Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Iran Threatens Israel: Tel Aviv Will Be 'Leveled To The Ground' If Israel Attacks


Iran threatens to 'level Tel Aviv,' kill Netanyahu if Israel attacks



Tel Aviv will be “leveled to the ground” if Israel attacks Iran, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not escape with his life, a senior official in the Islamic republic’s regime threatened.
His comments came in response to Netanyahu’s speech on Sunday at the Munich Security Conference, in which the prime minister brandished a piece of an Iranian drone downed in Israeli airspace and threatened direct military action against Iran.
“About Netanyahu’s unwise words, I should say that if they carry out the slightest unwise move against Iran, we will level Tel Aviv to the ground,” Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council and former chief of the country’s Revolutionary Guards, told the Hezbollah-affiliated Arabic-language al-Manar TV channel Monday.
Adding a personal threat to the Israeli leader’s life, Rezaei added that Tehran “will not give Netanyahu any opportunity to flee,” Fars News reported.
Netanyahu singled out Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in his speech at the security conference, as he lifted up a piece of the drone’s wreckage.
The flareup on the northern border marked the first direct confrontation between the Israeli air force and the Iranian regime on Israeli territory. 

Israel has warned of growing Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria and has said it will not abide an Iranian military presence on its borders.

Dismissing Netanyahu’s address as a “theatrical move and a childish game,” Rezaei claimed that “US and Israeli leaders don’t know Iran and don’t understand the power of resistance, and therefore they continuously face defeat.
“Today, the situation of the US and Israel indicates their fear of the Zionist regime’s collapse and of the US’s decline,” he added.
The comment echoed Zarif’s response to Netanyahu in Munich, downplaying the drone stunt as a “cartoonish circus” and saying it “doesn’t deserve the dignity of a response.”

Israel has been warning for years that Iran is seeking to entrench itself militarily in Syria. 

According to Israeli political and military assessments, Tehran, which has shored up dictator Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, has been working to create air and naval bases in Syria, from which it can arm the Lebanon-based terror organization Hezbollah and other Shiite groups, as well as carry out attacks of its own against the Jewish state.


On Monday, a senior IDF general warned that the chances of war were higher than ever for 2018 in light of the battlefield victories in the Syrian civil war by Assad and his allies Iran and Hezbollah.
“The year 2018 has the potential for escalation [of military conflict], not necessarily because either side wants to initiate it, but because of a gradual deterioration. This has led us to raise the level of preparedness,” Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, head of IDF Operations, told Army Radio in a rare interview.


Lebanon: Russia's New Outpost In The Middle East?





Lebanon: Russia's New Outpost in the Middle East?




After gaining naval and air bases in Syria, Russia may now be setting its sights on Lebanon.
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered Russia's Defense Ministry to seek a military cooperation agreement with Lebanon.
Moscow wants Lebanese ports to be open to visits by Russian warships and Lebanese airports to be transit points for Russian warplanes, according to the Arabic-language edition of Russian media site Sputnik News (Google English translation here). 
The agreement would cover a broad range of activities, including joint exercises, counterterrorism cooperation and Russian trainers for the Lebanese military.
Interestingly, while the Arabic edition of Sputnik News reported the Russian plan, no mention could be found in the English-language editions of several Russian publications. Nor in mainstream Arab news media such as Al Jazeera or Lebanon’s The Daily Star.
However, the Russian plan was reported by pro-Iranian publications such as al-Mayadeen—which is considered close to Hezbollah—and the Hezbollah-affiliated site al-Manar (Google English translations here and here).

What's going on? A Russo-Lebanese military agreement is notable because unlike neighboring Syria, Lebanon and its military have been oriented toward the West. While the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) do use some Russian weapons such as tanks and rifles, in 2008 the LAF turned down offered Moscow's offer of ten free MiG-29 fighters. 

Most equipment is American and Western European, including M60 and M48 tanks, M113 armored personnel carriers and TOW antitank missiles. According to Security Assistance Monitor, the Obama and Trump administrations sent more than $357 million in arms to Lebanon since 2008. Some of the hardware included to Lebanon includes M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and an upcoming sale of six MD-530G attack helicopters to aid in the country’s fight against ISIS. 

American support for the country continues in spite of accusations that the LAF has become an auxiliary of Hezbollah—which would mean that Washington is effectively arming its enemies.

But the more pressing question is whether Lebanon will become another Russian ally like Syria. Damascus provided the naval base of Tartus during the Cold War, giving Moscow a friendly port on the Mediterranean. Now, Russian troops and aircraft are based in Syria in support of the Assad government, which recently agreed to allow nuclear-powered Russian warships to operate out of Tartus.

And what does Lebanon get? "They want a protective umbrella against Israel," says Tony Badran, a researcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. And just as important, Beirut could use the prospect of a Russo-Lebanese military treaty to induce the United States to offer more aid.










US troops must immediately shut down their zone of control in southern Syria in the area of Al-Tanf, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested when asked what should be done to help the Syrian peace settlement.

Lavrov was referring to an area on Syria’s border with Jordan and Iraq, which the US declared to be under its protection last year. Among other things, it contains the Rukban refugee camp. 

The facility is apparently used by radical militants, including members of UN-designated terrorist group best known by its former name Al-Nusra Front, to recover and raid other parts of Syria, Lavrov said at the Valdai Club conference on the Middle East in Moscow. The US is turning a blind eye to such abuses of its protection, he added.

“Inside the Al-Tanf zone, which the Americans unilaterally declared under their protection, and inside the refugee camp jihadists are regularly reported to recover strength. On several occasions they conducted raids from there into other territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. This zone must be shut down immediately,” the Russian minister said.

The minister added Russia has mounting evidence that the US has no intention to oppose this jihadist group in earnest.


The response came after a question from the think tank International Crisis Group about what “Russia could do more” in Syria to prevent an escalation of violence there, particularly between Iran and Israel. Lavrov said the question should be “what the US could refrain from doing” in Syria and that the answer was “stop playing dangerous games” and cease trying to partition the nation.



Lavrov also commented on the situation in the southwestern part of Syria on the border with Jordan and Israel – which was designated as a “de-escalation zone” by Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran – and Israel’s interests in Syria.

Israel accuses Iran of using proxy forces to seize control of parts of southern Syria, including those along the border, and has threatened to use military force to reverse the situation.


The Russian diplomat added that the US carving out the Al-Tanf area was the exact opposite – a unilateral move that no other party agreed to.



'Nightmare Scenario': Direct Confrontation Between Israel And Hezbollah, Lebanese Army Chief Vows To Confront 'Israeli Aggression'



U.N. chief warns of nightmare scenario if Israel, Hezbollah clash



United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday he was worried about the possibility of a direct confrontation between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

Guterres said the latest signals from Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah showed the will to not let this happen but "sometimes a spark is enough to unleash this kind of a conflict."


Hezbollah said last week it could act against Israeli oil facilities if necessary in an Lebanon-Israel offshore energy dispute. US diplomats have been mediating between the two countries after a rise in tensions also involving a dispute over a border wall and Hezbollah's growing arsenal.

"I am deeply worried about hard-to-foresee escalations in the whole region," Gutteres told reporters in his native Lisbon, also referring to Israel's concerns about various militia groups in Syria approaching its borders.

"The worst nightmare would be if there is a direct confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah... the level of destruction in Lebanon would be absolutely devastating, so there are major points of concern around this situation."


The powerful Shi'ite movement is part of Lebanon's coalition government. Israel sees Hezbollah as the biggest security threat on its borders.

Hezbollah was formed in the 1980s as a resistance movement against Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon. The two remain bitter enemies but there has been no major conflict between them since a month-long war in 2006.









The Lebanese army commander has vowed to “confront any Israeli aggression, whatever that costs” amid increasing tensions over a border barrier Israel is building and a dispute over offshore gas.
“I affirm again our categorical rejection of the Israeli enemy infringing on Lebanon’s sovereignty and its sacred right to exploit all its economic resources,” Reuters quoted Lebanese army quoted General Joseph Aoun as saying.
“The army will not spare any method available to confront any Israeli aggression, whatever that costs,” he said.

US acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield has been in the region in recent days trying to mediate between Israel and Lebanon.

The dispute is centered around a border wall the IDF is constructing along the boundary between the two countries, contested rights to offshore natural gas exploration, and Israeli warnings that Iran — through its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah — is turning the country into a forward base to manufacture rockets and attack the Jewish state.

Hezbollah, a powerful terror group considered to have more military clout than the Lebanese army itself, recently threatened to open fire on IDF soldiers building the barrier, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported.

The message was delivered to Jerusalem via UNIFIL, the report said. The UN force, fearing a possible escalation, passed the message on to the US and French ambassadors, who updated the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on the matter.




Munich Conference: 'For The First Time In Decades We are Facing Threat Of Nuclear Conflict'



Munich Conference: "For The First Time In Decades We Are Facing Threat Of Nuclear Conflict"


Over the past fifty years, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) has traditionally reflected the current state of world military affairs. Each February, more than 450 senior decision-makers from around the globe descend into Munich, Germany, to discuss current and future security challenges.
And while there have been times in recent years when the MSC demonstrated signs of hope and optimism, none of that was evident this year. This year’s motto “To the Brink – and Back?”- which seems to be an accurate portrayal of the current geopolitical situations in most regions. 
After several days of senior decision-makers bickering back and forth, the negativity in the atmosphere only means one thing: A global conflict between nuclear superpowers is lingering.
“I was hoping when I opened this conference on Friday that, in concluding the conference, I would be able to say we can delete the question mark. In other words: ‘We are back from the brink,'” former German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger said in closing remarks of the MSC. “I’m actually not sure we can say that,” he added.
The dangers of nuclear proliferation and talk of a “dire” global security situation dominated the security conference: from the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine, to U.S. allegations of Russia’s election-meddling, to territorial disputes between ex-Soviet republics, and even discussions about the escalating tensions between Israel and Iran: geopolitical doom and gloom was not short in all conversations during the meeting.
And, in the latest escalation, Bloomberg reports that the most fiery subject of the conference were the tensions surrounding Russia and the U.S over nuclear arms controls.
Addressing a conference hall in Munich packed with dignitaries, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the risks emanating from North Korea’s nuclear activities, which have ratcheted up tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.
"For the first time since the end of the Cold War, we are now facing a nuclear threat, a threat of a nuclear conflict," Guterres told the gathering in the southern Bavarian city.
Conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger opened the event by warning that the world has moved too close to a “major interstate conflict” and faces a “dire reality.”
“We have too many unresolved crises, instabilities, and conflicts,” Ischinger warned.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov fired a shot at President Trump’s new 74-page nuclear doctrine calling for a modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal.
And, if that long-range missile pact isn’t prolonged and the INF collapses, “you have a situation where there are no limits on Russian and American nuclear forces,” said Steven Pifer, a former top State Department official and arms control expert, quoted by Bloomberg. In addition, Russia and the U.S. would stop exchanging data on each other’s nuclear arsenals and permitting regular inspections. “It would be less predictable, less secure, less stable,” Pifer said.
Russia would then likely respond to any U.S. move to station land-based intermediate-range missiles in Europe by deploying similar missiles to target “all the bases where these weapons will be,” said Igor Korotchenko, director of the Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade in Moscow.
“And the U.S. can’t stay safe over the ocean - we’ll create the same risk for the U.S. as they do for us in Europe,” he said.
In short: a full blown nuclear arms race coupled with Cold War 2.0.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Israel Warns Gaza's Of More Severe Response To Protests



After IED attack, Israel warns Gazans of more severe response to protests



Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians on Monday warned Gazans that the army will respond more aggressively to riots along the security fence, after four soldiers were injured Saturday by an improvised explosive device that was apparently placed there during such a demonstration.
“We know that the violent clashes on the border are used as cover for terrorist activity, as happened last Saturday. And we will not allow such an event to happen again,” Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told Palestinians in an Arabic video on social media.
“Let it be clear: Beginning today, the IDF will take tough and determined action against rioters along the Strip’s border,” he said.
On Saturday, four IDF soldiers were wounded when an explosive device was detonated next to them along the Gaza Strip security fence near the city of Khan Younis. Two of the soldiers were taken to a hospital in serious condition and two were moderately hurt.
The soldiers set off the explosive while removing a flag that had been left near the border fence during the demonstration, the latest in several months of violent weekly riots along the border.


The Saturday explosion, the most significant event in terms of Israeli casualties along the Gaza Strip border since the 2014 war, set off a round of intense fighting over the weekend.

Immediately following the IED attack, an Israeli tank fired a shell at an observation post, in response to the attack, the army said.

Later that evening, terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched a rocket that hit a house in a nearby Israeli community, causing damage but no injury.

In response to both the IED and rocket attack, the IDF conducted a series of airstrikes and artillery shellings, hitting a total of 18 targets in the Gaza Strip.

A second rocket Sunday night was also followed by an Israeli air raid early Monday morning.
Among the targets hit was an attack tunnel near the Kerem Shalom Crossing, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday.
An army spokesperson called the IED attack “a serious incident that aimed at destabilizing the region.”

The official told reporters that the patrol — made up of soldiers from the Golani Brigade and the Combat Engineering Corps — stopped along the border to remove a flag that had been placed at the fence a day earlier during a protest, and that a device planted below the flag then detonated.

This type of IED — one disguised as a flag staff — had been used against Israeli troops in the past and is a design that soldiers in the Southern Command are specifically trained to handle, according to the head of the command’s training base, Lt. Col. Liron Aroch.
Last week, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned ministers during a cabinet meeting that Israel could soon face another war with Gaza-based terror group Hamas, as a result of the deteriorating humanitarian and economic conditions in the coastal enclave.