Archive for the ‘Israel and Iran’ category

AIR STRIKES REPORTED IN SYRIA

April 17, 2018

Syrian media and eyewitnesses reported missile, anti-aircraft fire and fighter jets early Tuesday morning.

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN, REUTERS APRIL 17, 2018 02:22

Source Link: AIR STRIKES REPORTED IN SYRIA

{Proxies need not apply. – LS}

Syrian media and locals reported air strikes and Syrian air defense launching rockets in response in the early hours of Tuesday.
According to initial reports, the strikes may have targeted Al-Sayrat airbase and rural Homs, as well as areas around Damascus.

Days after US-led airstrikes hit Homs and Damascus on April 14, Syrian Twitter accounts blamed Israel for alleged strikes on Tuesday morning. The first reports emerged around 1:30am. Al Sura Media claimed fighter jets had targeted Syria’s T4 airbase, where Iranian troops are alleged to be present.

Syrian state television showed pictures of a missile that was shot in the air above the base.

State television did not mention three missiles that were fired at Dumair military airport, northeast of Damascus, that pro-Iranian Hezbollah’s media service reported were intercepted by Syrian air defenses.

Opposition sources say Dumair airport is a major air base used in a large-scale military campaign waged by the Syrian army with Russian firepower that regained eastern Ghouta, a rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus.

On Monday Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem warned that Iran and Israel are nearing open war as tensions are very high in Syria.

Syria’s Sana Ajel news claimed anti-aircraft units responded to an attack in Shayrat airbase near Homs. That was the same airbase the US struck in 2017 in response to a chemical weapons attack at Khan Sheikhoun.

Reports of strikes at Shayrat airbase and areas south of Damascus were dismissed as rumors by some commentators online. Syria’s regime is gearing up for a battle with ISIS in Yarmouk in southern Damascus, and some said that the sounds of missiles might be related to that conflict.

However, Al-Mayadeen and other pro-regime channels showed video of a strange light, which they claimed was part of the airstrikes, hovering in the sky.

The Pentagon said that the US was not involved in any strikes Tuesday morning.

The last week has seen several reported strikes in Syria. The New York Times quoted an unnamed Israeli military source as saying Israel had carried out an April 9 air strike in Syria.

The map below shows the location of the reported strikes.

https://maphub.net/embed/28857

The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel

April 16, 2018

By Thomas L. Friedman Opinion Columnist New York Times

Source Link: The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel

{Interesting opinion piece and reality check. – LS}

SYRIA-ISRAEL BORDER, Golan Heights — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Syria is going to explode. I know, you have heard that one before, but this time I mean really explode. Because the U.S., British and French attack on Syria to punish its regime for its vile use of chemical weapons — and Russia’s vow to respond — is actually just the second-most dangerous confrontation unfolding in that country.

Even more dangerous is that Israel and Iran, at the exact same time, seem to be heading for a High Noon shootout in Syria over Iran’s attempts to turn Syria into a forward air base against Israel, something Israel is vowing to never let happen. This is not mere speculation. In the past few weeks — for the first time ever — Israel and Iran have begun quietly trading blows directly, not through proxies, in Syria.

And this quiet phase may be about to end.

Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger away from going to the next level — and if that happens, the U.S. and Russia may find it difficult to stay out.

Let me try to explain what is unfolding from a lookout post on the Syrian-Israel border, where I stood a couple of days ago. To follow along at home, I highly recommend this website, which tracks the multiple interlocking Syrian conflicts in real time and is used by the U.N. observers here on the Golan Heights.

Let’s start with the fact that the latest U.S., British and French cruise missile punishment attack appears to be a one-off operation and the impact will be contained. Russia and Syria have little interest in courting another Western raid and raising the level of involvement in Syria by the three big Western powers. And the three Western powers do not want to get more deeply involved in Syria.

It is the potentially uncontained direct shooting war brewing between Israel and Iran that is much more likely and worrisome, because it may be about to enter round two.

Round one occurred on Feb. 10, when an Iranian drone launched by a Revolutionary Guards Quds Force unit operating out of Syria’s T4 air base, east of Homs in central Syria, was shot down with a missile from an Israeli Apache helicopter that was following it after it penetrated Israeli airspace.

Initial reports were that the Iranian drone was purely on a reconnaissance mission. But the official Israeli Army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said Friday that the drone’s flight path and Israel’s “intelligence and operational analysis of the parts of the Iranian unmanned vehicle” indicated that “the aircraft was carrying explosives” and that its mission was “an act of sabotage in Israeli territory.”

I have no ability to independently verify that claim. But the fact that the Israelis are putting it out should raise alarm bells. If it is true, it suggests that the Quds Force — commanded by Iran’s military mastermind Qassem Suleimani — may have been trying to launch an actual military strike on Israel from an air base in Syria, not just reconnaissance.

“This is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy,” a senior Israeli military source told me. “This opened a new period.”

It certainly helps to explain why Israeli jets launched a predawn missile raid on the Iranian drone’s T4 home base last Monday. This would have been a huge story — Israel killed seven Iranian Quds Force members, including Col. Mehdi Dehghan, who led the drone unit — but it was largely lost in the global reaction to (and Trump tweets about) President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons two days earlier.

“It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” said the Israeli military source. And the Iranians not only openly announced their embarrassing losses through the semiofficial Fars news agency — they have played down previous indirect casualties from Israeli strikes in Syria — but then publicly vowed to take revenge.

“The crimes will not remain unanswered,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, said during a visit to Syria.

Since then, senior Israeli defense officials have let it be known that if the Iranians were to strike back at Israeli targets, Israel may use the opportunity to make a massive counterstrike on Iran’s entire military infrastructure in Syria, where Iran is attempting to establish both a forward air base, as well as a factory for GPS-guided missiles that could hit targets inside Israel with much greater accuracy — inside a 50-meter radius — and deploy them from Syria and with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

These defense officials say there is zero chance Israel will make the mistake it made in Lebanon — of letting Hezbollah establish a massive missile threat there — by letting Iran do the same directly in Syria.

Now you can understand why it is such a dangerous situation — even without the U.S., French and British punishment for Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

Iran claims it is setting up bases in Syria to protect it from Israel, but Israel has no designs on Syria; it actually prefers the devil it knows there — Assad — over chaos. And it has not intervened in the civil war there except to prevent the expansion of Iran’s military infrastructure there or to retaliate for rebel or Syrian shells that fell on Israel’s territory.

I understand Iran’s security concerns in the Gulf; it faces a number of hostile, pro-American Sunni Arab powers trying to contain its influence and undermine its Islamic regime. From Iran’s perspective, these are a threat.

But what is Iran doing in Syria?

Tehran’s attempt to build a network of bases and missile factories in Syria — now that it has helped Assad largely crush the uprising against him — appears to be an ego-power play by Iran’s Quds Force leader Suleimani to extend Iran’s grip on key parts of the Sunni Arab world and advance his power struggle with President Hassan Rouhani. Suleimani’s Quds Force now more or less controls — through proxies — four Arab capitals: Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and Sana.

Iran has actually become the biggest “occupying power” in the Arab world today. But Suleimani may be overplaying his hand, especially if he finds himself in a direct confrontation with Israel in Syria, far from Iran, without air cover.

After all, even before this, many average Iranians were publicly asking what in the world is Iran doing spending billions of dollars — which were supposed to go to Iranians as a result of the lifting of sanctions from the Iran nuclear deal — fighting wars in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

That is surely one reason Iran has not retaliated — yet. Suleimani has to think twice about starting a full-scale, direct war with Israel, because of another big story many people have not noticed: Iran’s currency is collapsing back home. Consider this April 12 story on CNBC.com:

The Iranian rial “has plummeted to a record low amid growing economic and political uncertainty, causing a rush to the banks as Iranians desperately try to acquire U.S. dollars with exchanges forced to shut their doors to prevent long and chaotic lines.” The rial has lost one-third of its value just this year, the story noted.

Moreover, Israeli military officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin and Suleimani are no longer natural allies. Putin wants and needs a stable Syria where his puppet Bashar Assad can be in control and Russia can maintain a forward naval and air presence and look like a superpower again — on the cheap. Iran’s President Rouhani probably also prefers a stable Syria, where Assad has consolidated his power and that is not a drain on the Iranian budget. But Suleimani and the Quds Force seem to aspire to greater dominance of the Arab world and putting more pressure on Israel.

Unless Suleimani backs down, you are about to see in Syria an unstoppable force — Iran’s Quds Force — meet an immovable object: Israel.

Fasten your seatbelt.

To Push Iran Back, Israel Ramps Up Support for Syrian Rebels, ‘Arming 7 Different Groups’

February 21, 2018

Two men, not specified which group of rebels, ride a motorcycle towards an abandoned UN base at Syria’s Quneitra border crossing between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. The Israeli military says it has carried out an air strike in Syria on a building used by Islamic State militants to attack Israeli forces. The overnight air strike Monday targeted an abandoned United Nations building that Israel says was used as a base by the militants. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Amos Harel Feb 21, 2018 2:10 PM Haaretz

{Sooner or later, Obama’s money will run out. – LS}

With the Assad regime’s advances the civil war and America’s reduced involvement in the region, Israel has been forced to make significant changes in its policies in the Golan Heights.

The recent tensions along the Israeli-Syrian border have been mainly aerial. But due to developments in the Syrian civil war, real changes are also taking place on the ground in the Golan Heights.

The Assad regime, which has gained the upper hand in the war, is now focusing on aggressively attacking rebel enclaves east of Damascus and in the northern Idlib province. But it is also gradually bolstering its presence in southern Syria, including in the Syrian Golan Heights. And accordingly, Israel is altering its deployment to prepare for what’s to come.

The de-escalation agreement for southern Syria, which the United States, Russia and Jordan signed last November, included a promise to keep Iran and its affiliated Shi’ite militias away from the Israeli border. Israel wanted the Iranians and their agents to be kept almost 60 kilometers from the frontier, east of the Damascus-Daraa road. But it didn’t get its wish; the agreement committed to keep them only 5 kilometers from the front lines between the regime and the rebels.

What this means in practice is that the Iranians are allowed to come to within 20 kilometers of Israel’s border in the central Syrian Golan and within just 5 kilometers in the northern Syrian Golan, which is controlled by Assad’s army. But it’s safe to assume that Hezbollah operatives and even members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards sometimes come right up to the border.

The Assad regime has posts overlooking the Israeli border near Quneitra in the northern Golan, and it’s possible that senior Hezbollah operatives and Iranian representatives visit these posts, which are quite close to Israeli territory.

That isn’t the only important development in recent months. About a month ago, the regime retook the enclave of Beit Jin in the northern Golan from Sunni rebels; it’s located less than 15 kilometers from the Israeli border. Israel Defense Forces officers believe that sooner or later, Assad will make an effort to regain control of the rest of the Syrian Golan, in part because of the symbolic importance of sovereignty over the border with Israel. Members of the security cabinet, who toured the Golan with senior IDF officers almost two weeks ago, think the same.


FILE PHOTO: Iran’s army chief of staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, left, looking at a map with senior officers from the Iranian military as they visit a front line in the northern province of Aleppo, Uncredited/AP

Analyst Elizabeth Tsurkov, who has followed events in Syria closely for the last several years and has interviewed many rebel militiamen and residents of the Syrian Golan, published a detailed survey of developments in southern Syria in the War on the Rocks blog last week.

Tsurkov said the scope of Israel’s involvement in southern Syria has changed in recent months in response to the regime’s successes in the civil war and Iran’s consolidation in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns about the latter on every possible occasion and has repeatedly said Israel will work to thwart it.

According to foreign media reports, over the past few months Israel has begun carrying out airstrikes against Syrian army facilities and targets linked to Iran and its Shi’ite militias, in addition to its longstanding targeting of convoys carrying arms to Hezbollah. Tsurkov also reported on other developments taking place.

Dozens of rebels who spoke with Tsurkov described a significant change in the amount of aid they receive from Israel. Moreover, she said at least seven Sunni rebel organizations in the Syrian Golan are now getting arms and ammunition from Israel, along with money to buy additional armaments.

This change has taken place at a time when America has greatly reduced its involvement in southern Syria. In January, the Trump administration closed the operations center the CIA ran in Amman, the Jordanian capital, which coordinated aid to rebel organizations in southern Syria. As a result, tens of thousands of rebels who received regular economic support from the U.S. have been bereft of this support.

At the same time, Israel has also increased its civilian aid to villages controlled by the rebels, including supplying medicine, food and clothing. Last summer, Israel admitted for the first time that it provides civilian aid to villages in the Syrian Golan, but declined to confirm claims that it also provides military aid.

Tsurkov said these Israeli moves are intended to help block the Assad regime’s advance in the Golan and its conquest of rebel-held villages near the Israeli border. Nevertheless, she wrote, there’s an expectations gap between the two sides. The rebels expect unlimited Israeli support, and some are even hoping for help in their efforts to topple the regime. Israel’s plans are much more modest, and are intended as a holding action.

Relatively moderate Sunni rebels, whom the Israeli defense establishment terms “the locals,” control most of the Syrian-Israeli border, aside from two areas – a regime-controlled area in the northern Golan and a section of the southern Golan controlled by a branch of the Islamic State, Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid. According to Tsurkov, Israel is also helping the rebels in their war against the Islamic State.

There have been skirmishes between ISIS and other rebel organizations over the last several years, but these battles have produced no significant change in the forces’ deployment. However, rebels told Tsurkov that Israel has recently begun helping them by launching drone strikes and antitank missiles at Islamic State positions during these battles.

A secret Middle East alliance

January 16, 2018

A secret Middle East alliance, Washington Times, Herbert London, January 15, 2018

Illustration on an alliance between Irael and Saudi Arabia by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A Swiss newspaper, Basler Zeitung, reported recently that a secret alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia aimed at restraining Iran’s imperial desire for a land mass between Tehran and the Mediterranean was moving into a new phase. While there aren’t formal diplomatic ties between the two countries, military cooperation does exist. In fact, the Saudi government sent a military delegation to Jerusalem several months ago to discuss Iran’s role as a destabilizing force in the region.

Now it appears that officials in Saudi Arabia are considering the purchase of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, as well as the Trophy Active Protection System developed by Rafael and Israel Aerospace. Seen against a backdrop in which Riyadh rejects any official normalization with Israel, this development is quite remarkable. It also bespeaks a new-found respect for Israel and an emerging belief that in any Sunni defense condominium Israel will have a role to play.

It is instructive that neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt was actively hostile to the address change for the American Embassy in Jerusalem. They voted to repudiate the decision in the U.N. vote on the matter, but that was the end of it. The tide of alliance building is moving in a new and unpredictable direction in the Middle East.

The Saudi stance is ostensibly related to a Palestinian-Israeli deal on a two-state solution, but the reality is that Iran is the real threat that poses the greatest danger to Riyadh. An Israel with its advanced technology has become an ally of necessity, not necessarily an ally of long-term common interests, albeit history has a way of uniting unlikely bedfellows.

A recent missile fired from Yemen to Riyadh awakened the Saudi leadership to their vulnerability. Hence, the interest in the Iron Dome. The missile — identified as Houthi fired — had all the markings and signature of an Iranian weapon. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said this was an “Iranian act of war.” Saudi Arabia has resources, but despite the military training of the crown prince, the Saudis are not yet prepared to go to war against Iran. They will build and train and purchase advanced technology, but they will not revert to war, not yet anyway.

This explains why the Iron Dome is so critical as a strategic defense. It is impossible to know if the Houthis will launch again soon. But there is every indication that will be the case. The Houthis are a mere surrogate for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. They are armed, supported and directed from Iran.

The shakeout in the Middle East will have many turns and missteps. For now, it provides an interesting opportunity for Israel. From a U.N. vote establishing the state in 1948 to the present, Israel has been surrounded by hostile nations. That may change in the years ahead.

Imponderables fill the Middle East air. Will demonstrations against the Iranian government lead to its fall? Will the crown prince’s desire to modernize Saudi Arabia and seize control of military affairs work? Will the Egyptian war in the Sinai against ISIS and al Qaeda forces be successful? Will the United States continue to be an active participant in Middle East affairs? Is Russia prepared to make continued sacrifices to secure Bashar Assad’s position in Syria? These questions and a host of others dot the landscape.

If the Saudi-Israeli alliance yields some form of regional stability, many of the issues described above disappear. That is why the alliance is the harbinger of hope and the insurance policy for the moment.

• Herbert London is president of the London Center for Policy Research.

The coming Israel-Iran confrontation

October 12, 2017

The coming Israel-Iran confrontation, Israel Hayom, Elliott Abrams, October 12, 2017

As one Israeli military commentator recently wrote, “If the Israeli diplomatic move fails to bear fruit, we [Israel] are headed toward a conflict with the Iranians.” That conclusion, and the Iranian moves that make it a growing possibility should be on the minds of Trump administration officials as they contemplate a new policy toward Iran’s ceaseless drive for power in the Middle East.

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In the United States, discussions of Iran have for the last few years been mostly about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama. In the Middle East, things are different.

This is because while we have been debating, Iran has been acting. And Israel has been reacting. Israel has struck weapon convoys in Syria a hundred times in the last five years, bombing when it saw an Iranian effort to move advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Last month Israel bombed the so-called Scientific Studies and Researchers Center in Masyaf, a city in central Syria, a military site where chemical weapons and precision bombs were said to be produced.

Now, there are reports that Iran is planning to build a military airfield near Damascus, where the Revolutionary Guards could build up their presence and operate; that Iran and President Bashar Assad’s regime are negotiating giving Iran its own naval pier in the port of Tartus; and that Iran may actually deploy a division of soldiers in Syria.

Such developments would be unacceptable to Israel, and it will convey this message to Russia and to the United States. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is scheduled to visit Israel soon, after which Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will visit Washington. Previous Israeli efforts (during Netanyahu’s four visits to Moscow in the last year) to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop Iran have failed, which suggests that Israel will need to do so itself, alone – unless the new Iran policy being debated by the Trump administration leads the United States to seek ways to stop the steady expansion of Iran’s military presence and influence in the Middle East.

That remains to be seen. Rumors suggest that the Trump administration may label the IRGC a terrorist group, which could open the door to using counterterrorism authorities to stop its expansion. Whatever the debate over the JCPOA, there may well be a broader consensus in the administration that Iran’s growing military role in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region must be countered.

Whatever the American conclusion, if Iran does indeed plan to establish a large and permanent military footprint in Syria – complete with permanent naval and air bases and a major ground force – Israel will have fateful decisions to make. Such an Iranian presence in the Mediterranean and on Israel’s border would change the military balance in the region and fundamentally change Israel’s security situation. And under the JCPOA as agreed by Obama, remember, limits on Iran’s nuclear program begin to end in only eight years, Iran may now perfect its intercontinental ballistic missile program, and there are no inspections of military sites where further nuclear weapons research may be underway.

As Senator Tom Cotton said recently, “If Iran doesn’t have a covert nuclear program today, it would be the first time in a generation.” Israel could be a decade away from a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and has bases in Syria – and could logically therefore even place nuclear weapons in Syria, just miles from Israel’s border.

As one Israeli military commentator recently wrote, “If the Israeli diplomatic move fails to bear fruit, we [Israel] are headed toward a conflict with the Iranians.” That conclusion, and the Iranian moves that make it a growing possibility should be on the minds of Trump administration officials as they contemplate a new policy toward Iran’s ceaseless drive for power in the Middle East.

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This piece is reprinted with permission and can be found on Abrams’ blog “Pressure Points.”

 

Israel Has a Playbook for Dealing With North Korea

September 8, 2017

Israel Has a Playbook for Dealing With North Korea, Bloomberg, Zev Chafets, September 7, 2017

Saddam’s nuclear dream ended in ashes. Photographer: Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea is now truly dangerous — unlike Iraq and Syria, it already has nuclear weapons — and it won’t get less so as time goes on. Trump has said this in no uncertain terms. But so far it is just words. The president may mean it. He also may not. Perhaps he will come to regret tangling with Kim. Maybe he will see it as a beginner’s mistake. He may be tempted to reverse course and try to save face with make-believe sanctions, empty United Nations resolutions or fruitless negotiations. I’m not judging him. I haven’t been in his shoes, and I wouldn’t want to be.

But if the American president does back down, if Kim Jong Un stays in power, keeps his nuclear warheads and ballistic weapons, and gets away with threatening the U.S. and its allies with nuclear destruction, every friend and foe of Washington will be revisiting its strategic playbook. For Israel, so far away from Korea yet so close to Iranian aggression, that book begins with the Begin Doctrine.

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Israel and North Korea are on opposite sides of the Asian landmass, separated by 5,000 miles as the ICBM flies. But Israelis feels close to the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang. They have faced this sort of crisis before, and may again.

Some history: In the mid-1970s, it became clear to Israel that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was working on acquiring nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Saddam had already demonstrated an uninhibited brutality in dealing with his internal enemies and his neighbors. He aspired to be the leader of the Arab world. Defeating Israel was at the top of his to-do list.

After coming to office in 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin tried to convince the U.S. and Europe that Saddam was a clear and present danger to the Jewish state, and that action had to be taken. Begin was not taken seriously.

But Begin was serious, and in 1981 he decided that Israel would have to stop the Iraqi dictator all by itself. His political opponents, led by the estimable Shimon Peres, considered this to be dangerous folly. Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, the legendary former military chief of staff, voted against unilateral action on the grounds that it would hurt Israel’s international standing. Defense Minister Ezer Weizmann, the former head of the air force (and Dayan’s brother-in-law) was also against a military option. He thought the mission would be unacceptably risky.

Begin had no military expertise. But his family had been wiped out in the Holocaust. He looked at Saddam, who was openly threating Israel, and saw Hitler. To Begin, sitting around hoping for the best was not a strategy; it was an invitation to aggression. If there was going to be a cost — political, diplomatic, military — better to pay before, not after, the Iraqis had the bomb.

In the summer of 1981, Begin gave the order. The Israeli air force destroyed the Osirak reactor. The United Nations Security Council condemned the attack. The Europeans went bonkers. The New York Times called it “inexcusable.” But the Israeli prime minister wasn’t looking to be excused by the Times or the Europeans or even the usually friendly Ronald Reagan administration. He enunciated a simple rationale that would come to be known as the Begin Doctrine: Israel will not allow its avowed enemies to obtain the means of its destruction.

The wisdom of this doctrine became clear a decade later, during the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein made good on his threat to fire Russian-made SCUD missiles at Israeli cities. The SCUDs landed, and caused some damage and a fair amount of panic, but they were not armed with unconventional warheads. Israel had taken that option off the table.

Similarly, in 2007, Israel confirmed what it had suspected for five years: Syria, with North Korean help, was trying to build a nuclear reactor. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a Begin disciple, sent Mossad chief Meir Dagan to Washington, to ask for American intervention. The CIA chief, Michael Hayden, agreed with Israel’s contention that Damascus (with Iranian financing) was constructing the reactor. But Hayden convinced President George W. Bush that bombing the site would result in all-out war, and who wants that?

Acting on its own, Israel destroyed the Syrian site (reportedly killing a group of North Korean experts in the process). Hayden was wrong about how Syria would react, as he later admitted. If Israel had been reasonable and listened to the CIA, Bashar al-Assad would have nuclear weapons right now.

A few years later, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak spent billions of dollars preparing and training to take out the Iranian nuclear program. Barak, not a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party, explained: “There are instances where it appears it is not necessary to attack now, but you know that you won’t be able to attack later.” In such cases, he said, the “consequences of inaction are grave, and you have to act.”

Israel was prevented from kinetic action by the Barack Obama administration, which along with five other powers cut a deal with Iran in 2015 — over Israel’s vociferous objections. Netanyahu warned that the deal was full of loopholes; it would allow Iran to hide its nuclear program and continue building new means of delivery. This was confirmed in 2016 when Iran tested a new missile. “The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2000 kilometers,” said Iranian Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, “is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance.”

Since then, Iran has stepped up its aggressive enmity toward the Zionist Entity. It has not only continued its nuclear cooperation with North Korea, it has also copied Pyongyang’s tactic of creating a huge artillery threat against civilian populations (through its proxy force Hezbollah in Lebanon and now Syria). This conventional threat to Seoul is what has convinced a great many American commentators that any attack on North Korea would lead to an “unthinkable” number of casualties.

Ruling out harsh thoughts is a luxury Israel doesn’t have. It has installed an efficient missile defense system (something not beyond the means of the South Koreans and the U.S.). It is also training to neutralize the threat of a bombardment. The IDF is currently conducting its biggest military exercise in 19 years. The announced goal is to prepare for war with Hezbollah. Israel does not intend to allow itself to be held hostage by an Iranian threat to its civilian population, or to have its hands tied by the theory of unthinkability.

This week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem published a condemnation of North Korea: “Only a determined international response will prevent other states from behaving in the same way.” Clearly, “other states” was a reference to Iran. It was also a message to the U.S.

Israel, by long experience, knows there is no such thing as an “international” community when it comes to security. What is happening now in East Asia is an American production. The Donald Trump administration has been very clear, not to say belligerent, in demanding that North Korea forgo its nuclear weapons and ambitions.

This was also the policy of previous American administrations — but Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama didn’t really mean it. They let things slide, drew imaginary lines, held talks that went no place and hoped for the best.

The best didn’t happen. It almost never does. North Korea is now truly dangerous — unlike Iraq and Syria, it already has nuclear weapons — and it won’t get less so as time goes on. Trump has said this in no uncertain terms. But so far it is just words. The president may mean it. He also may not. Perhaps he will come to regret tangling with Kim. Maybe he will see it as a beginner’s mistake. He may be tempted to reverse course and try to save face with make-believe sanctions, empty United Nations resolutions or fruitless negotiations. I’m not judging him. I haven’t been in his shoes, and I wouldn’t want to be.

But if the American president does back down, if Kim Jong Un stays in power, keeps his nuclear warheads and ballistic weapons, and gets away with threatening the U.S. and its allies with nuclear destruction, every friend and foe of Washington will be revisiting its strategic playbook. For Israel, so far away from Korea yet so close to Iranian aggression, that book begins with the Begin Doctrine.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Powerful pro-Iran Badr Brigades to enter Syria

May 31, 2017

Powerful pro-Iran Badr Brigades to enter Syria, DEBKAfile, May 31, 2017

Their entry into Syria could raise the total of pro-Iranian Shiite forces fighting in Syria to 80,000 to 100,000 troops.

For Israel, Hizballah’s hostile penetration of Syrian borders abutting its territory is child’s play compared with a major military force capable of transforming Syria into a huge staging area for Iranian aggression against the Jewish state.

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Hadi al-Amiri, commander of the strongest Iraqi Shiite militia, the Badr Brigades, said Wednesday, May 31, that his forces are preparing to enter Syria. The advanced capabilities of this powerful Iranian-led militia, would tilt the Syrian war strongly in Iran’s favor, with alarming ramifications for the US, Israel and Jordan.

Al-Amri, in making this announcement, cited Iran’s new slogan: “Iraq’s security will be maintained only if Syria’s security is preserved.” In other words, the Syrian conflict would end only when pro-Iranian Shiite militias, including Hizballah, control Syria like they control Iraq.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that the Badr Brigades’ path into Syria was secured this week when an Iraqi Shiite conglomerate breached the Iraqi-Syrian border in the north, on the orders of Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani. This opened Iran’s coveted overland corridor through Iraq to Syria.

The combat capabilities of the Badr Brigades, estimated at between 30,000 and 50,000 strong, are impressive. One of the most professional and well-trained military forces in Iraq, its recruits receive instruction at special camps operated by Revolutionary Guard Corps on Iranian soil. The militia consists of special forces, tank, mechanized infantry, artillery and antiaircraft units. The high quality of their munitions may be seen in the photo at the top of the story.

Their entry into Syria could raise the total of pro-Iranian Shiite forces fighting in Syria to 80,000 to 100,000 troops.

Intelligence sources expect the Badr Brigades to first head south towards the Deir ez-Zor area to link up with the Syrian Arab Army and Hizballah forces, which are threatening the US special forces and allied hold on a key crossing that commands the triangle where the Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi borders meet.

They would need to cover 230km from Palmyra to Deir ez-Zor, the while fighting small, scattered ISIS concentrations. Wednesday, May 31, Russia came down on the side of Tehran, with a cruise missile strike on ISIS targets around Palmyra. They were fired from the missile frigate Admiral Essen and the submarine Krasnodar for the purpose of softening jihadi resistance to the Badr Brigades’ southward advance.

The consequences of this massive pro-Iranian intervention in the Syrian war are dire for the US, Israel and Jordan. For Washington, it lays the ground for Tehran’s domination of Syria – in the face of President Donald Trump’s solemn vows to prevent this happening.

For Israel, Hizballah’s hostile penetration of Syrian borders abutting its territory is child’s play compared with a major military force capable of transforming Syria into a huge staging area for Iranian aggression against the Jewish state.

Jordan’s foreboding comes from its judgment that pro-Iranian Shiite militias sitting on its borders are a greater threat even that ISIS.

Read more about this pivotal development in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly. If you are not yet a subscriber, click here to sign on.