Netanyahu in Moscow: the selection of words نتنياهو في موسكو: انتقاء الكلمات

 Netanyahu in Moscow: the selection of words

مارس 18, 2019

Written by Nasser Kandil,

It is normal that the Turkish President Recep Erdogan and the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are the last ones who want to recognize the Syrian victory, as it is normal that the maneuver in the battlefields and the prevarication in the commitment are the titles of their policy. The main beneficiary from the war on Syria, its destruction, and its fragmentation as a central pillar in the growing resistance axis is the occupation entity. And the aspiring party to dominate on the Arab and Islamic worlds to overthrow the heart of Arabism represented by Syria is the Justice and Development Party led by Recep Erdogan who combined his leaderships to form the Muslim Brotherhood along with his sticking to the capacities of Turkey the most important country in the region and his belonging to the NATO to form the main base for the aggression on Syria while he was dreaming of the new Ottoman.

The scrutiny of the Turkish and Israeli policies and movements must not be based on the expectation of the final recognition of the complete failure and loss, rather on the limitedness of their movement. It seems that the Russian presence in Syria is the title of the new equation on which the Turkish and Israeli considerations depend. In the same way, that the dropping of the Russian plane by Turkey in late 2015 was a gateway for a new equation drawn by Russia that made it draw the rules of engagement in Syria against Turkey, the dropping of the Russian plane by the occupation entity in late 2018 formed a similar event. And as the Turkish prevarication continued but under the ceiling of non –collision with Russia again, the occupation entity is doing the same. And as Erdogan remained talking about the Syrian threat on the security of Turkey, and undertakes to continue the military action, Netanyahu will remain talking about the threat on the security of the occupation entity and undertakes to continue the military action too.

Turkey does not offer anything positive for interpreting its pledges to Astana path, but at the same time it does not dare to do neither of these two things: a passive action that leads it to collision with the Syrian army and its allies. Second, the obstruction of any military action by the Syrian army and its allies against the armed groups. Turkey which remained talking about a safe zone which it wants to form by extracting a part of the Syrian geography by the force of occupation has become choosing its words. Therefore, the concept of the safe zone moved from the direct Turkish military control to the refusal of any domination, then to the refusal of any control is not trusted by Turkey just in order to meet the concept of Moscow to apply Adana Agreement and the preparation to be a partner in a border area in which the Russian military is deployed.

The occupation entity which will not abide by any positive commitment towards respecting the concept of the Syrian sovereignty has abided by two things; not to approach the Syrian airspace after the dropping of an Israeli aircraft by the Syrian air defense. Second, not to target vital locations of the Syrian army and governmental and civil figures of the Syrian sovereignty. The occupation entity which was talking about its intention to target the Iranian presence since the deployment of S-300 missiles in Syria has become choosing its words. After Netanyahu had talked that he would continue his raids, he talked before his visit to Moscow about an action against the Iranian presence without using military words, and now in Moscow he is using different words, that he will continue his work to prevent Iran from achieving its goals in Syria.

The decision of the leadership of the resistance axis resulting from the meeting which brought together the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Imam Ali Al Khamenaei on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow is to repel any Israeli aggression accordingly. Moscow knew this decision notified to Netanyahu, so it advised to pay attention to the threat of a serious embroilment in an uncontrolled confrontation. Therefore Netanyahu chose his words so eloquently.

 Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

نتنياهو في موسكو: انتقاء الكلمات

فبراير 28, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– من الطبيعي أن يكون الرئيس التركي رجب أردوغان ورئيس حكومة بنيامين نتنياهو آخر من يسلّم بالنصر السوري، وبسيادة غير منقوصة للدولة السورية. ومن الطبيعي أن تكون المناورة في الميدان والمراوغة في الالتزام هما عنوان سياسة كل منهما. فإذا كان من مستفيد رئيسي من الحرب على سورية لتدميرها وتفتيتها كقلعة مركزية في محور المقاومة وتنامي وتعاظم قوته في ظل القلق الوجودي من تعاظم وتنامي قوة هذا المحور، فهو كيان الاحتلال، وإذا كان من طامح للهيمنة على العالمين العربي والإسلامي من بوابة إسقاط قلب العروبة النابض الذي تمثله سورية، فهو حزب العدالة والتنمية بزعامة رجب أردوغان الذي جمع قيادته لتنظيم الأخوان المسلمين مع إمساكه بمقدرات تركيا الدولة الأهم في المنطقة، مع انتمائه لحلف الأطلسي، ليشكل القاعدة الرئيسية للعدوان على سورية وهو يعيش أحلام العثمانية الجديدة.

– المراقبة للسياسات والتحركات التركية والإسرائيلية، لا يجب أن تتم على خلفية وهم التوقع بلحظة تموضع نهائي عنوانه التسليم بالفشل الكامل والخسارة الكاملة، بل لاستكشاف درجة الضيق التي تعيشها هوامش الحركة المتاحة أمام كل منهما، وفي هذا المجال يبدو الحضور الروسي في سورية عنوان المعادلة الجديدة التي تتموضع عندها الحسابات التركية والإسرائيلية، وبمثل ما شكل إسقاط تركيا للطائرة الروسية نهاية العام 2015 مدخل رسم روسيا لمعادلة جديدة فتحت مسار تحكّم روسيا برسم قواعد الاشتباك في سورية بالنسبة لتركيا، شكل إسقاط جيش الاحتلال للطائرة الروسية في نهاية العام 2018 حدثاً مشابهاً، ومثلما استمرّت المراوغة التركية لكن تحت سقف عدم التصادم مجدداً مع روسيا، يسير كيان الاحتلال في الطريق ذاتها. ومثلما بقي أردوغان يتحدّث عن خطر على أمن تركيا من سورية ويتعهّد بمواصلة العمل عسكرياً ضده، سيبقى يتحدث نتنياهو عن خطر على أمن كيان الاحتلال ويتعهد بمواصلة العمل ضده.

– تركيا لم تُقدم على أي فعل إيجابي في ترجمة تعهداتها وفقاً لمسار أستانة، لكنها لم تجرؤ على أي من الأمرين التاليين، الأول هو فعل سلبي يوصلها إلى التصادم مع الجيش السوري وحلفائه، والثاني إعاقة عمل عسكري للجيش السوري وحلفائه بوجه الجماعات المسلحة، وتركيا التي بقيت تتحدّث عن المنطقة الآمنة التي تريد إقامتها باقتطاع جزء من الجغرافيا السورية بقوة الاحتلال، صارت تنتقي الكلمات فيتحرّك مفهوم المنطقة الآمنة من السيطرة العسكرية التركية المباشرة، إلى رفض أي سيطرة أخرى، إلى رفض أن تكون المنطقة بعهدة من لا تثق بهم تركيا، تمهيداً لملاقاة مفهوم موسكو لتطبيق اتفاق أضنة والاستعداد للدخول كشريك ضامن فيه ضمن منطقة حدودية تنتشر فيها الشرطة العسكرية الروسية.

– كبان الاحتلال الذي لن يقوم بتقديم أي التزام إيجابي نحو احترام مفهوم السيادة السورية، التزم بأمرين، الأول عدم التقرّب من الأجواء السورية منذ إسقاط الدفاعات الجوية السورية لطائرة إسرائيلية، والثاني الالتزام بعدم استهداف مواقع حيوية للجيش السوري ورموز حكومية ومدنية للسيادة السورية، وكيان الاحتلال الذي بقي بعد الإعلان عن نشر شبكة صواريخ الأس 300 في سورية، يتحدث عن نيته مواجهة واستهداف ما يصفه بالوجود الإيراني، صار ينتقي الكلمات في الحديث عن مضمون الاستهداف، فبعدما كان يقول نتنياهو إنه سيواصل غاراته، صار يتحدّث قبل زيارة موسكو عن العمل ضد الوجود الإيراني دون استخدام المفردات العسكرية. وهو في موسكو يستعمل كلمات أخرى، فيقول إنه سيواصل العمل لمنع إيران من تحقيق أهدافها في سورية.

– قرار قيادة محور المقاومة التي كان لقاء القمة للرئيس السوري بشار الأسد والإمام علي الخامنئي، منصتها الحاضرة عشية زيارة نتنياهو إلى موسكو، هو الردّ على كل عدوان إسرائيلي بما يتناسب معه كماً ونوعاً، وموسكو كانت بصورة هذا القرار الذي تبلّغه نتنياهو، مع نصيحة بالانتباه لمخاطر انزلاق جدي إلى مواجهة تخرج من تحت السيطرة، فجاءت البلاغة إلى لغة نتنياهو في انتقاء الكلمات.

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Leader awards General Soleimani with Iran’s highest military order

qaUndated photo of Iran's Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei (left) with IRGC Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani.
Undated photo of Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei (left) with IRGC Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has awarded Iran’s highest military order, the Order of Zulfaqar, to IRGC Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani.

General Soleimani is the first Iranian military official to receive the order after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After the Order of Zulfaqar, the Order of Conquest is the highest military order, which General Soleimani has already received three times.

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‌‌‌‌ برای اولین‌بار در تاریخ جمهوری اسلامی؛ سردار سرلشکر پاسدار حاج قاسم سلیمانی از سوی فرمانده معظم کل قوا حضرت آیت‌الله العظمی خامنه‌ای به دریافت نشان ذوالفقار مفتخر شد. ۹۷/۱۲/۱۹ ‌‌‌‌ Major General Hajj Ghasem Soleimany of IRGC has been awarded the Order of Zulfaqar by the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces, Ayatollah Khamenei for the first time since the Revolution. 10.3.2019 ‌‌ للمرّة الأولى في تاريخ الجمهورية الإسلامية؛ نال اللواء الحاج قاسم سليماني شرف الحصول على وسام ذوالفقار من القائد العام للقوات المسلّحة الإمام السيد علي الخامنئي. ۱۰/۰۳/۲۰۱۹

A post shared by Ghasem Soleimany|قاسم سلیمانی (@soleimany_ir) on

The top general leads the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and is widely known as one of the most influential military commanders in the world.

The Washington-based magazine Foreign Policy recently put the name of General Soleimani on top of its 2019 list of Global Thinkers in the defense and security field, followed by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

A short write-up on the senior Iranian commander described him as the “public face of Iran’s response to US President Donald Trump’s threats.”

General Soleimani made headlines last July, when he delivered a blistering response to an all-caps tweet addressed to President Hassan Rouhani, in which Trump had issued a military threat against the Islamic Republic.

The IRGC commander is widely seen as a strategist and adviser in the counter-terrorism operations against Takfiri terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The powerful general leads Iranian military advisers backing the national armies of Syria and Iraq in their fight against terrorism.

General Soleimani was present on the ground to supervise the decisive stages of Iran-backed operations against Daesh, which lost in late 2017 all the territories it had seized in Iraq and Syria.

He declared the end of Daesh’s territorial rule in a letter addressed to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in November 2017. Ayatollah Khamenei had earlier described him as a “living martyr”.

Leader Awards General Suleimani Iran’s Highest Military Order

Source

March 11, 2019

Iran's Quds Force Chief, Major General Qassem Suleimani

Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei awarded Iran’s highest military order, the Order of Zulfaqar, to Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Major General Qassem Suleimani.

General Suleimani is the first Iranian military official to receive the order after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Tasnim news agency reported.

After the Order of Zulfaqar, the Order of Conquest is the highest military order, which General Suleimani has already received three times.

The top general leads the elite Quds Force of the IRGC, and is widely known as one of the most influential military commanders in the world.

The Washington-based magazine Foreign Policy recently put the name of General Suleimani on top of its 2019 list of Global Thinkers in the defense and security field, followed by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

A short write-up on the senior Iranian commander described him as the “public face of Iran’s response to US President Donald Trump’s threats.”

General Suleimani made headlines last July, when he delivered a blistering response to an all-caps tweet addressed to President Hassan Rouhani, in which Trump had issued a military threat against the Islamic Republic.

The IRGC commander is widely seen as a strategist and adviser in the counter-terrorism operations against Takfiri terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The powerful general leads Iranian military advisers backing the national armies of Syria and Iraq in their fight against terrorism.

Source: Iranian media

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From Lebanon to Iraq: US-Iran escalation shows no sign of abating

Lina Khatib is the Head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House.
Both the United States and Iran are sending messages of no compromise to one another
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei greets Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) in Tehran on 25 February during a rare visit (AFP)

On Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Tehran, only his third trip abroad since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, following trips to Russia in 2015 and 2017.

Assad’s Tehran visit is largely symbolic, marking the declared “victory” of his forces with the support of Iran, but it can also be read as part of an escalating American-Iranian showdown that is playing out in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

Iran’s narrative

The visit came shortly after US President Donald Trump declared victory against the Islamic State group (IS). Trump boasted on Twitter that: “We have defeated ISIS”, with the “we” referring to the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition.

Of course, Iran is not part of that coalition, but it has been justifying its own military intervention in Syria as being about countering what it calls “takfiri jihadis”, of which IS is a component. Trump’s statement- indirectly – completely dismisses this Iranian narrative.

Iran is widely viewed in the West as a destabilising force in Syria, even by countries that remain committed to the nuclear deal with Tehran, which the United States withdrew from last year.

Iran – like Russia – firmly believes that IS and other “takfiri” groups are part of an American plot to destabilise the Middle East

Iran-backed militias, led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah, have been fighting alongside the Syrian Arab army since at least 2012.

Iran’s support has enabled Assad to survive the conflict, although whether Iran would have managed to achieve this outcome without Russia’s own intervention remains questionable.

Iran – like Russia – firmly believes that IS and other “takfiri” groups are part of an American plot to destabilise the Middle East. Both Russia and Iran say they are intervening to stand up to American meddling and to stabilise the region.

American plots

During Assad’s visit, Ayatollah Khamenei praised what he referred to as Syria’s “victory”, presenting it as another example of Iran’s victory – not against IS, but against American “plots” in the Middle East, according to Khamenei. The choice of the word “victory” is a direct response to Trump’s “victory” statement about IS.

US soldiers in Syrian city of Manbij in March 2018(AFP)
While the US is withdrawing its forces from Syria, many are due to be redeployed to the Iraq-Syria border (AFP)

The tension between Iran and the US is not rising in the Syrian context alone. In Iraq, Iran-backed militias from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) have recently started questioning the continued presence of American troops there now that the Iraqi government has also declared military victory against IS.

Qais al-Khazali, a prominent PMU militia leader and politician, said in an interview with Reuters that he sees no reason for US troops to remain in Iraq.

The tension between Iran and US is not rising in the Syrian context alone. In Iraq, Iran-backed militias have recently started questioning the US presence in the country

PMU fighters have been deploying in larger numbers to the Iraqi-Syrian border, saying they need to be there to support the Iraqi Army in securing the border and preventing an IS resurgence.

Although President Trump announced that the United States is to withdraw all but 400 American troops from Syria, the troops that are leaving Syria are mainly going to be re-deployed in the Ayn al-Assad military base in Iraq near the Syrian border.

Keeping some troops in north-eastern Syria and augmenting the numbers present in Iraq is a way for the United States not just to continue the battle against IS insurgents but also to “watch Iran” from Iraq, as Trump declared in late January.

This was not lost on Khamenei, who declared during Assad’s visit that the US plan to be actively present on the Syria-Iraq border “must be decisively rejected and resisted”.

The escalation in Lebanon

The escalation in US-Iranian tensions also extends to Lebanon. Coinciding with Assad’s Tehran visit, the UK announced on Monday that it was designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. Previously, the UK had made a distinction between the military and political wings of Hezbollah.

The UK is now following in US footsteps on the status of Hezbollah. UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that: “We are no longer able to distinguish between the already banned military wing and the political party”, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt added that the UK government’s action is a signal that Hezbollah’s “destabilising activities” in the Middle East “are totally unacceptable and detrimental to the UK’s national security”.

Hezbollah: The real winner of the Syrian war?

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The UK designation comes four months after the US announced it was imposing further sanctions targeting “foreign persons and government agencies that knowingly assist or support Hezbollah and Hezbollah-affiliated networks”, in the words of White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Trump emphasised that the Hezbollah sanctions are part of the larger plan to increase pressure on Iran.

Another major event coinciding with Assad’s trip and the UK’s designation of Hezbollah is the surprise resignation of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Many have linked the timing of his resignation to Assad’s visit to Tehran, which Zarif did not take part in, while noting the prominence of the leader of al-Quds Force and the architect of Iran’s interventions in Syria and Iraq, General Qassem Soleimani, in Assad’s meetings in Tehran.

Soleimani’s rising public profile is an indicator that Iran’s response to pressure by the United States and its allies is going to be in the direction of taking a harder line rather than engaging in international diplomacy regarding its foreign policy and interventions in other countries in the Middle East.

With both the United States and Iran standing firm in sending messages of no compromise to one another, it is likely that the nuclear deal will all but unravel further down the line and that prospects of engaging Iran in diplomatic talks on Syria or other Middle Eastern files are going to be dim.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

PHILIP GIRALDI: “ATTACKING IRAN”

Written by Philip Giraldi; Originally appeared at The Unz Review

Observers of developments in the Middle East have long taken it as a given that the United States and Israel are seeking for an excuse to attack Iran. The recently terminated conference in Warsaw had that objective, which was clearly expressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it failed to rally European and Middle Eastern states to support the cause. On the contrary, there was strong sentiment coming from Europe in particular that normalizing relations with Iran within the context of the 2015 multi party nuclear agreement is the preferred way to go both to avoid a major war and to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation.

Philip Giraldi: "Attacking Iran"

There are foundations in Washington, all closely linked to Israel and its lobby in the U.S., that are wholly dedicated to making the case for war against Iran. They seek pretexts in various dark corners, including claims that Iran is cheating on its nuclear program, that it is developing ballistic missiles that will enable it to deliver its secret nuclear warheads onto targets in Europe and even the United States, that it is an oppressive, dictatorial government that must be subjected to regime change to liberate the Iranian people and give them democracy, and, most stridently, that is provoking and supporting wars and threats against U.S. allies all throughout the Middle East.

Dissecting the claims about Iran, one might reasonably counter that rigorous inspections by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirm that Tehran has no nuclear weapons program, a view that is supported by the U.S. intelligence community in its recent Worldwide Threat Assessment. Beyond that, Iran’s limited missile program can be regarded as largely defensive given the constant threats from Israel and the U.S. and one might well accept that the removal of the Iranian government is a task best suited for the Iranian people, not delivered through military intervention by a foreign power that has been starving the country through economic warfare. And as for provoking wars in the Middle East, look to the United States and Israel, not Iran.

So the hawks in Washington, by which one means National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and, apparently President Donald Trump himself when the subject is Iran, have been somewhat frustrated by the lack of a clear casus belli to hang their war on. No doubt prodded by Netanyahu, they have apparently revived an old story to give them what they want, even going so far as to develop an argument that would justify an attack on Iran without a declaration of war while also lacking any imminent threat from Tehran to justify a preemptive strike.

What may be the new Iran policy was recently outlined in a Washington Times article, which unfortunately has received relatively little attention from either the media, the punditry or from the few policymakers themselves who have intermittently been mildly critical of Washington’s propensity to strike first and think about it afterwards.

The article is entitled “Exclusive: Iran-al Qaeda alliance May Provide Legal Rationale for U.S. military strikes.” The article’s main points should be taken seriously by anyone concerned over what is about to unfold in the Persian Gulf because it is not just the usual fluff emanating from the hubris-induced meanderings of some think tank, though it does include some of that. It also cites government officials by name and others who are not named but are clearly in the administration.

As an ex-CIA case officer who worked on the Iran target for a number of years, I was shocked when I read the Times’ article, primarily because it sounded like a repeat of the fabricated intelligence that was used against both Iraq and Iran in 2001 through 2003. It is based on the premise that war with Iran is desirable for the United States and, acting behind the scenes, Israel, so it is therefore necessary to come up with an excuse to start it. As the threat of terrorism is always a good tactic to convince the American public that something must be done, that is what the article tries to do and it is particularly discouraging to read as it appears to reflect opinion in the White House.

As I have been writing quite critically about the CIA and the Middle East for a number of years, I am accustomed to considerable push-back from former colleagues. But in this case, the calls and emails I received from former intelligence officers who shared my experience of the Middle East and had read the article went strongly the other way, condemning the use of both fake and contrived intelligence to start another unnecessary war.

The article states that Iran is supporting al Qaeda by providing money, weapons and sanctuary across the Middle East to enable it to undertake new terrorist attacks. It is doing so in spite of ideological differences because of a common enemy: the United States. Per the article and its sources, this connivance has now “evolved into an unacceptable global security threat” with the White House intent on “establishing a potential legal justification for military strikes against Iran or its proxies.”

One might reasonably ask why the United States cares if Iran is helping al Qaeda as both are already enemies who are lying on the Made in U.S.A. chopping block waiting for the ax to fall. The reason lies in the Authorization to Use Military Force, originally drafted post 9/11 to provide a legal fig leaf to pursue al Qaeda worldwide, but since modified to permit also going after “associated groups.” If Iran is plausibly an associated group then President Trump and his band of self-righteous maniacs egged on by Netanyahu can declare “bombs away Mr. Ayatollah.” And if Israel is involved, there will be a full benediction coming from Congress and the media. So is this administration both capable and willing to start a major war based on bullshit? You betcha!

The Times suggests how it all works as follows: “Congressional and legal sources say the law may now provide a legal rationale for striking Iranian territory or proxies should President Trump decide that Tehran poses a looming threat to the U.S. or Israel and that economic sanctions are not strong enough to neutralize the threat.” The paper does not bother to explain what might constitute a “looming threat” to the United States from puny Iran but it is enough to note that Israel, as usual, is right in the middle of everything and, exercising its option of perpetual victim-hood, it is apparently threatened in spite of its nuclear arsenal and overwhelming regional military superiority guaranteed by act of the U.S. Congress.

Curiously, though several cited administration officials wedded to the hard-line against Iran because it is alleged to be the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” were willing to provide their opinions on the Iran-al Qaeda axis, the authors of the recent Worldwide Threat Assessment issued by the intelligence community apparently have never heard of it. The State Department meanwhile sees an Iranian pipeline moving al Qaeda’s men and money to targets in central and south Asia, though that assessment hardly jives with the fact that the only recent major attack attributed to al Qaeda was carried out on February 13th in southeastern Iran against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a bombing that killed 27 guardsmen.

The State annual threat assessment also particularly condemns Iran for funding groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which are, not coincidentally, enemies of Israel who would care less about “threatening” the United States but for the fact that it is constantly meddling in the Middle East on behalf of the Jewish state.

And when in doubt, the authors of the article went to “old reliable,” the leading neocon think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which, by the way, works closely with the Israeli government and never, ever has criticized the state of democracy in Israel. One of its spokesmen was quick off the mark: ““The Trump administration is right to focus on Tehran’s full range of malign activities, and that should include a focus on Tehran’s long-standing support for al Qaeda.”

Indeed, the one expert cited in the Times story who actually is an expert and examined original documents rather than reeling off approved government and think tank talking points contradicted the Iran-al Qaeda narrative. “Nelly Lahoud, a former terrorism analyst at the U.S. Military Academy and now a New America Foundation fellow, was one of the first to review documents seized from bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. She wrote in an analysis for the Atlantic Council this fall that the bin Laden files revealed a deep strain of skepticism and hostility toward the Iranian regime, mixed with a recognition by al Qaeda leaders of the need to avoid a complete break with Tehran. In none of the documents, which date from 2004 to just days before bin Laden’s death, ‘did I find references pointing to collaboration between al Qaeda and Iran to carry out terrorism,’ she concluded.”

So going after Iran is the name of the game even if the al Qaeda story is basically untrue. The stakes are high and whatever has to be produced, deduced or fabricated to justify a war is fair game. Iran and terrorism? Perfect. Let’s try that one out because, after all, invading Iran will be a cakewalk and the people will be in the streets cheering our tanks as they roll by. What could possibly go wrong?

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

Syrian War Report – Feb. 21-22, 2019: Iran Took Control Of Several US Drones Flying Over Syria, Iraq

South Front

22.02.2019

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) have finished their combing operation in the central Syrian desert, the NDF media center said in a statement.

According to the released statement, the SAA and the NDF eliminated several ISIS members and seized loads of weapons and equipment in the framework of the operation, which covered desert areas of Homs, Rif Dimashq, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces. Despite this, ISIS cells still control a large chunk of the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert.

On February 21, a car bomb exploded near the Deir Rasm hospital in the center of the Turkish-occupied city of Afrin injuring up to 10 people. The attack took place a few hours after a military parade held  by Turkish-backed militants in the city. Opposition activists accused YPG-linked rebels of carrying out the attack. Since early 2018, YPG-linked cells had conducted multiple IED attacks and ambushes on positions of Turkey-led forces in the region.

A car bomb hit a bus currying workers returning from the Omar oil fields. At least 15 people were killed and multiple others were injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local sources say that it was likely conducted by ISIS cells.

Multiple convoys carrying men, women and children, mostly ISIS members and their families, left the ISIS-held pocket in the Euphrates Valley in the last 2 days. These persons are being transferred to filtration camps controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). According to reports, about 250 ISIS fighters remained besieged in the area because they refuse to surrender.

It is interesting to note that pro-SDF sources pretend that the group allows civilians only to leave the pocket. However, evidence from the ground contradicts to these claims. On February 21, it appeared that the US-backed group had handed over 500 ISIS members to the Iraqi military.

On February 19, Russian forces opened two humanitarian corridors allowing refugees to leave the camp. Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were stationed at the checkpoints to provide medical aid to refugees leaving the camp.

However, according to the Russian Reconciliation Centre, militants have blocked the exit from the camp by building an earth berm. They also threatened the refugees with “jail and death” on the territory under the control of the Damascus government.

Head of the Centre Sergei Solomatin added that at the same time, “the possibility of exit of foreign fighters from the 55-kilometer zone to Jordan and Iraq is not limited” and ISIS militants and their families are being moved to the camp from the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. From its side, US-backed militants continue to repeat that the Damascus government is persecuting and punishing refugees returning to their homes.

The Iranian Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) have got control of 7-8 US unnamed aerial vehicles operating in Syria and Iraq, IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said adding that the IRGC extorted intelligence data from the aircraft. The IRGC media also released videos confirming its claims.

While ISIS is de-facto defeated in Syria and Iraq, a possible escalation of the long-standing conflict between the US-Israeli-led bloc and Iran continues to pose a threat to regional security.

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Iran’s Soleimani warns Pakistan against Saudi attempts to destroy it

Major General Qassem Soleimani, The commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps

Major General Qassem Soleimani, The commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps

Thu Feb 21, 2019

Iran’s Major General Qassem Soleimani has cautioned Pakistan against the true intentions behind Saudi Arabia’s pumping of billions of dollars into its troubled economy, saying the Riyadh regime is after breaking the Asian state apart by pitting it against its neighbors.

The commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) once again vowed on Thursday that Tehran will avenge the blood of those who lost their lives in last week’s bloody attack carried out by Pakistan-based terrorists in southeastern Iran.

It worries Iran that the Pakistani nation and government allow Saudi money to end up in the hands of these Takfiri terrorists, said the senior general, adding, “Saudi-sponsored terrorists on Pakistani soil are causing trouble for all of the country’s neighbors, and Pakistan must fully realize this matter.”

“We tell the people of Pakistan that they should not permit Saudi Arabia to destroy their country with its money,” said Major General Soleimani, adding that the Asian country must not turn into a place for activities that disturb regional states such as Iran, India and Afghanistan.

Last week, a bomber — identified by the IRGC as Pakistani national Hafiz Mohammad Ali — slammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a bus carrying off-duty members of the elite Iranian force in Sistan and Baluchestan Province bordering Pakistan, killing 27 of them.

The Pakistan-based Jaish ul-Adl Takfiri terrorist group — which has ties to al-Qaeda and the Al Saud regime — claimed responsibility.

In the wake of the fatal terror attack, the IRGC warned Saudi Arabia and its vassal state, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), of retaliatory measures for backing the terrorists on behalf of the US and the Israeli regime. It also urged Pakistan to change its policy towards Jaish ul-Adl.

Soleimani further said Iran does not want mere condolences, but concrete action from neighboring Pakistan, asking, “Can’t you, as a nuclear-armed state, deal with a hundreds-strong terrorist group in the region?”

“Iran is a safe neighbor for Pakistan and we will not threaten this country, but we will exact revenge against the Takfiri mercenaries, who have the blood of our youths on their hands” no matter where in the world they are,” Soleimani said.

The assault preceded a controversial visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to cash-strapped Pakistan, where he received a lavish welcome.

During bin Salman’s stay, Riyadh and Islamabad inked several agreements in diverse sectors worth as much as $20bn for Pakistan, which is in desperate need of cash amid its central bank’s severe lack of foreign reserves.

The Saudi royal’s visit also coincided with a fresh wave of tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

The tensions broke out last week when 44 Indian troops lost their lives in a bomb attack in New Delhi-controlled Kashmir claimed by Pakistan-based militants.

New Delhi accuses Islamabad of being behind the assault.

In Afghanistan, Pakistan also stands accused of supporting the militants operating against the Kabul government.

General Suleimani Cites Imam Khomeini’s Assertion on Palestinian Cause, Danger of Wahhabism

February 21, 2019

Commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) elite Quds force, Major General Qassem Suleimani

Iran’s Quds Force Chief, Major General Qassem Suleimani, stated that the late Imam Khomeini used to underscore the importance of the Palestinian cause and the danger of Wahhabism.

Suleimani added that Imam Khomeini highlighted the original Islam and the religious deviations which appeared in certain countries during some epochs.

Source: Al-Manar English Website

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Iran to Act if Terrorists Continue Presence in Pakistan – Pakistan’s Inability to Prevent Terrorist Acts Intolerable

February 18, 2019

Iran to Act if Terrorists Continue Presence in Pakistan

If activities of terrorists situated in Pakistani soil continue, Iran has the right to confront them and make necessary decisions, said Chief of General Staff of Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri.

“If, for whatever reason, the activities of the training centers and shelters of terrorist groups in Pakistan continue, Iran has the right to fight these centers based on UN Charter and will adopt related decisions if required,” he told reporters on the sideline of an event in Qom on Monday.

He noted that Pakistan bears the responsibility of fighting the so-called Jaish ul-Adl terrorist group in its soil, adding, “secret and semi-secret training camps have been created and equipped by terrorist groups in Pakistan with the money of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to create insecurity inside Iran.”

Baqeri went on to say that ‘serious’ talks have been started between Iran and Pakistan in this regard, noting, “our demand from the Pakistani authorities is to either clear the territories of the terrorist groups themselves or allow the Islamic Republic’s Armed Forces to enter the field and fight these groups.”

He also said that Pakistani Army has launched an operation in its Baluchistan region on Sunday but he cast doubt on the effectiveness of such measures, adding that this is why the two countries continue their dialogue to establish stable security in the region.

The suicide attack, which targeted a bus carrying Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps personnel, claimed the lives of 27 people and injured dozens of others in southeastern Iran. The so-called Jaish ul-Adl terror group, which is based across the border in Pakistan and is responsible for kidnapping Iranian border guards and carrying out other terrorist attacks of this kind in Zahedan over the past years, claimed responsibility for the Wednesday attack.

Also, in a meeting with Armed Forces personnel of Qom province on Monday, Bagheri noted, “no power dares attack the country,” while describing Iran’s security as “unique”.

“Today, complete security along the borders of the country has been established, and the military and defense power of Iran has reached a point that it can respond to any threat hundreds of kilometers away from its borders,” he added.

Source: Mehr News Agency

Iran: Pakistan’s Inability to Prevent Terrorist Acts Intolerable

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi criticized Pakistan for failing to prevent the recent terrorist attack on the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) forces along the common borders, describing it as unacceptable to Tehran.

“It is not tolerable for us that the Pakistani government and army fail to prevent these evil and terrorist acts against Iran from inside its territory,” Qassemi told reporters at his weekly press conference in Tehran on Monday.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is willing to see that its common border with Pakistan is a border of friendship and peace, he said.

The spokesman further hoped that the Islamabad government would be able and willing to prevent such terrorist incidents.

Last Wednesday, 27 27 IRGC members were martyred and 13 others were injured when bus was hit by the suicide car bomb attack traveling between the cities of Zahedan and Khash, in Sistan and Balouchestan.

The IRGC’s Quds Base said in a statement that an explosives-laden car rammed into the bus, which was taking the personnel back to their homes.

The so-called Jaish ul-Adl terrorist group has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei said on Thursday there are clear links between the terror attack and spy agencies of some countries in the region and beyond, urging Iranian security organizations to seriously pursue the issue.

In a Sunday telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his country is ready for any kind of cooperation with Iran to probe into the terrorist attack.

Source: Tasnim News Agency

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