Archive for May 17, 2022

Iranian cruise missile sent to Hizballah could carry nuclear warhead. Sea blockade planned for Israel – DEBKAfile

May 17, 2022

 Iran sends Hizballah cruise missiles

Iran has furnished the Lebanese Hizballah terrorist group with a selection of cruise missiles, including the Kh-55, which is potentially capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. This weapon has a range of 3,000km. This report came from Western intelligence sources on Monday, May 16, when the Israel Navy joined the Israel military’s large-scale “Chariots of Fire” exercise.

The Kh-55 was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s as an air-launched cruise missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. The Iranian conversion can be launched from land or from a naval vessel.

While building up a stock of precision-guided surface missiles, Iran’s Lebanese proxy has also, with the help of Iran and Syria, been quietly accumulating a pile of marine cruise missiles, capable of posting a major threat to the Israeli Navy. Its purpose is to clamp a sea blockade on Israel in a war. Even a partial blockade would seriously disrupt israel’s ability to conduct wartime operations and interfere with its military and civilian supply routes.

The sea-launched missiles now in the hands of Hizballah are listed by Western intelligence as: the C-802, the Iranian version of the Chinese subsonic cruise missile, which has a range of 200km; the Russian Yakhont subsonic cruise missile which has a range of 300km and was passed to the Lebanese group by Syria – with Moscow’s consent; Nor – 200km range; Gadar-110, an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 2,000km; and Ghadir, an anti-ship cruise missile which has a range of 300km.     

Gantz says Iran installing 1,000 advanced centrifuges, including at new Natanz site

May 17, 2022

Defense minister warns cost of dealing with Iran will be higher in a year; warns Tehran against transfer of advanced weapons to proxies; says Israel’s position on Ukraine ‘ethical’

By EMANUEL FABIAN Today, 11:06 am  

In this June 6, 2018, frame grab from Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, three versions of domestically built centrifuges are shown in a live TV program from Natanz, an Iranian uranium enrichment plant, in Iran. (IRIB via AP)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz claimed on Tuesday that Iran was working to finish the production and installation of 1,000 advanced centrifuges enriching uranium, including at a new underground site at the Natanz nuclear facility.

“Iran continues to accumulate irreversible knowledge and experience in the development, research, production, and operation of advanced centrifuges. It stands just a few weeks away from obtaining fissile material needed for a first bomb,” Gantz said during an Institute for National Security Studies conference at Herzliya’s Reichman University.

“During these very days, Iran is making an effort to complete the production and installation of 1,000 advanced IR6 centrifuges at its nuclear facilities, including a new facility being built at an underground site near Natanz,” he said.

Last month the head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency confirmed that Iran had set up a new centrifuge parts workshop at its Natanz nuclear facility.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi said the machines were moved from Karaj, near Tehran, to the new location, which he said was some three floors belowground, possibly to protect it from airstrikes.

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The workshop had been set up in one of the halls of Natanz’s fuel enrichment plant, where Iran has thousands of centrifuges, Grossi said.

Natanz, in Iran’s central Isfahan province, hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. (AP)

Iran’s centrifuge facility in Karaj was targeted in what Iran described as a sabotage attack in June. Natanz itself has twice been targeted in sabotage attacks, assaults that Iran has blamed on Israel.

Talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled. There is concern that Iran could be closer to being able to construct an atomic weapon if it chose to pursue one.

The nuclear deal collapsed four years ago when former US president Donald Trump withdrew the United States and imposed crushing sanctions on Iran. In the meantime, Iran has vastly expanded its nuclear work, while insisting that it is for peaceful purposes.

“The price for tackling the Iranian challenge on a global or regional level is higher than it was a year ago and lower than it will be in a year,” Gantz said.

The defense minister also said two Iranian drones downed over Iraq in February were intended to reach terror groups in the Gaza Strip or West Bank.

“The [Islamic] Revolutionary Guard [Corps] launched a pair of drones from Iran itself, towards Israel. Among other things, based on the fact that the UAVs had parachutes attached, we estimate that the purpose of the launch was to parachute them into the Gaza Strip or Judea and Samaria and for them to be collected by terrorist organizations,” he said.

An Iranian Shahed-136 drone is launched during a military exercise in Iran, December 2021. (Screenshot: Twitter)

The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed it intercepted at least four other Iranian drones heading for Israel or the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years.

The defense minister warned that Iran’s attempts to transfer “accurate munitions” to its proxies, including via Syria, were continuing. “Israel will continue to halt these efforts and prevent the threat to its citizens and the region,” he said, days after an airstrike in the northwestern Masyaf area of Syria was attributed to Israel.

“The quantity of this strategic weapon in the hands of Iranian emissaries has increased significantly in the past year,” Gantz said. “In Iraq, there are hundreds of [munitions]; many dozens have been added this year. In Yemen, the number of [munitions] has increased in the past year, and the Houthis hold dozens of them.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks during at an Institute for National Security Studies conference at Herzliya’s Reichman University, May 17, 2022. (Gilad Kvalarchik)

Speaking on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Gantz said Israel was in the right place “ethically and strategically,” adding that he supports transferring additional defensive equipment to Ukraine.

Israel has avoided aligning too closely with either side since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24. It is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, and Russia. However, the rhetoric coming from Jerusalem shifted in the wake of the reports of widespread civilian killings by the Russians and comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claiming that Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood.”

While Jerusalem has increasingly shifted its tone to align more with Western powers, it has so far steadfastly declined to contribute to the Ukrainian military effort, instead sending humanitarian aid and defensive equipment to be used by emergency services.

Gantz said supporting Ukraine must not come at the cost of Israel’s “broad operational considerations, which are also an anchor for regional stability.”

Israeli strikes have continued in Syrian airspace, which is largely controlled by Russia, even as ties with Moscow have deteriorated in recent weeks. Israel has found itself at odds with Russia as it has increasingly supported Ukraine, while seeking to maintain freedom of movement in Syria’s skies.

Agencies contributed to this report.