Archive for the ‘Russia and Assad’ category

STEINITZ: ASSAD IN DANGER IF HE ALLOWS IRAN TO ATTACK ISRAEL FROM SYRIA

February 13, 2018

BY HERB KEINON FEBRUARY 13, 2018 01:33 Jerusalem Post

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STEINITZ: ASSAD IN DANGER IF HE ALLOWS IRAN TO ATTACK ISRAEL FROM SYRIA

{I wonder just how much sway he has in all this. – LS}

“Assad and Hezbollah are the same, and if there will be an attack against us, we will not be obligated only to act against the the source of the attack.”

Israel views Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime as the weak link in the Iranian-Shi’a axis, and Assad should keep that in mind when weighing whether or not to let Iran set up military bases in his country or transfer precision missiles to Hezbollah, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday.

Steinitz – a member of the 12-member security cabinet that discussed on Sunday possible next steps following Saturday’s incursion by an Iranian drone and the ensuing downing of an Israeli F-16 – hinted broadly in an Army Radio interview that Israel would act against Assad if Iran crosses the red lines that Israel has established.

 The first red line, he said, was turning Syrian into a “forward” military base for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, including intelligence, naval and air-force bases.

The second red line, he said, was that Syria would enable Iran to upgrade Hezbollah’s missile capabilities by turning those missiles into precision weapons that would constitute a much greater threat to Israel than they currently are.

Today there is no difference between Syria and Lebanon, Steinitz said, and the Syrian army and Hezbollah are two arms doing Iran’s bidding.

“Assad and Hezbollah are the same, and if there will be an attack against us, we will not be obligated to act only against the source of the attack,” he said. “We will reserve the right to choose the right front.”

For example, Steinitz said, “the Assad regime is the weak link in the Iranian-Shi’a axis, and I think Assad should think very well whether he wants to turn Syria into a forward base for Iran or allow precision missiles through Syria to Lebanon, because he himself, his regime, his government and his army can be hurt in that situation.”

Meanwhile, Britain joined the US on Monday in standing behind Israel following Saturday’s developments in the North. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson issued a statement saying the United Kingdom is “concerned at developments over Israel’s border with Syria this weekend.”

“We support Israel’s right to defend itself against any incursions into its territory,” the statement said. “We are concerned at the Iranian actions, which detract from efforts to get a genuine peace process underway. We encourage Russia to use its influence to press the regime and its backers to avoid provocative actions and to support de-escalation in pursuit of a broader political settlement.”

No such similar statement has been issued by EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini.

On Sunday, the White House issued a statement saying the US supports Israel’s “right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria.”

This is a message that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to deliver when he goes to Lebanon later this week as part of a five-county tour of the Mideast, including Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

On the first stop of his tour in Cairo on Monday, however, the focus was on other issues, with Tillerson saying the US supports Egypt’s fight against Islamic State. But he reiterated that the US advocates free and fair elections there.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Tillerson said Washington remains committed to achieving a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Regarding US-Egypt relations, Tillerson said: “We agreed we would continue our close cooperation on counterterrorism measures.

The Egyptian people should be confident that the US commitment to continue to support Egypt in its fight against terrorism and bringing security to the Egyptian people is steadfast.”

The Egyptian military campaign comes ahead of a presidential election in March, in which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seeking a second term in office.

Asked about the election, Tillerson said the United States supports a credible, transparent election in Egypt and Libya.

“We have always advocated for free and fair elections, transparent elections – not just in Egypt but in any country,” he said.

“The US is always going to advocate for an electoral process that respects the rights of citizens,” Tillerson told journalists, adding that the US was also keen to continue supporting Egypt in its economic recovery.

In Syria, Trump’s Red Line May be Holding

June 29, 2017

In Syria, Trump’s Red Line May be Holding, Front Page MagazineJoseph Klein, June 29, 2017

It is not only what Assad has been doing in unleashing his ghastly chemical weapons on his own people, causing horrible suffering in their wake, which demands our attention. After all, Assad has been causing such suffering with conventional weapons as well, including his use of barrel bombs, which we have repeatedly condemned but have not taken specific military action to stop. To do so would almost inevitably draw us into a wider war. What makes chemical and other weapons of mass destruction different is their potential proliferation to the very Islamic terrorists we are trying to defeat.

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis claimed Wednesday that the Syrian regime has drawn back from plans to conduct another chemical attack, following a warning by the Trump administration of serious consequences if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces followed through with their plans. 

U.S. intelligence detected “active preparations for chemical weapons use” at the same air base from which the regime allegedly had launched its prior chemical attack last April that caused mass casualties. President Trump had responded to the April chemical attack with a barrage of cruise missiles targeting that air base. The White House issued its public warning to the Assad regime on Monday in unambiguous terms, declaring that Assad and his military would pay a “heavy price” if his regime conducted another chemical attack.

“It appears that they took the warning seriously. They didn’t do it,” Mattis told reporters.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went even further in crediting the Trump administration for stopping Assad at least for now. “I can tell you that due to the President’s actions, we did not see an incident,” Ambassador Haley claimed at a House of Representatives foreign affairs committee hearing. “I would like to think that the President saved many innocent men, women and children.”

It is difficult to prove what may have actually motivated Assad. In any case, whether Assad holds back for good remains to be seen. But we do know the Trump administration is watching constantly for any moves by the Assad regime that could signal an imminent chemical attack and has military assets in place to swiftly respond to such an attack, if not prevent one in the first place.

President Trump not only demonstrated last April that he would follow through on his threats if certain red lines of his were crossed, unlike our previous president. In addition to its warning, the Trump administration may have sent some concrete signals to the Assad regime that it means business this time as well. According to Debkafile, “Signs were gathering in Washington and the Middle East Tuesday, June 26 that the Trump administration was preparing a substantial military operation against the Syrian army and Bashar Assad’s allies, such as the foreign pro-Iranian Shiite militias and Hizballah. Some US military sources suggested that an American preemptive strike was in store in the coming hours to prevent Assad’s army from again resorting to chemical warfare against his people.”

Assad may still decide to launch another chemical attack, figuring that his key allies, particularly Russia, will continue to back him. No doubt, he took note of Russia’s stern response to the U.S.’s downing of a Syrian warplane earlier this month, including a warning from the Russian Defense Ministry that “All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.” The Syrian regime had also already taken some precautions by moving most of its operational aircraft to a Russian airbase in Syria after the April missile strike. The Russian airbase is protected by fairly advanced air defense systems. An American missile strike on Syrian aircraft located at a Russian air base would in all likelihood be seen as a major escalation of the war by the Russian government, risking a direct military confrontation between U.S. and Russia that the Trump administration may be loath to risk. As if to thumb his nose at the Trump administration’s latest threats by demonstrating the strength of his military alliance with Russia, Assad was seen strutting around a Russian air baseinspecting its aircraft and defense systems. He was even photographed sitting in the cockpit of a Russian fighter jet.

Indeed, Russia appears ready to raise the stakes to bolster the Syrian dictator’s regime. Debkafile reports that Russia is “building a new base in southeastern Syria,” which would “provide Russia with a lever of control over the volatile Syrian southeast and its borders, where US-backed and Iranian-backed forces are fighting for dominance.”

As Russia raises the stakes, the U.S. must be clearer than ever as to its strategic objectives in Syria, which it is willing to back up with military force even in the face of Russian threats.  We must do all we can to prevent getting sucked into Syria’s civil war, including by undertaking any military efforts at regime change. That said, we must repel any military action by the Syrian regime or its allies that would prevent us from prosecuting the war against ISIS, which remains our number one objective until the ISIS sanctuaries, infrastructure and leadership are for all intents and purposes destroyed.

However, we also cannot ignore the threat that Assad’s chemical weapons program continues to pose. The Obama administration had thought that it had largely eliminated the threat “diplomatically,” when it reached a phony deal with Russia to oversee the removal and destruction of the Syrian regime’s declared chemical weapons. The opportunity for cheating was all too plain to see, except by Obama and his clueless Secretary of State John Kerry. We are now seeing the consequences. According to Secretary of Defense Mattis, Syria’s chemical program remains intact.

It is not only what Assad has been doing in unleashing his ghastly chemical weapons on his own people, causing horrible suffering in their wake, which demands our attention. After all, Assad has been causing such suffering with conventional weapons as well, including his use of barrel bombs, which we have repeatedly condemned but have not taken specific military action to stop. To do so would almost inevitably draw us into a wider war. What makes chemical and other weapons of mass destruction different is their potential proliferation to the very Islamic terrorists we are trying to defeat. The transfer of chemical or biological weapons to terrorist hands would represent the most dangerous outcome of the Syrian conflict to the rest of the world, including to the United States. That is why we must monitor where we believe Assad’s remaining chemical weapons and production facilities are located, prevent them from being used or even moved from known locations, do all that we can to keep them out of the hands of the terrorists and destroy the chemical weapons and production facilities when the opportunity presents itself.

Assad shown around Russian Latakia air base

June 28, 2017

Assad shown around Russian Latakia air base, DEBKAfile, June 28, 2017

President Assad inspects Russian weapons systems at the Hmeimim air base in western Syria.

Shortly after Washington warned Damascus against any more chemical attacks and stressed that Russia and Iran would also be held to account, Syrian ruler Bashar Assad’s visit to the Russian Hmeimim Air Base in Latakia on Tuesday, June 27, bears striking symbolic, if not provocative, significance. Their guest from Damascus was shown around the base by the commanders of Russian forces in Syria and allowed a close look at the warplanes and attack helicopters lined up for his perusal. Indeed, as DEBKAfile’s military sources show in the series of attached photographs, Assad had his picture taken while sitting in the cockpit of a Russian fighter jet and while he was closely examining Russian S-400 and S-300 air defense missile batteries.

Not all the photos showed the base neatly prepared for a formal visit. A group of Russian troops were seen in a variety of work clothes standing untidily around some of the weapons systems, indicating that Assad’s visit was improvised in a hurry as an attempt to show that Moscow and Damascus were as tight as ever and ready together to repel any American attack on Syrian military targets.

Assad sits in the cockpit of a Russian fighter jet.

Iran, Russia Boost Military Ties Amid U.S. Action In Syria

April 24, 2017

Iran, Russia Boost Military Ties Amid U.S. Action In Syria, Washington Free Beacon, , April 24, 2017

(Please see also, Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway. — DM)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) as Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (L) looks on after a joint press conference after their talks in Moscow on April 14, 2017./ AFP PHOTO  ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia can serve as a major military ally for Iran and help provide it with not just military capabilities, but nuclear technology. Iran and Russia inked several deals in the past years to build a series of new light water nuclear reactors across the Islamic Republic.

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Iran and Russia are moving closer together in their military alliance, working to boost ties and coordination in Syria and elsewhere in the region following the U.S. decision to launch a military strike in Syria, according to regional reports and experts.

Iran’s defense minister is slated to visit Moscow at the end of the month to discuss increased military ties, a move that is meant to deter U.S. action in the region and show a sign of increased force, according to regional experts who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Tehran-Moscow axis has been growing since the landmark Iran nuclear deal, with Russia making good on a series of weapons deliveries, including the Russian-made S-300 missile defense system. The two countries have been signing an additional number of military deals in recent months and that cooperation is likely to increase in light of the Trump administration’s decision to launch strikes against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is being backed by both Russia and Iran.

Iranian leaders have signaled in recent days that the alliance with Russia is a top priority going forward and that a number of new military deals are in the works.

“The visit by Iranian [President Hassan] Rouhani that took place on March 28 was another step toward developing extensive cooperation between Moscow and Tehran,” Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei was quoted in the country’s state-controlled press.

“We hope that we will witness even broader bilateral ties across all areas in the future,” Sanaei said during an event last week marking the Iranian Army Day.

Sanaei also celebrated the recent delivery by Russia of the S-300 missile system, which Tehran had been coveting for some time. The system is viewed by Iran as a major deterrence factor aimed at intimidating U.S. forces in the region.

The delivery of the S-300 system to Iran is a sign that Russia has an interest in bolstering Tehran’s military might, Sanaei said.

Since signing a massive military deal in 2015 with Russia, “important steps have been taken to strengthen bilateral relations in the area of defense,” Sanaei said. “One such step was the delivery of S-300 missile systems to Iran. This is an indicator of mutual trust in defense cooperation.”

As Iran’s defense minister gears up to visit Moscow, regional experts predict that the military ties between the countries will only increase as Assad comes under greater international pressure.

However, the alliance between the countries remains fragile and largely one of convenience.

“Russia and Iran have a similar goal in keeping Assad in power at all costs,” Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, told the Free Beacon. “However, how each perceives the end state in Syria and the other’s role in that future is one of the big questions in the relationship.”

In the short term, both Iran and Russia will aggressively work to “show a united front after America’s first strike on the Assad regime,” Zilberman said. “This is what we are seeing in the flurry of activity, but it is yet to be seen if anything of substance comes out of these talks.”

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at FDD, said that Russia views Iran as a chief counter to U.S. power in the region. The alliance between the countries is likely to strengthen as long as Moscow can use Tehran to offset American influence in the region.

“Russia can and will likely continue to use Iran instrumentally in its larger strategic competition with the United States,” Ben Taleblu said. “One wonders however, how the leadership of the Islamic Republic, which derided the late Shah of Iran for his closeness to the U.S. are able to justify—legally, politically, and even spiritually, the concessions they have made to befriend Russia. As a reminder, no country has taken more territory away from Iran and threatened its sovereignty in the past half millennia than Russia.”

Russia can serve as a major military ally for Iran and help provide it with not just military capabilities, but nuclear technology. Iran and Russia inked several deals in the past years to build a series of new light water nuclear reactors across the Islamic Republic.

“For the past two years Tehran has been drawing closer to Moscow,” Ben Taleblu explained. “Iran will look to Russia to help it drive the U.S. from the region, as well as support its nuclear development under the auspices of the [Iran deal], and engage in a highly selective modernization process for its military. Russia and China will likely become the two largest sources for arms as a UN-mandated arms ban is set to expire in 2020.”

Official: U.S. Concludes Russia Had Advanced Knowledge of Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

April 11, 2017

Official: U.S. Concludes Russia Had Advanced Knowledge of Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack, Washington Free Beacon, April 10, 2017

(Russia took all of the Syrian chemical stuff away, just as Saint Barack told us. Saint Bashar wouldn’t use chemical weapons on Syrians even if he had some, and Saint Vlad wouldn’t condone it for a minute if he did. It just a strange coincidence and it must have been a false flag attack, probably by wicked Christians, Jews or Hindus. Evil Trump must have glommed onto it to appear strong and good. Right? — DM.) 

A civil defence member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

The United States has concluded Russia knew in advance that the Syrian regime would employ chemical weapons in a large-scale attack last week, according to the Associated Press.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime reportedly ordered the chemical bombings that hit a rebel-held town in the Idlib Province on April 4. At least 80 people were killed, and video footage of women and children fighting to draw breath because of lethal chemical gas spread around the world.

BREAKING: Senior U.S. official says U.S. has concluded that Russia knew in advance of Syria’s chemical weapons attack last week.

According to a senior official, a Russian-operated drone flew over a Syrian hospital while victims sought treatment, and later a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital. The official said the drone’s presence revealed that Russia knew the attack was coming:

Hours after the drone left, a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital in what American officials believe was an attempt to cover up the usage of chemical weapons.

Until Monday, U.S. officials had said they weren’t sure if the drone was operated by Russia or Syria. The senior official said it still wasn’t clear who was flying the jet that bombed the hospital.

The official said the presence of the drone couldn’t have been a coincidence, and that Russia must have known the chemical weapons attack was coming and that victims were seeking treatment.

President Donald Trump responded to the chemical attack on Thursday, when he ordered the firing of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Al Shayrat airfield in western Syria, where the chemical attack originated.

The Trump administration has stepped up its rhetoric against Russia in the wake of the Syria attack.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke Monday at a World War II memorial in Italy to issue a warning against countries that “commit crimes against the innocents.”

“We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world,” he said.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Sunday that the administration would not let Russia “cover for this regime anymore.”

“This is something to let Russia know, ‘You know what? We’re not going to have you cover for this regime anymore. And we’re not going to allow things like this to happen to innocent people,'” Haley said on “Meet The Press.”

Pentagon: Russia May Have Directly Participated in Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

April 7, 2017

Pentagon: Russia May Have Directly Participated in Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack, BreitbartJohn Hayward, April 7, 2017

(?????????????????????????????? — DM)

Getty Images

According to CNN, the Pentagon is particularly interested in whether a Russian warplane actually conducted the bombing run on the Khan Sheikhoun hospital where victims were receiving treatment within hours of the attack, “with the aim of destroying evidence.”

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A stunning update on Friday afternoon from the Associated Press said the Pentagon is investigating possible Russian participation in the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack.

These officials also supported the dire suspicion that nearby hospitals were attacked to cover up evidence of the WMD deployment:

The officials say Russia has failed to control the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.

They say a drone belonging either to Russia or Syria was seen hovering over the site of the chemical weapons attack Tuesday after it happened. The drone returned late in the day as citizens were going to a nearby hospital for treatment. Shortly afterward, officials say the hospital was bombed.

The officials say they believe the hospital attack may have been an effort to cover up evidence of the attack.

The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. They say they’re still reviewing evidence.

According to CNN, the Pentagon is particularly interested in whether a Russian warplane actually conducted the bombing run on the Khan Sheikhoun hospital where victims were receiving treatment within hours of the attack, “with the aim of destroying evidence.”

Such an inquiry will not, of course, sit well with Russia, which is currently demanding a U.N. Security Council investigation of American aggression.

There have been conflicting reports about whether any Russian personnel or aircraft, particularly helicopters, were present at the Sharyat airbase. Videos can be found online purporting to show Russian helicopters at the base as recently as February, but Fox News quotes Pentagon briefers stating “no Russian aircraft were at the Sharyat airfield” when the missiles struck.

However, the Fox News report also quotes U.S. officials who said “between 12 and 100 Russian military personnel” were present at the base, complete with their own barracks, which the U.S. “took pains” to avoid blowing up. If the chemical weapons attack on Idlib province was indeed conducted from the base, it would be very difficult for the Russians to argue they were unaware a war crime was in progress under their noses.

KLEIN – Iran Is the Wild Card Following U.S. Air Strikes In Syria

April 7, 2017

KLEIN – Iran Is the Wild Card Following U.S. Air Strikes In Syria, BreitbartAaron Klein, April 7, 2017

U.S. Navy/via AP

President Vladimir Putin cannot risk a military confrontation with Trump and Russia is already signaling willingness to abandon Assad to come to a larger regional accommodation.

Still, there is the possibility that Russia may quietly support action by others, especially agents of a very nervous Iranian regime that has been preparing proxies for years who can heat up Israel’s northern border and beyond.  Both Moscow and Tehran have reason for wanting Trump to pay a price for acting in their Syrian playground.  The question is whether they will dare to respond, even tacitly.

The next few days and weeks will be critical in determining Iran and Russia’s resolve in the face of an awakened America that has returned from its eight-year slumber.

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TEL AVIV – Following the U.S. launch of Tomahawk missiles targeting a strategic Syrian airfield on Thursday night, Iran must be monitored carefully for the possibility that it may use its proxies for retaliation, especially against Israel’s northern border.

Following eight years of inaction on Syria under the Obama administration, President Donald Trump demonstrated last night that he is willing to hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to account, this time by striking the Shayrat Airfield near the Syrian city of Homs that was believed to have been utilized to carry out a chemical weapons attack that killed scores of civilians.

The U.S. airstrikes signaled to Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers that Trump will act in Syria and the administration strongly supports the removal of the Syrian president – an important strategic ally of Moscow and Tehran. The U.S. military move demonstrates to Israel and the Sunni Arab bloc cast aside by Obama’s nuclear deal with the mullahs that American leadership has officially returned to the region.

Assad himself is unlikely to retaliate since the last thing he wants amidst a years-long insurgency attempting to topple his regime is to go to war with Trump or expand the battlefield to U.S. ally Israel.

Trump’s bold authority in Syria directly threatens Russian interests since it was Moscow that largely filled the security vacuum in that country when Obama repeatedly failed to take any meaningful action against Assad. However, Russia’s direct response will most likely be confined to vocal protestation, such as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling the U.S. strikes “aggression against a sovereign nation” carried out on a “made-up pretext.”

President Vladimir Putin cannot risk a military confrontation with Trump and Russia is already signaling willingness to abandon Assad to come to a larger regional accommodation.

Still, there is the possibility that Russia may quietly support action by others, especially agents of a very nervous Iranian regime that has been preparing proxies for years who can heat up Israel’s northern border and beyond.  Both Moscow and Tehran have reason for wanting Trump to pay a price for acting in their Syrian playground.  The question is whether they will dare to respond, even tacitly.

And that brings us to Iran.  Trump’s embrace of America’s traditional Sunni Arab partners at the expense of Tehran and his strong positions against the disastrous international nuclear agreement have been deeply concerning to the expansionist, terrorist-supporting Twelvers in Tehran.  And while the removal of Assad from power would be a blow to Russia, depending on the ultimate outcome such a move could be disastrous for Iran’s position in Syria.  Iranian Revolutionary Guard units have been fighting the anti-Assad insurgents alongside the Syrian military and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia.  Syria represents a key pawn in Iran’s geopolitical chessboard that stretches across the vital region.

In recent weeks, there have been strong indications that Iran has been seeking to arm its Hezbollah proxy with even more advanced weapons that can target the Jewish state. Last month, Israel took the unusual step of striking a Hezbollah weapons convoy near the city of Palmyra that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was transporting advanced weapons to the Iran-backed militia.

Israeli leaders and Hezbollah terrorists have in recent weeks ratcheted up war rhetoric, with Israeli officials warning that Hezbollah, which can only act at the direction of Iran, has been preparing for conflict.

Last Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot warned the IDF would not hold back from striking Lebanese state institutions in a future conflict with Hezbollah. “The recent declarations from Beirut make it clear that in a future war, the targets will be clear: Lebanon and the organizations operating under its authority and its approval,” Eisenkot stated.

Hezbollah is not Iran’s only option. Breitbart Jerusalem has been reporting on the formation of a “Golan Liberation Brigade,” which was announced last month by the secretary-general of the Iraqi Harakat al Nujaba Shiite militia and is reportedly being trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  The so-called militia is another Iranian front that could be used to target Israel’s Golan Heights at the behest of Tehran.

The next few days and weeks will be critical in determining Iran and Russia’s resolve in the face of an awakened America that has returned from its eight-year slumber.