Newsletter : 13fx0211.txt
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Report: Iran Building Militias in Syria in Case Assad Falls
Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hizbullah are building a network of militias inside Syria
to protect their interests in the event that President Bashar Assad's regime collapses or
is forced to withdraw from Damascus, the Washington Post reported, citing US and Middle
"It's a big operation," a senior Obama administration official was quoted as saying by
the newspaper. "The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it's
important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on."
A senior Arab official told The Washington Post that Iran's strategy has two tracks:
"One is to support Assad to the hilt; the other is to set the stage for major mischief if
he collapses." Western, Israeli and Middle Eastern elements have expressed growing concern
over the possibility of Syria's fragmentation along tribal or religious lines and over the
lack of unity among the Syrian opposition.
According to the Washington Post, the militias set up by Iran and Hizbullah are
fighting alongside Syrian government forces to keep Assad in power. However, the report
said, officials believe Tehran's long-term goal is to have reliable operatives in place in
the event that Syria fractures into separate ethnic and sectarian enclaves. Each of
Syria's internal actors has external backers, The Washington Post stressed in its
According to the report, Tehran's interest in preserving a Syrian base partly explains
why the financially strapped Iranian government continues to send weapons and cash to
groups such as Jaysh al-Sha'bi, an alliance of local Shiite and Alawite militias.
American and Middle Eastern officials who have studied the organization told the
Washington Post that Jaysh fighters are predominantly a sectarian fighting force
supervised by Iranian and Hizbullah commanders. "Jaysh is essentially an Iran-Hizbullah
joint venture," David Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at
the Treasury Department, told the newspaper. "Given the other constraints on Iranian
resources right now, it's obvious that this is an important proxy group for them." The
Treasury Department said Iran had provided it with "routine funding worth millions of
A Treasury statement noted that Iran's Revolutionary Guard commander has said that
Jaysh was "modeled after Iran's own Basij, a paramilitary force subordinate to (Iran's
Revolutionary Guard Corps) that has been heavily involved in the violent crackdowns and
serious human rights abuses occurring in Iran since the June 2009 contested presidential
Experts told The Washington Post that Iran is less interested in preserving Assad in
power than in maintaining levers of power, including transport hubs inside Syria. As long
as Tehran could maintain control of an air or seaport, they could also maintain a
Hizbullah-controlled supply route into Lebanon and continue to manipulate Lebanese
politics, the experts argued.
US Withdrawal from Europe-Based Missile Shield will Impact Israel's Defense
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Sunday echoed supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei's rejection of direct talks with the US four days ago which he said were on the
grounds that they "would solve nothing" because, "You are holding a gun against Iran."
Ahmadinejad added is own rider to this dismissal: "God willing, soon Iran's satellite
will be located in orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers, next to others from four or
five advanced powers and it will relay a message of peace and fidelity to the world," he
The boast that Iran would soon be the world's sixth space power came two weeks after
Tehran claimed to have put a monkey in orbit around earth, although it did not report
bringing back to earth either the space capsule or the monkey.
Indeed, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, pouring a healthy dose of
skepticism on the very existence of the project, commented: "The Iranians said they sent a
monkey, but the monkey they showed later seemed to have different facial features."
Tehran is again caught wandering at ease through its favorite terrain between fact,
hyperbole and fiction about its achievements, whether in space or its nuclear program.
In recent weeks, reelected Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly
stressed he wants a broad government coalition for the critical objective of preventing
Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. The question is how does he propose to achieve this when
tough US and European sanctions have not just failed to stop Iran in its tracks but
accelerated its nuclear progress. Iran is now estimated to be within four months of a
nuclear bomb capacity from the moment a decision is taken to build one.
Those months are critical: On February 25 the five UN Security Council's permanent
members plus Germany sit down with Iran in Kazakhstan for a fresh round of negotiations.
Former rounds in this format led nowhere and no breakthrough is expected this time either
beyond, at best, a date for a continuation.
On March 20, President Barack Obama arrives in Israel for the first foreign trip of his
second term. The purpose of his visit is plain, except to Netanyahu's domestic rivals:
Facing a 50% cutback in military spending, the Obama administration cannot credibly
threaten to go to war against a recalcitrant Iran. But the US president may still wave the
Israeli military option in Tehran's face.
Not that the ayatollahs are likely to be impressed. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have both
dismissed talks with Washington "with a gun" at their head, meaning that they are not
scared of the Israeli gun the Americans are putting to their heads.
In fact, the Islamic rulers of Tehran are reported by DEBKAfile's intelligence and Iranian
sources to be fully confident that they are home and dry as a nuclear power after a secret
US Pentagon research study was leaked that "casts doubt on whether the multibillion-dollar
missile defense system planned for Europe" (originally by the Bush administration) "can
ever protect the US from Iranian missiles as intended."
Clearly the missile shield against Iran, which aroused ire in Moscow, looks like
falling under the defense budget axe.
The missile shield in Europe was also designed to defend Israel and Turkey against Iranian
ballistic missile attack. Leaving it unfinished because of "flaws" exposes both those
countries to such attack.
Obama will not doubt tell Netanyahu that the system for intercepting medium-range
Iranian missiles is to be scrapped. However, he will have to take into account that if the
Iranians do finally manage to put a capsule in orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers,
they will be able to fire a ballistic missile at any point on earth as well, including the
United States. Even if they did fail to put a primate in space, they will keep on trying
and advancing until they get there.
Obama is Coming to Tell Netanyahu Not to Strike Iran
By The Times of Israel
Barack Obama will be making his first presidential visit to Israel next month primarily
in order to tell Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in person to hold off on any military
intervention in Iran, it was reported Sunday.
Quoting unidentified Israeli sources, Israel's Army Radio said the president would
indeed seek to host some kind of summit meeting between Netanyahu and Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and possibly Jordan's King Abdullah, to try to
re-energize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
But the key reason for the visit and its timing, the report said, is that Netanyahu
cited spring 2013 in his speech to the UN General Assembly last fall as a notable deadline
relating to thwarting Iran's nuclear drive, and the president wants to tell the prime
minister face-to-face that the time is not yet ripe for military action. "Obama fears that
the prime minister will decide to strike in Iran now, at a time when he is backed by a new
government and can set up a new security cabinet in which two reported [ministerial]
opponents of military intervention Dan Meridor and Benny Begin will no
longer be present," the Army Radio report said. Meridor and Begin both lost their Knesset
seats in the January 22 elections.
Obama will reiterate US determination to ensure that Iran does not attain nuclear
weapons, and will remind Netanyahu that the US has military "capacities" that Israel does
not possess, the report added. New Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that the
diplomatic option remained open, but that all other options were also on the table.
"Obama decided to come himself and deliver to Netanyahu the direct message, `Don't
strike at Iran. Let me oversee the contacts with Iran as I see fit. If necessary I'll take
action against them. We have capacities that you do not have'," the radio report said.
Netanyahu told Sunday's cabinet meeting that the upcoming visit was an important
reassertion of the strong US-Israel alliance. He said he and the president, when
discussing the trip in a phone call two weeks ago, agreed that it would focus on "Iran's
attempt to attain nuclear weapons, the instability in Syria and its implications for
regional security, and efforts to advance the diplomatic process between Israel and the
Uzi Arad, Netanyahu's former national security adviser, told Army Radio that the notion
that the Obama visit would be focused primarily on Iran made sense since that was the most
urgent regional challenge "a race against time" followed by the collapse of
the Assad regime in Syria, with the Palestinian issue "the least urgent." Arad said he did
not know whether Obama was coming to say precisely what the unnamed sources were
The radio report said Obama could have discussed Iran and all other issues with
Netanyahu in Washington, DC, in early March, when the prime minister is likely to attend
the annual policy conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. But the president preferred
not to be dealing with Netanyahu amid the AIPAC gathering, the report indicated, where the
White House fears that Netanyahu will deliver "an aggressive speech on Iran."
In interviews last week, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said the Obama visit was a
sign of unshakable US-Israel relations and an opportunity for "consultations" on key
regional issues, notably including Iran's nuclear drive, the collapse of the Assad regime,
and Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
Arabs Target Jerusalem Home with Firebombs
In another terror incident that was mostly ignored by mainstream Israeli media, Arabs
hurled three firebombs at a building that houses Jewish families in the Abu Tor
neighborhood of southern Jerusalem on Saturday night. The firebombs nearly set the whole
building on fire, but miraculously missed. Baruch Pross, a local resident, recalled the
attack in a conversation with Arutz Sheva on Sunday.
The incident occurred at 8 p.m. on Saturday night, when he was out, but as he returned
home and approached the building, Pross recalled seeing police forces and border police
officers in large numbers busy putting out the fire near the building. One of the
firebombs nearly hit a gas pipe, said Pross, adding, "If that had happened the whole
building would have gone up in flames."
After the fire was put out, the commander of the local police station arrived on the
scene and promised to handle the investigation in person and capture the terrorists. Pross
said that the commander of the station gave the residents a feeling that he is seriously
committed to capturing the perpetrators. Jewish homes in Abu Tor have been the target of
firebomb attacks in the past.
Pross noted that Saturday's incident is just one more in a series of violent incidents
directed at Jewish residents of Abu Tor. In the past six months, he said, there has been a
decline in the number of firebomb attacks on the building, but previously such incidents
would occur once every two to four weeks. In addition to the firebomb attacks, the Jewish
residents of Abu Tor have been the targets of repeated attacks of other types as well.
Pross told Arutz Sheva that his son, who is in the seventh grade, was attacked two
weeks ago by two Arab children the same age as him. When he tried to escape, another Arab
around 20 years of age arrived and threw him onto the road. Another son of his was
standing at a bus station last year when he was attacked by a group of Arabs who left the
place only when he defended himself with rocks. In addition, Arabs constantly attack Jews
as they make their way to synagogue during Shabbat, try to run them over and cause damage
to their vehicles.
Firebomb attacks have come to be the most common form of terrorism in Jerusalem, Judea
and Samaria in recent months, according to statistics recently published by the Israel
Security Agency (Shin Bet).
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