Archive for January 9, 2020

Iranian missile likely downed Ukrainian flight near Tehran, US officials say

January 9, 2020


Source: Iranian missile likely downed Ukrainian flight near Tehran, US officials say | The Times of Israel

Sources quoted by major outlets say anti-aircraft system may have accidentally targeted jet; Canada demands role in probe

Rescue teams recover a body after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. (AFP)

Rescue teams recover a body after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. (AFP)

US officials believe Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing all of the 176 people on board, US media reported Thursday.

Newsweek, CBS and CNN quoted unnamed officials saying they were increasingly confident that Iranian air defense systems accidentally downed the aircraft, based on satellite, radar and electronic data.

Newsweek reported that several sources had informed it that the Ukrainian Airlines passenger jet that went down in Iran on Wednesday had been hit by a Russian-built surface-to-air missile.

US President Donald Trump said he had “suspicions” about the crash.

“It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood and somebody could have made a mistake,” he said.

“Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don’t think that’s even a question,” Trump said, adding that “something very terrible happened.”

According to the unnamed sources quoted by Newsweek, who were identified as US and Iraqi intelligence officials and a Pentagon official, Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 from Tehran to Kyiv was accidentally struck by a Tor-M1 shortly after takeoff.

The crash came immediately after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack against Iraqi military bases housing US troops amid a confrontation with Washington over its killing of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general in a drone strike last week.

The plane was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. The crash just before dawn scattered flaming debris and passengers’ belongings across a wide stretch of farmland.

Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of a Ukrainian plane crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, January 8, 2020 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Eyewitnesses, including the crew of another passing flight, described seeing the plane engulfed in flames before crashing, the report said. The crash caused a massive explosion when the plane hit the ground, likely because the aircraft had been fully loaded with fuel for the flight to Kyiv, Ukraine.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, initially told Ukrainian media that officials had several working theories regarding the crash, including a missile strike.

“A strike by a missile, possibly a Tor missile system, is among the main [theories], as information has surfaced on the internet about elements of a missile being found near the site of the crash,” Danilov said.

He later told AFP that for the moment there was no reason to believe that the airliner had been hit by a missile.

An investigation team from Bellingcat, a journalism website that focuses on fact-finding, tweeted that it had seen an image purported to be Russian missile debris, but the angle of the picture meant it would be impossible to geolocate and prove it was at the crash site of the jetliner near Tehran.



Ukrainian investigators who arrived in Iran earlier on Thursday were awaiting permission from Iranian authorities to examine the crash site and look for missile fragments, Danilov said.

The Tor is a Russian-made missile system. Russia delivered 29 Tor-M1s to Iran in 2007 as part of a $700 million contract signed in December 2005. Iran has displayed the missiles in military parades.

Investigators have previously blamed Russian missiles on the 2014 crash of a Malaysia Airlines that crashed in Ukraine as it returned home from Amsterdam, killing 298 people including 193 Dutch nationals.

Reuters had previously reported that Western intelligence agencies believed that the plane suffered a technical malfunction and was not shot down.

The wire service quoted five unnamed security sources — three American, one European and one Canadian — as saying the initial assessment was that Tehran’s explanation was accurate. The Canadian source was quoted as saying there was evidence one of the aircraft’s engines had overheated.

A Russian Tor-M1 missile systems launcher vehicle is seen during military exercises somewhere in undisclosed location in Russia, in this July 28, 2005 file picture. (AP Photo)

Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry, said it appeared a fire erupted in one of its engines and the pilot lost control of the plane, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. The news report did not explain how Iranian authorities knew that.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Thursday for a “full, credible and transparent” investigation into the crash.

A spokesman said reports about what happened were “very concerning.”

Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call in which he offered his condolences for the loss of life and received an update on Ukraine’s efforts to establish the facts, the spokesman said.

“The prime minister said that there needed to be a full, credible and transparent investigation into what happened,” the spokesman said.

He added: “The reports we have seen are very concerning and we are urgently looking into them.”

In Kyiv, the Ukrainian presidency said Zelensky invited Britain to join the probe, and also called for a “transparent, thorough and objective investigation that can quickly establish the facts of this tragedy.”

Ottawa also called Thursday for its own experts be allowed to join the investigation into the crash.

In a rare phone call with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif late Wednesday, Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne called for Iran to allow Canadian investigators in to the country, the Canadian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif poses for a photograph during an interview with AFP at the residence of Iran’s ambassador in Paris on August 23, 2019. (Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP)

“Minister Champagne stressed the need for Canadian officials to be quickly granted access to Iran to provide consular services, help with identification of the deceased and take part in the investigation of the crash,” the statement said.

Iran is refusing to hand over for analysis the black boxes from the plane, Iranian media reported Wednesday.

But Zelensky said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had assured him of full cooperation in investigating the fatal crash and that Iran would provide experts access to all data.


Iranian leader calls missile attack a ‘slap’ at US bases

January 9, 2020

Source: Iranian leader calls missile attack a ‘slap’ at US bases

This satellite image provided on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, by Middlebury Institute of International Studies and Planet Labs Inc. shows the damage caused from an Iranian missile strike at the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq. Iran’s actions were in response to the U.S. killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani. (Planet Labs Inc./Middlebury Institute of International Studies via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran struck back at the United States early Wednesday for killing its most powerful military commander, firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases that house American troops in what the Iranian supreme leader said was a “slap” against the U.S. military presence in the region.

The dramatic blast of more than a dozen missiles caused no casualties, however, and U.S. President Donald Trump said hours later that Iran “appears to be standing down.

It was a signal that both sides were stepping away from an immediate spiral of more direct exchanges that could throw the Middle East into great turmoil.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said the U.S. would impose new “punishing economic sanctions” on Iran to force it to stop its nuclear program and what he called its “hostilities” in the region. But he also said Washington was open to a deal with Tehran.

Iran, in turn, appeared to have calibrated its attack to avoid stoking further U.S. retaliation, giving some early warning to its Iraqi allies to avoid casualties.

“Last night they received a slap,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said of the Americans in a speech after the missile strikes.

He made clear that Iran’s actions were in response to the U.S. killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose death last week in a drone strike in Baghdad prompted angry calls for vengeance and drew massive crowds of Iranians to the streets in mourning. Khamenei himself wept at the funeral in a sign of his bond with the commander.

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“These military actions are not sufficient (for revenge). What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”

Satellite imagery showed at least five impact sites on the Ain al-Asad base in Iraq’s western Anbar province, each leaving charred blast marks that damaged or destroyed buildings. One obliterated a structure in a row of buildings next to a line of helicopters, though none of the aircraft appeared damaged, according to the imagery provided by Planet Labs, Inc.

Iran’s foreign minister tweeted that Tehran had taken and “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” adding that Tehran did “not seek escalation” but would defend itself against further aggression.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said he received notification from Iran just after midnight that its retaliation “was starting or would start soon” and would focus only on U.S. positions. The militaries of Finland and Lithuania, which had personnel at one of the targeted bases, said they received information about an imminent attack and had time to move to shelters or leave the base.

Iran’s attacks “appeared designed for maximum domestic effect with minimum escalatory risk,” said Henry Rome, analyst with Eurasia Group.

“For a president who wants to avoid a war in the Middle East during an election year, the Iranians have provided an off-ramp he will likely take,” Rome said.

AP Graphic

Tensions have risen steadily in the Middle East since Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The Iranian attacks on the bases marked the first time in recent years that Iran has directly attacked U.S. positions rather than through proxies in the region.

Tehran and Washington have been at odds since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent U.S. Embassy takeover and hostage crisis.

Adding to the chaos, a Ukrainian airplane with 176 people crashed after takeoff just outside Tehran on Wednesday morning, killing all on board, Iranian and Ukrainian officials said. Iran said mechanical issues were suspected, although Ukraine declined to offer a cause while an investigation continues.

The Boeing 737-800 had taken off from Imam Khomeini International Airport, bound for the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. The plane carried 167 passengers and nine crew members. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said there were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians on board — the Ukrainian nationals included two passengers and the nine crew. The rest were Swedish, Afghan, German and British nationals.

The U.S. Federation Aviation Administration earlier warned of a “potential for miscalculation or mis-identification” for civilian aircraft in the Persian Gulf. The agency barred U.S. carriers from flying over areas of Iraqi, Iranian and some Persian Gulf countries.

The U.S. has been deploying more troops in the region. U.S. Gulf allies that host thousands of American troops are concerned about a direct conflict. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have called for de-escalation.

“The situation is not currently a war situation,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said, stressing that Iran is a neighbor and the last thing the country wants is more regional tension.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned the U.S. and its allies against retaliating over the missile attack.

“We are warning all American allies, who gave their bases to its terrorist army, that any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted,” the Guard said in a statement carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency. It also threatened Israel.

The Iranians fired 15 missiles Wednesday, two U.S. officials said. Ten hit Ain al-Asad and one targeted a base in Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. Four failed, said the officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly about a military operation.

“As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners and allies in the region,” said Jonathan Hoffman, an assistant to the U.S. defense secretary.

Two Iraqi security officials said a missile appeared to have hit a plane at Ain al-Asad, igniting a fire. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the attacks, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to talk to journalists.

Ain al-Asad was first used by American forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, and it later was used by American troops in the fight against the Islamic State group. It houses about 1,500 U.S. and coalition forces. Trump went there in December 2018, making his first presidential visit to troops in the region. Vice President Mike Pence also has visited.

As Iran reels from the loss of life in the plane crash, it is also contending with the aftermath of a deadly stampede Tuesday at Soleimani’s funeral in his hometown of Kerman, killing 56 people and injuring more than 200. Shortly after Wednesday’s missile attack, Soleimani’s shroud-wrapped remains were lowered into the ground as mourners wailed at the grave site.

“We tell our enemies that we will retaliate, but if they take another action we will set ablaze the places that they like and are passionate about,” Hossein Salami, who commands the Revolutionary Guard, told a crowd in Kerman.

The general’s funeral procession in major cities spanning three days was an unprecedented honor for Soleimani, seen by Iranians as a national hero for his work leading the Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force in the face of U.S. pressure.

The U.S. blames him for killing U.S. troops in Iraq. The Trump administration alleges he’d been plotting new attacks just before he was killed.

Many Sunni Muslims in the region, however, view him as a destabilizing figure who commanded dangerous and deadly Shiite proxy militias. Soleimani led forces supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war.

Since his killing Jan. 3, Tehran has abandoned the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. In Iraq, lawmakers and pro-Iranian factions in parliament have voted to oust American troops from Iraqi territory.

Kuwait said Wednesday that its state-run KUNA news agency’s Twitter account was hacked and posted a false story on U.S. troops withdrawing from the nation. The fake alert went out on its account, Kuwait said. More than 13,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Kuwait, with more now on the way.


Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Dubai, Matthew Lee, Lolita C. Baldor and Zeke Miller in Washington, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad; Hussain al-Qatari in Kuwait City and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed.


Soleimani is dead. So is the Iran deal. What now?

January 9, 2020

Source: Soleimani is dead. So is the Iran deal. What now? – The Jerusalem Post

Notwithstanding Iran’s several violations of the deal last year, it was still significantly far from having enough enriched uranium for a weapon.

Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prays near the coffins of Iranian Major Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commandr Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who were killed in last wee;s US air strike at Baghdad airport.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prays near the coffins of Iranian Major Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commandr Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who were killed in last wee;s US air strike at Baghdad airport.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Four months ago we argued that while Democratic presidential candidates backed a recommitment of the United States to the Iran nuclear deal, there might be no deal, as we know it, to return to when the next president takes office. These fears have now proven out, in the wake of President Trump’s ordering of the targeted assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a terrorist who was widely known as the second most powerful person in Iran and who was taken out at Baghdad’s airport Friday.

The news of this operation left the US standing almost alone, as countries distanced themselves from us or remained silent. Iraq’s parliament voted to expel US troops from the nation, dealing a severe blow to the ongoing campaign to snuff out what remains of the Islamic State. In Tehran, after Iran’s lawmakers chanted in unison “Death to America,” the mullahs announced that the Islamic Republic would stop respecting the terms of the nuclear accord it signed in 2015. Trump’s reaction to all of this was his usual blend of dissembling and gas-lighting, as he told reporters that his actions were designed to prevent a war, rather than start one.

It’s hard to find anyone of good faith genuinely mourning the death of Suleimani, whose stock-in-trade was death and destruction across the Middle East. He orchestrated the murder and maiming of thousands of American troops in Iraq. Iran’s own citizens were victims of his evil, as he was an architect of the regime’s repressive measures against protesters and dissidents.

Nevertheless, the decision to assassinate him leaves the specter of full-blown war looming over the region. Aside from the immediate prospect of armed conflict, we must also turn our attention to the long-term implications of the Islamic Republic’s decision to void the nuclear accord. Following the White House’s choice to “tear up” the pact in May 2018, our allies in Europe had kept the agreement on life support, dangling incentives in front of the Iranians in order to try to keep them in line. Many of our political party’s presidential contenders still hoped the deal would remain viable enough that come the election of a Democrat to the White House this November, it could be revived, with significant modifications. But the Iran deal is now, in its current form anyway, irretrievably dead.

This administration’s hardliners might be thrilled at this news, but there is little reason to celebrate. No diplomatic agreement is perfect, and this nuclear accord of blessed memory was no exception. Nonetheless, despite its flaws, the accord imposed substantial constraints on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, restricting for many years the extent to which it could enrich uranium, and requiring the nation to submit to third-party inspections of its facilities. President Obama’s will to reach across divides and engage with Iran also emboldened its moderates.

AND IT was mostly working.

Notwithstanding Iran’s several violations of the deal last year, it was still significantly far from having enough enriched uranium for a weapon. Now, at best, the clock needs to be restarted.Many have speculated on Trump’s political motives in ordering Suleimani’s assassination. It would come as no surprise if the action was intended to distract from current impeachment proceedings, or to create a “rally around the flag” effect in which Democrats could be depicted as unpatriotic.

Or it might have been intended to distinguish the Trump administration from the Obama administration. Trump, it seems, will go to any length to do whatever Obama didn’t – for better or worse.

Whatever the case, Democrats must not be caught flat-footed or dumbfounded. While the Iran deal is kaput, we must insist on reengaging with Iran to rein in its nuclear program and find a path forward, keeping all options on the table. Democrats should seek to build on the rubble of the current deal, offering sanctions relief in exchange for tangible commitments to refrain from the enrichment of uranium and dismantle facilities that could be used to build an atomic bomb.

But to accomplish this before next year, it could not happen the Trump way. His fantasy of a Kim Jong Un-like one-on-one meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is now clearly forever impossible. And the irony that two of the P5+1 nations supporting the original deal are among Trump’s favorites – Russia and China – should also not be lost on those truly seeking to return to an Iran deal anytime soon.

Democrats must also stress how the president’s actions – without full preparation of what’s to come – have truly imperiled not only of the safety of Americans throughout the world, but also that of our allies, foremost among them Israel, which would be first in the nearby firing line of Iran and its proxies. Democrats should point to the blatant hypocrisy at the heart of the president’s actions. While Trump ran on a promise of preventing costly military engagements overseas and often played to the public’s understandable war fatigue, he has now brought the US to the precipice of another bloody quagmire.

However, there is a larger lesson that Democrats must highlight from all these unforced errors: The president has been disastrous across the board, and nowhere more than on foreign policy and diplomacy. Even though the world is better off without Qassem Suleimani in it, Trump’s predilection to go it alone, to insult and abandon allies such as our friends in Europe and Kurdistan, to pander to enemies like North Korea and Russia – not to mention the man’s overall capriciousness – have driven our credibility and standing on the international scene to its lowest point in modern history.

This is not an abstract question of prestige or national pride. It has ramifications for our security interests and could perhaps even cost the lives of our children in uniform by numbers greater than it already has.

The writers are veterans of Capitol Hill and numerous US presidential campaigns who head Bluelight Strategies, a Washington consulting firm. Working with the White House and president Obama, the two ran the No Nukes for Iran Project, informing the American Jewish community about the Iran nuclear deal.


Israel unveils breakthrough laser to intercept missiles, aerial threats 

January 9, 2020

Source: Israel unveils breakthrough laser to intercept missiles, aerial threats – The Jerusalem Post

Technology expected to take down a variety of aerial threats including rockets, drones, anti-tank missiles.

Artistic depiction of how innovative laser defense system would function on the battle field  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Artistic depiction of how innovative laser defense system would function on the battle field
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Defense Ministry has made a technological breakthrough in the development of lasers that can intercept aerial threats, including rockets and anti-tank guided missiles, it announced Wednesday.

New laser technology “makes the security apparatus more lethal, more powerful and more advanced,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday evening.

Speaking about this new addition to the existing tools of war employed by Israel, he said that “we will add a laser sword when dealing with threats from the North or the South.”

The enemies of Israel better not test our resolve or our abilities,” Bennett said.

Brig.-Gen. Yaniv Rotem, head of the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Research and Development, said: “We are entering a new age of energy warfare in the air, land and sea. The R&D investments made by the DD [Directorate of Defense] R&D in recent years have placed the State of Israel among the leading countries in the field of high-energy laser systems.”

The ministry has been working for more than 10 years on powerful laser technology to enable the development of platforms to intercept a variety of threats, he said. It has carried out a number of successful interceptions of targets, including mortar shells, drones and antitank missiles, at a variety of ranges over the years.

“This is a dramatic solution to rocket fire,” said Dubi Oster, head of the DDR&D Optronics Department. “We have been working on this for years. But it is challenging to get a good-quality beam to stay the size you need at the range you need… for example, a beam the diameter of a coin from here [in Tel Aviv] to Herzliya.”While most developments over the years – both in Israel and abroad – have been ineffective, significant achievements have been made over the past year and a half as a result of collaboration between the ministry and defense companies, including Rafael and Elbit Systems, as well as academic institutions. The breakthrough recently made by the ministry is based on the precision of the laser beam, which can be focused on long-range targets and which can overcome atmospheric disturbances such as clouds and dust storms.

According to Oster, the ministry was able to take several laser beams and, with an advanced algorithm, connect them to get one strong beam that is able to intercept and take down a variety of threats. Based on high-energy electric lasers rather than chemical laser technology, the robust system will complement the other layers of Israel’s aerial defenses and will be a strategic change in the defense capabilities of the state, the ministry said.

According to Rotem, some of the advantages of the high-energy lasers include the ability to continually use the system at lower cost, higher effectiveness and with efficient management. They will also allow for a decrease in the number of missile interceptors used and the future potential to intercept a variety of threats, including unmanned aerial vehicles, drones and guided rockets.

“During a war, missile interceptors will at one point run out, but with this system, as long as you have electricity, you have a never-ending supply,” he said.

Artistic depiction of how innovative laser defense system would function on the battle field/ Courtesy

Artistic depiction of how innovative laser defense system would function on the battle field/ Courtesy

“This is a weapon that you can’t see or hear,” Rotem said, adding that while it is not free since it runs on electricity, every interception will only cost a few dollars, as opposed to interceptor missiles that can run into the thousands.

The use of two different and complementary technologies – kinetic air-defense-like systems, such as the Iron Dome, and laser platforms – “is a game-changer,” Rotem said.

As a result of the breakthrough, the ministry has launched three programs for the development of high-energy laser demonstration systems in cooperation with the two companies: a ground-based laser system to complement the capabilities of the Iron Dome, development of a maneuverable platform-mounted laser system to defend troops in the field and the development of a laser demo system mounted on an air platform to intercept threats above cloud covers and for the defense of wide areas.

“This is one system with many options – the weapon of the future,” Rotem said.

Throughout the year there will be several trials of the demos’ capabilities, the ministry said. If effective, they will be deployed to the Gaza border area.

“This technology enables the development of highly effective operational systems that will serve as an additional layer of defense to secure the State of Israel by air, land and sea,” the ministry said.


Trump and Netanyahu discuss ‘critical’ issues after Iran missile strikes

January 9, 2020

Source: Trump and Netanyahu discuss ‘critical’ issues after Iran missile strikes | The Times of Israel

Brief statement from White House says says two leaders speak of unspecified ‘bilateral and regional issues’; PM earlier warned Tehran against hitting Israel

US President Donald Trump, left, welcomes visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

US President Donald Trump, left, welcomes visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

US President Donald Trump spoke Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following an Iranian missile strike on US forces in Iraq, the White House said.

A brief statement said the two leaders discussed “critical bilateral and regional issues,” giving no further details. There was no immediate confirmation or comment from Israel.

Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu warned Iran against attacking Israel in response to the American killing last week of senior military commander Qassem Soleimani and congratulated Trump for ordering the strike.

“We’re standing steadfast against those who seek our lives. We’re standing with determination and with force. Whoever tries to attack us will receive a crushing blow in return,” he declared at a conference in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu was speaking after Iran fired over a dozen missiles at US bases in Iraq. Iran claimed 80 US troops were killed in the strikes, and warned that it could strike next at Israel; the US said there were no casualties.

In recent days a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned that Tel Aviv could also be targeted, while a former head of the IRGC threatened to turn Israeli cities “to dust” if the US attacks targets in Iran.

“Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the death of countless innocent people,” Netanyahu said. “He destabilized many countries. For decades, he sowed fear and misery and anguish. And he was planning much worse.

Iranian mourners carry a picture of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) granting the Order of Zolfaghar, the highest military honor of Iran, to general Qassem Soleimani, during the latter’s funeral procession in the capital Tehran on January 6, 2020. (ATTA KENARE/AFP)

“President Trump should be congratulated for acting swiftly, boldly and resolutely against this terrorist-in-chief, who was the architect and driver of Iran’s campaign of terror throughout the Middle East and throughout the world,” he added.

“In the Middle East, no day is like any other. The regional upheaval continues. The struggle between extremists and moderates continues unabated,” the prime minister went on.

“On one side is radical Islam led by Iran, which seeks to grasp large sections of the area by means of murderous terrorism, and to grasp, strangle and eliminate us, because they understand that the strongest force of Western culture is here, in the State of Israel. They understand this very well.”

Many leaders in the Middle East agree with him, the prime minister said. The region is split between radical Islamists and a “pragmatic camp” that is threatened by the extremists.

“This camp well understands the campaign for existence, for life and for the future,” Netanyahu said. “The State of Israel is the anchor of stability in these stormy waters. The challenges that we are dealing with are not lessening — on the contrary.”

Netanyahu also reiterated Israel’s full support for the United States in its military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

“It’s very important to say that Israel stands completely beside the United States,” he added. “America has no better friend than Israel, and Israel has no better friend than America.”

Later Wednesday, Trump signaled he would not retaliate militarily to Iran’s missile strikes.

Speaking from the White House, Trump seemed intent on deescalating the crisis: “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world,” he said.

US President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the White House on the ballistic missile strike that Iran launched against Iraqi air bases housing US troops, January 8, 2020. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Despite such conciliatory talk, the region remained on edge, and American troops, including a quick-reaction force dispatched over the weekend, were on high alert. Last week Iranian-backed militias besieged the US Embassy in Baghdad, and Tehran’s proxies in the region remain able to carry out attacks such as the one on December 27 that killed a US contractor and set off the most recent round of hostilities.

Israeli officials, however, believe Iran is unlikely to attack Israel in retaliation for the US airstrike that killed Soleimani in Iraq.

According to several officials who were present at a security cabinet meeting Monday and spoke to Hebrew media, several scenarios were presented regarding Iran’s possible response to the attack, with the security officials saying the chances of an attack on Israel were low.

“Israel was not involved in the killing and there’s no reason it will be dragged into it,” one senior official said.

Agencies contributed to this report.


Iran army chief threatens more severe revenge on US soon 

January 9, 2020

Source: Iran army chief threatens more severe revenge on US soon | The Times of Israel

Top commander vows Iranian regime will launch further attacks in response to slaying of Quds Force general in American drone strike

This satellite image provided on January 8, 2020, by Middlebury Institute of International Studies and Planet Labs Inc. shows the damage caused from an Iranian missile strike at the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq. (Planet Labs Inc./Middlebury Institute of International Studies via AP)

The most senior figure in Iran’s armed forces threatened Thursday that his country will soon seek even heavier revenge against the US, following a recent barrage of missiles fired at American forces stationed at two bases in Iraq, the Iranian Tasnim news agency reported.

The report attributed the remarks to the “chief of general staff,” saying the commander had warned “the regime that will impose a more severe revenge on the enemy in the near future.”

Iran’s chief of general staff is Major-General Mohammad Bagheri, a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On Wednesday Iran fired over a dozen missiles at US bases in Iraq. The missiles were fired in response to the American killing last week of senior military IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani.

Iran’s chief of staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri speaking at a military parade September 21, 2016 (Screen capture: Press TV)

Iran claimed 80 US troops were killed in the strikes, and warned that it could strike next at Israel; the US said there were no casualties.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking on Wednesday, said the overnight strike was not necessarily the totality of Iran’s response.

“Last night they received a slap,” Khamenei said. “These military actions are not sufficient (for revenge). What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”

A senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps warned recently that Tel Aviv could also be targeted, while a former head of the IRGC threatened to turn Israeli cities “to dust” if the US attacks targets in Iran.

Iran, for days, had promised to respond forcefully to Soleimani’s killing, but its limited strike on two bases — one in the northern Iraqi city in Irbil and the other at Ain al-Asad in western Iraq — appeared to signal that it was also uninterested in a wider clash with the US.

After the missile strikes, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the country had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.”


Trump says “Iran appears to be standing down” after missile attacks on US bases – DEBKAfile

January 9, 2020

Source: Trump says “Iran appears to be standing down” after missile attacks on US bases – DEBKAfile

US President Donald Trump noted on Wednesday, Jan. 8 that Iran’s missile attacks that morning on two US bases in Iraq caused no loss of American or Iraqi life and minimal damage.

“Iran appears to be standing down,” he said in an address to the nation. If Iran changes its behavior and abandons terrorism and destruction, of which Qassem Soleimani was the architect, “we will evaluate our options,” he said. Tehran must understand that a deal will make the world a better place and bring prosperity to Iran itself. “We must all work for a better deal with Iran,” he said. Meanwhile, Trump announced new economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic and reiterated, “We will never let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon.

US military sources noted that while Iran for the first time attacked US military targets with ballistic missiles, a third failed and significant facilities were missed.

DEBKAfile reported earlier on Jan. 8: The US Ain al-Assad air base in W. Iraq and a US facility at Irbil, capital of the Kurdish republic, were hit by 35 missiles early Wednesday, Jan. 8, Tehran announced. Sources linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that these attacks were part of a series still to come in revenge for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimaini. The source of the attack was not immediately clear – whether it came from Iran or a local Shiite militia. And although extent of the damage and casualties was equally unclear, the attack definitely notched up the friction prevailing between Tehran and the US over the killing of the powerful Al Qods general last Friday.

After urgent consultations at the White House and the Pentagon on how to handle this latest attack, President Donald Trump made this comment on Twitter: “All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damage taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well-equipped military anywhere in the world by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”

DEBKAfile’s military sources: The missile strikes on the two US bases occurred shortly after the Soleimani funeral ended. It was in line with the revenge attacks that Iran has threatened to launch against the US military in Iraq and across the Middle East. US military facilities were already on the ready. On Tuesday, top war preparedness was declared at all US facilities in the region and by the armies of America’s allies, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The statement issued by Israel’ security cabinet on Monday, that Israel is not involved in the heightened tension between America and Iran following the killing of Qassem Soleimani, was simply an attempt to calm public concerns.


American Mainstream Media Mourns Death Of Iran Terrorist Leader

January 9, 2020

Typical. And oh so predictable…


Text in this post is from the first link. Other link is in a similar vein.

(FILES) In this picture taken on September 14, 2013, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, is seen as people pay their condolences following the death of his mother in Tehran. For a man widely reported to be playing a key role in helping Iraq's routed military recover lost ground, Qassem Soleimani, 57, the commander of Iran's feared Quds Force, remains invisible.

On Monday, Grabien founder Tom Elliott released a new video montage that showed many in the American mainstream media idolizing and mourning terrorist Qassim Suleimani, leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Quds Force, after he was killed by American forces last week in Iraq.

Suleimani’s funeral was this week after the terrorist leader was killed last week in a Trump-authorized drone strike by the U.S. military on a convoy that he was riding in as he left Baghdad International Airport.


  • CBS’s Holly Williams described him as a “revered figure” and a “war hero.” “He wasn’t well-known in the United States, but he was one of the most powerful figures in the Middle East, sometimes even touted as a possible future leader of Iran.” “For America, though, General Suleimani was a problem.” “Even many of Soleimani’s enemies admitted he was a military genius. He spearheaded Iran’s involvement in a Syrian Civil War hoping to shore up the Syrian regime’s grip on power. … By killing Qasem Suleimani, the U.S. has stripped Iran of an inspirational military leader. But it’s also further inflamed dangerously high tensions. Iran has already vowed to take, quote, harsh revenge.”


  • CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said Suleimani was “revered” in Iran: “Imagine the French Foreign Legion, at the height of the French empire. This guy is regarded in Iran as a completely heroic figure, personally very brave.”


  • CNN’s Anderson Cooper, likened Suleimani to the World War II leader, Charles DeGaulle, calling him “personally incredibly brave” and reporting that “the troops love him.”


  • CBS’s National Security Contributor Michael Morell praised Suleimani’s military prowess, calling him an “evil genius.”


  • ABC’s Martha Raddatz — reporting from Iran in a headscarf — appeared awestruck at the display: “I have been in the midst of anti-America protests in Iran before, but nothing like this. A powerful combination of grief and anger with shouts of ‘death to America’ echoing through the streets around us. This morning, mourners filling the streets of Iran’s capital of Tehran for the funeral of General Suleimani killed by that U.S. drone strike last week. Aerial images capturing the sea of Iranians packing the streets to pay tribute to a man revered by many here.”


  • NBC’s Richard Engel, also reporting from Iran, said the United States had elevated the terror mastermind into martyr status: “Now, after this killing, you saw people not only going out in the streets in millions, as Ali was describing, he was there, but throwing articles of their own clothing up onto the coffin so that attendants could rub it on the coffin so that they would have some sort of memento of an object that was close to Qassim Suleimani’s body. They turned him into a martyr, if not a saint. And we’re seeing now all around the region Shiite groups, allies of Iran speaking in one voice, and that is that U.S. troops have to leave the region, should be forced out of the region starting with Iraq.”