Archive for November 3, 2019

Netanyahu: We have no better friends than Christian

November 3, 2019

 

 

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei renews ban on talks with U.S. – report

November 3, 2019

Source: Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei renewsan on talks with U.S. – report – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

“America has always borne hostility towards Iran.”

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN, REUTERS
 NOVEMBER 3, 2019 14:42
Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei renews ban on talks with U.S. - report

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sought to prevent negotiations with the US administration of Donald Trump, arguing the Americans will not make any concessions. “Negotiating with the US is futile,” he said Sunday. “Those who believe that negotiations with the enemy will solve our problems are 100% wrong.”

His logic is that the US won’t make concessions. He also said the US wants to bring Iran to the table by forcing it to its knees. “Nothing will reduce sanctions and pressure,” he said. In addition he pointed out that Iran now has precision guided missiles that can travel 2,000km that can hit a target within a meter of accuracy. So why would Iran need to negotiate away its rights to these missiles, he argued.

Relations between the two foes have reached a crisis over the past year after Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and world powers under which Tehran accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.

“They are currently saying ‘don’t be active in the region, do not help the resistance [i.e Hezbollah], don’t be in some countries [i.e Syria], and stop your missile defense and production,’” the Ayatollah noted. He said that if Iran bends to these demands then the US will demand Iran become a secular country and let women walk around showing their hair. “American demands will never stop.”

Washington has reimposed sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force Iran to negotiate to reach a wider deal. Khamenei has banned Iranian officials from holding such talks unless the United States returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions.

It is a slippery slope for Iran’s regime, if it gives up its missiles, it might have to give up laws trying to control how women dress. It won’t allow the US to trim its air defense or trim its use of the veil. For the supreme leader all are entwined. Khamenei’s comments matter because the Trump administration was rumored to want a meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. Now that won’t be in the cards.

Iran has said that it will wait for the next US president. It will not accept any conditions and the US would have to return to the Iran Deal and end sanctions to start any discussion. Iran’s view is that the US has failed in discussions with Cuba and North Korea, so a erratic US administration is not worth dealing with. Anyway, from the regime’s point of view, Iran has been very successful lately in the region.
The anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution is marked in Iran with demonstrations of crowds chanting “Death to America” across the country.

The embassy capture cemented the hostility between the two countries which has remained a central fact in Middle East geopolitics and an important part of Iran’s national ideology. Iran, which accused the United States of supporting brutal policies of its ousted Shah, held 52 Americans for 444 days at the embassy, which it called the Den of Spies.

“The U.S. has not changed since decades ago … it continues the same aggressive, vicious behavior and the same international dictatorship,” Khamenei said.

“America has always borne hostility towards Iran.”

 

Terror From Gaza 

November 3, 2019

 

 

Pentagon releases first video, photos of Delta Force raid on Baghdadi compound 

November 3, 2019

Source: Pentagon releases first video, photos of Delta Force raid on Baghdadi compound | The Times of Israel

Gen. McKenzie says Baghdadi blew up 2 children when he detonated suicide vest; 4 women, 2 men wearing suicide vests killed when refusing surrender; US on alert for ‘retribution’

US Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, speaks as a picture of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is seen during a press briefing October 30, 2019 at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The general who oversaw the US raid on Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi provided the most detailed account yet of the operation Wednesday and said the US is on alert for possible “retribution attacks” by extremists.

Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said al-Baghdadi’s remains were buried at sea within 24 hours of his death inside an underground tunnel where he fled as special operations soldiers closed in on him.

The Pentagon released the first government photos and video clips of the nighttime operation, including one showing Delta Force commandos approaching the walls of the compound in which al-Baghdadi and others were found.

Another video showed American airstrikes on other militants who fired at helicopters carrying soldiers to the compound.

Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, speaks as a picture of the operation targeting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is seen during a press briefing October 30, 2019 at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

The US also bombed the compound after the soldiers completed the mission so that it would not stand as a shrine to al-Baghdadi.

“It looks pretty much like a parking lot with large potholes right now,” McKenzie said.

An image made from video posted on a militant website April 29, 2019, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, being interviewed by his group’s Al-Furqan media outlet. (Al-Furqan media via AP, File)

The attacking American force launched from an undisclosed location inside Syria for the one-hour helicopter ride to the compound, McKenzie said.

Two children died with al-Baghdadi when he detonated a bomb vest, McKenzie said, adding that this was one fewer than originally reported. He said the children appeared to be under the age of 12. Eleven other children were escorted from the site unharmed. Four women and two men who were wearing suicide vests and refused to surrender inside the compound were killed, McKenzie said.

The general said the military dog that was injured during the raid is a four-year veteran with US Special Operations Command and had been on approximately 50 combat missions.

The dog, a male whose name has not been released because the mission was classified, was injured when he came in contact with exposed live electrical cables in the tunnel after al-Baghdadi detonated his vest, McKenzie said. He said the dog has returned to duty.

The military working dog that was injured tracking down Islamic State terror group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a tunnel beneath his compound in Syria, in the photo provided by the White House via the Twitter account of US President Donald Trump, after it was declassified by Trump. (White House via AP)

Baghdadi was identified by comparing his DNA to a sample collected in 2004 by US forces in Iraq, where he had been detained.

The US managed to collect “substantial” amounts of documentation and electronics during the raid, McKenzie said, but he would not elaborate. Such efforts are a standard feature of raids against high-level extremist targets and can be useful in learning more about the group’s plans.

Although the raid was successful, McKenzie said it would be a mistake to conclude that the Islamic State has been defeated.

“It will take them some time to re-establish someone to lead the organization, and during that period of time their actions may be a little bit disjointed,” the general said. “They will be dangerous. We suspect they will try some form of retribution attack, and we are postured and prepared for that.”

A working military dog is displayed on a monitor as US Central Command Commander Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie speaks at a joint press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, on the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi raid. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In outlining the operation, McKenzie said al-Baghdadi had been at the compound in Syria’s northwest Idlib province for “a considerable period,” but he was not specific.

He said the raid was briefed to President Donald Trump on Friday, and McKenzie made the decision to go ahead on Saturday morning.

Video of the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi raid is displayed as U.S. Central Command Commander Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie speaks, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, at a joint press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

McKenzie offered no new details about al-Baghdadi’s final moments.

“He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up while his people stayed on the grounds,” he said when asked by a reporter about al-Baghdadi’s last moments and Trump’s description of the Islamic State leader as “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” to his death.

Other senior Pentagon officials, including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said they could not confirm Trump’s description.

Several times this month, President Donald Trump has said he is withdrawing from Syria and that the troops are “coming home.” But, in fact, the US military remains in the country, shifting positions and gearing up to execute Trump’s order to secure Syria’s oil fields — not for the Syrian government but for the Kurds. Trump also has said he wants to “keep” the oil, although it’s unclear what he means.

In this photo provided by the White House, US President Donald Trump is joined by from left, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary mark Esper, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans, Deputy Director for Special Operations on the Joint Staff, October 26, 2019, in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington. (Shealah Craighead/The White House via AP)

Earlier Wednesday, the acting homeland security secretary, Kevin McAleenan, told a congressional hearing that US security agencies have been reminded of the potential for al-Baghdadi’s death to inspire his followers to launch an attack “in the immediate aftermath.”

Russell Travers, the acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the same hearing that he does not believe al-Baghdadi’s death will have “much impact” on the organization.

“If there were significant attacks that were in the planning, that planning will continue. It won’t have that much effect,” Travers aid.

Within Syria and Iraq, he added, IS has at least 14,000 fighters.

“That’s an important number,” he said. “Because five, six years ago, when ISIS was at its low point, they were down under a thousand. To us, this tells us the insurgency has a lot of options.”

FBI Director Chris Wray said the biggest concern in the United States was the “virtual caliphate” that inspires Americans to pledge allegiance to IS and commit acts of violence in the group’s name even without traveling to Syria.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he worries that despite al-Baghdadi’s death, the conditions in Syria “are ripe for ISIS to reconstitute.”

 

Iraqis focus anger on Iran, as they defy crackdown to hold biggest protests yet |

November 3, 2019

Source: Iraqis focus anger on Iran, as they defy crackdown to hold biggest protests yet | The Times of Israel

Protesters march over an Iranian flag painted on the pavement with a swastika added to it, as many criticize Tehran’s interference

Anti-government protesters gather in Tahrir Square during ongoing protests in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Anti-government protesters gather in Tahrir Square during ongoing protests in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

BAGHDAD (AP) — Tens of thousands of Iraqis massed in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Friday in the biggest demonstrations since anti-government protests erupted a month ago, defying security forces that have killed scores of people and harshly criticizing Iran’s involvement in the country’s affairs.

The square and the wide boulevards leading into it were packed with flag-waving protesters, as security forces reinforced barricades on two bridges leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of government. The protesters want sweeping change to the political system established after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, which they blame for widespread corruption, high unemployment and poor public services.

At least 255 people have been killed in two major waves of protests in the past month, including five who died Friday of wounds sustained earlier, according to security and medical officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief reporters. At least 350 people were wounded Friday as security forces fired tear gas grenades and rubber bullets to drive people back from the bridges.

Many protesters directed their rage at Iran, which emerged as a major power broker after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and has close ties to powerful political parties and state-backed militias that were mobilized to battle the Islamic State group but have now become an imposing political faction.

Videos circulated online of a group of protesters holding a poster showing Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the head of its elite Quds force, Gen. Qassim Soleimani, with their faces crossed out. The video, which showed protesters beating the poster with their shoes, appeared to have been filmed Thursday in Tahrir Square. On Friday, protesters marched over an Iranian flag painted on the pavement with a swastika added to it.

Joseph Sunny@Asylumseeker111

Embedded video

This month’s protests in Iraq and similar demonstrations in Lebanon are fueled by local grievances and mainly directed at the political elite, but they also pose a challenge to Iran, which closely backs both governments. An increasingly violent crackdown in Iraq has raised fears of a backlash by Iran and its heavily armed local allies.

On Friday, a group of about 50 militia supporters showed up at the protest, prompting other demonstrators to chant: “Iran take your hands off, the people don’t want you!”

The militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, said in a statement that they stood with the protesters and were committed to protecting them. But the statement warned of “foreign interests” that it said wanted to sow division in order to cause “internal fighting, chaos and destruction.”

People walk by an Arabic sentence writing on the asphalt reads ‘Down with Iran’ near the site of the protests at Tahrir Square during anti-government ongoing protests in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

The remarks echoed those made by Khamenei and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon, which has accused unidentified foreign powers of manipulating the protests.

Iraq’s influential Shiite clerical establishment, which is seen as politically independent, condemned “attacks on peaceful protesters and all forms of unjustified violence,” saying those responsible should be held accountable.

Shiite cleric Ahmed al-Safi, who delivered a Friday sermon on behalf of the clerical leadership, said authorities should not allow “any person or group or biased entity, or any regional or international party” to impose its view on the Iraqi people — an apparent reference to Iran.

The sermon was delivered in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, where masked men suspected of being linked to the security forces opened fire on protesters earlier this week, killing at least 18 people.

In this Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019 photo, mourners and protesters carry the flag-draped coffin of Mohammed Sadiq during his funeral during a demonstration at Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq. Sadiq was killed while participating in the anti-government ongoing protests, his family said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Amnesty International says security forces in Baghdad have fired military-grade tear gas grenades directly into the crowds, causing horrific wounds and occasionally lodging the projectiles in people’s skulls. During an earlier wave of demonstrations, snipers shot protesters in the head and chest, with nearly 150 killed in less than a week.

The protesters have called for the resignation of the government and sweeping changes to the political system established after the U.S. invasion, which apportions power among the Shiite majority and Sunnis and Kurds.

Iraq has held regular elections since then, but they have been dominated by sectarian political parties, many of which are close to Iran. The protests have occurred in Baghdad and mostly Shiite southern Iraq, and have been directed against the Shiite-led government. In southern Iraq, demonstrators have attacked and set fire to political party offices.

The protesters accuse their rulers of squandering the country’s oil wealth, pointing to its poor infrastructure and frequent power outages more than 15 years after the overthrow of Saddam and the lifting of international sanctions.

“I was born to be respected, among people who should be respected,” said a protester who identified himself as Abu Sajad. “But as far as we are concerned, we have the worst passport in the world and the worst nationality. We are the No. 1 country when it comes to corruption. We have the second or fourth largest oil reserves but we are a poor nation.”

President Barham Salih said Thursday he would approve early elections once a new electoral law is drafted, expressing support for the protesters but saying reforms would have to be enacted through constitutional means. He said Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi is willing to resign once political leaders agree on a replacement.

But the process of forming a new government could take weeks or even months, and a Cabinet reshuffle seems unlikely to satisfy the protesters.

Thousands also gathered in the main square of Najaf, another Shiite holy city, late Thursday. Groups of men danced and waved Iraqi flags, while volunteers handed out falafel sandwiches cooked on site.

“This is a great revolution,” said Marwa Ahmed, one of several women in the rally. “We will not give up or back down until our demands are met.”

 

Russia nixed arms sales to Israel’s enemies at its request, PM’s adviser says 

November 3, 2019

Source: Russia nixed arms sales to Israel’s enemies at its request, PM’s adviser says | The Times of Israel

Ariel Bulshtein also claims Jerusalem reciprocated, canceling deals with Ukraine that were uncomfortable for Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 4, 2019. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/POOL/AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 4, 2019. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/POOL/AFP)

Russia acquiesced to Israeli requests and canceled certain arms sales to regimes that are antagonistic toward Israel, an adviser to the prime minister said this week, according to the Ynet news site.

In return, he said, Israel canceled arms sales that irked the Russians, including to Ukraine.

“Russia agreed to Israel’s request and, for example, did not provide certain types of weapons to [Israel’s] enemy nations such as Iran, which states at the highest levels its wish to erase Israel off the face of the Earth,” Ariel Bulshtein, who is the prime minister’s adviser for the country’s Russian-speaking community, told Russian paper Izvestia Thursday, according to Ynet.

“Naturally we are unenthusiastic on [Russia] providing modern weapons to such regimes,” he said.

He added that Israel agreed “at least twice, if not more,” to Russian requests not to sell weapons to nations whose relations with Moscow are tense, such as Ukraine.

Bulshtein was appointed to the newly-created post in June, following the failure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to form a coalition and the announcement of new elections.

Ariel Bulshtein (Courtesy of EAJC)

The move was meant to help Likud’s efforts to siphon votes away from Yisrael Beytenu, the Russian-speaking party led by Avigdor Liberman, whose hard-nosed demands stymied Netanyahu’s efforts to form a coalition in the Knesset. Likud was largely unsuccessful in pulling Russian voters away form Liberman, who went on to increase his strength in the September vote.

Israel has highly sensitive relations with Russia, which has played a central role, alongside Iran, in preventing the fall of the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war. Israel is seeking to prevent Iran from deepening its military presence across the northern border.

Netanyahu has cultivated close ties to Putin, flying frequently to meet with him to discuss regional developments. This July, in a move targeting Israeli-Russian voters ahead of the repeat elections in September, Netanyahu’s Likud party hung a massive picture of the prime minister with Putin on its headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Prior to the election, Netanyahu flew to Russia for talks with Putin in Sochi. Meeting with Putin, the prime minister hailed bilateral relations, saying they have never been better.