Archive for July 3, 2022

Alleged Israeli strike in Syria targeted ‘game changing’ Iranian air defenses — TV

July 3, 2022

After airstrike Saturday morning, unsourced report names IRGC commander allegedly leading ‘new effort’ to deploy Iranian systems in Syria

By TOI STAFFToday, 1:27 am   

Illustrative: This photo released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on June 9, 2019, shows the Khordad 15, a surface-to-air missile battery at an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

An airstrike Saturday in Syria that was attributed to Israel targeted Iranian attempts to bring “game changing” air defense systems to Syria, Israeli television reported.

According to Channel 12 news, the location of the morning strike, which hit the Syrian town of al-Hamidiyah near the port city of Tartus, “implies that it [targeted] a weapon transported by sea, possibly using Iranian ships that docked at the port last week.”

The report added that the strike came amid “a new move by the Iranians in Syria to bring in air defense system to protect their military interests.”

The network provided no source for the assessment; according to Syrian state media, the airstrike destroyed “poultry farms” and wounded two civilians.

Military officials have said in the past that Syria has improved its air defense capabilities with upgraded Iranian-made components. In a 2018 strike, Israel reportedly targeted a soon-to-be-deployed Iranian advanced air defense system.

Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET IT

By signing up, you agree to the terms

Channel 12 said Saturday that this “new effort” was being led by a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in cooperation with the Syrian army, with the aim of enabling Tehran to operate its own air defense systems in Syria.

The network named the IRGC officer as Farid Mahmads Sakai, saying “it’s no coincidence his name is being published now.” No details were provided on where the officer’s name was published nor any further information on his rank and position.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. It says it targets bases of Iran and allied militias, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah group that has fighters deployed in Syria, as well as arms shipments believed to be bound for various proxies.

In another unsourced report, Channel 12 said two explosions occurred at an IRGC base southeast of Tehran, causing “extensive damage” on Friday night.

There has been no official comment on the incident, which was widely circulated on social media and picked up by the opposition supporting Iran International, which is based in London.

Israel hoping for shift in US Iran policy from diplomacy to deterrence | Zohar Palti | The Blogs

July 3, 2022

ANALYSIS: Security professionals believe it’s time for America to demonstrate its commitment to act militarily to prevent Iran’s nuclear progress

  • JUN 30, 2022, 4:47 PM

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi, second right, receives an explanation while visiting an exhibition of Iran’s nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran, on Saturday, April 9, 2022. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

With Israelis already consumed with a new election campaign, Israel’s national security establishment – the men and women responsible for countering threats to the Jewish state – will welcome President Biden’s visit with a mix of hope and fear. They hope that the American leader brings with him a dramatically different approach to the Iran nuclear challenge; they fear, however, that the president will persist in a policy that may have made sense when he took office 18 months ago but has since lost any relevance.

This marks an important change for Israeli defense and security professionals. From the start of the Biden administration, Israeli security institutions acknowledged the rationale guiding Washington’s desire to return to the Iran nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – on a “compliance for compliance” understanding with Tehran.  This is not because the professionals thought the JCPOA was a brilliant diplomatic achievement; on the contrary, they recognized the huge and dangerous flaws in the deal. Rather, this is because they put a higher premium on the time that a renewed agreement would provide for Israel – both independently and with its allies – to better prepare for a potential reckoning with an Iran bent on achieving military nuclear capability.

But mid-2022 is a lot different than early 2021. Over the past year and a half, Iran has dragged its feet on diplomacy, refusing even to meet face-to-face with the Americans, while quietly advancing its nuclear program. Today, with centrifuges that are much more advanced than the ones they had when the nuclear deal was reached in the Obama administration, Iranians enrich uranium to 60 percent – a far cry from the 3.75 percent limit they accepted in the JCPOA. This is a small step away from 90 percent enrichment, the level which produces weapons-grade fissile material. And to hide their activities, the Iranians recently announced the removal of critical cameras and surveillance equipment installed by the International Atomic Energy Agency at their key facilities, essentially leaving the world in the dark as to their real nuclear progress.

Iran’s boldness extends beyond the nuclear realm into its regional strategy. From Lebanon to Syria to Yemen, they have invested heavily in building a network of terrorist cut-outs and militia proxies, who they have provided with advanced military capabilities, such as weaponized drones and precision-guided missiles. Israel looks across the border and sees more than 100,000 missiles and rockets in Hezbollah’s inventory; Gulf states have already suffered drone and cruise missile attacks on civilian targets, including airports and oil installations.

Setting aside the details of the deal itself, why did Iran agree to the original JCPOA in 2015 but rejected Biden’s offer to return to the agreement? The answer is simple – Iran today is no longer under the pressure that it felt seven years ago. Indeed, the record of diplomacy with Iran is clear: without pressure, the Iranians agree to nothing.

Today, Iran feels very little pressure to compromise. With energy prices sky-high, Iran has found buyers for its sanctioned oil that – even with discounts – has produced a windfall for the only institution that really matters in the country, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which supervises the clandestine oil trade. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has held off on penalizing recipients of Iran’s illegal exports for fear of worsening the energy crunch that has already driven gas prices to unprecedented levels.

Iran feels very little pressure on its nuclear program, too. It has violated commitment after commitment, on enrichment, centrifuge development and production of uranium metals, without any repercussions from the international community.

And in terms of its regional military activity, Iran operates undeterred. The only response to Iranian attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has been defensive upgrades in the targeted countries’ anti-missile and anti-drone capabilities. Iran itself suffered no direct cost for its unprovoked attacks.

In light of all this, an assessment crystallized in the minds of most Israeli security professionals that the current US approach would probably not work. They reached the conclusion that only the application of massive additional pressure on Iran will convince the mullahs to compromise.

Applying pressure is something the West knows how to do. During the George W. Bush administration, when the US deployed a huge number of troops into next-door Iraq, fear of an American military invasion compelled the Iranians to suspend their nuclear weaponization program. And the application of massive economic pressure by the US and its European partners during the early years of the Obama administration is what forced the mullahs to the bargaining table and eventually into the original JCPOA.

Israel’s security professionals believe now is the time to return to a policy of pressure. Only if Iran’s leaders truly believe that something more valuable is at risk than the nuclear program – namely, the very stability of the regime – will they be open to compromise.

This can only be achieved if America can instill a sense of fear in Iran. This requires American contingency planning and military training operations to convince Iran that the US commitment to act militarily to prevent its nuclear progress is real.

At the same time, a policy of pressure would include reinvigorated sanctions, especially in the fields of energy and finance. This has to include a willingness to target Chinese purchases of Iranian oil, which may run counter to the short-term desire to tamp down gasoline prices but is necessary to convince Iran that the cost of its nuclear brinkmanship will not be tolerated.

And a policy of pressure would require extensive coordination – political, military, economic and diplomatic – with a wide array of countries. These need to include traditional allies and partners in Europe and the Middle East as well as the ring of countries that surround Iran – Turkey, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, even Afghanistan – that control the land bridges to the Islamic Republic and whose assistance in enforcing sanctions can make a huge difference.

Admittedly, this is a tall order. A policy of pressure on Iran is dramatically different from the one adopted so far by the Biden Administration, which hoped that benign diplomacy would push the Iran problem down the road. At a time when the world is focused on Russia’s war against Ukraine, rising anxiety over Chinese ambitions in the Pacific, and deepening fear of a global recession, it will be tough to convince the White House to invest the time, resources and energy to orchestrate this complex and potentially risky initiative.

But one thing the advocates of a pressure policy have in their favor is that staying the course – letting Iran proceed on its current path — is bound to be worse for US interests. If America doesn’t get its hands dirty now with restoring deterrence to its relationship with Iran, the Tehran leadership may decide to move forward to 90 percent enrichment, at which point Iran becomes a nuclear threshold state. Without American action before then, Israel will feel isolated, alone and compelled to consider measures to prevent what it would view as a strategic catastrophe, measures whose reverberations no one can confidently predict. All Israelis, regardless of their politics, hope America leads the world in preventing the Iran nuclear problem from crossing that dangerous line.

IDF had advance intel on Hezbollah attempt to launch drones at Karish gas field

July 3, 2022

Military spokesman says terror group suffered ‘significant operational setback’ in failed attempt to convey a message, as its three UAVs were downed over Lebanon’s waters

By EMANUEL FABIAN Today, 10:11 am  

An Israeli Sa’ar Class 4.5 missile boat guards the Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel at the Karish gas field, in footage published by the military on July 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces had prior intelligence on Hezbollah’s Saturday launching of three unarmed drones at the Karish gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast, and believes it was an attempt to convey a message to Israel.

One of the aircraft was downed by an F-16 fighter jet and the other two by Barak 8 missiles launched from the Saar 5 Class Corvette INS Eilat. According to defense officials, all three were intercepted “at a safe distance from” the drilling platform.

Military spokesman Ran Kochav told the Kan public radio on Sunday morning that the terror group’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, “thought he would catch [Israel] off-guard.”

“But we are ready, in terms of our early warning systems, and in terms of intelligence, the Navy and Air Force, to protect Israel’s assets,” Kochav said.

He said Hezbollah “suffered a significant operational setback” in its thwarted attempt to convey a message to Israel.

Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET IT

By signing up, you agree to the terms

Kohav added that Israel’s sovereignty was not breached in the incident, indicating that the UAVs were downed over Lebanon’s UN-recognized territorial waters.

Tensions have risen over Karish in recent weeks after a gas production vessel arrived in Israel to launch extraction operations in the offshore field. This drew condemnation from Lebanon, which had laid claim to parts of the field. Israel says Karish is in part of its UN-recognized exclusive economic zone.

Nasrallah recently threatened Israel over its plans to extract gas from the contested offshore reserve, saying that his organization is capable of preventing such action, including by force.

But both the Israeli military and Hezbollah said the drones launched on Saturday afternoon were not armed, and were used for surveillance purposes and to prove the terror group has the capability to approach the rig.

Hezbollah said that mission was accomplished successfully and “a message was conveyed.”

A sea-based Iron Dome air defense system is seen on a Navy ship, guarding the Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel at the Karish gas field, in footage published by the military on July 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Lebanon and Israel — which have no diplomatic relations and consider each other enemy states — have been holding indirect talks brokered by the US for close to two years to resolve a maritime border dispute.

But talks over the field have been frozen since last year, after Lebanon tried to move its claim further into the zone Israel claims as its own. Last month, the Biden administration said recent meetings held between its energy envoy and Israeli and Lebanese officials resulted in progress.

Israel and Lebanon each claim about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as within their exclusive economic zones.

Both countries have economic interests in the territory, which contains lucrative natural gas. Lebanon, which has been facing an economic crisis since late 2019, sees the resources as a potential lifeline.

Last month, the IDF held a major military exercise in Cyprus, simulating a ground offensive deep inside Lebanon in a potential war against the Iran-backed Hezbollah.

The terror group has long been a significant adversary for the IDF, with an estimated arsenal of nearly 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.