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Posts tagged ‘Syria’

Opinion | Trump Shuts Down Assad, Shows Obama How a Real Leader Handles Chemical Warfare


Reported By Jared Harris | September 10, 2018 at

6:57pm

Chemical weapons are some of the nastiest things to come out of war. They can’t tell the difference between a soldier and a child. Depending on the level of exposure, death can come after a few agonizing minutes. Those that do survive often live with neurological, physiological, and mental wounds for the rest of their life.

It’s no wonder this was a “red line” for former President Barack Obama in the Syrian Civil War. When chemical weapons were used, however, the United States of America was nowhere to be found.

Obama’s excuse? Chlorine gas, used in the attack, isn’t a chemical weapon.

“Chlorine itself has not been listed as a chemical weapon,” the former president stated.

Chemical weapon or not, chlorine gas isn’t pretty. I won’t list the effects here, but accounts from the First World War paint a grisly picture of chlorine’s gruesome interaction with human skin, eyes, and organs.

Let’s give Obama a pass and let him play around with semantics. President Donald Trump operates by a different standard.

Syria attempted to test Trump’s red line with chemical weapons, possibly expecting the same response as Obama. Within a week, Trump had U.S. warships parked on the coast. A few missile salvos made his position on the matter painfully clear.

Now, apparently not done with poking the sleeping giant, Syria has doubled down on chemical weapons. Syrian President Bashar Assad has given the green light for use of chlorine in what is expected to be the last true battle of the Syrian Civil War.

Idlib province is the last remaining rebel holdout, and the target of Assad’s chemical ambitions.

The remaining rebels are a motley crew — the survivors include al-Qaeda allies and the Turkistan Islamic Party, an Islamic terrorist group that was founded in China. Unfortunately, the area is also crawling with civilians.

The province of Idlib had a population of 1.5 million in 2011, giving it roughly the same population as modern-day Hawaii. Although international treaties forbid use of force against civilian targets, the Syrian Civil War is already rife with humanitarian crimes.

Trump leveled a stark warning against Assad, telling him to play fair — or else.

“If it’s a slaughter, the world is going to get very, very angry, and the United States is going to get very angry too,” President Trump said.

A new initiative approved by the Commander-in-Chief would see 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria indefinitely. The purpose is to ensure the total eradication of ISIS as well as the return of Iranian forces to their home country.

The Middle East has ultimately been a quagmire for the United States military. Every insurgent force we fight is an expert in asymmetrical warfare, draining our economy while giving us no real gains. We have nothing to show in the almost 17 years we have spent engaged in Afghanistan. Our time in Iraq did unseat a dictator, but our exit gave ISIS a playground full of abandoned U.S. equipment.

This doesn’t mean we should ignore evil in the world. Trump was right to act once his red line had been violated. Assad knows to tread carefully now — the second lesson from the United States is sure to be more painful than the first.

As for the best Syria policy? Donald Trump himself hinted at it in 2013.

If they want a war, we’re always ready to give them one. But let’s hope they don’t.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jared is a husband, dad, and aspiring farmer. He was an infantryman in the Arkansas and Georgia National Guard. If he’s not with his wife and son, then he’s either shooting guns or working on his motorcycle.

Exclusive: Iran moves missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies


PARIS/BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East and to give it the means to hit regional foes, Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources said.

FILE PHOTO: A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran September 27, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS

Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. It would also embarrass France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.

“The logic was to have a backup plan if Iran was attacked,” one senior Iranian official told Reuters. “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.”

Iran has previously said its ballistic missile activities are purely defensive in nature. Iranian officials declined to comment when asked about the latest moves.

The Iraqi government and military both declined to comment.

The Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles in question have ranges of about 200 km to 700 km, putting Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh or the Israeli city of Tel Aviv within striking distance if the weapons were deployed in southern or western Iraq.

The Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has bases in both those areas. Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani is overseeing the program, three of the sources said.

Western countries have already accused Iran of transferring missiles and technology to Syria and other allies of Tehran, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Iran’s Sunni Muslim Gulf neighbors and its arch-enemy Israel have expressed concerns about Tehran’s regional activities, seeing it as a threat to their security. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the missile transfers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that anybody that threatened to wipe Israel out “would put themselves in a similar danger”.

MISSILE PRODUCTION LINE

The Western source said the number of missiles was in the 10s and that the transfers were designed to send a warning to the United States and Israel, especially after air raids on Iranian troops in Syria. The United States has a significant military presence in Iraq.

“It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base, the Western source said.

The Iranian sources and one Iraqi intelligence source said a decision was made some 18 months ago to use militias to produce missiles in Iraq, but activity had ramped up in the last few months, including with the arrival of missile launchers.

“We have bases like that in many places and Iraq is one of them. If America attacks us, our friends will attack America’s interests and its allies in the region,” said a senior IRGC commander who served during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Western source and the Iraqi source said the factories being used to develop missiles in Iraq were in al-Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, and Jurf al-Sakhar, north of Kerbala. One Iranian source said there was also a factory in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The areas are controlled by Shi’ite militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the closest to Iran. Three sources said Iraqis had been trained in Iran as missile operators. The Iraqi intelligence source said the al-Zafaraniya factory produced warheads and the ceramic of missile moulds under former President Saddam Hussein. It was reactivated by local Shi’ite groups in 2016 with Iranian assistance, the source said. A team of Shi’ite engineers who used to work at the facility under Saddam were brought in, after being screened, to make it operational, the source said. He also said missiles had been tested near Jurf al-Sakhar.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon declined to comment.

One U.S official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Tehran over the last few months has transferred missiles to groups in Iraq but could not confirm that those missiles had any launch capability from their current positions.

Washington has been pushing its allies to adopt a tough anti-Iran policy since it reimposed sanctions this month.

While the European signatories to the nuclear deal have so far balked at U.S. pressure, they have grown increasingly impatient over Iran’s ballistic missile program. France in particular has bemoaned Iranian “frenzy” in developing and propagating missiles and wants Tehran to open negotiations over its ballistic weapons.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that Iran was arming regional allies with rockets and allowing ballistic proliferation. “Iran needs to avoid the temptation to be the (regional) hegemon,” he said.

In March, the three nations proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its missile activity, although they failed to push them through after opposition from some member states.

“Such a proliferation of Iranian missile capabilities throughout the region is an additional and serious source of concern,” a document from the three European countries said at the time.

MESSAGE TO FOES

A regional intelligence source also said Iran was storing a number of ballistic missiles in areas of Iraq that were under effective Shi’ite control and had the capacity to launch them. The source could not confirm that Iran has a missile production capacity in Iraq.

A second Iraqi intelligence official said Baghdad had been aware of the flow of Iranian missiles to Shi’ite militias to help fight Islamic State militants, but that shipments had continued after the hardline Sunni militant group was defeated.

“It was clear to Iraqi intelligence that such a missile arsenal sent by Iran was not meant to fight Daesh (Islamic State) militants but as a pressure card Iran can use once involved in regional conflict,” the official said.

The Iraqi source said it was difficult for the Iraqi government to stop or persuade the groups to go against Tehran.

“We can’t restrain militias from firing Iranian rockets because simply the firing button is not in our hands, it’s with Iranians who control the push button,” he said.

“Iran will definitely use the missiles it handed over to Iraqi militia it supports to send a strong message to its foes in the region and the United States that it has the ability to use Iraqi territories as a launch pad for its missiles to strike anywhere and anytime it decides, the Iraqi official said.

Iraq’s parliament passed a law in 2016 to bring an assortment of Shi’ite militia groups known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) into the state apparatus. The militias report to Iraq’s prime minister, who is a Shi’ite under the country’s unofficial governance system. However, Iran still has a clear hand in coordinating the PMF leadership, which frequently meets and consults with Soleimani.

Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Jonathan Landay in Washington; editing by David Clarke

Iran moves ballistic missiles to Iraq

Tehran’s move likely to exacerbate tensions with Washington

Published: 16:37 August 31, 2018 Gulf News

Reuters

Paris/Baghdad

Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shiite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East and to give it the means to hit regional foes, Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources said.

Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

It would also embarrass France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new US sanctions against Tehran.

According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.

“The logic was to have a backup plan if Iran was attacked,” one senior Iranian official said. “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.” Iran has previously said its ballistic missile activities are purely defensive in nature. Iranian officials declined to comment when asked about the latest moves.

The Iraqi government and military both declined to comment.

The Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles in question have ranges of about 200 km to 700 km,.

The Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has bases in both those areas.

Quds Force commander Qassem Sulaimani is overseeing the programme, three of the sources said.

Western countries have already accused Iran of transferring missiles and technology to Syria and other allies of Tehran, such as Al Houthis in Yemen and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Gulf neighbours and its arch-enemy Israel have expressed concerns about Tehran’s regional activities, seeing it as a threat to their security.

The Western source said the number of missiles was in the 10s and that the transfers were designed to send a warning to the United States and Israel, especially after air raids on Iranian troops in Syria. The United States has a significant military presence in Iraq.

“It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base,” the Western source said.

The Iranian sources and one Iraqi intelligence source said a decision was made some 18 months ago to use militias to produce missiles in Iraq, but activity had ramped up in the last few months, including with the arrival of missile launchers.

“We have bases like that in many places and Iraq is one of them. If America attacks us, our friends will attack America’s interests and its allies in the region,” said a senior IRGC commander who served during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Western source and the Iraqi source said the factories being used to develop missiles in Iraq were in Al Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, and Jurf Al Sakhar, north of Karbala. One Iranian source said there was also a factory in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The areas are controlled by Shiite militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the closest to Iran. Three sources said Iraqis had been trained in Iran as missile operators.

The Iraqi intelligence source said the Al Zafaraniya factory produced warheads and the ceramic of missile moulds under former president Saddam Hussain. It was reactivated by local Shiite groups in 2016 with Iranian assistance, the source said.

A team of Shiite engineers who used to work at the facility under Saddam were brought in, after being screened, to make it operational, the source said. He also said missiles had been tested near Jurf Al Sakhar.

The US Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon declined to comment.

One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Tehran over the last few months has transferred missiles to groups in Iraq but could not confirm that those missiles had any launch capability from their current positions.

Washington has been pushing its allies to adopt a tough anti-Iran policy since it reimposed sanctions this month.

While the European signatories to the nuclear deal have so far baulked at US pressure, they have grown increasingly impatient over Iran’s ballistic missile programme.

France in particular has bemoaned Iranian “frenzy” in developing and propagating missiles and wants Tehran to open negotiations over its ballistic weapons.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that Iran was arming regional allies with rockets and allowing ballistic proliferation. “Iran needs to avoid the temptation to be the [regional] hegemon,” he said.

In March, the three nations proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its missile activity, although they failed to push them through after opposition from some member states.

“Such a proliferation of Iranian missile capabilities throughout the region is an additional and serious source of concern,” a document from the three European countries said at the time.

A regional intelligence source also said Iran was storing a number of ballistic missiles in areas of Iraq that were under effective Shiite control and had the capacity to launch them.

The source could not confirm that Iran has a missile production capacity in Iraq.

A second Iraqi intelligence official said Baghdad had been aware of the flow of Iranian missiles to Shiite militias to help fight Daesh militants, but that shipments had continued after the group was defeated.

“It was clear to Iraqi intelligence that such a missile arsenal sent by Iran was not meant to fight Daesh militants but as a pressure card Iran can use once involved in regional conflict,” the official said.

The Iraqi source said it was difficult for the Iraqi government to stop or persuade the groups to go against Tehran.

“We can’t restrain militias from firing Iranian rockets because simply the firing button is not in our hands, it’s with Iranians who control the push button,” he said.

“Iran will definitely use the missiles it handed over to Iraqi militia it supports to send a strong message to its foes in the region and the United States that it has the ability to use Iraqi territories as a launch pad for its missiles to strike anywhere and anytime it decides, the Iraqi official said.

Iraq’s parliament passed a law in 2016 to bring an assortment of Shiite militia groups known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) into the state apparatus. The militias report to Iraq’s prime minister, who is a Shiite under the country’s unofficial governance system.

However, Iran still has a clear hand in coordinating the PMF leadership, which frequently meets and consults with Sulaimani.

Report: Airstrikes Continue to Rain Down in Syria… Air Defense Deployed


Reported By Chris Agee | April 17, 2018 at 1:09pm

URL of the original posting site: https://www.westernjournal.com/report-airstrikes-continue-to-reign-down-in-syria-air-defense-deployed/

Syria has reportedly been hit with another air raid in the days since the government’s latest alleged use of chemical weapons against its own citizens. A trilateral airstrike earlier this month was led by U.S., British and French forces with the support of the other 26 NATO member nations. Days later, the Jerusalem Post cited media reports within Syria that another round of air raids were reported Tuesday morning over specific military sites.

Early Tuesday morning, the strikes were reported near the areas of Damascus, Homs and the Al-Sayrat airbase. A specific target reportedly included in the raid was Dumair airport, which is believed to be the site of Syrian and Russian military coordination. Shortly after the latest round of bombing, locals said Syria’s air defense system was engaged, launching rockets with the intent of intercepting incoming missiles.

Some strikes, including one allegedly targeting the Shayrat airbase, have since been disputed by sources online. It was also unclear which military force or forces were responsible for the latest round of bombings.

Officials at the Pentagon denied the U.S. played any role in continued Syrian air raids following Saturday’s campaign.

President Donald Trump thanked partner nations in a tweet declaring a “perfectly executed strike” just hours after it began early Saturday morning.

The Pentagon confirmed U.S. involvement in the strikes on three strategic targets. A statement indicated the mission was a “one-time shot” in direct response to the latest reports of Syrian citizens poisoned by chemical weapons.

Early social media reports, particularly from sources within Syria, suggested the Israeli military staged Tuesday morning’s strikes. Israeli forces were also linked to another Syrian airstrike on April 9, days before the U.S.-led mission and just two days after the latest alleged round of chemical weapons use.

As the U.K. Telegraph reported, recent warnings have surfaced that the earlier attack blamed on Israel, in which seven Iranians were killed at a Syrian air base, could result in retaliation against the Jewish nation. (SEE BELOW) Israel said it targeted the T4 air base as part of its ongoing effort to prevent Iran from gaining a permanent position of influence within Syria’s volatile military.

Military officials in Israel were reportedly on high alert Tuesday as a senior adviser to Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei pledged the deaths “would not stand without a response.”

Israel had specifically identified the threat of an airstrike launched out of Syria by Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces.

One official confirmed that the military was focusing on the that military force as “most likely to be the designated unit that will try to wage an attack against Israel.”

Iran Responds to Israeli Syria Strike, Says ‘Date Has Been Set’ for Their Destruction

URL of the original posting site: https://www.westernjournal.com/iran-responds-israeli-syria-strike-says-date-has-been-set-for-their-destruction/

Following reports of an Israeli strike on Iranian targets at Syria’s T4 airbase last Monday, Iran warned of Israel’s future destruction. The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday that Iranian Army Ground Forces commander Brig.-Gen Kiumars Heidari said Iran’s military is “much more powerful than before” and warned that “the date has been set” for Israel’s destruction, according to official news agency Mehr.

An Israeli Defense Force official confirmed Monday that Israel was behind the attack on the Iranian air base. The strike was reportedly part of Israel’s ongoing effort to prevent Iran from gaining a permanent position of influence within Syria’s military.

“Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian entrenchment on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah, from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish state,” the Post reported.

The strike also followed an attempted attack from Iran on Feb. 10, “when an Iranian drone launched by a Revolutionary Guards Quds Force unit operating out of Syria’s T4 air base, east of Homs in central Syria, was shot down with a missile from an Israeli Apache helicopter that was following it after it penetrated Israeli airspace,” The New York Times reported.

IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said the drone’s flight path and Israel’s intelligence analysis indicated that its mission was “an act of sabotage in Israeli territory.”

“It was the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy,” a senior IDF official told the Times, adding that the strike on the T-4 airbase “was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people.”

According to the Post, Iranian Gen. Heidari “taunted others in the region by saying that — unlike countries such as Saudi Arabia which imports its arms from the West — the armed forces of Iran were produced locally.”

Iranian Defense Minister Brig.- Gen. Amir Hatami had a similar message Sunday, saying that Iran had reached a point of “self sufficiency” in producing, supplying and exporting Iranian-made weapons. Iran’s military budget in 2017 was 15.9 billion, up almost 65 percent from 2014, the Post reported.

Besides Israel’s concern about Iran’s influence on Syria, it is also worried that the country is “trying to build advanced weapons factories in Lebanon in order to manufacture more accurate missiles which are GPS-guided and could hit targets within a 50 meter radius.”

In response to Heidari’s threat, a senior IDF official told Sky News in Arabic that “Israel will react strongly to any Iranian action from inside Syria.”

Israel’s strike on the Iranian targets were largely overshadowed by the United States’ strike on Syria on Friday, but as noted by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, tensions between Israel and Iran could lead to an even more dangerous conflict.

“Syria is going to explode. I know, you have heard that one before, but this time I mean really explode. Because the U.S., British and French attack on Syria to punish its regime for its vile use of chemical weapons — and Russia’s vow to respond — is actually just the second-most dangerous confrontation unfolding in that country,” Friedman wrote. 

“Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger away from going to the next level — and if that happens, the U.S. and Russia may find it difficult to stay out.”

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North Korea Caught Trying To Aid Syria’s Chemical Weapons Program


Reported 

URL of the original posting site: http://www.westernjournalism.com/north-korea-caught-trying-aid-syrias-chemical-weapons-program/

North Korea has been caught twice in recent months trying to send Syria the materials needed to make chemical weapons, according to a United Nations report.

“The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea),” the United Nations committee reported.

“Two member states interdicted shipments destined for Syria. Another member state informed the panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with Syria,” the report stated, using the acronym for the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, which has been blacklisted by the Security Council for arms dealing.

The report did not say when the weapons were intercepted. The intercepted shipments were bound for Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, which has overseen Syria’s chemical weapons program.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former head of the British military’s chemical, biological and radiological weapons program, said North Korea has been selling its chemical stockpile.

“Syria’s chemical weapons program was basically built up by Iran and Russia,” he said. “But the North Koreans have been desperate for currency and have been happy to sell technology to anyone. It has always been a real concern that they would sell their chemical and nuclear expertise.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t speak to a wider involvement in the (chemical weapons) sphere, especially by the jihadis,” he said.

An organization called the Nuclear Threat Initiative said North Korea “may possess between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of (chemical warfare) agents.

“The South Korean government assesses that North Korea is able to produce most types of chemical weapons indigenously, although it must import some precursors to produce nerve agents, which it has done in the past,” the site said.

“At maximum capacity, North Korea is estimated to be capable of producing up to 12,000 tons of CW. Nerve agents such as Sarin and VX are thought to be the focus of North Korean production,” it said.

In April, Syria used chemical weapons to attack a rebel-held village, prompting an armed response form the United States.

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