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How Dangerous Are Tehran's Subs?


Iran's fleet of 20 submarines poses a dangerous and unpredictable force in the Persian Gulf region. The United States - with its Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain and carrier groups frequently deployed in the region - has not revealed what it knows about Iran's capabilities.

Military analysts believe the U.S. has been using aircraft, satellites, subs, and underwater sensors to monitor the activities of Iranian subs at sea. Doing so requires entering Iranian territorial waters, but the Iranians would be unlikely to admit US warships entered their waters with impunity publicly.

Recent US war games which included achieving naval dominance, air superiority, and a coastal foothold in a fictional nation closely resembling Iran were said to include an anti-submarine warfare component. But the efficacy of Iran's submarine fleet remains unknown due to the untested nature of most of Tehran's designs.

Russia agreed to stop selling its Kilo-class subs to Iran in 1996, forcing Tehran to develop homegrown craft. Tehran has three such vessels.

After 10 years of trial and error they produced the 100 ton Qadir class vessels in 2005. Iran currently has 12 of these small diesel electric subs. The Qadir-class vessels are squarely between the old midget submarines and the Russian Kilos.

Analysts say look very similar to the Italian made Cosmos SX-506B submarines that Columbia received in the 1980s. The 100-ton SX-506Bs are only large enough to carry commandos and mines. News photos also show what may be two torpedo tubes, as well.

Russia's Cosmos exported a number of larger SX-756 vessels to Pakistan in the 1990s, which may be the design basis for the Qadir. The North Korean Sang-O class submarine closely approximates the Qadir type.

In 2007, North Korea gave Iran four of its Yugo-type midget submarines. These elderly Yugos are 90-ton, 65-foot craft. Iran is also believed to possess five larger Nahang class subs. A about 500-tons it is the same size as and closely resembled the old German Type-206 class from the 1960s, which was developed for operations in the confined shallows of the Baltic.

The Type 206's size enabled it to carry eight torpedo tubes with no reloads, but the Iranian version has been little seen and Western intelligence officials believe it is a failed design.

Tehran is now working on the third indigenous Iranian design. Laid down in 2008, the Qaaem is a 1000-ton boat and should be large enough to handle a full set of torpedo tubes along with a reload. They could be the possible replacement for Iran's Russian-made Kilos.

Iran's Kilo 877/636 type diesel-electric submarines pose the most significant threat in Tehran's submarine fleet. The 2300 ton Kilos are long range subs capable of operating throughout the Indian Ocean. They have six 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes and carry 18 torpedoes, or 24 mines. The Kilo is regarded as a formidable foe and stay at sea for up to 45 days. Iranian Kilo crews have more than a decade of experience, but the craft are more than half-way past their 30-year lifespan.

The real question is whether Iran has found ways to overcome their limited experience and technological know-how with warship construction in general and submarine construction in particular.

The Qadir boats are reported to be troublesome for their crews and unsafe, which some analysts say may be indicative of Iranian submarine design overall. How they would perform against the naval power and prowess of the United States, or Israel's German-manufactured Dolphin-class submarines, will remain unknown unless a shooting war erupts.

New Birthright Trip Brings Older American Jews to Israel


The success of the Birthright Israel trip, which has brought more than 200,000 young Jews to Israel from 52 countries over the past 12 years, has caused the parents of these young adults to want to go on a trip of their own. Now they can.

The UJA-Federation of New York has created the "Birthright Israel for Boomers" trip to provide older American Jews, who have never visited Israel, an experience identical to the one that young adults go on through Birthright. The first pioneer group of 34 participants from New York arrived in Israel on April 28 and remained until Wednesday.

According to Birthright Israel for Boomers Chairman, Michael Lax, "The vast majority of American Jews have never visited Israel and when they are asked why, the answer is that they really would like to visit the country sometime, but it's not really their top priority."

He added, "We decided that Israel needed to market to U.S. Jews in a more attractive way and since we have seen the effect of Birthright on young participants we asked ourselves, why not try this trip with older adults? Our motto was `when was the last time in your life that you did something for the first time?'"

According to recent studies in American Jewry, only one in five American Jews has visited or plans to visit Israel. "The response we received about this trip was beyond any expectations," said Nancy Leipzig Powers of UJA-Federation of New York. "Dozens contacted us and wanted to participate in the project. Since the trip is in its first stage and because of logistical reasons, only 34 will go on the first trip. However, we plan to offer more trips to Israel in the future and hope that the project will be as big as the original Birthright program."

All of the participants in the Birthright Baby Boomers came from New York; most of them are between 50 and 60 years old and none have ever been to Israel before. Several of the participants' children have been on Birthright themselves and convinced their parents to join the expedition.

"The program we have built for adults is very similar to the original Birthright itinerary but includes a few adjustments for those who are older in age," said Michael Lax. "They will visit all of the tourist attractions including: Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea, Eilat, Tel Aviv, and the Golan Heights, rafting in the Jordan River, and sailing on the Sea of Galilee. The participants will also visit military bases such as the Palmachim Air Force Base and meet VIP's including Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky."

Among the participants are Ken and Sari Friedman of Long Island, New York, whose two daughters have visited Israel on Birthright trips. "I always felt that Israel was not a safe place to go, so I refrained from visiting," said Sari Friedman. "But after hearing all of the amazing experiences that our girls had while in Israel, I decided that I wanted to go."

Rick and Arlene Morse, both 55, from Long Island, New York, said before the trip that they were excited about it and had been preparing themselves for the trip both physically and mentally.

"We have been exercising and watching documentary films on Jewish tradition and history, we are very excited to finally go to Israel and want to ensure that we are ready for any challenge," said Rick Morse. "We can't wait to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem and are eager to climb Masada and then go bathing in the Dead Sea."

The Birthright-Taglit program, partially funded by Israel, has enabled tens of thousands of young Jews to visit Israel for the first time. Last year's success of bringing 32,500 people to Israel prompted Birthright and the government to agree to plan for 50,000 next year. The government funds one-third of the expenses, amounting to approximately $25 million.

Palestinian Airlines renews operations


Seven years after grounding is planes, Palestinian Airlines was back in business on Wednesday, with an inaugural flight that traveled between the Egyptian town of El Arish and Jordan's capital, Amman.

The renewal of the air carrier's business was facilitated by an agreement reached between the Palestinian Transportation Ministry and the authorities in Egypt and Jordan.

The company was founded in 1995, and operated flights that shuttled travelers between the Dahania Airport in Rafah and various destinations in the Middle East and North Africa. The company was forced to shut down after the IDF bombed Dahania in 2001, with the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

Palestinian Airlines Director General Zeyad Albad told Ynet that the company will carry a weekly flight from Amman's Marka International Airport and Arish. The route will simplify travel for Gaza residents, who were forced to travel over 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) to the nearest international airport – in Cairo, according to Albad.

The official noted that that the airline's fleet consists of two Fokker planes, a Boeing 727 and an Airbus 320. "At first, the smaller planes will be used, because 40 or 50 passengers don't warrant the use of the larger planes," Albad said, adding that during busy season, when Muslim pilgrims flock to Mecca, the entire fleet will be involved. In the future, the company intends to offer flights to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Istanbul, Turkey.

Dubai Hit Inspires Israeli Spy Thriller


A French-Israeli filmmaker is producing a spy thriller loosely based on the daring 2010 assassination of a Hamas terrorist on Dubai starring Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli.

The assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was widely blamed on the Mossad and led to speculation that Israel had reactivated the legendary Caesarea assassination unit purported to have pursued the perpetrators of the Munich massacre. Israeli officials have long followed an iron-clad policy of not discussing intelligence matters and refused to comment on the assassination.

Dubai police accused the Mossad of carrying out the actual hit in a five-star hotel, and released surveillance camera footage of the assassination team tracking al-Mabhouh.

Several nations, including Britain, Ireland and Australia, expelled Israeli diplomats in protest over the use of their nations' passports. The diplomatic blowback, however, was short-lived and easily contained. More than half of the names turned out to belong to real-life dual nationals living in Israel, but none of them were among the assassins.

The movie, titled "Kidon" (Bayonet) for the Mossad's supposed black operations unit, adds a plot twist in which a gang of criminals murder al-Mabhouh in an attempt to frame Israel's Mossad spy agency. "The movie is not a documentary and it's not a history movie. It's my take on the al-Mabhouh story," director Emmanuel Nakash said.

Refaeli plays Einav Schwartz, an Israeli femme fatale whose role is to lure al-Mabhouh into the assassins' trap with her feminine wiles. The characters are all fictional, except for al-Mabhouh, a Hamas leader responsible for smuggling arms to Gaza who was also wanted for kidnapping and murdering two Israeli soldiers in the late 1980s.

Model-turned-actress Rafaeli said "Kidon" gave her a fictional brush with her dream job: working for the Mossad. "I would love to be in the Mossad and maybe I am. Who knows? I think that being a famous model is the best cover," Refaeli told the Associated Press on the set of the film.

She also told Israelis are used to hearing about covert operations blamed on the Mossad, but the al-Mabhouh killing was something sensational. "This specific one sounded like a movie scene," Refaeli said. "It was just like reading a script."

But the Dubai killing was a cold, methodical and efficiently executed operation that did not include Hollywood hijinks or seduction scenes. Instead, the disguised assassination team entered the city undetected on foreign passports, pulled off the highly complex operation, then escaped the country unscathed.

Dubai police outlined a 19-hour operation, where the agents, wearing disguises such as fake beards, wigs and tennis attire, kept close watch on al-Mabhouh for hours before slipping into his room and killing him. Forensic tests indicated he was first injected in the thigh with a fast-acting, hard-to-detect muscle relaxant. Then he was suffocated with a pillow, Dubai police said.

The movie – being filmed at a hotel in Eilat – is expected to be released in Israeli theaters in 2013.

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