Trump, Saudi Prince & UAE to set up action group against Iran

Posted March 22, 2018 by josephwouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Trump, Saudi Prince & UAE to set up action group against Iran – DEBKAfile

Ahead of their White House talks on Tuesday, March 20, President Donald Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince agree on a new Supreme Committee to coordinate military and diplomatic efforts for curbing Iranian expansion. The United Arab Emirate is the third member. This committee, to focus on coordinated operations, will consist of the three governments’ national security advisers. For final decisions, they will call in President Trump, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman (MbS) and the UAE Emir Sheikh Muhammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MbZ). White House sources reported that the new group would be ceremonially launched in Washington this week. The Emirates national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan will come over to join the event. The emir himself is expected in Washington soon.

US and Saudi officials confirmed Tuesday that the new Supreme Committee’s mission would be to execute the goal shared by the three governments, namely, to stall Iran’s expansionist designs across the oil-rich Gulf and the Middle East.

DEBKAfile’s sources report that this move is consistent with the decision which President Trump is widely believed to have reached for taking the United States out of the 2015 nuclear with Iran. Intensive discussions are taking place in the White house on timing; whether Trump should make the announcement when the next deadline for re-certificating the accord comes up in mid-May or jump the gun in March or early April. The US, the Saudis and the UAE are meanwhile checking to make sure that their military assets are in sync and ready for potential repercussions.
The new Supreme Committee will fill the cohesion void left in the Gulf Cooperation Council by the refusal of two of its members, Qatar and Oman, to go along with the tough policies pursued by Saudi Arabia and the UAE since MbS took over the reins of government in Riyadh three years ago.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is moving on to his next target: Iran

Posted March 21, 2018 by Louisiana Steve
Categories: Iran - Saudi Arabia, Iran and Saudi Arabia


John Kilduff Published 2:02 PM ET Tue, 20 March 2018 via CNBC

Source Link: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is moving on to his next target

{A good time to buy Exxon stock, IMHO. – LS}

  • Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, nicknamed MBS, has rapidly consolidated power within the kingdom.
  • With his position secured and his rivals vanquished, he is moving on to his next target: Iran.
  • With hostilities rising, war is seeming more inevitable, which increases the likelihood of rising oil prices.

The new face of Saudi Arabia makes his Washington D.C. debut this week, and you better take a good look because, at 32-years old, he will very likely be with us for a while.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, nicknamed MBS, has rapidly consolidated power within the kingdom. He iced out his rivals by charging many of them with corruption, extracting forfeitures of great sums of wealth that the Saudi government claims were ill-gotten.

With his position secured and his rivals vanquished, he is moving on to his next target: Iran.

The topic of Iran is a key agenda item for his meeting with President Trump on Tuesday. President Trump should find himself well-versed on the topic, which he discussed at-length with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, earlier this month.

Iran is serving as a unifying force among its Middle East neighbors. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia see Iran as a grave threat, to such a degree that the two countries, once fierce enemies, are now sharing intelligence and cooperating in other ways. Netanyahu has alluded to this budding friendship by noting that Israel “has friends in the Middle East.”

MBS compared Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei to Adolf Hitler in an interview over the weekend, and he termed the Iran nuclear deal as a “flawed agreement” echoing President Trump’s position. President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State is expected to push hard to see the U.S. terminate the Iran nuclear deal, which had been favored by former Secretary of State Tillerson.

We are now dealing with a much more forward-leaning Saudi Arabia that is also seeking to modernize.

But, has the leopard really changed its spots?

The recent corruption purge took on a hint of irony, when it was revealed recently that MBS himself has some extravagant tastes that include a palace in Versailles, France, and the purchase of the most expensive art work in history, Da Vinci’s depiction of Jesus, for $450 million, among other goodies.

MBS is being championed, in some circles, as standing against radical Islam, but he is also standing as Sunni Muslin against Islam’s other faction, the Shia branch, which Iranians, mostly, adhere to, and there is nothing new about that.

There has been a proxy war raging between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Syria. The Saudis recently trotted out an unexploded rocket that was launched from Yemen into the kingdom that bore Iranian markings. Saudi air sorties regularly bomb Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The situation vis-à-vis Iran is escalating. A second “coalition of the willing,” the term used to describe allies in the second U.S. war with Iraq, may be forming to take on Iran more directly, and the roster looks to include Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Israel, and the United States. Look for triparty agreement on Iran among the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and U.A.E. to be announced this week, as a prelude to a broader grouping.

Saudi Arabia used to be a quiet giant in the Middle East, more than happy to be the world’s largest source of oil, minting petrodollars and spreading the wealth, internally, to keep the powers that be in charge and the populace placated.

MBS is making it clear that is no longer the case. Get ready to hear Saudi Arabia roar, with all that brings with it.

Saudi Arabia will look to use its power and influence to remake the Middle East in its image. The kingdom will not sit idly by and allow Iran to gain de facto control of Iraq, which has parliamentarian elections in May. Iran is actively trying to engineer the return of former Prime Minister Maliki.

The new Saudi doctrine is also being seen in the form of the blockade of Qatar, which several other Gulf nations have joined in.

It does appear that policies and regional ambitions of Saudi Arabia and Iran are putting them on a collision course that will result in direct hostilities, and Saudi Arabia has partners willing to assist it with such a fight, that coalition of the willing.

The rhetoric and apparent intentions of MBS have reinflated the risk premium in oil prices. If it keeps up and if the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal becomes a reality, WTI oil prices will head higher, upwards of $70-plus. Absent these tensions, the prices is more appropriately in the low $50 area.


IDF chief: Reactor strike showed Israel will not tolerate existential threats 

Posted March 21, 2018 by josephwouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: IDF chief: Reactor strike showed Israel will not tolerate existential threats – Israel Hayom

What the Saudi Prince’s Visit Really Means

Posted March 21, 2018 by joopklepzeiker
Categories: Uncategorized

Israel confirms it destroyed Syria’s nuclear reactor a decade ago

Posted March 21, 2018 by joopklepzeiker
Categories: Uncategorized

Israel lifted the censorship gag on details surrounding the daring operation that destroyed a Syrian nuclear threat. 

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

An IAF F-15 (IAF)

A decade after the crucial secret operation, Israel officially acknowledged that it attacked and destroyed the Al-Kibar nuclear facility in Syria, which was in its last stages of construction at the time.

During the night between September 5 and 6, 2007, Israel secretly bombed the nuclear reactor, in accordance with the Begin Doctrine, which states that no Israeli adversary in the Middle East would be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.

In a secret mission known as operation “Out Of The Box,” authorized by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, eight Israeli Air Force (IAF) aircraft flew along the Syrian-Turkish border shortly before 1 a.m. and destroyed the Syrian nuclear facility.

The Syrian nuclear project operated under a heavy cloak of secrecy for about six years prior to its destruction. The Al Kibar reactor was situated 900 yards from the Euphrates River and halfway between the borders with Turkey and Iraq, far from Syria’s biggest cities, in the Deir ez-Zor region, 280 miles northeast of Damascus.

For two years prior to the attack, officials in the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate were monitoring the Syrian nuclear project. Their intelligence suggested that the facility would become active toward the end of 2007, which prompted the IDF to initiate an attack.

In March 2007, the Mossad – Israel’s national intelligence agency – raided the home of the head of Syria’s atomic energy commission in Vienna, where they discovered conclusive information about the reactor.

The information recovered by the Mossad operatives included some three dozen color photographs taken from inside the Syrian building, indicating that it was a top-secret plutonium nuclear reactor. The photographs obtained by the Mossad also showed workers from North Korea at the site. The sole purpose of this kind of plutonium reactor, in the Mossad’s analysis, was to produce an atomic bomb.

Olmert: With or without US support

The attack was launched after intense discussions between the American administration, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, and the Israelis.

At a meeting in Washington on June 19 that year, Olmert told Bush that if the US did not destroy the reactor, Israel would do it, even if it lacked US support. Finally, the US declined to participate but did not prevent the Israelis from carrying through with the raid.

The IAF had very little time to prepare for the attack or to account for possible contingencies, such as retaliation by the Syrian forces. Once the attack plan was ready, however, it was possible to execute it within 12 hours from the moment the order would be given.

Prior to the attack, then-IAF Commander, Maj. Gen. (Res’) Eliezer Shkedi personally addressed the combat crews, feeling it was of operational significance, in order to emphasize the transition from routine security measures to a strategic operation while stressing the pilots’ responsibility. At around 7 p.m., hours before the attack commenced, the target was revealed to the aircrews.

“Combatants, today you will be sent to participate in a mission of great importance to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. The mission is to destroy the target and disengage without aircraft losses, as stealthily as possible. The mission is kept under the highest secrecy, both before and after execution, until further notice. I trust you, believe in you, and am convinced of your capabilities. Good luck, Eliezer Shkedi”

The attack

Shortly after midnight, Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, the deputy Chief of the General Staff, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate and the head of the Operations Directorate assembled in the aerial war room, the Bor, in the heart of Tel Aviv. From there, they followed all aircrafts’ aerial locations and the communication systems.

The “Ra’am” (F-15I) formation that led the assault took off from Hatzerim Air Force Base in the south at around 10 p.m. The second formation left two minutes later, joined by the rest of the “Sufa” (F-16I) fighter jets, and they refueled together in the air. The aircraft took off in radio silence.

The jets flew low to remain undetected. The entire operation took four hours. At around midnight, the leading formation had reached the necessary distance from the target and began ascending in preparation for the attack maneuver. The ordnance drop occurred minutes later. The aircraft broke contact, and the next formations followed in order to attack. After all the munitions were dropped, the final “Sufa” fighter pilot radioed “Arizona from all of us,” meaning that all of the bombs hit their target and exploded as planned.

The Military Intelligence Directorate estimated that the nuclear facility was damaged beyond repair. As the IDF was preparing for Syrian retaliation, it decided that information about the operation should not be disclosed to the general public at the time.

The operation was deemed a success. The nuclear facility was destroyed and an escalation in the region was prevented.

Only a few years later, the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group captured the Deir ez-Zor region. One can only imagine how much havoc they could have wreaked with a nuclear facility in their hands. The scenarios range from an existential threat to the Jewish state to the disruption of the area’s strategic balance.

‘One of the best decisions made in Israel’

The destruction of the Syrian reactor was an historic operation of great significance for the State of Israel and the Jewish People and one of the most important military operations in the IAF’s history.

“When faced with today’s reality, the decision to destroy the reactor is one of the best decisions made in Israel over the past 70 years”, declared Lt. Gen. Amikam Norkin, current commander of the IAF. “The principles according to which the IAF prepared for the attack are also the IAF’s principles today. They help the air force maintain its relevance.”

Two months after the operation, Olmert concluded: “There were many disputes regarding all sorts of alternatives, but in the end, we all know one thing – the strategic force, which makes the difference in Israel’s international strength, is the aerial force. Our aerial force will be the determining factor in all possible confrontations that we will possibly – hopefully not – deal with in the future.”

Lifting of censorship coincided with the publication of Olmert’s memoirs and follows a petition to the High Court of Justice by Israel’s Channel 10, which is now permitted to air an interview with Olmert and the then-Mossad chief, the late Meir Dagan, on the bombing of the reactor.

Current Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, OC Northern Command at the time of the operation, said the message that should be taken from the incident is that “Israel will never accept an existential threat against it. That was the message in 2007, and that is the message to our enemies in both the near and distant future.”


Video added by JK


White House pushes back against Abbas: ‘The time has come to choose’

Posted March 20, 2018 by Louisiana Steve
Categories: Abbas meets Trump, Trump meets Abbas


By Michael Wilner March 20, 2018 00:23 Jerusalem Post

Source Link: White House pushes back against Abbas: ‘The time has come to choose’

{I wouldn’t recommend engaging in a war of words with DJT. – LS}

WASHINGTON — The White House forcefully pushed back on Monday night against a fresh round of insults from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hurled at a senior member of the Trump administration, after remaining quiet for months through his attacks following their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Since that December policy move, Abbas and his aides have repeatedly attacked President Donald Trump and his senior staff. Administration officials have declined to engage. But Abbas’ decision on Monday to target the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, as a “son of a dog” and a vestige of the settler movement, was seen in the West Wing as too extreme to ignore.

“The time has come for President Abbas to choose between hateful rhetoric and concrete and practical efforts to improve the quality of life of his people and lead them to peace and prosperity,” said Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for international negotiations. “Notwithstanding his highly inappropriate insults against members of the Trump administration, the latest iteration being his insult of my good friend and colleague Ambassador Friedman, we are committed to the Palestinian people and to the changes that must be implemented for peaceful coexistence.”

“We are finalizing our plan for peace,” he added, “and we will advance it when circumstances are right.”

Heather Nauert, spokesperson and acting undersecretary for public diplomacy, called Abbas’ comments “outrageous and unhelpful.”

“We urge the Palestinian Authority to focus its efforts on improving the lives of the Palestinian people and advancing the cause of peace,” Nauert said. “The administration remains fully committed to those goals.”

Over the last three months, Abbas has said that Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv as the “slap of the century” – a move that, in Abbas’ view, disqualifies him from any role in future peace talks between the PA and Israel. His aides have dismissed Greenblatt as a “Zionist,” told US ambassador Nikki Haley to “shut up,” and have repeatedly criticized Friedman over his sympathy for the settler movement.

In that time, Trump administration officials have accepted the rhetoric as an understandable venting of anger in light of the Jerusalem moves. But Greenblatt’s new remarks suggest they have reached their limit of tolerance, as they put final touches on the president’s peace plan.

The plan “won’t be loved by either side, and it won’t be hated by either side,” Haley told a Chicago university last month.

The administration has declined to say when details of the plan will be published.

British woman killed fighting Turkish forces in Afrin

Posted March 20, 2018 by Louisiana Steve
Categories: Erdoan and Kurds, Female Kurdish fighters, Iran and Kurds, Kurdish Afrin, Kurdish fighters


Matt Blake Mon 19 Mar 2018 02.00 EDT via The Guardian

Source Link: British woman killed fighting Turkish forces in Afrin

{Bravery comes in many forms. – LS}

Anna Campbell believed to be the first British woman to die alongside Kurdish forces in Syria

A British woman fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Afrin, northern Syria, has been killed, her Kurdish commanders have said.

Anna Campbell, from Lewes, East Sussex, was volunteering with the US-backed Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) – the all-female affiliate army of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – in the besieged city of Afrin when the convoy she was travelling in was struck by a Turkish missile on 16 March.

Sources say the 26-year-old initially travelled to Syria to join the Kurdish struggle against Islamic State, but begged her Kurdish commanders to send her to the Afrin front after Turkey launched a ground and air offensive to oust Kurdish forces from its borderlands in January.

“They refused at first, but she was adamant, and even dyed her blonde hair black so as to appear less conspicuous as a westerner,” a YPJ source told the Guardian.

“Finally they gave in and let her go.”

She is not only the first British woman killed fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria, but also the first Briton to die there since Turkey launched its incursion into Kurdish-held territory on 20 January.

In a statement to the Guardian on Sunday, YPJ commander and spokesperson Nesrin Abdullah said: “[Campbell’s] martyrdom is a great loss to us because with her international soul, her revolutionary spirit, which demonstrated the power of women, she expressed her will in all her actions … On behalf of the Women’s Defence Units YPJ, we express our deepest condolences to [her] family and we promise to follow the path she took up. We will represent her in the entirety of our struggles.”

Her father, Dirk Campbell, described her as a “beautiful and loving daughter” who “would go to any lengths to create the world that she believed in”.

“Anna was very idealistic, very serious, very wholehearted and wanted to create a better world. She wasn’t fighting when she died, she was engaged in a defensive action against the Turkish incursion.”

In recent months Turkey has shifted its focus from fighting Isis in Syria to preventing the YPG from establishing a foothold along its border, arguing that the YPG is linked to its own insurgent group, the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). The US, EU and Britain, however, do not consider the YPG a terrorist group, which it has supported in its fight against Isis since 2014.

Dirk Campbell said his daughter had dedicated her life to the fight against “unjust power and privilege”.

He said she was a committed human rights and environmental campaigner who would “put herself on the line for what she believed in”.

“It seems a small thing, but I remember when she was 11, she protected a bumblebee from being tormented by other kids at school,” he recalled. “She did it with such strength of will that they ridiculed her. But she didn’t care. She was absolutely single-minded when it came to what she believed in, and she believed what Turkey is doing is wrong.”

He said his daughter’s passion for campaigning was inspired by her mother, Adrienne, who was well-known on the south of England’s activism scene and died of breast cancer five years ago. “Anna was a credit to her mum, my wife, and was carrying on a lot of the kind of work that she was doing,” he added.

Campbell told her father of her plans to travel to northern Syria last May after she heard about the grassroots feminist and socialist revolution that has swept Rojava (the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Syria and heartland of the YPG/J) and inspired the Kurds’ fight against Isis.

“I didn’t try to stop her,” Mr Campbell said. “Because I knew, once she had decided to do something, she was unstoppable. That’s why she went to Rojava: to help build a world of equality and democracy where everyone has a right to representation. When she told me she was going I joked: ‘It’s been nice knowing you.’ I just knew it might be the last time I’d see her.”

Upon arrival in Rojava, Campbell completed the YPJ’s mandatory month-long military training course, in which new recruits learn basic Kurdish, weaponry and battlefield tactics on top of a crash course in the egalitarian and feminist ideology of the YPG/J, and was assigned to an infantry division, comprising a mix of Kurdish and international fighters. There she was given the nom-de-guerre Helîn Qerecox and sent to the front.

YPJ sources said she spent her first months in the country fighting in Deir ez-Zor, Isis’s last major stronghold and scene of the jihadist group’s bitter last stand. But with Isis now on the brink of defeat, foreign fighters within Kurdish ranks have faced a choice: return home or remain in Syria to help the YPG repel Turkey’s attack.

“After the initial attacks on Afrin, comrade Helîn insisted on joining the operation to defend Afrin,” said Abdullah. “Before leaving, she had already received her military training, and, although we wanted to protect her and did not agree with her decision … she incessantly insisted on her wish to leave for Afrin. She even gave us a condition: ‘Either I will go home and abandon the life as a revolutionary or you send me to Afrin. But I would never leave the revolution, so I will go to Afrin’.”

She added: “For us, as the YPJ, comrade Helîn will always be a symbol as a pioneering internationalist woman. We will live up to her hope and beliefs. We will forever pursue her aim to struggle for women, for oppressed communities.”

Mark Campbell, activist and co-chair of the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign, added: “Anna, by all accounts, was taken deep into the heart of the Kurdish people as she stood side by side with them in their darkest hour. Our thoughts and condolences are with Anna’s family and friends as this time.”

Campbell is believed to be the eighth British citizen killed while serving with Kurdish forces in Syria.