Archive for April 18, 2019

Source: White House adviser says peace plan to be unveiled by early June

April 18, 2019

Source: Source: White House adviser says peace plan to be unveiled by early June

Jared Kushner apparently urged a group of ambassadors in a closed meeting to keep an ‘open mind’ about the so-called ‘deal of the century,’ which will be published after Israel forms a government and Palestinians mark the end of Ramadan
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner urged a group of ambassadors on Wednesday to keep an “open mind” about President Donald Trump’s upcoming Middle East peace proposal and said that it will require compromises from both sides, a source familiar with the remarks said.
Kushner said the peace plan is to be unveiled after Israel forms a governing coalition in the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory and after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in early June, the source said. “We will all have to look for reasonable compromises that will make peace achievable,” Kushner said, according to the source, who asked to remain unidentified.

White House senior advisor Jared Kushner looks on as US President Trump speaks at the White House

White House senior advisor Jared Kushner looks on as US President Trump speaks at the White House

Kushner, one of the main architects of the peace proposal and who is married to Trump daughter Ivanka, spoke to about 100 ambassadors from around the world at Blair House, the presidential guest home across the street from the White House. He spoke as part of a State Department series of speeches.

The proposal has two major components: A political piece that addresses core political issues as the status of Jerusalem, and an economic part that aims to help the Palestinians strengthen their economy.

Unclear is whether the plan will propose outright the creation of a Palestinian state, the Palestinians’ core demand.

Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner

During his remarks, Kushner pushed back on the idea that the Trump peace plan was mostly about centered around the economic package, saying the political component is “very detailed,” the source said.

“He said the plan will require concessions from both sides but won’t jeopardize the security of Israel,” the source said. “It requires everybody approaching the plan with an open mind.”

The White House had no comment.


Iran’s Rouhani Anti-Israel Attack: Urges ‘Righteous’ Muslim Nations to ‘Rid the Region’ of ‘Zionism’

April 18, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani used an address at an Army Day parade in Tehran on Thursday to call on “righteous” Muslim countries across the Middle East to unite against Israel and the United States.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (up center) attends a military parade during a ceremony marking the country’s annual army day in Tehran, on April 18, 2019. – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on Middle East states on April 18 to “drive back Zionism”, in an Army Day tirade against the Islamic republic’s archfoe Israel. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

In urging neighbouring countries to “drive back Zionism”, the Islamic republic’s leader said the U.S. and its ally Israel were the root cause of all the troubled region’s problems.

“The region’s nations have lived alongside each other for centuries and never had a problem… If there is a problem, it is caused by others,” he said in the speech broadcast live on state television. “Let us stand together, be together and rid the region of the aggressor’s presence.”

Rouhani assured neighbouring countries that Iran’s armed forces are “never against you or your national interests” but are “standing against the aggressors.”

“The power of our armed forces is the power of the region’s countries, the Islamic world”, he said. “If we have a problem in the region today, its roots are either with Zionism or America’s arrogance.”

Rouhani said Muslim nations must band together and “restore the historical right of the nation of Palestine,” saying that “Zionism … has been committing crimes in the region for the past 70 years”,

“The final victory will surely be with the righteous,” he said.

Stirring exhortations against Israel are standard fare of official speeches in Iran, although some, such as a call by Rouhani’s predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, have triggered international condemnation.

For his part, Rouhani has previously called Israel a “cancerous tumour”, and urged Muslim governments to unite against it and its U.S. ally.

Last month he urged Iranians to put a curse on the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, reiterating his long-standing charge that the U.S. and its allies are solely responsible for the country’s ailing economy.

“Put all your curses on those who created the current situation,” Rouhani said, adding that “the United States, the Zionists” and Saudi Arabia were to blame for the country’s ills. He didn’t say what kind of curses the Iranians should invoke.

The U.S. plan, Rouhani claimed, was to “dominate” the Iranian nation, “something Washington will not achieve.”

Last week, Washington placed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards on its blacklist of “foreign terrorist organisations,” the first time it had imposed the sanction on a military arm of a foreign government.

AFP contributed to this report

Iran: Revolutionary Guards are only against ‘Zionists’ and ‘imperialists’ 

April 18, 2019

Source: Iran: Revolutionary Guards are only against ‘Zionists’ and ‘imperialists’ – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

“The roots of our problems are the Zionist regime and American imperialism,” Iranian president Hassan Rouhani declared during a military ceremony.

 APRIL 18, 2019 12:28
Iran: Revolutionary Guards are only against 'Zionists' and 'imperialists'

Israel has long noted that Iran threatens not only them but other regional states, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Thursday his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will merely be used against “Zionists” and “American imperialists” and not other Middle Eastern states, Reuters reported.

“The roots of our problems are the Zionist regime and American imperialism,” Rouhani declared during a military ceremony in ceremony in Tehran where missiles, submarines, armored vehicles and other army equipment were displayed.

“I want to tell the regional countries that the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran are not against you and your national interests. They stand against invaders,” he added, according to a translation of the speech from Reuters.
Iran funds several proxy armies including Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shiite militias in Iraq. The mostly Shiite Muslim nation’s disagreements with the Sunni Muslim world has driven Arab Gulf nations such as Oman to build closer ties with the Jewish state despite the Arab-Israeli conflict. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in October. However also on Thursday, Iran and Oman held a joint naval exercise and performed maritime rescue operations in the Gulf, Fars news agency reported.
The US declared the Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization on Monday, something Iran vehemently denies. “We seek regional security and stability, countries’ sovereignty and end of terrorism and their activities in this region,” Rouhani stated.
He called the declaration “abhorrent,” adding “insulting the Revolutionary Guards is an insult to all (Iranian) armed forces, and an insult to Iranian great nation.”
US President Donald Trump said the new designation “recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a branch of Iran’s Armed Forces founded after the 1979 revolution which turned the country from a Western ally to an Islamic republic.


Zarif slams US policy as Netanyahu firsters, blames Israel for Yemen war 

April 18, 2019

Source: Zarif slams US policy as Netanyahu firsters, blames Israel for Yemen war – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Blaming Israel for the US support of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen represents a new stretch, even for the Iranian regime.

 APRIL 18, 2019 12:40
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has a new term for US policy in the Middle East: “Netanyahu Firsters,” he writes on Twitter. In his latest claim he alleges that even though the US Congress wants to stop blaming Israel for the US support of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, this charge represents a new stretch, even for the Iranian regime. “US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, the “petrofinanced #NetanyahuFirsters and their enabler in the White House will continue – with American lives and against US interests – to push for forever wars.”

Zarif coined the hashtag in order to play into recent controversial antisemitic innuendos in the US that attempt to blame Israel for US policies. For instance, on April 13 he wrote: “it’s not about the money: [US President] Donald Trump confessed US has spent $7 trillion here, only to worsen the situation, it’s Netanyahu Firsters always making the wrong choice in his service.” The “not about the money” quote is supposed to conjure up memories of US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s controversial “it’s about the Benjamins” tweet.

Iran increasingly wants to take advantage of discussions in the US in which Netanyahu has been condemned for his policies by Democratic presidential candidates. With discussions about “foreign allegiance” and “dual loyalty” already percolating, Iran hopes to present the US administration as having a “Netanyahu First” policy, which is supposed to be in contrast to an “America first” policy that Trump had once promised.

In a April 8 tweet, Zarif blamed the US decision to label Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group on “Netanyahu Firsters who have long agitated for FTO [Foreign Terrorist Organization] designation of the IRGC.” Zarif showed a photo of Trump with Sheldon Adelson, a well-known pro-Israel philanthropist.

The Zarif term doesn’t seem to be catching on yet, at least in part because it is difficult to pronounce and not particularly easy to remember or write. Nevertheless, it illustrates the Iranian regime’s careful study of US politics and its attempt to design its messaging mostly for a US audience. Posting photos of Adelson and referencing the “all about the Benjamins” tweet doesn’t resonate anywhere else in the world except in the US. This shows that Iran must be concerned about the Trump administration’s recent moves. It also shows that the Islamic republic hopes it can find support in Congress, particularly in its latest tweet alleging that while Congress wants to end the war in Yemen, Trump and his “Netanyahu first” policy want to continue it.

Blaming Israel for the US support of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen represents a new stretch, even for the Iranian regime. It shows how Tehran no longer even wants to pretend to blame those directly involved, such as the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran has supplied missile technology to the Houthis who target Saudi Arabia. But it wants to distract from this by blaming the war on Israel backers. It thinks that Israel is such a toxic issue in US politics that blaming the Jewish state for everything will resonate. So far few have bought into the Zarif line, but Iran is clearly studying the US political landscape and hoping to become part of US partisan politics.


Lebanese FM meets with senior Israeli officials in Moscow – report 

April 18, 2019

Source: Lebanese FM meets with senior Israeli officials in Moscow – report – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Saudi newspaper ‘Elaph’ reported that the two “discussed borders” and mutual interests including Syria and Iran.

 APRIL 18, 2019 10:14
Lebanese FM meets with senior Israeli officials in Moscow - report

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has reportedly met with a senior official in Moscow and “discussed borders,” Saudi Arabian newspaper Elaph reported.

The source told Elaph that the meeting lasted about two hours under the auspices of Russia. The two sides discussed issues of mutual interest, including the Syrian issue, the Assad regime and the issue of Iranian weapons factories in Lebanon.

The Israeli official reportedly told Bassil that Israel does not see Lebanon as an enemy, but will not hesitate to strike Iranian and Hezbollah interests in Lebanon.

The report also claimed that the Lebanese minister had asked the Israeli’s “to stop threatening Lebanon because of Hezbollah, saying that Hezbollah is part of the components of Lebanon and the Lebanese state will know how to accommodate all parties and groups under its sovereign.”

The source also told Elpah that the Lebanese minister discussed the issue of US sanctions on Lebanon with the Israeli official and asked him to mediate with the Americans about sanctions imposed on Lebanon, and asked the official to mediate with the American side and not to rush with the imposition of the sanctions, and to give Lebanon time to prepare for it.

In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a group of UN ambassadors that “Iran has proxies…One of them is Hezbollah.”

“Hezbollah just joined the government of Lebanon. That’s a misnomer; they actually control the government of Lebanon,” Netanyahu said. “It means that Iran controls the government of Lebanon.”

Late last year, Israel launched a short operation named Northern Shield to neutralize cross-border Hezbollah attack tunnels.
At the time of the operations launch, Netanyahu made it clear that Hezbollah would

In September, during his speech to the UN, Netanyahu revealed that Hezbollah, together with Iran, had set up a number of precision missile factories in Beirut. “In Lebanon, Iran supports Hezbollah in building secret facilities and precision missiles capable of hitting deep inside Israel, with missiles with a precision of 10 meters,” Netanyahu said, adding that “Hezbollah uses innocent people in Beirut as shields.”

Netanyahu made it clear in his speech that “Israel knows what you are doing and where you are doing, and will not let you get away with it.”

Maariv contributed to this report.


Did Israel use the supersonic Rampage to strike Iranian targets in Syria?

April 18, 2019

Source: Did Israel use the supersonic Rampage to strike Iranian targets in Syria? – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Israel allegedly struck an Iranian missile factory in Syria’s Masyaf on Saturday.

 APRIL 18, 2019 16:45
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspects a missile at Israel Aerospace Industries.

Israel’s Air Force reportedly used the supersonic Rampage stand-off air-to-surface missiles for the first time during a strike on Iranian positions in Syria last week, foreign media has reported.
Israel allegedly struck a possible Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in a Syrian base in Masyaf on Saturday. Satellite images released by Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) showed the complete destruction of the factory.
“The main industrial structures were completely destroyed, including the main hangar and the adjacent three production hangers and buildings. The rest of the structures were affected and damaged by the blast,” ISI said, adding that they “assess that all the elements and/or equipment which were inside were completely destroyed as well.”
According to Syria’s SANA news agency, Israeli jets fired the missiles from Lebanese airspace at about 2:30 Saturday morning.
The factory, ISI said, is located in the vicinity of other facilities likely linked to Iran’s surface-to-surface missile project in Syria , which had previously been struck in alleged Israeli strikes carried out over the past two years.
Dubbed “The Rampage,” after a popular video-game, the missile is a supersonic, long-range, accurate air-to-ground assault missile with a warhead, rocket engine and advanced navigation suit which allow for precision targeting.
Amit Haimovich, director of marketing and business development for IAI’s MALAM engineering unit, told The Jerusalem Post in June that due to the combination of the Rampage’s speed and physical-form factor, “it can be detected but it is very hard to intercept.”
“If you take the Middle East arena and areas protected by air defense systems, the whole point of this missile is that it can target within standoff ranges” without threatening the launching platform, he said.
The missile can be fitted to the Israel Air Force’s F-15, F-16 and F-35 fighter jets, and is meant to be dropped outside areas protected by air-defense systems. The 4.7-meter-long missile, which weighs 570 kg., is guided by a GPS system, giving it the ability to be operated in any weather conditions as well as during the day or night.
The targets that best fit the capabilities of the missile include communication and command centers, air force bases, maintenance centers, infrastructure and valuable field targets protected by anti-aircraft batteries.
The Rampage also features a warhead which was designed for optimal penetration capabilities, allowing for the destruction of targets inside bunkers.
The factory allegedly struck by Israel is also in the vicinity of Russian-made S-300 missile-defense systems, which were deployed to Syria by Moscow. Satellite images released by ISI have shown three out of the four systems erected in Masyaf, with one launcher covered by a camouflage net.
While the systems are still believed to be in the hands of the Russians and not manned by the Syrian military, the advanced S-300 is a major upgrade to Syrian air defenses and would pose a threat to Israeli jets on missions, since the long-range missile-defense system can track objects such as aircraft and ballistic missiles over a range of 300 km.


‘Readiness and Change’: Kohavi reveals his expensive plans for the IDF 

April 18, 2019

Source: ‘Readiness and Change’: Kohavi reveals his expensive plans for the IDF | The Times of Israel

Three months into his term, army chief proposes multi-year program for improving the military, including greater use of artificial intelligence and merging combat units

In a photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on February 26, 2019, Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi (2nd-L) speaks with soldiers taking part in a snap drill at the Tzeelim base in southern Israel simulating a future military conflict in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)

In a photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on February 26, 2019, Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi (2nd-L) speaks with soldiers taking part in a snap drill at the Tzeelim base in southern Israel simulating a future military conflict in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)

Three months into his tenure as chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi set out the framework for his multi-year plan to improve the Israel Defense Forces, some parts of which will be rolled out shortly, while others will require budgetary and legislative approvals before they can be implemented.

According to the IDF, Kohavi’s plan, known as “Readiness and Change,” focuses on continuing and strengthening two existing trends within the military: greater distribution of technology and intelligence throughout the military and better cooperation between its various different branches and units.

“Readiness and Change” appears to be concerned with shorter-term changes to the military that are designed to quickly boost efficacy — what the military typically refers to as “lethality” — whereas the previous chief of staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Gadi Eisenkot’s multi-year Gideon plan was aimed at longer-term, structural changes within the IDF.

Kohavi’s plan will also include the creation of a unit within the IDF Planning Directorate, headed by a brigadier general, to be known as “Fighting methods and modernity” — or by its Hebrew acronym Shiluah — that will focus on integrating new techniques and technology into the IDF, the army said.

A moment before an Israeli missile destroys a Syrian SA-22 air defense system on May 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

A new target-picking task force will also be established, bringing together Military Intelligence, the Israeli Air Force and the three regional commands. The task force will comprise existing elements of those units and will also expand the use of technology — namely artificial intelligence and big data — in identifying potential targets for military strikes.

“This will improve the number and quality of the targets in the different regions,” the military said Thursday.

While Kohavi’s plans are meant to affect the entire military, the main beneficiaries of the proposals are the IDF’s ground forces — infantry, tanks, artillery, and combat engineering — which have been at the center of both public and internal military debate in the past year concerning their preparedness for war.

In order to increase the ground forces capabilities, the military plans to provide them additional resources, particularly in the form of anti-tank guided missiles and greater access to air power.

“This will strengthen the fighting force of the combat soldier, will defeat the enemy and will very powerfully and very quickly deny [the enemy] of its capabilities,” the military said.

IDF tanks stationed near the Israeli Gaza border on March 26, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

These additional, expensive resources will require budgetary approval from the government.

Another potentially costly proposal from “Readiness and Change” is a plan to connect nearly all branches and units of the military to an IDF intranet, allowing intelligence and operational information to be shared far more quickly than today.

A task force within the IDF General Staff will lead the project, the army said.

“This comes from an understanding that advancing this issue will allow better collaboration and connectivity throughout the military and will connect all the troops and platforms on the battlefield to one another,” the IDF said.

Illustrative. An IDF soldier from the C4I Corps types on a computer. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Kohavi also called for the implementation of an existing planwithin the military to form a combined unit made up of infantry, combat engineering, artillery, air force and intelligence. Currently, the various units regularly collaborate with one another but are kept structurally separate; under the plan, which was first proposed under Eisenkot, the elements will be brought under one roof.

“This will be the model for the future changes in the maneuvering units,” the military said, using its term for ground forces.

Toward the end of his first year as IDF chief, in late 2015, Eisenkot began rolling out his Gideon Plan, which was aimed at increasing the military’s efficiency and cutting waste.

The Gideon Plan came under significant criticism in recent years, chiefly by former military ombudsman Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, who claimed that it was contributing to a decline in the IDF’s preparedness for war and in the quality of its officers.