Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Is There a Way To Get Tough on Iran Without Leaving The Nuclear Deal?

October 19, 2017
BY EMILY B. LANDAU
 OCTOBER 19, 2017 15:30
There are important elements in the administration’s new policy that may reverse some of the negative aspects of the JCPOA, and set the stage for pushing back on Iran’s regional provocations.

Getting tough on Iran without leaving the nuclear deal

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump speaks about Iran and the nuclear accord at the White House on Friday. (photo credit:REUTERS)

On October 13, US President Donald Trump announced his decision not to certify the JCPOA, in contrast to his previous two decisions to certify the deal. Instead, he declared, the administration would work with Congress and US global and Middle East allies to address the flaws surrounding the deal, as well as other aspects of Iran’s behavior, widely perceived to be threatening and destabilizing. This position was reached following the administration’s policy review on Iran, underway over the past nine months, and outlines a new approach that began to emerge already with the statement in April 2017 by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – delivered the day after Trump certified the JCPOA for the first time – which sketched in broad strokes the direction of US policy on Iran.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the new policy is that it covers the entirety of Iran’s behavior that is viewed negatively by the US, beyond the nuclear program: Iran’s missile program, support for terror, and regional aspirations that threaten the national security interests of the US and its allies in the Middle East. In so doing, the administration has ended the approach of the Obama administration that sought to create a divide between the nuclear and regional manifestations of Iran’s conduct, claiming that the nuclear deal “was working,” and that it was never meant to address other issues. In contrast, the Trump administration has emphasized that the JCPOA did not achieve its objective of a non-nuclear Iran, and that the deal is only one component of overall US policy toward Iran. The message is that there is a connection between the different manifestations of Tehran’s nuclear and foreign policies, and that all must be dealt with in tandem in order to confront effectively the threats and regional challenges posed by Iran.

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Also of significance is that Trump signaled that the US administration will no longer refrain from pushing back against Iran’s aggressions and provocations for fear of Iran exiting the nuclear deal. In fact – in a somewhat surprising move – Trump included his own threat of leaving the deal. He stated that if in cooperation with Congress and US allies the administration cannot reach a satisfactory solution to the problems he delineated, he would cancel US participation in the deal. The specific context seems to direct the threat primarily to Congress and US allies in an effort to urge them to work with the administration to amend the deal. However, it is also clearly a message to Iran that the administration is no longer deterred by Iran’s threats of leaving the deal.

What are the main problems that Trump raised, and how will the administration attempt to fix them? The leading problems raised by the president have to do with the regime’s sponsorship of terrorism, continued regional aggression, and use of proxies, and the radical nature of the regime and its Supreme Leader. He mentioned Iran’s ballistic missile program, hostility to the US and Israel, and its threat to navigation in the Gulf. While the opening of Trump’s speech reviewed Iran’s deadly actions since 1979 and was unnecessarily detailed, this might have been aimed to underscore that Iran has targeted the US repeatedly, rendering dealing with Iran a clear US national security interest.

As for the nuclear deal, Trump warned that in a few years Iran will be able to “sprint” to nuclear weapons. What, he asked, is the purpose of a deal that at best only delays Iran’s nuclear plans? He noted multiple violations of the deal, although most points on his list were not violations per se, but rather problems with the deal. In addition to twice exceeding the limit on the stockpile of heavy water, he pointed out that Iran failed to meet US expectations with regard to research and development of advanced centrifuges. To be sure, the precise nature of Iran’s work on advanced centrifuges is an issue that independent analysts can only study from such official statements due to the problematic lack of transparency in IAEA reports since implementation of the deal, and the confidentiality that was granted to deliberations of the Joint Commission (that oversees the JCPOA). Trump also accused Iran of intimidating IAEA inspectors, and highlighted Iran’s repeated statements that it would refuse entry of IAEA inspectors into its military sites. Of particular note was Trump’s mention of suspicions regarding cooperation between Iran and North Korea; he said that he will instruct intelligence agencies to conduct a thorough analysis of these connections.

In dealing with these problems, Trump’s major constraint is lack of leverage to compel Iran to agree to a strengthened nuclear deal. The administration’s hands are tied given that it has partners to the JCPOA that are not on the same page, and that the biting sanctions that had pressured Iran to negotiate in the first place were lifted when implementation of the deal began. Clearly it will be difficult for the US to change matters directly related to the deal without the help of Congress and European allies, and Trump stated repeatedly that he will seek their cooperation.

In Europe there is fierce opposition to Trump’s decision not to certify the deal, and it is questionable whether and to what degree Europe will be willing to cooperate with the US. It is noteworthy, however, that before the speech was delivered, some European leaders – including France’s Macron – signaled a new willingness to address issues outside the JCPOA, in particular Iran’s missile program and regional aggression. Trump hopes they will go along with new sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). There is currently no basis for expecting cooperation from Russia and China.

The administration is also pinning hopes on Congress. With decertification, decision making on the JCPOA moves to Congress, and this is where the Trump administration hopes to introduce changes. Tillerson has explained that the administration will not be asking Congress to move to sanctions at this stage, a step that could lead to the collapse of the deal. Rather, the hope is to pass new legislation that will amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). The White House would like to establish a series of benchmarks that would automatically restore sanctions if Iran crosses one of the red lines – or “trigger points”; these would likely relate to Iran’s missile program and the sunset clauses in the JCPOA.

The area where the administration can most easily move forward on its own relates to its approach to the Iranian regime, particularly the regime’s support for terror and other destabilizing regional activities. This explains the strong emphasis in Trump’s speech – and in the document released in parallel entitled “President Donald J. Trump’s New Strategy on Iran” – on the IRGC, and on the need to confront it squarely for its support of terror, fanning of sectarianism, and perpetuation of regional conflict. Trump announced that he was authorizing the Treasury Department to sanction the IRGC as an entity, and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents, and affiliates.

Overall, there are important elements in the administration’s new policy that have the potential to reverse some of the negative aspects of the JCPOA, and set the stage for pushing back on Iran’s regional provocations and aggression. Much will depend on the ability to cooperate with allies and with Congress in advancing these goals. Tillerson’s clarifications were important in explaining that contrary to much media analysis, Trump is not seeking to do away with the deal, at least in the short term, or to go to war. The stated aim is to strengthen the deal, and restore US deterrence vis-à-vis the Iranian regime and the IRGC. The outcome, however, is far from guaranteed. This is due to inherent constraints, and the fact that while the policy makes sense, it is nevertheless a huge undertaking for a very controversial administration, and this in turn can further weaken Trump’s hand.

The author is a senior research fellow at INSS and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program. This article first appeared in INSS Insight.

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US says Palestinian unity govt must recognise Israel, disarm Hamas

October 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Mike Smith | Fighters of the armed wing of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas march in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis on July 20, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – A top aide to US President Donald Trump said Thursday that an emerging Palestinian unity government must recognise Israel and disarm Hamas, Washington’s first detailed response to a landmark reconciliation deal signed last week.A Hamas official immediately rejected the comments as “blatant interference” in Palestinian affairs, but did not say directly whether the Islamist group planned to comply with any of the demands.

Trump’s special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt, who has repeatedly visited the region to seek ways to restart peace talks, laid out a series of conditions.

“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognise the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties — including to disarm terrorists — and commit to peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

The US conditions were roughly in line with principles previously set out by the Quartet for Middle East peace — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

“If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements,” Greenblatt said.

The statement was also similar to the Israeli government’s response this week in which it vowed not to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the Islamist group agrees to a list of demands.

The demands included recognising Israel and renouncing violence, but also returning the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, among other conditions.

Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim condemned Greenblatt’s statement and accused the United States of adopting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s positions.

“This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests,” Naim told AFP.

“This statement comes under pressure from the extreme right-wing Netanyahu government and is in line with the Netanyahu statement from two days ago.”

– Gaza humanitarian crisis –

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas in Cairo a week ago aimed at ending a bitter 10-year split.

The Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organisation has recognised Israel, but Hamas has not and is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade.

Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years.

Hamas has run the Gaza Strip since seizing it in a near civil war in 2007 with Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, following a dispute over elections won by the Islamist movement.

The Palestinian Authority, currently dominated by Fatah, is due to resume control of the Gaza Strip by December 1 under the deal.

Talks are also expected on forming a unity government, with another meeting between the various Palestinian political factions scheduled for November 21.

Previous attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed, and many analysts are treating the latest bid with caution, waiting to see if actual change will occur on the ground.

A major sticking point is expected to be Hamas’s refusal to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing.

Diplomats say it would be possible to form a unity government that they could deal with that does not officially include Hamas.

A previous attempt at a unity government in 2014 was made up of technocrats deemed acceptable by the international community, though that bid fell apart.

Hamas has faced increasing isolation and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip in recent months, including a severe electricity shortage.

Abbas has imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip to pressure Hamas, including cutting electricity payments, which has worsened the power cuts.

Hamas has reached out to Cairo for help, hoping to have the Rafah border with Egypt opened.

In return, Cairo has pressed Hamas to move forward on reconciliation with Fatah.

Greenblatt said “all parties agree that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there.”

In a briefing to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, UN assistant secretary general Miroslav Jenca welcomed the reconciliation deal and spoke of the urgency of addressing the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.

by Mike Smith

Iran, Israel Could Be on a Collision Course Over Syria’s Provocative Actions

October 19, 2017
BY BEN LYNFIELD
 OCTOBER 19, 2017 05:06

 

Iran’s military chief, Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, met in Damascus with his Syrian counterpart, Lt.-Gen. Ali Ayoub, and warned Israel against violating Syrian airspace.

Iranian Military Chief of Staff General Mohammad Baqeri

Iranian Military Chief of Staff General Mohammad Baqeri. (photo credit:TURKISH MILITARY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Wednesday’s statement by the Iranian military’s chief of staff, Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, that it is “not acceptable for the Zionist regime to violate Syria any time it wants” indicates that Israel and Iran may be heading toward a collision over Tehran’s expanding influence in Syria.

The immediate background to the statement, made during a visit to Damascus to strengthen Iranian-Syrian military cooperation, was the Israeli air strike in Syria on Monday that destroyed a Syrian anti-aircraft battery in response to its firing of a missile at an Israeli plane on a reconnaissance mission in Lebanon.

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Israeli F-16
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However, according to a leading Iran scholar, Meir Litvak of Tel Aviv University, Bagheri actually is threatening that Iran will no longer tolerate the air strikes in Syria that Israel has mounted to destroy advanced weapons systems on their way to Hezbollah in Lebanon.“They want to build this land bridge to Lebanon so they can transfer accurate, long-range missiles to Hezbollah, which will be a game changer,” Litvak said. “Now, he’s threatening that they will no longer be silent about Israeli attempts to prevent this reinforcement of Hezbollah.”

Raz Zimmt, an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said the statement itself may not be significant, but the very fact of Bagheri’s visit to Damascus is.

“I don’t think it means they will respond [to Israeli air strikes]. If you look at the wording, he didn’t say that Iran wouldn’t accept it, he just said it is inconceivable.

It could just be voicing identification with Syria or, in a more extreme scenario, that he intends to discuss with the Syrians the transfer of air defenses to Syria.”

But Zimmt added: “The escalation could stem from the very fact of increasing the security cooperation that is the goal of the visit.”

Litvak said he does not know if the perceived threat will be translated into action, but that it is a real possibility and could take the form of Shi’ite militiamen firing rockets into the Israeli-held part of the Golan.

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Statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following US President Trump’s speech on Iran, October 14, 2017. (YouTube/IsraeliPM)

The direction of Iranian policy in Syria might lead to an armed confrontation with Israel, he said.

“Iran recruited thousands of Shi’a fighters who fought for the Assad regime. Now that the war is won, there’s a danger they will turn them against Israel,” he said.

“Iran is grooming its proxies to play a role in Syria and some say openly that they want to confront Israel,” Litvak added. “If this is their aim, then clearly there is a risk of confrontation. That Iran is trying to build a wider Hezbollah front against Israel from both Lebanon and Syria increases the risk of confrontation.”

Litvak noted that, after pouring out billions of dollars and incurring casualties to save the Assad regime, Tehran is now trying to consolidate economic control through concessions and contracts.

“For Iran, Syria is a special prize, a pet project. It is crucial and they have no intention of allowing anyone to harm their pet project and challenge their position in Syria,” he said.

According to Zimmt, the talks in Damascus, where Bagheri was also due to meet with President Bashar Assad, were intended to cover a variety of topics likely including continued Iranian supply of weaponry; what comes next after the defeat of Islamic State and how to safeguard Iran and Hezbollah’s interests in that context; and how to restore coordination between Iranian forces and pro-Iranian militias and the Syrian regime.

Bagheri said he had come to Damascus “to assert and coordinate, and to confront our common enemies the Zionists and the terrorists. We drew up the broad lines for this cooperation.”

The key question, Zimmt says, is to what extent Moscow will check the growing Iranian influence.

“Russia is the dominant actor in Syria and it can decide how much freedom of action it will allow the Iranians. But my estimation is that even if there will be limitations, they won’t be substantial and will relate only to the presence of Iran and Hezbollah in the area close to the border with Israel.”

Regarding reports in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the Russians had agreed to keep the Iranian militias 10 to 15 kilometers away from the border on the Golan, Zimmt said: “If this report is right, it means that they can act from 30 kilometers from the border and, of course, this is a very problematic scenario for Israel. I can’t say if this will force Israel to act in an offensive way, but it’s very clear that the Iranian and Hezbollah presence creates greater friction.”

Moshe Maoz, professor emeritus of Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University, said he is more worried about the Russians than the Iranians.

“They are the ones who control the airspace. Until now, there have been tactical understandings with them, but when Israel goes deeper I’m not sure what Russia will do. Putin prefers Iran to Israel. The question is, what are Russia’s redlines?”

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From Damascus, Iran vows to confront Israel

October 18, 2017

 

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Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri meets with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, August 16, 2017.

By Ellen FrancisBabak Dehghanpisheh

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran’s military chief warned Israel against breaching Syrian airspace and territory on a visit to Damascus on Wednesday, raising tensions with Israel as it voices deep concern over Tehran’s influence in Syria.

General Mohammad Baqeri pledged to increase cooperation with Syria’s military to fight Israel and insurgents, Iranian and Syrian state media said.

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Iran’s General Mohammad Baqeri Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei

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Palestinian shot while trying to stab troops in West Bank: Israel

October 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Israeli soldiers take aim during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank village of Tuqua, south-east of Bethlehem on August 5, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – A Palestinian ran towards Israeli troops while brandishing a knife in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday and soldiers shot and wounded him, the military said.”An assailant armed with a knife ran towards troops adjacent to the Gush Etzion junction,” an army statement said.

“In response to the immediate threat, soldiers fired shots towards the suspect. Subsequently, the suspect was injured and taken to hospital for medical treatment,” it said.

A military spokeswoman told AFP that the attacker was a Palestinian and that no soldiers were injured.

Israeli media said the man was moderately to seriously wounded.

The Gush Etzion junction is a busy intersection near a large bloc of Israeli settlements in the southern West Bank and the scene of repeated attacks.

A wave of unrest that erupted in October 2015 has claimed the lives of at least 295 Palestinians or Arab Israelis, 51 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP toll.

The last fatal incident was the October 4 stabbing of Israeli settler Reuven Schmerling, 70, in what the Shin Bet security service said was “a terrorist attack”.

Two Palestinians from Qabatiya in the northern West Bank were arrested as suspects.

The violence, however, has largely subsided in recent months.

Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.

Others were shot dead in protests and clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

Iran supreme leader dismisses Trump’s ‘rants and whoppers’

October 18, 2017

AFP

Iranian Supreme Leader’s Website/AFP | Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on Wednesday dismissed US President Donald Trump’s “wants and whoppers”

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed US President Donald Trump’s aggressive criticism as the “rants and whoppers” of a “brute”, in a speech on Wednesday.”I don’t want to waste my time on answering the rants and whoppers of the brute US president,” Khamenei said in a speech to students in Tehran, published on his Telegram channel.

It was his first response to Trump’s bellicose speech last Friday in which he called for tougher sanctions to curb Iran’s “destabilising activities” in the Middle East.

“They are angry as today the Islamic republic of Iran has disrupted their plans in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq,” Khamenei said.

“Everyone be assured that this time, too, America will be slapped and defeated by the nation of Iran.”

Saudi Cabinet hails Trump’s Iran stance, reiterates support for fight against terrorism

October 18, 2017

RIYADH: King Salman headed Saudi Arabia’s latest Cabinet session on Tuesday afternoon at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh.

RIYADH: The king briefed the Cabinet on his phone call with US President Donald Trump, saying he had expressed the Kingdom’s support for Trump’s firm stance on Iran and his condemnation of Iran’s support for terrorism in the region.

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King Salman also briefed the Cabinet on his recent talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, during which they discussed the bilateral relations and reviewed the region’s events.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the king revealed, had briefed him on the recent reconciliation agreement between Abbas’ Fatah-backed Palestinian National Authority and Hamas. King Salman observed that unity will enable the Palestinian government to better serve its citizens.

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The king also briefed the Cabinet on his phone call with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, in which he stated that the Kingdom fully supports the unity, security and stability of Iraq, as well as the adherence of all parties to the Iraqi Constitution.

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Minister of Culture and Information, Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, said in his statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that the Cabinet had reviewed the Justice Ministry’s submissions on the transferal of commercial disputes from the jurisdiction of the Board of Grievances to specialized commercial courts, which he described as “a great leap forward” in the Kingdom’s legal system.

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The Cabinet condemned the attacks that targeted security points in the city of Al-Arish in Egypt, the two bombings in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, and the attack on the Djimbi mosque in the Central African Republic. It also reiterated its continuous support of countries fighting terrorism.

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The Cabinet approved several mandates from ministers to draft memoranda of understanding with other countries, including the Republic of Korea, Morocco and the UAE, as well as a new system to regulate the trading of petroleum products.

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http://www.arabnews.com/node/1179346/saudi-arabia

Israel Prepared For Possible Escalation From Syria

October 18, 2017
BY CHARLES BYBELEZER/THE MEDIA LINE
 OCTOBER 18, 2017 08:33

 

In the wake of the alarming exchange between Israel and Syria earlier this week, Israel braces for a possible escalation.

Israel Syria border

IDF tanks are seen along the Golan Heights border with Syria. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Israeli fighter jets on Monday destroyed a Syrian SA-5 anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus, after the missile defense system had fired at Israeli reconnaissance planes conducting routine flights in Lebanese airspace.

It reportedly follows numerous unpublicized instances in which Israeli military aircraft were similarly targeted, as well as a close-call episode in March when a Syrian government military installation launched three projectiles at Israeli jets tasked with striking a Hezbollah arms convoy destined for Lebanon.

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Israeli F-16

“We see [President Bashar al-Assad] as responsible and see these missiles as a clear Syrian provocation—it will not be accepted,” an Israeli army spokesman asserted following the latest incident. He stressed that while the Jewish state has no intention of becoming enmeshed in the Syrian conflict, the Israel Defense Forces will nevertheless respond to all direct hostilities against it.

For its part, the Assad regime warned of “harsh consequences to Israel’s repeated aggressive attempts.”

Speaking to The Media Line, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Relik Shafir, a former Israel Air Force pilot who partook in the 1981 assault on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, explained that while Monday’s confrontation was potentially perilous, further escalation is unlikely.

“Israel’s past experience—mainly with Assad’s father who formerly commanded the Syrian Air Force—is that the regime and its forces are logical and not hot-headed,” he explained.

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“They were likely trying to test both Israel and the Russians, given the visit to Jerusalem by [Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu], and they got a very quick answer as to what to expect.”

Russia intervened in the war in Syria in 2015, prompting Israel to devise a de-confliction mechanism with Moscow to prevent accidents between the two armies; the terms of which, in Shafir’s estimation, “are kept quite strictly by both sides so that mistakes or not made—such as the one that occurred when the Turks shot down a Russian plane along the Syrian border in [2015].”

Netanyahu has made four trips to the Kremlin over the past eighteen months to press Israel’s case to President Vladimir Putin. In this respect, the Israeli premier has repeatedly voiced concern over a ceasefire deal brokered by Russia and the US in southern Syria, which he claims turns a blind eye to Tehran’s goal of militarizing the Golan Heights, a red line for Jerusalem.

Such an eventuality would likewise allow the Islamic Republic to consolidate its so-called “Shiite Crescent,” a contiguous land corridor spanning Iraq, Syria and Lebanon—a development vehemently opposed by Israel and regional Sunni countries that fear Iran’s growing expansionism.

Israeli officialdom has made clear that Jerusalem will continue to employ force to unphold its demands; namely, to prevent both the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah and the prospect of a permanent Iranian foothold in Syria.

Shafir believes that Putin may be amenable to these positions “as Russia has no interest in any disturbances along the Syrian or Lebanese borders with Israel.” Nevertheless, he stressed, the IDF “prepares for any eventuality so that it has the capacity to act if the situation calls for it. If the Iranians, for example, establish any type of military infrastructure outside the purview of Damascus, then Israel maintains the right to respond to such a threat in order to uphold the equilibrium.”

In fact, the Jewish state has a long history of doing just that in Syria, most notably its alleged destruction in 2007 of a suspected nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Israel Ziv, who as the head of operations in the IDF’s General Staff formulated the army’s border strategies, agrees that Moscow holds the cards in Syria and is solely capable of reining in Iran.

“It is not a black and white situation, but the level of Iranian involvement is in the hands of the Russians,” he contended to The Media Line. “For Moscow, kicking out Tehran entirely is not an option, but limiting its activity serves its interest as this allows Putin to maintain leverage over the US as well as regional countries.”

Moreover, Ziv elaborated, “Iranian proxies are totally free to act in Syria and this goes against the Russian desire to create order. Putin wants to be the sole power in the country and this too is reason to minimize Iran’s influence.”

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As regards Israel, Ziv stressed that the instability in Syria requires the IDF to act in order to preserve its deterrence. “In a chaotic situation Jerusalem has to be involved, and so there will always be a risk of escalation—but it is not high since the actors in Syria are quite exhausted and bloodied. Therefore, to open up a new front against Israel is not in their favor.”

Accordingly, most analyst agree that for the time being the status quo will prevail, even as Israel prepares for any eventuality; that is, should Tehran raises the stakes by setting up permanent military bases in the Golan or, more acutely, if a future Israeli aircraft is unable to evade an incoming Syrian missile.

For more stories from The Media Line, go to http://www.themedialine.org 

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Israeli troops raid Palestinian media firms linked to Hamas — “Operation against incitement”

October 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | An employee of Palestinian production firm Palmedia arrives at work in the West Bank city of Nablus on October 18, 2017 to find it sealed by the Israeli army

HEBRON (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Israeli forces raided Palestinian media offices in the occupied West Bank overnight in what a military spokeswoman on Wednesday called a “large-scale operation” against incitement.

The raids came hours after the Israeli government declared that it would not deal with an emerging Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the Islamist group made radical changes.

A Palestinian journalists’ union official in the southern West Bank city of Hebron said that the offices of three companies providing production services to Hamas television were closed and equipment and documents seized.

They were named as Palmedia, Ramsat and Transmedia, a satellite broadcasting facility where two members of staff were arrested, the union official said.

Israeli media said that a total of eight media firms were raided overnight, including in Ramallah and Bethlehem, but the Israeli army did not confirm those reports.

Palmedia offices in the northern West Bank city of Nablus were also sealed, an AFP photographer reported.

The military spokeswoman told AFP that security forces “searched a number of media and production offices suspected of broadcasting inciting content, encouraging, celebrating and promoting violence and terrorism against Israelis.”

“During the large-scale operation, media stations such as Ramsat and Transmedia were closed,” she added.

“In addition forces seized equipment and documents from media companies that provided services to Al Aqsa and Al Quds — TV channels that are illegal organisations,” referring to Hamas TV stations.

She did not say how many offices were closed or give any details of the alleged incitement.

Israeli public radio said that the troops posted military orders on the office walls closing the premises for six months.

Last week, rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas signed a landmark unity deal aimed at ending a decade-long split.

Israel said on Tuesday it would not negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas if the Islamist movement does not disarm, recognise the country and renounce violence.

The government statement also demanded that president Mahmud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority “continue to act against Hamas terror infrastructures” in the West Bank.

Hamas has run the Gaza Strip for a decade, but also has a presence in the West Bank, where Abbas’s Fatah is based.

Unity deal at risk if Abbas does not end sanctions: Hamas

October 17, 2017

A man holds a picture of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during celebrations after Hamas said it reached a deal with Palestinian rival Fatah, in Gaza City on October 12, 2017. (Reuters)
GAZA CITY: Hamas has warned that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s delay in easing sanctions on Gaza was putting at risk a landmark unity deal signed last week.
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“The continuation of the punitive measures against our people in Gaza a month after the dissolution of the administrative council spoils the general atmosphere for reconciliation,” a party spokesman said in a statement to Hamas media.
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Hamas last month agreed to dissolve its administrative council, seen as a rival government in Gaza, and return civilian power in the enclave to the Palestinian Authority a decade after seizing it in a near civil war.
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Chief among their demands, however, was that Abbas drop a series of measures taken against Gaza.
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Among these were reductions in energy payments for the territory which left its 2 million residents with only a few hours of mains electricity per day.
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Hamas is due to hand over Gaza’s border crossings by Nov. 1 ahead of a full transfer of power by Dec. 1.
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The PA’s top border official visited Gaza on Monday.
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Previous reconciliation agreements between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, have collapsed over implementation of specific issues.
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Security control of the Gaza Strip is expected to be a major stumbling block, with Hamas refusing to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing.
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