Posted tagged ‘Iranian proxies’

Moscow: US-backed SDF faces “destruction.” Pro-Iranian Iraqi force crosses into Syria

September 21, 2017

Moscow: US-backed SDF faces “destruction.” Pro-Iranian Iraqi force crosses into Syria, DEBKAfile, September 21, 2017

Israel’s strategic situation took several steps back in the first week of the New Year, chiefly: The US pulled back from E. Syria under Russian threat, allowing Iran to move in.

In just one week, the dire perils, which many military and political experts warned against for years, are suddenly looming on Israel’s northern border.

        1. From Sept.15-17, Syrian and Hizballah forces crossed the Euphrates to the eastern bank on pontoon bridges provided by Russia.
        2. Last Saturday, Sept. 16, Russian jets bombed the US-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) in the Deir ez-Zour region, as a warning against their obstructing the eastward impetus of those Syrian and Hizballah units.
        3. On Monday, Sept. 18, US Marines began blowing up buildings at the Zaqaf military base in eastern Syria and then retreating to the Jordanian border. The US set up Zaqaf early this year in the Syrian Desert as a barrier against this very Syrian/Hizballah crossing to impede their advance to the Syrian-Iraqi border.
        4. The following day, on the heels of the US withdrawal, Hizballah troops took charge of the Zaqaf base.
        5. On Wednesday, Sept. 19, the Iraqi Hashd Al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Units – PMU) crossed into Syria and linked up with the Syrian-Hizballah force. The PMU is under the direct command of Gen. Qassam Soleimani, head of Iranian military operations in Syria and Iraq.
        6. Iran, through its Iraqi, Lebanese and other foreign Shiite pawns, is now in control of 230km of the Syrian border, from Abu Kamal (still held by ISIS) in the north, to Al Tanf in the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border triangle in the south – where, too, US and coalition special forces have begun packing up ready to exit.
          Iran in recent years imported some 20,000 Afghan and Pakistani Shiite fighters to reinforce the Syrian army and Hizballah in their battles for Bashar Assad. The new Iraq arrivals boost that figure by tens of thousands and more are coming in all the time.
        7. On Thursday, Sept. 21, the growing disconnect between Moscow and Washington over Syria suddenly erupted into an open breach with a crude threat from the Kremlin: “Russia has officially informed the United States via a special communications channel that Russian forces will strike immediately US-backed forces if they attack or shell Syrian or Russian task forces operating near the Deir Ez-Zour city. Any attempts at shelling from the areas where the militants of the Syrian Democratic Forces are based will be immediately curbed. Russian forces will suppress firing points in these areas using all means of destruction.”

      A threat of this degree of ruthlessness has not been encountered in the Middle East for decades, it may recall Moscow’s threat to Israel in 1956 to end its invasion of the Sinai without delay or else…

      Where do these menacing steps leave Israel?

        • The US has washed its hands of central and southeastern Syria.
        • Russia is wholly, unreservedly and openly in lockstep with the Syrian army, Iran and Hizballah in all their objectives in the war-torn country, and moreover, willing to threaten any pro-American entity with total military punishment. Is this an indirect message to Israel too?
          Iraqi Shiite forces are surging into Syria; they have given Tehran the gift of control of a 230km segment of the border.

      And what does the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott have to say about all this?  In an interview to Israeli media as recently as Wednesday, Sept. 19, when it was all happening, he said: “If Iran  does entrench itself in Syria, that will be bad news for the entire region, including the moderate Sunni camp, and even more for the countries of Europe.”

He went on to explain: “That is why we have given the Iranian threat and halting its expanding influence very high priority as an issue to be dealt with.”

Gen. Eisenkott underlined the IDF’s focus as being to prevent [Israel’s foes] from obtaining weaponry, i.e. missiles – of high targeting precision.

The trouble is that, while the IDF focuses on this objective, commendable in itself, Russia and Iran are focusing and in full flight on a far wider-ranging goal, the precise and systematic deepening of Iran’s military presence in Syria. Iran and Hizballah have already established military commands at Arnaba just 6 km from Israel’s Golan border.

Yet the IDF chief is still talking about this as an untoward event that may – or may not – come some time in the future.

Israeli Patriot missile downs Hizballah drone over Quneitra

September 19, 2017

Israeli Patriot missile downs Hizballah drone over Quneitra, DEBKAfile, September 19, 2017

An Israeli air force Patriot missile Tuesday shot down an Iran-made Hizballah drone over the Syrian border town of Quneitra in the demilitarized zone. The UAV took off from Damascus air port. The IAF first scrambled fighter jets, before launching the missile from a site near the Galilee town of Safed.

“Israel will not allow Iran, Hizballah or other forces to infiltrate or approach its territory in the Golan Heights,” the IDF Spokesperson said in a statement.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report: This was the first time an IDF missile had intercepted a Hizballah drone in Syrian air space. In the past, fighter jets found it hard to down drones entering Golan air space and ended up shooting a Patriot missile. Hizballah’s purpose in sending the drone was apparently to test the state of readiness of IDF air defenses in northern Israel – but no less to see how the Russians would react when an Israeli UAV flew over a Russian-US de-escalation zone in southern Syria, that is under Russian surveillance.

Syrian/Hizballah may call up Russian air strikes as cooperation deepens

September 18, 2017

Syrian/Hizballah may call up Russian air strikes as cooperation deepens, DEBKAfile, September 18, 2017

Russian air crews in Syria are under new orders to respond directly and immediately to Iranian and Syrian demands for air bombardments, without confirmation from the high commands in Latakia or Moscow.

This has enormously empowered Syrian and Hizballah officers on the ground for taking the war into their own hands. It led directly to Russian planes suddenly bombing a pro-US Syrian force in the Deir ez-Zour province of eastern Syria on Saturday, Sept. 16, and accounts for Moscow’s repudiation of the attack after its confirmation by the Pentagon.

Before the new orders, requests for Russian air cover went through command channels and were not automatically approved.

The license now awarded to Syrian and pro-Iranian Hizballah commanders to contact the operations rooms of Russian air squadrons, without going through the main Russian air base at Hmeimim in Latakia or the Syrian high command in Damascus, dramatically boosts the autonomy of Syrian, Hizballah and Iranian commanders in the field. It also gives sharp teeth to Moscow’s decision in August to place the Russian and Syrian air defense commands under unified command.

Word of this game-changer was delivered by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, when he sat down with Syrian ruler Bashar Assad in Damascus last Thursday, Sept. 14. According to DEBKAfile’s sources, they decided the next Syrian army and Hizballah steps after crossing to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, which were to head for the Syrian-Iraqi border and prepare to seize the towns of Abu Kamal and Mayedin from the Islamic State. The time table was established and Russian air, intelligence and logistic support laid on.

The Russian defense minister then flew to Tehran – this time in secret – to discuss Russia’s new operation plans for Syria with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Military leaders.

DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the actions set in train by Shoigu have radically ramped up Russia’s military cooperation in Syria with Iran, Syria and Hizballah. They were timed to take place shortly before President Donald Trump’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at UN Center in New York on Monday, Sept. 19.

Although their conversation was generally billed as focusing on the Iranian nuclear deal, our sources expect this major turn in the Syrian crisis to figure large in their talks. Washington clearly has no practical plans for countering the assertive Russian-Iranian advances in Syria.

Their ruthlessness was demonstrated Saturday, Sept. 16, by a Russian bombardment of the US-backed Kurdish-led SDF near Deir ez-Zour. Moscow was telling Washington that the US would not be permitted to impede the Syrian-Hizballah initiative for the capture of areas east of the Euphrates and Russia was ready to confront US-backed forces on the ground if they got in the way – while ruling a clash in the air.

The Kremlin was also putting Washington on notice that, after investing massive military and financial resources in Syria, it had no intention to let pro-American forces share in the kudos of the final victory over the Islamic State in Syria, which belonged solely to the Russian-Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah war alliance.

For now, the Russian maneuver is heading for a successful outcome. The Pentagon, aside from a lame response to the Russian bombardment, has taken no counteraction.

Ryan Mauro: It’s a Bad Time to Be an Ayatollah in Tehran with Mattis & CIA’s “Dark Prince” Around

September 13, 2017

Ryan Mauro: It’s a Bad Time to Be an Ayatollah in Tehran with Mattis & CIA’s “Dark Prince” Around, Clarion Project via YouTube, September 12, 2017

According to the blurb beneath the video,

Clarion Project’s Shillman Fellow, Prof. Ryan Mauro, reacts to reports that the Trump Administration is planning a more aggressive strategy towards Iran by pointing to the CIA’s “Dark Prince” and Secretary of Defense Mattis as reasons why the ayatollahs in Tehran should be worried.

Gorka: Trump Administration Must Kill the Iran Deal

September 11, 2017

Gorka: Trump Administration Must Kill the Iran Deal, Washington Free Beacon, , September 11, 2017

(And Frau Merkel wants a deal with North Korea comparable to the Iran scam. — DM)

Sebastian Gorka / Getty Images

“The American government’s strategy to defeat Sunni jihadism must not play into the hands of Shia jihadism,” according to Gorka. “All the more so after the billions of dollars released by the last White House back into the coffers of Tehran.”

“A nuclear Caliphate informed by an apocalyptic vision of Islamic salvation will not succumb to the logic of nuclear deterrence and the prior stability of Mutually Assured Destruction,” Gorka states. “Action must be taken now to obviate the establishment a nuclear-capable Shia Caliphate. Recertification of the Potemkin Accord that is the JCPOA (Iran) Deal will not stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.”

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The Trump administration must end the landmark nuclear deal with Iran, which has only empowered the Islamic Republic and aided its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to former senior Trump strategist Sebastian Gorka, who is set to call for an end to the deal during wide-ranging remarks Monday in Israel on the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained an advance partial copy of Gorka’s remarks, in which he notes the failure of U.S. administrations to combat the spread of global terror organizations since al Qaeda terrorists struck the Twin Towers 16 years ago.

Gorka, a veteran national security expert who served as a key adviser to President Donald Trump until his resignation late last month, noted that America has “seen more jihadist attacks and plots on U.S. soil in the last two years than any previous comparable period,” a sign that past strategies to combat this threat have failed.

“In arrests as far apart as California and New York, we see an enemy that has moved from attempting to send foreign terrorists here to America, move to recruiting and indoctrinating U.S. nationals or residents who are already in the country, such as the Boston bombers and the San Bernardino killers,” Gorka will say during a keynote address before the International Institute for Counterterrorism during its annual national security summit in Israel.

The high-profile international get together brings together senior Israeli government officials with their global counterparts. Gorka’s call to end the Iran deal at this forum is likely to generate much discussion among international officials present at the forum.

The near daily arrests by U.S. authorities of would-be jihadists “is not an improvement” in the war on terror, according to Gorka, because “‘homegrown’ terrorists are much harder for our domestic agencies to detect.”

Gorka said he has faith that the Trump administration will plot a new course that will help the United States finally end the war in Afghanistan, the longest conflict in U.S. history.

The United States is still failing to win the war against what Gorka describes as the “Global Jihadi Movement”—and international agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal have not improved the West’s chances of curbing the terror threat.

“If we use a less parochial filter, and look at what the Global Jihadi Movement has wrought globally since September 11, 2001, we cannot claim any kind of victory,” Gorka says.

A key part of the strategy to put the United States on the path to victory must focus on cancelling the Iran nuclear agreement, which has awarded the foremost global sponsor of terrorism with billions in cash.

“Iran remains the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world today,” Gorka says. “With the rise of ISIS, the collapse and Syria, and the continued conflict in Yemen, the mullahs and the forces under their command have expanded their destabilizing actions in support of their Shia version of radical Islam.”

The Trump administration must be cautious to avoid empowering Iran, a Shia Muslim majority nation, in its efforts to defeat Sunni Muslim terror organizations.

The nuclear deal served as a particular boon to Iran’s vision for a Shia-dominated Middle East, in which the Islamic Republic can rule the region.

“The American government’s strategy to defeat Sunni jihadism must not play into the hands of Shia jihadism,” according to Gorka. “All the more so after the billions of dollars released by the last White House back into the coffers of Tehran.”

“A nuclear Caliphate informed by an apocalyptic vision of Islamic salvation will not succumb to the logic of nuclear deterrence and the prior stability of Mutually Assured Destruction,” Gorka states. “Action must be taken now to obviate the establishment a nuclear-capable Shia Caliphate. Recertification of the Potemkin Accord that is the JCPOA (Iran) Deal will not stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Trump Admin Authorizes Strikes on Iranian-Backed Forces

July 5, 2017

Trump Admin Authorizes Strikes on Iranian-Backed Forces, Washington Free Beacon, July 5, 2017

(Please see also, Astana Peace Talks Fail over Syrian Safe Zones. — DM)

Syrian regime and pro-regime forces inspect an area recently recaptured from the Islamic State near Aleppo / Getty Images

U.S. forces have been instructed to take all measures needed to protect American interests in Syria, including military measures, as part of a new strategy that comes after top officials in the Trump administration assessed that Iran is deliberately probing American weaknesses and reactions on the Syrian battlefield, according to senior Trump administration officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

Iran-backed forces, including Hezbollah, have already initiated multiple encounters with the United States by violating agreements worked out between Washington and Moscow aimed at preventing the various factions targeting ISIS inside Syria from coming into conflict. This is part of a campaign that analysts inside and outside the White House believe is aimed at testing the Trump administration’s resolve, sources said.

“That was very clearly a process of the Iranians and Hezbollah and [the] Syrian regime probing and testing our limits, and testing how much we were willing to do,” one senior Trump administration official said. “In every case, it was a matter of them testing and probing, and us responding by defending ourselves.”

These clashes were the result of pro-Syrian regime forces, including Iran and Hezbollah, “violating a de-confliction measure that had been worked out with the Russians,” the official said. “The forces violated the measure.”

The Trump administration has instructed U.S. forces to respond to Iranian attacks with force if necessary.

“What they found out very quickly,” said the official, was “us responding by defending ourselves. What was established was that we’re determined to defend ourselves.”

This new strategy is being implemented at the same time the Trump administration turns its attention to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Islamic Republic’s paramilitary force that coordinates operations in Syria and other warzones.

Trump administration officials view the IRGC as being part of “every malignant protrusion of the Iranian regime,” according to one administration official, who said the White House is dually focused on choking off this force.

The actions by U.S. forces are part of a broader pushback against Iran, ranging from battlefield responses to diplomatic action, according to a veteran Iran policy analyst who has been briefed by the White House both on parts of the Syria strategy and on parts of an ongoing Iran policy review being conducted by the administration.

The Free Beacon first reported many details of the review several weeks ago, including actions by the Trump administration to potentially block the sale of U.S. commercial aircraft to Tehran.

“For the first time since the U.S. intervened into the Syrian conflict, American forces have been authorized to do take all measures to defend U.S. interests against Iranian provocations and aggression,” said the source. “This is part of a concrete strategy that has already been implemented in part, and is being bolstered every day, but very senior Trump officials. No more of watching U.S. forces get rolled in Syria, and also no more of thanking Iran after they seize our sailors in the Gulf.

One senior Trump administration official familiar with the Iran policy review said the White House is currently “in the thick of it,” evaluating a range of options to confront Iran’s global terror operations.

The review expands far beyond the landmark nuclear deal, according to the administration officials.

“The tack we’ve taken is not to put the [Iran deal] at the center of the policy,” one senior administration official said. “The goals we set out focus on how to neutralize the threat the Iranian regime poses to the US and its allies in the region.”

U.S. official see the nuclear deal as secondary given Iran’s continued terrorist operations and pursuit of illicit arms. This is why the IRGC’s activities have become a source of concern in the White House.

“You find the IRGC in every malignant protrusion of the Iranian regime,” the senior administration official said. “They’re in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon,” and elsewhere.

As the U.S. plots its course with Iran, the Islamic Republic continues to invest in a massive military buildup that many believe has been partially funded by the economic sanctions relief granted under the former Obama administration.

Iranian military officials announced on Monday that the country will soon implement its own version of Russia’s advanced S-300 missile defense system, which Tehran purchased in a controversial arms deal opposed by many Western nations.

“Steady work efforts are being made on Bavar 373 missile system and a number of tests have been carried out on this system, and these tests will continue until the date of delivery,” according to Iranian military officials, who predicted the system would be perfected by March of next year.

Astana Peace Talks Fail over Syrian Safe Zones

July 5, 2017

Astana Peace Talks Fail over Syrian Safe Zones, DEBKAfile, July 5, 2017

DEBKAfile’s sources report that the Russians suggested that the discussion be held over for the next session. They then took the Americans by surprise by relocating the sixth session of the Astana conference to Tehran. This too was a measure of the conference’s breakdown as a peace forum. US, Jordanian and Syrian rebel opposition groups will never travel to the Iranian capital to negotiate an end to the Syrian war.

The ceasefire was supposed to be in effect until midnight on Thursday, June 6, but there is now a possibility that the fighting will resume earlier, perhaps even in the coming hours.

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The fifth round of Russian-initiated Syrian peace talks taking place Tuesday, July 4, in the Kazakh capital of Astana was designed to prepare the ground for the Trump-Putin summit Friday on the sidelines of the Hamburg G20 summit, by laying out proposals for deconfliction zones in Syria.

To support this move, Moscow twisted the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad’s arm to declare a unilateral ceasefire in southern Syria.

However, the ploy was soon aborted. The Astana conference quickly broke down when Iran and Turkey, two of the three sponsors along with Russia, rejected the formula for deconfliction zones on Syria’s borders with Iraq, Jordan and Israel, DEBKAfile’s sources report.

Present at Astana along with the three sponsors were leading Syrian opposition and rebel groups, as well as UN envoy for Syrian affairs Staffan de Minstura, US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones, and Jordanian Foreign Ministry adviser Nawaf Uasfi Tal.

The Iranina and Turkish delegates had no objections to the two demilitarized zones proposed for the Damascus and Homs areas, but withheld their consent for the zones in eastern and southern Syria, and refused to accept the formula for forces policing the latter deconfliction zones, their identity, powers as truce monitors and the types of arms they were allowed to carry.

Iran and Turkey demanded the deployment of their own troops along with Russians in the two safe zones, which border on Israel, Jordan and Iraq, and wanted them armed for “self-defense.” The representatives of the US and Jordan refused, proposing instead that an international force be established to supervise the zones. Turkey and Iran rejected this out of hand.

DEBKAfile’s sources report that the Russians suggested that the discussion be held over for the next session. They then took the Americans by surprise by relocating the sixth session of the Astana conference to Tehran. This too was a measure of the conference’s breakdown as a peace forum. US, Jordanian and Syrian rebel opposition groups will never travel to the Iranian capital to negotiate an end to the Syrian war.

By knuckling under to Tehran on this venue, the Russians have shown their hand as supporters of Iran’s military objectives in Syria, which they have hitherto tried to disguise.

The failure of the Astana peace track calls into question the ceasefire declared on Sunday by Damascus on all the warfronts of southeastern Syria, including the battle for Daraa, 1 km from the Jordanian border, and the fighting for the Quneitra region, just 3 km from Israel’s Golan.  That front was the source of the mortar shells that strayed across the border into the Golan last week.

The ceasefire was supposed to be in effect until midnight on Thursday, June 6, but there is now a possibility that the fighting will resume earlier, perhaps even in the coming hours.