Archive for June 2, 2019

Iran: Saudis have joined Israel, US in ‘hopeless’ effort to turn region against Tehran 

June 2, 2019

Source: Iran: Saudis have joined Israel, US in ‘hopeless’ effort to turn region against Tehran – www.israelhayom.com

Iranian Foreign Ministry rejects Saudi accusations that Iran is behind sabotage on Saudi oil infrastructure as “baseless,” state media reports.

Saudi Arabia’s king told an emergency Arab summit that decisive action was needed to stop Iranian “escalations” in the region following attacks on Gulf oil assets, as American officials said a U.S. military deployment had deterred Tehran.

“Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi … rejected the baseless accusations by the heads of certain Arab countries … and said ‘We see the Saudi effort to mobilize [regional] opinion as part of the hopeless process followed by America and the Zionist regime against Iran,’” the state news agency IRNA said.

On Thursday, Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf urged Muslim nations to confront recent attacks in the region that the U.S. and its allies have blamed on Iran with “all means of force and firmness.”

Al-Assaf made the comments at a meeting of foreign ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation ahead of a series of summits in the kingdom that began on Thursday.

Al-Assaf said the alleged sabotage of boats off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels requires the region to “make more efforts to counter the terrorist acts of extremist and terrorist groups.”

“We should confront it with all means of force and firmness,” al-Assaf said.

 

Iran: Israel ‘trapped in ongoing nightmare’ of security fears, instability

June 2, 2019

Source: Iran: Israel ‘trapped in ongoing nightmare’ of security fears, instability – www.israelhayom.com

At memorial for founder of ayatollah regime Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s senior military commander Mohammad Bagheri says, “Islamic Revolution radiates outward from our homeland to the surrounding space.” Zionist regime now knows what genuine fear is, he says.

In a speech at a memorial for the founder of the ayatollah regime Ruhollah Khomeini, Bagheri said, “Today, the Islamic Revolution radiates outward from our homeland to the surrounding space. The leaders of the imperialist system and the Zionist regime now know what genuine fear is.”

He said, “Our strategic depth and determination created a new regional order, and there is no issue in Western Asia in which Iran does not have a hand. We created an Islamic resistance front, and now the criminal and occupying regime is trapped in an ongoing nightmare of security fears and instability – this despite the vast support it enjoys from the West.”

Bagheri also related to the tensions with the U.S. and Iran’s missile program in his speech.

“Today’s political climate is an unprecedented opportunity to develop a defense system and in particular our missile system. We must never give up on this system,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the “balance of power” was preventing a war between the U.S. and Iran, which he warned would also hit U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel.

 

52 years later: Israel and the superpowers 

June 2, 2019

Source: 52 years later: Israel and the superpowers – www.israelhayom.com

Over 50 years after the Six-Day War, Russia and the United States are convening a joint security summit in Israel, while Arab states have come to terms with the fact that we cannot be defeated through war or even by a protracted terror campaign.

Many years have passed, and the balance of power between Israel and its neighbors has shifted considerably: Israel now has complete air superiority and the risk of losing aircraft is negligible. While there is no room for complacency, the current reality is utterly different. The air force and other military branches are developing anti-missile and radar systems, which greatly reduce the potency of the Russian-made SA-300.

The latest news illustrates that Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of 50 years ago, nor is it the Russia of the previous decade. The willingness to convene a joint security summit in Israel (not a “peace summit”), with senior American counterparts, enhances Israel’s standing.

Two days before the outbreak of the Six-Day War, France was still an ally of Israel. However, then-French President Charles de Gaulle chose to impose an embargo that effectively quashed the sale of French planes and weapons to Israel and mainly spare parts for equipment. This crisis gave birth to Israel’s independent development of weapons systems, including the Merkava tank, and the Nesher and Kfir fighter jets. This, essentially, was the backdrop for the tremendous growth spurt of Israel’s defense industry. The Soviet Union, for its part, continued arming Arab countries without restraint.

Amid the backdrop of the current diplomatic developments – the strengthening of Israel-U.S. ties; the special relationship between Israel and Russia; recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which was captured in the Six-Day War; the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and other achievements – I recall the words of then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who said: “We’re happy where we now stand.”

And here we stand today, more than 50 years later; Arab states have come to terms with the fact that we cannot be defeated in war or even through a protracted campaign of terror. Israel’s cooperation with a significant number of Arab countries in the struggle against Iran, the world’s leading exporter of terror for 40 years now, their rapprochement with Israel and the Israeli government’s steadfast adherence to the fundamental principles of its existence, illuminate the path for a better future for Israel and its neighbors.

 

Pompeo: US prepared to engage with Iran without preconditions 

June 2, 2019

Source: Pompeo: US prepared to engage with Iran without preconditions – www.israelhayom.com

When the Iranians prove they want to behave like a “normal nation,” U.S. is eager to start negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells Swiss counterpart.

The United States is prepared to engage with Iran without preconditions about its nuclear program but needs to see the country behaving like “a normal nation,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani suggested on Saturday that Iran may be willing to hold talks if Washington showed it respect, but said Tehran would not be pressured into talks.

Pompeo, in an apparent softening of his previous stance, said when asked about Rouhani’s remarks: “We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions, we are ready to sit down.”

However, he said Washington would continue to work to “reverse the malign activity” of Iran in the Middle East, citing Tehran’s support to Hezbollah and to the Syrian government.

Pompeo said U.S. President Donald Trump had been saying for a long time that he was willing to talk to Iran.

“We are certainly prepared to have that conversation when the Iranians can prove that they want to behave like a normal nation,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis in the southern Swiss city of Bellinzona.

Trump said last Monday he was hopeful Iran would come to the negotiating table. But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Tehran would not negotiate with Washington, even after Rouhani had previously signaled talks might be possible if sanctions were lifted.

Cassis voiced concern at Iranian people suffering from the impact of sanctions and said that neutral Switzerland wanted to provide humanitarian aid, “especially pharmaceutical products and foodstuffs.”

He said Iran needed to make payments for this, and that was possible only if the United States allowed banks to transfer payments. Cassis said he was confident the United States would come up with the “best possible solution” to that problem in a short time.

Iran has stayed within the main restrictions of its 2015 nuclear deal, a quarterly report by the U.N. atomic watchdog indicated on Friday, at a time when Tehran is threatening to break the rules in future in response to new U.S. sanctions.

Pompeo declined on Sunday to comment on the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. He said Washington was tracking IAEA findings closely but added: “We also have our own independent understanding of what is taking place there.

“And the world should be mindful that we are watching closely how Iran is complying with the requirements that were set out in the JCPOA, not only the heavy water issue, but the amount of high-enriched uranium which they are accumulating,” he said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which the Trump administration has quit.

“We are watching closely as they put centrifuges into work and whether they are actually beginning to spin those centrifuges and load those centrifuges,” Pompeo said.

Switzerland has served as an intermediary between Iran and the United States since shortly after the Islamic revolution in November 1979. Switzerland provides protective and consular services for some 100 U.S. citizens and 12,000 people with both U.S. and Iranian citizenship.

 

Saudi Arabia united the Arab world against Iran. That means conflict could be one step closer – CNN

June 2, 2019

Source: Saudi Arabia united the Arab world against Iran. That means conflict could be one step closer – CNN

And while this achievement came without bellicose threats or new red lines, it is an important milepost on a road that may yet lead to regional conflict.
In middle-of-night, back-to-back summits at Islam’s holiest of sites, the aging but still-attentive Saudi monarch got a double endorsement of his claims that Iran is destabilizing the Middle East and a backing of his call for “the international community to shoulder its responsibility.
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and 21 Arab League nations present called for Iran to stop “interfering in the internal affairs” of its neighbors and denounced Tehran’s “threat to maritime security” in the Persian Gulf.
For its part, Iran hit back, criticizing the allegations as “baseless” and accusing Saudi Arabia of promoting an “American and Zionist” agenda. Still, Tehran appeared tone-deaf to not one, but two unifying summit communiques urging it to change its behavior.
It would be easy to write the King’s success off as the kind of leverage that only petro-dollars can buy, but the region is deeply divided over many issues — not least a searing rift with neighboring Qatar, which has spent two years under an economic and travel embargo imposed by Saudi Arabia.
Trump declares emergency to expedite arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE
US pressure was applied to get Qatar to send a high-level delegation to the summits. When the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani, showed up, he was the only leader not to get a customary kiss from the King.
While he didn’t get much eye contact from some of the leaders gathered around the GCC table, al-Thani did back the Saudi monarch, saying: “Our participation comes from our support to join Arab and Islamic work and our common security and stability.”
It marked the sign of a possible thaw in relations, but also the reemergence of Saudi Arabia from pariah to regional power broker again, which is good timing for its key ally, US President Donald Trump, as he doubles down on sanctions and pressure on Iran.
In the months since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered by Saudi officials inside their consulate in Istanbul last October, the desert Kingdom has struggled to find its voice amid international condemnation.
The stigma of Khashoggi’s killing isn’t going to be washed away easily, but King Salman will see the events in Mecca this week as proof that he at least has clout.
He has used some canny diplomacy, including old school show-and-tell. Leaders landing in Jeddah airport on their way to the summits got a tour of Iranian-made ballistic missiles, and drones fired at Saudi Arabia by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
A simple message — that Saudi is on the front line of Iranian-inspired aggression — was an easy sell. The airport itself, through which millions of Muslim pilgrims pass this time of year, was itself targeted by a Houthi ballistic missile last week.
Bolton, without offering evidence, says Iran 'almost certainly' responsible for oil tanker attack in UAE

The King, unlike his ally Trump, who prefers the megaphone in his quest for dialogue with Iran’s mullahs, opted for a subtler soft-power effort to tamp down tensions, giving visiting Iranian diplomats plentiful access to Mecca at this deeply religious time.
Still, it would be a mistake to dismiss the summits as hot air. It’s true that at these summits in the past, many words have been followed by fewer actions. King Salman himself admitted that “failure to take a firm position against the Iranian regime” in the past had “led to the escalation we see today.”
It would also be misleading to conflate the King’s anger at Iran with President Trump’s record of easy lies and a US history of invasion on false premise, notably in neighboring Iraq over WMD 16 years ago, as a joint enterprise to start a new war.
Trump’s and Salman’s agendas do intersect on Iran but the King’s new-found regional unity on the issue could quickly crumble if he was seen to pick a fight.
What we saw in Mecca was a mark being set, that the status quo with Iran will no longer be tolerated by Saudi and its allies. What happens next is in Iran’s court. Talks are an option, but terrorism, insofar as it is perceived as such by Tehran’s neighbors, is not.

 

Off Topic:  The 75th Anniversary Of D-Day – The Ben Shapiro Show Sunday Special

June 2, 2019

 

 

Iranian president says talks possible only if Washington shows ‘respect’ 

June 2, 2019

Source: Iranian president says talks possible only if Washington shows ‘respect’ – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Trump said on Monday: “It (Iran) has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership… We aren’t looking for regime change – I just want to make that clear.”

BY REUTERS
 JUNE 1, 2019 22:28
Hassan Rouhani

DUBAI – President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday suggested Iran may be willing to hold talks if the United States showed it respect, but said Tehran would not be pressured into negotiations, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Iran and the United States have been drawn into starker confrontation in the past month, a year after Washington pulled out of a deal between Iran and global powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in return for lifting international sanctions.

Washington re-imposed sanctions last year and ratchetted them up in May, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil. In recent weeks it has also hinted at military confrontation, saying it was sending extra forces to the Middle East to respond to an Iranian threat.

U.S. President Donald Trump says the 2015 nuclear deal was not strong enough and he wants to force Iran to negotiate a new agreement. Some U.S. officials have spoken of the possibility of new talks.

Trump said on Monday: “It (Iran) has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership… We aren’t looking for regime change – I just want to make that clear.”

Fars news agency quoted Rouhani as saying: “We are for logic and talks if (the other side) sits respectfully at the negotiating table and follows international regulations, not if it issues an order to negotiate.”

Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Wednesday Iran would not negotiate with Washington. Rouhani had previously signaled talks might be possible if sanctions were lifted.

In Saturday’s speech to a group of Iranian athletes, Rouhani noted Trump’s recent remarks and suggested they were a climb-down from statements last year that encouraged regime change in Iran.

“The same enemy which declared its aim last year to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran today explicitly states that it does not want to do anything to (our) system,” Rouhani said. “If we remain hopeful in the war with America, we will win.”

 

Nasrallah: Trump’s Peace Plan is unjust and it is our duty to oppose it 

June 2, 2019

Source: Nasrallah: Trump’s Peace Plan is unjust and it is our duty to oppose it – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah Secretary-General delivered speech on International Jerusalem Day, referring to the American administration’s plan “I have hope that we will be able to prevent the historic crime.”

BY YASSER OKBI/MAARIV
 JUNE 2, 2019 05:15
Nasrallah and Trump

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on the occasion of al-Quds Day that “in the past 40 years, the enemies of Jerusalem have been betting that they we will ignore it or forget it, but year after year we find that people still express great interest.”

“We have seen large demonstrations in several countries around the world and the demonstration of one million in Iran,” he said, adding that the biggest demonstration in Iran was “A message to [US President Donald] Trump and to those who assumed that the Iranians were tired or failed.”

Nasrallah related to the Trump peace plan, saying that “it is a religious, moral, national and political obligation to oppose [it], since this is a deal that is unjust and is contrary to the rights of the holy places.”

He further stressed that “the responsibility is clear: We must confront this deal, and we are capable of obstructing it.”

According to Nasrallah, the current situation shows that the plan is on its way to failure.

“The United States, Israel and other regimes in the region are working to implement the deal, alongside an axis that opposes it,” he said. “There is a conflict between the two factions, and I hope we can prevent the historic crime that is liable to occur in our land.”

Hezbollah’s leader said that some of the regimes are working to make Israel the main axis in the region, along with an attempt to end the Palestinian and Jerusalem issues.

“Since 2011, there has been an American attempt to eliminate the Palestinian issue after giving the Palestinians a little time, but after the victory of the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine, they prepared their project to liquidate the resistance factions,” Nasrallah explained. “After 2011, the US and any country involved in the ‘Arab Spring’ got the fruit of the frenzy called Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century.’”

Nasrallah added that “The Palestinian resistance today is hitting Tel Aviv and what is beyond it, and it is capable of hitting all the Zionist settlements.”

He also related to Syria, saying, “They crossed what was planned against it and remained in the axis of resistance. Syria will become stronger when all the American attempts to take over Iraq militarily fail.”

In addition, Nasrallah mentioned the Arab summit currently underway in Mecca: “The background to the call to Muslims to reach the summits is to save the Saudi regime as a result of the development of the Yemenite axis after the rising power [Houthis, supported by Iran], and the regime is trying with the help of mercenaries to force the Yemenites to surrender. All these summits prove that the Yemenite people and the opponents of the Saudis won. Trump knows that if war breaks out – the price of a barrel of oil could rise to $200-300.”

Meanwhile, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards boasted that if Iran had supported the Houthis in Yemen, they would have taken over Riyadh.

 

Israel, US to tell Russia to curb Iran in Syria for Assad recognition — report 

June 2, 2019

Source: Israel, US to tell Russia to curb Iran in Syria for Assad recognition — report | The Times of Israel

Arabic newspaper quotes western diplomats on offer to recognize Syrian president to be proposed at upcoming meeting in Jerusalem of US, Israeli, Russian national security advisers

Russian Federation Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, February 1, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Russian Federation Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, February 1, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israel and the US will offer incentives to Russia later this month in a bid to curb Iran’s influence in Syria, which could include recognizing Syrian leader Bashar Assad, a London-based Arabic newspaper reported Sunday.

The incentives will be raised at an unprecedented trilateral meeting of national security advisers scheduled for later this month in Jerusalem, according to a report in Asharq al-Awsat that quoted western diplomats and was cited by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster. The report did not clarify what the other proposals could be.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Russian Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev will meet in Jerusalem later this month, according to an announcement made by the White House on Wednesday, just minutes before the Knesset voted to disband and to set new elections for September 17.

The rare tripartite meeting is expected to deal mostly with Syria, specifically Iran’s efforts to entrench itself militarily near Israel’s borders, and the planned withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country.

Moscow is a close ally of Tehran and Damascus, while Jerusalem and Washington are the Islamic Republic’s arch-enemies.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton, left, is greeted by Russian Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev in Moscow, Russia, October 22, 2018. (Press Service of the Russian Security Council via AP)

Ben-Shabbat met Bolton last month in Washington, mainly to discuss Iran and “other destabilizing actors,” a senior US administration official said at the time.

Bolton and Ben-Shabbat reiterated their “shared commitment to countering Iranian malign activity & other destabilizing actors in the Middle East and around the world,” the US national security adviser tweeted.

Ben-Shabbat last met with Patrushev in September 2018 in Moscow to discuss “regional issues in the Middle East, including the situation in Syria,” according to a readout provided by the Prime Minister’s Office. “National Security Adviser Ben-Shabbat emphasized that Israel insists that Iranian forces must leave all of Syria,” the readout said.

Toward the start of the Syrian civil war, the Israeli military established a number of “red lines” that if violated would result in a retaliatory strike, including any attacks — intentional or otherwise — against Israel.

This photo released on the official Facebook page of Syrian Presidency shows Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaking with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, in Damascus, Syria, April 16, 2019. (Syrian Presidency Facebook page via AP)

They also included Iranian efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and attempts to transfer advanced munitions to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group.

In recent years, Israel has acknowledged conducting hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in response to these “red line” violations.

Early Sunday morning, the Israel Defense Forces attacked several military targets in Syria in response to two rockets that were fired from the country at the Golan Heights on Saturday night.

Helicopters and planes attacked several targets connected to the Syrian army, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence outposts, and an SA-2 type air defense unit, the IDF said in a statement.

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson’s unit)

Syrian media reported that Israel also struck several targets connected to Iran and is proxy militias in Syria, in the area of al-Kiswah, south of Damascus. These strikes reportedly targeted weapons caches and a military training facility.

The Israeli army refrained from specifying whom it believes fired the two rockets at the Golan Heights — one of which landed inside Israeli territory, the other in Syria — but said it “sees the Syrian regime as responsible for all attacks against Israel from Syrian territory.”

 

IDF strikes Syria, killing 3, after rockets fired at Golan Heights 

June 2, 2019

Source: IDF strikes Syria, killing 3, after rockets fired at Golan Heights | The Times of Israel

Airstrikes target Syrian military positions, including anti-aircraft battery, after 2 rockets fired on Saturday; PM: Israel will not tolerate fire into its territory

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson’s unit)

The Israel Defense Forces attacked several military targets in Syria in the predawn hours of Sunday morning in response to two rockets that were fired from the country at the Golan Heights on Saturday night.

Beginning at 4:10 a.m., Israel Defense Forces helicopters and planes attacked several targets connected to the Syrian army, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence outposts, and an SA-2 type air defense unit, the IDF said in a statement.

Syrian media reported that Israel also struck several targets connected to Iran and is proxy militias in Syria, in the area of al-Kiswah, south of Damascus. These strikes reportedly targeted weapons caches and a military training facility.

The Israeli army refrained from specifying whom it believes fired the two rockets at the Golan Heights — one of which landed inside Israeli territory, the other in Syria — but said it “sees the Syrian regime as responsible for all attacks against Israel from Syrian territory.”

The observation and intelligence targets bombed by Israel were located near the border with the Golan Heights, while the artillery and anti-aircraft batteries were south and south-west of Damascus, the IDF said.

During the exchange, Israeli air defense systems fired in response to Syrian anti-aircraft fire, but no projectiles were believed to have landed inside Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning that Israel will continue to respond to any attacks on its territory.

“We are not prepared to tolerate firing into our territory and we react with great force against any aggression against us,” the prime minister, who also serves as defense minister, said in a statement. “This is a consistent policy that I lead and so we will continue to do for the sake of Israel’s security.”

Syria’s official SANA news agency said that three Syrian soldiers had been killed and seven injured in the attack, and claimed that Syrian air defenses intercepted missiles coming from the Golan Heights. The attack also caused material damage, the report said.

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

Embedded video

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

The Syrian Armed Forces targets we struck included:
🎯 2 artillery batteries
🎯 Observation & intel posts
🎯 An SA-2 aerial defense battery

We hold the Syrian regime accountable and will firmly operate against any attempt to harm Israeli civilians. pic.twitter.com/XtDTqz7Btc

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

The incoming rockets did not trigger alert sirens. These alarms are typically only activated in cases where a projectile is heading toward a populated area, rather than an open field.

The launches came less than a week after a limited clash between Israel and Syria.

On Monday, a Syrian anti-aircraft battery fired at an Israeli fighter jet that was flying within Israeli airspace. Shortly afterward, in response, the IDF attacked the battery and destroyed it, reportedly killing a Syrian officer and soldier. A military vehicle was also said damaged in the attack.

Saturday night’s rockets appeared to be a relatively long range variety, reportedly fired from the Damascus area, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) away, similar to an attack earlier this year aimed at the Hermon.

The Hermon is located in the northern tip of Israel’s Golan Heights. In addition to a popular ski resort, the area is also home to a number of military installations.

In January, Iranian troops in Syria fired a medium-range, Iranian-made missile at Mount Hermon in what the IDF said at the time was a “premeditated” attack aimed at deterring Israel from conducting airstrikes against the Islamic republic’s troops and proxies in Syria.

The incoming projectile was shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

Last Saturday, Syria said its air defenses shot down a number of missiles fired from Israel, a day after making a similar claim.

Toward the start of the Syrian civil war, the Israeli military established a number of “red lines” that if violated would result in a retaliatory strike, including any attacks — intentional or otherwise — against Israel.

They also included Iranian efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and attempts to transfer advanced munitions to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group.

In recent years, Israel has acknowledged conducting hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in response to these “red line” violations.