Saturday, June 15, 2019

Tehran billboard shows destroyed US, Israeli ships, reads: ‘We drowned them all’

The billboard, put up in Tehran’s commercial center, shows destroyed American and Israeli ships in a “sea” made of a Palestinian keffiyehs, with an image of the Dome of the Rock in the background.

(May 29, 2019 / MEMRI) The Iranian Fars News Agency released a video this week showing a large billboard that was put up in Vali-e Asr Square in Tehran in honor of Quds Day. The video is a time lapse of the billboard being put up in Tehran’s commercial center. The billboard shows destroyed American and Israeli ships in a “sea” made of a Palestinian keffiyehs, with an image of the Dome of the Rock in the background. The billboard reads: “We Drowned Them All” in Farsi, Hebrew and English.

Iran’s secrets for pulling off sneak attacks: Surprise, precise weapons, a new cruise missile

Four secret assets account for Iran’s success in pulling off half a dozen attacks on US allies in the past month, peaking in the sabotage of two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, June 13. Those assets are listed by DEBKAfile’s military sources  

The element of surprise: Before the four tankers were sabotaged on May 12 and 14 outside the UAE port of Fujairah, no intelligence agency, whether American, Gulf Arab or Israeli, suspected this attack was coming. Intelligence data spoke of Iran activating Shiite militias to attack US military bases near the Syrian-Iraqi border, whereas four of the six hits until now targeted Gulf oil facilities and none aimed at US military targets.
Tehran managed to keep its plans hidden from the eyes of hostile spy agencies and catch them all by surprise.
High professional standards of operation:  Iranian marine and special forces units assigned to these attacks were highly proficient. Attaching limpet mines to the hulls of four tankers (in May) and detonating them in precise order, undetected by US or other forces present in the region, called for top military skills. The same applied to the rockets, which were precisely guided to explode at a point close to the US embassy in Baghdad without damaging the building. It achieved its exact purpose, which was to avoid causing harm while warning the Americans that trouble was ahead. The rockets aimed at Israeli military positions on the Hermon were likewise programed to be harmless.
The escalating stages: The initial attacks caused no casualties and no irreversible damage to the four tankers opposite Fujairah port. The next strikes against Saudi oil pipeline pumping stations delayed the flow through the east-west pipeline but the damage was quickly repaired. However, the June 13 attack on the two supertankers which caught fire in the Gulf of Oman was a dangerous escalation. Whereas Iranian soldiers were caught on video removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Japanese Kokuka Courageous to remove the evidence, witnesses aboard the tanker denied that the explosion was caused by mines and claimed it was caused by “flying objects.”
This incident is under investigation. Military experts maintain that whether it was caused by magnetic mines or a torpedo, the explosive must have been planted by saboteurs on fast boats or mini submarines, which crept up to the tankers undetected by the US, British or French warships patrolling this key international oil route. –  
Precise weaponry: All the weapons the Iranians have used hitherto have operated faultlessly, none missing their mark. DEBKA Weekly’s military sources note that until now, no one had appreciated that Iran was in possession of a weapon systems capable of hitting a target with only a 1.5-meter margin of error. It was first discovered on Wednesday, June 12, when Yemeni Houthi rebels fired Iran’s new Soumar cruise missile at the southwestern Saudi airport of Abha, directly hitting and destroying the control tower. This incident revealed that Iran had delivered this cruise missile to the Yemen rebels, or components for assembling it, so crossing another red line. The worry in the US and Israel now is that Tehran may now decide to arm its Lebanese proxy, Hizballah with the precise Soumar cruise missile, which carries half a ton of explosives and has a range of up to 2,500 kilometers.  

US lawmakers call on Merkel to blacklist Hezbollah

Four members of the US House of Representatives — two Democrats and two Republicans — have called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group, JTA reported on Friday.
The letter sent Thursday by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Grace Meng (D-NY) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) expresses concern over the failure earlier this month by the German parliament, or Bundestag, to extend a ban on Hezbollah’s military wing to its civilian arm. Deutch chairs the House’s Middle East subcommittee.
“We appreciate your government’s commitment to fighting terrorism, and we believe that taking the step to designate the political wing of Hezbollah will have a significant impact on Hezbollah’s activity in Europe and around the globe,” the letter says, according to JTA.
“Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has clearly expressed his intent to spread jihad and wipe Israel off the map,” it notes. “The threatening influence of Hezbollah extends beyond Israel and poses a tremendous risk to the security interests of Europe as a whole.”
“We support the steps that Germany has already taken by designating Hezbollah’s military wing, and believe that it is critical that Germany take into full consideration the impact that designating Hezbollah’s political wing will have on the terrorist organization’s dangerous activities,” the letter adds.
In 2013, the European Union of which Germany is a member, blacklisted Hezbollah's “military wing” as a terrorist organization, while failing to blacklist the group’s political arm.
However, EU members the Netherlands and United Kingdom consider all of Hezbollah a terrorist entity, as do the United States, Canada, Israel and even the Arab League.
The British government formally announced in February that it intends to ban the political wing of the Hezbollah terror organization, after previously having banned its military wing.
Germany later stated that it will not follow Britain’s lead, with its Minister of State Niels Annen arguing that the Shiite Muslim organization remained a relevant factor in Lebanese society.
German Jewish leaders recently called on Merkel to fully outlaw Hezbollah. Similarly, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Germany to follow in Britain’s footsteps during a recent meeting in Berlin with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

PA organizations deny firing rockets at Israel

The head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, and other senior members of the terrorist organization, insisted in a meeting on Friday with UN envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov that the Palestinian Arab factions in Gaza are not behind the two rockets that were fired at Israel this week, Channel 13 News reported.
On Thursday, a rocket from Gaza hit the building of a hesder yeshiva in the city of Sderot. There were no injuries but the building sustained damage.
A day earlier, a rocket that was fired from Gaza into Israeli territory was intercepted by the Iron Dome. There were no reports of physical injuries or damages.
According to the report, which cited the Palestinian Arab Al-Quds newspaper, Hamas officials told the UN envoy that they were investigating who was behind the rocket fire, and that they would not allow the efforts to achieve calm with Israel to fail.
The sources also noted that Haniyeh made clear to Mladenov that Hamas and the other factions want to continue the efforts to achieve calm and that they would allow time for progress to be made towards the ultimate goal of lifting the siege fully and meeting all the demands of the Palestinian people.
According to the report, Haniyeh asked Mladenov to pressure Israel to commit to the understandings of the truce and that Israel "stop reducing the fishing space over baseless excuses." In addition, Haniyeh demanded that Israel allow the entry of dual-use materials that have been banned from entering Gaza, allow the expansion of imports and exports, ease the movement of patients and traders at the Erez crossing, and not attempt to link these measures to internal disputes.
The report also said that Mladenov stressed to Haniyeh and the Hamas members that the projects agreed upon for the Gaza Strip are still being worked out, and that serious steps are being taken to implement them. He also said at the meeting that Israel was interested in peace and the implementation of the agreements. In addition, he confirmed to Haniyeh and the Hamas leadership that Qatari money would continue to be transferred to Gaza and that projects related to employment and health in Gaza would be implemented.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Video shows Iran removing unexploded mine from tanker

Iran would like the world to think that the attacks on two tankers off its Gulf coast are shrouded in uncertainty. "Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what transpired this morning," said Iran's Foreign Minister Javid Zarif in his first tweet following the brazen high-seas assault on civilian shipping.
The US thinks the matter is a lot clearer. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pinned the blame firmly on Iran, based on "intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping" and more.
Later, US Central Command released a video that claims to show an Iranian navy boat removing an unexploded mine from the hull of the Japanese-owned chemical tanker Kokura Courageous.
Let's just set aside both sides' claims for a moment and apply some logic.

Khamenei slaps America in the face by refusing to receive Trump message from Abe

Iran’s leader administered a brazen insult to the United States when he told visiting Japanese PM Shinzo Abe on Thursday, June 13, that he did not consider President Donald Trump “worthy” of an exchange of messages with him. “I do not have and will not have any response for him,” he told the Japanese prime minister, crudely knocking down his visitor’s effort to ease the spiraling US-Iranian tensions. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei went on to say that Trump’s promise not to seek regime change in Iran was “a lie” and he did not believe Washington’s offer of “honest negotiations” with Tehran. 
Not content with that insult, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif suggested that an American provocation was behind the “reported attacks on Japan-related” oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. That they took place while Japanese PM Shinzo Abe was meeting supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was “beyond suspicious,” he tweeted.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that behind Iran’s attempt to throw off suspicion for a string of attacks lies the discovery by US intelligence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were responsible for the explosions on two supertankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, just as they were for the four tankers sabotaged opposite the UAE port of Fujairah on May 12 and 14. This IRGC war plan consists of three escalating phases of aggression, targeting Gulf oil targets and US, Saudi, Israeli and other American allies in the Middle East. Masterminded by Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, it is aimed at compelling the Trump administration to lift its harsh sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports.
Thursday’s attack in the two supertankers in the Gulf of Oman signaled the start of the second stage of the program after the first failed to dent Washington’s resolve.
Our sources add that Khamenei’s decision to throw down the gauntlet puts President Trump on the spot for picking it up. Trump has until now held to his resolve to avoid a military clash with Iranian forces in the Gulf, the Middle East or in Syria. However, the all-powerful Iranian leader has raised the stakes to prove his theory that America is just a paper tiger and Iran’s strategy of belligerence will pay off and confirm its standing as the leading regional power.
Against the first round of Iranian attacks, Trump stuck to a policy of military restraint. That policy failed to hold Iran in check. Now it has been seized by Khamenei as a stick for beating Washington. If the US does not use its might to strike back, other adversaries, such as China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong un, will follow Khamenei’s example.

With glitz and glamor, Tel Aviv celebrates Mideast’s largest Pride parade

Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to take to Tel Aviv’s streets Friday, as the famously gay-friendly city put on one of the world’s larger Pride parades.
Rainbow flags flooded the streets, and organizers said some 250,000 people were expected to take part in the annual event.
The parade and accompanying festivities kicked off at 10 a.m. and were to continue until 7:30 p.m., with authorities beginning to close off streets in the city center at 8:30 a.m.
By noon tens of thousands were reportedly marching.
The march this year is being held under the slogan “The Fight for Equality,” with activists decrying continuing discrimination by the state.
Ohad Hizki, director of The Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force, said marchers hope “to bring about change in Israeli society and send a message that we need to end discrimination against the gay community and create an equal and tolerant society.
“The march itself is happy…but that is the essence of this fight…we won’t let anyone put the community in the closet.”
Hizki said that this year “over 40 parades and other events are taking place, an unprecedented number. The gay community is an inseparable part of Israeli society and we won’t let it be ignored.”
Gay couples cannot get married in Israel, though the government recognizes unions performed elsewhere. They also do not have the same rights to surrogacy as straight couples. And transgender people continue to report discrimination and have often suffered abuse in public.
Politicians in attendance included Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich, Stav Shaffir and Amir Peretz, Meretz head Tamar Zandberg and Blue and White’s Miki Haimovich, Idan Roll and Eitan Ginzburg. READ MORE

'If we wanted to develop nukes - the US couldn't stop us'

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Thursday that his country is not interested in producing nuclear weapons but, even if it were, the US would not be able to prevent Tehran from doing so.
"If [Iran] planned to produce nuclear weapons, America could not do anything,” claimed Khamenei during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to The Associated Press.
The Iranian leader also made clear to Abe that Tehran “will in no way repeat” talks with the US, according to the report.
“We have no doubt about your good will and seriousness, but ... I don’t regard [President] Trump as deserving any exchange of messages,” Khamenei told Abe.
The purpose of Abe’s visit to Iran was to discuss trade with Japan and US-Iran relations, after offering US President Donald Trump help in dealing with Iran.
The Japanese premier’s trip to Tehran comes amid increased tensions between Iran and the United States, a year after Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and imposed several rounds of crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Iran announced last month it was suspending some of its commitments under the 2015 deal in response to the US withdrawal in May of last year.
In addition, tensions between the two longtime foes has increased after Washington sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.

IDF attacks Hamas targets in Gaza

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that IDF fighter jets and aircraft targeted terror infrastructure in military compounds and a Hamas naval force military compound overnight Thursday, as part of a strike on a number of Hamas terror sites throughout the Gaza Strip.
The attack was carried out in retaliation to the rocket fire from Gaza towards southern Israel on Thursday evening.
"The IDF will continue operating against any attempt to harm Israeli civilians and holds Hamas responsible for all events transpiring within the Gaza Strip and emanating from it,” the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said in a statement.
The rocket that was fired on Thursday evening from Gaza hit the building of a hesder yeshiva in the city of Sderot.
There were no injuries but the building sustained damage.
Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz responded to the rocket attack and said, "When you occupy yourself with fishermen and the transfer of 'protection money' from Qatar, you're not solving the crisis in the Gaza envelope and you see the result in the field. So what do we do differently? First, attack with unprecedented force. Target the senior Hamas figures.”
"Afterward, we take advantage of the quiet for a diplomatic initiative with economic levers - water desalination and electricity projects and the employment of thousands of high-tech workers and laborers in Israel and Ramallah who will be dependent on the maintenance of quiet. Then we initiate a ceasefire with international mediation and don't allow Hamas to dictate it. We are obligated to do everything in order to restore the initiative to us and quiet to residents of the western Negev," added the former chief of staff.
Jewish Home chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz said, "While they stir up the 'Deal of the Century' In the air-conditioned lounges, children are running fearfully to the bomb shelters in Sderot and the Gaza envelope. We're obligated to overturn this equation and transfer the fear to the other side, to the heads of the murderous Hamas, who disrupt our lives without being held accountable."

'Next war will be worst in Israel's history'

Former IDF ombudsman Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick spoke about his meeting with Deputy Chief of Staff Eyal on a military podcast on 103FM on Friday. Zamir was a major general in the IDF during the writing of Brick's ominous report in January 2019 about the IDF's lack of readiness for a major military confrontation.
According to Brick, Zamir didn't debate the facts presented in the report. "Zamir said he accepts the fact that we are in serious trouble. He read the report, wrote down my recommendations and began implementing them, as did Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, who understood the problem even when he was deputy chief of staff."
Brick added that the committee which conducted the criticism of his report, the Ilan Harari Committee, admitted to him that he was right: "The IDF commander, Harari, told me that the facts are daunting," said Brick, who emphasized that "Harari is the IDF chief of staff's appointment and subordinate to him - so naturally he couldn't say that the army was not ready for war."
Brick strongly asserts that a significant change is required in the IDF's organizational culture. "If the army doesn't learn to accept criticism and deal with the problems, God help us," Brick said, repeating his warning that the next military campaign would be more difficult than any of its predecessors.
"The next war will be the worst in the history of Israel. Every day 1,000 to 2,000 missiles will fall, weighing as much as 100 kilograms per missile and with precision targeting capabilities," Brick warned, adding that Judea and Samaria would also become a front with thousands of armed Tanzim who will leave the Palestinian villages and shoot in all directions. "We will need infantry units on several fronts and at the moment we don't have such capabilities," concluded Brick.
And what about the political arena? According to Brick, the political situation is even worse. "I sit and talk to cabinet members, one by one, spending an hour with each one - and it turns out that they don't know the army. These are the people who make the fateful decisions - and they know almost nothing." Brick says that no one took him seriously in his meetings with cabinet members. "Ultimately the main desire of cabinet ministers is to advance in politics," he said.
In spite of the harsh attacks against him, including statements that the trauma of the Yom Kippur War has affected him and statements on social media networks which hint at Brick's insanity, Brick hasn't given up on revealing the truth about the deeply rooted problems in the IDF. "Many are worried about my health, fearing I could have a stroke or a heart attack. There aren't many people who have boldly and determinedly faced such a formidable system [as the IDF]."
"I've been through a lot of life and I've seen what happens to the state of Israel when it's not ready for war. I'm doing something right for the people of Israel - so we won't be counting our losses [after the next war]."

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Explosions on two supertankers carrying Gulf oil. Crews evacuated

The crews were evacuated from two burning super oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman after they were hit by explosions on Thursday, June 13. Both captains sent distress calls to ports in Oman and Pakistan. Iranian news sources cited local sources in Oman as saying that the explosions were caused by attacks on the tankers.

The vessels were flagged to the Marshal Islands and Panama but there was no immediate word on the ownership of the oil cargoes or their destination.
The British navy’s Maritime Trade Operations initially put out an alert for an “unspecified incident” in the Gulf of Oman and urged “extreme caution.”. The US Navy’s Bahrain based 5th Fleet responded it was aware of the incident and investigating. Meanwhile, the US Navy was extending assistance to the damaged vessels following distress calls.
The explosions come a few weeks after four other oil tankers were sabotaged off the port city of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, in an attack widely attributed to Iran.
DEBKAfile: After the first round of low-key attacks by Iran on the oil of America’s Gulf allies, its embassy in Baghdad and Israel’s Hermon posts failed to provoke the Trump administration into easing sanctions, Tehran launched a second, ramped-up round of aggression on Thursday.
Details are still awaited on the form of the attacks on the two supertankers. The four tankers sabotaged at Fujairah had remote-controlled limpet mines attached to their hulls by frogmen. The successive explosions in the Gulf of Oman also point to the use of some form of remotely-controlled explosive device.

PM: Israel will strike first, not wait to be attacked

Israel will act preemptively and will not wait for its enemies to attack, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.
Speaking at a state memorial ceremony for former President Ephraim Katzir at the Rehovot cemetery, Netanyahu said: "The chain of tests that we are dealing with is unending. We respond vigorously and with force to all attacks against us; however, we do not take action only after the fact. We deny the enemy's capabilities before the fact. We are acting methodically and consistently to prevent our enemies from establishing offensive bases against us in our vicinity."
The prime minister's statements followed reports from Syrian media of Israeli airstrikes in southern Syria overnight.
According to the reports, the Israeli attack targeted the town of Tell al-Hara, located in the Daraa region, a strategic point overlooking the Golan Heights.
It was also reported that there were no injuries in the attack but that damage was caused to buildings. In addition, Syria claims that Israel used technological means to disrupt radar systems during the attack.

Erdogan: S-400 purchase a 'done deal'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey has already bought the Russian S-400 missile defense systems and that is a done deal.
“I'm not saying Turkey will buy S-400 defense systems, it has already bought them; we’ve closed the deal,” Erdogan told his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s group meeting in Ankara, according to the Anadolu news agency.
He noted that Ankara and Moscow signed the deal with a pledge for a reasonable price and future joint production.
“It is coming in a short time,” Erdogan added.
On Friday, the head of Russian state conglomerate said that Russia would start deliveringthe S-400 missile systems to Turkey in two months.
Turkey’s decision to purchase the Russian system has resulted in tensions with the United States.
Washington says the S-400 poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy.
The US also believes the S-400 sale is part of Russian efforts to disrupt the alliance amid Western concern over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's burgeoning relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Last week, US officials said that the United States has decided to stop accepting any additional Turkish pilots who planned to come to the United States to train on F-35 fighter jets due to the S-400 purchase.
Touching on Turkey’s procurement of F-35 fighter jets from the US, Erdogan said on Wednesday his country is not only a customer, but also co-producer of the jets.
Turkish officials insist that the deal to purchase the S-400 does not affect the security of the US and have repeatedly stressed that they will go ahead with the deal despite Washington’s objections.