US-made Oshkosh armored vehicle parading through the streets of Taiz, Yemen, in 2015. (CNN screen capture)

“It is critical that knowledge of MRAP vulnerabilities does not fall into enemy hands,” CNN said, adding, “it’s already too late.”

“In September 2017, a Houthi-run TV channel broadcast images of Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the de facto rebel leader, proudly sitting behind the wheel of a captured US-made MRAP in the capital Sanaa, as a crowd chanted ‘death to America’ in the background,” the network reported.

It claimed to have evidence of at least one more MRAP falling into Houthi — and thus Iranian — hands last year.

A Houthi intelligence official in Sanaa who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity said Iranian and Hezbollah officials had already taken possession of the US-made vehicles, as well as other weapons systems, and “are assessing US military technology very closely.”

He insisted “there isn’t a single American weapon that they don’t try to find out its details, what it’s made of, how it works.”


EU hails system to trade with Iran despite sanctions, but warns it over missiles 

February 5, 2019

Source: EU hails system to trade with Iran despite sanctions, but warns it over missiles | The Times of Israel

European nations say they have ‘serious concerns’ over Tehran’s continuous presence in Syria and its support for non-state actors in Lebanon

Iranians visit a weaponry and military equipment exhibition in the capital Tehran on February 2, 2019, organized on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. Iran announced the successful test of a new cruise missile with a range of over 1,350 km. (some 840 miles). (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iranians visit a weaponry and military equipment exhibition in the capital Tehran on February 2, 2019, organized on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. Iran announced the successful test of a new cruise missile with a range of over 1,350 km. (some 840 miles). (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

BRUSSELS — The EU warned Tehran over its ballistic missile program and interference in the Syria conflict Monday, while welcoming a new mechanism to trade with Iran while bypassing US sanctions.

In a long-awaited statement on Iran that has been the subject of more than a week of wrangling in Brussels, the EU restated its commitment to saving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and took aim at Washington for abandoning the pact and reimposing sanctions.

The bloc hailed the creation last week by France, Britain and Germany of a system to allow firms to trade with Iran without falling foul of US sanctions as vital to supporting legitimate business and said the “resolve to complete this work is unwavering.”

But with numerous European powers growing increasingly concerned about Tehran’s missile program, meddling in several Middle East conflicts and recent attempted attacks on opposition figures living in the EU, the bloc urged Iran to mend its ways.

Illustrative: A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9, 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew, ‘Israel must be wiped out.’ (Fars News)

The statement criticized Iran’s “provision of military, financial and political support to non-state actors in countries such as Syria and Lebanon.”

“The (EU) Council has serious concerns regarding Iran’s military involvement and continuous presence of Iranian forces in Syria,” the statement said.

Iran is a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the statement urged Tehran to use its leverage to get Damascus behind UN-led efforts to end the civil war, which has claimed more than 360,000 lives since it began in 2011.

While defending the nuclear deal — which limited Tehran’s atomic ambitions in return for sanctions relief — Europe has sought to keep up pressure with sanctions, most recently listing Iranian intelligence services over plots to assassinate regime opponents on Dutch, Danish and French soil.

Continuing Iranian missile tests have also alarmed the EU — not to mention countries in the Middle East — and Monday’s statement called on Tehran to stop such activities.

“Iran continues to undertake efforts to increase the range and precision of its missiles, together with increasing the number of tests and operational launches. These activities deepen mistrust and contribute to regional instability,” the statement said.

Brussels hopes the new Iran trading mechanism — registered last week in Paris under the name INSTEX — will keep Tehran in the nuclear deal by preserving some of the economic benefits it received.

Iran gave INSTEX a cautious welcome but US officials have dismissed the idea that the new entity would have any impact on efforts to exert economic pressure on Tehran.

Before INSTEX can go live, Iran has to set up a similar entity of its own so the two sides can clear trading on a barter basis without transferring money. It is not clear how long this will take.