Sunday, April 30, 2017

Iran In Syria: A Gathering Storm? Netanyahu's Bold Move Against Europe, U.S. Carrier Carl Vinson Stages War Drills With S Korean Navy

Iran in Syria: A Gathering Storm?

The Iranian regime, as it has made clear in countless threats, rallies, and missile displays, wants to destroy Israel, the “Little Satan.” 

Given Israel’s military might and, according to foreign reports, nuclear arsenal, Iran’s goal is probably unattainable. But the nearer Iran gets—or perceives itself to get—to that goal, the more warfare and instability is likely to ensue.
At present, thanks to Syria’s collapse into civil war and the Obama administration’s—at best—inept policy there, Iran is within reach of establishing a permanent military presence to Israel’s north—a surefire recipe for ongoing struggle and menace.
Israeli officials, Reuters reports, now estimate that Iran “commands at least 25,000 fighters in Syria, including members of its own Revolutionary Guard, Shi’ite militants from Iraq and recruits from Afghanistan and Pakistan.” 
Iran is also reportedly seeking a naval base in Syria, and, if it gains a lasting foothold in Israel’s northern neighbor, will undoubtedly want an airbase there as well. 
The Reuters report notes that Israeli intelligence minister Yisrael Katz has been on Capitol Hill urging stepped-up U.S. threats and sanctions on Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hizballah. Israel wants Russia to rein in Iran, too—though whether Russia is willing is still in dispute. 

Of particular concern are Iran’s efforts to establish a beachhead for itself and Hizballah on the northern Golan Heights, directly across the border from the Israeli-controlled southern Golan. 
Two years ago an Israeli airstrike on the northern Golan killed both Hizballah and Iranian commanders seeking to build a terror network there. Israel remains acutely concerned that such efforts will continue.
Iran’s naked aggression toward Israel was in evidence this week in a different kind of attack. The Israeli daily Haaretz reports:
Cybersecurity experts are convinced that Iran is behind the large-scale cyberattack revealed Wednesday by Israel’s Cyber Defense Authority. The attacks have been identified as being carried out by a hacker group known as OilRig, which has been tracked to Iran and is believed to be financed and directed by one of the Islamic Republic’s intelligence agencies.
OilRig…is known to have attacked in both government and private sector targets the past, focusing primarily on Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and Israel.
The recent attacks were aimed at at least 120 Israeli targets, including private companies, government departments, research institutes and hospitals…. It is unclear at this point whether the attack had any specific targets beyond creating damage in Israeli computer networks, and the extent of that damage is still being assessed. 

Other reports, like this one, claim the cyberattack was successfully thwarted.
What is not in doubt is that the—for now—low-level war between Iran and Israel is not only continuing but intensifying. On Thursday it was reported that Israeli missiles fired from the Golan Heights hat hit and destroyed Iranian arms supplies in a Hizballah depot near Damascus International Airport. 
Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, mentioned above, appeared to confirm that Israel was behind the strike, saying it “exactly matches our declared policy.”
Iran’s harassment of a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf this week suggests that its cockiness toward the “Great Satan,” too—after a period when it seemed to have waned—is returning. 
A cyber attack on Israel, arms shipments to Hizballah, and provocative moves against the U.S. navy are—among much else—all in a week’s work for Iran. 
Israeli officials are, though, well aware that the current administration has a much more sober view of the problem than the previous one, and more hopeful that, this time around, the forces of civilization will push back against a regime that has been sowing discord and death for almost four decades.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopted a new strategy for managing Israel’s diplomatic relations with the West. Long in the making and increasingly urgent, Israel’s new strategy is very simple. Foreign governments can either treat Israel in accordance with international diplomatic norms of behavior, or they can continue to discriminate against Israel.
If they act in accordance to international diplomatic norms, Israel will respond in like fashion. If they choose instead to discriminate against Israel and treat it in a manner no other democratic state is treated, Israel will abandon diplomatic convention and treat foreign governments as domestic critics.
On Monday, after his repeated requests for Germany’s visiting Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to cancel his plans to meet with Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, Netanyahu gave Gabriel an ultimatum. Gabriel could meet with Netanyahu, or he could meet with Breaking the Silence.

Gabriel refused to cancel his meeting with Breaking the Silence. So Netanyahu canceled their meeting.

To understand the strategic significance of Netanyahu’s decision and what further steps are now required to ensure the success of his strategy, it is necessary to understand what Breaking the Silence represents. It is then important to recognize how it is used by Berlin and other foreign governments.

But first, Netanyahu’s move has to be seen in a general context.

Today’s Western democracies are in a furor over the notion that foreign governments would dare to interfere in their domestic affairs. The uproar in the US over Russia and in Europe over Turkish efforts to drum up support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan among Turkish nationals in Europe make clear how roundly democracies decry attempts by foreign governments to influence their internal politics.

This then brings us to Israel, and the unique rules that the West applies in its dealing with the Jewish state.
The playing field between Israel and Europe has shifted in recent years. Today, the EU is fighting for its life. Donald Trump’s victory in November, Britain’s decision to exit the EU, and the growing power of anti-EU forces in Europe have all had a debilitating impact on Brussels’ ability to throw its weight around in the global arena.

Moreover, over the past several years, the government has actively promoted expanding Israeli trade to Asia. One motivation for the policy is the desire to diminish Europe’s economic leverage over Israel.

The diminishment of Europe’s power advantage over Israel set the conditions for Netanyahu’s adoption of his strategy for dealing with Europe’s war against it.

And just in a nick of time. Because as Europe becomes less powerful, Europe’s policies toward Israel become more toxic.

Seoul: The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier on Saturday started a joint naval drill with the South Korean Navy in the East Sea amid heightened tensions from North Korea`s failed ballistic missile launch earlier in the morning, defence officials here said.
"South Korea and US strike forces began a drill in the East Sea from 6 p.m. today against the backdrop of the current security situation," the South Korean Navy said.
No specific schedule for the rendezvous was released to the media yet, but the exercise is expected to continue until sometime next week, Yonhap news agency reported.
At the core of the naval exercise lies the missile warning informational link exercise (LINKEX) that monitors, traces and intercepts any intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) from North Korea.
"The exercise is the follow-up of the naval exercise in the Yellow Sea between the two navies on Tuesday. It is aimed at deterring North Korea`s provocations and strengthening the military readiness of the Korea-US alliance," the Navy said.
It would mark the Vinson`s second operation in South Korean waters in less than two months, an unusual move that comes amid military tensions in Korea.
The nuclear-powered flattop reportedly carries almost 100 aircraft. Its strike group also includes guided-missile destroyers and cruisers.
Earlier this week, the Vinson had joint drills with Japan`s naval forces.
North Korea is said to be fearing the powerful US strike group but its state media publicly claimed the Communist nation`s troops are ready to sink the aircraft carrier with a single strike.

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