Category Archives: Middle East

(EUobserver) EU mulls naval mission to Persian Gulf

(EUobserver) According to a German advisory note, the EU should send a European naval mission to the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, writes the Belgian newspaper De Morgen. The German government would launch the idea at one of the informal European meetings in Helsinki at the end of August. According to the note, the mission would need five frigates, two corvettes and protection teams with planes and logistical ships.

(ZH) Iran Seizes Foreign Oil Tanker Accused Of Smuggling Fuel

(ZH)

In what will be seen as another escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf on July 31, adding to rising concerns about the safety of shipping in a region crucial to oil exports.

The vessel – the third foreign ship seized by Iran in the Gulf since July 14 in response to a UK seizure of Iran’s own ship – is suspected of smuggling a large volume of fuel, the Guards said on their Sepah News portal according to Bloomberg. They did not, however, give any details about the flag or nationality of the ship or its operator.

The ship’s seizure took place last Wednesday, Sepah News, the Revolutionary Guard’s official news service, reported, a day after United Arab Emirates officials traveled to Iran to discuss maritime border cooperation and the flow of shipping traffic, including illegal movements.

Edward Wong@ewong

BREAKING: Iran says it has seized a third foreign oil tanker. This NYT investigation shows how 12 Iranian tankers have brought oil to China & other nations since May, despite US sanctions. Countries defy Trump, who has failed to get allies on Iran. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/03/world/middleeast/us-iran-sanctions-ships.html …257:33 PM – Aug 4, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy20 people are talking about this

The ship was carrying 700,000 liters (4,403 barrels) of smuggled fuel when it was seized near Farsi Island in the western part of the Gulf, off Iran’s southwestern coast, Sepah News reported. The island is located about 400 miles (640 kilometers) from the Strait of Hormuz, the volatile center of Iran’s standoff with the West in recent weeks. Iran’s state-run Press TV reported that the seized ship is an Iraqi tanker that was delivering the fuel to some Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.

Iranian state news agency IRNA reported that a video of the moment the vessel was seized showed it was Iraqi, although as the WSJ notes, maritime confrontations between Iran and Iraq are considered rare. The Iraqi ship’s seizure would follow July’s visit to Tehran by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who has sought to ease tensions between the U.S. and Iran, both close allies of Iraq.

Gen. Ramezan Zirahi, a navy forces commander in the Guard, was quoted by Iran’s Fars News Agency as saying the fuel had been transferred to the vessel from another ship, and was bound for Arab countries in the region when it was impounded. The seven detained crew members – who were arrested – were foreign, he said, without naming their nationality or that of the vessel. The ship was taken to Bushehr port on Iran’s southwest coast, and its cargo was confiscated and handed over to the National Oil Distribution Company of Iran.

The announcement of the ship’s capture coincides with a joint meeting between the Iranian and Qatari coast guards in Tehran aimed at improving and developing maritime cooperation between the Gulf neighbors, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported earlier Sunday. That gathering follows a rare meeting between the coast guards of Iran and the U.A.E. last week.

* * *

The impounding of the ship will escalate the tensions that have flared in the region’s waters as Iran resists U.S. sanctions that are crippling its all-important oil exports and retaliates after one of its ships was seized July 4 near Gibraltar. Iran grabbed a British tanker, the Stena Impero, in Hormuz two weeks later and continues to hold it. Iran also detained a small Emirati-based vessel, the Riah, earlier in July and accused it of smuggling fuel. Nine of the 12 Indian crew members have since been released, but the vessel remains impounded. Ship-tracking experts noted the size of the cargo on the vessel seized on Wednesday was even smaller. Petroleum products sold domestically in Iran are heavily subsidized, so it is potentially lucrative to divert them to foreign markets, where they can be sold for a higher price.

The passage at the mouth of the Persian Gulf accounts for about a third of the world’s seaborne oil flows. To reduce the risks of navigating the waterway, the Royal Navy has started to escort British ships, and a plan for a European naval mission is taking shape.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers in the region in recent months, a charge Tehran has denied.

The crisis in the Gulf has caused oil prices and shipping premiums to rise and prompted some vessel owners to avoid the region. Last week, Bloomberg reported that British oil giant BP, which had to shelter one of its tankers in the Persian Gulf this month in fear it could be targeted by Iranian forces, was avoiding sending ships to the region after tensions flared between Tehran and London.

BP is “certainly not sending British ships and crews” through the Strait of Hormuz, the only way for tankers to reach the world’s biggest oil-exporting region, Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

Earlier this month, a BP tanker had to abandon a plan to load Iraqi crude and instead took shelter near Saudi Arabia because the company feared the ship could be targeted in a tit-for-tat response for British Royal Marines seizing a vessel transporting Iranian crude in the Mediterranean, a person familiar with the matter said at the time.

At the same time, the U.S. has boosted military deployments in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz and is trying to pull together an international maritime force to patrol the region. The British also plan to create a separate European maritime security force.

Ironically, it remains unclear if allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will cooperate: as the WSJ notes, the U.K., Germany and France are at odds with the Trump administration over its decision to pull out of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal to which they are co-signatories, and are working to keep the deal alive and to ease tensions with Tehran.

For its part, Iran says it is trying to maintain maritime security in the region. But its officials also have repeatedly warned they would block the Strait of Hormuz—through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil is transported—in response to crippling U.S. sanctions. Iran has accused the Europeans of not providing adequate relief from American pressure.

(AJ) Iran seizes British oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

(AJ) Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps says tanker was captured ‘for failing to respect international maritime rules’.

The vessel was seized by 'small crafts and a helicopter', the owner of the vessel said [Stena Bulk/Handout/via Reuters]
The vessel was seized by ‘small crafts and a helicopter’, the owner of the vessel said [Stena Bulk/Handout/via Reuters]

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said its forces have captured a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly violating international laws, amid rising tensions in the Gulf. 

The Stena Impero tanker “was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organisation when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules,” the IRGC’s official website Sepahnews announced.

The tanker “was led to the shore and handed over to the organisation to go through the legal procedure and required investigations,” it said.

The vessel was seized by “small crafts and a helicopter” at 7:30pm local time (15:00GMT), the owner of the vessel, Stena Bulk, and Northern Marine Management said, adding that they are “presently unable to contact the vessel”. 

Tanker tracking service Marine Traffic showed that the UK-flagged, Swedish-owned Stena Impero last signalled its location near the Island of Larak in the highly sensitive waterway at 9pm local time (16:30 GMT).

There are 23 crew members on board, the company’s statement added.

“We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a spokesperson for Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

Second vessel seized

The British Foreign Office confirmed a second naval vessel, a Liberian-flagged vessel, had been seized in the Strait of Hormuz by Iranian authorities.

Later on Friday, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported that the Liberian-flagged Mesdar tanker was briefly held and given a notice to comply with environmental regulations before being allowed to continue on its way.

“I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz,” said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

“I will shortly attend a COBR (national security) meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels.

“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

There was no immediate confirmation from Iran that its forces had seized a second vessel. 

Strait of Hormuz

‘Provocative moves’

The developments came a day after the IRGC said it had seized a foreign tanker accused of smuggling oil with a crew of 12 on Sunday.

The Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, the world’s most important waterways for the transport of oil, has become a hotspot for tensions with Iran amid a spate of incidents there.

Relations between Britain and Iran and the United States and Iran have soured in particular.

Earlier this month, British Royal Marines seized an Iranian oil tanker off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar for allegedly violating sanctions against Syria.

On Friday, Gibraltar’s Supreme Court extended for 30 days the detention of the seized Iranian supertanker, Panama-flagged Grace 1, which was intercepted off the southern tip of Spain on July 4.

Richard Weitz, a security analyst at Wikistrat, a global risk consultancy group, said Friday’s incident was a “reciprocal action” by Iran.

“This was anticipated,” he told Al Jazeera from Washington, DC. “This is just the latest in a series of these subconventional forms of provocative moves.” 

(ZH) Syria & Iran To Defy Sanctions By Building Railway From Tehran To Mediterranean

(ZH)

Iran is preparing to begin construction on a large railway that links their capital city of Tehran to the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, the Director of Syrian Railways Najib Al-Fares said on Wednesday.

According to Fares, the new railway will promote regional trade between Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The new project is expected to be funded by the Iranian government, with support from both Syria and Iraq.Illustrative file image of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, slated to undertake construction work in Iraq on a railway line to link Iran with Syria.

The Director of the Iraqi Railway Company, Jawad Kazim, said that Iraq had previously signed contracts to implement projects with Iranian companies, but most were delayed.

For Syria, the new railway system is expected to help ease their economic issues that have derived from the U.S.-led sanctions on the Levantine nation.

During the signing of the minutes, [Iranian Deputy Minister and Chairman of Roads Maintenance and Transport Organization] Shahram Adamnejad said that the tripartite meeting resulted in positive outcomes among the three sides, affirming that the goal of the negotiations is to activate the Iranian-Iraqi-Syria load and transport corridor as a part of a wider plan for reviving the Silk Road as the three countries have an old experience in the international trade. — Syria’s SANA

While this should be beneficial for all parties, this new railway system will face heavy criticism and possibly military attack from the U.S. and its allies, most notably Israel.

Mehr News Agency@MehrnewsCom

Tripartite meeting of Iran, Iraq, Syria on railways coop. https://ift.tt/2RJVVAC 112:31 PM – Jul 1, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacyTripartite meeting of Iran, Iraq, Syria on railways coop.TEHRAN, Jul. 01 (MNA) – The tripartite meeting of Iran, Iraq and Syria was held on Monday morning at the Headquarter Railways of The Islamic Republic of Iran.en.mehrnews.comSee Mehr News Agency’s other Tweets

Israel has paid close attention to the Iranian developments in Syria and has often acted when they suspect weapons are being transported across borders.

Map via Syrianews.cc: Iran will bypass the Strait of Hormuz, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and Suez Canal to reach the Mediterranean.

The U.S. is likely currently opposing the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) control over the border city of Albukamal in Deir Ezzor because it allows Iran to build a land bridge along the international highway.

(CNBC) Iran says it will break internationally-agreed limit on uranium levels in 10 days

(CNBC)

  • Iran will surpass the internationally agreed limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpiles in 10 days, the country’s atomic energy body said Monday.
  • A spokesperson for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization said that the country would increase enrichment levels to 20% for use in local reactors, but emphasized that Europe still had a chance to save the Obama-era deal.
Reusable - Iran nuclear

A reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran.Getty Images

DUBAI — Iran will surpass the internationally agreed limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpiles in 10 days, the country’s atomic energy body said Monday.

A spokesperson for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization said that the country would increase enrichment levels to 20% — significantly closer to weapons-grade material — for use in local reactors, but emphasized that Europe still had a chance to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal if its remaining signatories found a way to shield the Islamic Republic from the crippling effect of U.S. economic sanctions.

“We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kilogram limit,” Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on state TV, as quoted by Reuters. “There is still time … if European countries act.”

Iran would be exceeding its internationally-agreed enrichment cap of 3.67%, which is the amount allowed for civilian nuclear power development. Weapons-grade enrichment is 90%, but according to nuclear experts, reaching 3 to 4% enrichment equates to roughly two-thirds of the work done toward that 90% figure, as any increases beyond that seemingly small amount disproportionately speeds up breakout time.

Tehran has threatened to roll back its obligations under the nuclear deal a year after the Trump administration withdrew from it and reimposed punishing sanctions on the Iranian economy, most significantly its oil sector, the country’s largest source of revenue.

The nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was meant to offer Iran financial relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program and was signed under the Obama administration along with the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China.

The deal’s non-U.S. signatories opposed the Trump administration’s withdrawal and have pledged to keep the deal alive, even going so far as creating a special-purpose vehicle that could facilitate trade with Iran while skirting U.S. secondary sanctions.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman said Monday that European leaders needed to “act, not talk.”Hurtling toward conflict?

The announcement comes just days after suspected attacks against two foreign tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which U.S. authorities have blamed on Iran. The tanker explosion site lies near the critical shipping lane that is the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow conduit for 30% of the world’s seaborne oil.

The events, which sent oil prices up as high as 4% and led the ships’ crews to abandon their crippled vessels, came just a month after four oil tankers were damaged in alleged sabotage missions also attributed by the U.S. to Iran. Tehran denies all the accusations, alleging that Washington aims to stoke “Iranophobia” and find an excuse to go to war.

The last several weeks have also seen drone attacks on oil infrastructure and an airport in Saudi Arabia claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are supported by Iran.

A rapid escalation in tensions has stoked fears of impending conflict between the U.S. and its Gulf allies and the Islamic Republic, though both sides say they don’t want war. Washington has ramped up its military presence in the region, with additional aircraft carriers, bomber tank forces and planned deployments of thousands more troops. A slight miscalculation or miscommunication, many believe, could spark an all-out conflict.

(NYT) Iran Will Stop Complying With Some Parts of Nuclear Deal

(NYT) President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has been under pressure to retaliate against the United States.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has been under pressure to retaliate against the United States.CreditCreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

Iran’s president declared on Wednesday that the country would stop complying with two of its commitments under the Iranian nuclear deal, pushing the growing confrontation between Washington and Tehran into new and potentially dangerous territory.

The announcement by President Hassan Rouhani came exactly a year after President Trump withdrew entirely from the 2015 agreement, which limited Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear fuel for 15 years.

But Mr. Rouhani did not follow Mr. Trump’s path and renounce the entire agreement. Instead, he notified European nations that he was taking some carefully calibrated steps, and that he would give Europe 60 days to choose between following Mr. Trump or saving the deal by engaging in oil trade with Iran in violation of American unilateral sanctions.

“The path we have chosen today is not the path of war, it is the path of diplomacy,” he said in a nationally broadcast speech. “But diplomacy with a new language and a new logic.”

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Starting on Wednesday, he said, Iran would begin to build up its stockpiles of low enriched uranium and of heavy water, which is used in nuclear reactors — including a reactor that could give Iran a source of bomb-grade plutonium. If the Europeans fail to compensate for the unilateral American sanctions, he said, Iran will resume construction of the Arak nuclear reactor, a facility that was shut down, and its key components dismantled, under the deal.

Mr. Rouhani then threatened a potentially more severe step. If the Europeans do not find a way to help Iran “reap our benefits,” especially in petroleum exports and banking transactions, in 60 days Iran will end the limits on the enrichment of uranium, he said. Currently, it is enriching small amounts, and only to a level of 3.67 percent, which is suitable for nuclear power plants — but not for nuclear weapons.You have 2 free articles remaining.Subscribe to The Times

Without economic progress, he said, “we will not consider any limit” on enrichment, suggesting that it could rise to levels closer to something that could be used in weapons. Iran has never been known to produce weapons-grade material.

China, a signatory to the accord, urged restraint on all sides but put the blame for the confrontation squarely on Washington, which it said had escalated tensions. At a press briefing, Geng Shuang, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, praised Iran for adhering to the nuclear agreement that Mr. Trump has abandoned, and reiterated his country’s endorsement of the agreement and opposition to United States sanctions against Iran.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, at a meeting in Moscow with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, complained about the “unacceptable situation” created by the “irresponsible behavior of the United States,” but did not respond directly to Mr. Rouhani’s comments.

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If Iran begins carrying out Mr. Rohani’s threats in early July, it could put the country on the pathway to a bomb, essentially resuming activity that the 2015 nuclear accord pushed off to 2030. That would almost certainly revive debate in the United States over possible military action, or a resumption of covert action, like the cyber attack on Iran’s centrifuges a decade ago that the United States and Israel secretly conducted together.

None of the actions that Mr. Rouhani warned of would get Iran to a nuclear weapon anytime soon. But they would resume a slow, steady march that the 2015 agreement temporarily stopped.

Mr. Rouhani’s announcement marked another sharp blow to an agreement that President Barack Obama hoped would end 40 years of hostility between the two countries, and which he bet could open a new era of cooperation. While Iran scrupulously followed the deal, that cooperation never happened: Iran continued to test missiles — which were not covered in the arrangement — and to fund terror groups and the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Mr. Trump threatened to kill what he called the “worst deal in history,” and over the objections of several of his advisers he withdrew from it exactly a year ago. He complained that it was too narrow, and that the 15-year limit on Iran producing nuclear fuel simply kicked the problems down the road. Advocates of the arrangement said those provisions bought vital time, delaying a program that otherwise might have resulted in an Iranian bomb in just a year.

It is not clear how Washington will respond to Mr. Rouhani’s speech. While the United States abandoned its side of the nuclear deal, it has long demanded that Iran fulfill its commitments to international inspections and moratoriums on nuclear work. The national security adviser, John Bolton, a fierce opponent of the deal, has often said that Iran never intended to give up its nuclear ambitions — and he may cite Mr. Rouhani’s speech as further evidence.

Mr. Rouhani invited all participants in the deal to rejoin negotiations. But he said the 2015 agreement must be the basis for such talks, a position the Trump administration has rejected.

While Iran’s decision Wednesday did not terminate the landmark nuclear accord, it left it on life support.

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Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, said in an interview during a recent visit to New York that the country’s leadership was under growing pressure to respond to Mr. Trump’s effort to strangle Iran’s revenue. He called the continuing effort to starve Iran of the ability to engage in trade — which was enshrined in United Nations resolutions endorsing the 2015 agreement — a “war crime” against the Iranian people.

In an effort to contrast their behavior with Mr. Trump’s, Iran’s leaders have for now rejected calls that they, too, terminate the agreement. Instead, for the past year Tehran has remained fully in compliance, according to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But domestically, the failure to gain sanctions relief has put huge pressure on Mr. Rouhani to strike back at the United States.

The decision came just days after the Trump administration said it was moving bombers and a carrier group into the Persian Gulf as a warning to Iran, after intercepting intelligence that attacks on the United States forces or their allies might be in the offing. Mr. Pompeo took an unannounced trip to Iraq on Tuesday and told reporters he had discussed with Iraqi officials the “threat stream we had seen” from Tehran.

“We don’t want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq, and there was complete agreement,” he said.

But European officials say they remain mystified why Mr. Trump did not take on the Iranians for their support of terrorist groups while remaining within the deal. The result, they say, could well be a resumed nuclear crisis, as the Iranians seek to raise the pressure.

(Axios) Israel passed White House intelligence on possible Iran plot

(Axios)

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with national security adviser John Bolton. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images

Israel passed information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf to the U.S. before national security adviser John Bolton threatened Iran with “unrelenting force” last night, senior Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: Bolton’s unusual and aggressive statement included news that the U.S. would move an aircraft carrier to the region. The officials said intelligence gathered by Israel, primarily by the Mossad intelligence agency, is understood to be part of the reason for Bolton’s announcement.

Behind the scenes: Information about possible Iranian plots against the U.S. or its allies in the Gulf were raised two weeks ago in talks held at the White House between an Israeli delegation headed by national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and a U.S. team led by Bolton, the Israeli officials told me.

  • The intelligence about a possible Iranian plot is not very specific at this stage, but the officials said it was clear the threat was against a U.S. target in the Gulf or U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

The bottom line: An Israeli official told me Mossad drew several scenarios for what the Iranians might be planning:

“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it, but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing U.S. pressure campaign against them, and they are considering retaliating against U.S. interests in the Gulf.”

— Israeli official

(UNHCR) First resettled refugees arrive in Portugal from Turkey

(UNHCR)

04 April 2019  

LISBON – Thirteen refugees from Syria and Iraq, including six children, arrived safely in Lisbon on Wednesday (03/04) after leaving Istanbul, Turkey as part of a Portuguese refugee resettlement programme for 2018-2019, supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and IOM, the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The new arrivals are the first to be resettled to Portugal from Turkey, under the program, where they have previously been hosted after fleeing conflict in their home countries.

They include three families from Damascus and Aleppo in Syria and an individual from Iraq. The families will join extended family members that are already living in Portugal.

“UNHCR has been supporting Portugal strengthen its resettlement scheme, deploying a resettlement expert to Lisbon and working with Portuguese authorities to identify and refer at-risk refugees in Egypt and Turkey as part of the program,” said UNHCR’s Regional Spokesperson for Southern Europe, Carlotta Sami.

“Through IOM’s offices in Portugal and Turkey, we have been supporting the Government of Portugal towards its overall commitment to receive 1,010 refugees by October this year,” said IOM Portugal’s resettlement focal point Sónia Pereira. “Forty more refugees are expected to arrive from Turkey under the programme this month.”

One hundred and twenty seven refugees have now been resettled in Portugal from Egypt, as part of its most ambitious resettlement program, since December 2018. 

Resettlement is available only to a fraction of the world’s refugees. Typically, less than one per cent of refugees worldwide are ever resettled.

With developing regions hosting 85 per cent of the world’s refugees, or 16.9 million people, ensuring a more timely, equitable and predictable sharing of responsibilities by increasing access for refugees to move to third countries is a key objective of the Global Compact on Refugees.

For this week’s new arrivals to Lisbon, IOM staff welcomed the refugees at the airport together with the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF). IOM assisted the new arrivals with luggage collection and accompanied them through immigration and arrival procedures that were conducted by the SEF and the High Commissioner for Migration (ACM). After leaving the airport, they were accompanied by their hosting institutions to their new accommodations. 

Municipal authorities and NGOs throughout Portugal are supporting refugees arriving through this programme, who will be offered initial support with housing and basic needs while they learn the Portuguese language and pursue employment. The refugees will have access to healthcare and education, as well as professional and vocational training.

P.O. (GUA) Trump says US will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights

P.O.
I can only say:
Well done President Trump!
The Golan Heights are vital to Israel security.
Before 52 years ago, when Israel conquered the area with enormous acts of heroism, under orders from the famous General Moshe Dayan, Israel used to be bombed almost everyday from these Heights.
It could not continue.

And i am of the opinion the Golan Heights should for ever be a part of Israel.
Full Stop.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira



(GUA) Donald Trump has announced that the US will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967, in a dramatic move likely to bolster Benjamin Netanyahu’s hopes to win re-election, but which will also provoke international opposition.

Previous US administrations have treated Golan Heights as occupied Syrian territory, in line with UN security council resolutions. Trump declared his break with that policy, in a tweet on Thursday.

He said: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”

By defying a 52-year-old unanimously adopted UN resolution on “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”, Trump has also broken the postwar norm of refusing to recognise the forcible annexation of territory – which has underpinned western and international opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea.

“The United States relies on these core principles regarding peaceful dispute resolution and rejecting acquisition of territory by force,” Tamara Cofman Wittes, the former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, wrote on Twitter. Wittes, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, added the move “yanks the rug out from under US policy opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as well as US views on other disputed territories”.

Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, quickly tweeted his gratitude for Trump’s gesture.

“At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the Israeli prime minister wrote. “Thank you President Trump!”

The Syrian state news agency issued a statement saying Golan Heights remained Arabian and Syrian regardless of Trump’s comments.

The announcement came as Netanyahu was hosting the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in Jerusalem.

“President Trump has just made history,” Netanyahu said. “I called him. I thanked him on behalf of the people of Israel. The message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel.”

Pompeo said: “President Trump tonight made the decision to recognise that hard-fought real estate, that important place is proper to be sovereign part of the state of Israel.”

He added: “The people of Israel should know that the battles they fought, the lives that they lost on that very ground, were worthy, meaningful and important for all time.”

The announcement marks a diplomatic coup for Netanyahu, less than three weeks before a close fought election, and four days before he is due to visit Washington.

Trump denied his announcement was intended to help Netanyahu hold on to office, even suggesting he had been unaware the election was imminent.

“I wouldn’t even know about that. I have no idea,” Trump told Fox News. He said he had been thinking about recognising the Israeli annexation “for a long time”.

“This is sovereignty, this is security, this is about regional security,” he said.

Administration officials had previously rebuffed Netanyahu’s pressure for recognition of Israel’s possession of the strategic border area, pointing out that Trump had already handed the Israeli leader a significant political gift by moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Recognition of the Golan could pave the way for US recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Palestinian occupied territories. In a recent state department report on human rights, the administration changed its description of the West Bank and Gaza from “occupied territories” to “Israeli-controlled territories”.

Robert Malley, a former Middle East adviser to Barack Obama and now head of the International Crisis Group, said: “This decision is intensely political – timed to boost Netanyahu’s electoral chances; gratuitous – it will not alter in any way Israel’s control of the Golan Heights; in disregard of international law; and an ominous step at a time when voices in Israel calling for the annexation of the West Bank are growing louder.”

He added: “It is of a piece with the administration’s one-sided Mideast policy and confirms that its goal is not Arab-Israeli peace but a fundamental redrawing of the parameters that have governed its pursuit.”

Israel advanced into the Golan Heights gradually in the years following the 1948 war Arab-Israeli war, and occupied it entirely in the 1967 war. That year, UN security council resolution 242 stressed the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every state in the area can live in security”.

A further resolution, supported by the Reagan administration in 1981, rejected as “null and void” a move to put the area under direct Israeli jurisdiction.

Over the decades there have been a string of abortive attempts to negotiate a peaceful solution to the fate of the Golan Heights – most recently in 2010 when the Obama administration and Netanyahu engaged in secret talks with the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, on a peace treaty involving Israeli withdrawal.

But that effort foundered with the spread of the Arab Spring revolt to Syria, and Assad’s decision to crush the rebellion by massacring protesters in 2011.

Frederic Hof, a former senior state department official involved in those negotiations, told the Guardian on Thursday that annexation “would be an entirely gratuitous gesture with potential diplomatic downsides for Israel and for the security of Israelis”.

Hof said: “It will be welcomed by Israel’s bitterest enemies – Iran and Hezbollah – who would see annexation as additional justification for terror operations. It would enable Syria’s Assad regime to change the subject from its war crimes and crimes against humanity to Israel’s formal acquisition of territory in violation of UN security council resolution 242. It would do nothing whatsoever positive for Israel’s security.”

(Forward) 52 Iraqi Jews Were Killed By The Secret Police. 50 Years Later, Their Descendants Come Forward.

(Forward)

The men in the back asked for silence, and then one began to read the names of the Iraqi Jews killed half a century ago. There were 52 in all: nine hanged in a public square after a show trial in 1969, the rest disappeared by the secret police. The hangings were a de facto death sentence for Iraq’s 2,500-year-old Jewish community, pushing those who had not already fled to Israel to begin smuggling themselves out of their homeland.

About 150 people gathered Sunday at Congregation Bene Naharayim, the Iraqi synagogue in suburban Queens, for a commemoration of the hangings and the kidnappings. Old and young, refugees and their descendants, mingled in a mix of English and Hebrew with a Mizrahi, or Eastern, accent. They spoke of the significance of this milestone, and the long decline of Iraq’s Jewish community and its American diaspora.

“This oldest and proud Jewish community into which we were born is now all but gone, probably forever, sadly,” said Rita Katz, a private terrorism investigator, told the assembled. Katz’s father was one of the nine men hanged; her family escaped to Israel several months later.

“I’m sure that all of you here never forgot, and will never forgive,” she said. “And we will never, ever will stop loving and missing them, all of them.”

Iraqi Jewish synagogue remembers 1969 Baghdad hangings by the Forward
Raphael AbadaShlomo Yadoo reading the names of the killed or disappeared Iraqi Jews.

Congregation Bene Naharayim, located in the Jamaica Estates section of Queens, was founded in 1984. From the street it looks like one of the larger houses that dot the neighborhood. Inside, its walls are covered in photographs of Jews in Baghdad and Basra, maps of Iraq and plaques of deceased members. It has 300 families paying dues, and 100 active members, according to Shlomo Yadoo, the synagogue’s president.

The community it serves is a minority of a minority in American Jewish culture: Iraqi Jews and their descendants, who are part of the diverse world of Sephardic Judaism, which broadly encompasses the Jewish communities whose roots lie from Spain and Morocco to Iran. In the years after the establishment of the State of Israel, in 1948, many Jewish communities were expelled from the Arab or Muslim countries they had called home for 2,000 years or more.

In 1968, the Ba’ath party rose to power in Iraq, in large part through the efforts of Saddam Hussein, who would go on to lead the party, and be dictator of Iraq, for 24 years. The Jewish community had already largely fled for Israel; its population in Iraq had gone from 130,000 in 1950 to less than 3,000 by 1969.

That was the year the regime hung 14 people accused of being spies: nine Jews, three Muslims and two Christians. Iraqi citizens held cookouts in the Baghdad square where the hangings occurred. In the early 1970s, the regime allowed the rest of the Jews to leave, and by the 21st century fewer than a few dozen Jews remained in the country.

Iraqi Jewish synagogue remembers 1969 Baghdad hangings by the Forward
Raphael AbadaRita Katz, left, and her mother Salima Gabbai.

Iraqi Jews feel that their stories have been broadly forgotten in favor of remembering the tragedies that befell Ashkenazi Jews in Europe, whose descendants now vastly outnumber Sephardic Jewry in America.

“In Israel, and everywhere, they don’t know about Iraqi Jews, or Middle Eastern Jews,” said Ruth Shakarchy, head of Bene Naharayim’s sisterhood group, which organized Sunday’s event. “They know only about the Holocuast.”

Shakarchy said that besides the hangings, many Ashkenazi Jews also don’t know about the Farhud, the Iraqi Kristallnacht in June 1941 when widespread rioting caused the deaths of over 100 Jews and the destruction of over a thousand Jewish homes.

Iraqi Jewish synagogue remembers 1969 Baghdad hangings at lunch by the Forward
Raphael AbadaWomen speaking at lunch after the program.

Jordan Salama’s mother fled Iraq with her family as a teenager. Though raised in Westchester County, Salama, 22, had his bar mitzvah at Bene Naharayim. In high school, he made a half-hour documentary about his grandparents’ journeys in the Mizrahi diaspora, and now hopes to expand his research on his Syrian paternal grandfather’s life in Argentina.

“All these stories keep circulating around in my head, and I think the most important thing is to keep tell them to other people so we don’t forget,” he said.

Part of the reason he wants to tell these stories, Salama said, is because they are often overlooked in the Ashkenazi-dominated American Jewish culture.

“I think it’s important to recognize that there was this time of paradise and coexistence [for Arab Jews], and that maybe hopefully it can happen again, if we’re given the opportunity,” he said.

Iraqi Jewish synagogue remembers 1969 Baghdad hangings by the Forward
Raphael AbadaLighting the memorial candles

After the program, the attendees lined up for an Iraqi and American Jewish spread of lunch fare: bagels and cream cheese; pita, eggplant, roasted eggs and pickled mango sauce (amba) for sabich, the Iraqi-Israeli street food; pound cake and muffins; date cookies and baklava.

Next to the desert buffet, Doris Sheena Zilkha, 66, born in Iraq, recounted how after the 1969 hangings the Jewish community was constantly in fear of disappearances, and fasted on Mondays and Thursdays in a gesture of frantic piety.

“People were landing on the moon, and here we were educated, and sitting ducks,” she said.

Baklava at Iraqi Jewish Baghdad hangings memorial program by the Forward
Raphael AbadaBaklava.

One of the family members of the disappeared men in Iraq was Felix Shamash, who was just a teenager when his father, Shoul, was taken from their home in October 1972.

Shamash said that the manner in which his father was taken away forever was as banal as the other stories mentioned Sunday. He had just come home from school when a member of the secret police arrived to escort his father away. The man promised that Shoul would be home soon. Before he left, Shoul put a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste in his jacket pocket.

“We didn’t even go near him or kiss him,” Shamash recalled. “We were sad. You knew this was goodbye.”

Within six months, they had fled for Athens, where they received U.S. visas and immigrated to New York.

The family never officially learned the fate of Shoul. Shamash said he heard his father’s name once in a radio broadcast from outside Iraq, included in a list of Jews murdered by the regime. But because they didn’t have a date of death, or a grave, Shamash said that no one ever said kaddish for his father.

But a couple years ago, Shamash decided to change course. Now he uses the date of his father’s disappearance as the yartzeit, the anniversary of death.

“I figured I’m getting old, someone has to say kaddish for him,” he said.

Iraqi Jewish synagogue remembers 1969 Baghdad hangings by the Forward
Raphael AbadaListening to Yadoo read the names.

The photographs in this article were taken by Raphael Abada. You can view more of his photographs of the event here.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at feldman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

This story “Iraqi Jews In America Remember Baghdad Hangings” was written by Ari Feldman.

Read more: https://forward.com/news/national/418799/iraqi-synagogue-baghdad-hanging-anniversary/

(105fm) EUROPA CONFRONTA TERRORISMO IRANIANO – Paulo Casaca

(105fm)

A 8 de Janeiro, a União Europeia colocou na sua principal lista de entidades e organizações terroristas os dois principais líderes das acções externas dos Guardas Revolucionários Iranianos, bem como a direcção de segurança interna dos serviços secretos do mesmo país.

A República Islâmica tornou-se assim o único país do mundo com dirigentes e departamentos armados estatais reconhecidos como terroristas pela União Europeia. Tudo isto se sucede a uma vaga de expulsões – e num caso mesmo de prisão – de diplomatas iranianos envolvidos em acções terroristas no solo europeu e à prisão de vários operacionais iranianos detidos na fase final da preparação de um ataque bombista em Paris, a 30 de Junho.

A França, entretanto, bloqueou as contas e encerrou associações francesas anti-Israel comandadas pelos guardas revolucionários iranianos; a Alemanha bloqueou os voos de uma das companhias aéreas iranianas envolvidas em acções logísticas armadas no Médio Oriente, enquanto a Polónia está a promover uma cimeira internacional sobre o Médio Oriente que o lóbi iraniano ocidental tem repetidamente atacado como sendo anti-iraniana.

Em quarenta anos o regime iraniano nada mudou na lógica da Jihad mundial que tem inscrita na sua Constituição e que tem aplicado com zelo dentro e além-fronteiras, com uma brutal repressão interna, expansão externa e terror em todas as direcções.

O que parece estar a mudar são no entanto os dirigentes dos principais países europeus, que parecem finalmente entender que a complacência com o terrorismo iraniano põe em causa a segurança não só do Médio Oriente como da Europa ela mesma.

A viragem da política europeia continua no entanto a enfrentar grande resistência dos partidários do apaziguamento e do poderoso lóbi iraniano que insistem em subvenções e dádivas ao regime de Teerão enfraquecendo a postura europeia.

A Europa precisa de ser clara nos seus princípios e capaz de agir com determinação perante a ameaça do Jihadismo orgânico de Teerão.

Bruxelas, 2019-01-23

(Algemeiner) IDF Says It Will Continue to Act in Syria to Prevent Iranian Entrenchment and Arming of Hezbollah

(Algemeiner)

Israeli and Russian military officials meet in Moscow. Photo: IDF Twitter account.

An IDF delegation returned home on Wednesday following a one-day visit to Moscow for meetings with Russian military officials.

According to the Israeli military, the group of senior officers — led by Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, the head of the Operations Directorate — briefed their Russian counterparts on the IDF’s ongoing effort to detect and destroy tunnels dug by Hezbollah under the Lebanon border.

Furthermore, the IDF said a “central topic that was discussed was the improvement of the two militaries’ deconfliction system in the northern region.”

“The IDF will continue operating to prevent Iranian entrenchment and the arming of Hezbollah in Syria,” the Israeli military said on Twitter. “The delegations reached an understanding and agreed to continue in their joint work.”

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

During the day-long visit, the delegation will brief their Russian counterparts on Operation and other operational issues.

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

The IDF delegation to , led by the Head of the Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, will return to Israel tonight following meetings between the two militaries’ senior officials. pic.twitter.com/4WEZ6N8bzj

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Following a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin last weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told members of his cabinet he had informed Putin that “we are continuing our policy — we will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria.”

“We will continue to take action against the precision weapons in Lebanon, and we will complete the operation to foil the tunnels threat,” Netanyahu added.

Relations between Jerusalem and Moscow have been clouded in recent months by a mid-September incident in which a Russian military plane was accidentally downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile over the Mediterranean Sea, near Latakia. Russia indirectly blamed Israel for the mishap, asserting it had not been given enough advance warning of an IAF operation that was taking place in the area at the time.

Israel and Russia have sought to avoid such occurrences since Moscow’s military intervention in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime began in 2015.

(Economist) Conflict in the Gulf is hurting Dubai

(Economist) Foreigners are leaving the Middle East’s business hub

Dubai is unlike most of the Gulf’s sheikhdoms. Its economy thrives not on oil, but on tourism, trade and finance. Its patch of desert hosts one of the world’s busiest airports, its tallest skyscraper and the region’s biggest port at Jebel Ali. The pace of construction is dizzying. The emirate’s gdp is projected to grow by 3.3% in 2018, up from 2.8% last year.

Below the rosy top-line figures, though, there are growing signs that Dubai is running into trouble. Rising oil prices created momentum in the short term, but “trends are downwards” over the long term, says Ehsan Khoman of mufg, a bank. He and other analysts say an oversaturated property market and regional conflict are the biggest causes for concern.

Dubai’s stockmarket has slumped by 20% year-on-year and is the worst-performer in the Middle East. The recent collapse of Abraaj Group, the largest firm in the Dubai International Financial Centre, has jolted confidence. New business licences are far fewer and employment is shrinking for the first time on record. The emirate withholds statistics needed for a sovereign-credit rating, but state-owned companies provide a bellwether. In September s&p, a credit-rating agency, downgraded two, citing a weakening economy.

Foreigners make up more than 90% of the population, but schools for expatriates are closing. Removal companies say departures far outstrip arrivals. Real-estate agents bemoan a rash of empty flats, even as developers build more. Falling rents made Dubai’s property market the world’s second-worst performer in 2017. Shares in Emaar Properties, the emirate’s biggest developer, have sunk by 38% in a year.

Banks learnt to be more prudent after a debt-driven crisis in 2009, when Dubai needed a $20bn bail-out (equal to about a quarter of its gdp at the time) from Abu Dhabi, the richest fellow member of the United Arab Emirates (uae). Analysts do not expect another such crisis, but they still worry about the exposure of regional banks to property. Some would have gone bankrupt were it not for help from the central bank, says an asset manager.

Rising oil prices (until recent weeks), a recovery in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf’s biggest economy, and construction related to the next World Expo, which Dubai will host in 2020, help explain why firms say they are optimistic. But they also worry about protracted conflicts in the Gulf. Dubai, long a haven in the volatile region, has lately been caught up in the trouble. In August officials were forced to deny claims made by Yemeni rebels to have hit Dubai’s airport with armed drones.

Dubai is moored to the bellicose policies of Muhammad bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the uae. He and Muhammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, have not only led the war in Yemen but also a 17-month-old blockade of Qatar. As a result, Dubai lost a trading partner. Flights connecting the busy airport in Doha, Qatar’s capital, to Dubai have been grounded. Qatar’s imports, once routed through Jebel Ali, now go direct (or via Oman). Rather than share the business generated by Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup in 2022, the uae is trying to scuttle the tournament.

Dubai’s profitable relationship with Iran has been similarly disrupted. The emirate earned big port fees from the $17bn trade in re-exports to Iran. But America’s re-imposition of sanctions, with the support of the two belligerent princes, has scared away business. The dhows that shipped goods across the Persian Gulf every week now go once a month. Dubai has become less attractive as a back door to Iran. In May American and Emirati monitors dismantled a currency-exchange network in Dubai used by the Quds Force, the foreign wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. America has added Dubai to its anti-money-laundering watch-list.

With Muhammad bin Zayed calling the shots abroad, Dubai’s emir, Muhammad bin Rashid, has introduced stimulus measures at home. Over the summer he froze private-school fees and cut levies. In order to keep more foreigners from leaving, he introduced longer-term work visas and loosened restrictions on business ownership. There is hope that Chinese investors will start piling in. China, for its part, is developing the Omani port of Duqm, which could allow ships to bypass Jebel Ali.

Optimists point to opportunities resulting from the uae’s foreign adventures. The capture of ports in Yemen has opened new lines of commerce and might eventually benefit dp World, a port operator owned by Dubai. An alliance with General Khalifa Haftar, a Libyan warlord, could provide similar prospects on the Mediterranean. Emirati footholds in Somaliland could lead to more business in Ethiopia’s landlocked market. Quiet ties to the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria could lead to reconstruction contracts. But as the uae becomes more entangled in the region’s political fights, so does Dubai. The emirate long benefited from the region’s distress. Now it risks becoming a victim of it.

(Algemeiner) ‘Palestine Was the Biggest Victim of World War I’

(Algemeiner)

An aerial view of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The first sentence of this article in Al Madenah News by Dr. Mustafa Yousef Alddawi, marking the centennial of the end of World War I, is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever read in Arabic media. And that’s saying a lot.

“There is no doubt that Palestine was the greatest victim of the First World War,” it begins.

During World War I, Palestine had a population of 800,000. The number of people killed during the war was between 15 to 19 million.

The Ottoman Empire, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, and Austria each lost more people than the entire population of Palestine.

Obviously Alddawi is claiming that the division of the Arab world by the victors of the war, which included allowing Jews to return to a sliver of land where they are the indigenous people, is the most catastrophic thing to ever happen to anyone ever.

Many Palestinians are the masters of making everything about them. They are the biggest victims of the Holocaust, they are the biggest victims of both world wars, they are the biggest victims of “colonialism,” they are the world’s biggest victims, period.

The article ends with a threat against the world:

The Palestinian cause will be the cause of future wars, the effects of which may be no less than the world wars. … It has been a hundred years since the founding of the Palestinian cause, and it is still burning and burning, and it will remain so until the Palestinians regain their rights and return to their homes.

Yes, this Palestinian writer is saying that unless the world gives the Palestinians what they demand — the destruction of Israel — we can expect a World War III that could dwarf the others.

I’ve seen lots of mob-style threats from Palestinians, but this one takes the cake.

Elder of Ziyon has been blogging about Israel and the Arab world for a really long time now. He also controls the world, but deep down, you already knew that.

(AFP) Brazil’s Bolsonaro wants to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem: report

(AFP)

© AFP | A picture taken on October 28, 2018 shows the Israeli and Brazilian flags flying outside the Brazilian embassy in Tel Aviv
JERUSALEM (AFP) – Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has told an Israeli newspaper he intends to defy the Palestinians and most of the world by moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Brazil would become the second major country after the United States to do so.

Asked in an interview with Israel Hayom published Thursday if he would move Brazil’s embassy, as he had indicated during his campaign, Bolsonaro said Israel should decide where its capital is located.

“When I was asked during the campaign if I’d do it when I became president, I said ‘yes, the one who decides on the capital of Israel is you, not other nations’,” he told the paper, which is a firm backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, with international consensus being that the status of the whole city must be negotiated between the two sides.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

In December, President Donald Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.

The embassy was officially transferred on May 14, with Guatemala and Paraguay following suit, though the latter announced last month it would return its embassy to Tel Aviv.

Bolsonaro, 63, who won a run-off election on Sunday, has outraged many with his overtly misogynistic, homophobic and racist rhetoric.

Following his victory, Netanyahu told Bolsonaro he was certain his election “will lead to a great friendship between our peoples and the tightening of links between Brazil and Israel.”

An official in Netanyahu’s office told AFP the Israeli premier was “very likely” to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration ceremony in January.

(Economist) A general tells Israel that its army must be still readier to fight

(Economist) Arguments persist over how to keep Israel safe

IN THE twin towers of Israel’s Ministry of Defence and the neighbouring headquarters of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in central Tel Aviv, the brass hats summed up the end of the Jewish year with their customary briefings to politicians and journalists. With slideshows of maps and graphs showing why Israel’s armed forces are still the best in the region, the generals displayed their success in knocking out Iranian targets in Syria and stopping Hamas from menacing Israel from Gaza. While doing so, they have prepared their combat units to fight an all-out war, should they be obliged to.

But one old soldier insisted on spoiling the party. Major-General Yitzhak Brik retired from active service in 1999 but has served as the army’s ombudsman for the past decade. Last month he presented the cabinet and some members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, with a secret report. It warned that Israel’s forces, especially the army, are not ready for a major war.

Stung by these accusations, the respected chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Gadi Eisenkot, responded by insisting that the army he has led for nearly four years is indeed ready for battle and that its units have undergone an unprecedented number of live-fire exercises. Both generals say they have based their assessments on raw data and direct impressions from the field. But frequent calls on the army to conduct internal-security operations have disrupted its training for all-out war. One mid-ranking IDF field commander says “it’s true that the tempo of exercises has gone up” but many of them are disrupted or cancelled “by urgent duty when Palestinians begin rioting in Gaza or the West Bank.”

Does it matter if the IDF is less than ready to fight a major war? Though Israel seems further from achieving a two-state peace deal with the Palestinians than at any point since the Oslo accords 25 years ago, it has seldom felt as secure in the region. Two of its once mortal enemies, Egypt and Jordan, are now allies. Syria’s army has been torn to shreds by civil war. Only on the border with Lebanon does Israel face a potent foe, in Hizbullah. In 2006 this militia-cum-political party fought Israel to a stalemate in a war on the border. Now, bloodied from its involvement in the Syrian war on the side of the regime, its fighters are experienced veterans. IDF officers mutter that Hizbullah’s forces are more seasoned than their own.

These question-marks over the army’s preparedness come at an awkward time for the generals. The IDF is set to launch a controversial plan to shorten the mandatory conscription period of 32 months for men, while offering enticing contracts to key personnel it wants to keep for longer periods. Critics say this jeopardises the IDF’s ethos of a “people’s army”.

At the same time, the generals have been blindsided by Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, who has just proposed his own “IDF 2030” programme, envisaging more spending on long-range missiles, cyber-warfare and intelligence gathering, instead of beefing up ground forces. Mr Netanyahu, who served as a commando officer 50 years ago, has often expressed impatience with the large armoured divisions of the regular army, and has always wanted more cash for sophisticated intelligence, special forces and the air force.

As Israelis observed Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, this year on September 18th-19th, they may have reflected on the national trauma of 1973. Then, Israel’s leaders failed to heed warnings by the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, that neighbouring Arab armies were planning to attack on the Jews’ holiest day. Israel ultimately won that war, but only after suffering heavy casualties and a blow to its self-confidence. It serves as a reminder that even the best intelligence can be useless when not backed by shrewd leadership and well-trained men on the ground.

(JerusalemPost) ANALYSIS: IDF’S NEW MISSILE CORPS WILL REVOLUTIONIZE HOW ISRAEL WAGES WAR

(JerusalemPostYears from now, it will also likely be looked at as one of the most significant decisions Avigdor Liberman will have made as Israel’s defense minister.

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires during a combined forces drill in Shizafon military base

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires during a combined forces drill in Shizafon military base, near Eilat in southern Israel June 7, 2016. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

The idea has long been in the works, but the Defense Ministry’s decision on Monday to finally purchase new precision ground-to-ground rockets for the Ground Forces is nothing short of a revolution. Years from now, it will also likely be looked at as one of the most significant decisions Avigdor Liberman will have made as Israel’s defense minister.

The idea to establish a “Missile Corps” has been floating around for years in Defense Ministry corridors but has traditionally run up against opposition from the air force. The thinking was simple: Proponents believed it was important to diversify Israel’s offensive capabilities, while opponents feared budgets would be taken away from the IAF, which until now has had a monopoly on Israel’s sole long-range offensive strike capability.

For years, the IAF lobby succeeded in warding off the corps’ establishment – until now. While the idea might seem new, Liberman has been pushing it for about 15 years, ever since he was a junior Knesset member.

At the time, though, the technology was not yet ripe and he was not in a position to implement the idea. Now he can.

The changes are both in the technology and in the threats Israel faces on the battlefield. Technologically, Israeli companies like Israel Military Industries manufacture rockets today that are guided by GPS and have the ability to strike their targets with unprecedented precision in all weather conditions – sun, rain or fog.

The rockets have various ranges of between 30 and 150 kilometers.

The need for such rockets stems from changes on the battlefield. The IDF today faces enemies that are fast and slippery. Hamas and Hezbollah don’t operate out of identifiable military bases, but rather move between homes, schools and hospitals through underground passageways.

The IDF not only needs to be quick when engaging the enemy but, due to the civilian environment, it also needs to be accurate. Firing 170,000 artillery shells like it did during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 won’t have much of an effect in a future war with Hezbollah. They need to be accurate.

While the IAF has long objected to the establishment of the missile corps – it will cost about NIS 500 million of initial investment – the procurement of the rockets will actually benefit the air force by freeing it up to focus on strategic missions.

Coordinating missions, as is done today between the infantry corps and the IAF, is a complicated and long process. In times of war it goes faster but is still not immediate. Having a rocket capability attached to ground forces gives infantry commanders the independence to take out targets faster than in the past. Considering how Hezbollah and Hamas operate, this is a huge advantage.

All of this is made possible by the dramatic upgrade to IDF communication networks, particularly integration of the Tzayad battle management system, which enables all IDF units to see one another on digital maps and then to identify the position of enemy forces by simply hitting their location on the screen.

It will take some time before we see these rockets in action, but one thing can be said about Liberman’s decision: Israel is once again revolutionizing modern warfare.