Iran threatens U.S, Israel

Chief of staff warns Tehran’s enemies and regional states against military action, calling American threats ‘political bluff’

In the latest in a series of warnings against the US, Iran’s chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi warned the Islamic republic’s foes that Iran is prepared for a “decisive battle” if attacked.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran

“We are ready for the decisive battle with America and the Zionist regime (Israel),” Fars news agency quoted Firouzabadi as saying Wednesday.

He also warned neighboring nations not to allow any attack to be launched on Iran from their soil.

“We do not have any hostility toward regional states, but if we are ever attacked from the American bases in the region we will strike that area back,” he said.

Washington has many military bases in the region, including in Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said late last month that if diplomacy with Iran fails, “the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do.”

But Firouzabadi accused the US of bluffing.

“Over the past decade, they brought their forces but came to the conclusion that they can’t attack us, and left,” he said, dismissing the US military threat as nothing but a “political bluff.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the West should not have any delusions about using a military option.

“I say explicitly, if some have delusions of having any threats against Iran on their tables, they need to wear new glasses. There is no military option against Iran on any table in the world,” he said.

On Sunday, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy Commander Ali Fadavi said the US knows that its aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf would be sunk if it launched a military strike on Iran.

“The Americans can sense by all means how their warships will be sunk with 5,000 crews and forces in combat against Iran and how they should find its hulk in the depths of the sea,” said Fadavi, according to Fars news agency.

“They cannot hide themselves in the sea since the entire Middle East region, Western Europe, the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz are monitored by us and there is no place for them to hide.”

Also Sunday, Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan touted the Iranian military’s ability to respond to an American attack, Fars reported.

“The Iranian Armed Forces are an intertwined and coherent complex that can give a decisive response to any threat at any level and any place under the command of the commander-in-chief,” Dehqan said in a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of the revolution that brought the current Islamic regime to power.

“The enemy can never assess and think of the range of the response given by the powerful and mighty Armed Forces of the Islamic Iran,” he added.

The bellicose rhetoric follows Saturday’s announcement by an Iranian admiral that Iran had dispatched warships to the North Atlantic, while Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the Americans as liars who, while professing to be friends of Tehran, would bring down his regime if they could. He also said it was “amusing” that the US thought Iran would reduce its “defensive capabilities.”

On Friday, Iranian state TV ran a documentary featuring a computerized video of Iran’s drones and missiles bombing Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben-Gurion Airport and the Dimona nuclear reactor in a simulated retaliation for a hypothetical Israeli or American strike on the Islamic Republic.

Iran is due to resume talks on Monday in Vienna with the P5+1 — Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany — aimed at reaching a comprehensive nuclear accord following a landmark interim agreement struck in November.

Western nations have long suspected Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program, allegations denied by Tehran, which insists its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

Neither the United States nor Israel has ruled out military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, if diplomacy fails.

Abbas’s new red line: Israeli withdrawal within 4 years

‘Palestinians will not sign a deal without explicit recognition of East Jerusalem as their capital, full prisoner release’

Preempting the American framework agreement for a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal expected within weeks, the Palestinian presidency on Wednesday issued a list of “red lines” stating PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s nonnegotiable positions.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, told the official PA daily Al-Ayyam that the American paper must include an Israeli withdrawal “from all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967″ within a time frame of three to four years, followed by the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The agreement must also explicitly refer to East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

Abbas’s list of “red lines,” sent to the Middle East Quartet ahead of its meeting in Germany in early February as well as to US President Barack Obama, also includes a call to solve the refugee issue based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, and a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“These are the red lines of the Palestinian position, since without these principles there can be no just and comprehensive peace in the region,” Abu Rudeineh said.

The four-year time limit for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank contradicts comments made by Abbas in an interview with The New York Times on February 2, where he allowed five years for a full Israeli pullback. Abbas made no reference to the comprehensive prisoner release in that interview, though he voiced this demand in a public speech to East Jerusalem activists in January.

In a televised interview for the INSS conference in Tel Aviv a few days earlier, Abbas set the limit for Israel’s withdrawal at three years.

In any event, senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath was doubtful on Monday that negotiations with Israel would continue beyond their original April deadline, due to American support for Israel’s demand to recognize it as a Jewish state and to maintain a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley.

“Negotiations will not be extended [beyond their original nine-month time frame] if these conditions persist,” Shaath was quoted by the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi as saying.

Strike inevitable as Iran mocks World Powers

With an interim agreement reached and signed in Geneva between the P-5+1 and Iran on Saturday, the US Government seems content while subsequent events clearly indicate Iran is not planning on keeping its end of the bargain leaving Netanyahu no option but to order a strike.

A couple of quick pen strokes signaled the sealing of the (interim) agreement in the early hours of Sunday after four long days of negotiations. Soon thereafter, near-euphoric headlines emerged around the world notifying the international community of this happening. Yet there is little to rejoice about.

Read the rest of the article at:

blogs.timesofisrael.com/strike-inevitable-as-iran-mocks-world-powers/

US shelves drone sale to Turkey over exposing Mossad spy ring

Turkish outlet Daily Taraf says Turkish military intelligence chief Hakan Fidan’s disdain for the Mossad was apparent after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident • Turkish official: U.S. angry over $4 billion weapons contract it lost to a Chinese competitor.

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The U.S. has canceled a shipment of 10 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to Turkey, following that country’s exposure of an Iranian spy network that worked with the Mossad, Turkish media outlet Daily Taraf reported on Monday.

The shipment of drones was reportedly shelved due to U.S. frustration with Turkish military intelligence chief Hakan Fidan ‘s intelligence cooperation with Iran.

According to the report, Fidan’s disdain for the Mossad had already been noted earlier, following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which nine Turkish nationals were killed and several Israeli soldiers wounded when Israel Defense Forces commandos seized a ship that was attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Turkish intelligence reportedly halted cooperation with the Mossad a year later, and then proceeded to provide Iran with information on the Israeli spy agency.

A Turkish government official was quoted as saying that the U.S. chose to announce Fidan’s role in exposing the spy ring because Turkey recently rejected a U.S. missile defense system $4 billion proposal in favor of a Chinese competitor’s.

In show of military might, Israel drills long-range air force attack

Week after warning from the PM about acting alone against Iran, IAF runs — and publicizes — midair refueling exercises and simulated strike on distant target

n a display of muscle-flexing to Tehran ahead of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, Israel made a rare announcement Thursday that its air force had conducted a series of drills in which fighter aircraft practiced midair refueling and a simulated strike on a distant target.

A video, unprecedentedly uploaded to YouTube by the IDF Thursday, shows F-15 and F-16 fighter jets refueling midair over the water. It was published shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a series of European TV interviewers, warning the EU not to ease sanctions against Iran. “When a murderous regime engages in soft diplomacy and uses calming words of peace, but nevertheless continues to acquire immense power — it must be stopped, immediately,” Netanyahu said.

According to the military, most of the Israeli Air Force squadrons, including all the combat ones, participated in this week’s drill. An IDF statement, highlighting the drill’s relevance for Israel’s capacity to thwart Iran by force if necessary, noted that the IAF “plays a central role in carrying out Israel’s military option if necessary” and had therefore been “exercising and strengthening its range of capabilities through long-range flights.”

The less-than-discreet message directed at Iran came as a series of Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman and Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, warned that Israel was ready to act alone to defend itself and prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Last week, speaking at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu said Israel would “stand alone” against Iran if needed.

The exercises, which included midair refueling, exceptionally long-distance coordinated strikes, and dogfights, were carried out over Greek waters, according to a Channel 10 report. The station noted that the video of the exercises released Thursday by the IAF marked the first time the military had made such a clip publicly available.

“The Israeli message was clear,” the channel said, noting the announcement’s proximity to next week’s round of talks between world powers and Iran in Geneva. “Here is an attempt to show the world that, a moment before the talks, Israel is not giving up its military option.”

A commander who took part in the exercises “explained that challenges stemming from these long-range flights continue as the plane moves further from its point of origin. These challenges include difficult weather conditions, unfamiliar terrain and threats that could emerge during the flight,” according to the official IDF blog, which noted that “long-range flying demands several hours of concentration and exceptional physical preparation.”

The IAF, which “plays a central role in carrying out Israel’s military option if necessary… is exercising and strengthening its range of capabilities through long-range flights as well as other exercises,” the IDF said, though it also noted that the exercises were “no different from training exercises conducted in the past few years.”

The drill over Greek waters was the latest in a series of joint military exercises between Jerusalem and Athens. The navies of Israel, Greece and the US in March held a two-week joint military exercise for the third year in a row. There was no immediate indication, however, that the exercises — announced Thursday — involved Greek military forces.

Israel has threatened to strike Iran’s nuclear production facilities if the Islamic Republic develops the ability to create a nuclear weapon. An aerial attack over such a long range — close to 1,000 miles as the crow flies — would necessitate midair refueling. In 1981, the IAF carried out a long-range airstrike to destroy the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.

IDF destroys Syrian mortar after two soldiers wounded

The incident marks the first time Israeli troops are wounded by spillover from Syrian fighting • IDF says shells were stray rounds, files complaint with U.N. forces in the area • Army has noted multiple instances of spillover along the border in past month.

IDF troops at the Golan Heights, Wednesday

IDF troops at the Golan Heights, Wednesday

The Israel Defense Forces destroyed a Syrian mortar used to launch shells that wounded two Israeli soldiers in the northern Golan Heights on Wednesday.

Army Radio reported that the IDF fired a Tammuz missile at the Syrian mortar and confirmed its destruction.

The two soldiers were wounded by shrapnel when two mortar shells exploded Wednesday, marking the first time Israeli troops on the Syrian border have been wounded from spillover from the fighting in Syria. The army stated that the mortar rounds were strays fired during fighting on the Syrian side of the border between rebels and the Syrian military, and that a complaint was filed with the U.N. forces in the area.

The IDF has noted increased fighting near the Syrian border recently, citing multiple instances of spillover in the past month. Last Tuesday, workers constructing a security barrier near an IDF fortification on the Golan Heights were fired upon. No one was wounded in the incident, though the gunfire caused a fire. In September, an IDF vehicle sustained fire from the Syrian side of the border. Soldiers fired back at the source of the shooting, and there were no injuries in the incident.

In August, an errant Syrian artillery shell exploded on the Golan Heights. The IDF returned fire with a Tammuz missile and destroyed the Syrian position. In July, seven mortar rounds exploded in Israel during skirmishes between the Syrian regime and rebel forces.

Rouhani, on Iranian TV in May, detailed how he broke nuclear pledge

Candidate’s interview from just before his election gets fresh attention as West seeks to judge Iran’s credibility ahead of new negotiations

n a video clip now gaining fresh attention as the international community seeks to assess his credibility, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani bragged on Iranian state television just four months ago that he and the regime utterly flouted a 2003 agreement with the IAEA in which it promised to suspend all uranium enrichment and certain other nuclear activities.

Rouhani, who was being interviewed by Iran’s state IRIB TV (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) on May 27, less than three weeks before he won the June 14 presidential elections, was provoked by the interviewer’s assertion that, as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in 2003-5, “everything was suspended” on the nuclear program under his watch.

Smiling but evidently highly irritated by the suggestion, Rouhani called it “a lie” that only “the illiterate” would believe, and said that “whoever is talking to you in your earpiece” was feeding false information. He proceeded to detail how Iran, in fact, had flagrantly breached the October 2003 “Tehran Declaration,” which he said “was supposed to outline how everything should be suspended.”

Although Iran issued a joint statement with visiting EU ministers in October 2003 setting out its pledged obligations under the Tehran Declaration, in practice, Rouhani said in the interview, “We did not let that happen!”

The interview, conducted by Hassan Abedini, was one in a series of shows in which the presidential candidates were questioned by the widely watched channel. The TV station is closely controlled by loyalists of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Rouhani clearly felt the imperative to underline that he was no Western pushover.

Far from honoring the commitment, in which Iran said “it has decided voluntarily to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities,” Rouhani told the interviewer that all Iran did was merely suspend “ten centrifuges” in the Natanz enrichment facility. “And not a total suspension. Just reduced the yield.”

Unimpressed, interviewer Abedini asserted that work had been suspended at the UCF — the Uranium Enrichment Facility at Isfahan. Quite the contrary, Rouhani countered, detailing the completion of various phases of work at Isfahan under his watch in 2004 and 2005. He went on to state proudly that the Iranian heavy water reactor at Arak was also developed under his watch, in 2004.

“Do you know when we developed yellowcake? Winter 2004,” Rouhani went on. “Do you know when the number of centrifuges reached 3,000? Winter 2004.”

Incredulous at the notion that Iran had bowed to international pressure and halted nuclear activities in that period, Rouhani asked the interviewer, “We halted the nuclear program? We were the ones to complete it! We completed the technology.”

He clarified that this was not his solo success, but was rather thanks to the work of “our valuable nuclear scientists. Our beloved ones. We kiss their hands.” But he stressed, “We were the first to initiate this. By ‘we,’ I mean the whole government, not Hassan Rouhani. By we, I mean the supreme leader. We were all hand in hand. That is why the supreme leader in his speech of November 11, 2003, said that in those negotiations, the conspiracy of Washington and Israel was shattered.”

Iran had taken “the correct stance [in the nuclear talks], without submission and coercion,” he said.

Rouhani then again attacked the interviewer, and “the guy who talks into your earpiece” for allegedly misleading viewers, to which Abedini replied: “I have read your book from cover to cover, twice.”

“Good job,” retorted Rouhani. “Then read it for a third time, Mr. Abedini. This is how we completed the nuclear enrichment program.”

In his speech to the UN General Assembly last week, and in a succession of other statements and inteviews, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has alleged that Rouhani, in his current outreach to the West, is misleading it by professing a willingness to negotiate over the nuclear program. Netanyahu warned the international community not to be “fooled” by Rouhani as it enters new diplomatic negotiations set to start next week.

As Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005, Netanyahu said at the UN, Rouhani “masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smokescreen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric.”

Netanyahu then quoted from Rouhani’s 2011 book, in which he wrote, “‘While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.’ Now, for those of you who don’t know,” Netanyahu explained, “the Isfahan facility is an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That’s where uranium ore called yellowcake is converted into an enrichable form. Rouhani boasted, and I quote, ‘By creating a calm environment — a calm environment — we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.’ He fooled the world once. Now he thinks he can fool it again.”

In Rouhani’s address to the UN, on September 24, the president said “Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region,” and offered “to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks” over the nuclear program, “to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency.” At the same time, he warned, “Nuclear knowledge in Iran has been domesticated now and the nuclear technology, inclusive of enrichment, has already reached industrial scale. It is, therefore, an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures.”