Archive for November 20, 2019

Iranian People Are Suffering. 

November 20, 2019



Look left for Gaza, right for Iran

November 20, 2019

Source: Look left for Gaza, right for Iran – Arab Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

A senior defense official said it was the most widespread strike targeting Iranian infrastructure in Syria, and with the number of Iranian fatalities quite high, a retaliation is expected.

An IAF plane takes part in the IDF's 'Blue Flag' exercise. November 5th, 2017 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
An IAF plane takes part in the IDF’s ‘Blue Flag’ exercise. November 5th, 2017
A week after the dust settled in Gaza from heavy fighting between the IDF and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the skies on Israel’s northern front were busy with jets striking Iranian and Syrian targets in response to rockets fired towards Israel’s Golan Heights a day earlier.

It began early Tuesday morning when incoming rocket sirens wailed throughout communities in the Golan, sending thousands to bomb shelters. Four rockets had been fired from Syrian territory in an attack believed to have been ordered by Iran.

Less than 24 hours later, over 20 targets were struck by Israeli Air Force jets, killing, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 11 people, seven believed to be Iranian forces belonging to Shiite militias or Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

A senior defense official said it was the most widespread strike targeting Iranian infrastructure in the war-torn country, and with the number of Iranian fatalities quite high, it’s only expected that Iran will retaliate.

Tit-for-tat right?

Iran fired rockets towards Israel, perhaps their contribution to the over 400 rockets fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) last week following the assassination of the group’s influential commander Bahaa Abu al-Ata.  Or perhaps because they were angry over the leaked documents to The Intercept and The New York Times showing the IRGC’s deep influence in Iraq.

Though relatively minimal as it caused no damage or injury, Israel can’t sit back and ignore that rocket fire. That would only embolden Israel’s enemies. So, late on Tuesday Israel’s top military brass along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett agreed on a retaliatory operation in Syria, which began around 1AM.

Following the strikes, Bennett said that “the rules have changed: Anyone who shoots at the State of Israel during the day will not sleep at night.”

But have the rules of the game really changed? Or are we just dealing with another round of violence in the north, like the seemingly never-ending rounds of violence in the Gaza Strip?

The wording is becoming so similar, sometimes it’s getting harder to differentiate which front we are talking about.

There have been some 12 rounds of violence involving Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip since March of last year, destroying hundreds of targets and killing dozens of operatives belonging to the groups.

In the north, Israel has been managing a campaign against Iranian entrenchment and weapons smuggling to Hezbollah since 2013, striking thousands of targets and killing dozens of Iranians and Shiite militia forces.

While the senior defense official told reporters that it was the most extensive strike against Iranian targets in Syria, he’s wrong.

In May of last year the IDF carried out the most extensive operation in Syria since 1974-Operation House of Cards- striking over 50 Iranian targets in Syria following a missile barrage of 32 Fajr-5 and Grad missiles towards Israel’s front defensive line in the Golan Heights.

Dozens of positions and targets belonging to the IRGC’s Quds Force in Syria – including the launcher used to fire the rockets- were destroyed within 1.5 hours by the IAF along with the Northern Command.

That attack, which killed 18 Iranians (more than were killed on Tuesday morning), came in response to an alleged Israeli strike against Syria’s T4 airbase that killed seven IRGC soldiers. That T4 strike came in response to another attempted Iranian attack by an armed drone that infiltrated into Israel before being intercepted and destroyed by an attack helicopter.

By comparison, on Tuesday morning a bit over 20 targets-mainly Iranian but also several belonging to the Syrian regime, were struck and 11 people (including 4 civilians) were killed in the strikes which lasted several minutes.

Despite destroying a large amount of Iranian military hardware, Iran continued to increase their long-range capabilities and has continued to launch attacks against Israel.

So it was only a matter of time before the vicious cycle was repeated.

And count on it repeating over and over again. This is Israel’s Second War of Attrition.


Syria is an increasingly dangerous chessboard for Iran in the Middle East 

November 20, 2019

Source: Syria is an increasingly dangerous chessboard for Iran in the Middle East – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Iran has so many forces in Syria that in 2018 the US included in its official policy the “removal of all Iranian-led forces and proxies from the country.”

Qasem Soleimani, commander of IRGC Quds Force (photo credit: SAYYED SHAHAB-O-DIN VAJEDI/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Qasem Soleimani, commander of IRGC Quds Force
Iran has spent many years exploiting the weakness of Bashar al-Assad’s regime to entrench its forces in Syria, hoping to emerge out of that country’s eight-year-long civil war in a much stronger position. This is part of Iran’s grand strategy in the Middle East, which also seeks to take over parts of Iraq’s government and to leverage its influence over Lebanon’s political system. Little stands in Iran’s way, since the US has indicated its long-term objective is to quit Syria entirely while its role in Iraq is limited to fighting ISIS. Iran’s role in Syria increasingly threatens Israel, as revealed through recent tensions and numerous air strikes on Iranian targets that Israel has said it carried out over the years.

Iran’s role in Iraq has been spotlighted by the 700 pages of documents leaked from Iran’s intelligence services to The Intercept and The New York Times. In Syria, Iran’s role is murkier but also well known. Iran has so many forces in Syria that in 2018 the US included in its official policy the “removal of all Iranian-led forces and proxies from the country.” A recent study by the US Defense Intelligence Agency included classified information on Iran’s presence, but a recent Inspector General report about the US-led operations against ISIS noted that “the bulk of Iranian-commander forces were concentrated in the western half of Syria prior to the USS withdrawal.” Iranian-backed militias are in close proximity to US forces “as part of the Iranian goal of forging ground lines of communications from the Iraqi border.”

Satellite images from ImageSat International show Iran is continuing to construct its Imam Ali base near Albukamal on the Iraqi border. Other reports indicate that Iran had up to 19 bases in Syria in 2018.

From Iran’s perspective, Syria has been a key ally and a conduit for arms shipments to Hezbollah. This has gone back decades. But Iran knew in the early 2000s that the Assad regime was flirting with the West in the hope of balancing Tehran’s role. The eruption of he civil war in 2011 led the Assad regime deeper into the hands of Iran, making it more dependent on Tehran and Moscow. Increasingly the regime was hollowed out, losing tens of thousands of casualties that it couldn’t replace, and inviting in more of the IRGC and IRGC allies such as Hezbollah and Shi’ites recruited from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Syria became a modern version of what Germany looked like during the Thirty Years War, a black hole of suffering upon which was built a chessboard for foreign powers.

The Syrian civil war began as one between Syrians. It looked like Syria had fallen into chaos, like Libya in 2011. In fact, the regime’s crackdown and the use of foreign troops led to years of destruction as step by step non-Syrian actors moved in. Hezbollah in 2012-2013, ISIS and 50,000 of its foreign fighters in 2014, Russia in 2015, Turkey in 2016, and of course the US and Iran. The US, backing the Syrian Democratic Forces, came to control a third  of Syria. Turkey seized another 20%. The regime eventually defeated the rebels in the south in the summer of 2018. But the regime then watched as Russia gave its approval for the Turkish operation against Kurdish fighters in Afrin in January 2018, and also signed an Idlib ceasefire in September 2018. Russia was now the guarantor of Turkey’s role, because Russia was selling Turkey the S-400 air defense system. Russia, the ally of the Syrian regime, was also a kind of enabler of Turkey’s role. Russia could turn over more areas or not. It signed another deal on October 22 enabling Turkey to grab areas it had taken from the SDF and the Americans in October.

Now Syria appears partitioned between Turkey in the north, a fading US influence in the east and south, and a growing Iranian influence in the south. Russia plays the grand master watching all of this unfold. But Russia is not seeking to confront the US, Iran or Turkey. Russia’s goal is to use Sochi and Astana, and even Geneva, to bring Iran and Turkey to the table again and again. The US is cut out from this process. Regardless, the US sought to exclude its own SDF partners from Geneva. Thus in the long term, the US role in Syria is likely going to be deeply reduced or eliminated entirely.

But Iran’s role will likely grow. The problem for Iran is that it has too many objectives in Syria. It wants to cement its bases. It wants to build its “land bridge” to the Mediterranean Sea and Hezbollah, with an off-ramp toward the Golan Heights. It wants to sign deals with Assad. And it wants to project influence along the Euphrates River valley towards Deir Ezzor.

All the while, Iran is struggling economically. Protests at home are harming its abilities abroad. It has an uphill struggle in Syria to maintain and expand its role. Iran has the technology that it wants to transfer, the precision guidance for missiles for instance, that it hopes to put in Hezbollah’s hands. But it must be careful because protests in Iraq have also targeted Iran’s presence. Protests in Lebanon have also led to uncertainty there. Iran faces now what all great powers face as they become too powerful. They must manage their power. Iran says it is the “resistance.” But people are now “resisting” Iran throughout the region and at home. Its bases are clear targets, and it has difficulty conducting truly clandestine affairs. Its main power is in human resources and deepening its human ties to places in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. This is how it gets its power, through its network of Shi’ite allies, and places like the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Damascus where pro-Iranian fighters gather.

Now Iran must decide its next step in Syria. The role of its IRGC Quds Force has been key to supporting the Assad regime while also benefiting on the side. But Iran understands that its role is entangled with the regime and also with Russia. Its presence must not undermine either of these two. In addition, the Syrian regime and Russians are focused more on the north today, while there are questions about what the US is doing in the east. In the south and west, therefore, Iran’s forces have been targeted by Israel in recent years. Iran’s IRGC boasts that it believes the destruction of Israel is no longer just a dream. Towards that end, it has invested in new missiles, drones and other technology which it has transferred to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

While those transfers have made Iran’s role in Syria even more dangerous, any seasoned chess player knows that pieces spread too thinly across the chessboard may result in checkmate.


23 killed as Israel strikes over 20 Iranian, Syrian regime targets 

November 20, 2019

Source: 23 killed as Israel strikes over 20 Iranian, Syrian regime targets – Arab Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to Iran: You are no longer immune. Wherever you stretch your tentacles-we will hack them off.

IAF attacks Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria, November 20, 2019
Israel warned Iran from carrying out further attacks against the Jewish State after Israeli Air Force fighter jets carried out a wave of retaliatory air strikes against dozens of military targets belonging to the Iranian Quds Force (IRGC) and the Syrian army on Tuesday night in Syria.

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said following the strikes that “the rules have changed: Anyone who shoots at the State of Israel during the day will not sleep at night. Like last week and now this week.  Our message to Iran’s leaders is simple: You are no longer immune. Wherever you stretch your tentacles-we will hack them off. The IDF will continue to protect Israeli citizens ”

According to a senior official in Israel’s Defense Establishment, the “head of the Iranian octopus” sits in Tehran but continues to attempt to surround Israel with proxy groups-Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iranian militias in Syria, Islamic Jihad and to some extent Hamas.

“We have not yet threatened the head of the octopus – Tehran. But it is possible to start approaching the head of the Iranian octopus,” he warned.

IDF Spokesperson Brig.Gen. Hidai Zilberman told reporters on Wednesday the tens of targets struck in Damascus, west of Damascus and the Syrian Golan Heights overnight belonging  both to the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Quds Force were carried out within minutes and were all located within 80 kilometers of Israel’s border.

While the launchers which fired the rockets on Tuesday morning were not struck, some 20 other targets struck included advanced air defense systems (not the Russian-made S-300 missile defense batteries), surface-to-air missiles, reconnaissance sites and warehouses, the National Defense Building at the Damascus International Airport which houses the Quds Force headquarters and other military positions.

According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 23 people, including 16 non-Syrians who are most likely Iranians, were killed in the Israeli airstrikes. The senior Israel defense official acknowledged that there were injuries and a number of Iranian fatalities.

Numerous others were injured, including a young woman who was wounded by shrapnel that hit the suburb of Qudsaya, west of Damascus.

“We express the wish for a speedy recovery for them,” the Assad government said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.

According to the senior Israeli defense official, the strikes were one of the largest which struck Iranian targets in Syria and was finalized Tuesday night by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi at the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv.

“Iran struck Israel, we can’t forget that. Iran attacked Israel and that’s not acceptable,” he continued, saying that Israel will strike harshly without giving any warning if attacked in the future.

“We are changing the rules. Even when it comes to almost negligible attacks, whose impact is small, we are changing the equation and our retaliatory attack will be widespread. When I looked at the South when a small number of rockets are fired and we respond with a small retaliatory strike, then that sort of situation gets to be acceptable. We have to strike harshly to all attacks,” the official said, noting the link of the assassination of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Bahaa abu al-Ata in Gaza and the rockets of yesterday.

According to the senior officer in the defense establishment, the National Defense Building, which used to be a hotel, was a center for the Quds force.

“We will not let Iran entrench in Syria,” Zilberman said, adding that the IDF “is prepared to respond harshly to further attacks if necessary.  We will not accept an Iranian force near our borders and will continue to work against it.”

Local Syrian media reported that two residential buildings were also struck from shrapnel from a Syrian air defense missile fired towards Israeli jets, sending one family including two children to hospital.

Syria responded quickly to the airstrikes, publishing numerous photos and According to SANA, Damascus promised to provide assistance to those who suffered the “brutal Israeli aggression” by repairing the homes of those affected.

It said that help would arrive immediately to those areas struck, with rescue teams sent to clear rubble in the village of Beit Saber in the Sasa district south of Damascus where a house was destroyed. According to SOHR, a man along with his wife and son were pulled from the rubble of the home Ambulances and fire engines were sent to other areas.

“During the attack, Syrian air missiles were fired, despite a clear warning that was ignored. As a result, several Syrian aerial defense batteries were destroyed,” the IDF said.

While the main goal were Iranian targets, the official said, the secondary goal were six air-to-ground missile batteries belonging to the Syrian regime  “to maintain freedom of action and protect our pilots.”

While the IDF Spokesperson stressed that no special instructions for the North have been given, the military was prepared for three possible scenarios: no response, a minor response, and a more significant response.

“The IDF is highly prepared for a variety of scenarios and will continue to operate as required for the security of the citizens of the State of Israel. The Home Front Command instructions should be obeyed if required.”

The strike which began around 1AM on Wednesday morning was carried out in response to four rockets which the IDF said were launched by an Iranian force from Syrian territory towards northern Israeli territory in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

All rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, causing no damage or injuries.

“The Iranian attack against Israeli territory yesterday is further proof of the current Iranian purpose in Syria. Their presence in the region is a danger to Israel’s security, regional stability and to the Syrian regime,” the military said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement following the attack, saying in it that “I made it clear that whoever harms us – we will harm them.”

“That is what we did tonight in Syria against Iranian Quds Force targets and Syrian military targets, after rockets were fired from its territory towards Israel. We will continue to aggressively guard the security of Israel.”

Syrian news agency Sana reported that Syrian regime air defense systems were able to intercept some of the 11 of the 18 missiles fired by a total of 6 jets before they were able to reach their targets.

According to SANA,  regime defenses came under “a heavy attack” by Israeli fighter jets that targeted the Damascus area from the Israeli Golan Heights and Lebanese airspace near the town of Marjayoun.

Israel has been carrying out a war-between-wars campaign since 2013 in an attempt to prevent Iran and its proxies like Hezbollah from obtaining advanced weapons to use against the Jewish state and from entrenching itself in Syria.

Thousands of strikes have been carried out over the years in Syria and according to foreign reports has seen strikes in neighboring Iraq.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have warned in recent weeks 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.

Seth Frantzman contributed to this report.


At least 11 killed in Syria strikes, 7 of them likely Iranian, war monitor says

November 20, 2019

Source: At least 11 killed in Syria strikes, 7 of them likely Iranian, war monitor says | The Times of Israel

Identities of foreigners killed in attacks not immediately confirmed; Russia denounces Israeli strikes, calling them a ‘wrong move’

An Israeli M109 self-propelled howitzer is stationed near the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on November 19, 2019, after Israeli air defenses intercepted four rockets fired from neighboring Syria. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

An Israeli M109 self-propelled howitzer is stationed near the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on November 19, 2019, after Israeli air defenses intercepted four rockets fired from neighboring Syria. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

At least 11 “fighters” were killed in Israel’s predawn airstrikes in Syria Wednesday, seven of them likely Iranians, according to a Syrian war monitor.

The Israel Defense Forces launched the strikes against Iranian and Syrian targets around the capital of Damascus and on the Syrian Golan Heights in response to a Tuesday morning rocket attack.

The military said it targeted dozens of sites connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, including a facility at the Damascus International Airport, which Israel says was used to coordinate the transport of military hardware from Iran to Syria and on to other countries in the region.

“We struck a building staffed by Iranians at the Damascus airport. We assess that there are Iranians killed and injured,” a Israeli senior defense official said Wednesday, on condition of anonymity.

Israel also targeted a number of Quds Force facilities on Syrian military bases. When Syrian air defenses fired on Israeli jets, the IDF also targeted those batteries, the army said.

A large explosion is seen over the Damascus skyline in footage purportedly taken on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, November 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

Israel has repeatedly warned Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to not intervene during IDF strikes on Iranian targets in his country or else his military will also be targeted, as was the case Wednesday.

According to the Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 11 people were killed in the strike, and seven of them were foreigners. Though presumed to be Iranian, that could not be immediately confirmed by SOHR.

Four civilians were wounded, it added.

Video footage from Syria appeared to show a Syrian air defense missile crashing to the ground in a heavily populated area shortly after launching, which may account for some of the casualties.

Russia on Wednesday condemned Israel for the strikes. Moscow backs the Assad government and has criticized previous Israeli strikes in the country, especially those that target Syrian military bases in addition to Iranian facilities.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the strikes were a “wrong move” that is in “stark contrast” to international law, Interfax reported.

He added that Moscow had reached out to its allies regarding the incident, the report said.

On Wednesday morning, the IDF said it had coordinated its airstrikes with Russia.

Following its reprisal raids, the Israeli military said it was preparing for a potential Iranian retaliation.

“We are preparing for defense and attack, and we will respond to any attempt to retaliate,” IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters first thing Wednesday morning.

“We are ready for three scenarios: no response, a minor response, and a more significant response,” he said.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and that it will retaliate for any attack on the Jewish state from Syria.

Zilberman said the military targeted both “the host, Syria, and the guest, Iran.”

“Our message to the leaders of Iranian is simple: You are not immune anymore. Wherever you send your octopus arms — we will hack them off,” said newly installed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the strike: “I have made clear that any who attack us, we will attack them. That is what we did tonight toward military targets of the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian military targets.”

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

The Quds Force, led by Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, is a part of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations, and is a key actor in Syria — both against rebels and in Tehran’s efforts to entrench itself along Israel’s border and threaten the Jewish state from there.

Early Tuesday morning Israel’s anti-missile defense system intercepted four rockets fired from Syria toward the Golan Heights.

The rockets triggered sirens in the northern Golan Heights and Galilee region at 4:52 a.m., sending residents rushing to bomb shelters.

Last week Syrian state media reported that an Israeli strike hit the home of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist in Damascus, Akram al-Ajouri, killing his son and another person. Islamic Jihad accused Israel of being behind the strike in Damascus. The Israeli army refused to comment.

On the same day, an Israeli airstrike killed Islamic Jihad military commander Baha Abu Al-Ata, whom Israel blamed for recent rocket fire into its territory, in a strike on his home in Gaza City. Around 450 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the military operation against Abu Al-Ata, according to the Israeli army, as the military struck back at Islamic Jihad targets. A ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad was reached after 50 hours of clashes.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets over the last several years, but does not generally comment on specific attacks. Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah and Gaza terrorists.

In August, in a rare announcement, the IDF said it had targeted sites in the town of Aqrabah, southeast of Damascus, near the city’s airport to foil what it said was an imminent armed drone attack on Israel by Iran-backed fighters.

In January Israel was said to have conducted a daylight missile attack on Iranian targets at the airport. Iran responded by firing a surface-to-surface missile at the northern Golan Heights, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system over the Mount Hermon ski resort, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.


US believes Iran will seek new fighter jets, tanks as 2020 arms embargo lifts 

November 20, 2019

Source: US believes Iran will seek new fighter jets, tanks as 2020 arms embargo lifts | The Times of Israel

Intel report says Tehran committed to becoming dominant power in Middle East, warns it is making rapid progress developing attack drones and other missile systems

File: A Saeqeh fighter jet of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force. (Wikipedia/Shahram Sharifi/CC BY-SA)

File: A Saeqeh fighter jet of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force. (Wikipedia/Shahram Sharifi/CC BY-SA)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Iran will likely buy new advanced fighter jets and tanks next year when a UN Security Council arms embargo is scheduled to be lifted, a senior US intelligence official said Tuesday as the Defense Intelligence Agency released a new assessment of Iran’s military capabilities.

The DIA report concludes Tehran is committed to becoming the dominant power in the Middle East, and it warns that the Islamic Republic is making rapid progress developing attack drones and other missile systems.

The report comes amid escalating tensions between Iran and the West in the wake of a series of attacks on commercial shipping vehicles and Saudi oil facilities this year that have been blamed on Tehran.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, an intelligence official said Iran would probably buy the tanks and aircraft from Russia and China. The US has stringent economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic and those would likely continue even if the UN embargo is lifted. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

Currently, Iran uses 1970s-era Soviet tanks and a number of older fighter aircraft, according to the DIA report.

A Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is on display next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an exhibition by Iran’s army and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard celebrating “Sacred Defense Week” marking the 39th anniversary of the start of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran’s defense budget declined a bit this year and could face more cuts, as the country struggles under severe economic pressure due to the US sanctions. There have been widespread protests in Iran as people have seen their savings evaporate amid scarce jobs and the collapse of the national currency, the rial.

The DIA report said the budget problems could affect Tehran’s ability to meet its military goals. But it added that Iran also uses other sources of funding to support its military activities, including money from private corporations, smuggling and other illicit activities.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, the United Nations-imposed arms embargo on Iran is slated to be lifted in October 2020. The Trump administration pulled out of the deal last year and imposed new sanctions on Iran. The five other parties to the agreement — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — still support it.

Tensions between Iran and the West intensified earlier this spring, when there were a number of suspected Iranian attacks against commercial ships in the Persian Gulf region. Then in September, there was an attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that US and Western officials also blamed on Iran. In response, the US sent about 3,000 troops along with missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia, and it beefed up its naval and air presence in the region.

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iranian army troops march at a military parade marking the 39th anniversary of the outset of the Iran-Iraq war, in front of the shrine of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iran has denied involvement in the attacks and has warned the US that any military response will spark an “all-out war” with immediate retaliation from Tehran.

The DIA report said Iran has also increased its use of drones, as surveillance assets to watch American troops and ships in the Gulf and as weapons platforms to launch attacks. And the report said Tehran was improving its cyberspace capabilities, both to collect information and to launch cyberattacks against US and other targets.

“Although still technologically inferior to most of its competitors,” the report said, “the Iranian military has progressed substantially over the past few decades.”


Iran says it will unblock internet once ‘abuse’ stops 

November 20, 2019

Source: Iran says it will unblock internet once ‘abuse’ stops | The Times of Israel

Government spokesman declares bigger concern is maintaining the country’s peace and stability amid rioting over gasoline price hike

An Iranian man walks past a the entrance of a pedestrian overpass that was vandalized by protesters in Tehran on November 19, 2019. (ATTA KENARE/AFP)

An Iranian man walks past a the entrance of a pedestrian overpass that was vandalized by protesters in Tehran on November 19, 2019. (ATTA KENARE/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — The Iranian government said Tuesday it will unblock the internet only when authorities are sure it will not be abused during violent demonstrations against a gasoline price hike.

The Islamic republic has been largely offline since the internet restrictions were imposed the day after the nationwide demonstrations broke out on Friday.

“Many professions and banks… have faced problems, and we have been trying to solve this,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said, quoted by semi-official news agency ISNA.

“The internet will come back gradually in some provinces where there are assurances the internet will not be abused,” he said.

“We understand that people have faced difficulties… but the bigger concern under the current circumstances is maintaining the country’s peace and stability.”

An Iranian man checks a scorched gas station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in gasoline prices in Eslamshahr, near the Iranian capital of Tehran, on November 17, 2019. (AFP)

Demonstrations broke out in Iran on Friday after it was announced the price of gasoline would be raised by as much as 200 percent in the sanctions-hit country.

At least five deaths have been confirmed in the violence that has seen masked young men set alight gas stations, banks and other public property.

The full extent of the protests remains unclear, however, largely as a result of the internet restrictions.

The outage has stemmed the flow of videos shared on social media of demonstrations or associated acts of violence.

Netblocks, a website that monitors global net shutdowns, said internet connectivity in Iran was at four percent on Tuesday compared with normal levels.

“Sixty-five hours after #Iran implemented a near-total internet shutdown, some of the last remaining networks are now being cut,” it said on Twitter.

Iran’s economy has been battered since May last year when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.