Archive for October 2019

Lebanon’s plunge into civil warfare shakes Iran, Hizballah as Mid East powerhouses – DEBKAfile

October 30, 2019

Source: Lebanon’s plunge into civil warfare shakes Iran, Hizballah as Mid East powerhouses – DEBKAfile

The Hizballah “special forces” battling Lebanese protesters are bound to swap their sticks for live ammo as Lebanon plunges into regime breakup amid a crumbling economy.

Saad Hariri’s resignation as prime minister on Tuesday, Oct. 29, did not of itself greatly impact the declining political situation in Beirut – not only because he was not a strong leader, but because the sustained protest across the country had already cast Lebanon into three major power groupings in which he had no place:
DEBKAfile outlines those groupings:

  1. The ruling caste led by President Michel Aoun and kin who are standing aloof from the turbulence on the streets.
  2. The protesters who have managed to sustain the momentum of their demonstrations into a third week, while also preserving their non-secular national unity of purpose – hitherto unheard of in divided Lebanon – in their fight to be rid of a corrupt ruling administration. This could throw the country into chaos or end in each group reverting to its ethnical-religious roots for civil war.
  3. Hizballah, which is watching its power bases in central government fall apart. While sending his “special forces” to break up the street demonstrations by force, Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah made the fatal mistake, maybe out of panic, of lining up with the central government targeted by the protest movement. This gave credence to the demonstrators’ demand to remove Hizballah from any new national ruling administration resulting tomorrow from their struggle.

It may be taken for granted that that Lebanon’s various religious and ethnic groups and factions have reacted to the burgeoning power of the street by busily topping up their stores of weapons, ready to set up the lines for defending their communities. The elements of civil war are therefore already being put in place.

Here, Hizballah has the advantage – a paramilitary armed force unmatched by any of its rivals. This Shiite group commands 25,000 men under arms, of whom 6,000 spent six years on the battlefields of Syria, and an arsenal provided by Iran of some 130,000 assorted rockets. No rival group has the slightest chance of prevailing over Nasrallah’s army.

Iran deploys precision-missiles to Yemen for attacks against Israel – TV7 Israel News 29.10.19 

October 30, 2019

 

 

Israeli embassies on alert, air defenses adjusted in face of Iran threat 

October 29, 2019

Source: Israeli embassies on alert, air defenses adjusted in face of Iran threat – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have warned in recent days of the increased threat posed by the Iran.

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 OCTOBER 29, 2019 12:23
Israeli embassies on alert, air defenses adjusted in face of Iran threat

Israel’s Air Force has adjusted its air defenses, and several Israeli embassies around the world have raised their alert level in light of increased tensions from Iran.

According to reports in Hebrew-language media, a series of adjustments were made to IAF air defense systems in light of the fear that Iran might try to carry out an attack using cruise missiles or suicide drones similar to the October attack against Saudi Arabia.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have warned in recent days of the increased threat posed by the Islamic Republic, which they say is getting bolder and more willing to respond to Israeli attacks on Iranian and Iranian-backed militias and infrastructure.

“Iran wants to develop precision-guided missiles that can hit any target in Israel within 5-10 meters: It’s doing it,” Netanyahu said Monday evening during an event at the Jewish Agency.  “Iran wants to use Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen as bases to attack Israel with statistical missiles and precision-guided missiles. That is a great, great danger.”

At the event, United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin added that the US is planning more sanctions to place on Iran in its “maximum pressure campaign.”

While Iran has several rockets which could reach Israeli territory, including the Khoramshahr 2 with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, it is unclear if they transferred such missiles to Yemen.

According to a report in the online magazine Breaking Defense, Israel has recently upgraded the Barak-8ER system with an extended range to protect against cruise missiles, a land-based configuration of the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) or the Barak-8 naval air defense system.

Boaz Levy, Israel Aerospace Industries VP and general manager, was quoted in the report as saying that the upgraded version of the Barak-8ER system has enhanced anti-tactical ballistic missile capabilities and will be capable of protecting Israeli cities from cruise missiles.

Able to shoot down enemy aircraft at a range of 90 kilometers, the Barak-8ER is designed to defend against a myriad of short- to long-range airborne threats such as incoming missiles, planes and drones at both low or high altitudes. In July, the Israeli military successfully tested the Barak 8, intercepting a small drone simulating an enemy aircraft.

The system integrates several advanced state-of-the-art systems including a digital radar, a command and control system, tracking radar launchers, interceptors with advanced homing radio frequency (RF) seekers for targets with low radar cross sections and high maneuverability, data link and system-wide connectivity. It is also able to engage multiple targets simultaneously in severe saturation scenarios and can be operated in all types of weather.

In addition to the Barak-8ER, Israel has a comprehensive, protective umbrella able to counter the growing missile threats from its enemies, which includes the Iron Dome designed to shoot down short-range rockets; the Arrow (Arrow-2 and Arrow-3) system which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere; and the newly operational David’s Sling missile defense system which is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, and cruise missiles fired at a range of between 40 km. to 300 km.

Israel continuously improves the technology behind the country’s anti-missile systems; all systems have gone through upgrades over the past few years.

Israel also has three Patriot system batteries and has used them against suspicious aerial vehicles, including shooting down drones and a Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet that infiltrated into Israel’s northern Golan Heights last year.

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.

 

Is Israel equipped to win a war against Iran? 

October 29, 2019

Source: Is Israel equipped to win a war against Iran? – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

While Israel’s Air Force is strongest in the region, it’s old.

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 OCTOBER 29, 2019 16:55
IDF weapons

In an attempt to degrade the Iranian threats, Israel has been carrying out a war-between-wars campaign since 2013 against Iranian and Hezbollah targets. This past year saw the most operational activity in that campaign since it began, on all borders and beyond.

It’s an effective campaign, but the increased instability in the Middle East as well as Iran’s continued work on their long-range precision missile project, has led the IDF to assess that the chances for direct confrontation has gone up significantly.

Despite the fact that Israel’s enemies are not interested in war, the IDF has “increased it’s pace of preparations” for confrontation, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi told journalists on Wednesday. “On both the northern and southern fronts the situation is tense and fragile and deteriorate into a confrontation,” he said.

In response, Israel has increased their defenses. The IDF has also published it’s new multi-year plan for the military. The “Momentum” plan aims to make it deadlier, faster and better trained to go up against the threats facing it and plans to procure a significant amount of precision guided missiles and mid-sized drones as well as additional air defense batteries using money from the $3.8 billion a year Israel receives from the United States every year under the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding.

But the heavy cost of the multi-year plan needs a budget in order to pay for the new weapons and defensive systems and with no government sitting in the Knesset, the Finance Ministry has not approved the necessary budget increase.

Israel’s Air Force – while the strongest in the region – needs to procure new fighter jets, helicopters and refueling tankers in order to win a war against a foe over 2,000 kilometers away.
Many of the IAF’s aircraft are between 30-50 years old and a deal to purchase new aircraft has been reported to cost an estimated $11 billion.

First used by the IAF in 1969, the Yas’ur helicopters are the air force’s primary helicopter used regularly to transport soldiers and equipment. While the ageing helicopters have been upgraded with 20 new electronic systems and missile defense, the IAF will still need to replace them by 2025 when they will be over 50 years old.

In March, the annual State Comptroller report recommended that the IAF replacing the ageing aircraft as soon as possible as “prolonging the life of the Yas’ur is liable to endanger human life and may have significant operational implications and substantial maintenance costs.”

The IAF plans to buy some 20 new heavy-lift helicopters—in other words, one squadron—to replace the current CH-53 Sea Stallion squadron at the Tel Nof Base: Lockheed Martin Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion, the same maker of the Yas’ur, and Boeing’s Ch-47F Chinook helicopter.

But, the decision between the two hasn’t been made yet and the longer it takes to sign a contract to replace the Yas’ur, the possibility of a failure in the platform increases.

In parallel to the helicopters, the IAF needs to retain it’s qualitative military edge and modernize an essential squadron of its fighter fleet. Israel’s Air Force is also set to decide on a third squadron of F-35I jets or Boeing’s latest F-15I fighter jets.

The IAF has already received 12 F-35I “Adir” stealth fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin and is expected to receive a total of 50 to make two full squadrons by 2024.

In addition to the fifth-generation F-35I, Israel is in dire need of new fighter aircraft before the current ones reach the end of their life-cycle, something which is creeping ever closer. Most of the IAF’s F-15s are over 30 years old with the majority acquired in the second half of the 1970s and a more advanced squadron of F-15s arrived in Israel in the 1990s.

Israel’s Air Force is leaning towards a mix of both the F-35s and F-15is, allowing the IAF to carry out a number of complex operations, including any possible confrontation with Iran on its borders.

While it is considered one of the world’s most advanced fighter jet, the stealth F-35I aircraft is limited in the weapons they are able to carry as they have to be stored in internal munition boxes in order to maintain a low radar signature.

The F-15I model that Israel is interested in purchasing is able to carry large quantities of various types of munitions, advanced radar systems, and various other upgrades to the earlier models. Since it is not a stealth plane, Boeing has designed its wings to be able to carry additional bombs and missiles.

In addition, the IAF is also leaning towards purchasing the V-22 tilt-rotar aircraft which would allow for special operations.

But if a confrontation breaks out far from Israel’s borders, the IAF will need a refueler for its jets. Many of the current refueler aircraft which are required for long-range missions, the Re’em (Boeing 707) tankers, are nearing the age of 60 and due to their age, Israel has been forced to find replacement parts by dismantling older planes bought from countries like Brazil or online.

While the IAF is said to be considering buying used Boeing 767 commercial aircraft and converting them for airborne refuelling of combat planes, it is also considering Boeing’s KC-46 tanker which has a range of 11,830 km and the capacity to unload some 207,000 pounds of fuel in over 64 different types of aircraft.

The decisions need to be made as soon as possible and to do so, Israel needs to form a government to allow the military to make a proper budget.

There’s no more time to waste.

A comparison by international defense site Global Firepower (GFP) found that Israel’s military slipped below it’s arch-nemesis Iran in the ranking of military powers, coming in at 17 versus 14.

The site allows for one to compare two specific countries against each other, showing military data such as total manpower available, active personnel, total amount of reservists, and total military personnel.  The site also shows the total amount of arms such as aircraft, tanks, naval assets as well as artillery strength.

According to the site Israel’s total military personnel stands at an estimated 615,000 compared to Iran’s 934,000. But Iran’s total population is significantly larger than Israel at 83,024,745 versus Israel’s 8,424,904.

A comparison between Iran and Israel shows that while Iran had a significantly larger naval assets than Israel (398 versus 65), while Israel had far greater tank strength (2,760 versus 1,634) and has some 6,541 armored fighting vehicles compared to Iran’s 2,345. According to the site, the total amount of aircraft between the two countries are close with Israel having 595 versus Iran’s 509.

Iran has been working to bolster the country’s ageing naval fleet and has commissioned its first indigenously developed Fateh-class submarine outfitted with a guided-missile system capable of launching submarine-launched cruise missiles as well as anti-ship missiles and torpedoes.

While Tehran has said that it’s missile program is defensive in nature and provides deterrent capabilities, Israel and the United States have repeatedly warned against Iran’s missile program, claiming that the missiles tested by Tehran are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

 

Gantz: I’ll always prefer diplomacy to thwart Iran, but all options on the table

October 29, 2019

Source: Gantz: I’ll always prefer diplomacy to thwart Iran, but all options on the table | The Times of Israel

Addressing Jewish Agency leaders, prime ministerial hopeful vows to advance frozen Western Wall agreement and to nurture religious pluralism

Benny Gantz speaking at the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors in Jerusalem, October 29, 2019 (Ofek Avshalom)

Benny Gantz speaking at the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors in Jerusalem, October 29, 2019 (Ofek Avshalom)

Blue and White Benny Gantz said Tuesday he would always prefer diplomatic means to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, though he stressed that, if all else fails, “all options are on the table.”

Addressing the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, which this week convened in Jerusalem, the prime ministerial candidate vowed to implement a plan to upgrade a pluralistic prayer platform at the Western Wall that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had indefinitely frozen. He also promised to embrace Jewish pluralism.

Israel’s security situation is fragile, and the most acute threat remains Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and its regional aggression, Gantz said.

“All options are on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran, though I will always, and we should always, favor diplomacy,” he declared, speaking in English. “But if we have to, then all options [are] on the table. It’s not a slogan. This is real in life. I know what I’m talking about.”

Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff and political novice, has been accused by his political rivals from right-wing parties as having supported the 2015 nuclear deal six world powers struck with the Islamic Republic.

Netanyahu was one of the accord’s foremost critics, saying it enabled Iran to acquire a large nuclear arsenal within a short amount of time.

These issues require less talk — more action. Through diplomatic channels, backchannels and, if needed, operations

In his 15-minute speech, Gantz did not mention Netanyahu by name but hinted that he is talking too much and doing too little about Israel’s security.

“Blue and White is the biggest faction in Israel’s parliament. Our leadership’s 100 years of combined security expertise is unmatched by any other faction in the building,” he said, referring to party leaders and fellow ex-army chiefs Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi.

“I am very familiar with the needs, risks and responses required,” Gantz continued. “These issues require less talk — more action. Through diplomatic channels, backchannels and, if needed, operations.”

Citing Israel’s many challenges, he called for a “broad liberal unity government” that was stable, responsible, and pragmatic.

In a dig at Netanyahu, who is suspect in three separate corruption cases, Gantz went on to say that Israelis must know that their leadership “is pragmatic and has a steady hand on the tiller for the good of the State of Israel — not for personal legal issues.”

Gantz dedicated a significant part of his speech to Israel-Diaspora relations, vowing that Jerusalem will always back Jewish communities across the globe.

“As a former chief of staff of the IDF, as the political leader tasked with forming the Jewish state’s next government — and above all, as a Jew — I say to our brothers and sisters around the world: Israel stands with, behind you, and where it’s needed, in front of you,” he said.

Over the last decade, the ties between Jews in Israel and elsewhere — which he called the Jews’ “secret weapon” — have begun to deteriorate, Gantz said.

“When I will be the prime minister of Israel I will embrace all streams of Judaism,” he declared to raucous applause from the Jewish Agency delegates. “We are part of an inspiringly colorful mosaic of cultures and traditions. And I will nurture this pluralism.”

Jewish girls at the pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City, January 3, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He also promised to “promote the implementation” of a currently frozen agreement to make the Western Wall plaza more accommodating to non-Orthodox streams. “The Western Wall is long enough [for] all of us, together,” he said.

The plan, approved by the cabinet in January 2016, would have seen the establishment of a properly prepared pavilion for pluralistic prayer — as opposed to current temporary arrangements — under joint oversight involving all major streams of Judaism.

Many Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America, bitterly denounced the government’s backtracking, threatening to protest until it was reversed.

Netanyahu, however, has consistently rebutted calls to unfreeze the 2016 agreement, citing his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners’ staunch opposition to any move that could be seen as legitimizing pluralistic Judaism.

 

US Mid-East forces relocate out of Iranian cruise missile range. The IDF begins overhaul – DEBKAfile

October 29, 2019

Source: US Mid-East forces relocate out of Iranian cruise missile range. The IDF begins overhaul – DEBKAfile

The US like Israel has no adequate answer for Iran’s cruise missile and drone warfare. This was the subtext of PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s warning on Monday, Oct. 28, that Tehran is deploying those missiles against Israel in Yemen, as well as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, at a joint news conference with visiting US Secretary Treasury Steven Mnunchin.

This alarming gap in US and Israeli defenses shot into sight in the Sept. 14, Iranian attack on Saudi oil infrastructure.  It has galvanized the US armed forces into starting to remove sensitive elements out of range, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.

The Saudi operation revealed both Iran’s audacity in going for a major Saudi oil center but also the unexpected accuracy of its weapons, the hitherto unknown ability to strike targets with the precision of 5-10 m, as Netanyahu stressed on Monday.

Iran’s newfound capabilities provided the context for the US Navy’s announcement on Oct. 25 that the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group had been moved out of the Gulf into the Arabian Sea. This move reduced the ability of the F/A-18 fighter-bombers on its decks to barely fly there and back for reaching an Iranian coast target only 800km away. The threat to the mighty US strike group was considered real enough for the US military command to forego keeping all parts of Iran within its sights.
The same rationale has spurred US CENTCOM to start emptying out its air force command posts at the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar for relocation at a base in central Saudi Arabia. A direct Iranian hit could cripple US command and intelligence centers in Qatar.

The soothing IDF statement on Monday night that Israel’s counter-missile defense systems were being overhauled for meeting the new menaces was timely. It was also meaningless in as far as providing any assurance that an answer had been found for Iran’s cruise missiles, either by Israel or indeed the United States. After intense cooperation with the US Missile Defense Agency for decades and spending tens of billions of dollars to develop Israel’s four-tier missile defense system, both are suddenly caught short by their vulnerability to Iran’s newest tools of war. Netanyahu’s comments on Monday connected to his earlier disclosure that Israel will have to urgently spend several billion more dollars to meet the new capabilities developed by Tehran.

 

‘Iran is deploying missiles in Yemen that can strike Israel’

October 28, 2019

Source: ‘Iran is deploying missiles in Yemen that can strike Israel’ – www.israelhayom.com

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls on US to stop Iran’s “plunge for everything” in Middle East. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promises more sanctions against Tehran.

Iran is deploying precision missiles in Yemen that are capable of hitting Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at a press conference with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

According to Netanyahu, Tehran’s ambition is to obtain the capacity to launch a precision strike on any target in the Middle East.

On Monday, Mnuchin pledged to increase economic sanctions against Iran. He says the administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” is halting Iranian aggression.

Mnuchin met Monday in Jerusalem with Netanyahu, who called on Washington to impose additional sanctions to stop what he called Iran’s “plunge for everything” in the Middle East.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures while standing next to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as they prepare to deliver joint statements during their meeting in Jerusalem, Monday

At a joint press conference, Netanyahu said Iran’s ability to project power in the region “is diminished to the extent that you can tighten your sanctions and make the availability of cash more difficult for them.”

Mnuchin is heading a delegation to the Middle East and India to discuss economic ties and counterterrorism initiatives. He is joined by US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was to meet with Netanyahu and his key rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz.

Mnuchin says American sanctions aim to force Iran to stop “their bad activities and exporting terrorism, looking to create nuclear capabilities, and missiles.”

Earlier Monday, the International Monetary Fund reported that Iran would need oil priced at $194.6 a barrel to balance its budget next year.

Hurt by tighter US sanctions, Iran – a key member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) – is expected to have a fiscal deficit of 4.5% this year and 5.1% next year, the fund said in a report on Monday.

On Friday, international benchmark Brent crude closed trading at just above $62 a barrel.

Iran saw its oil revenues surge after a 2015 nuclear pact agreed with six major powers ended a sanctions regime imposed three years earlier over its disputed nuclear program.

Iran’s economy is expected to shrink by 9.5% this year, compared to a prior estimate of a 6% contraction, the IMF has said, but real gross domestic product (GDP) growth is expected to be flat next year.

Parts of this article were originally published by i24NEWS