Archive for August 6, 2019

Israel’s Challenges amid US – Iran Stand-Off- Jerusalem Studio 437 

August 6, 2019

 

 

In game of cat and mouse, Iran changes tactics

August 6, 2019

Source: In game of cat and mouse, Iran changes tactics – www.israelhayom.com

Despite Israel’s intensive efforts – mainly in Syria, but now allegedly in Iraq as well – Iran doesn’t appear to be eschewing its plan to arm Hezbollah or build forward operating bases in Syria for its forces. Thus, both sides will likely continue, into the foreseeable future, adhering to the unwritten rules of the game they are playing.

In a situational assessment last year, the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate said Iran was expected to increase its activities in Iraq, for two main reasons: to seize control of the country’s power centers following the withdrawal of American forces from the region; and as an alternate base of operations for Shiite militias, whose efforts to establish footholds in Syria have thus far been hampered by Israeli attacks there. According to some Israeli intelligence officials, these bases in Iraq could even be used in the future to launch missiles at Israel.

It appears that Iran’s current activities, as reflected in reports by Arab media outlets, is different. Rather than pursuing a permanent base of operations, the Iranians are establishing waypoints for missiles earmarked for transfer to Syria. London-based newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that trucks concealing missiles were hit – a familiar modus operandi the Iranians also employ to smuggle missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon. According to some reports, the targets were “Zolfaghar” missiles – advanced models of the precision-based “Fateh 110,” capable of delivering heavy payloads.

It’s safe to assume the Iranians resorted to using land routes in the wake of Israeli airstrikes on weapons shipments to Syrian airports. In early 2019, in the wake of several attacks on Iranian and Hezbollah warehouses in Damascus International Airport, Syria asked Iran to cease its activities in the airport so as not to hinder civilian air travel. Consequently, Iran diverted its shipments to the T-4 airbase in northern Syria, hoping their missiles would be safer there (also due to the Russian presence at the facility); but following several reported airstrikes there, Iran chose, it appears, to focus on smuggling its missiles via motorized land convoys.

If we are to connect the dots provided by the Arab media, it seems Israel has conducted several airstrikes in recent days, and it’s possible others have gone unreported. According to Saudi outlet Al-Arabiya, one of the attacks (in this case on a target near the city of Tikrit, in northern Iraq), was carried out by a drone. The United States has officially denied involvement, such that it appears Israel has decided to expand the scope of its operations beyond Syria’s borders to hit Iranian missiles before they are moved westward.

It seems that despite Israel’s intensive efforts – mainly in Syria, but now allegedly in Iraq as well – Iran is not eschewing its plan to arm Hezbollah with advanced weaponry and build forward bases of operation in Syria for its forces. What this means is that both sides will likely continue along this line for the foreseeable future, adhering to the unwritten rules of the game they are playing: Covert activity with no claims of responsibility, which provides a relatively large amount of wiggle room and mitigates the other side’s response options – which, incidentally, also reduces the risk of an unwanted escalation.

 

Iran said increasing Hamas funding to $30m per month, wants intel on Israel 

August 6, 2019

Source: Iran said increasing Hamas funding to $30m per month, wants intel on Israel | The Times of Israel

In exchange for massive cash boost, Palestinian terror group will reportedly supply Tehran with information on location of Israel’s missile stockpiles

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, second right, and the Hamas delegation, in Tehran, Iran, July 22, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, second right, and the Hamas delegation, in Tehran, Iran, July 22, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran has agreed to massively increase its monthly payments to Palestinian terror group Hamas in exchange for intelligence on Israeli missile capabilities, an Israeli television network reported Monday.

The Islamic Republic is a longtime financial supporter of Hamas, the terror organization that rules the Gaza Strip and is committed to Israel’s destruction.

In a recent meeting in Tehran between nine senior Hamas officials and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Tehran expressed willingness to raise its monthly financial backing to the terror group to an unprecedented $30 million per month, Channel 12 reported, citing an unnamed Arab source.

That will represent a massive increase in Iranian support for the Gaza rulers. A report by the Ynet news site from August 2018, citing Palestinian sources, said Iran’s payments to Hamas at the time amounted to $70 million per year (less than $6 million per month).

The meeting, which took place two weeks ago, was attended by Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chief of the Hamas politburo.

In exchange for the funding, Tehran asked Hamas to provide intelligence about the location of Israel’s missile stockpiles, the report said. It was not immediately clear if the raise was strictly conditioned on the intelligence provided by the terror group.

The Hamas members said they would convey the request to the movement’s leaders in Gaza.

Hamas also reportedly asked Iran to act as mediator for the terror group with Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, after ties were cut off during the Syrian civil war.

Responding to the report, Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon noted that “despite lacking food or medicine, Iran/Hamas evidently have plenty of money for terror.”

Ambassador Danny Danon | דני דנון

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During his visit to Tehran, al-Arouri said that Hamas and Iran stand on “the same path” in fighting Israel, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported at the time.

“We are on the same path as the Islamic Republic — the path of battling the Zionist entity and the arrogant ones,” he said, according to the report.

Arouri visited Iran with several other high-ranking Hamas officials, including Moussa Abu Marzouk, Maher Salah, Husam Badran, Osama Hamdan, Ezzat al-Rishq and Ismail Radwan.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh told a group of Turkish journalists at the time that he hoped the delegation’s visit would achieve “important results.”

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“Iran is the only country that says that entity [Israel] is cancerous and should be uprooted from the region,” he told the pro-Hamas Al-Quds TV in February 2018. “It is the only country that is prepared to provide real and public support to the Palestinian resistance and others to confront the entity.”

report last week by the Haaretz daily said that Israeli intelligence officials believe Hamas and Iran have come to an agreement for the terror group to open a war front against Israel from the southern coastal Strip in the event of conflict breaking out with Iran’s allies on the Jewish state’s northern border.

The report quoted a senior security official as saying the intelligence establishment estimates Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group will try to force Israel to move forces and air defense systems to the south at the expense of troops fighting in the north.

The report said that Israeli intelligence sources believe Iran has increased its involvement in the Strip in order to turn Hamas into its operational arm against Israel.

The Islamic Republic also funds the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, which is similarly sworn to Israel’s annihilation.

 

UK joins US in Gulf mission after Iran taunts American allies 

August 6, 2019

Source: UK joins US in Gulf mission after Iran taunts American allies | The Times of Israel

After Tehran says countries too ‘ashamed’ to join US-led naval coalition, British PM deploys ships to Strait of Hormuz to protect vessels from ‘unlawful threats’

Illustrative: The guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transit the Strait of Hormuz. (CC-BY SA 3.0/Official US Navy Imagery)

Illustrative: The guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transit the Strait of Hormuz. (CC-BY SA 3.0/Official US Navy Imagery)

LONDON (AFP) — Britain said Monday it will join forces with the United States to protect merchant vessels in the Gulf amid heightened tensions with Iran, after Tehran taunted Washington that its allies were too “ashamed” to join the mission.

Britain’s decision to form the joint maritime taskforce with the United States marks a departure in policy under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after efforts under his predecessor Theresa May to form a European-led grouping failed.

It follows a spate of incidents — including the seizure of ships — between Iran and Western powers, in particular Britain and the US, centered on the vital Strait of Hormuz thoroughfare.

“The UK is determined to ensure her shipping is protected from unlawful threats, and for that reason we have today joined the new maritime security mission in the Gulf,” Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement.

The announcement from Britain’s defense ministry did not detail which, if any, other countries would be joining the new naval coalition.

Britain was also at pains to stress that it had not changed its broader policy towards Tehran.

“We remain committed to working with Iran and our international partners to de-escalate the situation and maintain the nuclear deal,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran, on August 5, 2019. (AFP)

The announcement came hours after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Washington was increasingly isolated in its hardline stance against Tehran and its allies were too “ashamed” to join its forces in the Gulf.

He also dismissed US calls for talks as a sham, confirming that he had turned down an offer to meet President Donald Trump last month, despite the threat of US sanctions against him.

“Today, the United States is alone in the world and cannot create a coalition,” he said.

“Friendly countries are too ashamed of being in a coalition with them,” Zarif told a news conference, saying they had “brought this situation upon themselves, with law-breaking, by creating tensions and crises.”

Germany ‘not in favor’

Tehran and Washington have been locked in a battle of nerves since last year when Trump withdrew the US from a landmark 2015 deal placing curbs on Iran’s nuclear program and began reimposing sanctions.

Tensions have spiked since the Trump administration began stepping up a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran.

Drones have been downed and tankers seized by Iranian authorities or mysteriously attacked in Gulf waters, while Britain has detained an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar.

A speedboat of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard moves around a British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz by the Guard, in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, July 21, 2019. (Morteza Akhoondi/Mehr News Agency via AP)

At the height of the crisis, Trump called off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic Republic’s forces shot down a US drone.

Iran said on Sunday its forces had seized a “foreign” tanker carrying smuggled fuel in what would be the third such seizure in less than a month in Gulf waters — a conduit for much of the world’s crude oil.

Last month, the Guards said they had impounded the Panama-flagged MT Riah for alleged fuel smuggling as well as the British-flagged Stena Impero for breaking “international maritime rules.”

In response to such incidents, the US has been seeking to form a coalition — dubbed Operation Sentinel — to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

Last month Britain, while still led by former prime minister May, proposed a European-led maritime protection force.

But both plans struggled to find partners, with European countries believed to be reluctant to be dragged into a conflict.

Germany said on Monday that it was currently “not in favor” of joining an American-led coalition.

‘Left the table’

Meanwhile the US continues to target Iran economically, while holding out the prospect of possible talks.

It imposed sanctions against Zarif on Wednesday — under the same sanctions already applied to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — targeting any assets he has in America and squeezing his ability to travel.

An aerial view shows a speedboat of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on July 21, 2019, moving around the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz by the Guard, in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. (Morteza Akhoondi/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

Meanwhile, however, the New Yorker magazine reported that Senator Rand Paul had met Zarif in the US on July 15 and had Trump’s blessing when he invited the Iranian minister to go to the White House.

Zarif dismissed as disingenuous US “claims” it wants dialogue.

“They were the ones who left the table… Who do they want to negotiate with?” he said.

But Zarif did not rule out talks in the future, saying: “Even in times of war, negotiations will exist.”

 

UK joins US in Gulf mission after Iran taunts American allies

August 6, 2019

Source: UK joins US in Gulf mission after Iran taunts American allies | The Times of Israel

After Tehran says countries too ‘ashamed’ to join US-led naval coalition, British PM deploys ships to Strait of Hormuz to protect vessels from ‘unlawful threats’

Illustrative: The guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transit the Strait of Hormuz. (CC-BY SA 3.0/Official US Navy Imagery)

Illustrative: The guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transit the Strait of Hormuz. (CC-BY SA 3.0/Official US Navy Imagery)

LONDON (AFP) — Britain said Monday it will join forces with the United States to protect merchant vessels in the Gulf amid heightened tensions with Iran, after Tehran taunted Washington that its allies were too “ashamed” to join the mission.

Britain’s decision to form the joint maritime taskforce with the United States marks a departure in policy under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after efforts under his predecessor Theresa May to form a European-led grouping failed.

It follows a spate of incidents — including the seizure of ships — between Iran and Western powers, in particular Britain and the US, centered on the vital Strait of Hormuz thoroughfare.

“The UK is determined to ensure her shipping is protected from unlawful threats, and for that reason we have today joined the new maritime security mission in the Gulf,” Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement.

The announcement from Britain’s defense ministry did not detail which, if any, other countries would be joining the new naval coalition.

Britain was also at pains to stress that it had not changed its broader policy towards Tehran.

“We remain committed to working with Iran and our international partners to de-escalate the situation and maintain the nuclear deal,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran, on August 5, 2019. (AFP)

The announcement came hours after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Washington was increasingly isolated in its hardline stance against Tehran and its allies were too “ashamed” to join its forces in the Gulf.

He also dismissed US calls for talks as a sham, confirming that he had turned down an offer to meet President Donald Trump last month, despite the threat of US sanctions against him.

“Today, the United States is alone in the world and cannot create a coalition,” he said.

“Friendly countries are too ashamed of being in a coalition with them,” Zarif told a news conference, saying they had “brought this situation upon themselves, with law-breaking, by creating tensions and crises.”

Germany ‘not in favor’

Tehran and Washington have been locked in a battle of nerves since last year when Trump withdrew the US from a landmark 2015 deal placing curbs on Iran’s nuclear program and began reimposing sanctions.

Tensions have spiked since the Trump administration began stepping up a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran.

Drones have been downed and tankers seized by Iranian authorities or mysteriously attacked in Gulf waters, while Britain has detained an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar.

A speedboat of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard moves around a British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz by the Guard, in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, July 21, 2019. (Morteza Akhoondi/Mehr News Agency via AP)

At the height of the crisis, Trump called off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic Republic’s forces shot down a US drone.

Iran said on Sunday its forces had seized a “foreign” tanker carrying smuggled fuel in what would be the third such seizure in less than a month in Gulf waters — a conduit for much of the world’s crude oil.

Last month, the Guards said they had impounded the Panama-flagged MT Riah for alleged fuel smuggling as well as the British-flagged Stena Impero for breaking “international maritime rules.”

In response to such incidents, the US has been seeking to form a coalition — dubbed Operation Sentinel — to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

Last month Britain, while still led by former prime minister May, proposed a European-led maritime protection force.

But both plans struggled to find partners, with European countries believed to be reluctant to be dragged into a conflict.

Germany said on Monday that it was currently “not in favor” of joining an American-led coalition.

‘Left the table’

Meanwhile the US continues to target Iran economically, while holding out the prospect of possible talks.

It imposed sanctions against Zarif on Wednesday — under the same sanctions already applied to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — targeting any assets he has in America and squeezing his ability to travel.

An aerial view shows a speedboat of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on July 21, 2019, moving around the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz by the Guard, in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. (Morteza Akhoondi/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

Meanwhile, however, the New Yorker magazine reported that Senator Rand Paul had met Zarif in the US on July 15 and had Trump’s blessing when he invited the Iranian minister to go to the White House.

Zarif dismissed as disingenuous US “claims” it wants dialogue.

“They were the ones who left the table… Who do they want to negotiate with?” he said.

But Zarif did not rule out talks in the future, saying: “Even in times of war, negotiations will exist.”

 

 

Iran unveils three new precision-guided missiles 

August 6, 2019

Source: Iran unveils three new precision-guided missiles | The Times of Israel

Defense Minister Hatami says weapons meant to counter ‘viciousness and conspiracies of the Great Satan America and its mercenaries’

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami speaks at the Conference on International Security in Moscow, Russia, April 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami speaks at the Conference on International Security in Moscow, Russia, April 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran unveiled three precision-guided missiles on Tuesday, with the defense minister saying they show the country is ready to defend itself in the face of US “viciousness and conspiracies.”

The new lineup of air-to-air missiles dubbed the “Yasin,” “Balaban” and a new series of the “Ghaem” were developed jointly by the ministry and Sa Iran, also known as Iran Electronics Industries.

Defense Minister Brigadier-General Amir Hatami hailed their launch as “another significant achievement of power and dignity for the Islamic Republic of Iran,”

“It shows that despite the viciousness and conspiracies of the Great Satan America and its mercenaries, the defense ministry will not hesitate for a moment to defend the Islamic Republic and to expand security,” he said, quoted by Fars news agency.

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The Yasin is a smart, guided missile with folding wings that can be fired from a range of 50 kilometers (30 miles) of its target from manned or unmanned aircraft, Fars reported.

The Balaban is guided by GPS and sensors, equipped with folding wings and can be mounted under aircraft, while the Ghaem is a heat-seeking missile that can hit within 50 centimeters of a target.

They were unveiled amid tensions between Iran and the US and its allies in the Strait of Hormuz — a vital corridor linking oil producing countries in the Middle East to markets in Asia, Europe and North America.

The tensions arose after the US withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers last year and began stepping up a campaign of “maximum pressure” on the Islamic Republic.

Since May this year, ships have been targeted in mysterious attacks, drones have been downed and oil tankers seized in the strategic waters.

 

Rouhani warns war with Iran will be ‘mother of all wars,’ calls for peace 

August 6, 2019

Source: Rouhani warns war with Iran will be ‘mother of all wars,’ calls for peace | The Times of Israel

Iranian president says Tehran wants talks with Washington, but US must first lift sanctions

President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, July 3, 2019 (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, July 3, 2019 (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Tuesday that a war with his country would be the “mother of all wars,” as he called for peace as well.

“Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said. according to the Reuters news agency.

He also referred to Britain’s seizing off Gibraltar of an Iranian tanker suspected of carrying oil to war-torn Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

“A strait for a strait. It can’t be that the Strait of Hormuz is free for you and the Strait of Gibraltar is not free for us,” Rouhani said.

The Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar,, July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

Rouhani also said Tehran wanted talks with Washington but the United States must first lift sanctions it imposed on the Islamic Republic.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran favors talks and negotiations and, if the US really wants to talk, before anything else it should lift all sanctions,” he said in remarks aired live on state television.

Rouhani, speaking at the foreign ministry after meeting with his top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Iran was ready for talks regardless of whether or not the US remained party to Tehran’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

“Whether they want to come into the JCPOA or not, it’s up to them,” said Rouhani, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The Iranian foreign minister on Monday confirmed reports that he had turned down an offer from a US senator to meet President Donald Trump at the White House.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have soared since Trump announced last year that the US was withdrawing from the deal and began reimposing sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, smiles as he arrives for a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at United Nations headquarters, July 18, 2019 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

The nuclear deal set limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the removal of punitive economic sanctions.

Drones have been downed and tankers seized by Iranian authorities or mysteriously attacked in Gulf waters, while Britain has detained the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar.

At the height of the crisis, Trump called off airstrikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic Republic’s forces shot down a US drone.

Further ratcheting up tensions, Iran said on Sunday its forces had seized a “foreign” tanker carrying smuggled fuel in what would be the third such seizure in less than a month in Gulf waters — a conduit for much of the world’s crude oil.

Last month, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard said it had impounded the Panama-flagged MT Riah for alleged fuel smuggling as well as the British-flagged Stena Impero for breaking “international maritime rules.”

In response to such incidents, the US has been seeking to form a coalition — dubbed Operation Sentinel — to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

An oil tanker is on fire in the sea of Oman, June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/ISNA)

Last month Britain, while still led by former prime minister Theresa May, proposed a European-led maritime protection force.

But both plans struggled to find partners, with European countries believed to be reluctant to be dragged into a conflict.

Germany said on Monday that it was currently “not in favor” of joining an American-led coalition.

Meanwhile the US continues to target Iran economically, while holding out the prospect of possible talks.

It imposed sanctions against Zarif — under the same sanctions already applied to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — targeting any assets he has in America and squeezing his ability to travel.