Archive for December 30, 2019

Ex-IDF intel chief: Now that US engaged Iran, Israel must be careful 

December 30, 2019

Source: Ex-IDF intel chief: Now that US engaged Iran, Israel must be careful – The Jerusalem Post

Israel must now be more careful about its own airstrikes in Iraq, former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin tweeted on Monday.

By YONAH JEREMY BOB

Destroyed headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah militia group are seen after in an air strike in Qaim, Iraq, December 30, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
Destroyed headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah militia group are seen after in an air strike in Qaim, Iraq, December 30, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
Following Sunday’s US airstrikes on Iranian-affiliated militias in Iraq, Israel must now be more careful about its own airstrikes in Iraq, former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin tweeted on Monday.

Yadlin said that the US decision to directly engage Iran and its proxies with kinetic force was “the crossing of a rubicon” in which the US set down a red-line for Iran that it will respond with military force if the Islamic republic kills Americans.

This past weekend a missile attack from an Iran-affiliated militia killed a US contractor and wounded US soldiers at a base in Iraq.

Iranian-affiliated militias had launched missile attacks on US forces for several weeks, but this was the first attack in which an American was killed.

Until now, many Israeli officials had criticized the Trump administration for failing to use force to respond to Iran’s shooting down of a US drone, to an Islamic republic attack on Saudi oil fields and to the missile attacks on US bases.

In contrast, Israel has carried out airstrikes on Iranian militias in Iraq for between several months to even a year.

Last week, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi even discussed the attacks in a more public and detailed manner than ever before.Yadlin’s point was that Israel had more freedom of action in Iraq against Iranians as long as the US was not acting.

However, now that the US is taking action against Iran, Israel must be more careful about such airstrikes in Iraq and coordinate them more closely with the overall US strategy.

Yadlin noted the risk that Iraq could force US forces out of the country and that Israel does not want to be the cause of such a scenario.

 

Off Topic:  Trump condemns ‘horrific’ Monsey attack, blames ‘evil scourge of anti-Semitism’ 

December 30, 2019

Source: Trump condemns ‘horrific’ Monsey attack, blames ‘evil scourge of anti-Semitism’ | The Times of Israel

Canada’s Trudeau calls incident a ‘sad reminder of the rising numbers of such heinous acts’; Bahrain denounces ‘terrorist’ knife assault, without mentioning Jewish victims

US President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media following a Christmas Eve video teleconference with members of the military at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, December 24, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

US President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media following a Christmas Eve video teleconference with members of the military at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, December 24, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

After almost a day of silence, US President Donald Trump commented Sunday on the stabbing spree at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, the night before that left five injured, calling it “horrific” and wishing the victims a full recovery.

“The anti-Semitic attack in Monsey, New York, on the 7th night of Hanukkah last night is horrific,” Trump tweeted.

“We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism,” Trump said. “Melania and I wish the victims a quick and full recovery.”

Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the stabbings by urging action against anti-Semitism.

“Antisemitism and hate have no place anywhere in our world and we must continue to stand together against them,” Trudeau tweeted. “Last night’s attack on Jews celebrating Hanukkah in New York is a sad reminder of the rising numbers of such heinous acts. We must all come together to end them.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a media conference at the conclusion of a NATO leaders meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, December 4, 2019. (Frank Augstein/AP)

Of those injured at least two were seriously hurt in the Saturday night attack and a suspect, Grafton Thomas, 37, was later arrested after fleeing the scene.

Thomas allegedly entered the home of Rabbi Chaim Leibish Rottenberg, who was hosting a Hanukkah gathering, and began wildly stabbing those inside. He is facing charges of five counts of attempted murder.

Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn also tweeted about the New York stabbing, along with a rash of anti-Semitic graffiti that appeared overnight Saturday in northern London neighborhoods.

“How terrible that Hanukkah started with a message of hope and on this last day we face antisemitic graffiti in London and horrific stabbings at a party in New York,” wrote Corbyn, who last week tweeted a Hanukkah message that highlighted the idea of hope as expressed by the eight-day festival. “We stand with all our communities facing hate.

“We send love and solidarity to Jewish communities around the world,” he wrote.

Corbyn earlier this month lost a general election to incumbent UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his conservative party. Corbyn’s campaign was dogged with accusations that as Labour leader he has not done enough to root out anti-Semitism in the party.

The Bahraini Foreign Ministry put out a statement condemning the Monsey stabbing — but without mentioning that Jews were the target and victims, or that it happened at a Hanukkah event.

The ministry said it “condemns the terrorist knife attack that took place near New York City in the United States of America, which resulted in the injury of a number of people, wishing them a speedy recovery.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, left, outside the Tree of Life building in Pittsburgh, October 29, 2019, and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 2, 2019. (Getty Images/via JTA)

Bahrain stressed “the solidarity of the Kingdom with the United States of America in the face against terrorism, reiterating the unwavering position of the Kingdom of Bahrain in rejecting violence, extremism and terrorism regardless of its forms and motives.”

Trudeau’s remarks, apparently the first response to the stabbing by a world leader, came as Trump began to draw criticism for continuing to remain mum about the incident.

Trump was active on Twitter during the morning, to share a post that gave the alleged name of the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment by the House, and to attack House Speaker Nanacy Pelosi, who, he wrote, “should spend more time in her decaying city and less time on the Impeachment Hoax!”

Yair Rosenbeg, a senior writer at Tablet Magazine, shared Trump’s Pelosi tweet and commented: “Five Jews are in the hospital after being chopped up at a menorah lighting, following a spree of anti-Semitic assaults in NY all Hanukkah. Fortunately, President Tweet is doing presidential things, reassuring the Jewish community and confronting the issue. Haha, who am I kidding.”

Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, who is Jewish, commented earlier on the stabbing assault, tweeting, “The vicious attack of a rabbi in Monsey, NY last night was an act of pure evil.

“As we pray for the victims, may the candles of Chanukah burn bright through this darkness,” she wrote.

Suspect in Hanukkah celebration stabbings Grafton Thomas, 37, from Greenwood Lake, leaves the Ramapo Town Hall in Airmont, New York after being arrested on December 29, 2019. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP)

Speaking at the scene of the attack on Sunday morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the rampage “an act of domestic terrorism,” adding that the state stood “in solidarity with all members of the Jewish community.”

President Reuven Rivlin said Sunday on Twitter that he was “shocked and devastated by the terrible terror attack in New York.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also denounced the rampage.

“Israel strongly condemns the latest expressions of anti-Semitism and the cruel attack in the middle of Hanukkah at the home of the rabbi in Monsey,” he said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

 

Iran condemns US strikes against Iraqi proxy group as ‘terrorism’ 

December 30, 2019

Source: Iran condemns US strikes against Iraqi proxy group as ‘terrorism’ | The Times of Israel

Foreign Minister Katz lauds attacks, calling them a ‘turning point in the regional response to Iran & its proxies’

Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Iran-backed Hezbollah brigades march during a military parade in Baghdad on May 31, 2019. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Iran-backed Hezbollah brigades march during a military parade in Baghdad on May 31, 2019. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

Tehran “strongly condemned” the United States on Monday for engaging in what it described as a clear example of terrorism, following a series of airstrikes against an Iranian proxy group that had carried out an attack on US forces in Iraq.

It was the first known US attack on an Iranian proxy in Iraq since 2011.

“With these attacks, the United States has shown its strong support for terrorism, disregarding the independence and sovereignty of countries, and must accept responsibility for the consequences of this illegal act,” state news agency IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying.

The US carried out airstrikes against Kataeb Hezbollah (Hezbollah Battalion) in Iraq and Syria on Sunday, killing 19 fighters, two days after a barrage of 30 or more rockets was fired at the K1 Iraqi military base in Kirkuk, an oil-rich region north of Baghdad, killing a US civilian contractor and wounding four US service members as well as Iraqi security forces.

The US on Monday released what it said was video footage of the attacks.

Israel praised the strikes, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeting that they were a “turning point in the regional response to Iran & its proxies” and asserting that “if Iran fails to understand the power of the US they will be making a big mistake.”

“In response to repeated Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) attacks on Iraqi bases that host… coalition forces, US forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five KH facilities in Iraq and Syria,” a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz at a Likud election campaign stop in Jerusalem, September 16, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The strikes against three locations in Iraq and two in Syria “will degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks” against coalition forces, the statement added.

“KH has a strong linkage with Iran’s Quds Force and has repeatedly received lethal aid and other support from Iran that it has used to attack” coalition forces, the Pentagon said, referring to the external arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Kataeb Hezbollah is led by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, one of Iraq’s most powerful men. In 2009, the State Department linked him to the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, designated a foreign terrorist organization by President Donald Trump earlier this year.

The Lebanon-based Hezbollah movement also denounced the US strikes, calling them a “foolish decision” and stating that those responsible will “bear the consequences.”

“We strongly condemn the brutal and obscene American aggression against Kataeb Hezbollah positions in Iraq,” the group said Monday. “Those who made the decision to attack will soon discover the stupidity of this criminal decision, its consequences and its ramifications.”

Iraqi army units are deployed during military operations of the Iraqi Army’s Seventh Brigade in Anbar, Iraq on December 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

While the two groups share a name they are not connected, although both are backed by Tehran.

Speaking in Florida on Sunday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Joint Chiefs chairman General Mark Milley had discussed “other options that are available” to respond to Iran with US President Donald Trump.

“We will take additional actions as necessary to ensure that we act in our own self-defense and we deter further bad behavior from militia groups or from Iran,” he declared.

Pompeo said the “decisive response” made clear that the US ”will not stand for the Islamic Republic of Iran to take actions that put American men and women in jeopardy.”

The military spokesman for Iraq’s outgoing prime minister Abel Abdel Mahdi decried “a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley (right) listen as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a statement on Iraq and Syria, December 29, 2019. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Another powerful pro-Iran faction, Assaib Ahl al-Haq — whose leaders were recently hit with US sanctions — called for Americans to withdraw from Iraq.

“The American military presence has become a burden for the Iraqi state and a source of threat against our forces,” it said in a statement. “It is therefore imperative for all of us to do everything to expel them by all legitimate means.”

The US maintains some 5,000 troops in Iraq. They are there based on an invitation by the Iraqi government to assist and train in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The militia strike and US counterstrike come as months of political turmoil roil Iraq. About 500 people have died in anti-government protests in recent months, most of them demonstrators killed by Iraqi security forces.

 

US strikes 5 Iranian Al Qods/militia bases in Syria and Iraq. Iranian casualties – DEBKAfile

December 30, 2019

Source: US strikes 5 Iranian Al Qods/militia bases in Syria and Iraq. Iranian casualties – DEBKAfile

DEBKAfile Exclusive:  The five targets struck by the US air force on Monday, Dec. 29, on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, were centers of the Iran-supported Iraqi Kata’ib Hezbollah Shiite militia and Revolutionary Guards Al Qods – at al Qaim, Iraq and the Abu Kamal region in Syria. At least 25 were reported killed and 55 injured, including Iranian officers.

The assault came 24 hours after 30 rockets fired at the US K-1 base near Kirkuk killed an American civilian contractor and injured four US soldiers. This was the first US direct military assault on Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces. It began shortly after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a quick, unannounced visit to the US Ain al-Assad airbase with orders for the base commanders, following a decision reached in Washington that the K-1 attack by an Iranian-backed militia must not go unanswered. Pompeo flew out of Iraq shortly after his conference at Ain al-Assad airbase.

Earlier, an Iraqi interior ministry official informed Arab media of intelligence received that Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani had ordered the Hezballah militia in Baghdad to withdraw the Iran-supplied rockets from storage and transfer them to residential areas as a means of deterring a US attack. The militia was also told to reserve those rockets exclusively for use against US forces. This disclosure strongly indicated that the Hezballah militia was in the direct sights of the impending US assault.