Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Syrian-Hizballah buildup for a leap on Jordan’s border, cause for US, Israeli concern

A large Syrian army/Hizballah force is massing at Izra in the southern Daraa region poised to fight through to the Jordanian border and come within reach of Quneitra.  This is reported by DEBKAfile’s military sources. The big Izra base also houses the Iranian command for eastern Syria. Bashar Assad has freed up substantial military strength for his drive to capture the south after beating back rebel forces from the Damascus area and proclaiming it under his control. The strength piling up at Izra consists of elements of the 4th Armored Division, as well as the 5th, 7th and 9thDivisions, paired with Hizballah reinforcements. They are armed with fresh Russian arms deliveries of Golan 1000 missile launchers and the new version of the Kornet D anti-tank missiles which can hit targets within a range of 8-9 km.

Our sources report that these units are preparing to drive south, knock over the rebel militias holding positions in the southeast and break through to the Syrian-Jordanian border crossing at Nasib. This is not the Syrian army’s first expedition with this goal, but hitherto they were pushed back by the rebels when the Russian command denied them air support at US and Jordanian insistence. This time, Russian intentions are unknown.
 
The US and Israeli commanders are watching the buildup at Izra with concern. Should a Syrian government force manage to fight its way through to the Jordanian border, backed by Hizballah and Iranian commanders, it would pose a threat to the US contingents posted in northern Jordan and embedded in the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi border triangle. Their presence there would be just a hop and a jump away from the Syrian Golan town of Quneitra and the Israeli border to the east, which is causing anxiety in Israel.

Iranian commander threatens Pompeo

A senior Iranian military commander on Tuesday threatened that Iranians would punch U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the mouth, a day after the top American diplomat announced that Washington would impose unprecedented sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
 
“The people of Iran should stand united in the face of this and they will deliver a strong punch to the mouth of the American Secretary of State and anyone who backs them,” Ismail Kowsari, the deputy commander of the Sarollah Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran said, as quoted by Reuters.
 
Limiting Iran’s missile capabilities was one of Pompeo’s main demands to which Kowsari said, “Who are you and America to tell us to limit the range of ballistic missiles? History has shown that with the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America is the top criminal with regard to missiles.”
 
Qassem Soleimani, the head of the branch of the Revolutionary Guards that carries out operations outside Iran’s borders, was singled out by Pompeo as a top troublemaker in the Middle East.
 
Kowsari said that the Iranian people back Soleimani.
“Soleimani is not a single person. The great people of Iran support him,” he declared, according to Reuters. READ MORE

'Our military is more prepared than ever for war'

The chief of the Iranian military warned that his country was “more prepared now than ever” for hostilities, defying the United States after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration would impose “strongest sanctions in history” on the Tehran regime.
On Monday, Pompeo unveiled the administration’s plans for new sanctions on the rogue state, warning Iran that it would be forced to either “fight to keep its economy off life support at home, or keep squandering precious wealth in fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both.”
 
Pompeo said the US would maintain the new, expanded sanctions until Tehran accepts the administration’s demands, including “unqualified access” to all suspected nuclear sites in Iran, closure of Iran’s heavy water reactor, and an end to funding for Middle East terror groups like Hezbollah.
 
A day later, a senior Iranian military commander threatened Pompeo, saying Iran would “deliver a strong punch to the mouth” of the US Secretary of State.
 
On Wednesday, Major General of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Chief of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Bagheri issued a response to Pompeo’s announcement, declaring that Iran would not “wait for the permission” of foreign powers to develop “defense capabilities” and warned that his country’s military was “more prepared than ever” for a conflict.
 
“Iranian armed forces are now, thanks to God, more prepared than ever and will not wait for the permission or approval of any power to develop defense capabilities,” Bagheri said, according to Iran’s IRNA media outlet.

The challenge of gratitude

The ambivalence of many American Jews to President Trump and his support for Israel is puzzling on one hand and downright churlish on the other.
Consider this: Jews have grown very comfortable with American presidents who promised to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American embassy to Yerushalayim, never fulfilled those promises, and kept making them anyway. It is as if Jews do not expect promises from politicians to be kept (well, maybe that is not so unusual).
But Jews have also grown very comfortable with American presidents who criticize the building of settlements in the heartland of Israel, and some who have even threatened to sanction Israel over it. And they accepted the anomaly of Jews being permitted to build in Bethel, New York or Shiloh, Tennessee but not in the original Bethel or Shiloh. That’s just the way it is – but it is strange.
 
Jews have also grown very comfortable with American presidents who either pay lip service to Israel’s right of self-defense or seek to emasculate it entirely. These presidents routinely decried Israel’s “use of disproportionate force” or urged Israel to accept with equanimity “sacrifices for peace.” The better ones embraced Israel’s right to self-defense in theory but not always in practice, urging “restraint,” caution, and a limited response so as not to offend the terrorists or jeopardize the possibilities for a lasting peace.
    
And Jews have grown very comfortable with American presidents who have endorsed and even obsessed over the partition of Israel into two states (another partition, it should be added). These presidents have seemed to feel that only the two-state illusion will bring a just and durable peace to the region. That is, only allowing a hostile and irredentist enemy sovereignty over Israel’s heartland and control of its high ground will ensure prosperity and tranquility for the Jews of the truncated State of Israel. Most American Jews were fine with that – because that is what the presidents professed (and some Israeli prime ministers led them to believe) even when the facts on the ground taught the exact opposite.
    
It bears mentioning that Jews have also grown very comfortable with American presidents who either were troubled by Arab terror (but more troubled by an Israeli response so they drew a moral equivalence between the two) or “understood” Arab terror as emanating from the frustrations of their lives. A State Department spokeswoman once attributed Arab terror to the lack of gainful employment in their communities. So these presidents demanded that Israel should understand it as well, and certainly not “overreact” to the murder and maiming of their own citizens. And we grew very accustomed to the notion that only Israel had to make substantive concessions on the road to “peace,” never the enemy who sought Israel’s dismemberment and dissolution. READ MORE

Netanyahu moves security meetings to underground bunker

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to move all security cabinet meetings from the prime minister's office to a high-tech underground secure bunker in Jerusalem which hosts the national crisis management center, Israeli officials tell me.
Why it matters: The decision comes as the threat of escalation with Iran is growing. The cold war between Israel and Iran turned hot in the last three months amid the struggle for influence in Syria. Israel increased its airstrikes against Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in Syria as part of an attempt to block and roll back Iranian military entrenchment in the war-torn country.
 
The Israeli officials said two recent security cabinet meetings were held in the secure bunker and, according to the schedules of several ministers, the next four security cabinet meetings are also set to take place in the sensitive facility.
  • Several cabinet members told me Netanyahu moved the security cabinet meetings to the underground bunker because of the fear of leaks from sensitive discussions on Syria and Iran. Staffers of cabinet ministers can't enter the facility and the ministers can't use their phones in the bunker.
  • Another reason is the fear of espionage by foreign intelligence services, as much harder to gather intelligence on meetings in the underground bunker.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

J-Street condemns Pompeo speech

J-Street, the left-wing advocacy group which bills itself as "pro-Israel and pro-peace," condemned the speech by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he laid out the Trump Administration's Iran policy.
 
“Let’s be clear: Today, it’s the US alone that is in violation of the historic JCPOA arms control agreement.. Under the guidance of his new war cabinet, the president has demanded Iran’s complete and unconditional capitulation on a maximalist list of demands – an approach that is a recipe for confrontation and war," said Dylan Williams, J-Street's vice president of government affairs.
 
“The only way now to ensure that a profoundly unfit president and his regime change-obsessed advisers cannot bring about another costly and bloody war of choice is for Congress to exercise its constitutional duty to act as a check on the president,” Williams added. “Congress must make clear that the president does not now have its authorization for the use of military force against Iran.”
 
AIPAC, the mainstream pro-Israel lobby, welcomed Pompeo's speech,
“We welcome @SecPompeo’s important speech on Iran today, in which he outlined a comprehensive US policy to prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon and to confront its regional aggression," AIPAC wrote on Twitter.
 
In his speech, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo detailed twelve steps Iran must take to reach a new agreement with the United States, including the complete dismantling of its nuclear program, the end of ballistic missile tests, the cessation of terrorism across the Middle East and around the world, and a complete withdrawal from Syria.
 
Pompeo warned that if Iran did not comply with the United States' demands, it would face the "strongest sanctions in history."

Iran Asks China to Help Save Nuclear Deal

Iran’s ambassador to China, Ali Asghar Khaji, told the South China Morning Post in remarks published Monday that he hopes China can help preserve what is left of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, following America’s withdrawal from it this month.
China is Iran’s top trading partner and is reportedly seeking to expand its political influence in the country and the larger region.
“We expect other remaining members of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, including China, to help implement and continue this deal, and fulfill their commitment and obligations according to this deal,” Khaji said last week in an interview with South China Morning Post.
He reportedly added, “If we could gain these rights and benefits from this deal we will stay in it. If these Iranian rights were not satisfied, and our interests were not reached, we will think about other options,” without mentioning what the potential other options are.
Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with China, Russia, England, France, Germany, and the European Union to discuss ways to move forward with the JCPOA without the United States.
Khaji reportedly told the Morning Post that Zarif “intentionally” stopped in Beijing before visiting other nations “because of the importance of China for us.” He added, “We expect China, as a member of the 5+1, to continue to play its positive role to implement and safeguard the nuclear deal.”
To that end, he reportedly added, “So with this positive atmosphere, we believe that, and we hope that, we can continue the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action without the United States.”
China appears to be heeding the call to get involved in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations. Reports published Sunday revealed that Chinese, European Union, and Russian diplomats have planned to meet in Vienna in the coming week to discuss ways to save the 2015 deal brokered by the former Obama administration.

IAF COMMANDER: ISRAEL FIRST TO USE F-35 JET IN COMBAT

Israel has struck targets in the Middle East with the F-35 Adir stealth fighter jet twice, Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin said Tuesday, becoming the first country to use the US-made jet in combat.

“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East. It had become part of our operational capabilities. We are the first to attack using the F-35 in the Middle East and have already attacked twice on different fronts,” he said during the IAF Senior Air Force Conference in Herzilya.

Norkin made the comments while showing a picture of one Israeli F-35 flying over the Lebanese capital of Beirut during the day. He did not mention when the picture was taken.

Israel declared initial operational capability of the world’s most advanced jet in December after receiving nine F-35s.  The Air Force is expected to receive a total of 50 planes to make two full squadrons by 2024.

With an extremely low radar signature, the F-35 is able to operate undetected deep inside enemy territory such as Iran as well as evade advanced missile defense systems like the advanced Russian-made S-300 missile defense system which Tehran announced in March had become operational.

Israel is also said to be still considering acquiring F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing jets. According to Lockheed Martin, the B variant “is designed to operate from austere bases and a range of air-capable ships near frontline combat zones. It can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways on major bases.” 

This could be crucial in times of war when air force bases - and particularly runways - run the risk of being targeted by enemy missiles and rockets. 
Current US Department of Defense plans state that Washington will acquire a total of 2,456 F-35s from the United States Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. According to Lockheed Martin, over 280 F-35 aircraft have been delivered and are operating from 15 bases around the globe with over 580 pilots and 5,600 maintainers who have been trained on the aircraft whose fleet has surpassed more than 130,000 cumulative flight hours. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Secy. of State Pompeo Sternly Warns Iran... Do you think he's SERIOUS?

Iranian electronic warfare facility blown up south of Damascus, second explosion in 4 days

Image result for images of explosionsPowerful explosions were reported early Monday, May 21, in the Naijah area south of Damascus. A Syrian military academy situated there serves as an Iranian/HIzballah intelligence war room and an Iranian electronic warfare facility. The explosions were reported by Sky News in Arabic with no official confirmation or indication of what caused them. If confirmed, this would appear to be the second pinpointed attack in four days on an Iranian military target in Syria. On May 18, fuel, arms and ammunition depots at a Syrian air base near Hama were blown up, causing massive explosions. Despite Syrian official denials, a number of Iranian officers were killed in this attack on one of Iran’s most important bases in Syria.  DEBKAfile’s military sources learned later that the attack was carried out by an unnamed ground force, which fired eight missiles at the base.

'Hamas lied, Gaza rioters died'

Hamas actively enlisted support for the violent riots and attempted infiltrations into Israeli territory along the Gaza border over the past seven weeks, and then used the ensuing violence to deceive Western leaders and media outlets, Israel’s top military spokesman has claimed in a new Wall Street Journal piece.
 
Writing in the Journal Sunday, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the IDF’s chief spokesman, detailed Hamas’ efforts to provoke clashes between Israeli security personnel and rioters on the border, paying Gazans to flood the Israel-Gaza border in an attempt to breach Israel’s security fence and force their way into Israeli territory.
 
The riots, which began on March 30th, were dubbed the “March of Return”, were organized by the High Coordination Committee for the March of Return, a body dominated by members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups.
 
Hamas, Manelis noted, bused rioters to the Israel-Gaza frontier, paying rioters $14 a person to join in the clashes. The terror group even encouraged women and children to participate, paying $100 to families which came together to the riots. The terror group even subsidized injuries – paying out $500 to those wounded while attempting to breach the Israeli border.
Meanwhile, plainclothes Hamas terrorists mingled with the crowd, inciting violence and leading armed charges of the Israeli border while carrying “machine guns, Molotov cocktails…improvised explosive devices, and grenades”.
 
While Hamas and its supporters used the resulting violence, which left more 110 rioters dead, including roughly 60 fatalities last Monday, the terror group has been surprisingly candid at times regarding the campaign to breach the Israeli border. READ MORE

'GOD LOVES YOU' Pope Francis tells gay man ‘God made you like this and loves you like this’

In a private dialogue, the Pontiff is understood to have told Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, that God loves gay people and it is fine to be homosexual.

The comments are the most striking public acceptance about homosexuality ever made by a head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The remarks were made during a private meeting at the Vatican between the pair, in which the Pope offered a heartfelt apology.
Cruz was a victim of Chile’s most notorious paedophile priest Fernando Karadima.
Father Karadima, now aged 87, was found guilty of sexual abuse by the Vatican in 2011.
Cruz claims that his suffering was ignored by a number of Latin American bishops who used his homosexuality to brand him a liar when he spoke out.
Speaking to Spanish newspaper El PaĆ­s, Cruz said: “He [the Pope] told me, ‘Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter.
“God made you like this and loves you like this and I don’t care.
“The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are.”
The Pope’s words signal a much more open and inclusive approach by the often restrictive faith – a move which will likely upset many conservative Catholics.
The Vatican has neither confirmed nor denied the comments the Pontiff’s comments to Cruz.
The Catholic Church teaches that gay sex – and all sex outside of heterosexual marriage – is a sin.
This is not the first time Pope Francis’ comments have suggested a more open and tolerant attitude toward homosexuality.
In July 2013, when responding to a reporter’s question about the existence of an alleged “gay lobby” within the Vatican, Pope Francis said: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"
The Pontiff’s most recent remarks come as several high profile members of the clergy have sought to publicly make amends with gay Catholics, many of whom say they feel shunned an d unwelcome in the church. READ MORE