Posted tagged ‘Nasrallah’

First test for Lieberman from Iran and Hizballah

May 26, 2016

First test for Lieberman from Iran and Hizballah, DEBKAfile, May 26, 2016

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The Middle East is full of surprises, but they are rarely disconnected from events. This applies to the speech made by Hizballah secretary Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday May 25 which dredged up the past from 1992 in an allegation that the IDF while in Beirut, kidnapped four Iranian diplomats and is secretly holding them alive till this day in a jail in Israel.

He was not the first to resuscitate this old story. Monday May 23 the Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan brought it up, suddenly and surprisingly, in a special interview he gave to the Iranian news site Defa Press News.

General Dehqan said, “We claim on the basis of proofs that they are alive and in captivity by the Zionist regime.” He went on to say that, “the Israelis are responsible for the health of the Iranian diplomats.” He was referring to: charge d’affaires of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut Seyed Mohsen Mousavi, military attaché Ahmad Motevaselian, embassy technician Taghi Rastegar Moghadam, Islamic republic news agency Kazzem Akhavan.

Two days later, on Wednesday, while saying that ‘the resistance axis’ – meaning Iran-Syria-Hizballah – has not forgotten the Palestinian problem, Nasrallah said: “We have more land under Israeli occupation.”

Nasrallah had a long orderly list of ‘occupied places’: Shaaba Farms, The Kfar Shouba Hills, meaning Har Dov, and Ghajar village. “We also have”, Nasrallah continued, “captives and missing people whose families still wait for their return.”  And, “On the legal and ethical level, there is a Lebanese responsibility towards the four Iranian diplomats who were handed over to Israel.”

According to Nasrallah, just as the occupied lands must be returned, so must the Iranian diplomats be returned, first of all to Lebanon.

Nasrallah next turned to speak about the new Israeli Defense Minister calling him “crazy”.

Seven years ago, in 2009, German mediators were invited to broker a prisoner swap between Israel and Hizballah. They arranged for the bodies of the IDF soldiers: Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, whom Hizballah abducted and murdered in 2006, to be returned. The Germans established that the four Iranian diplomats had never been by held by Israel but were captured by Christian Phalangists and were apparently executed by them.

This finding was never accepted by the Iranian Foreign Ministry who insisted that their four diplomats were still in Israeli captivity.

The Iranian Defense Minister and the Hizballah leader have obviously coordinated the resuscitation of the diplomats’ fate and intended to use it as a tool to justify military or terrorist action against Israel.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources point to two reasons for the Iranian-Hizballah move:

  1. A first test for the new Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman. They want to determine his responses to aggression and establish the measure of his control of Israeli military deployments on the Syrian and Lebanese borders. His predecessor, Moshe Yaalon, was conversant with every detail of those deployments.
  2. Tehran and Hizballah, have publically admitted that Israel had no hand in the assassination of the Hizballah military leader in Syria, Mustafa Badr Al Din, near Damascus on May 13. But as a morale booster for Shiite forces in Syria they may resort to a strike against Israel, Saudi Arabia or Jordan, whom they believe complicit in the killing.

They estimate that Israel, with its new defense minister, is the most vulnerable target.

Hizballah launches Chemicals and Dirty Bombs program at secret Syrian site

March 2, 2016

Hizballah launches Chemicals & Dirty Bombs program at secret Syrian site, DEBKAfile, March 2, 2016

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The southwestern town of Zabadani, 30 km west of Damascus, is a ghost town, depopulated by five years of Syrian war ravages, except for one sign of life – or rather death. Since December, Hizballah has enclosed this once attractive tourist resort, strategically located on the Damascus-Beirut highway, into a heavily fortified ex territoria enclave whose high walls conceal the terrorist group’s new program for the development of weapons of mass destruction. This is disclosed for the first time by DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources.

Most of the facilities for the research and development of chemical weapons and dirty bombs are sunk below the surface of the secret 2.5 sq. km site.

Syrian and Iranian engineers and technicians are developing the chemical weapons for Hizballah’s arsenal, and foreign experts were hired from outside the Middle East to help build radioactive weapons. They are kept out of sight in on-site accommodation at Zabadani.

A telltale sign that the Shiite terrorist organization was actively pursuing a radioactive bomb program – and which prompted our investigation – was dropped in a speech given by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Feb. 16.

He boasted that a pair of Hizballah rockets falling on the Israeli city of Haifa would cause a catastrophe equivalent to a “nuclear bomb” attack. He elaborated on this: “An Israeli expert had said that Haifa’s residents fear a deadly attack on the ammonia storage tanks which contain more than 15,000 tons of this gas. That would lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of Israelis and affect another 800,000,” he declared.

“This would be exactly like a nuclear bomb and we can say that Lebanon today has a nuclear bomb, seeing as any rocket that might hit these tanks is capable of creating a nuclear bomb effect,” Nasrallah said.

When someone like the Hizballah terrorist chief drops four references to a nuclear bomb in as many sentences, ending with the boast that “Lebanon today has nuclear bomb,” it must be presumed that he is crowing over some sort of nuclear device in hand.

It may not be an actual atom bomb – which would call for multimillion dollar investment, expertise and time, “only” a “dirty bomb” (essentially a conventional bomb mixed with radioactive material). That too could cause massive damage to Haifa’s chemical industry, resulting in a high death toll, runaway panic and major disruption – the perfect weapon for terrorists.

Israeli officials decline to discuss Hizballah’s new WMD program, but it certainly raises hard questions for Moscow and the commanding Russian military presence in Syria. It is hard to believe that the Shiite terrorists can develop game-changing poison chemicals and dirty bombs in the heart of Syria, without Russian intelligence noticing what was going on. Does that mean that Vladimir Putin is amenable to his air force providing it with cover?

Hizballah blows up “Mossad” patrol, sparks border clash with Israel

January 4, 2016

Hizballah blows up “Mossad” patrol, sparks border clash with Israel, DEBKAfile, January 4, 2016

Shortly after DEBKAfile’s forecast of a Hizballah revenge strike for the Samir Quntar assassination, a Hizballah roadside bomb blew up against an IDF patrol at the Shebaa Farms on the Hermon slopes Monday afternoon, Jan. 4.  No casualties were caused. The Israeli force responded with tank artillery fire on the southern Lebanese town of Al-Wazzani and was answered by rocket fire from Lebanon

Hizballah announced that it had targeted an Israeli patrol with a bomb on the ceasefire line at the Shebaa Farms targeting a civilian car carrying a “senior Mossad officer”.

The next Hizballah communiqué said: The Martyr al-Quntar Unit blew up a bomb against an Israeli patrol in the Shebaa Farms, destroying a military vehicle and causing casualties.

In a third communiqué, Hizballah said the car attacked carried a “senior Israeli army officer” – amending its previous claim of a Mossad officer.

The Israeli army has closed all northern roads to civilian traffic in case the Hizballah attack spreads into a major clash.

DEBKAfile reported earlier Monday that the rising tension between Tehran and Riyadh may serve Iran and its Lebanese proxy as an oportunity to attack Israel. The leader of that proxy, Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah, had repeatedly threatened to punish Israeli for the assassination of its high profile terrorist planner Samir Quntar in Damascus on Dec, 20. Quntar was freed by Israel as part of a prisoner swap in 2008, three decades after he was convicted of killing four Israelis. In September, the United States placed Quntar on its terror blacklist, saying he had “played an operational role, with the assistance of Iran and Syria, in building up Hizballah’s terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights.”

Tehran names Raafat Al-Bakkar as new Hizballah Golan terror ring chief

December 28, 2015

Tehran names Raafat Al-Bakkar as new Hizballah Golan terror ring chief, DEBKAfile, December 28, 2015

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Tehran Monday, Dec. 28, further ramped up the tension between its Lebanese proxy Hizballah, whose leader Sunday threatened to avenge the death of Samir Quntar, and Israel, which is conducting a military exercise along its northern borders. Four days after Quntar was assassinated in Damascus, Tehran appointed a successor to carry on building a new terrorist network for striking Israel from the Golan.

This successor is revealed by DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources as a Lebanese called Raafat Al-Bakkar, about whom very little is known. According to our sources, the Iranians spotted Al-Bakkar as promising talent earlier this year, shortly after the Israeli air strike which on Jan. 18 killed Iranian Gen. Ali Dadi and the high-profile Hizballah leader Jihad Moughniyeh. They were caught touring the Golan around Quneitra in search of a site for a terrorist base. Al-Bakkar was sent to Tehran at that time for a course in building and running terrorist networks, and this week he was given charge of the new “National Resistance on the Golan” organization for deep strikes inside Israel.

When Nasrallah boasted Sunday that his jihadists were already on their way to punish Israel, he was looking forward to the arrival of Quntar’s successor.

See DEBKA files’ earlier report from Sunday, Dec. 27.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott explained why it was necessary to bring forward the launching of the new Commando Brigade by two months, when he addressed the formation ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 27, at the Ein Harod National Park: “The Commando Brigade is more necessary than ever in light of the threats from Hizballah and the Islamic State,” he said, in reference to the boasts heard in the last 48 hours from Hassan Nasrallah and Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

The Chief of Staff introduced Col. David Zini as the first commander of the new Brigade.

The ceremony took place shortly after the Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah said, “Revenge for the death of Samir Quntar is on the way… The orders have been given and execution is in the hands of resistance fighters on the ground… The Israelis are worried and rightly so – those on the borders [soldiers] and those inside the country…. We shall not let the blood of our Jihadi fighters and brothers to be spilled anywhere in the world,” he said.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report: Analysis of the kinds of threats posed by Hizballah (and ISIS) at this time, which are likely to focus more on terrorism than on tank or infantry border incursions, persuaded IDF leaders of the need for a new framework for bringing under one roof some of the top-notch, highly-trained, experienced, well-armed and determined fighting men who are willing to take on new challenges.

The self-styled Islamic State’s “caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, also devoted special attention to Israel, or rather “the Jews,” in his first audio speech in seven months Saturday, Dec. 26, the day before Nasrallah sounded off. His message was similar to that of his Shiite enemy, albeit in his own inimitable style:

The Islamic State would soon be in Palestine to establish an Islamic state there, he said, “Jews, soon you shall hear from us in Palestine which will become your grave… The Jews thought we had forgotten Palestinian… Not at all, Jews…The pioneers of the jihadist fighters are getting closer every day.”

If and when the Shiite Hizballah and Sunni ISIS make good on their similar but separate threats – or sooner – they will encounter Israel’s new Commando Brigade. Its fighting men are trained for combat in miscellaneous conditions of terrain, day or night, under deep cover. They are equipped with high-tech equipment, most of it classified, for gathering visual and electronic intelligence, communications, photography and targeting. They may either kill terrorists or take them captive.

In a word, these elite troops will hit the enemy in his back yard or at home, and blow the threats heard from Hizballah and ISIS leaders’ back on their own forces.

The 89th Commando Brigade is composed of four battalions:

Duvdevan specializes in operating amidst an Arab population under deep cover for locating and arresting terror suspects.

Egoz is a special kind of infantry battalion, whose commandos operate solo or in very small teams behind enemy lines, especially across the Syrian and Lebanese borders.

Maglan is skilled in the use of weaponry designed for precision operations against high quality enemy targets. These elite fighters go deep inside enemy territory to gather intelligence and use their specialized technology, exclusive for the use of this unit, for devastating assaults.

Rimon members are desert fighters who gained their experience in the terrain of the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Their experience as back-up for operations against drug smugglers is invaluable for urban combat in civilian environments.

Excluded from the new brigade are the separate IDF commando units: Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13 (Navy), the Oketz unit which trains dogs for anti-terror work, and Yahalom, of the Engineering Corps.

Arch terrorist Samir Quntar’s two secret Iranian controllers died with him

December 24, 2015

Arch terrorist Samir Quntar’s two secret Iranian controllers died with him, DEBKAfile, December 24, 2015

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The Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s eulogy for Samir Quntar at his funeral Monday, Dec. 21 was not only brief but also untraditional. After blaming Israel in a few short sentences for assassinating him, Nasrallah said he would laud the dead terrorist’s deeds and qualities on another occasion.

That was hardly the tribute the Hizballah would normally have awarded a senior operative killed by Zionist missiles.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources explain this odd behavior by events leading up to the rocket strike.

The Druze arch terrorist had of late transferred his services from Hizballah to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He kept up his connections in Hizballah, but took orders from the Iranians in preference to instructions from Nasrallah and the commander of Hizballah operations in Syria, Mustafa Badr al-Din.

The Iranian command in Damascus provided him with two apartments in the Jamaran district south of the Syrian capital, where he lived and worked. But he was also given two Iranian handlers, officers of Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s Al Qods Brigades.

The two Iranian officers died in the rocket attack Sunday, Dec. 20, along with Quntar and his deputy, Farhan Issam Sha’alan, head of the “Syrian National Resistance on the Golan” organization, which was just then getting ready to launch attacks deep inside Israeli territory.

DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources name the two Iranian officers as Mohammed Riza Fahemi and Mir Ahmad Ahmadi. Their coffins were flown to Tehran the day after the assassination.

Wednesday, Dec. 23, the IDF raised the level of alert another notch on the Golan, the Lebanese and Syrian borders and on the main roads of northern Israel, in view of signs that the Iranian leadership was bent on avenging the loss of the arch-terrorist and the two Iranian intelligence officers.

Our Iranian and intelligence sources report that high Iranian officials had concluded that Israel had targeted Quntar to get at Tehran, rather than Hizballah. It was seen as a warning from Jerusalem that if the new terrorist network that the Druze terrorist had established, in partnership with Syria and Hizballah, went into action against Israel, Iran would pay a price: more elements of its military and intelligence structure in Syria would be targeted. Iran’s leaders also decided, according to those sources, that the deaths of Quntar and two Iranian officers must not go unpunished.

But the rushed eulogy and unceremonious funeral also had a hidden context. Although the dead man was a member of the Druze faith, the ceremony was conducted according to Shiite rites at Hizballah’s main center of worship, the Shite Hosniyeh mosque in southern Beirut. The hundreds of thousands of Syrian, Lebanese and Israeli Druze who witnessed the ceremony were appalled to discover that Quntar had deserted his ancestral faith and converted to Shiite Muslim.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources have learned that the terrorist kept his conversion a deep secret, known to no one in the Druze community, only to a handful of top Iranian and Hizballah officials. Since the secret has come out, his compatriots in Syria, Lebanon and the Golan feel they were cheated by Iranian and Hizballah agents into following Quntar, in the false belief that he headed an autonomous Druze group, when in fact he was a renegade and the minion of a Shiite power.

ISIS launches its winter terror offensive with first 274 deaths

November 13, 2015

ISIS launches its winter terror offensive with first 274 deaths, DEBKAfile, November 13, 2015

Borj_al-Barajneh12.11.15Suicide bombers strike Hizballah in Beirut
Execution of Steven Sotloff (1983 – 2014) by Jihadi John of ISIS. In August 2013, Sotloff was kidnapped in Aleppo, Syria, and held captive by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Jihadi John (Mohammed Emwazi, born August 1988) a British man who is thought to be the person seen in several videos produced by the Islamic extremist group ISIL showing the beheadings of a number of captives in 2014 and 2015. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Execution of Steven Sotloff (1983 – 2014) by Jihadi John of ISIS. In August 2013, Sotloff was kidnapped in Aleppo, Syria, and held captive by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Jihadi John (Mohammed Emwazi, born August 1988) a British man who is thought to be the person seen in several videos produced by the Islamic extremist group ISIL showing the beheadings of a number of captives in 2014 and 2015. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The US drone strike Thursday night, Nov. 11, targeting the Islamic State’s infamous executioner known as “Jihad John” in the northern Syrian town of Raqqa may or may not have hit the mark – the Pentagon says it is too soon to say. The hooded, masked terrorist with the British accent has been identified as a British Muslim born in Kuwait called Mohamed Emwazi. He appeared on videos worldwide showing the cold-blooded murders of US, British, Japanese and other hostages.

The drone attack occurred shortly after the latest ISIS atrocity: Thursday night, two or three suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing 43 people and injuring at least 240 in the Hizballah stronghold of southern Beirut opposite Burj Barajneh.

Ten days earlier, the Islamic State brought down the Russian Metrojet airliner over Sinai killing all 224 people aboard. This spectacular act of terror was apparently the first strike of the jihadist group’s winter offensive. It achieved its objectives of multiple murder; mortal damage to Egypt’s tourism industry and a blow to the prestige of its president Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi.

The attack also punished President Vladimir Putin for bringing the Russian military into the center of the Syrian conflict.

The next Islamic State assault was aimed to undermine the credibility of Jordan’s King Abdullah and his security services: On Nov. 8,  a Jordanian police captain opened fire at a high-security US training facility outside Amman, killing two American trainers, a South African and two Jordanians. The number of US personnel injured in the attack was not released. This attack was timed to coincide with the 10thanniversary of the massive al Qaeda assault on Amman’s leading hotels, all American owned, which left 61 dead.

In northern Sinai, the murder of a family of 9 Egyptians at El Arish Thursday morning raised the total of ISIS murders in less than a month to 274.

DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources discern three objectives in the attack Thursday night in Beirut

1. A lesson for Tehran and Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah to show them that the Islamic State is able to reach them on their home ground, no matter how many troops they deploy to fight the jihadis in Syria (Iran and Hizballah together field an estimated 13,000 soldiers in Syria). ISIS was capable of inflicting terrible casualties both on the battlefield and in their homeland, first in Beirut and eventually in Tehran.

2.  The day before, Wednesday, Nov. 11, in a speech marking the “Day of the Shahid,” Nasrallah gloated over Hizballah’s triumph in a battle outside Aleppo. He also boasted that his domestic security shield in Lebanon presented an impenetrable barrier against ISIS or Nusra Front terrorist intrusions.

The Islamic State’s tacticians determined to blow up both claims in Nasrallah’s face. He and Iran were to be shown that they could not stop ISIS or prevent the Syrian war’s spillover into Lebanon.

3.  By blowing up the Russian airliner over Sinai, the Islamists sought to underscore this point for Moscow too. Russia might send a powerful military force to Syria, but the Islamists would hit Putin from the rear at a location of its choosing anywhere in the Middle East. Moscow may have opted to defend Bashar Assad, but what can it do to protect Hizballah and its other allies?.

DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources note that US and Russia have taken lead roles in the broad military effort to defeat ISIS – often by means of pinpointed operations. At the same time, under their noses, the Islamist terrorists have launched their winter campaign, striking with extreme ferocity and agility in unexpected places that are outside the regular battle fronts in which the big powers are engaged.

Iranian Officials Ratchet Up Genocidal Anti-Israel Rhetoric After Nuclear Deal

August 18, 2015

Iranian Officials Ratchet Up Genocidal Anti-Israel Rhetoric After Nuclear Deal, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Steven Emerson, August 18, 2015

(Three additional videos are available at the linked site. — DM)

A video shows the Revolutionary Guard Corps massing on a hill overlooking Jerusalem.

A conference of religious scholars features speaker after speaker calling Israel’s annihilation inevitable and promising that a “new phase” in that effort is about to begin.

While some in the United States and among its Western allies may hope that a nuclear weapons deal with Iran might steer the Islamic Republic in a new, more responsible direction, hardliners draw new lines and issue new threats.

On Monday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei took to social media to attack the United States and Israel. “We spare no opportunity to support anyone #FightingTheZionists,” wrote the ayatollah, whose regime supplies Hizballah and Hamas with rockets and other weapons of terror.

Perhaps more chilling is an animated video from the Islamic Revolution Design House, a media outfit associated with Iranian hardliners. It shows a soldier preparing for battle. He puts on a Revolutionary Guard patch, and then a Qassam Brigades headband, followed by a ski mask and a Palestinian scarf around his neck, while arming himself with a machine gun and a pistol. As he puts on a helmet, we see him looking over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, home of the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque. The image pulls back, showing the soldier amid a sea of conquering troops.

A concluding message invokes Ayatollah Khomeini’s threat that Israel must be wiped off the map and promises that day is coming soon.

 

 

A conference held in Beirut late last month reinforced that message over and over again. The General Assembly of Islamic Resistance Ulema (Scholars) held its first gathering under the banner “Unity for Palestine.” The weekend meeting included fiery rhetoric from an Iranian ayatollah and Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah.

“Annihilation of the Zionist regime is a sure thing and Quranic pledge,” Ayatollah Mohsen Araki told the assembly. Araki is secretary general of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, emphasizing the importance of unifying “Muslims in countering the regime of Zionism and the arrogant World.”

Many of the speeches were uploaded to YouTube and translated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Nasrallah called Israel a “cancerous tumor” and said “It is only a matter of time” before it is defeated.

“We believe with certainty that Israel, this cancerous tumor, is headed for extinction, and that Palestine and Jerusalem will be returned to their people. It is only a matter of time and [this outcome] is linked to the will, action, jihad, and sacrifices of the Ummah, according to the principle: If you achieve victory for Allah, Allah will lead you to achieve victory.” Nasrallah said it was Allah’s will for Muslims to achieve “final victory over the Zionist scheme” and urged the assembly not to waste the opportunity.

“The day in which we will all pray in Jerusalem, Inshallah (God willing) is inevitably coming Inshallah. All of these calamities, conspiracies, and crises are merely trials to strengthen and make fit all those who believe in this project and in this path to enable them to be worthy of the coming victory. Some people may gain victory but then waste it.

Allah Almighty wants our Ummah (nation) in its final victory over the Zionist project and in restoring Palestine and Jerusalem to be worthy of this huge historic victory and to be worthy of preserving this victory and not to lose it as many victories have been lost.”

Muhammad Hasan Zamani, a former Iranian cultural counselor in Egypt who runs the Department of International Islamic Madrasas for the General Assembly of Islamic Resistance Ulema, maintained the theme, insisting there is no peaceful resolution that would end in Iran’s acceptance of a Jewish state.

“Israel must be erased from the map of the world. These are the golden words Imam Khomeini (may God have mercy on him) uttered. Why do we assert the obligation of erasing Israel from the world, and not speak of erasing America and other unjust countries from the world? We in Iran say slogans in marches, Death to Israel, Death to America, Death to the English, and so forth and so on.”

Iran considers America the “greater Satan,” Zamani went on to say, but the Islamic Republic respects other governments which were chosen by their people. By contrast, he claimed Israel is not legitimate: “I say that the example of the rule of the Zionists is the example of thieves who attack a house and occupy the house and the people of the house defend their house.”

Sheikh Abdel Halim Qadhi, a professor at Zahidan University, explained that the conflict is inherently about religion. “[T]he Holy Quran makes it know that Jews are the enemies of Islam and the Muslims, and their holy places and rites,” he said.

“Jihad is the most powerful and only way to liberate Palestine and defend Jerusalem,” he added, saying “God loves those who fight in his way.”

In a final statement from conference attendees, the group emphasized “the first and most important obligation is to unite the Umma to liberate the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque” in Jerusalem, reported Al-Manar, a Lebanese news outlet considered close to Iran’s proxy Hizballah. The group also said “resistance” was the way “to achieve victory in Lebanon and Palestine, despite the unlimited support received by the Zionist enemy and continuing inaction of the countries in the region.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, published a 416-page book earlier this month outlining the destruction of Israel, referring to the Jewish state as an ally of “The American Great Satan.”

The book features a long-term strategy that entails terrorizing Israel in a war of attrition that would lead to Jews leaving Israel for other countries.

Supporters of the nuclear deal say it’s a fantasy to expect a better outcome should Congress override President Obama’s expected veto of a vote to defeat the agreement. The combined statements of Iran and its supporting clerics makes clear, however, that the true fantasy is any expectation Iran will turn away from terror as a result of its engagement with world powers.

Hizballah presses elite Radwan Force for conquering Galilee into saving stalled Zabadani battle

August 1, 2015

Hizballah presses elite Radwan Force for conquering Galilee into saving stalled Zabadani battle, DEBKAfile, August 1,2015

New_ninja_uniforms_of_Hezbollahs_elite_forcesNew “ninja” uniforms for Hizballah’s Radwan Force

Hizballah’s elite Radwan Force was originally designed to push in from Lebanon and conquer the Israeli Galilee. DEBKAfile’s exclusive military sources report that on Thursday, July 30 Hassan Nasralla saw he had no option but to press this high-value contingent into service, to extricate the combined Hizballah-Syrian armies from their month-long failure to recapture the key town of Zabadani – or even breach the defenses set up by the Al-Qaeda affiliated rebel Nusra Front.

This standoff with heavy casualties over the key town, which commands the main Damascus-Beirut highway, has become a symbolic make-or-break duel between the Iran-backed Shiite Hizballah and Al Qaeda’s Sunni Nusra Front. Nasrallah loses it at the cost of his organization’s credibility as a formidable fighting force.

Defeat would make western Damascus and eastern Lebanon more vulnerable to attack. And for Iran’s Lebanese proxy, it would leave an embarrassing question hanging in the air: If Hizballah under Iranian command combined with Syrian troops and backed by heavy artillery fire and air strikes can’t win a relatively small battle against no more than 1,200 rebel fighters across a nine-km square battleground, how much are its leaders’ boasts worth when they claim unbeatable prowess for winning major battles, including a war on Israel?

To save face in this landmark showdown, Hizballah decided to press into battle its most prestigious unit, named for Al-Hajj Radwan, the nom de guerre of Hizballah’s renowned military chief Imad Mughniye, whom Israel took out in February 2008.

Eight months ago, the Radwan Force lost its senior commanders. An Israeli air strike on Jan. 18 targeted a group of high Iranian and Hizballah officers on a visit to Quneitra on the Syrian Golan. They were surveying the terrain before relocating this elite unit to confront IDF positions on the Israeli Golan border. Iranian Gen. Ali Reza al-Tabatabai and the Hizballah district commander Jihad Mughniye (son of Imad) lost their lives in the Israeli raid and the plan was provisionally set aside.

If the Radwan Force manages to haul Hizballah out of its impasse in Zabadani, it may next be assigned to take up battle positions on the Golan.

But for now, its mission in the battle for Zabadani has three dimensions:

1.  To disarm the enemy by commando raids, a tactic to be borrowed from the rebels defending the town. On the night of July 24, the rebels preemptively struck Hizballah and Syrian army positions around the town and captured some of them. The decision to deploy Radwan appears to have come in response to that painful setback.

2.  To pull off a quick battlefield success at Zabadani, in view of intelligence reports that the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Syria were preparing together to open a second front in Lebanon, in order to relieve the rebel force pinned down in Zabadani.

The two groups plan to cross into Lebanon and start attacking pro-Hizballah Shiite populations in the Beqaa Valley and the North. They propose to cut through the Bequaa Valley and head up to the important northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast.

3.  Syrian President Bashar Asad is under extreme pressure for a battlefield success after admitting in a public speech last week to the loss of strategic territory to rebel forces and shrinking military manpower. He has earmarked a Zabadani victory – both as a turning-point for his flagging fortunes and for holding back the constant draining of his army by desertions and defections.

Our military sources reveal that, after Assad leaned hard on the Lebanese government and army to round up Syrian troops who went AWOL, Lebanese security forces went into action. They are picking up Syrian army deserters and putting them on buses driving in armored convoys into Syria. It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up the fate of these unwilling returnees.

The Islamic State Is Here to Stay

June 5, 2015

The Islamic State Is Here to Stay, VICE NewsAhmed S. Hashim, June 6, 2015

(Please see also, The Kurd-Shia War Behind the War on ISIS. — DM)

The victories against IS in early 2015 have proven ephemeral — or have been nullified by IS gains elsewhere. On Sunday, CIA director John Brennan said on Face the Nation, “I don’t see this being resolved anytime soon.” Assad’s vaunted offensives of February 2015 have fallen short as the regime faced stiff resistance from a wide variety of opposition fighters, including elements from IS. The failure was alarming in part because the campaign was designed and aided by both Hezbollah and the Iranians, two seemingly ascendant Shia powers.

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Just a few months ago, analysts and policy-makers were certain that the defeat of Islamic State (IS) forces was simply a matter of time.

Coalition airstrikes would degrade the group’s capabilities and eventually allow Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga — though discredited by their poor military showing in mid-2014 — to push back the extremists. And indeed, IS fighters were ejected from Tikrit in March 2015 by the Iraqi army and thousands of motivated fighters from Shia militias. In Kobani in northern Syria, IS fighters were defeated by Syrian Kurdish fighters. Elsewhere in the country, the regime of Bashar al-Assad was going on the offensive with help from Hezbollah and advisers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The Islamic State, however, rose like a phoenix from the ashes of every setback. And today, the situation is not so rosy.

The victories against IS in early 2015 have proven ephemeral — or have been nullified by IS gains elsewhere. On Sunday, CIA director John Brennan said on Face the Nation, “I don’t see this being resolved anytime soon.” Assad’s vaunted offensives of February 2015 have fallen short as the regime faced stiff resistance from a wide variety of opposition fighters, including elements from IS. The failure was alarming in part because the campaign was designed and aided by both Hezbollah and the Iranians, two seemingly ascendant Shia powers.

The situation in Iraq is just as complicated, something that the Obama administration appears either oblivious to or reluctant to acknowledge. Much of the US strategy continues to hinge on what is increasingly a mirage: a unified, albeit federal, Iraq under the control of Baghdad. Meanwhile, the resilience of IS is greatly enhanced by the ability of its military forces to innovate and adapt faster on the ground than its lackluster opponents.

In light of the constant aerial strikes by the US and its allies, IS has dispersed and made its forces more mobile, no longer presenting dense concentrations of fighting men as it did when it seized Mosul in mid-2014. Instead, when IS seized Ramadi in May 2015, it made use of inclement weather and sent several small units from different directions simultaneously into the city aided by suicide bombers. Moreover, the fact that the group faced ill-equipped and poorly motivated Sunni fighters in and around Ramadi did not do anything for Baghdad’s standing with the country’s already alienated Sunni community, which had pleaded for arms while caught between the unfathomable brutality of IS and revengeful Shia militias.

Many Sunnis are now angling for their own “super-region,” one that would have considerable independence from Baghdad. The problem? In order to have it, the Sunnis would need to first defeat IS. Currently, they’re unable to do so because they lack the resources; despite all the talk from Baghdad and Washington about arming Sunni tribes, Baghdad is not actually keen to do so.

And besides, the Sunnis seem relatively ambivalent about defeating IS. They took an unequivocal stance between late 2006 and 2009, when they joined with the Americans and the Iraqi government to deal the Islamist militants what was then seen as a decisive blow. Now, however, despite Sunnis’ resentment and fear of IS, the Islamists’ existence is seen as a kind of insurance policy against Shia revanchism should Baghdad succeed in retaking the three Sunni provinces of Anbar, Salahuddin, and Ninevah.

(Please see video at the link. — DM

The “victory” of the Iraqi government in Tikrit was more propaganda than reality; a few hundred IS fighters managed to inflict considerable damage on the Shia militias that had been mobilized to fight alongside the Iraqi army, then withdrew because they were outnumbered and wished to avoid being surrounded. The IS forces in Tikrit simply felt that they had done enough damage; there was no need to waste further assets in an untenable situation.

Militarily, the Iraqi Shia militias are better motivated and more dedicated than the regular army. Anecdotal information out of Baghdad suggests that Iraqi Shias are wondering whether the government should invest more effort building these forces into an effective and more organized parallel army. Even that parallel army, however, might be reluctant to commit to any significant long-term offensive to reclaim provinces full of “ungrateful” Sunnis.

But the Shia are willing to die to defend what they have, and there is increased sentiment among the Shia in central Iraq and Baghdad, along with the southern part of the country, that they would be better off without the Sunnis. There also exists the belief that the Kurds have more or less opted out of the Iraqi state despite the fact that they maintain a presence within the government in Baghdad. The Shia would seemingly not be sorry to see them exit the government in a deal that would settle as best as possible divisions of resources and territory. However, whether the Kurds would take the plunge and opt for de jure rather than de facto independence is a question that is subject to regional realities — How would Ankara and Tehran react? — rather than merely a matter of a deal between Baghdad and Erbil.

The Islamic State will continue to be a profound geopolitical problem for the region and the international community, and a long battle lies ahead. Syria and Iraq are more or less shattered states; it is unlikely that they will be put back together in their previous shapes. If Assad survives 2015, it will be as head of a rump state of Alawites and other minorities protected by Hezbollah, Iran, and Alawite militias. Shia Iraq will survive, and will possibly dissociate itself from the nettlesome Sunni regions. The Kurds will go their own way step by step. The international community is currently at a loss for how to stem the flow of foreign fighters to the IS battlefields — and even more serious is the growing sympathy and admiration for the group in various parts of the world among disgruntled and alienated youth.

If the US is serious about defeating IS, it needs to take on a larger share of the fight on the ground. This means more troops embedded with regular Iraqi forces in order to bring about better command, control, and coordination. It also means advisors who can continue to train these forces so that they improve over time. If this is not done, the regular Iraqi military will continue to be nothing more than an auxiliary to the more motivated — and pro-Iranian — Shia militias. Currently, militia commanders are giving orders to the regular military; that cannot be good for morale.

This month, the Islamic State celebrates the first anniversary of its self-declared caliphate. The group has little reason to fear it will be the last.

Behind the Lines: Hezbollah – Born in Lebanon, dying in Syria?

May 30, 2015

Behind the Lines: Hezbollah – Born in Lebanon, dying in Syria? Jerusalem PostJonathan Spyer, May 30, 2015

(Please see also, Iran weighs turning Hizballah’s anti-Israel missiles against ISIS to save Damascus and Baghdad. — – DM)

Hezbolla1Hassan Nasrallah talks to his Lebanese and Yemeni supporters via a giant screen during a speech against US-Saudi aggression in Yemen, in Beirut’s southern suburbs on April 17.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

With the minority communities that formed the core of Assad’s support no longer willing or able to supply him with the required manpower, the burden looks set to fall yet further onto the shoulders of Assad’s Lebanese friends.

What this is likely to mean for Hezbollah is that it will be called on to deploy further and deeper into Syria than has previously been the case.

The Israeli assessment is that with its hands full in Syria, Hezbollah will be unlikely to seek renewed confrontation with Israel.

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The latest reports from the Qalamoun mountain range in western Syria suggest that Hezbollah is pushing back the jihadis of Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.

The movement claims to have taken 300 square kilometers from the Sunni rebels.

The broader picture for the Shi’ite Islamists that dominate Lebanon, however, is less rosy.

The Iran-led alliance of which Hezbollah is a part is better-organized and more effectively commanded than its Sunni rivals. The coalition’s ability to marshal its resources in a centralized and effective way is what has enabled it to preserve the Assad regime in Syria until now.

When President Bashar Assad was in trouble in late 2012, an increased Hezbollah mobilization into Syria and the creation by Iran of new, paramilitary formations for the regime recruited from minority communities was enough to turn the tide of war back against the rebels by mid-2013.

Now, however, the numerical advantage of the Sunnis in Syria is once more reversing the direction of the war.

With the minority communities that formed the core of Assad’s support no longer willing or able to supply him with the required manpower, the burden looks set to fall yet further onto the shoulders of Assad’s Lebanese friends.

What this is likely to mean for Hezbollah is that it will be called on to deploy further and deeper into Syria than has previously been the case.

In the past, its involvement was largely confined to areas of particular importance to the movement itself. Hezbollah fought to keep the rebels away from the Lebanese border, and to secure the highways between the western coastal areas and Damascus.

The movement’s conquest of the border town of Qusair in June 2013, for example, formed a pivotal moment in the recovery of the regime’s fortunes at that time.

But now, Hezbollah cannot assume that other pro-regime elements will hold back the rebels in areas beyond the Syria-Lebanese frontier.

This means that the limited achievement in Qalamoun will prove Pyrrhic, unless the regime’s interest can be protected further afield.

Hezbollah looks set to be drawn further and deeper into the Syrian quagmire.

Movement Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged this prospect in his speech last Sunday, marking 15 years since Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

In the talk, Nasrallah broadened the definition of Hezbollah’s engagement in Syria.

Once, the involvement was expressed in limited sectarian terms (the need to protect the tomb of Sayyida Zeinab in Damascus from desecration).

This justification then gave way to the claimed need to cross the border precisely so as to seal war-torn Syria off from Lebanon and keep the Sunni takfiris (Muslims who accuse other Muslims of apostasy) at bay.

On Sunday, Nasrallah struck an altogether more ambitious tone. Hezbollah, he said, was fighting alongside its “Syrian brothers, alongside the army and the people and the popular resistance in Damascus and Aleppo and Deir al-Zor and Qusair and Hasakeh and Idlib. We are present today in many places, and we will be present in all the places in Syria that this battle requires.”

The list of locations includes areas in Syria’s remote north and east, many hundreds of kilometers from Lebanon (Hasakeh, Deir al-Zor), alongside regions previously seen as locations for the group’s involvement.

Nasrallah painted the threat of Islamic State in apocalyptic terms, describing the danger represented by the group as one “unprecedented in history, which targets humanity itself.”

This language fairly clearly appears to be preparing the ground for a larger and deeper deployment of Hezbollah fighters into Syria. Such a deployment will inevitably come at a cost to the movement; only the starkest and most urgent threats of the kind Nasrallah is now invoking could be used to justify it to Hezbollah’s own public.

The problem from Hezbollah’s point of view is that it too does not have inexhaustible sources of manpower.

The movement has lost, according to regional media reports, around 1,000 fighters in Syria since the beginning of its deployment there. At any given time, around 5,000 Hezbollah men are inside the country, with a fairly rapid rotation of manpower. Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s entire force is thought to number around 20,000 fighters.

Faced with a task of strategic magnitude and ever-growing dimensions in Syria, there are indications the movement is being forced to cast its net wider in its search for manpower.

A recent report by Myra Abdullah on the Now Lebanon website (associated with anti-Hezbollah elements in Lebanon) depicted the party offering financial inducements to youths from impoverished areas in the Lebanese Bekaa, in return for their signing up to fight for Hezbollah in Syria.

Now Lebanon quoted sums ranging from $500 to $2,000 as being offered to these young men in return for their enlistment.

Earlier this month, Hezbollah media eulogized a 15-yearold youth, Mashhur Shams al-Din, who was reported as having died while performing his “jihadi duties” (the term usually used when the movement’s men are killed in Syria).

All this suggests that Hezbollah understands a formidable task lies before it, and that it is preparing its resources and public opinion for the performance of this task.

As this takes place, Hezbollah seems keen to remind its supporters and the Lebanese public of the laurels it once wore in the days when it fought Israel.

The pro-Hezbollah newspaper As-Safir recently gained exclusive access to elements of the extensive infrastructure the movement has constructed south of the Litani River since 2006. The movement’s Al-Manar TV station ran an (apparently doctored) piece of footage this week purporting to show Hezbollah supporters filming a Merkava tank at Mount Dov. Nasrallah, in his speech, also sought to invoke the Israeli enemy, declaring Islamic State was “as evil” as Israel.

The Israeli assessment is that with its hands full in Syria, Hezbollah will be unlikely to seek renewed confrontation with Israel.

It is worth noting, nevertheless, that a series of public statements in recent weeks from former and serving Israeli security officials have delivered a similar message regarding the scope and depth of the Israeli response, should a new war between Hezbollah and Israel erupt.

Israel Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, former IAF and Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, former national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland and other officials speaking off the record expressed themselves similarly in this regard.

Hezbollah plainly has little choice regarding its deepening involvement in Syria, Nasrallah’s exhortations notwithstanding.

The organization is part of a formidable, if now somewhat overstretched regional alliance, led by Iran.

This alliance regards the preservation of the Assad regime’s rule over at least part of Syria as a matter of primary strategic importance.

Hezbollah and the Shi’ites it is now recruiting are tools toward this end. It would be quite mistaken to underestimate the efficacy of the movement; it is gearing up for a mighty task, which it intends to achieve. Certainly, many more Hezbollah men will lose their lives before the fighting in Syria ends, however it eventually does end.

Given the stated ambitions of the movement regarding Israel and the Jews, it is fair to say this fact will be causing few cries of anguish south of the border.