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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Iran heats war rhetoric to cover up military buildup in Syria

Tehran is drumming up an oral war of attrition against Israel as a ruse to deter the IDF from striking the military hardware and personnel flowing into Syria.
Iran is pouring out violent threats in a rising crescendo against the Jewish state for two goals: One is to keep Israel off-balance and frozen in a high defense posture on its northern borders; and two, to con Israel into fearing that any IDF action would tip over into an all-out conflict. This stratagem allows Tehran to keep up a continuous stream of hardware and personnel into Syria and Lebanon free of hindrance by Israel’s air force and missiles, and so anchor its military presence in both of Israel’s northern neighbors.
Tension between Tehran and Jerusalem has been high since April 9, when an Israel air strike knocked out a Revolutionary Guards air force command center at the Syrian T-4 air base. But, apart from blistering threats of retaliation, Iran has none nothing. Israel celebrated its Independence Day under clear skies, although the following day, Friday, April 20, the Guards deputy commander Gen. Hossein Salami warned that Iran’s hand “was on the trigger of its missiles” and Israel’s air bases were “within reach.” But Tehran sees an opportunity for taking a high tone against Israel following three developments:
  1. The missile strike conducted by the US, the UK and France on Syrian chemical sites on April 14 was a letdown. And also, against expectations, the Western attack avoided Iranian targets, although Hizballah and other pro-Iranian forces played a central role in the Syrian conquest of East Ghouta and its use of chemical weapons. Saudi sources put out a report on Friday alleging that 15 Iranian officers were killed in the missile strike. There are no grounds for this report and it appears to have been designed for home consumption.
  2. President Donald Trump repeatedly asserts that he is determined to pull American troops out of Syria as soon as possible. This gift is a boon for Tehran’s goals. It will remove the main obstacle, a US military presence along the Syrian-Iraq border, that impedes the transfer of pro-Iranian Shiite militias from Iraq into Syria and the creation of a continuous land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean. In celebration of its effortless gain, reports appeared on Saturday that Iran, Iraq and Syria had undersigned a project for building a 1,700km highway from Tehran to Damascus via Baghdad that will be ready for traffic in two years.
  3. Moscow and Jerusalem are at loggerheads over Syria after a long period of amity. Tehran has taken note of President Vladimir Putin’s recent warning to Israel that its air force operations in Syria would no longer have the freedom previously enjoyed. Putin has therefore removed another big obstacle from Tehran’s goals. Iran will make every effort to deepen the rift. READ MORE

Russian FM: Putin, Trump, won't allow a war

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday morning said Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump will not allow the tension between their countries to turn into a military confrontation or war.
 
"If we're talking about the risk of warfare, I'm 100% certain that the militaries [of both countries] will not allow that, and obviously Putin and President Trump will not allow it," Lavrov told the RIA Novosti news agency.
 
"At the end of the day, they are leaders, who were chosen by their people, and they are responsible for their nations' welfare."
 
Earlier this week, Lavrov told BBC that Russia is "losing the last remnants of trust" that it had with the US, but emphasized that the trust level is "not yet zero."
 
He also echoed Trump's words, saying the relationship between Russia and the US is "worse" than it was during the Cold War, since "there were channels of communication and there was no obsession with Russophobia." Now, he said, the channels of communication are significantly decreased.

Preparations for US Embassy move completed

Israel and the US have nearly completed the preparations necessary to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
 
The historic move is scheduled for May 14.
 
Among the preparations are road signs, as well as an access road for the Embassy built behind the current US Consulate.
 
The new Embassy will be an interim embassy facility in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem, converting what is currently used as a US consulate into a temporary embassy. It will house US Ambassador David Friedman's office, and a small portion of the staff currently located at the embassy in Tel Aviv.
 
The Arnona compound will be expanded, with the addition of a new annex, likely by the end of 2019.
 
On Thursday, a report claimed that US President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner would represent the administration at the Embassy's opening ceremony.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Russia sends warship through the English Channel as tensions mount...

Yaroslav Mudry measures 129m long and is complete with anti-ship missiles, guns and torpedoes. But HMS St Albans, a Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate, wasn't far away, having been activated earlier this week and was keeping a close eye on the Russian warship. The frigate is the Royal Navy's very high readiness ship, charged with guarding UK waters.
The vessel is equipped with a Merlin helicopter from Culdrose-based 829 Naval Air Squadron and state-of-the-art radar. Commander John Cromie, the Commanding Officer of HMS St Albans, said: "As the Royal Navy’s high readiness unit in UK waters, we are the first responders to any potential incursion into UK waters and are highly trained in this role.
"Our activation today in response to the passage of a Russian warship close to the UK resulted in a cordial interaction between professional sailors based on the recognised conventions at sea.
"We are always standing ready, as is the rest of the fleet, to defend UK waters and UK sovereignty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."
It is not the first time that the HMS St Albans has been called in to watch over a Russian warship.
She was dispatched on December 23 to intercept the Admiral Gorshkov as it passed close to UK territorial waters.
At the time, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I will not hesitate in defending our waters or tolerate any form of aggression. (Read More)

Iranian general: Our hands on the trigger, your airbases within reach. Netanyahu: We are ready

Iran’s leaders used their Friday sermons to double down on their threatening invective against Israel, the day after its April 19 Independence Day celebrations. They chose a particularly hardline Revolutionary Guards general, vice commander Hossein Salami, to indicate that they meant business:  The promised military punishment was on the way for Israel’s air strike on the Syrian T-4 base on April 9, the deaths of seven Guards officers and the knocking out of their airspace command in Syria.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu replied: We hear the threats from Iran. The IDF and the security forces are ready for any development.”  Addressing a festive post-Independence Day cabinet meeting, he said: “We will fight whoever tries to harm us. We are not put off by the price and will exact a cost from those who want to harm us…  the people will stand strong.”

Since Iran stepped up its bellicose rhetoric, Israel’s defense deployments on the Syrian and Lebanon borders were substantially beefed up and its air force placed on alert to meet a possible Iranian reprisal for its T-4 attack. Intelligence analysts have advised the government that the threats are to be taken seriously. Although the national holidays of Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence passed without security incidents, the military maintained a high level of preparedness.
 
By his two Twitter messages, the Iranian general Friday brought the threating rhetoric to a new level: “Don’t have hope in US and UK; when they arrive, you won’t be there… Smallest goal will be your existence. You can’t bear. When you escape, you’ll have no way but to the sea.” In an earlier tweet Salami warned, “Hands are on the trigger and missiles are ready and will be launched at any moment that enemy has a sinister plot… North and west of Israel are at the intersection of fire; you will not escape. You live in the dragon’s mouth.”

Iran warns of 'unpleasant' response if U.S. leaves nuclear deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the United States on Thursday of “unpleasant” consequences if it pulls out of the 2015 nuclear deal, Reuters reported.
 
“Iran has several options if the United States leaves the nuclear deal. Tehran’s reaction to America’s withdrawal of the deal will be unpleasant,” Zarif said upon his arrival in New York.
President Donald Trump, who has blasted the 2015 nuclear deal as “the worst deal ever negotiated”, in January decided to extend a waiver on nuclear sanctions that were imposed on Iran.
 
However, he made clear it was the last time he would extend the waiver and has given the European signatories a May 12 deadline to “fix the terrible flaws” of the deal.
 
Trump sees three defects in the deal: a failure to address Iran’s ballistic missile program; the terms under which international inspectors can visit suspect Iranian nuclear sites; and “sunset” clauses under which limits on the Iranian nuclear program start to expire after 10 years. Trump wants all three strengthened if the United States is to stay in the deal.
The EU is eager to safeguard the pact, under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear ambitions for at least a decade.
 
Seeking to respond to Trump’s criticism of the nuclear accord and Tehran more broadly, France, Britain and Germany proposed directing sanctions at Iranian “militias and commanders” fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, but have failed to convince their partners to agree to the move.
 
Iran has said it will stick to the accord as long as the other parties respect it, but threatened to “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out.

Netanyahu on Israel’s 70th Anniversary: Jewish State Becoming World Power

The Times of Israel reports: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a fiery address at a torch-lighting ceremony marking Israel’s 70th Independence Day, declared that the Jewish state is becoming a “world power” and said its light will overcome its enemies’ “darkness.”
“We’re turning Israel into a rising world power,” Netanyahu said at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem before lighting a torch on behalf of all the governments of Israel since the founding of the state.
The prime minister thanked US President Donald Trump for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy to the holy city next month. Alluding to unprecedentedly bellicose rhetoric from Iran, the prime minister vowed that no one would “extinguish” Israel’s “light.”