LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For Today/You must say, "His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 28/11-15: "While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, ‘You must say, "His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep."If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day."
Bible Quotation For Today/You were ransomed from the futile with the precious blood of Christ
First Letter of Peter 01/17-21: "If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God."
Latest analysis, editorials
from miscellaneous sources published on April 14-15/15
The Middle East Turmoil and Israel's Security/Efraim Inbar/ISN/April 14/15
Hold the cheers and boos on the Iranian ‘deal’/BOB RAE/The Globe and Mail/April 14/15
A Political Decisive Storm/Salman Aldossary /Asharq Alawsat/April 14/15
Russia gave US and its allies a hard slap in the face/Alex Fishman/Ynetnews/April 14-15/15
Why Putin is playing friendly with Iran/Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/April 14/15
Lebanese Related News
published on April 14-15/15
Lebanese actor Issam Breidy laid to rest in ‘wedding’ ceremony
Pioneering Lebanese dramatist dies
Lebanese playwright Raymond Gebara dies at 80 Lebanese expats fear repercussions of Hezbollah remarks
2003 attack against Future TV scrutinized at STL Hezbollah’s anti-Saudi tirade won’t help Lebanon Lebanon police arrest key ISIS militant in Baalbek
Israeli mine blast wounds south Lebanon farmer
Saudi Arabia backs Future, Hezbollah dialogue
Moqbel hosts Italy Army chief, STL head
Lebanon welcomes Egypt aid plane for refugees
Aoun to fight against extending Kahwagi’s ter
Gunfire heard as Israeli forces comb Lebanon border
Hezbollah denounces STL charges against Al-Jadeed reporter ahead of trial
Have we learned?
Man killed, another wounded in Arsal shooting
Lebanese expats feel threatened after Hezbollah remarks: report
Miscellaneous Reports And
News published on April 14-15/15
U.S. Senate foreign relations leaders reach deal on Iran bill
UN imposes arms embargo targeting Yemen Houthis; Russia abstains
Saudi ‘constance’ in its Yemen policy
Israel: Russian decision on S-300 anti-missile system proves dangers of Iran deal
U.N. arms embargo victory for Yemenis: Spokesman
Israel's "dismayed" at S-300 missile deal with Iran: Netanyahu U.S. puts sanctions on Yemen's Houthi rebels Obama would sign current version of Senate compromise on Iran bill: White House
White House: Obama could accept revised bill on Iran nuclear vote
Obama tells Congress he plans to remove Cuba from terrorism list
Houthis on back foot in Aden: Saudi Defense Ministry
UN confirms new push for Syria talks, Iran to be invited
Obama says foreign fighters in Iraq must respect its sovereignty EU says over 7,000 migrants rescued off Italy since Friday
Barrel bombs rain down on Aleppo
Obama offers Iraq $200M in humanitarian aid
Germany's Steinmeier says too early to reward Iran
ISIS loses ground in Syria's Yarmouk camp: Palestinian sources
ISIS takes its fight to Russia’s backyard
Iraqi forces launch counter-attack against ISIS in Anbar
Russia reaps early benefits of Iran nuclear deal
Jihad Watch Latest News
New Jersey: Muslim screaming “Allahu akbar” throws lit firecrackers at synagogue
Seven Muslims from France in jihad suicide attacks for the Islamic State
UAE: Indian man charged with insulting Islam on Facebook
Afghan president admits he’s losing troops to Islamic State
Pentagon says Islamic State has lost 25% of its territory
Muslim from Jamaica detained in Suriname, was trying to join Islamic State
Kenya: Imam charged with recruiting youths to jihad mass murder group
Lebanese actor Issam Breidy laid to rest in ‘wedding’
The Daily Star/Apr. 15, 2015
FAITROUN, Lebanon: Lebanese actor Issam Breidy was laid to rest Tuesday in his Mount Lebanon hometown as relatives and colleagues bid farewell to the multitalented star who was killed in a tragic car crash over the weekend. Actors, journalists, officials and residents of Faitroun flocked to the St. Georges Pastoral Church to pay their respects to Breidy, who was 35.
Wissam Brediy, Issam’s brother and TV host, had asked everyone to celebrate the actor’s life. He recalled, with swollen eyes, how close he was to his brother. “For 33 years we accompanied each other every day and every second,” he said, addressing the gathering. To celebrate his brother’s life he said the funeral ought to be turned into a wedding.
Some mourners wore white along with traditional black funeral garb, in compliance with Wissam’s request. Others carried white roses and photos of the late actor. A red carpet was also laid out in honor of Breidy.
Wissam said he was overwhelmed by the support the family has received from people of all walks of life who came to show the departed Issam their love. “I am happy today,” he said. “I consider Issam as an expatriate who got a job offer and left the country. He got a job offer from God so that he can be one of His soldiers in the sky.”
Throughout the ceremony, Breidy’s mother Georgette was seen resting her head in her hands while holding her son’s picture. Next to her sat Marianne, Issam’s sister, who wept during the service. The family appeared devastated over the death of their son.
Breidy died early Sunday when his car overturned at the Dora bridge, just north of Beirut. Breidy was reportedly driving on the bridge toward the Nahr al-Mot area when his black Lexus hit a concrete barrier and overturned. According to media reports, he was thrown in front of the car and struck his head on the pavement.
Breidy was a popular actor in the Lebanese scene and appeared in various dramas and comedy series including Adam w Hawa and Aalaqat Khasa, a show currently being broadcast.
He studied music at the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music and participated in 2001 edition of Studio al-Fan. He released a music video titled “Houb Jnoun,” which also starred his brother.
During the funeral, people took to Twitter to express their condolences to the Breidy family with the hashtag #IssamBreidyinoourhearts, which was trending throughout the day.
The coffin arrived at the church a few minutes after 4 p.m., with Wissam and Issam’s father Nouhad as principal pall bearers wearing tuxedos. A fireworks show followed with music. At the sight of the coffin mourners began applauding and throwing rice on it as it passed toward the altar.
An array of personalities attended including former Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud, prominent TV presenter Georges Kordahi, actress Carmen Lebbos and journalist May Chidiac, among others.
Minister for the Displaced Alice Shabtini, representing Prime Minister Tammam Salam, and MP Farid Elias Khazen, representing Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, also attended the funeral.
“I promise you in front of all the people that are here, that I will try to double each smile you make. I smile on your behalf and mine,” Wissam said addressing his dead brother, tears streaming down his face.
At the end of the funeral it was announced that Breidy received an honorary master’s degree from the Lebanese University, his alma mater.
Prominent Lebanese playwright Raymond Gebara dies at 80
The Daily Star/Apr. 14, 2015/BEIRUT: Prominent Lebanese playwright Raymond Gebara died Tuesday at the age of 80 after a rapid deterioration of his health, local media said. Gebara is considered one of the most prominent figures in Lebanese and Arab drama, writing directing, and acting in a large number of plays. Gebara left behind two children and his wife Mona al-Bashaalani.
Lebanese expats feel threatened after Hezbollah remarks: report
The Daily Star/Apr. 14, 2015/BERUT: Lebanese expatriates living and working in the Gulf say they feel threatened after recent fiery Hezbollah statements against Saudi Arabia, according to a report published Tuesday. Local daily Al-Liwaa said Lebanese businessmen working in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar plan to form delegations to visit countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to express solidarity with the decisions taken by the governments of those countries, especially Saudi Arabia’s King Salman for his initiative to launch a military offensive against Houthi rebels in Yemen. It said Lebanese expats working in GCC countries would make similar visits to Lebanese officials to express their concern because they are living in fear after Hezbollah’s latest verbal attacks against Gulf leaders, particularly the Saudi monarch.
Israeli mine blast wounds south Lebanon farmer
The Daily Star/Apr. 14, 2015/BINT JBEIL, Lebanon: A farmer in a southern Lebanese village was wounded Tuesday after stepping on a mine left by Israeli forces, with some media reporting that his leg was amputated. The state-run National News Agency said Mohammad Mourad’s leg had to be amputated after the blast, which occurred in a field in the village of Aitaroun, in the district of Bint Jbeil. He was moved to the nearby Salah Ghandour Hospital for treatment. Southern Lebanon remains littered with Israeli landmines and cluster bombs left or dropped on Lebanon during the Jewish state's decades-long occupation of the country. Last month, six children were wounded in a blast caused by an Israeli cluster bomb when they were playing in a field in the south Lebanon village of Zibqin. The cluster bomb was believed to have been dropped by Israeli warplanes during its 2006 invasion of Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia backs Future, Hezbollah dialogue
Wassim Mroueh/The Daily Star/ Apr. 15, 2015
BEIRUT: Hezbollah and the Future Movement discussed security measures to preserve stability during their 10th dialogue session Tuesday, as Speaker Nabih Berri said Saudi Arabia fully supported the talks between the rival parties. A terse statement issued after the meeting held at Speaker Nabih Berri’s Ain al-Tineh residence said that Future and Hezbollah officials discussed “continuing security measures in all Lebanese areas in order to immunize the domestic scene.” Last week, the Internal Security Forces shot dead two militant jihadis in Tripoli and arrested a preacher wanted over killing Army soldiers. The statement said that participants in the dialogue also tackled “other topics which interest the Lebanese and some issues related to Syrian refugees.”Quoting dialogue participants, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said Future and Hezbollah officials discussed moving the tents of Syrian refugees in the northeastern town of Arsal to another place. Interior Minister Nouhad Mahcnouk had made this proposal months ago, arguing that the presence of tens of thousands of Syrian refuges in and around the town was posing serious security threats, describing Arsal as an “occupied town.” Arsal was briefly invaded by jihadi militants last summer.
Like previous sessions, representing Hezbollah in the talks were MP Hasan Fadlallah, Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan and Hussein Khalil, a political aide to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. Attending on behalf of the Future Movement were Machnouk, MP Samir Jisr and Nader Hariri, the chief of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s office. Also on hand was Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, a political aide to Berri. The new round of talks came amid soaring tensions between Hezbollah and Future, caused by the war of words between both groups over the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen which kicked off last month. Hezbollah has lashed out at the kingdom over its military intervention in Yemen, while Future has fully backed the step. Berri told his visitors Tuesday evening that Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri, who visited him the same day, had expressed his country’s support for the Hezbollah-Future dialogue. Asiri held talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam as well.
Berri revealed that he had tasked Minister Khalil with urging Hezbollah and the Future Movement to refrain from escalatory stances. “Why don’t they do like Iran and Saudi Arabia, which despite their differences, maintain a low rhetoric and voice their interest in dialogue?” Berri said. The speaker said that both Hezbollah and the Future Movement still backed dialogue. Berri also said that he would chair a meeting for Parliament’s Secretariat Thursday to put the agenda for an upcoming Parliament session which would engage in “necessary legislating.”But in what reflected a continuation of the war of words over the crisis in Yemen, Machnouk expressed his opposition to insults against Saudi Arabia, saying the kingdom had always stood beside Lebanon. Addressing a gathering of Beiruti families, Machnouk said that he who resorted to elimination, aggression and hijacking the wills [of people] would actually be humiliated. The minister was indirectly responding to a speech made by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week in which he said that Saudi Arabia would be humiliated and would not emerge victorious in Yemen. Meanwhile, the Future parliamentary bloc said that dialogue with its rival Hezbollah was necessary, despite the stagnation talks have reached.
“The bloc considers that ongoing dialogue with Hezbollah under the current circumstances is a necessity that should continue despite the big gap between ambitions and reality regarding its results, as it has reached stagnation and lack of progress in several issues,” the Future bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting. The bloc said also that deep disputes with Hezbollah persisted, but added that dialogue was still required in order to reduce tension and pave the way for national consensus leading to the election of a president.
Separately, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc reiterated its objection to extending the term of senior security officials.
“The bloc insists that the Cabinet should immediately put an end to these dangerous violations, through the immediate appointment of Army and Internal Security Forces officials,” the bloc said after its weekly meeting in a statement read by former Minister Salim Jreissati.
Aoun argues that extending the terms of security officials violated the National Defense law and that regulating the ISF. Amid a lack of consensus on a successor and in order to avoid vacuum in a security post when the country is going through a critical period, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel extended last month the term of Brig. Edmond Fadel, the director general of Army Intelligence. The term of Brig. Ibrahim Basbous, the head of the Internal Security Forces, expires in June and that of Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi in September. The terms of both could be extended. Aoun dismisses claims by rivals that his opposition to extension aimed at paving the way for his son-in-law, Brig. Shamel Rukoz, to become the new Army commander. But he argues that Rukoz, like other senior Army officials, has the right to aspire for occupying the highest Army post.
Ali Hmade to the STL: 2003 rocket attack against Future
TV under scrutiny
Elise Knutsen| The Daily Star/Apr. 15, 2015
BEIRUT: Defense lawyers completed their cross-examination of journalist Ali Hamade at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Tuesday, with questions focusing primarily on the rocket attack at Future TV headquarters in 2003.
Hamade testified that he believed the rocket attack was “undertaken by a group under orders from the Syrian intelligence services for purposes linked to the political conflict between [then] Prime Minister [Rafik] Hariri and the Syrian tutelage at the time.”
In circumstances mirroring the events following the Hariri assassination, an erstwhile unheard of Islamist group claimed responsibility for the attack against Future TV. A Syrian intelligence officer admitted to orchestrating the attack and cover-up after he was arrested in Iraq.
Separately, Hamade acknowledged that he recalled an incident in the Bekaa Valley town of Majdal Anjar in 2004 when questioned on the subject by defense attorney Geoff Roberts, who represents the interests of Hezbollah member Assad Hassan Sabra.
A number of individuals were arrested in the town of Majdal Anjar, which lies close to the Syrian border, and “were accused of belonging to Islamic jihadi cells coming from Syria, and then going to Iraq to commit bombings,” Hamade recalled.
While five Hezbollah suspects have been charged with plotting the blast which killed Hariri and 21 others in February 2005, testimony by recent witnesses has focused on the Syrian regime and its role in Lebanon at the time of the assassination.
The defense will continue cross-examining Mustapha Nasser Wednesday. Nasser, a Hariri aide who fixed meetings with Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, began his testimony last week.
Asiri: Hezbollah’s anti-Saudi diatribe won’t benefit Lebanon
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/Apr. 14, 2015 /BEIRUT:
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri Monday implicitly lashed out at Hezbollah over its stance on the two-week-long war in Yemen, saying the Shiite party’s tirade against Riyadh did not serve Lebanon’s interests. Defending the Saudi-led military intervention against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, Asiri also implicitly accused Iran of exploiting the Houthis to further its own ends in the volatile region. He spoke during a meeting at his residence in Beirut with envoys of member countries of operation “Decisive Storm,” a regional coalition led by Saudi Arabia which since March 26 has carried out airstrikes against the Houthis, who overran the capital Sanaa in September and have expanded to other parts of Yemen.
Riyadh fears the rebels could take over the entire country and move it into the orbit of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival. The meeting, also attended by a number of Lebanese and media political figures, discussed latest developments in the region, particularly the events in Yemen, in addition to the situation in Lebanon, the National News Agency reported. He explained the reasons that prompted Saudi Arabia to take a decision to launch the “Decisive Storm” operation and the goals it is seeking to achieve behind it, which are: “preserving legitimacy in Yemen and its territorial integrity, the safety of the people and the continuity of institutions.”
“Some regional powers, which do not want goodness for Yemen, have lured a segment of its people and exploited them to achieve goals and objectives serving their interests,” Asiri told the ambassadors of Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Turkey, according to the NNA, in a clear reference to Iran.
Responding to senior Iranian officials’ vehement verbal attacks on Saudi Arabia, he said: “These [regional powers] have now geared [their efforts] toward covering up their negative acts and violations by attempting to criticize the kingdom, its leadership and distort its image, while the entire world knows the truth of the historic neighborly relations linking the kingdom with Yemen and the countless aid the kingdom’s leadership has extended to the Yemeni people.”
In a clear allusion to Hezbollah, whose leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has blasted Saudi Arabia for spearheading a coalition to launch a war on Yemen, Asiri expressed his regret over the “emotional manner with which a Lebanese party is dealing with the Yemen issue.”
“How can Lebanon’s interests be served in the stances taken by this party?” he asked. For their part, the ambassadors said their countries’ support for Saudi Arabia in the “Decisive Storm” operation was “a strategic decision.” They denounced the “offensive and slander campaigns” against Saudi Arabia and its ambassador to Lebanon launched by some political and media parties, saying such campaigns “exposed the interests of Lebanon and its citizens to danger,” the NNA reported.
Last month, Asiri struck back at Nasrallah, who has launched a fierce tirade against Saudi Arabia and accused Riyadh of launching the war in an attempt to regain control over the impoverished country. Asiri said Nasrallah’s remarks contained false allegations and reflected the state of confusion of his patron, Iran.
The Yemen offensive has already triggered a bitter war of words between Lebanon’s Saudi and Iran allies. The airstrikes against Houthi targets have opened a new front in a long-simmering rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Gulf region. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said his country intervened at the request of Yemeni President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, who fled for Riyadh. Iran has rejected accusations of arming the rebels and its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has described the Saudi-led campaign as “genocide.” Also Hezbollah’s deputy chief lashed out at Saudi Arabia, accusing Riyadh of committing “genocide.”In an interview with the Associated Press, Sheikh Naim Qassem said Saudi Arabia made a “strategic mistake” by interfering in Yemen’s internal affairs and warned that the kingdom would “pay a heavy price.”“Saudi Arabia has embroiled itself and will incur very serious losses that have started to show and will increasingly reflect on its status, its internal situation and its role in the region,” he said. “What happened in Yemen is a crime that cannot be ignored. ”“What is happening in Yemen today will reflect on Saudi Arabia internally,” Qassem said, claiming that the kingdom has its own domestic problems and several “factors that may cause the internal situation to implode” there. “So it would be wiser for it not to interfere in Yemen’s affairs in a negative way, but rather in a positive way by calling for dialogue.”However, March 14 MP Marwan Hamade said the fierce tirade against Saudi Arabia reflected the collapse of Iran’s project in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. “Saudi Arabia has intervened in Yemen after it was fed up with Iran’s intervention and its support for the Houthi militia with arms by air and by sea,” Hamade said in an interview to be published with Al-Liwaa daily Tuesday. “Iran has invaded Arab countries to strike the Arab identity. The vicious campaign against Saudi Arabia has confirmed the failure of Iran’s project in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen.” He added that the “Decisive Storm” operation was designed “to protect Yemen and its constitutional legitimacy as well as Saudi Arabia and pan-Arab security, rather than attacking Iran.”Meanwhile, Nasrallah is scheduled to speak Friday for the third time in less than a month on the Yemen war amid tensions between Hezbollah and its political rival the Future Movement. In a statement released late Sunday, Hezbollah called for a rally at 5 p.m. Friday to protest the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. Nasrallah will address the rally, the statement said. The speech comes at a sensitive time in Future-Hezbollah relations, which have soured over the Yemen war.
Hezbollah denounces STL charges against Al-Jadeed reporter ahead of trial
Nizar Hassan/The Daily Star/Apr. 14, 2015/BEIRUT: Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadallah offered his support Tuesday to Al-Jadeed TV and its editor Karma Khayat, who begin a trial this week at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon over charges of obstruction of justice and contempt of court. The charges, filed last year, relate to a 2012 Al-Jadeed report that disclosed personal details of alleged witnesses in a case trying five Hezbollah members accused of plotting the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
“We see this trial as a scandalous breach of Lebanese sovereignty and an assault on the Lebanese people’s freedoms, constitution and laws,” Fadlallah, who heads Parliament's media and telecommunications committee, told a news conference. “It reveals one of the roles that this tribunal plays as a tool to exert pressure on Lebanon,” he added. Hezbollah does not recognize the STL as a legitimate court, and has accused it of being an Israeli tool created to undermine the party. Khayat, the deputy manager of Al-Jadeed TV’s news desk, is expected to attend the first day of the trial Thursday in a town outside The Hague. “Journalist Karma Khayat’s appearance at the court in The Hague is an insult to the Lebanese state,” Fadlallah said. “It would not take place in this manner if we had a real state that defends its sovereignty and protect the freedom of its media.”The Hezbollah official called on the Cabinet to intervene immediately to stop what he called an assault on media freedom, saying that tolerating such actions would pave the way for other foreign entities to violate Lebanon’s sovereignty.
“How can any honorable and free Lebanese accept that a Lebanese is taken outside the country’s borders and appear at a foreign tribunal to be tried for her freedom of saying the truth?," he wondered. “This wouldn’t have happened even in the age of foreign colonization, but it seems today’s colonization is stronger.” If convicted, Khayat and Al-Jadeed's parent company, New TV S.A.L., face a maximum penalty of seven years in jail, a fine of 100,000 euros, or both. Ibrahim al-Amin, the editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar newspaper, and the newspaper's parent company Akhbar Beirut S.A.L, face similar charges.
UN imposes arms embargo targeting Yemen Houthis; Russia abstains
Michelle NicholsLouis Charbonneau| Reuters/Apr. 14, 2015
UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council Tuesday blacklisted the son of Yemen's former president and a Houthi leader, and effectively imposed an arms embargo on the Iran-allied Houthi rebels who rule most of the country. The council voted 14 in favor. Russia abstained, saying some of its proposals for the resolution, drafted by council member Jordan and Gulf Arab states, were not included. "The co-sponsors refused to include the requirements insisted upon by Russia addressed to all sides to the conflict to swiftly halt fire and to begin peace talks," Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote. Saudi Arabia launched air trikes against the Iran-allied Houthis in neighboring Yemen last month with a coalition made up mainly of four Gulf Arab allies. The United States said last week it is speeding up arms supplies to the coalition. "We insisted that the arms embargo needs to be comprehensive; it's well known that Yemen is awash in weapons," Churkin said. "The adopted resolution should not be used for further escalation of the armed conflict."
Iran Monday urged the formation of a new Yemeni government and offered to assist in a political transition. The U.N. Security Council imposed a global asset freeze and travel ban on Ahmed Saleh, the former head of Yemen's elite Republican Guard, and on Abdul Malik al-Houthi, a top leader of the Shiite Houthi group. Saleh's father, former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and two other senior Houthi leaders, Abdul Khaliq al-Huthi and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim, were blacklisted by the Security Council in November. Yemeni soldiers loyal to the former president are fighting alongside the Houthis. The resolution imposed an arms embargo on the five men and "those acting on their behalf or at their direction in Yemen" - effectively the Houthi and soldiers loyal to Saleh. It demands the Houthis stop fighting and withdraw from areas they have seized, including Sanaa, the capital. It also expressed concern at "destabilizing actions" taken by former President Saleh, "including supporting the Houthis' actions."
ISIS loses ground in Syria's Yarmouk camp: Palestinian sources
Agence France Presse/Apr. 14, 2015/DAMASCUS: Jihadis from ISIS have lost ground to Palestinian fighters in Syria's Yarmouk camp, Palestinian officials and a resident said Tuesday. ISIS fighters have retreated from much of the territory they seized in the camp in southern Damascus after entering it on April 1, a resident using the pseudonym Samer told AFP. "We haven't even seen any Daesh members in over three days," he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. The withdrawal was confirmed by an official from a pro-Syrian regime Palestinian faction fighting against ISIS inside the camp. "There are intermittent but ongoing clashes between Palestinian factions and ISIS," said Khaled Abdel Majid, head of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, adding that ISIS had withdrawn from most of the neighborhoods it previously controlled. ISIS fighters were now confined largely to the southwest of the camp, with Palestinian factions - both pro- and anti-Syrian regime - controlling most of the east and north of the camp, Palestinian sources said.
Syrian regime forces are stationed outside the camp and have maintained a tight siege around it, but Abdel Majid said the Palestinian factions had established a "joint operations room" with government forces. A Syrian security source in Damascus also said "the Palestinian factions have made progress and were able to recapture key points... and the operation is ongoing."The Palestinian forces inside the camp include the Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis group that is opposed to the regime and has fought alongside Syrian rebels. Fighters from the Palestinian Fatah and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine groups are not participating, Palestinian officials said. Both groups have said they want Yarmouk to remain neutral and do not want to be seen as taking a side in the conflict between Syria's government and opposition forces. ISIS' advance rattled residents and the Syrian government, with the country's reconciliation minister saying a military operation would be necessary to expel the jihadis. The extremist group's entrance into Yarmouk plunged the district into further hardship, exacerbating already-dire conditions caused by a government siege lasting more than 18 months. Once home to some 160,000 Palestinian and some Syrian residents, Yarmouk's population had shrunk to just 18,000 by the time ISIS entered the camp.According to Palestinian sources, some 2,500 civilians have managed to escape the camp, but aid agencies and the United Nations have warned of a serious humanitarian crisis and urged all parties to allow the creation of a humanitarian corridor.
U.S. Senate foreign relations leaders reach deal on Iran bill
Patricia Zengerle/Reuters/Apr. 14, 2015 /WASHINGTON: Republican and Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee reached a compromise agreement that would shorten Congress' review of any final Iran nuclear deal to 52 days under an Iran nuclear bill, the panel's chairman, Republican Senator Bob Corker, said Tuesday. A Senate aide said the compromise, which will be considered by the full committee later Tuesday, would give Congress 30 days to review the deal, 12 days for a possible veto of congressional action by President Barack Obama and then 10 days for an override vote. The measure, put forward by Corker, seeks to give Congress a vote on any final nuclear agreement with Iran. International negotiators have set a June 30 deadline for reaching a final agreement aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions against Tehran. Obama would not be able to waive sanctions imposed by the U.S. Congress during the 52-day review process, Corker said. The proposed review process would begin after a final agreement is reached. "We have kept the pure integrity of the process in place" in the compromise, Corker told reporters as he walked into a classified briefing for the Senate by Secretary of State John Kerry and other top Obama administration officials.
Supporters of the bill have been scrambling to shore up bipartisan support for the measure. They want to win strong support from both Republicans and Democrats on the committee in the hopes of winning over the 67 members of the 100-member Senate to eventually override a presidential veto, if necessary. The compromise also would remove a provision of the bill that would force Obama to certify that Iran has not supported any act of terrorism against the United States or U.S. citizens anywhere in the world, the Senate aide said.
That provision would be replaced by a requirement that the president provide Congress with a series of reports on a range of issues, including terrorism, the aide said.
A Political Decisive Storm
Salman Aldossary /Asharq Alawsat
Tuesday, 14 Apr, 2015 /Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi took his time to appoint a vice president. Before the appointment on Sunday, legitimacy was found in just one person: the president. Yemen’s legitimacy has been under threat; with an unprecedented power vacuum, no parliament and no state apparatus able, if necessary, to fill the void. However, the appointment of Khaled Bahah to the post of vice president has granted Yemen’s legitimacy a sense of stability, providing the presidency with the strength and immunity it sorely needs during this difficult time. Hadi’s appointment of a vice president is a courageous decision, while it also meets the aspirations of the Yemeni people for the creation of a civil state, which is the legitimate right of all sections of Yemen’s society.
War is not solely a military endeavor that is only fought with weapons. The appointment of a Yemeni vice president is a political move that will help Yemen extricate itself from the current crisis. Operation Decisive Storm’s military objectives include pressuring the Houthi rebels to renounce their coup, put down their arms and acknowledge and recognize Yemen’s legitimate authority. In the same way, Bahah’s appointment is a political move whose objectives run parallel to the military objectives of the operation, particularly as the vice president is a well-known and accepted figure across Yemen’s political divide. In addition to this, one can say that he is completely untarnished by the ongoing political conflict in the country; his hands are clean, unlike most other Yemeni political leaders and figures.
Despite Hadi’s brave step in appointing Bahah, this role comes without clear powers and duties for the new vice president. This, of course, reduces expectations of political success during this difficult period in Yemeni history. Bahah will not be able to carry out his duties effectively if the role of vice president does not encompass, at least, the powers and duties of prime minister. It is understood that Bahah will not be appointed deputy commander-in-chief, with Hadi remaining head of Yemen’s military forces, based on his military background. While Bahah, for his part, has spent most of his life working in the economic and oil sector. However, based on the rare Yemeni consensus over their new vice president, the powers that Hadi is expected to grant him will be welcomed by the majority of Yemenis, with the exception of the Houthis—even if Bahah had previously been one of their proposed candidates to take over the Presidential Council. Khaled Bahah is a political figure from Yemen’s south—Hadhramaut to be precise—who enjoys popularity across Yemen, even in the north. His appointment sees Yemen’s legitimacy take an important step toward restarting the stalled political process since the Houthi coup on September 12, 2014. When he previously served as oil minister, Vice President Bahah rejected the corruption of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh. He is the figure who is most capable of playing a vital role in completing the political process in Yemen according to the Gulf Initiative and the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue.
Bahah is facing a number of major political challenges, not least the political deceit of ex-president Saleh, as well as Iran’s bullying tactics, which are being enacted by the Houthis. However, there is internal Yemeni momentum behind him, and ongoing Gulf and international backing of Yemeni legitimacy. This will grant Bahah the ability to bring the Yemeni people together politically, and form a unified national front that will work to restore and return Yemen’s hijacked state institutions from the Houthis. As Operation Decisive Storm is gathering pace, militarily, to save Yemen and its people, Yemenis are also doing everything in their power to launch a politically decisive storm to uproot the Houthi rebels and restore their homeland.
Israel: Russian decision on S-300 anti-missile system proves dangers of Iran
By TOVAH LAZAROFF/J.Post/04/13/2015/Israel on Monday warned that Russia’s decision to lift its five-year ban on the delivery of S-300 air-defense missile system to Iran proves that the deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program will only strengthen it militarily. “Instead of demanding that Iran desist from the terrorist activity that it is carrying out in the Middle East and throughout the world, it is being allowed to arm itself with advanced weapons that will only increase its aggression,” Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday. The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ending a self-imposed ban on delivering the S-300 missile system to Iran, removing a major irritant between the two, after Moscow canceled a corresponding contract in 2010 under pressure from the West.The United States and Israel had lobbied Russia to block the missile sale before it did so in 2010, saying the S-300 system could be used to shield Iran’s nuclear facilities from possible future air strikes.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday to express his concern about the shipment of S-300 missiles to Iran. The two men also talked more globally about the framework agreement between the six world powers and Iran, which was negotiated earlier this month in Lausanne, Switzerland. Lavrov told the Russian News Agency TASS that the S-300 ban is no longer necessary in light of the framework agreement. He added that the system is defensive, hence would pose no threat to Israel. “We see no need to continue doing this given progress in talks on Iran’s nuclear program and the absolutely legitimate nature of the forthcoming deal,” he said. “S-300 is an air-defense missile system, which is of a purely defensive nature. It is not designed for attacks and will not put at risk the security of any regional state, including Israel,” Lavrov said.
But US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters in Washington, “It is not constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with this. Given Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region... this is not the time to be selling those kind of systems to [Iran].”
Harf pledged that the US would protect its allies in the region, including Israel, against Iran. She added that the US does not believe the decision would impact the continued negotiations between the six world powers and Iran toward a final agreement by the end of June.
“We see this as separate from the negotiations,” Harf said. Steintiz disagreed and said that Russia’s decision to lift the ban is a sign of how dangerous the Iran deal was. “This is the direct result of the legitimacy that Iran is receiving from the nuclear deal being made with it. This also proves that the economic momentum in Iran that will come in the wake of the lifting of the sanctions will be exploited for armaments and not used for the welfare of the Iranian people,” he said.
The US has said that this deal will make the region safer, because it will curb Iran’s nuclear program by extending its breakout time to develop nuclear weapons from a few months to a year’s time. In a phone conference with Israeli reporters earlier in the day, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman – who heads the US negotiating team in the Iran talks – said that a military strike against the Islamic Republic would not eliminate its nuclear program, rather only set it back by a few years.
She argued that the framework agreement is therefore the best option to keep Iran from producing nuclear weapons for an extended period of time. Israel has argued that the best option is continued and increased sanctions. On Monday night Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of what would happen with Iran once sanctions were lifted when he spoke at an Israel Police ceremony in Beit Shemesh. “Iran is receiving legitimacy to continue these actions and when the sanctions are lifted shortly, if indeed the deal is approved, it will receive billions of dollars to finance its war and terrorism machines, with international legitimacy.
Before our very eyes an absurd reality is taking shape in which the key to our fate and the future of the Middle East is liable to be delivered into the hands of the fanatical Iranian regime,” he said. “An agreement full of holes with Iran will not ensure regional stability; a vigorous and resolute policy that prevents it from arming itself with nuclear weapons and compels it to halt its takeover of other nations would,” Netanyahu added. Russia’s lifting of the S-300 anti-missile ban was not the only Iranian restriction that it lifted. A senior Russian government official said separately that Moscow has started supplying grain, equipment, and construction materials to Iran in exchange for crude oil under a barter deal. Sources told Reuters more than a year ago that a deal worth up to $20 billion was being discussed and would involve Russia buying up to 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil a day.
Officials from the two countries have issued contradictory statements since then on whether a deal has been signed, but Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday one was already being implemented. “I wanted to draw your attention to the rolling out of the oilfor- goods deal, which is on a very significant scale,” Ryabkov told a briefing with members of the upper house of parliament on the talks with Iran. “In exchange for Iranian crude oil supplies, we are delivering certain products. This is not banned or limited under the current sanctions regime.” He declined to give further details. Russia’s Agriculture Ministry declined comment and the Energy Ministry did not respond to request for comment. There was no comment from Iran. Iran is the third largest buyer of Russian wheat, and Moscow and Tehran have been discussing the oil-for-goods barter deal for more than a year.
Ryabkov suggested Russia had high hopes that its steady support for Iran would pay off in energy cooperation once international sanctions against Tehran are lifted. “It takes two to tango. We are ready to provide our services and I am sure they will be pretty advantageous compared to other countries,” he said. “We never gave up on Iran in a difficult situation... Both for oil and gas, I think the prospects for our cooperation should not be underestimated.”He also reiterated Moscow’s view that an arms embargo on Iran should be lifted once a final nuclear deal is sealed. Sanctions have cut Iran’s oil exports to about 1.1 million barrels per day from 2.5 million in 2012. Analysts say Iran is unlikely to see a major boost in exports before next year.
One upper house lawmaker asked Ryabkov whether lifting sanctions on Tehran could undermine Russia’s position on global energy markets, including as the main gas supplier to Europe. “I am not confident as yet that the Iranian side would be ready to carry out supplies of natural gas from its fields quickly and in large quantities to Europe. This requires infrastructure that is difficult to build,” he said. Leonid Ivashov, a retired Russian general who now heads the Moscow- based Center for Geopolitical Analysis think tank, said the move is part of a race for future contracts in Iran. “If we now delay and leave Iran waiting, then tomorrow, when sanctions are fully lifted, Washington and its allies will get Iran’s large market,” RIA news agency quoted him as saying. Reuters contributed to this report.
The Middle East Turmoil and Israel's Security
Efraim Inbar/International Relations and Security Network (ISN)
April 13, 2015
Despite an increasingly complex security environment, which includes new dangers in the Eastern Mediterranean, the rise of non-Arab Muslim powers and more, Efrain Inbar thinks that there’s still only one potential ‘game changer’ in the Middle East’s balance of power – the nuclearization of Iran.
The Middle East is in great turmoil. The statist order that has underpinned the region for a century has collapsed. Several states have lost their monopoly over the use of force and are no longer able to provide law and order. This is especially true of Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Syria. Even Egypt, the only historic Arab state, has had difficulties effectively enforcing its sovereignty over its territory. Many of the militias challenging these state entities have a radical Islamist ideology, reflecting the rise in the appeal of political Islam in the Arab world. In contrast to the leaders of these states, who are inefficient and corrupt, the Islamists actually deliver services to the people and have a reputation for being brutal but honest. However, the likes of Al Qaida in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or the so called Islamic State (IS) are hardly the proper agents for modernizing their environments and their popularity dooms the Arab world to continuous ignorance and poverty. For this and other reasons, Israel will need to remain vigilant in the years ahead.
Outside Looking In
The decline of the Arab world has been paralleled by the rise of non-Arab Muslim powers - Turkey and Iran. Both countries fare better on development indices and display nowadays an ambitious foreign policy fueled by imperial and Islamist impulses. Under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ‘zero problems’approach to foreign policy, Turkey has gradually distanced itself from the West. In 2003, for example, Ankara rejected the United States’ request to open a “northern front” against Iraqi forces. More recently, Turkey has opposed sanctions levied by the United Nations and the West against Russia and Iran.
For its part, Iran has successfully advanced its nuclear program despite the displeasure of the international community. Comparatively recent developments in the Middle East and beyond have also allowed Tehran to establish a ‘Shiite Crescent’ stretching from Tehran to the eastern Mediterranean. This has provided Iran with countless opportunities to project power into the Middle East and Balkans, much to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia and others. Indeed, the successes of Iranian Shiite proxies in Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa underscore the Tehran quest for hegemony in the Middle East.
By contrast, US influence around the Middle East appears to be in decline, primarily as a result of the Obama administration’s foreign policy outlook. Correcting Washington’s overextension in the Islamic world is indeed necessary, but insensitivity to the concerns of its allies such as Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia is destructive to the regional balance of power.
In this respect, Washington’s efforts to strike a deal with Iran that basically legitimizes its nuclear breakout status and awards Tehran the role of the regional policeman will be viewed by Cairo, Riyadh and Jerusalem as a colossal strategic mistake. The inevitable result will be further nuclear proliferation as none of these countries are likely to want to stay behind in uranium enrichment capabilities. Moreover, the regional instability could lead to more bloodshed. Relying on a radical and revisionist regime in Tehran to provide stability is the height of strategic folly.
The View from Jerusalem
The implications of the Middle East’s ongoing turmoil for Israel’s security are mixed. Like Iran and Turkey, a democratic and politically stable Israel is also a rising non-Arab power and a player in the regional balance of power. The power differential between Israel's national might and its neighbors has further increased, given that it has managed to prosper economically and develop a high-tech powerful military. In addition, the strong armies of Iraq and Syria have disappeared, decreasing the chances for a large-scale conventional encounter with Israel. Moreover, the pro-Western Sunni states such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia see Israel as an ally against a rising Iran, as well as against radical Islamist movements. This also comes at a time when the United States is viewed in many quarters as a less dependable ally.
By contrast, low intensity challenges might intensify. The domestic problems plaguing weakened Arab states make them increasingly susceptible to radical Islam and more prone to terrorist violence. As their leaders lose their grip over state territory and borders become more porous, armed groups and terrorists gain greater freedom of action. Moreover, as weakened states lose control over their security apparatus, national arsenals of conventional (and non-conventional) arms become increasingly vulnerable, which may result in the emergence of increasingly well-armed, politically dissatisfied groups that seek to harm Israel. For example, following the fall of Gaddafi, Libyan SA-7 anti-air missiles and anti-tank RPGs have reached Hamas in Gaza. The IS even fights with American weapons captured from the Iraqi army.
Similarly, in the event of the Assad regime collapsing, Syria’s advanced arsenal of conventional weapons could easily end up in the hands of Hizballah or other radical elements. This, in turn, raises the prospect of an emboldened Hizballah and Hamas – both of whom are Iranian proxies located along Israel’s borders - renewing their campaigns of violence. In recent years, the fallout from the Arab Spring has helped to detract attention away from the Palestinian issue. In addition, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) ability to harm Israel in order to reignite international interest is also very limited. As a result, a weak PA has come under increasing pressure from the popular Hamas. A Palestinian strategic miscalculation, leading to the eruption of another round of violence, is a possibility that Israel cannot ignore. Nevertheless, so far Israel has been successful in containing the threats from sub-state groups and in limiting their potential damage.
The emergence of an uncertain and unstable strategic environment is conducive to strategic surprises. Israeli intelligence is challenged by a plethora of new actors and leaders whose modus operandi is far from clear. Israel has a large and sophisticated intelligence apparatus. Yet it is not immune to surprises. Therefore, it would be wise to prepare for worst-case scenarios, rather than succumb to rosy assessments.
Looking West (in more ways than one)
The turmoil in the Arab world is also changing the strategic landscape in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, where elements of radical Islam are gaining control. Tunisia, Libya, Sinai in Egypt, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey all play host to groups with Islamist tendencies, thereby threatening the currently unrestricted access to this area by Israel and the West. Approximately 90 percent of Israel’s foreign trade is carried out via the Mediterranean, making freedom of navigation in this area critical for Israel’s economic well-being. Moreover, its chances of becoming energy independent and a significant exporter of gas is linked to Israel’s ability to secure free passage for its maritime trade and to defend its newly discovered hydrocarbon fields, Leviathan and Tamar. These developments require greater Israeli efforts in the naval arena. Indeed, Israel is engaged in building a robust security system for the gas fields and has procurement plans for additional vessels.
As with other parts of the Middle East, the assessment in Jerusalem is that the key factor in the developing regional balance of power is Iran’s nuclearization. This would be a “game changer” that only Israel has the capability to prevent. Netanyahu’s recent electoral victory left in power the only leader that might have the political courage to order a military strike to obstruct the Iranian progress towards acquiring nuclear weapons. Indeed, his victory was quietly welcomed in the capitals of the moderate Arab states that are terrified of Iran and have little time for Obama. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are good examples.
Accordingly, Israel is watching with growing bewilderment the endeavor of the Obama administration to implement a “grand bargain” with Iran. This puts Jerusalem on an inevitable collision course with its most important ally. Israel continues to benefit from a large reservoir of sympathy among the populace of the United States, and most notably within the Republican controlled Congress. Yet, while Obama is not popular, as president he can extract heavy costs in the military, diplomatic and strategic arenas. The remaining 22 months until he leaves office must be weathered with minimum damage to the American-Israeli strategic partnership, particularly if Israel chooses to make good on its threat not to allow Iran to become a nuclear power. With this in mind, the American-Iranian nexus is the most dangerous challenge for Israel’s national security in the near future.
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**Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Hold the cheers and boos on the Iranian ‘deal’
BOB RAE/Special to The Globe and Mail
Last updated Monday, Apr. 13 2015
The responses to the announced “framework agreement” on the Iranian nuclear program have been predictable. President Barack Obama thinks it is “historic”. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls it “dangerous”, and has the animated support of a Republican Congress ready to leap at signs of perfidious weakness from the U.S. President. The problem with all this is that there is no deal. There is a framework of a deal, a limit on the number of centrifuges, the presence of inspectors, and an easing of sanctions. But the closer the framework is analysed, the clearer it is that, as they always say in negotiations, “there’s no deal until there’s a whole deal”. Mr. Obama must feel he needs to wax eloquent because he’s trying to stop Congress from passing even tighter sanctions, and he knows his veto, if it comes to that, will need to have public support. Mr. Netanyahu wants to bring the Iranian regime to its knees – an objective shared by most people in Israel – but is at his weakest when he tries to outline the alternative to the logic that Iran will not slow down its nuclear path unless sanctions are eased. Within Iran we can see signs of an effort to play down the framework and to keep pushing for more concessions. If Canada had at least a listening post there we might have a better sense of how the debate is unfolding within the ranks of the government. But the megaphone diplomacy now in vogue in Ottawa has ruled out that possibility.
It is a simple rule of negotiation that your leverage decreases dramatically if you can’t walk away from a deal. My difficulty with Mr. Obama’s positioning is that in not admitting that there’s no deal yet, he gives the appearance that the details are just that, technicalities that are nothing to worry about. But at every level, the details of the deal are the deal itself. As quoted in the Economist, in its Feb. 19 report the International Atomic Energy Association said that it “remains concerned about the possible existence...of undisclosed nuclear-related activities...including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile”. It is not clear whether inspectors will be permitted to go everywhere, or whether Iran will have to cough up more information on its military and defence plans for a nuclear bomb. The parties have not agreed on how much stockpiling of low enriched uranium will be permitted.
The framework is better than no framework, but it is not the deal itself. That remains to be done, and even the fact that the parties to the framework started disagreeing publicly about its meaning and implications right after it was announced does not bode well for the next round of talks heading to the June deadline. The objective of getting Iran to agree to get off a path to a nuclear bomb, and to offer something in exchange for a verifiable commitment is a good one. But the deal will have to be rock solid at its detail and implementation before it will reassure other potential members of the nuclear club, like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt, that they should abandon that option for themselves. The other issue is Iran’s overall behaviour toward its own citizens and in the region. The Shia/Sunni divide remains deep and violent. Mr Netanyahu is not being an extremist when he points out that a regime so hostile to the very existence of Israel is a genuine threat to the peace and stability of the region. But describing a problem is a lot easier than prescribing a remedy.
It certainly makes no sense to walk away from the negotiating table now. If the framework is filled in properly it provides more security than the alternatives. But no one should be waving a piece of paper saying “peace in our time”. Surely we should have learned that by now.
Russia gave US and its allies a hard slap in the face
Alex Fishman/Ynetnews/Published: 04.14.15/Israel Opinion
Analysis: Putin's decision to lift the ban on sales of S-300 missile defense system to Iran is a reminder that Israel and the American administration are in the same boat, and that it may be time to stop rocking the boat and start to seriously talk to the captain.
If Iran had operational S-300 missiles today, and Israel decided to attack Iran tomorrow morning – it would have been a totally different ball game due to a much higher hurdle than the one the Israel Air Force faced in Operation Opera, which destroyed the nuclear reactor in Iraq. But the Iranians don't have such missiles at the moment, and probably won't have any in the next two-three years.
Meanwhile in Israel, which failed to strike in Iran in the 10 years it could have done so, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who will make such a decision in the foreseeable future.
So we can, allegedly, calm down. But reality is much more complicated: We are in the midst of a growing international crisis and are beginning to feel its collateral damage.
First of all, we have a political story here which marks the collapse of the Iran sanctions regime. While an agreement between Iran and the world powers has yet to be signed, the Russians have already given the American administration and its allies a hard slap in the face.
The Kremlin announcement arrived while a high-ranking Iranian security delegation – led by the chairman of the Iranian parliament's Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, and the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani – was visiting Moscow. This serves as further proof that the Iranians and Russians have long-term plans to tighten their relations and resume their security cooperation, including arms sales.
And if that were not enough, Moscow is linking the timing of the declaration to the crisis in Yemen, where the Russians are standing by the Iranians and Houthis with an oppositional policy against the Americans. Russian officials believe that the conflict in Yemen will eventually lead to a direct clash between the Iranians and the Saudis, which will lead to a Saudi attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities, and are therefore providing the ayatollahs with a modern aerial defense system.
As far as the United States Fifth Fleet is concerned, the possibility that the Iranians will possess S-300 missiles and the Saudis will be involved in an aerial conflict poses a much more concrete threat to the American aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf than to Israel.
And so, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to rock the American administration's boat and is hardly succeeding in creating a few waves, the Russians have come along and reminded us that we and the Americans are in the same boat – and that when water enters that boat, we are the first to get wet because we are lower in the hierarchy. Therefore, it may be time to stop rocking the boat and start to seriously talk to the captain.
The Iranians will likely not receive the S-300 soon, as the model they have ordered, which was adjusted to their operational needs, was dismantled in 2011. The Russian company no longer manufactures that model, and its production lines are now producing more sophisticated S-400 missiles. The Russians are essentially planning to remove the S-300 missiles from their army, give them to the Iranians and take in S-400 missiles instead, but the S-400 production line is slow and it will take time before they accumulate the required stock. It is possible, however, that the Iranians already have the Chinese version of the S-300.
From an operational point of view, we are talking about an advanced weapon system which operates in ranges and heights that the Air Force has yet to deal with. We can assume that in the middle of the previous decade, when the deal to sell S-300 to Iran and Syria was on the agenda, Israel began preparing for this threat in terms of combat doctrines and technologically – but as long as we have not seen this missile's real performance and have not been exposed to its weaknesses, we should expect surprises.
So far, the protected area was in a relatively narrow range of 20 to 30 kilometers, but the S-300 model offered to the Iranians provides a protection range of 150 kilometers. The Air Force will have to be able to locate and disrupt the radar and the missile and develop designated combat doctrines. That requires time and money, but as long as we are talking about professional issues which engineers and pilots should be able to solve, solutions will likely be found. Our problems are in the leadership area.
Why Putin is playing friendly with Iran
Analysis: Putin's decision to provide Iran with the S-300 air defense system has three strategic goals, according to experts: Challenging US, securing Moscow's oil revenue and strengthening Russian position in the Middle East.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's declaration that he will provide the S-300 air defense system to Iran is meant to achieve three strategic goals, according to experts.
1. Challenging the US on Ukraine
The move to provide the S-300 the Iran could be seen as a way for Russia to challenge the US and the West in relation to the Ukraine crisis. Putin supports the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, while the US' support of the Ukrainian government, which rules the western provinces of the country, is the root of great tensions not just between Moscow and Washington, but also between Russia and the European Union.
The sanctions the West imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea and the fighting in eastern Ukraine create serious financial difficulties for Russia. Putin has created a situation where he is "punishing" the US in a way he estimates will hurt the Americans and their ally – Israel.
2. Oil revenues
Russia, which is the world's number one oil producer, is deeply concerned that the removal of sanctions against Iran will lead to a further drop in oil prices in the world market.
Iran was the third largest oil producer in the world before the sanctions were imposed on it. Now, it exports less than one million barrels a day, which is less than a third of its output capacity.
However, if sanctions against Iran were to be removed, it will begin to market its oil freely and get rewarded for it – oil prices around the world will certainly drop and will primarily hurt the Russian economy.
So the Russians found a solution: They were quick to establish ties with Iran before the sanctions were lifted so that Iran would pass on a significant amount of its oil production to Russian in exchange for weapons and Russian wheat.
The Russian aim is likely to store the Iranian oil in Russia so that it will not reach the world market and by doing so prevent the further reduction of oil prices that would be fatal for Russia – all while promoting Russian weapons and agriculture industries.
The economic outlook is most likely quite important in Russia's decision to arm Iran with the S-300 missile system. The Russians are no fools, and they took advantage of the deal that was obtained in Lausanne to be the first in the oil market and to determine its terms.
3. A key player in the Middle East
The selling of the S-300 missile system to Iran was also meant to reintroduce Russia to the Middle East as a major player at the expense of the US.
Putin has seen the US negotiating directly with Iran and preparing to make it a major ally in the Middle East. He's worried that if the US success in warming up its relations with Iran, and at the same time keep its alliances with the Saudis, Egyptians and Israelis, the US will turn into a major world power in the Middle East. Putin wants to make Russia a player of similar value to the US in the Middle East, and is trying to ride on the S-300 missiles sale as an attempt to achieve this goal again.
In other words, the Israeli response to the Russian move is very mild compared to the sharp American response that was seen through the conversation between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Jerusalem is not making too strong of a protest and neither is Netanyahu – rather the criticism is coming from Minister Steinitz.
Why is this so?
One can certainly predict that Israel knows it will take a few years until the S-300 missile system is completely transferred to Iran and it can become operational, and maybe they also know things that Iran does not know regarding the system's abilities and Israel's own ability to neutralize this system. There is another possible explanation for Israel's bland response to the sale: Russia has already cancelled its embargo on the selling of S-300 missiles to Iran twice in the past, and then changed its mind when Israel's demands become greater – relating to arming Georgia for example. It is possible that Putin just wanted to flex a muscle and then change his mind later. This is certainly a realistic option.