Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Israel in talks with Saudi, UAE, Bahrain for defense alliance against Iran

Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have discussed expanding cooperation in facing common enemies, an Israeli official familiar with the matter said Monday.

The matter is being “informally discussed,” the source said, adding that the countries are US allies. All four believe a nuclear Iran would be a major threat and have been eyeing the Biden administration’s plan to rejoin the 2015 
nuclear deal with concern.

“There is much to be gained by expanding cooperation,” the source said.
The remarks came following an article by World Jewish Congress president Ron Lauder in Arab News calling for a “NATO of the Middle East.”
Saudi Arabia does not have a free press, and Arab News, an English-language daily newspaper published in Saudi Arabia, is owned by Prince Turki bin Salman Al Saud, a son of King Salman and brother of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and is seen as reflecting the Saudi government’s official views.
Lauder said his contacts in Arab states viewed Israel as the only reliable ally against Iran, and vice versa. They are “contemplating, aghast, the West’s inability to halt these belligerent, dangerous developments” of Iran resuming uranium enrichment and limiting International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors’ access to nuclear sites, he said.

“Facing the accelerating threat of a malevolent Iran and the weakness of a coronavirus-hit world, the path toward self-reliance seems also to be the only path forward,” Lauder wrote. “Israelis and Arabs should seize the opportunity to work together to save the Middle East from the looming catastrophe of extremism and nuclearization.” READ MORE

European countries to seek condemnation of Iran

A version of the resolution seen by the news agency "expresses serious concern at Iran's decision to stop implementing" some inspections-related commitments and "urges Iran to immediately resume implementation".

The resolution will be proposed at a meeting of the UN body's board of governors and is expected to be voted upon on Friday.

Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.

Last week, the Islamic Republic ended the implementation of the Additional Protocol of the 2015 nuclear deal that allows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out snap-inspections at sites not declared to the agency.

This move raised the ire of Britain, France and Germany, which have been trying to work towards having US President Joe Biden rejoin the nuclear deal.

The three European countries condemned Iran for limiting inspections, saying, "We urge Iran to stop and reverse all measures that reduce transparency and to ensure full and timely cooperation with the IAEA.”

Satellite images show North Korea hiding nuclear weapon site

North Korea has recently taken steps to conceal a site likely being used to store nuclear weapons, CNN reported Tuesday.

CNN announced that it has obtained satellite images captured on February 11th which show recent work done at the Yongdoktong site, where Western intelligence agencies believe Pyongyang is storing nuclear weapons.

Experts who analyzed the images say the work done to the site appears to be aimed at obscuring from view a pair of underground tunnel entrances which lead to the nuclear weapons facility.

"Images released by Maxar show the pair of tunnel entrances as late as December 2019 and a new building-like structure visible by February 2021," said Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Monday, March 1, 2021

US ‘disappointed,’ but still open to Iran nuclear talks after Tehran’s rejection

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Sunday it remains open to talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal despite Tehran’s rejection of an EU invitation to join a meeting with the US and the other original participants in the agreement.

A senior administration official said the US was “disappointed” in the rejection but was flexible as to the timing and format of the talks and saw Iran’s decision to snub the European invitation as part of the diplomatic process. The official said the US would be consulting with the other participants — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union — on the way forward.

The official was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Earlier Sunday, Iran turned down the offer for talks saying the “time isn’t ripe” for the meeting, at which the US would have participated as an observer. Iran had been insisting that the US lift or ease sanctions imposed on it by the Trump administration under its “maximum pressure campaign” before sitting down with the United States.

US President Joe Biden has said repeatedly that the US would return to the deal that his predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew from in 2018 only after Iran restores its full compliance with the accord.

“Considering US/E3 positions & actions, time isn’t ripe for the proposed informal meeting,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter. He referred to the so-called E3, which comprises Britain, France and Germany. READ MORE

Netanyahu: Iran clearly behind blast that hit Israeli-owned ship in Gulf

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Iran was behind the explosion that hit an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman last week.

“This is indeed an action by Iran, it is clear,” the prime minister told the Kan public broadcaster.

Asked whether Israel would respond to the attack on the ship, Netanyahu said that Iran “is Israel’s biggest enemy and we are striking them across the region.”

The prime minister added that Israel has told the United States that Jerusalem will not allow Tehran to have nuclear weapons, no matter what the terms are of any potential multinational deal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Education Ministry, February 28, 2021. (Screenshot/Facebook)

“The Iranians will not have nuclear weapons, with or without an agreement. I said that to my friend [US President Joe] Biden as well,” Netanyahu said.

Iran responded to Netanyahu’s statement, saying it “strongly rejects” the accusation that it was behind the attack. In a press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Netanyahu was “suffering from an obsession with Iran” and described his charges as “fear-mongering.”

Netanyahu’s comments were made in an interview pre-recorded on Sunday before Syrian state media reported that air defense systems were activated around Damascus due to an Israeli attack that unsourced Hebrew-language reports said was a response to the blast on the ship.

A report carried on the official SANA news agency claimed the Syrian military intercepted several Israeli missiles. READ MORE

Report: Israel strikes Syrian targets in response to Iranian attack

News outlets are reporting Sunday evening that Israeli warplanes attacked Iranian targets near Damascus, Syria.

The alleged attack appears to be in response to last Thursday's shelling of an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman, attributed to Iran.

Iranian militiamen were targeted in Sunday's strike.

Eyewitnesses reporting hearing explosions in the area and Syrian media said anti-missile systems were activated.

A simple solution: Let’s pay them to stop murdering us

It was a rather remarkable story. Although quite minor in scope and importance, it was newswire story that appeared last week, and which captured our attention if only for a few fleeting moments. Perhaps because it was so absurd. So irrational. So illogical. And it seems, so laughable – that it conveniently traveled from the newspapers’ front page to its last in no time. But it was worth noting.

Here’s the short version: In the United States, a Baltimore, Maryland convict and community activist, Tyree Moorehead, who spent 18 years in prison for second degree murder, has come up with what he says is “a solution to the city's soaring murder rate – paying killers not to shoot people.”

Not exactly novel, we find out. Deserving nothing but ridicule, this radical strategy had been contemplated before, in 2016, when officials in Richmond, California, tested a program where they paid young offenders for staying out of trouble (read: to lower that city’s murder rate).

Rational minds would readily dismiss such nonsense. And yet – on a much grander scale – this thinking is one of two central philosophical cornerstones that underscores the argument made by so many for the establishment of a state of Palestine.

One doesn’t have to be MENSA-eligible to understand that 1964 preceded 1967 chronologically. That the establishment of the PLO – three years before Israel “occupied” (their term, not ours) the territories is evidence enough...
First, let us dismiss the other “cornerstone” – that Palestinian Arabs “deserve” a state of their own. Without offering a long-winded historical treatise of the various embryonic territorial divisions of Mandatory Palestine dating back to San Remo in 1920, the Peel Commission in 1937, and the 1947 UN Partition Plan – and the obvious “Jordan is Palestine” argument that follows – we recall that the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded before Israel was an “occupying” state.

That is not inconsequential, but it is quite readily – willingly and willfully – ignored. A truthful translation: the PLO, ostensibly representing the Palestinian nationalist movement, was not founded in 1964 to establish Palestine but quite clearly to nullify the existence of Israel.

As evidenced by the fact that “the territories” were occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967, with no tangible undertaking to fulfill the aspirations to establish Palestine, it was axiomatically quite clear: it was about ending Israel. READ MORE

Iran to install new centrifuges at nuclear facilities

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) plans to install new generations of IR2M and IR6 centrifuges at the Fordow and Natanz nuclear facilities, the Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

The installation of these centrifuges will be completed and gas will be injected within the time limit specified in the law passed by the Iranian parliament, said Abolfazl Amoui, the spokesman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament.

Amoui said that, based on the law, the AEOI should also produce 120 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium within a year.

This past December, the Iranian parliament passed a law entitled "Iran's Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions" which obliges the Iranian government to further reduce Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.

The Islamic Republic recently announced it had resumed enrichment of uranium at its underground site in Fordow.

An AEOI spokesman boasted in January that his country can enrich uranium to 90 percent of purity.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla: 'Israel has become world's lab right now'

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Friday said that Israel "has become the world's lab" for his company's coronavirus vaccine.

In an interview with NBC News, Bourla said, "I believe Israel has become the world’s lab right now because they are using only our vaccine at this state and they have vaccinated a very big part of their population, so we can study both economy and health indices." (Read More)

Twenty-four hours of Iran’s total war in Yemen, Iraq and Syria

Iran is supporting its Houthi rebel allies and proxy in Yemen to conduct an increasing war against Saudi Arabia, the Saudi-led Coalition, and also against Yemen government forces in Marib. Twenty four hours have seen an increased offensive against Marib in Yemen, a reported ballistic missile attack on Saudi Arabia on Saturday night and an attack on a ship in the Gulf of Oman. It is part of a series of tensions across the region linking Iran to conflicts in numerous places. This could be seen as a kind of “total war” that Iran is pushing across the Middle East.   

The volume of attacks and the multi-layered nature of them illustrate that this is not a mere happenstance or coincidence. This is not local politics. This is a regional conflict and Iran, which has a foothold in Yemen that has grown since 2015, is seeking to show that it can mobilize on numerous levels through proxies and through its own actions, as well as its advanced technology.   

The level of attacks in Yemen also must be paired with rocket attacks in Saudi Arabia and also the airstrikes carried out by the Biden administration over the weekend against Iranian-backed militias in Syria. Add it up and what do you get: Incidents in Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, spanning thousands of kilometers.   
The attack on Saudi Arabia on Saturday included video of an interception over the skies of Riyadh. This is not the first time that rockets have been fired on Riyadh. Houthis have fired missiles before that triggered Patriot air defenses in Riyadh, in March 2020, in December 2017, in March 2018. In November 2017 Defense News said that Patriots had intercepted over 100 ballistic missiles since 2015 that were fired from Yemen. READ MORE

Israel weighs reprisal for Iranian rocket attack on freighter in context of US & Gulf ties

Before retaliating for the Iranian rocket attack on the MV Helios Ray automobile carrier in the Gulf of Oman on Friday, Feb. 26, Israel is bound to consider the incident’s wider ramifications.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said it was his “initial assessment” that Iran was responsible. “The location of the ship in relatively close proximity to Iran indicates this,” he said, before two Israeli investigators set out for Dubai on Saturday to join the international investigation into the incident. Confirmation of his allegation came on Sunday from Kayhan, a hawkish Iranian publication, which stated that “the attack on the Israeli ship was legitimate.”

Our sources report that the waters in the area are rife with Iranian Revolutionary Guards missile boats and they most likely fired the rockets at the Israeli cargo ship while it was en route from Saudi Arabia to Singapore. The blasts left holes above the waterline on both sides of the hull. (See attached picture.) There were no casualties, and the vessel carried on sailing to its destination.

Israeli government and army chiefs maintain that this attack cannot go without response, but they understand that serious consideration is called for since hitting back at Iran may generate accelerated Iranian counterattacks that may also draw in its proxies and allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and the Gaza Strip. A wider confrontation may ensue with repercussions that would be hard to control.

Israel’s dilemma comes two days before President Joe Biden’s promised announcement of a reset in US-Saudi policy following Washington’s publication of an unclassified report on the murder of the Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. That report points the finger strongly at the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman. US sanctions have been applied to a long list of senior Saudi intelligence officials and members of the prince’s personal retinue.

Biden is also seeking to halt the supply of “offensive weapons systems” to Riyadh to force the withdrawal of Saudi military intervention against the Iran-backed insurgents in the Yemen civil war. High officials in both capitals insist that the longstanding close relations between the US and the oil kingdom remain unshaken.

That sentiment pulls a diplomatic façade over a serious rift. The Saudis are flat against the Biden administration’s push to end the Yemen war or at least negotiate a ceasefire. Like Israel, they are equally resistant to the US bid re-engage Iran on an improved document to replace the outdated 2015 nuclear accord, as a means of paving the way for the lifting of sanctions.

Before punishing Iran for its rocket attack on its ship, Israel needs therefore to look at a wider context:

  1. Can the incident be used for a direct attack on an Iranian nuclear target – even though such action may scupper the Biden diplomatic initiative?
  2. Should Israel line up behind the Saudis and confront Iran together?
  3. Or should Jerusalem react cautiously enough to abstain from upsetting Biden’s Iran applecart?
  4. Is it possible for an Israeli strike against Iran to hold the Saudis back from striking out with their own overture to Iran in reaction to Biden’s policy reset? Such an approach by Riyadh may well be followed by fellow Gulf rulers. The anti-Iran Saudi-UAE-Bahrain-Israel front set up by the Trump administration would finally break up.

Lawyers to sue WHO for 'misleading world over COVID-19 outbreak'

“This corona crisis, according to all we know today, must be renamed a corona scandal, and those responsible for it must be criminally prosecuted, and sued for civil damages,” he said. “On a political level, everything must be done to make sure that no one will ever again, be in a position of such power as to be able to defraud humanity, or to attempt to manipulate us with their corrupt agendas.”

Fuellmich plans on filing a class-action suit in the United States.

“One: is there a corona pandemic, or is there only a PCR test pandemic, specifically, does a positive PCR test result mean that the person tested is infected with COVID-19, or does it mean absolutely nothing, in connection with the COVID-19 infection,” he said, unafraid to mention alleged corporate greed in his lawsuit.

“Two, do the so-called anti-corona measures, such as the lockdowns, facemasks, social distancing, and quarantine regulations serve to protect the world’s population from corona, or do they serve only to make people panic, so they believe without asking any questions, that their lives are in danger, so that in the end, the pharmaceutical and technology companies can generate huge profits from the sale of PCR tests, antigen and antibody tests and vaccines, as well as the harvesting of our genetic fingerprints.”

“Three, is it true that the German government was extensively lobbied, more so than any other government, by the chief protagonists of the so-called corona pandemic?” he questioned. “Germany is known as a particularly disciplined country and was therefore to become a role model for the rest of the world, for its strict, and therefore, successful adherence to the corona measures.”

Fuellmich deals with concerns over collateral damage caused by measures claimed to stop COVID-19, in addition to seeking answers about how dangerous the virus truly is, and whether a person whose PCR test has come back positive is actually infected by the disease.

“Based on the rules of criminal law, asserting false facts concerning the PCR tests or intentional misrepresentation, as conducted by Messrs. Drosten and Wieler and the WHO, this can only be interpreted as fraud,” he explained. “Based on the rules of the civil tort law, this translates into intentional infliction of damage."

He claimed that these people knew “the PCR tests cannot provide any information about infections, but asserted over and over, to the general public, that they can, with their counterparts all over the world repeating this.

“They all knew and accepted that based on their recommendations, the governments of the world would decide on lockdowns, the rules for social distancing, and the mandatory wearing of masks, the latter representing a serious health hazard as more and more independent studies and expert statements show.

“Under tort laws, all those harmed by these PCR test-induced lockdowns are entitled to full compensation for their losses,” he added. “In particular, there is a duty to compensate – that is a duty to pay damages – to companies and self-employed persons as a result of the lockdown and other measures.

“In the meantime however, the anti-corona measures have caused and continue to cause such devastating damage to the world’s population’s health and its economy, that the crimes committed by Messrs. Drosten, Wieler, and the WHO, must be legally qualified as crimes against humanity, as defined in Section 7 of the International Criminal Code,” Fuellmich said.

New law: Playground signs must be gender-neutral

The Minister of Economy and Industry, Amir Peretz, approved an amendment that changes the appearance of the sign at playgrounds indicating that adult supervision is required, such that the sign is non-gendered.The said change will take effect 60 days after its publication in Reshumot, the official record of Israeli laws. A transition period of 6 months from the effectivity date was also set, during which the manufacturers of the facilities or their owners will be able to use the signs according to both the old standard and the updated standard.

At the end of the transition period, all new facilities will be required to place a sign with gender-neutral figures.

Minister Peretz explained, "Our language defines reality and it can also change it. Our new discourse with balanced symbolism can lead to a variety of types of parenting and gender equality, through which we can begin to see the change."

In the coming days, Peretz will ask the heads of local authorities to act to replace the signs in the existing facilities, even if this replacement is not required by the standard immediately.

Also, after the publication of the standard in Reshumot, the Regulatory Commissioner intends to address a letter of clarification to the approved laboratories and the Federation of Local Authorities, that from the moment the amendment takes effect, anyone who has to replace the existing signs due to damage or wear will be required to act according to the protocol in effect at the time of replacement.

Appearance of the current sign (Credit: Spokesperson)

Appearance of the new sign (Credit: Spokesperson)

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Biden to Tehran: “You can’t act with impunity”

President Joe Biden warned Iran to tread carefully in Iraq when asked on Friday, Feb, 26 what message he was sending by the US air strike that destroyed an Iranian-backed militia compound in Syria 24 hours earlier.

The strike, later revealed to have been conducted by two US F-15 Eagles dropping seven precision-guided bombs, destroyed two buildings of an Iraqi Shiite militia compound in Abu Kamal on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq. In his first comment on that attack, the president warned Iran. “Be careful. You can’t act with impunity.”

The operation has become the subject of debate in his own Democratic party, with some lawmakers fearing it went too far.

DEBKAfile reported earlier: Two-Iranian-backed militia groups on the Syrian-Iraqi border were struck by US air strikes on Thursday night, Feb. 25, in response to multiple rocket attacks on American forces in the region. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the president Joe Biden had authorized the strikes on his recommendation, after consulting with US allies. Earlier this week, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US holds Iran accountable for the actions of its proxies.

“Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. “The operation sends an unambiguous message; President Biden will act to protect American coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both Eastern Syria and Iraq.”

According to a military source, no more than 7 missiles were dropped on the target. And “up to a handful” of militants were killed. An Iranian site claimed thee were one dead and several lightly injured, while a Syrian opposition sources puts the figure at 17 and reports that buildings and trucks laden with arms were hit.

The site itself has been marked out as part of a weapons smuggling route for the militias, according to a US official. “The strikes were conducted to degrade the groups’ ability to carry out attacks and to send a message about the recent attacks”, the official said.

Echoing the White House, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday “We will hold Iran responsible for the actions of its proxies that attack Americans,”, noting that “many of these attacks have used Iranian-made, Iranian-supplied weapons.”

The first of three militia attacks in the past ten days occurred on Feb. 15, when 14 rockets targeted US and coalition forces in the Kurdish capital of Irbil in northern Iraq. A civilian contractor was killed and 9 others were injured, including four American personnel. The White House warned, “We will respond in a manner and time of our choosing.”

Then at least four rockets struck Balad Air Base north of Baghdad, where a US defense company works on Iraqi combat aircraft. The next day, on the 16th, two rockets were aimed at Baghdad’s Green Zone where the US and other embassies are located, causing no damage or casualties.

The US air strikes of Thursday were confirmed as having been ordered “from the top down.” 

DEBKAfile adds: US forces clearly exerted strict control over the force used, in order to make a point while avoiding the risk of spillover into a showdown. It is too soon to say whether this operation was a one-off or the opening shot of a planned Biden administration strategy for combating Iran’s proxy wars on the US, its allies and the region at large.

Report: Israel, Saudi, Bahrain and UAE in talks on defense alliance

Israel is in talks with the kingdoms of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on establishing a four-nation defense alliance, i24NEWS reported on Thursday.

The reported defense alliance talks likely come in response to the "growing Iranian threat" in the region, specifically regarding its budding nuclear program along with its expanding influence in the Middle East with countries like Syria and Iraq.

The report comes as US President Joe Biden attempts to launch talks with Iran on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran. The Islamic Republic, in turn, has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal.

The White House said last week that the US has accepted Europe's offer to mediate conversations with Iran regarding the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran has said it is studying the European Union proposal but has yet to respond to it.

Jerusalem does not have official diplomatic relations with Riyadh but the UAE and Bahrain signed a historic normalization deal with Israel in September 2020 known as the US-brokered Abraham Accords.

Earlier this week, it was reported that officials from Saudi Arabia and Israel recently held telephone calls which centered around Saudi Arabia's concern over Biden’s policy on Iran.

The fight for sovereignty and faith-based diplomacy

Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, even those who argue about it, know deep in their hearts the truth that goes back thousands of years and is backed up in the Bible.

Jay Shapiro thinks that Israel's claim to sovereignty over all of the Holy Land is based on international law.

He argues that Israel should continue to work for the application of sovereignty in all parts of the homeland, even in the face of the Biden administration and others opposed to the move. LISTEN

Friday, February 26, 2021

Explosion strikes Israeli-owned ship in Mideast amid tension

 DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship sailing out of the Middle East on Friday, an unexplained blast renewing concerns about ship security in the region amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the vessel to head to the nearest port.

The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the same site saw a series of suspected attacks that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied. Meanwhile, as U.S. President Joe Biden tries to revive nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered overnight airstrikes on facilities in Syria belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group. (Read More)

When Israel Hits Iran, Politics And Media Will Hit Israel's Supporters

Is the curtain about to rise on a devastating war between Israel, Iran and its surrogates--a war fought mainly in Lebanon and Israel? If so, are Israel's supporters ready for the backlash?

Late last month, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Israel's chief of staff, announced that he had ordered updated planning to hit Iran's nuclear installations. His primary audience might not have been the new Biden team in Washington, D.C.--determined to rejoin the Obama administration's Iran nuclear deal--or Iranian leaders themselves.

The Israel Defense Forces' chief urged the White House not to renegotiate the "bad" Iran agreement halted by the Trump administration. But according to Israeli commentator Caroline Glick, Kochavi "may well have been telling the Israeli public to be prepared for what is coming. And he may also have been telling Israel's regional partners [the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and others] that the time for joint action is now."

On Feb. 1, less than a week after Kochavi's declaration, Iran tested its Zuljanah missile with a range of more than 3,000 miles. Glick noted Iranian leaders pressed ahead with the Zuljanah even in an economy battered by mismanagement, Trump's sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

Two weeks later, U.S. and Israeli military forces conducted joint training to prepare for both "unprecedented missile attacks from Gaza, Lebanon, and even Syria and Iran" against Israel and possible "use of cruise missiles and suicide drones from western Iraq and Yemen." 

From there, Iran could use proxies to strike Israel. The Israeli news site N12 noted that Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav, head of the air force's air-defense program, said the exercise--with an upgraded Iron Dome anti-missile system--met its goals. Now "the operational test is in front of us."

At the same time, Israel's air force conducted "a massive surprise exercise simulating a full-scale war with Hezbollah," according to The Algemeiner online edition. In the 33-day war between Israel and Hezbollah (the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi'ite "Party of God") in 2006, Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets and missiles into the Jewish state.

Massively rearmed by Iran, in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, Hezbollah now reportedly can launch 4,000 more accurate missiles at Israeli civilian and military targets every day.

In 2006, IDF planes averaged 100 targets daily in Lebanon. This February's exercise simulated more than 3,000 strikes each day.

Since the end of the 2006 war, Hezbollah has further embedded its missiles and bases within Lebanon's civilian infrastructure. Israeli leaders have cautioned than a new conflict would devastate its northern neighbor.

Hezbollah, thanks to Iran and Russia, possesses advanced surface-to-air missiles. It fired one at an Israeli intelligence gathering drone on Feb. 3. The Iranian-surrogate terror army/Lebanese political party "attempts to hide its activities from Israeli eyes in the sky, while continuing to install missiles and rockets in built-up areas in Lebanon, pointing them at Israeli cities," wrote Israeli military analyst Yaakov Lappin. Basing combatants and arms among civilians and targeting civilians is a dual violation of international law.

No matter. Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, responding to the Israeli exercise, threatened that "if a war occurs, Israel's home front will experience things that have not happened since the formation of Israel." Six thousand Israelis died in Israel's 1948 War of Independence; an equivalent number today would be approximately 90,000.

Leading U.S. and European news outlets repeatedly inverted aggressor and defender, Palestinian civilian and military casualties in coverage of Israel's 2014 fight against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They chronically overstated Palestinian non-combatant dead and under-reported attacks and attempted strikes against Israeli civilians.

Last year and even more recently, news media coverage of Israel's comparatively successful COVID-19 vaccination program periodically sabotaged itself with false claims that Israel denied vaccine to Palestinian Arabs.

Reporting and commentary on a renewed Hezbollah-Israel conflagration might well emphasize a Lebanon in ruins, parents weeping over dead children while downplaying Iranian-funded and directed Hezbollah aggression. Neither the Biden administration nor the media are likely to have Israel's back.

The White House signals the mullahs in Tehran it wants to talk. It resumed funding the Palestinian Authority despite the P.A.'s incessant anti-Israel incitement and subsidies to the families of terrorist "martyrs." 

In the month after his inauguration, President Joe Biden called virtually every other U.S. ally plus Russia and China before getting to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A Washington Post editorial approved the snub.

If open Israeli-Iranian warfare erupts, will Israel's supporters be ready to wage the accompanying psychological war? Will they effectively counter the likely increase in anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic atmospherics and assaults sparked by Middle East combat?

New Biden policies snub Saudi prince, “uncover” Israel’s reputed nuclear program

The planned release of a declassified US report suggesting the Saudi Crown Prince’s implication in the Khashoggi murder coincides with a spate of “revelations” on extensive building work at Israel’s nuclear center in Dimona.

The two events seem to have nothing in common, except that both appear to derive from a radical switch in the Biden administration’s Middle East policy and its hot pursuit of diplomacy with Iran.

The declassified version of a US intelligence report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor, who criticized the royal house, was due to be released on Thursday, Feb. 25. It implies that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) approved and may have ordered Khashoggi’s brutal killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul three years ago. Riyadh eventually admitted that he was killed in a “rogue” extradition operation gone wrong but denied any involvement by the crown prince. Five men given the death penalty for the murder by a Saudi court had their sentences commuted to 20 years in jail after being forgiven by Khashoggi’s family.

Biden has read the report. He is described as having decided to “recalibrate” President Trump’s close relations with Riyadh and cool his friendship with the crown prince. He said pointedly that he would soon speak to the 85-year-old Saudi king, deliberately snubbing the crown prince although the king is in poor health and has made his son de facto ruler of the realm.

The president, a Democrat, is awarding high regard for human rights in his foreign policy. He has also determined to force the Saudis abandon their military intervention against Iran-backed insurgents in the Yemen war.

MbS may not take the American rebuff and demands lying down. His options for counteraction could run to cozying up to Beijing and/or Moscow – or even striking large arms deals with them to replace the huge weapons transactions with the US which President Biden “paused” indefinitely.

In a final break with Washington, Riyadh may even go so far as to go forward and develop its own nuclear weapons program, drawing on help from Pakistan and imported Chinese ballistic missiles for their delivery.

The Biden White House’s first steps in the Middle East already signal the breakup of the pro-American axis fashioned for the region by Trump, which hinged on a set of military and diplomatic pacts binding Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel. All three had come into close military and diplomatic synch with Washington on the Iran issue.

This collaboration is already seriously dented by Biden’s sidelining of the Saudi ruler. The US president also appears to have in his sights, a second member of the trio, Israel. In recently weeks, American media have carried a spate of “revelations” and “analyses” regarding Israel’s nuclear program.

 On Feb. 17, the influential Foreign Policy ran a long article captioned: “Biden Should End US Hypocrisy on Israeli Nukes.” It was followed by the publication of “new discoveries” of extensive building work on the expansion of the Negev Nuclear Research Center at the desert town of Dimona. Then on Thursday, Feb. 25, the Associated Press carried satellite images (see attached image.) of “a dig about the size of a soccer field and likely several stories deep” said to be just meters southwest of the reactor. Foreign sources have long claimed that it produces plutonium for nuclear bombs, ever since the nuclear center was set up in the 1950s at the remote desert location. Israel has consistently declined to confirm or deny having atom bombs, opting for a policy of ambiguity.

Biden appears to be heeding the calls for Israel to be forced into coming clean on its longstanding nuclear program, in order to cut the ground from under the Netanyahu government’s thunderous assault on the administration\s push for diplomatic re-engagement with Iran on the 2015 nuclear program. Israel is convinced that an Iranian nuclear bomb would confront it with an existential threat and hang a sword over the entire region.

It is also feared, that the hand which is orchestrating these disclosures may be preparing the ground for international negotiations on a denuclearized Middle East, a step that would corner Israel as a hoped-for means of bringing Iran onside.

Rockets against US targets in Iraq seen as Iranian message to Biden

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFP) — Renewed rocket attacks on US targets in Iraq show Iran-aligned factions are heaping pressure on the government while Tehran may be seeking leverage over America’s new administration, analysts say.

Iraq, scarred by years of war and insurgency, has been a strategic battleground for arch-foes the United States and Iran, both allies of Baghdad who remain sharply at odds over Iran’s nuclear program.

Analysts and officials in Iraq say the resumption of attacks after four months of relative calm shows that Iran and its Iraqi allies are now abandoning de-escalation and seeking leverage over their rivals.

“It seems we’re back to last year,” a senior US military official in Iraq told AFP, referring to several months in 2020 when rockets rained down on American sites once a week or more.

On Monday, two rockets hit near the US embassy in Baghdad, days after a volley hit an airbase further north where a US military contractor is maintaining F-16 fighter-jets purchased from Washington.

US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi spoke Tuesday by phone about this week’s rocket strikes and agreed that those responsible “must be held fully to account,” the White House said.

Rockets also hit a military complex in the Kurdish region’s capital Arbil on February 15, killing a civilian and a foreign contractor working with US-led troops.

The incidents were consistent with the dozens of attacks last year, which usually involved a score of 107mm rockets fired from a truck, security officials said.

This year, the pro-Iran groups typically blamed for such attacks — including Kataeb Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq — have been quick to condemn the strikes. READ MORE

US strikes Iran-backed fighters in Syria, in 1st military action under Biden

WASHINGTON — The United States launched airstrikes in Syria on Thursday, targeting facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon said the strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a US service member and other coalition troops.

The airstrikes were the first military action undertaken by the Biden administration, which in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist. Biden’s decision to attack in Syria did not appear to signal an intention to widen US military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend US troops in Iraq.

“I’m confident in the target that we went after, we know what we hit,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters flying with him from California to Washington. Speaking shortly after the airstrikes, he added, “We’re confident that that target was being used by the same Shia militants that conducted the strikes,” referring to a February 15 rocket attack in northern Iraq that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a US service member and other coalition personnel.

Austin said he recommended the action to Biden.

“We said a number of times that we will respond on our timeline,” Austin said. “We wanted to be sure of the connectivity and we wanted to be sure that we had the right targets.”

Then Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 19, 2021. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)

Earlier, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US action was a “proportionate military response” taken together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel,” Kirby said. “At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to deescalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.” READ MORE