Archive for September 22, 2019

After US sends troops to Mideast, Rouhani warns foreign forces to ‘stay away’

September 22, 2019

Source: After US sends troops to Mideast, Rouhani warns foreign forces to ‘stay away’ | The Times of Israel

Iranian president also says country will present peace plan at UN, while extending ‘hand of friendship and brotherhood’ to its neighbors

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani speaks at parliament in the capital Tehran on September 3, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that the presence of foreign forces creates “insecurity” in the Gulf, after the US ordered the deployment of more troops to the region.

“Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region,” Rouhani said in a televised speech at an annual military parade, adding that Iran would present to the UN a regional cooperation plan for peace.

Tensions escalated between Iran and the United States after devastating September 14 attacks on Saudi oil installations that Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Tehran.

Following the attacks, the United States announced on Friday that it was sending reinforcements to Saudi Arabia at “the kingdom’s request.”

An Iranian army member looks at a missile in an exhibition in which the Revolutionary Guard also displays pieces of the American drone Global Hawk shot down by the Guard in the Strait of Hormuz in June 2019, in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 21, 2019 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

In his speech on Sunday, Rouhani called on the foreign powers in the Gulf region to “stay away.”

“If they’re sincere, then they should not make our region the site of an arms race,” he said.

“Your presence has always brought pain and misery for the region. The farther you keep yourselves from our region and our nations, the more security there will be for our region.”

Rouhani said Iran would present a plan for peace to the United Nations in the coming days.

“In this sensitive and important historical moment, we announce to our neighbors, that we extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood to them,” he said.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Major General Hossein Salami warned Saturday that any country that attacks Iran would become the “main battlefield” and added the the Islamic Republic was “ready for any type of scenario.”

“Whoever wants their land to become the main battlefield, go ahead,” he told a news conference in Tehran. “We will never allow any war to encroach upon Iran’s territory.

“We hope that they don’t make a strategic mistake,” he said, listing past US military “adventures” against Iran.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami (2nd-R) and Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh (R), head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, looks at debris from what Iran presented as a downed US drone reportedly recovered within Iran’s territorial waters, at Tehran’s Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense museum, during the unveiling of an exhibition of what Iran says are US and other drones captured in its territory, on September 21, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the strikes on Saudi Arabia but the US says it has concluded the attacks involved cruise missiles from Iran and amounted to “an act of war.”

Saudi Arabia, which has been bogged down in a five-year war across its southern border in Yemen, has said Iran “unquestionably sponsored” the attacks.

The Saudi military displays what they say are an Iranian cruise missile and drones used in recent attack on its oil industry at Saudi Aramco’s facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, during a press conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, September 18, 2019. (Amr Nabil/AP)

The kingdom says the weapons used in the attacks were Iranian-made, but it stopped short of directly blaming its regional rival.

“Sometimes they talk of military options,” Salami said, apparently referring to the Americans.

Yet he warned that “a limited aggression will not remain limited” as Iran was determined to respond and would “not rest until the aggressor’s collapse.”

The United States upped the ante on Friday by announcing new sanctions against Iran’s central bank, with US President Donald Trump calling the measures the toughest America has ever imposed on another country.

Washington has imposed a series of sanctions against Tehran since unilaterally pulling out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal in May last year.

It already maintains sweeping sanctions on Iran’s central bank, but the US Treasury said Friday’s designation was over the regulator’s work in funding terrorism.


IDF says armed drone captured by Syria near Golan was Iranian, not Israeli 

September 22, 2019

Source: IDF says armed drone captured by Syria near Golan was Iranian, not Israeli | The Times of Israel

A military spokesman blames IRGC General Soleimani and notes incident occurred in same area where Israel foiled Iranian drone attack last month

This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows a drone which the Syrian state news agency says authorities have controlled and dismantled and was rigged with cluster bombs on the edge of the Israeli Golan Heights, southern Syria, September 21, 2019. (SANA via AP)

This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows a drone which the Syrian state news agency says authorities have controlled and dismantled and was rigged with cluster bombs on the edge of the Israeli Golan Heights, southern Syria, September 21, 2019. (SANA via AP)

The Israel Defense Forces on Saturday denied any connection to a drone captured by Syria near the Israeli Golan Heights, saying it was an Iranian aircraft.

“Today we saw the Syrians prove that [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem] Soleimani does what he wants in Syria and definitely doesn’t tell the Assad regime what he is up to,” wrote the IDF’s Arabic spokesman Avichai Adraee.

Earlier Saturday, Syria’s state news agency SANA said authorities have captured and dismantled a drone rigged with cluster bombs near the border with the Israeli Golan Heights.

SANA gave no further details about the drone but posted several photos.

The news agency also reported that Syrian forces found Israeli-made vehicles and material in Bariqa, a village near the deserted border city of Quneitra.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.(YouTube screenshot)

Israel frequently conducts airstrikes and missile attacks inside war-torn Syria but rarely confirms them. Israel says it targets mostly bases of Iranian forces and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in Syria.

But Adraee said it was definitely “not an IDF drone,” noting that it was found in the same area where the IDF attacked last month to foil an Iranian drone attack on Israel.

A still from a video purporting to show an Israeli strike on Iran-backed forces in Syria on August 24, 2019. (screen capture: Twitter)

In that case the Israeli military said its strike targeted operatives from the Quds Force as well as Shiite militias who had been planning on sending “kamikaze” attack drones into Israel armed with explosives.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said it was not clear if Syrian troops or members of Hezbollah downed the drone Saturday. Hezbollah has fighters in different parts of Syria where they are fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

The incident came two days after another drone was destroyed over the Damascus suburb of Aqraba. That’s the same suburb where an Israeli airstrike killed two Hezbollah operatives last month.

No one claimed responsibility for the drones.

In neighboring Lebanon, a government investigation concluded Thursday that two alleged Israeli drones were on an attack mission when they crashed in the capital in August, one of them armed with 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of explosives.

The type of UAV used in the Beirut attack has raised considerable questions about the drones’ provenance, with analysts suggesting they could be Iranian.

Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab shows the box that he alleged carried explosives in a captured drone that fell over a southern Beirut suburb as he speaks during a press conference in the Ministry of Defense in Yarze, on September 19, 2019. (JOSEPH EID / AFP)

Israeli media have reported that the drones in Beirut targeted an office housing a “planetary mixer,” a large industrial machine that is critical to making precision-guided missiles. Hezbollah denies it produces such weapons in Lebanon.

Israel has said it would not allow the group to have precision-guided missiles, as that would be a game-changing technology.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy, and the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to be its most immediate military threat. Hezbollah has a battle-tested army that has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces in Syria’s civil war.

Israel has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria aimed at preventing alleged Iranian arms transfers to Hezbollah. But in August, Israel was believed to have widened its campaign and struck Iranian or Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Lebanon as well.


Airstrikes said to target Iran-backed militia base in Iraq 

September 22, 2019

Source: Airstrikes said to target Iran-backed militia base in Iraq | The Times of Israel

Popular Mobilization Force targets attacked for third time in a week; some have blamed Israel for strikes

Illustrative: Popular Mobilization Forces members stand by a burning truck after a drone attack blamed on Israel near Qaim border crossing, in Anbar province, Iraq, August 25, 2019. (AP Photo)

Illustrative: Popular Mobilization Forces members stand by a burning truck after a drone attack blamed on Israel near Qaim border crossing, in Anbar province, Iraq, August 25, 2019. (AP Photo)

An airstrike was reported Sunday afternoon in western Iraq, targeting a military base belonging to an Iran-backed force — the third such attack on the militia in a week and the fourth in a month.

“An unidentified aircraft targeted the area surrounding a military base next to the al-Murssinat [military] airport in the western part of the al-Anbar province,” Lebanese television station al-Mayadeen quoted sources as saying.

There were no casualties in the attack, the report said.

It added that the targeted military base belongs to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella group of largely Iran-backed militias.

On Thursday, Arabic-language media reported that unknown aircraft attacked PMF posts in the Boukamal region of eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, killing at least five people and wounding nine, after an earlier similar strike two days earlier.

Some Syrian and Iraqi outlets have said Israel was suspected of being behind the strikes. There were no such public allegations by Syrian or Iraqi officials.

On September 9, aircraft targeted an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in the Boukamal region, killing at least 18 fighters and destroying at least eight storehouses. A Syrian security official said at the time that Israeli jets were behind the attack but denied there were casualties.

Satellite image showing the aftermath of an overnight airstrike on an alleged Iranian military base in Syria’s Boukamal region, near the Iraqi border, on September 9, 2019. (ImageSat International)

Since mid-July, eight arms depots and training camps belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces have been targeted in apparent attacks.

The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network has reported that the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group also maintains a presence in the Boukamal region.

The PMF has blamed both Israel and the US for the string of blasts and drone sightings at its bases. Israeli officials have not publicly commented on these allegations, though Netanyahu has hinted at the possibility.


Pro-Iran PMU forces take over Iraq’s Saudi, Jordanian borders, threaten Israel from the east – DEBKAfile

September 22, 2019

Source: Pro-Iran PMU forces take over Iraq’s Saudi, Jordanian borders, threaten Israel from the east – DEBKAfile

Iran was on its next move by the time the US announced on Sept. 21 the deployment of more troops and enhanced air and missile defense systems for Saudi Arabia and the UAE in response to the attack on Saudi oil facilities.

As the USS Nitze destroyer deployed to the northern Red Sea opposite the Saudi coast, armed with Aegis combat systems for tracking and intercepting cruise missiles, Iraqi Shiite Population Mobilization Forces (PMU) swarmed up to Iraq’s borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan, DEBKAfile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources reveal.

Washington’s cautious response to the attack on Saudi Arabia and US sanctions were met by Iranian aggression in full momentum and its heightened threat to Saudi Arabia and US allies. By posting its Iraqi proxy PMU forces on the two border regions, Tehran directly threatens the Saudi capital Riyadh from the north and Israel from the east.

The Iraqi militia far outstrips Iraq’s national army in scale and armament, possessing new tanks, ground-to-ground missiles and an array of explosive UAVs.

This is also Tehran’s countermove for the Saudi-Israeli air strikes on the IRGC Al Qods-PMU military compounds at Abu Kamal in eastern Syria and Al Qaim on the Iraqi side of the border. (See the previous DEBKA report).

According to our sources, the PMU’s double border takeover began on Sept 18 and was in place by Saturday. Sept. 21. The operation was set up by the Al Qods chief, Iran’s Middle East commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who spent part of last week in Baghdad in conference with PMU leaders. An officer called Col. Qassem Masliyah was appointed to lead Iran’s seizures of the two key borders. The operation was codenamed “The Will of Victory.”

The Iraqi militia used the Iraqi national army’s operations against ISIS remnants in western Iraq to camouflage its movements, at times even exploiting the Iraqi air force for its secret purpose. However, by Sunday, Sept. 22, The Will of Victory cat was out of the bag. Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered the army to recover the border regions from the PMU. This was largely an empty step, since the Iraqi army is no match for the powerful pro-Iranian militia and its commanders are unlikely to take on the challenge.