Saturday, May 26, 2018
Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said Friday that if war breaks out with Israel, Hizbullah will prevail.
In a speech to mark the 18th anniversary of the Israeli pullout from southern Lebanon, Nasrallah said that "From 1982 to 2000, [Hizbullah's] abilities were rather modest."
"We are not interested in war with Israel," said Nasrallah, "but if such a war breaks out, we will win."
"Israel violates our airspace every day," he complained. "Yesterday, it bombed Syria from Lebanese airspace. Where is the sovereignty?"
Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin announced on Tuesday that Israel was the first country to use the F-35 stealth fighter on attack missions in the Middle East and that it has "already attacked twice on different fronts.”
He made the comments during the IAF Senior Air Force Conference in Herzliya, while showing a picture of an Israeli F-35 flying over the Lebanese capital of Beirut in daytime.
Iran will pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal unless it receives concrete guarantees that the economic incentives of the pact will be protected by the other parties following the U.S. decision to withdraw, a senior Iranian official said Friday.
"We are still complying but we have not decided whether to yet to stay in the deal or not," the official told a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity, according to The Associated Press.
"It depends on the remaining JCPOA participants, if they can actually compensate for the absence of the United States in the deal," said the official, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as the deal is known.
The other signatories to the deal met on Friday for the first time without the U.S. after Iran called for an urgent meeting of the body in Vienna, reported AP. Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to the deal, and the Iranian delegation emerged saying they were more confident than before, and made no mention of timelines.
President Donald Trump announced earlier this month that he would pull out of the Iran deal and would reimpose sanctions on the Islamic Republic that were frozen as part of the agreement.
While Trump withdrew from the Iran deal and announced he would reimpose sanctions on Iran, the European Union did not follow suit, and said it would remain in the agreement and will do so “as long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments, as it is doing so far.”
Speaking ahead of the Vienna talks, the Iranian official said that for his country to stay in the deal, the sanctions relief that it was granted would have to be guaranteed by the other parties involved and that Tehran needs specifics on how that will happen by the end of May.
Tehran will make its final decision in a "few weeks", said the official, who added that in theory the deal can survive without the U.S., but acknowledged "in practice I'm not sure."
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said recently that the European signatories to the agreement are talking about solutions to keep the deal alive but also indicated that the EU cannot provide legal and economic guarantees to Iran.
A senior official in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been asleep for the past 40 years if he thinks Iran will bend to America’s demand that they withdraw from Syria.
Dublin (AFP) - Ireland looks set to "make history" by liberalising some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said as votes in the hard-fought referendum were counted Saturday.
The proposal to repeal the constitutional ban on terminations was predicted to win by a more than two-thirds majority, according to both exit polls.
A survey of 4,000 voters for The Irish Times newspaper put the pro-choice camp ahead by 68 percent to 32 percent, while a second exit poll of 3,800 voters by national broadcaster RTE put the margin at 69 percent to 31 percent.
"Democracy in action. It's looking like we will make history," Varadkar wrote on Twitter following a divisive and often emotional campaign.
The result looks set to be another hammer blow to the Roman Catholic Church's authority in Ireland, coming three years after referendum voters backed legalising same-sex marriage by 62 percent.
In what was traditionally one of the most religious countries in Europe, the Church's influence has waned in recent years following a series of child sex abuse scandals.
The referendum comes three months before a visit by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families.
The Irish Times survey suggested women voted by 70 percent in favour of the proposal and men by 65 percent. READ MORE
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Trump-Pompeo steps against Iran, widely criticized as unrealistic, are a calculated strategy partnered by Israel, with Moscow’s partial hush hush support. DEBKA Weekly in its coming issue out next Friday, May 25, uncovers these under-the-radar steps in exclusive detail and outlines the respective roles, never before published, that Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Binyamin Netanyahu and Bashar Assad are playing in the evolving drive to evict Iran from Syria.
The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on several Iranian and Turkish companies and a number of aircraft in a move targeting four Iranian airlines, Reuters reported.
The companies targeted were linked to Mahan Air and Meraj Air, the Treasury Department said in a statement. It also said it was targeting a number of their aircraft, as well as aircraft from Caspian Airlines and Pouya Air.
The United States said the airlines had ferried weapons, fighters and money to proxies in Syria and Lebanon. Washington also threatened sanctions against those granting landing rights and providing services to the aircraft.
“The deceptive practices these airlines employ to illegally obtain services and U.S. goods is yet another example of the duplicitous ways in which the Iranian regime has operated,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Washington also targeted three individuals, one from Turkey and two from Iran, who it said were linked to the airlines and aviation firms, according to Reuters.
The sanctions are the latest in a series of sanctions imposed by the U.S. in recent weeks, since it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers.
Earlier this week, the United States imposed sanctions on five Iranians with links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s central bank governor and an Iraq-based bank for “moving millions of dollars” for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard.
Before that, the Treasury imposed sanctions against six individuals and three companies it said were funneling millions of dollars to the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force.
Gaza rioters flying firebombs attached to kites into Israeli territory sparked three fires in Israel.
Firefighters succeeded in gaining control of two of the fires - in the Kissufim Forest and in Be'eri - at approximately 3:00p.m. The third fire, however, is still blazing.
Ten firefighting teams are working to gain control of the blazes. No injuries have been reported, but there is significant damage.
The kites are intended to "to burn the farm
land," "destabilize, creating confusion," and cause "burned crops."
Earlier this week, the Israeli government offered farmers financial incentives to harvest their grains early, in order to reduce the risk of kite terror damaging the crops. However, early harvesting means the grains will have to undergo additional procedures to wick the moisture out.
Meanwhile, the IDF is experimenting with using drones to stop some of the firebomb-carrying kites before they reach the Israeli border.
MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), who serves as a member of Israel's Diplomatic-Security Cabinet, called on the government to respond to the kite terror by eliminating Hamas leaders.
"To respond to this kite terror, we need to hit the head. We need to hit the heads of Hamas, with targeted eliminations," he said. "They said there's someone responsible in Gaza? So he can pay the price."
"In addition to the suffering and the enormous agricultural damage, these fires also endanger lives. In order to prevent them, we need to attack and deter, just like we would respond to shootings or any other terror attack. We are responsible for the security of the citizens living in Israeli towns near Gaza, and in every other area."
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Warplanes from the U.S.-led international coalition targeted two Syrian army positions in the eastern Syrian desert overnight Wednesday, Reuters reported, citing a military media unit run by the Hezbollah group.
The unit, a Damascus ally, said the strikes took place near T2, an energy installation located near the border with Iraq and about 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of the Euphrates river where the coalition is backing ground forces against Islamic State (ISIS).
A spokesman for the coalition could not be immediately reached by phone and Syrian state media did not immediately report the strikes.
In April, the United States, Britain, and France attacked eight pre-selected targets in Syria. The strikes came in response to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians in Douma.
Later in April, seven Iranian personnel were killed in an early morning strike on the T-4 airbase in Homs. Iran accused Israel of being behind that air strike, as did the Syrian regime and Russia.
Eastern Syria was mostly held by ISIS until last year, when two rival campaigns, one by the Syrian army backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, the other by Kurdish and Arab militias backed by the U.S. coalition, took most of its land.
Communication between Russia and the United States averted most clashes between them. However, the coalition has struck Syrian pro-government forces that it said were attempting to attack coalition positions, noted Reuters.
One such incident came last June, when the coalition brought down a Syrian army aircraftin southern Raqa.
The U.S. military later confirmed that the coalition had shot down a Syrian military aircraft, saying the plane was downed "in collective self-defense of Coalition-partnered forces.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned on Wednesday that the U.S. government would be defeated like former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein if it attacks Iran, Reuters reported, citing Iranian state TV.
“The American leaders ... have got this message that if they attack Iran, they will encounter a fate similar to that of Saddam Hussein,” the elite Guards said in a statement.
Iran has upped its rhetoric against the United States in recent days, after President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington would impose unprecedented sanctions against the Islamic Republic, further raising the ire of Iranian officials.
A senior Iranian military commander threatened Pompeo on Tuesday, saying Iran would “deliver a strong punch to the mouth” of the Secretary of State.
On Wednesday, Iranian commander 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 the IRNA news agency.
Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, informed the Security Council that Iran had conducted two additional ballistic missile tests in January 2018 in violation of Resolution 2231.
“On 2 January 2018, Iran launched a SHAHAB 3 variant at the CHA-BAHAR (South East Iran) firing range. On 5 January 2018, Iran launched a Scud variant from a firing range 110 km North East of Kerman. Both the SHAHAB 3 and Scud missiles are Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) category one ballistic missiles, capable of delivering a nuclear payload of 500 kilograms for a range of over 300 kilometers."
Danon stressed that Iran's activities violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and that these launches were "part of a series" of Iranian violations over the past year, including rocket fire into Israel from Syrian territory and the infiltration of a drone into Israel's airspace.
“Iran continues to ignore its obligations to the international community and further destabilize the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and the Gaza Strip. Its activities pose a direct threat to Israel and the entire region. The Security Council must remain vigilant in the face of Iranian aggression,” Ambassador Danon concluded.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has defended reported comments by Pope Francis to a gay Chilean man that “being gay doesn’t matter,” saying they represent “conservative” Catholic teaching.