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Russia’s new missile defences in Syria look likely to set off a shooting war against Israel

September 25, 2018

Source: Russia’s new missile defences in Syria look likely to set off a shooting war against Israel | Business Insider

The job of Israel’s air force just got a lot more dangerous.
  • Russia announced on Monday it would send its advanced S-300 missile defence systems to Syria after losing a spy plane to errant Syrian air defence fire.
  • Russia will now reportedly staff Syrian air defences to avoid such shoot-downs in the future, but this puts them in harm’s way.
  • Israel regularly bombs Syrian air defences, and if they kill Russians, it could quickly escalate into war.
  • The US also sometimes strikes Syria, raising the stakes all round of a meltdown in the conflict.

Russia announced on Monday it would send its advanced S-300 missile defence systems to Syria after it lost a spy plane to errant Syrian air defence fire – but the new set-up puts Israel at high risk of killing Russians and starting a war.

Russia blames Israel for Syria, its own ally, firing a Russian-made air defence missile that missed Israeli jets attacking Syria and instead killed 15 Russian servicemen on an Il-20 spy plane.

According to Russia, Israeli F-16s flew in low under the Il-20 to either shield themselves from air defence fire or make Syrian air defences, which use outdated technology, shoot down the bigger, easier to spot Il-20 rather than the sleeker F-16s.

Whether or not Israel purposefully used the Il-20 to its advantage remains an open question. But it exposed a glaring flaw in Syrian and Russian military cooperation, which Moscow is due to close with the S-300.

Russians hit the front lines, and Israel won’t back off

According to Nikolai Sokov, a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterrey, the Russians will now sit on-site at Syrian air defence sites, which Israel frequently bombs.

Syria’s current air defences lack the highly-classified signal Russian planes send to their own air defences to identify them as friendly. Without this secret sign from the flying Il-20, Syria mistook it for an enemy, and shot it down.

If Russia could simply give Syria the signal and fix the problem, it would have likely done so already. But if Syria somehow leaked the signal, the US or NATO could trick all Russian air defences into their fighters were friendly Russian jets, leaving Russia open to attack, according to Sokov.

“The S-300 systems Russia plans to supply to Syria will feature a compromise solution,” said Sokov. “They will be fully equipped to distinguish Russian aircraft… but there will be Russian personnel present at controls.”

Israel has admitted to more than 200 air strikes within Syria in the last two years. These strikes have killed more than 100 Iranian fighters in Syria in the last month alone, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.

Frequently, Syria responds to these strikes with air defence fire against Israeli fighter jets. In February, Syria succeeded in downing an Israeli F-16. Israel responded with a sweeping attack it claimed knocked out half of Syria’s air defences.

Trends point to a big fight

Iran has pledged to wipe Israel off the map, and has for decades tried to achieve that by transferring weapons across the Middle East to Israel’s neighbours, like Lebanon where Hezbollah holds power.

Israel has vowed in return to destroy Iranian weapons shipments wherever it finds them. In the past, Israel has struck Iranian uniformed personnel, munitions depots, and Iranian-backed militias.

In short, Israeli strikes that require air defence suppression (such as blowing up Russian-made air defences in Syria) will not stop any time soon, judging by Israel and Iran’s ongoing positions.

But now, when Israel knocks down a Syrian air defence site, it runs the risk of killing Russian servicemen. When Israel kills Syrians, Syria complains and may fire some missiles back, but its military is too weak and distracted by a seven-year-long civil war to do much about it.

If Israel kills Russians, then Russia’s large navy and aviation presence could mobilize very quickly against Israel, which has fierce defences of its own.

“Obviously, this seriously constrains not just Israeli, but also US operations in case of possible bombing of Syria,” Sokov said of the new Russian-staffed S-300.

“Not only Syrian air defence will become more capable, but it will be necessary to keep in mind the presence of Russian operators at the Syrian air defence systems.”

So next time Israel or the US decides to strike Syria, it may not only find stiffer-than-usual resistance, it might find itself in a quickly escalating battle with one of the world’s greatest military powers.

 

Iran says ‘jihadist separatists’ behind attack, as probe points to IS

September 25, 2018

Source: Iran says ‘jihadist separatists’ behind attack, as probe points to IS | The Times of Israel

Intelligence ministry: Attackers who killed 25 at military parade in Ahvaz were funded by ‘Arab reactionary countries’

People attend a mass funeral for those who died in Saturday's attack on a military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, that killed 25 people, in Ahvaz, Iran, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

People attend a mass funeral for those who died in Saturday’s attack on a military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, that killed 25 people, in Ahvaz, Iran, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) — Iran on Tuesday identified the perpetrators of a deadly attack on a military parade as “jihadist separatists,” announcing a series of arrests and appearing to tie the Islamic State group to the bloodshed.

The intelligence ministry published photos of the five men it said carried out the assault Saturday in the southwestern city of Ahvaz that killed 24 people including civilians.

“The five members of a terrorist squad affiliated to jihadist separatist groups supported by Arab reactionary countries were identified,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The terrorists’ hideout was found and 22 people involved [in the attack] were arrested,” it said, adding that explosives were seized along with military and communications equipment.

The attack targeted a parade in Khuzestan province commemorating the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

The region, which has a large ethnic Arab community, was a major battleground of the conflict and saw ethnic unrest in 2005 and 2011.

Iranian officials initially blamed Arab separatists — who they claimed were behind previous unrest — for the latest attack, saying they were backed by Gulf Arab allies of the United States.

This version was bolstered when a movement called “Ahwaz National Resistance,” an Arab separatist group, claimed responsibility shortly after the assault.

This picture taken on September 22, 2018 in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz shows Iranian women and soldiers taking cover next to bushes at the scene of an attack on a military parade in the southwestern Khuzestan province on September 22, 2018. (AFP/ ISNA / MORTEZA JABERIAN)

But the Islamic State group (IS) was also quick to claim responsibility and later published a video of men it said were the attackers.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Monday linked the attackers to Iraq and Syria, where IS once had major strongholds.

“This cowardly act was the work of those very individuals who are rescued by the Americans whenever they are in trouble in Iraq and Syria and who are funded by the Saudis and the [United] Arab Emirates,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by his official website.

IS screenshot

The photographs of the alleged attackers released by the authorities Tuesday showed the bodies of four men named as Ayyad Mansouri, Fouad Mansouri, Ahmad Mansouri, and Javad Saari.

The picture published by the intelligence ministry of an alleged fifth member of the group, Hassan Darvishi, was a screenshot taken from the video put out by IS.

According to local media two of the Mansouris are brothers and the third is their cousin.

Abdullah Ganji, the managing director of the ultra-conservative Javan daily, wrote on Twitter that a third Mansouri brother “was killed in a suicide bombing in Syria.”

There has been no known presence of Iranian Arab separatist groups in Syria.

Ganji also wrote in an article that the nature of the attack in Ahvaz, in which the assailants died, far more resembled IS than the “bombing or hit and run operations” typical of Arab separatist groups.

In this picture released by his office’s official website, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at a meeting in Tehran, Iran, on August 13, 2018. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

“To kill until you are killed, without trying to leave the scene is the method of [IS],” he said, pointing to parallels with a high-profile attack in Iran last year.

On June 7, 2017, in Tehran, 17 people were killed and dozens wounded in simultaneous attacks on the parliament and on the tomb of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — the first inside Iran claimed by IS.

Ganji, however, appeared to hedge his analysis and said that if it was still confirmed that the Arab separatists committed the attack then it could mean they are in league with IS.

Iranian authorities have blamed the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates of being behind the Ahvaz attack, which Tehran has promised to “rigorously punish.”

 

President Trump’s Address to the United Nations: Full Speech 9/25/2018 – YouTube

September 25, 2018

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IAF strike in Latakia destroys rocket factory, Iranian aircraft

September 25, 2018

Source: IAF strike in Latakia destroys rocket factory, Iranian aircraft

Amid crisis between Russia and Israel over downing of Russian spy plane, newly released satellite images show Israel’s initial attack in Syria wiped out an ammunition depot, military factory and Boeing 747 of Fars Air Qeshm—Iranian airline affiliated with country’s Revolutionary Guards.
Satellite images of recent Israeli airstrikes in Latakia, following which a Russian spy plane was shot down leading to an international crisis, show a military rocket factory and a 155 by 35 meters ammunition depot were completely wiped out.

In addition, satellite footage of the attack on Damascus International Airport were published, showing the remnant of an aircraft, apparently Boeing 747 of Fars Air Qeshm, an Iranian airline affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

 (Photo: ImageSat International (ISI) )

(Photo: ImageSat International (ISI) )

After launching an investigation into the incident, the Kremlin published Sunday its findings.

 (Photo:  ImageSat International (ISI))

(Photo: ImageSat International (ISI))

According to the Russian Defense Ministry’s report, the IAF deceived the Russians by presenting false information regarding the area in which the strike in Latakia was planned on September 17 which prevented the Russian plane from leaving the danger zone.

According to a statement issued by the IDF after the attack, “The IDF aircraft attacked a facility from which the Syrian army intended to transfer systems for manufacturing high precision-guided weapons for Iran and Hezbollah.

“The weapons is meant to attack Israel and constitutes an intolerable threat to it,” the IDF said.

Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin presented on Thursday findings in Moscow related to the downing of the Russian plane.

The findings were presented at a special meeting held in Moscow, after the head of the defense ministry in Moscow accused Israel of indirectly causing the downing of the Russian reconnaissance plane.

 (Photo:  ImageSat International (ISI))

(Photo: ImageSat International (ISI))

According to the report, the coordination system between the IDF and the Russian army prior to the attack operated according to procedure and fixed orders, as shown in more than 200 similar attacks in the last two years, with an emphasis on recent attacks.

The report added that the Syrian air defense system operated several anti-aircraft batteries deployed throughout Syria.

These batteries fired for more than half an hour, even while the Israeli fighter jets were en route to Israel.

 (Photo:  ImageSat International (ISI))

(Photo: ImageSat International (ISI))

According to the IDF maps presented to the Russians, there was no room for doubt: the Syrian anti-aircraft attack included dozens of missiles of various sorts, including the advanced Soviet S-200 missile that downed the Israeli fighter plane in the Galilee in February.

The Syrian warplanes fired missiles in all directions: south towards Lebanon, east to Syria, and west towards the coast—where the Russian plane was shot down. The Israeli report argued that this multifaceted attack demonstrates the Syrian army’s “rampage.”

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said on Tuesday that the Syrian facility the IAF targeted was about to transfer weapons to Hezbollah on behalf of Iran.

Satellite images presented by the IAF prove that in contrast to the official footage released by Syrian media,  the structures struck were rocket factories and not aluminum factories, as Assad’s regime claimed.

 (Photo: Photo: ImageSat International (ISI) )

(Photo: Photo: ImageSat International (ISI) )

For several years, Israel and Russia have maintained a special hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria. Russia has provided key air support to President Bashar Assad’s forces since 2015, while Israel has carried out dozens of strikes against Iran-linked forces. Israeli military officials have previously praised the hotline’s effectiveness.

Russian plane, file photo (Photo: Shutterstock)

Russian plane, file photo (Photo: Shutterstock)

But Russian defense ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov on Sunday accused Israel of using the hotline to mislead Russia about its plans. He said the Russians were unable to get the Il-20 to a safe place because an Israeli duty officer had misled them, telling them of an Israeli operation in northern Syria while the jets were actually in Latakia, in the country’s west

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday that Moscow will supply an S-300 anti-missile system to Syria within two weeks.

The anti-aircraft unit will reportedly be equipped with Russian tracking and guidance systems, and is intended to “calm down some hotheads” whose actions “pose a threat to our troops,” according to Shoigu.

Weapons keep being transferred from Iran to Syria

It was reported last week that Syria’s army Ilyushin Il-76 cargo aircraft are being routinely transferred from Iran to Damascus to supply Assad’s army with arms and ammunition.

However, one civil flight—believed to be linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards—which landed in the Syrian capital led to a new pattern of Syrian cargo flights near the Syria-Iraq border.

The aircraft took off at 4pm, and due to radar reception disruptions, it disappeared near the Iraqi border. The fact the plane landed back in Damascus at 8:30pm suggests it operated near the border.

On Thursday, Syrian planes were detected on their route to Teheran. At 8:30 an Ilyushin Il-76 cargo aircraft left for Iran’s capital and returned with cargo to Damascus at 4pm.

Another plane departed from Syria at 6pm heading towards the Iraqi desert. However, contact was lost with the aircraft due to reception problems. At 10pm it returned to Syria.

 

Iran video threatens missile strikes on Israel, Gulf states

September 25, 2018

Source: Iran video threatens missile strikes on Israel, Gulf states

Revolutionary Guards issue yet another threat, warning Israel, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates that Iran’s elite military unit intends to avenge military parade attack that killed 25 people, most of whom were their comrades
An Iranian media outlet close to the country’s hard-line Revolutionary Guard published a video Tuesday threatening Israel as well as the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with missile attacks, further raising regional tensions after a weekend militant attack on a military parade in Iran.
The video tweeted and later deleted by the semi-official Fars news agency comes as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Riyadh and Abu Dhabi for the attack in the city of Ahvaz on Saturday, which killed at least 25 people and wounded over 60.The threat amplifies the unease felt across the greater Persian Gulf, which is seeing Iran’s economy upended in the wake of America’s withdrawal from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers and Saudi and Emirati forces bogged down in their yearslong war in Yemen.

 (Photo: AP)

(Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Iranian officials on Tuesday identified the five men who carried out the parade attack, which authorities have blamed on Arab separatists. At least two of the men identified have appeared in a video distributed by the Islamic State group in its own claim of responsibility for the Ahvaz attack. This further complicates the process of determining who exactly was behind the assault.

The Fars video shows file footage of previous ballistic missile attacks launched by the Guard, then a graphic of a sniper rifle scope homing in on Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

The era of the hit-and-run has expired,” Khamenei’s voice is heard in the video, the segment taken from an April speech by the supreme leader. “A heavy punishment is underway.”

Iran has fired its ballistic missiles twice in anger in recent years. In 2017, responding to an Islamic State attack on Tehran, the Guard fired missiles striking targets in Syria. Then, earlier this month, it launched a strike on a meeting of Iranian Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq.

The Guard, a paramilitary force answerable only to Khamenei, has sole control over Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Under Khamenei’s orders, Iran now limits its ballistic missiles to a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), which gives Tehran the range to strike Israel, Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as regional American military bases.

Saturday’s attack targeted one of many parades in Iran marking the start of the country’s long 1980s war with Iraq, part of a commemoration known as “Sacred Defense Week.” Militants disguised as soldiers opened fire as rows of troops marched past officials in Ahvaz.

 (Photo: AP)

(Photo: AP)

Arab separatists in the region claimed the attack and Iranian officials have blamed them for the assault. The separatists accuse Iran’s Persian-dominated government of discriminating against its ethnic Arab minority. Iran’s Khuzestan province, where Ahvaz is the provincial capital, also has seen recent protests over Iran’s nationwide drought, as well as economic protests.

IS also claimed Saturday’s attack, initially offering incorrect information about it and later publishing a video of three men it identified as the attackers. The men in the video, however, did not pledge allegiance or otherwise identify themselves as IS followers.

Fars later said Iranian officials identified the attackers as Hassan Darvishi, Javad Sari, Ahmad Mansouri, Foad Mansouri and Ayad Mansouri. It said two of them were brothers and another was their cousin.

Darvishi and Ayad Mansouri both appeared in the IS video. A third man in the video resembled either Ahmad or Foad Mansouri, but The Associated Press could not independently verify his identity.

Iranian officials have maintained that Arab separatists carried out the attack. A spokesman for an Ahvazi separatists group on Saturday also identified one of the attackers by name—Ahmad Mansouri—in an interview with AP reporters.

State TV reported late Monday that authorities have detained 22 suspects linked to the group behind the attack and confiscated ammunition and communication equipment.

The Guard’s acting commander, Gen. Hossein Salami, vowed revenge Monday against the perpetrators and what he called the “triangle” of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States.

“You are responsible for these actions; you will face the repercussions,” the general said. “We warn all of those behind the story, we will take revenge.”

Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, said Monday that the attack showed Iran has “a lot of enemies,” according to remarks posted on his website. He linked the attackers to the United States, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“Definitely, we will harshly punish the operatives” behind the terror attack, he added.

 

Iran’s president warns US on sanctions, does not rule out talks 

September 25, 2018

Source: Iran’s president warns US on sanctions, does not rule out talks – Israel Hayom

 

US-Iran tensions escalate in wake of deadly military parade attack

September 25, 2018

Source: US-Iran tensions escalate in wake of deadly military parade attack – Israel Hayom