The guns of February

Iranian commander says we can destroy all US bases in the region and create hell for Israel.

The guns of February

Israel war

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C), Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (R), and Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot meet in Tel Aviv, Israel February 10, 2018. Israel Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

There is increasing talk of war all around Israel

THINGS are eerily quiet outside the caged walkway that cuts through the no-man’s-land separating Israel from Gaza. But there is increasing talk of war on both sides of the expanse, and elsewhere around Israel. “Everyday there is aggression and terror [by Israel],” says Daoud Shihab of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian armed group that has fired rockets into Israel. “The situation could explode at any moment.” Some of Gaza’s leaders believe Israel will use a coming military exercise with America as cover for an attack. They put the chances of a new war at 95%, according to Al Hayat, an Arabic newspaper.

The Israelis see things differently. Gadi Eisenkot, the chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), reportedly told the cabinet that Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza, might start a war if life in the coastal enclave does not improve. It has been under siege by Israel and Egypt for over a decade. Tensions increased after Donald Trump, America’s president, recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6th. The IDF has responded to rocket fire from Gaza with air strikes.

There is talk of impending conflicts on Israel’s northern borders, too. On January 28th the IDF’s spokesman, Ronen Manelis, wrote an op-ed, published by Lebanese websites, in which he warned Lebanon not to allow Iran to produce precision missiles in the country. Israel has repeatedly struck Iranian arms convoys bound for Lebanon. The IDF has been training on the northern front. “As we have proven in recent years…our security red lines are clearly demarcated,” wrote General Manelis. “The choice is yours, people of Lebanon.”

The Lebanese government opposes Israeli plans to build a wall along the border, claiming it will encroach on Lebanese territory. It says it will pursue the issue in international forums, but Hizbullah, which is part of the government, has reportedly threatened to attack Israeli soldiers on the frontier. All of Lebanon will pay if Hizbullah goes to war with Israel, warns Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defence minister.

The winds blowing across Mount Avital, in the Golan Heights, carry yet more talk of war. Israeli soldiers look down into Syria, where Bashar al-Assad’s forces sit one town away from rebels in old Quneitra. Bled by seven years of fighting, the Syrian army is not seen as a threat, but Israel is concerned that the forces which propped up the Assad regime are establishing strongholds in Syria. It has told Hizbullah and Iran to stay out of the area. On February 6th Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, toured Mount Avital, warning Israel’s enemies “not to test us”.

For all the bluster, no one seems eager to start shooting. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the group took over Gaza in 2006. To avoid a fourth, General Eisenkot is said to have told the cabinet to do more to ease the suffering in Gaza.

Hamas may merely be using its war talk to draw attention to Gaza’s misery. The siege and sanctions imposed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which runs the West Bank, has left the enclave short of electricity, drinking water and food. A deal between Hamas and the PA was meant to hand administrative control of Gaza to the PA, which in turn would lift the sanctions. But officials in Gaza say Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the PA, is dragging his feet. (The PA sees it the other way around.)

In the north Hizbullah would probably like to regroup, after nearly seven years of fighting in Syria. Lebanon was so badly damaged during the group’s previous war with Israel, in 2006, that Hizbullah’s leaders regret provoking it. Hizbullah is not ready for another conflict, but it is adding to its arsenal of guided missiles. The IDF may feel forced to forestall this build-up.

Mr Assad also seems more interested in consolidating his position at home than starting a new war (which he would lose). And the Iranian public is already pressing the regime in Tehran to end its foreign adventures. Israel says it will hit Iranian bases if Iran tries to entrench itself in Syria.

However, with everyone on edge, it may not take much to start a conflict. A rocket from Gaza, an air strike by Israel, a bullet from Hizbullah–any of these could ignite the next one. Bismarck famously predicted that “some damned foolish thing in the Balkans” would start a European war (he was eventually proved right in 1914). In the Levant it may be some damned foolish thing on the border.

Source: Economist Intelligence Unit, February 10, 2018
© 2018 The Economist Intelligence Unit Ltd.

Commander says Iran can ‘create hell’ for Israel

 Iran-Israeli war scenario

The deputy commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guards has said Iran is capable of targeting all US bases in region and ‘create hell’ for Israel.

“Today, from here, we can destroy all American bases in the region and create hell for the Zionists,” Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated to the IRGC.

Speaking at a gathering of foreign guests due to attend celebrations marking the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Salami pointed out that America, Britain, Israel and some regional countries such as Saudi Arabia are hatching a “very dangerous plot” in the region with two aims. First, to divert the Islamic resistance against the West and turn it into a fight amongst Muslims and secondly, to project a very violent image of Islam in the world. Turkey’s presence in Syria ‘illegitimate’

On the presence of foreign powers in Syria, Salami said: “America’s presence in Syria is illegitimate and will certainly fail. America must leave the region before it is defeated.”

He also rejected the legitimacy of Turkey’s presence in Syria: “The presence of any power in Syria is not legitimate unless it is with the permission of the Syrian government. Any power that crosses international borders has violated the sovereignty of others whether it is America or any other country.”

Salami also said that he could not confirm reports by Israeli sources that an Iranian drone was intercepted by Israel. The Israeli Army has said one of its F-16 fighter jets went down whilst carrying out an air strike on Iranian targets in Syria in response to the launch of an Iranian drone into the Israeli territories. Iran’s missiles not up for discussion

In a separate report, Tasnim also quoted Salami at the same venue rejecting any possibility of negotiations on Iran’s missile programme as a precondition for the implementation of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

“Missiles are not a subject for negotiations with any powers. There is no relation between the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, official name for the nuclear deal] and our missile capabilities. The missile programme is part of our defence capability which will never be subject to negotiations. The entire world should rest assured about this.”

Source: Tasnim news agency website, Tehran, in Persian 0931 gmt 10 Feb 18, Tasnim news agency website, in Persian 0950 gmt 10 Feb 18.

Source: BBC Monitoring Middle East, February 10, 2018
© 2018 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved

Don’t Blame Iran for Middle East Turmoil

Sahimi and Katariina Simonen Amid bloodshed and chaos caused by Israel’s latest military attacks on Gaza, the usual anti-Iran crowd has been hard at work to partly blame that country for the carnage. Some analysts have claimed that the latest war between Israel and the Palestinian people in Gaza should be seen in the context of the Middle East’s new landscape – created by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran – that provided the background for the current developments in the Middle East, including the civil war in Syria and Iran’s support for the Syrian regime, the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as part of the sectarian war between the Shiitesled by Iran and the SunniArabs, and the fierce rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Others have claimed that the war is partly driven by the agenda of the Hamas/Hezbollah/Iran alliance, which supposedly do not want Israel to ever leave the West Bank and East Jerusalem so that they can justify their hostilities toward Israel. Such claims represent deliberate attempts to distract attention from the true root causes of the conflict: Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem since October 1967, its suffocating siege of Gaza since 2007, confiscation of the Palestinians’lands to build settlements, and stealing their natural resources. The fact is that, for example, about 55 percent of drinking water in Israel comes from the territories beyond Israel’s Green Line 1967 borders. Iran’s Islamic regime did not exist in 1967 when Israel began building the first settlement in the West Bank, and neither did the Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalry. If anything, when it comes to Iran, Saudi Arabia has a tacit alliance with Israel.

The Syrian civil war has not spilled into Israel, but it has caused a split between Iran and Hamas. During the eight-year presidency of Mohammad Khatami from 1997-2005, Iran repeatedly declared that whatever solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict that is acceptable to the Palestinian people is also acceptable to Iran. Khatami also proposed a ‘Grand Bargain’ to the George W. Bush administration to address all the important issues between Iran and the U.S., including Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah, but it was rejected quickly by the United States. Khatami’s predecessor, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, tried to improve relations with the United States that would have contributed to the resolution of the IsraelPalestinian conflict, but he was blocked by the Clinton administration.

If the reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi had been allowed to win Iran’s presidential elections of 2009, he would have continued Khatami’s moderate foreign policy. In fact, aside from a rhetorical appeal by Ayatollah Khameini, Iran has been remarkably silent about the current war between Israel and Palestinians. Iran’s Hassan Rouhani has been trying to improve the relations between Iran and the West, and in particular the United States. Just a few days ago, Tehran’s hardliners accused Rouhani of cutting off aid to Hezbollah and Hamas since coming to power a year ago. True, the Middle East landscape is not the same as in 1979, right before the Islamic Revolution that contributed mightily to the awakening of political Islam.

But, pundits who attribute the current war between Israel and the Palestinians to a changing Middle East landscape caused by Iran and its 1979 Revolution, ignore the most important factors contributing to the present horrible situation, namely, the changed political landscape in Israel and Israel’s immunity from international laws. Ever since the election of the first Likud government in Israel in 1977 and with the exception of a few ‘hiccups,’ Israel has been on a distinct trajectory to the far right, brought about by fundamental demographic changes as a result of at least 1 million Russian Jews immigrating to Israel, who are mostly extremist rightists.

As a result, the same Benjamin Netanyahu who was an extremist only two decades ago, now represents the ‘moderates’ or the ‘center’ in Israeli politics, not because his views have changed, but because neo-fascists such as Avigdor Lieberman, Naftali Bennett, and Moshe Feiglin, the Knesset’s deputy speaker, have emerged on the scene. Feiglin has even called for the ethnic cleansing of Gaza as well as its annexation to Israel. Iran has played no role in the rise of neo-fascists in Israel. Our own Israeli friends always claim that ‘Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East,’ and that ‘the majority of common Israelis do not approve of the harsh tactics used by the government.’

The two claims are contradictory. Unlike most of the Middle East where tyrants rule, the people of Israel do have a choice when they vote. If they truly do not approve what Netanyahu and his far right allies do, they can vote them out of office; but they have not. In election after election since 1977, the far right and ultra-nationalists have gained more power and votes, while the progressive community has been marginalized. Compare this with Iran. Even though Iranian elections are not democratic, and the candidates are more or less handpicked by the ruling elite, Iranian people consistently vote for the most moderate, reasonable candidate, such as Rouhani in the 2013 elections.

Source: Daily Messenger, February 10, 2018
Copyright © 2018. Daily Messenger

Israel ready for extreme measures to stop Syria, Lebanon from turning into Iranian’s military foothold – ambassador

MOSCOW. Feb 20 (Interfax) – Israel will prevent Iran’s military plans in Syria and Lebanon aimed against Israel by the most extreme measures, if necessary, and sees the point in increasing coordination with Russia at the political and military levels due to an escalation in the region, Israeli Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren said in an interview with Interfax.

“The Iranian regime alongside its allies is heavily armed, and if this side speaks about new military plans against us, we have no choice but preventing these plans. How? We are ready for the most extreme measures, if necessary. But we hope we won’t need that,” Koren said.

“An escalation could lead to a very dangerous outcome, and we discuss this with the Russian side, I will not disclose the details. But it is evident that this issue requires increased coordination at the political and military levels,” the ambassador said.

“No matter what plans Russia has in this region, it [region] is full of players, whose schemes could drastically change the situation and result in a very dangerous escalation, which Russia itself obviously does not need. These players have different goals and interests. There possibly were common interests, such as preventing the collapse of Syria and keeping Bashar al-Assad and the current regime in office, but Russia has its own interest and other players have theirs in terms of what’s next,” the high-ranking Israeli diplomat said.

Israel will not allow turning its neighbor Syria into Iran’s military foothold, he said.

“We have a vital interest, namely preventing Syria from turning into an Iranian military foothold. As we can see, those are the plans that are being implemented. I believe, everyone understand against what [country] this military foothold is aimed. Against us. This is why it is important to prevent such a scenario and I would like to quote [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu:”We will do it.” It’s not important who would cooperate with us. Plain and simple,” Koren said.

“And the same applies the creation of the infrastructure to manufacture high-precision weapons for Hezbollah in Lebanon: we will prevent this as well! If we can do that by peaceful means, all the better,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Russia last week. The ambassador commented on the summit. “We have a positive experience of previous meetings and we always notice responsiveness of the Russian side, which shares and understands our concerns. There are things, which the Russian side openly voiced in terms of being committed to the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria, and Russia is working in this direction,” he said.

Source: Interfax, February 10, 2018
© 2018 Interfax Information Services, B.V.

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