Posts Tagged ‘Hezbollah’

Iran sends Hezbollah GPS parts to turn rockets into precision missiles — report

October 20, 2018

Most recent shipment arrived in Beirut on Tuesday; Lebanon has previously denied Netanyahu’s claim that Iran operates weapons factories on its soil

In this April 1996 photo, two fighters from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah stand near Katyusha rockets in the southern village of Ein Qana, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

In this April 1996 photo, two fighters from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah stand near Katyusha rockets in the southern village of Ein Qana, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Iran has delivered advanced GPS components to Hezbollah which will allow the terrorist group to make previously unguided rockets into precision guided-missiles, thus increasing the threat to Israel, Fox News reported Friday.

According to the media outlet, American and western intelligence services believe Iran has been increasing its shipments to Hezbollah, with one flight arriving in Beirut as recently as three days ago with the parts to convert weaponry at Iranian factories in Lebanon.

The existence of these factories was revealed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last month. The Israeli military later released satellite images of three sites in Beirut that it said were being used by the Iran-backed terror group to hide underground precision missile production facilities.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has said Netanyahu’s allegations are “baseless.”

Screen capture from video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showing a diagram of what he said was Hezbollah terror group sites near Beirut during his address to the 73rd UN General Assembly in New York, September 27, 2018. (United Nations)

Fox News tracked Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm flight number QFZ-9950, which departed Tehran International Airport on Tuesday at 9:33 a.m. before flying to an unknown destination, according to flight data. Later that same day, the Boeing 747 jet reportedly landed in Damascus before its final leg to Beirut.

On Wednesday evening the plane reportedly took off from Beirut to Doha before returning to Tehran.

Illustrative: A Qeshm Fars Air cargo plane (Wikimedia commons)

Western intelligence sources said the plane was carrying weapons components, including GPS technology, to make precision-guided missiles in the Iranian factories located near the airport in Beirut.

Institute for National Security Studies Chairman Amos Yadlin attends the Annual International Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv January 23, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“Israel is determined not to let it happen,” for Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told Fox News. “This is a source of concern because if the Iranians, on the one hand, are determined to build this precision project with ballistic missiles, and the Israelis are determined not to let it happen—this is a recipe for collision.”

“The Iranians are building a formidable military presence in Syria with ballistic missiles, precise ballistic missiles, UAV, air defense. Israel is not going to allow Iran to duplicate Hezbollah in Syria,” Yadlin said.

The target of the Israeli airstrike last month, in which a Russian spy plane was inadvertently shot down by Syrian air defenses, was machinery used in the production of precision missiles, which was en route to Hezbollah, The Times of Israel learned.

In response to that incident, Russia delivered the advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria. Netanyahu has said he has told Russia that Israel must continue to hit hostile targets in Syria, despite Moscow’s decision. There have been no reports of Israeli strikes in Syria since the downing of the Russian plane.

According to Netanyahu, these precision missiles are capable of striking with 10 meters (32 feet) of their given target. Hezbollah is believed to have an arsenal of between 100,000 and 150,000 rockets and missiles, though the vast majority are thought to lack precision technology.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, Hezbollah began working on these surface-to-surface missile facilities last year.

Reports that Iran was constructing underground missile conversion factories in Lebanon first emerged in March 2017. Since then, Israeli officials have repeatedly said that Israel would not abide such facilities.

In January, Netanyahu said Lebanon “is becoming a factory for precision-guided missiles that threaten Israel. These missiles pose a grave threat to Israel, and we will cannot accept this threat.”

One of the alleged sites is located under a soccer field used by a Hezbollah-sponsored team; another is just north of the Rafik Hariri International Airport; and the third is underneath the Beirut port and less than 500 meters from the airport’s tarmac.

A satellite image released by the Israel Defense Forces showing a site near Beirut’s international airport that the army says is being used by Hezbollah to convert regular missiles into precision-guided munitions, on September 27, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

These three are not the only facilities that the IDF believes are being used by Hezbollah for the manufacturing and storage of precision missiles.

In May, Netanyahu said Israel was “operating against the transfer of deadly weapons from Syria to Lebanon or their manufacture in Lebanon.”

In recent years, Israel has acknowledged conducting hundreds of airstrikes in Syria, which it says were aimed at both preventing Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria and blocking the transfer of advanced munitions to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Israeli Air Force has largely abstained from conducting raids inside Lebanon itself, though it has indicated that it was prepared to do so.

Earlier this year, IAF chief Amiram Norkin showed visiting generals a picture of an Israeli F-35 stealth fighter flying next to Beirut’s airport, in what was seen as a direct message to Hezbollah.

Israel fought a punishing war with Hezbollah in 2006. Jerusalem believes the group has since re-armed with tens of thousands of missiles that can threaten all of Israel.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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Missing journalist puts spotlight on Saudi prince’s friendship with Kushner

October 13, 2018

US president’s son-in-law has developed close ties with kingdom’s Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused of ordering Jamal Khashoggi’s murder

 

Jared Kushner, left, is seen at a White House meeting, on October 23, 2017. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Lebanon’s Christian Maronite patriarch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 14, 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images; Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

Jared Kushner, left, is seen at a White House meeting, on October 23, 2017. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Lebanon’s Christian Maronite patriarch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 14, 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images; Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — In March, Saudi Arabia was on the brink of a new age of modernity. At the epicenter of the transformation were Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser.

But allegations this week that bin Salman — or MBS, as he is known — ordered the brazen murder of a dissident Saudi journalist in Istanbul, Turkey, have roiled the prince’s reputation as a modernizer.

So where does that leave Kushner, who cultivated a close friendship with MBS in part to advance Kushner’s efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks? Does Kushner counsel the president to distance the United States from Saudi Arabia? Or does he wait out the storm and return to the bromance when things are quieter?

Despite some favorable media coverage at the time of his last US visit in March, much reporting suggested — even before the disappearance in Istanbul last week of Jamal Khashoggi, a permanent resident of the United States — that MBS’s reforms were more show than substance.

Yes, women could drive, but the activists who helped bring about the change were languishing in jail. Yes, he seemed ready for closer relations with Israel, while also bombing Yemen into submission, with little regard for civilian casualties. Yes, the extended Saudi royal family seemed on board with his changes, but maybe a period of imprisonment and torture in 2017 had something to do with that.

With the Khashoggi crisis in full bloom, the Trump administration is scrambling for a strategy. Trump himself is wary of penalizing a nation that spends big money on US arms.

A demonstrator dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) with blood on his hands protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, on October 8, 2018, demanding justice for missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Jim Watson/AFP)

“I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country on — I know they’re talking about different kinds of sanctions,” he said Thursday, referring to moves in Congress to sanction Saudi Arabia, “but they’re spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others, for this country.”

Saudi Arabia also figures large in Trump administration plans to isolate Iran.

At the center of the US-Saudi relationship is Kushner, whom Trump has tasked with relaunching the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The drive for a peace deal is what ostensibly brought Kushner and MBS together, but their relationship has broadened to include arms sales and regional strategy making.

Here are five key moments in the Kushner-MBS bromance.

The first meeting

According to The Washington Post, MBS and Kushner became friendly when the crown prince first visited Trump as president in March 2017. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was next on the agenda but was delayed by a snowstorm, which allowed the two 30-somethings to become acquainted. That set off a long distance relationship, with frequent phone calls, the Post reported.

Open arms and an arms deal

One result of the closeness was a major shift: A president’s inaugural trip has traditionally been to a neighbor, Canada or Mexico. Trump instead first headed to Saudi Arabia, in May 2017, and Kushner was instrumental in setting the agenda — so instrumental that he says he got a rabbi’s permission to join his father-in-law on the Shabbat flight. (Which rabbi? That’s still a mystery.)

The trip went off smoothly — remember that glowing orb Trump and MBS’s dad touched together? And Trump signed a $110 billion arms sale deal with the country.

US President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, March 20, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

That Lebanon business

Kushner visited with MBS in Saudi Arabia in October 2017, supposedly to discuss advance of the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. A week or so later Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, turned up in Saudi Arabia to resign, citing the overweening influence in his country of Hezbollah, the Shiite militia aligned with Iran.

It was a bizarre moment, and soon Hariri was back in Lebanon having rescinded his resignation. What happened?

Hariri has close business and family relations in Saudi Arabia, and MBS may have coerced his resignation as a means of sowing chaos in Lebanon, which he reportedly hoped would spark a punishing Israeli assault on Hezbollah. No one told the Israelis and they were not game to be Saudi Arabia’s proxy in its longstanding dispute with Iran.

Did Kushner give MBS a green light? They chatted until 4 a.m. during the visit. We may never know what they discussed, but the proximity (and secrecy) of his visit so close to the Lebanon fiasco led to speculation that Kushner winked at MBS’s maneuvering. The crown prince arrested a bunch of his extended family at around the same time. That was the second round of arrests; the first was in June, soon after the Trump visit. Making matters murkier, Trump praised the prince for the arrests in a tweet.

That peace deal

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was summoned to Saudi Arabia the same month as Hariri, November 2017. What was said was not clear, but according to subsequent reports, MBS pressed Abbas to accept Kushner’s terms for a peace deal that would comprise a Palestinian quasi state with its capital in Jerusalem’s suburbs, as opposed to the city itself.

Abbas reportedly declined, and Saudi statements denied that MBS had ever embraced such a proposal.

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

One year later …

A year after their snowbound bromance began, MBS was back in the United States for what was to be a turning point in the US-Saudi relationship. He met with Trump, and Kushner helped organize a busy itinerary for the prince, including stops in high-tech centers on the East and West coasts to talk investment. MBS and his modernization proposals received glowing attention from influential columnists.

Marring the visit was the revelation, first reported at the time by The Intercept, that MBS told Persian Gulf buddies that he had Kushner “in his pocket.”

Is that the case? The Khashoggi mystery is not going away, and we may learn more soon.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/missing-journalist-puts-spotlight-on-saudi-princes-friendship-with-kushner/

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Netanyahu, Putin to meet after Syria friendly fire incident — Bibi Restates Israel’s Strong Stand Against Iran

October 7, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss coordination in Syria after the accidental downing of a Russian plane led to tensions.

Netanyahu said he had spoken with Putin and the two agreed “to meet soon in order to continue the important inter-military security coordination”.

Speaking at the start of a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu again pledged to stop “Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria and to thwart the transfer of lethal weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon”.

The meeting would be the first since the Russian plane was downed by Syrian air defences, which fired in response to an Israeli raid in the country.

© POOL/AFP | Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018

Putin and Netanyahu have spoken at least three times by phone since the September 17 incident.

Fifteen Russians were killed in the incident that Moscow blamed on Israel, accusing its pilots of using the larger Russian plane as cover.

Israel disputes the Russian findings and says its jets were back in Israeli airspace when the plane was downed.

Russia announced new security measures to protect its military in Syria, including supplying the Syrian army with S-300 air defence systems and jamming radars of nearby warplanes.

Those measures have led to concern in Israel that it will be forced to limit its strikes against what it calls Iranian and Hezbollah targets in the neighbouring country.

It has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah.

Russia and Israel set up a hotline in 2015 to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.

Both Iran and Hezbollah — enemies of Israel — are supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in his country’s civil war alongside Russia.

AFP

US targets Iran, proxy groups in new counterterror blueprint

October 5, 2018

Tehran called ‘world’s central banker of international terrorism’ for supporting Hezbollah, Hamas and others; strategy urges sharing burden of fighting terror with allies

Iranians raise anti-US and anti-Israel signs during a demonstration following the weekly Muslim Friday prayer in the capital Tehran on September 28, 2018. (AFP / STRINGER)

Iranians raise anti-US and anti-Israel signs during a demonstration following the weekly Muslim Friday prayer in the capital Tehran on September 28, 2018. (AFP / STRINGER)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser on Thursday unveiled the administration’s long-awaited counterterrorism strategy, delivering it with harsh words for Iran.

Calling Iran the “world’s central banker of international terrorism,” Bolton said the strategy will rely on traditional military action to fight terrorists, but also seek increased emphasis on non-military means to battle not only Islamic State militants but those backed by Iran and other groups.

“We recognize that there’s a terrorist ideology that we’re confronting, and I think it’s long been the president’s view that without recognizing that we’re in an ideological struggle, that we can’t properly address the terrorist threat,” Bolton said.

The document calls Iran “the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism, through its global network of operatives and its ongoing support to an array of terrorist groups.”

It specifically lists Hezbollah and Hamas as two terror groups supported by Iran that could pose a threat to the US.

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon’s
Shiite terrorist movement Hezbollah, addresses the crowds through a giant screen at a rally agains US President Trump decision to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem, on December 11, 2017 in a Beirut southern suburb. (AFP PHOTO)

“Hizballah fields powerful military and intelligence elements, possesses large stocks of sophisticated arms, and maintains extensive networks of operatives and sympathizers overseas, including individuals in the homeland,” the document reads.

Bolton said radical extremists represent a “pre-eminent transnational terrorist threat” to the US and its interests abroad. The new strategy is broader than those released by previous administrations, he said.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton speaks during a briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC on October 3, 2018. (AFP / Mandel NGAN)

“We’re looking at all of the threatening ideologies that we face, including not just Sunni ideologies” espoused by IS militants, but Iran-sponsored terrorist groups, such as Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihad, Bolton said.

He noted that the Treasury Department issued sanctions earlier Thursday to disrupt Hezbollah’s financial support networks.

The strategy’s goals are far-reaching: pursue terrorists all the way to the source of their support, modernize counterterrorism tools, counter radicalization, protect US infrastructure, strengthen borders and limit militants’ ability to recruit online.

It’s the first US strategy on counterterrorism since President Barack Obama released his approach in 2011, but it has similar themes to those released by previous administrations.

In line with the Trump administration’s “America First” policy, the strategy also calls for sharing the burden and expense of fighting terrorism with allies.

“The strategy also places greater emphasis on protecting the homeland, preventing attacks, and mitigating the impact of an attack, should one occur,” Bolton said.

Time of Israel and AFP

https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-targets-iran-proxy-groups-in-new-counterterror-blueprint/

Paris bomb plot claims hurt Tehran’s hope for EU help against US sanctions

October 5, 2018

Accusations in France that Iran was behind a foiled bomb plot near Paris on June 30 seem to have put paid to any hopes President Hassan Rouhani had to use Europe to beat crippling US sanctions.

The blow to Tehran comes as European governments were working on a mechanism that would have allowed Iran to continue to reap the economic benefits of compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with the US and a number of European nations, which was jettisoned by American President Donald Trump in May.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 25, 2018. (AFP / Ludovic Marin)

“Such allegations, whether true or not, at this moment in time will serve only to harm both Rouhani’s government and the Iranian nation,” Saeed Leylaz, a lecturer at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University, told Agence France Presse.

“I am certain this (allegation) is a source of worry for the government, because it happened while the Islamic Republic needs every single relationship and link with the West, minus the United States,” said Leylaz.

Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said that while the threat of Daesh terrorism has haunted Europe for the past few years, “the very real threat of what very much looks to be a modern-day Iranian-directed terror network will prove to be discomfiting for European Union leaders and for the future security of the European continent.”

He said the capture of Iranian diplomats implicated in the failed terror attack in Paris, along with the freezing of the assets of pro-Hezbollah Zahra Center in France, might be only the tip of the iceberg.

“Iran may have made a major miscalculation in allegedly ordering these attacks on European soil. You can certainly expect a major backlash at a time when Tehran can least afford it, given Iran’s attempts to gain European support to counter the re-imposition of crippling sanctions by the Trump administration,” added Shahbandar.

Separately, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said the US faced threats from Iran, which he called “the world’s central banker of international terrorism since 1979.”

He said: “Radical Islamist terrorist groups represent the pre-eminent transnational terrorist threat to the United States and to the United States’ interests abroad.”

Rouhani, who was re-elected to a second four-year term last year on the promise of greater economic dividends from his government’s opening to Washington, was already reeling from the economic fallout of Trump’s abandonment of the nuclear deal.

A precipitous slide in the value of the rial against the dollar hit the purchasing power of ordinary Iranians, while an anticipated boost to Western investment failed to materialize, hitting plans to renew Iran’s antiquated infrastructure.

Image result for Zarif, Federica molinari, EU,photos

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, gestures to European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini after a meeting

Rouhani had counted on EU governments to work with the other parties to the deal — China and Russia — to mitigate the impact of the US policy U-turn but the French allegation has now put those hopes in jeopardy.

The allegations were swiftly seized on by the Trump administration as vindication of its hard line.

“France taking strong action against failed Iranian terrorist plot in Paris — Tehran needs to know this outrageous behavior will not be tolerated,” the White House’s National Security Council tweeted.

Rouhani’s government sees the hand of the Trump administration behind the allegations, convinced Washington is determined to undermine European resistance to the US abandonment of the JCPOA, the official acronym for the nuclear deal.

“Some centers of power do not approve of Iran’s good relations with Europe — that it is staying in the JCPOA and that its economic ties with the EU continue,” Ghasemi said.

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1382761/world

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Nearly 170 charged with forming ‘Bahrain Hezbollah’ — Bahrain blames Iran

September 25, 2018

 

Bahrain’s attorney general charged nearly 170 people on Tuesday with forming a Shiite “terrorist organisation” named for Lebanon’s famed militant group Hezbollah.

The small but strategic Gulf Arab kingdom has been dogged by persistent low-level violence since 2011 when its Sunni minority rulers bloodily suppressed Shiite-led protests for a constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister.

The authorities have repeatedly accused Shiite Iran and it allies, including Hezbollah, of fomenting the unrest. Iran denies the charge.

© AFP/File | Bahrain, which has been dogged by low-level violence since its Sunni rulers crushed Shiite-led protests for an elected government in 2011, has charged 169 people with forming a “terrorist” cell named for Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah

Attorney general Ahmad al-Hamadi said 169 people, 111 of whom are in custody, will be tried for “forming a terrorist organisation… under the name Bahrain Hezbollah” in collaboration with the Iranian intelligence services.

Hamadi did not specify when the trial would open or when the defendants had been arrested.

But he said some of them were accused of travelling abroad to receive training in weapons and explosives from Iran and its regional allies.

Analysts have expressed scepticism about previous Bahraini allegations of Iranian and Hezbollah involvement.

Hezbollah is one of the best trained and equipped militant groups in the world, while most of the Bahrain violence has consisted of throwing stones and petrol bombs at police patrols or planting crude pipe bombs.

The authorities have closed most peaceful avenues for protest, banning the main Shiite movement Al-Wefaq, which was the largest bloc in parliament, and throwing dozens of its leaders behind bars.

They and their Gulf Arab allies have also blacklisted Hezbollah as a “terrorist organisation” and banned their citizens from any contact with the group or its members.

The crackdown has drawn periodic criticism from Western governments but the kingdom’s strategic position just across the Gulf from Iran makes it a key ally.

The islands are home to the US Fifth Fleet and house a new British naval base completed earlier this year.

AFP

The true threat of S-300s is not that they’re powerful, but that they’re Russian

September 25, 2018

The Israeli Air Force likely has the means to work around Russian electronic warfare and Syrian air defenses, but doing so risks inflaming the growing Jerusalem-Moscow crisis

In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, a Russian S-300 air defense system is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, a Russian S-300 air defense system is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

Russia’s announcement on Monday that it would be upgrading Syria’s air defenses with its formidable S-300 system within two weeks marked the latest nadir in Israel’s rapidly spiraling relationship with Moscow since the downing of a Russian spy plane off the Syrian coast last week.

In addition to supplying Syria with the S-300, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu also said Monday that Russia would “jam satellite navigation, on-board radars and communication systems of combat aircraft attacking targets in Syria.”

But the greater threat is not the specific tactical hurdle that the system poses for the Israeli Air Force, but rather that this episode could lead to a breakdown of Israel’s relationship with Russia.

Not since the 1960s and 1970s has Israel had to contend with an antagonistic Moscow actively working against Israeli interests. Though Russia today indeed supplies weapons to many of Israel’s enemies — including S-300 batteries to Israel’s arch-nemesis Iran — the general understanding in Israel is that this isn’t personal, it’s business.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend an event marking International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day and the anniversary of the complete lifting of the Nazi siege of Leningrad, at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow on January 29, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

The current crisis has the potential to change that, depending on how it is handled by Israel, Russia and the United States.

Though the actions of Russia are some of the most openly hostile toward Israel since the end of the Cold War, they are still reversible, at least to some degree.

For over five years, Russian has been threatening to sell the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Syria, but has backed off each time at the behest of the Israeli, and sometimes the American, government.

The long-range S-300 — with an operational radius of 250 kilometers (150 miles), according to Russia — is a far more advanced form of the S-200 air defense system that Syria currently employs.

For now, Moscow has said it will sell two to four S-300 batteries to Syria, but is prepared to deliver more if necessary. According to Russian media, the systems will be set up on Syria’s western coast and in its southwest, near the Israeli and Jordanian borders, which are the two areas from which the IAF would be most likely to conduct airstrikes.

Russia has yet to indicate which model of S-300 it intends to sell Syria; there are several, each with its own range of capabilities. Even the lowest quality model’s radar would be able to monitor flights around northern Israel, potentially including civilian flights in and out of Ben Gurion International Airport, depending on where the system is placed in Syria.

The threat of the S-300 and electronic warfare

For Israel, the S-300 would represent a significant but not insurmountable obstacle in Syria, where it routinely bombs Iranian and Hezbollah facilities and weapons caches.

While the S-300, known by NATO as the SA-10, is far more powerful than Syria’s current long-range anti-aircraft system, the S-200 or SA-5, the Israeli Air Force has had decades to prepare for it.

A number of Israeli allies operate the air defense system. The IAF has reportedly trained against S-300 batteries that once belonged to Cyprus, but are now owned by Greece, during joint aerial exercises over the years.

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

Israel is also the proud owner of a growing fleet of F-35 fighter jets, a model whose raison dêtre is stealth. These fifth-generation jets have already been used operationally, the IAF said earlier this year.

And the Israeli Air Force is also famed for its own electronic warfare capabilities. Indeed, in the 1982 first Lebanon War, the IAF used radar jamming against Syria’s Soviet-supplied air defenses, destroying 29 of the country’s 30 anti-aircraft batteries.

Israeli also reportedly used this type of technology in its attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor in 2007, blocking the Syrian military’s air defenses during the raid.

But a Russia-supplied S-300 system is not only an operational challenge — it is a geopolitical one as well.

Though in his announcement Russian defense minister Shoigu said Syrian teams had been training to operate the S-300 system, it was not immediately clear if the batteries would also be staffed by Russian military personnel.

If they were, this would make an Israeli decision to destroy Syrian S-300 batteries far more complicated, requiring the direct and intentional targeting of Russian forces.

Russia’s plan to use electronic warfare against Israeli “hotheads” — per Shoigu — serves as yet another obstacle and point of consideration for the Israeli Air Force.

According to Russian media, these electronic warfare systems will create a “radioelectonic dome” with a radius of hundreds of kilometers around western Syria and the Mediterranean coast, which would affect not only Israeli planes but also American and French navy ships, as well as civilian planes in the area.

Here too, the Israeli military would likely have a number of technological and operational means to overcome this challenge, but the top brass would have to weigh the use of those measures against the value of the target.

Earlier this year, when Russia was again threatening to arm Syria with the S-300, Israeli officials said the IAF was prepared to target any anti-aircraft system that fires at its planes, regardless of who supplied it or who was operating it.

“One thing needs to be clear: If someone shoots at our planes, we will destroy them. It doesn’t matter if it’s an S-300 or an S-700,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at the time.

While the IAF may be capable of getting around Russian radar jamming and would be well within its rights to destroy a Russia-supplied S-300 battery that fired on its planes, such acts would run the risk of further alienating Moscow and pushing the two countries further to the brink of a full diplomatic break.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/the-true-threat-of-s-300s-is-not-that-theyre-powerful-but-that-theyre-russian/

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Iran’s Terms to Reopen Nuclear Talks? Trump Has to Back Down Image

September 25, 2018

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, visiting the United States for the first time since President Trump exited the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, said Monday that the only way his country would consider new talks with Washington is for Mr. Trump to reverse himself and honor the agreement.

Speaking to a group of two dozen academics, former government officials and journalists, Mr. Rouhani argued that going back “six months ago is much easier than going back six years,” when the first efforts to negotiate an agreement were first broached.

While he declared that Mr. Trump’s strategy of trying to crush the Iranian economy with sanctions would fail, he expressed no anger and portrayed his government as the one that was abiding by international agreements that the United States had tossed aside.

But when pressed on how long Iran planned to play a military role in Syria, Mr. Rouhani was unrelenting. “We will be in Syria until terrorism is completely eradicated,” he said, and as long as Iran remained invited there by the Syrian government.

By David E. Sanger
The New York Times

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran after speaking Monday at a peace summit honoring Nelson Mandela during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  Credit Carlo Allegri/Reuters

“The U.S. sees a right for itself to have a presence in the region,” he said, referring to the Middle East. But it “does not recognize the right for Iran.”

Despite his relentless optimism in his appearances on Monday, Mr. Rouhani arrives at a perilous moment for his government. As sanctions have begun to bite, the Iranian economy is once again under tremendous pressure, its currency plummeting, its oil sales jeopardized. His enemies in the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite military unit that also oversaw the nuclear program, have been in the ascent, arguing that the United States was an untrustworthy negotiating partner, and that Mr. Rouhani was naïve to have entered the agreement.

On Monday evening, Mr. Rouhani got a boost from the remaining signatories of the Iran nuclear accord. They issued a defiant statement, reaffirming their commitment to the deal and vowing to find ways to circumvent Trump administration sanctions to continue to do business with Iran.

“The participants recognized that Iran has continued to fully and effectively implement its nuclear related commitments as confirmed by 12 consecutive reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” said the statement, which was signed by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and Iran.

The statement was read first in English by Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief, and then in Farsi by Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly gathering of world leaders in New York.

As part of their effort to save the Iran deal, the ministers agreed to create a special vehicle that would facilitate legal financial transactions with Iran and protect companies doing business with the country from American reprisals. Exactly how the vehicle will function will be worked out in future meetings, the statement said.

In his session Monday evening, Mr. Rouhani deflected questions about Iran’s repression of dissent, its imprisonment of Americans and other Westerners on thin charges of plotting against his government and its support of terrorism. Instead, he noted divisions inside the Trump administration, saying he did not know whether to believe Mr. Trump, who has said he would meet with Mr. Rouhani at any time, or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has laid out a list of conditions from ceasing missile tests to stopping support of terrorism.

But Mr. Rouhani, sitting beside Mr. Zarif, his foreign minister and chief negotiator on the nuclear deal, insisted he had “no regrets” about striking the deal with the Obama administration three years ago. He described it as an accord that briefly “built trust,” and described Mr. Trump’s efforts to dismantle it as self-destructive. Picking a single example, he said that cutting off sales of airplane parts “didn’t help Boeing,” endangered Iranian air passengers and ultimately harmed the United States.

He argued that Iran did not exit the Iran deal after the United States did, saying that he did not want to play into Mr. Trump’s designs.

“We have a great deal of patience,” he said, seeming to suggest that he would wait out the Trump administration. But he said Iran could exit the deal “at will” if it determined it was in its interests.

Though Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Trump will be moving through some of the same rooms at the United Nation this week, there appears to be little chance they will meet or talk.

But Mr. Rouhani, on his first day in New York for the annual opening of the General Assembly, went on a public relations blitz, speaking for hours to editors and reporters, appearing on NBC’s evening news, and talking optimistically about future dealings with Europe, China and Russia. He dismissed the effects of new American sanctions scheduled for November, when the United States plans to tell companies around the world that if they want to deal with Iran, they cannot do business with the United States.

“The United States is not capable of bringing our oil exports to zero,” Mr. Rouhani told Lester Holt of NBC. “It’s a threat that is empty of credibility. Perhaps on this path, we will sustain certain pressures but certainly the United States will not reach its objective.”

US terror survey blames Iran for ‘fomenting violence’ in Middle East

September 19, 2018

The US has once again named Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, accusing it of intensifying numerous conflicts and trying to undermine governments throughout the Middle East.

Members of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group carry Hezbollah flags in southern Lebanon. (Reuters/File Photo)

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The State Department’s annual survey of global terrorism released on Wednesday said Iran and its proxies are responsible for fomenting violence in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. The report said Iranian fighters and Iran-backed militias, like Lebanon’s Hezbollah, had emerged emboldened from the war in Syria and with valuable battlefield experience they seek to leverage elsewhere.

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In addition, the survey reported a 24 percent decrease in attacks around the world between 2016 and 2017. That was due mainly to a sharp decline in the number of attacks in Iraq, where the Daesh group has been largely displaced.

The Associated Press

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1374726

Israel Expresses Regret For Downed Russia Aircraft, Says Syria is Responsible

September 18, 2018

Expressing regret, Israel says responsibility of incident falls squarely with Syria as well as Iran and Hezbollah.

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 14:48

Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-20M

Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-20M . (photo credit: KIRILL NAUMENKO/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis addressed the downing of the Russian plane in Syria on Tuesday after Moscow accused Israel of a hostile provocation and threatened to respond.

“Israel expresses its regret over the death of the crew members of the Russian plane that was downed tonight due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire,” read the statement released by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane fully responsible for this incident. Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident.”

Manelis confirmed that the IDF had struck a Syrian military facility from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“These weapons were meant to attack Israel and posed an intolerable threat against it,” he said on a call with reporters on Tuesday.

According to the preliminary investigation launched by the Israeli Air Force, the Russian Ilyushin military plane was not within the area of operation of Israeli jets, and when it was struck all Israeli jets which took part in the operation had already returned to Israeli territory.

“The Syrian anti-aircraft batteries fired indiscriminately and from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air,” Manelis said, adding that “the extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft missile fire cause the Russian plane to be hit.”

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An official from Russia’s Defense Ministry was quoted by TASS News that the plane went off the radar while four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in the Syrian province of Latakia.

Moscow accused Israel Tuesday morning of using the IL-20 as cover to carry out the strikes and said Israel warned them of the operation only one minute before.

“As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished,” TASS news agency quoted Russian defense ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov as saying. “This absolutely does not correspond to the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership. We reserve the right to take commensurate measures in response.”

Earlier on Tuesday the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on social media that the Israeli ambassador had been called into her ministry in connection with what had happened near Syria.

Manelis denied the reports, saying that the de-conflication mechanism implemented with Russia over Syria to coordinate their actions in order avoid accidental clashes in Syrian airspace “was in use tonight like it has been in use in the past.”

Israel said that it will share all relevant information with the Russian government to review the incident and to confirm the facts of the inquiry.

Israel rarely comments on foreign reports of military activity in Syria but has publicly admitted to having struck over 200 targets in Syria over the past year and a half.

https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Russia-summons-Israels-ambassador-over-downed-military-plane-567492