Many Western analysts highly underestimate the existential nature of the repeated threats by Iranian leaders to the destruction of Israel. By BOB FEFERMAN October 16, 2018 21:19 Over the past 18 months, we have seen growing tension on Israel’s northern border. According to recent reports, the Israeli Air Force has conducted more than 200 […]
by Khaled Abu Toameh October 9, 2018 at 5:00 am https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13091/iran-gaza-strip The situation in the Gaza Strip is unlikely to witness any positive changes. Even if Hamas were to be removed from power, the Palestinians would continue to suffer under other radical groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Even if Hamas were to wake […]
IRGC says last night’s attack in Syria was only first stage of response ByLeith Aboufadel 2018-10-01 BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:20 P.M.) – The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said in a new statement that last night’s attack in eastern Syria was only the first stage of their response. “The first phase of retaliation for the Ahvaz attack […]
Danon said those watching Netanyahu’s speech can expect to learn information beyond what was included in his April 30th announcement of a raid on a Tehran storage facility stocked with nuclear program files. September 27, 2018 00:57 NEW YORK — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may declassify new, revelatory intelligence on Iran and its nuclear program in […]
Iranian president says Tehran will keep its forces in Syria for as long as Assad wants them there; Israel repeatedly vows not to let Iran entrench itself on the northern border By Agencies and TOI staff UNITED NATIONS — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Iran would stay in Syria for as long as the […]
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 13, 2017, 9:48 AM (IDT)
There were two unclaimed explosions in Damascus overnight Thursday and early Friday (Jan.12-13) – one at an officers club in Damascus and the second at Mezzeh airport, which Syria alleged was the work of the new Israeli S-35 stealth aircraft firing across the border from a point over the Sea of Galilee.
There was no claim to either of the attacks.
The standard Israeli policy of striking any Iranian arms shipments for Hizballah in Lebanon when they cross through Syria would not longer be applicable to any such air strike, if indeed one was launched..
The Lebanese Shiite Hizballah deploys 9,000 elite fighters in Syria to fight for Bashar Assad. Its Iranian arms supplies no longer need to risk being trucked through Syria to Lebanon; they can be delivered directly to Hizballah bases in Syria without exposure to Israel air strikes.
Indeed, should the pro-Iranian Hizballah decide to go back to shooting missiles at Israel – or using Iranian-supplied unconventional weapon – it has new launching pads readily available in Syria from those very bases. They are located in the Qalamoun mountains in western Syria and at Zabadani, a Syrian ghost town near the Damascus-Beirut highway, which the Lebanese terror group has made its military center.
Both would be obvious targets for Israel to attack rather than Damascus’ Mezzeh airport.
Tehran, having grasped from bitter experience that Mezzeh is under close surveillance by Israeli intelligence, no longer uses its facilities. Instead Iran flies arms shipments for Hizballah to Beirut by commercial aircraft, which Israel prefers not to attack, or overland through Iraq to northwestern Syria, where the consignments are picked up and transferred to Lebanon by sea.
So if an Israeli F-35 air strike on the Damascus airport should be confirmed, its target would not have been Iranian and Hizballah military supplies. Mezzeh is the site of a sterile zone set aside for the exclusive use of President Bashar Assad, his family and his top military and intelligence chiefs. It also houses laboratories for developing and manufacturing unconventional weapons, as well serving as the main command center for the 4th Division, whose Republican Guard unit protects the president, his family and members of the ruling caste.
In the first attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up Thursday night at the officers’ club in the heavily policed Kafra Sousa district of Damascus. At least ten people were killed and dozens injured. Located there are the homes of many Assad loyalists in the security and military establishments, as well as top secret facilities.
The ability of a suicide bomber to penetrate one of the most heavily secured locations in Damascus and blow up at an exclusive regime watering hole raises questions about the inner workings of the Assad regime.
Some unknown hand struck into the heart of that regime in the space of a few hours – not once, but twice.The Assad regime used its standard scapegoat, Israel, for covering up embarrassing and inexplicable occurrences.
However, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources disclose that the regime has reached an awkward crossroads. The Russians have taken charge of the Syrian war and no longer bother to consult with the Syrian president or Iran on its conduct. They are deeply immersed in preparing the Syrian peace conference they are sponsoring which is scheduled to open at Astana, Kazakhstan on Jan. 23.
If Moscow coordinates its Syrian strategy with anyone, it is Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, but even then only to a limited extent.
The Syrian ruler and Iran, after being sidelined by the Russians, are following their example. Both have taken to holding their cards close to their vests and operating under in close secrecy.
In an attempt to pierce the resulting aura of mistrust spreading over the staunch Iranian-Syrian alliance, Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran and one of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s closest confidants, was sent to Damascus Sunday, Jan 8, to find out what is going on there
The mystery deepened further Friday morning, when Syrian state media ran photos of a big blaze – which may or may not be authentic – to illustrate the alleged Israeli attack on Mezzeh airport.
David Rosenberg, 07/11/16
Knesset committee heads to Russia to discuss Iranian threat, UNESCO fiasco.
Members of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee left for Russia on Sunday to mark the 25th anniversary of renewed direct relations between Israel and the Russian government.
The delegation, headed by committee chair Avi Dichter (Likud), included MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), and Eyal Ben-Reuven (Zionist Camp).
The MKs will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Middle East envoy, Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov, and top Russian brass.
Dichter noted the warming relations between Israel and Russia, suggesting they offered a unique opportunity to gain support from Russia on issues ranging from the Iranian nuclear threat to anti-Israel incitement in the United Nations.
”A broader base for these relations will [make it easier] to present to the Russian leadership Israel`s position on anti-Israel stances in international institutions – such as UNESCO`s resolution regarding the Temple Mount, which to us is outrageous and unacceptable,” said Dichter.
”My goal during this visit will be to promote more balanced and sensible positions related to Israel`s interests. Such positions may cause countries which look up to Russia to follow suit.”
Specifically, Dichter said, he planned on ”presenting the true intentions of Iran, which, de facto, operates as the leading terror state in the world, against Israel and other countries in the region.”
The trip comes on the heels of a series of comments by senior Russian officials on Israel and the relationship between the two countries.
In October, Vladimir Putin gave a nod to Israeli anti-terror efforts during a speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club, suggesting the Jewish state was a good example of how Western nations ought to confront terrorism.
Last week, Russian Premier Dimtry Medvedev spoke with Israel’s Channel 2, boasting of “warm, very good relations with Israel.”
Medvedev is scheduled to visit Israel this Thursday.
The narrative provided to date by various Jordanian officials has also indicated the possibility of a spontaneous outbreak of tension between certain Jordanian and US military personnel over recent, heightened friction between the sides, with several Jordanians also hurt in the incident.
But assuming the incident was a terror attack, Carmon, who has also advised the Defense Ministry and participated in NATO workshops on terrorism, said the shooting still needed to be put into the greater picture of complex events impacting terror in Jordan, Israel and their neighbors.
He said that “US-Jordan cooperation is huge” and is a “key bridge to other states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel.”
Carmon explained that “the US has an interest in a stable regime, Jordan needs assistance, including military and economic and the backing of a superpower.”
For the US and Israel, Jordan is a firewall of stability against ISIS and other terror groups trying to spread their influence from Syria and Iraq.
He said ISIS, Hezbollah, Iran and other groups “are trying to get into Jordan and know it is important, but until now have had very limited success.”
There has been some ISIS success in infiltrating the Beduin community in Jordan, noted Carmon, but mostly Jordan has stopped them and has recently arrested some Hezbollah-Iran cells.
The big concerns are that the last year or two have caused internal divisions within Jordan where the Muslim Brotherhood and even the broader population is not ready to fight a war with ISIS.
These seeping divisions, along with the 1.5 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan with no horizon for an improved situation, is a combustible situation for ISIS and others to inspire “lone wolf” attackers, said Carmon.
He explained that the same threats that these terror groups pose to Jordan can also apply to Israel either by undermining Jordan as a bulwark of stability and a quiet border for Israel or by building more of a foundation for terrorists to sneak into Israel from Jordan.
However, the biggest threat that he said the attack highlighted is the escalating terror threat to Israel, Jordan and US advisers in the region after ISIS’s expected fall in Mosul and other locations.
While these expected victories go a long way toward reducing ISIS’s regional power, large numbers of ISIS’s foreign fighters are expected to retreat, survive and pose a lower-grade but potent terror danger in the area in other ways, he said.
Israel could find itself tracking an influx of terrorists in Turkey and Jordan, but also closer to home in the Sinai, where ISIS can try to recruit Israeli-Arabs or Beduins from close range.
One interesting phenomenon he pointed out which may help Jordan push back against infiltration and terror by ISIS is the government’s cooperation with other Jihadist groups, who it then co-opts to stand against ISIS.
Carmon gave Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a central Salafist figure in Jordan and a former mentor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Abu Qatada, who was involved with terror groups including in England until being extradited to Jordan.
Both Jihadist leaders received some favorable treatment from Jordanian law enforcement in return for making “strong statements against ISIS,” said Carmon. Their standing with the Jordanian government in turn can insulate it from criticism for fighting ISIS.
Overall, Carmon called the incident very embarrassing for Jordanian and US intelligence and counter-terror cooperation. He added that both sides hope the attack was carried out by a lone-wolf or the result of a misunderstanding, and want to resolve the matter quickly so as to stabilize cooperation.
In November 2015, a Jordanian army officer said to be inspired by ISIS killed two US private security contractors and a South African at a US-funded police training facility.
Many Jordanians oppose the government’s close counter-terrorism cooperation with the US and Israel, including working with the US on airstrikes against ISIS, while receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in aid in return.
The Admiral Kuznetsov was deployed by Moscow to the Syrian coast on October 15, leading a naval task force that included the Pyotr Veliky battlecruiser along with the Severomorsk and Vice-Admiral Kulakov anti-submarine warfare destroyers.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that “the goal of the campaign is to ensure a naval presence in operationally important areas of the oceans.”
(Netanyahu says Russia has “variegated interests” to cooperate with Israel)
The growing Russian presence in the eastern Mediterranean sea, with an aircraft carrier capable of detecting many, if not all, Israeli military activities, coupled with the advanced S-300 and S-400 air-defense batteries it has already deployed to Syria, is a cause of concern to many.
A US Defense Official quoted by the Washington Post said Washington was “very concerned” about the deployment of the S-300s, adding that “we’re not sure if any of our aircraft can defeat the S-300.” And that is a concern shared by Jerusalem, as Russia has not only deployed the S-300 to Syria, but also to it’s foe, Iran.
As an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Moscow finds itself part of an alliance between Damascus and Tehran.
Ofer Fridman, visiting research fellow, at the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London told The Jerusalem Post that “there are two different games on two different levels that the Kremlin plays in the region. The cooperation with Iran in support of Assad is strategic, while the military coordination with Israel is of a tactical nature.”
Former Israeli Air Force commander, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Eitan Ben Eliyahu told the Post that despite this alliance, Moscow would “do anything to stop a conflict with Israel” but warned, “we must keep in mind that conflict with Russia could happen,” and if it does, Israel would have no other choice but to destroy the S-300s.
Fridman agreed, saying that “Russian military presence in the Middle East is definitely a reason for concern, but not for panic” as “both sides are not interested in mistakes and therefore there is true coordination and cooperation that is based on mutual respect out of interest.”
With both Russia and Israel carrying out military operations in war-torn Syria, the two nations have implemented a system to coordinate their actions there in order to avoid accidental clashes.
Up until the Russian intervention in Syria, Israel enjoyed air superiority in the Middle East. But the mobile S-300 and S-400 batteries are capable of engaging multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles up to 380 km. away, putting significant parts of Israel in its crosshairs.
No jet can be launched without Russian radar locking on and tracking their flight routes, except for those taking off from IAF bases in the southern Negev, .
With the S-300 and S-400, Moscow has restricted Israel’s strongest deterrence, its Air Force.
Despite the restrictions, Israel allegedly struck targets in Syria after Russia deployed the S-400 to Khmeimim Air Base in the southeastern Syrian city of Latakia.
And while relations remain friendly, Israeli concerns were raised during a recent phone call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as during a meeting of senior Israeli and Russian officials at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on October 27.
According to Russia’s Izvestia newspaper, Israel also requested the Russian Defense Ministry to develop new coordination procedures following the deployment of the S-300s to Syria’s Tartus to avoid accidentally shooting down Israeli aircraft.
And as Fridman told the Post, “It is only a matter of time before a coordination mistake will happen.”
The deployment of the S-300 has been discussed for the past several years, giving Israel time to develop new methods to blind radar and anti-aircraft units, electronic warfare that Israel is well-known for.
According to foreign reports, Israel has already quietly tested ways to defeat the S-300, activating one of the anti-aircraft systems stationed on the island of Crete during joint drills between the Greek and Israeli air forces in May of last year. That exercise allowed Israeli warplanes to gather data on how the advanced system may be blinded or fooled.
The Russians are said to have breached Israeli airspace on several recent occasions, and even while Israel immediately shoots down any aircraft that penetrates its airspace, Israel has not shot down any Russian aircraft.
Likud MK Avi Dichter warns Tehran has not abandoned its nuclear aspirations and seeks to rebuild the Persian empire
Iran commands a force of up to 25,000 Shiite Muslim militants fighting in the Syrian civil war, a majority of them from Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, who now chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
In a briefing with a delegation from the Swiss parliament, Dichter, a Likud MK, also echoed warnings issued previously by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials who have said that Iran has not abandoned its aspirations to develop nuclear weapons and was playing a long game with the West, despite the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal with western powers.
Iran, he added, “has not abandoned the idea [of pursuing] nuclear weapons. It only put it on hold so it can recover [from sanctions] and rehabilitate its international image.”
Tehran and six world powers signed the accord last summer aimed at reining in Iran’s controversial atomic program in exchange for lifting punishing international sanctions. A number of regional Sunni states opposed the agreement, as has Israel, warning that Iran was simply playing for time.
“Up until a year and a half ago, Iran was the reason for regional instability. It’s amazing and sad to see how among Western states, it is now perceived as a stabilizing force,” Dichter said.
Dichter also warned of Iran’s global aspirations as a Mideast power, explaining that the Islamic Republic’s “dream is to control Islam’s holiest sites — Mecca and Medina.”
“We have to ask ourselves, why are the Iranians developing missiles that can reach targets 2,000 km away, more than twice the distance [from Iran] to Israel? Egypt and Saudi Arabia are also in their cross-hairs. Some 2,000 years ago, Iran was an empire and it wants to become one again,” he said.
In Syria, Dichter said the “foreign legion” of 25,000 was sent to fight Sunni rebels opposed to Iranian ally President Bashar Assad, and not only against the Islamic State terror group.
Dichter said that fighters from Iranian proxy Hezbollah were dispatched to Syria because the Lebanese terror group’s militants were more suited to guerrilla warfare and to fighting against terrorist organizations, unlike soldiers from the Iranian military who are versed in fighting other armies.
But, he warned, more than five years of fighting in Syria has strengthened Hezbollah’s abilities and training, turning it into a “more established and military-like” fighting force, despite its losses — some 1,600 according to Dichter — in the war.
Amid a spate of terror attacks in Europe over the past two years, perpetrated by terror cells linked to the Islamic State or an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria and often consisting of Muslim men who left their European birth countries to fight in Syria, Dichter insisted Europe must act to prevent foreign fighters from returning to the continent.
“Those who go to Iraq or Syria, it’s not to attend a Bob Dylan performance, and European security services must operate accordingly,” he told the delegation.
Times Of Israel