News Digest — 10/28/19

Ex-Intel Chief Praises Baghdadi Hit:  Iran, Hezbollah Should Be Next

The killing of shadowy Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an “impressive” US intelligence and operational feat, but it is important to remember that Iran is the main threat in the Middle East, a top Israeli security analyst said on Sunday (27th).

Amos Yadlin, a former head of military intelligence who today heads the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv wrote in a Twitter thread that ISIS ceased being a territorial entity two years ago when it lost Mosul and Raqqa.

“For us Israelis, the threat from ISIS is secondary,” he said.  “We would like to see the U.S. act in a similar way against Iranian Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani, and Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah.”  He said that Iran is the most significant threat to Israel and its allies.

“ISIS does not have a nuclear program, ballistic missiles, or a project to develop precision weapons,” Yadlin said.  He added that the U.S. campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran – without a military component to the harsh economic sanctions – “does not achieve its goals.”

Yadlin said that while the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria will not immediately or directly harm Israel – because of Israel’s capacity to deal with Iran – the increase in Iran’s self-confidence and its understanding that the U.S. has been deterred in the region could bring an Iranian-Israeli confrontation closer.



Iranian Official: “We Can Destroy Israel Within 30 Minutes”

Mojtaba Zannour, the Chairman of National Security and Foreign Policy in Iran’s Majlis, threatened Israel earlier this month, saying that Iranian drones are tracking American bases in the region and that “if Israel or America makes a mistake, Israel will not live longer than twenty or thirty minutes,” the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported.

“We have employed a strategy of asymmetric warfare,” Zannour said in an interview with Iranian Channel 5.  “What does this mean?  It means making our enemy’s strengths ineffective or less effective – taking advantage of their weaknesses.  We have focused and worked on these things – the regime has created deterrence.”

The official threatened to destroy Israel within less than half an hour “if Israel or America makes a mistake,” saying the Iranian leadership has examined its options.

When asked about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) commonly referred to as the ‘Iran Nuclear Deal,’ Zannour said that “the fact that we exist today and that we have a position and make demands about why the JCPOA is not being implemented, and our president travels honorably throughout the world…is all thanks to our defensive deterrence and those missiles that have ‘death to Israel’ written on them.”



Hamas MP: Normalization Is A Crime Against Islam

Hamas lawmaker Marwan Abu Ras, who heads the bloc of Hamas MPs in the Palestinian Arab parliament, said Sunday (27th) that normalization with the “occupying state,” a reference to Israel, is a crime against Islam which amounts to treason on the national level.

In an interview with the media, Abu Ras said that normalization was just a cover for the “occupation” to continue its crimes, which are reflected in suppression and killing, including the expansion of “settlements.”

Abu Ras went on to say that normalization harms the Palestinian people and is a “blatant attack on Palestinian rights.”

He condemned the resumption of direct flights from Israel to Morocco, which were halted two decades ago, and urged Muslims to fight normalization with the “occupation.”

Earlier this year, Abu Ras appeared on Gaza television and denied the Holocaust while claiming that anti-Semitism and persecutions of Jews throughout history were the result of “their deeds and crimes.”

In 2017, he claimed the Jewish people were “the filthiest nation” with the worst moral values known to mankind,” accusing Jews of recruiting “AIDS-infected girls to pass the disease on to Muslim youths.”

In 2012, Abu Ras said “each and every catastrophe on the face of the earth could be linked to the Jews.”



Protests In Lebanon: A Wrench In Hezbollah And Iran’s Plans – Prof. Eyal Zisser

Saturday (26th) saw another day of mass protests in Lebanon.  The government’s promises to implement economic reforms and rescind taxes, alongside threats by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that his organization won’t sit idly by if the demonstrations continue, didn’t stop Lebanon’s youth from flooding the streets and keeping the country paralyzed.

The fact that the protests lack a guiding hand, or any discernible leadership, not to mention any defined goals aside from vague slogans calling for “change to the system in Lebanon,” is making it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s also safe to assume that the bitterness and anger harbored by the youth for politics and politicians, the same cohort of corrupt hedonists who have brought Lebanon to the precipice of economic ruin, will continue fueling the protests.

Lebanon is not alone.  In Iraq, too, bloody protests have engulfed the country in recent days, spearheaded similarly by restless youth without hope.  It is encouraging to see that the younger generation of Arabs refuse to continue accepting a reality of failure and backwardness.

Sadly, however, the protest won’t catalyze any real change.  Indeed, for these youth, like those in Lebanon, there is something stronger than enmity and rage – their sense of loyalty to family, tribe and ethnic group, coupled with fears of rival ethnic groups.  Consequently, these youngsters repeatedly revert to backing the same types of leaders who have managed Lebanon’s politics for hundreds of years.

Thus, even if Saad Hariri’s government steps down, it will only be replaced by a similar coalition comprising the same corrupt dignitaries who prioritize their own well-being over that of the country.

It is interesting to note that the demonstrations in Lebanon and Iraq, beyond disquieting the corrupt politicians in both countries, have more importantly thrown Iran – and mainly Nasrallah off balance, even to the point of alarm.  When Hezbollah was created, it labeled itself the “Organization of the Oppressed on Earth.”

But the organization forgot a long time ago about the oppressed on whose behalf it purported to speak.  Hezbollah has been part of the Lebanese government for more than 15 years already and simply cannot shirk its responsibility for the crisis.  The organization controls a sprawling apparatus of companies and social institutions, which have become corrupt. Moreover, Hezbollah needs Lebanon to be stable to continue suckling from its udder.

The protests in Lebanon and Iraq are inconvenient from Iran’s perspective.  Supposedly, this is Tehran’s finest hour, its bold moves now having paid off.  Its aggression in the Persian Gulf has been met with forgiveness and even attempts at appeasement.  Washington is pulling its troops from Syria and abandoning the arena to Iran, and isn’t hiding its desires for dialogue with the Iranians.

The sense of victory in Tehran spurred IDF Chief Aviv Kochavi to warn of a possible conflagration on Israel’s borders.  No one wants an all-out war, but, in the words of Kochavi, Israel and Iran are on a collision course and there is no one out there to deter and stop the Iranians.

The protests, then, are an uncomfortable wrench in Iran and Hezbollah’s plans.  But we can assume, regretfully, that the protests will end with a thud and the axis of evil will continue on its path to the next objective.



Israel’s ‘Air Force One’ Revealed

The aircraft which is to serve as Israel’s ‘Air Force One’ was spotted at the Aircraft Division of Israel Aerospace Industries Sunday (28th).  Ynet journalist Itay Blumenthal reported that the top of the plane was painted blue and the bottom was painted white.  In the tail of the plane is a giant Star of David and the words “State of Israel” are written on the body.

The aircraft will serve the president and the prime minister.

The Boeing 767 will soon be undergoing a test flight.  The aircraft is not new, and was built 19 years ago.

The plane arrived in Israel in July 2016, after many years of service with the Australian airline Qantas.

The cost of the aircraft is estimated to be $170 million.  According to Channel 12 News, the aircraft has undergone special renovation, upgrading and adjustments to serve the President and Prime Minister on their official trips abroad.

Among other things, advanced aircraft systems were installed against cyber attacks and missile strikes.  Behind the cockpit in the bow is the Prime Minister’s/President’s study. Adjacent to it is the bedroom with toilet and shower and a well-equipped kitchen.

Below is the discussion room for meetings and consultations.  Nearby is the Army Room – the war room – equipped with encrypted satellite communications systems.  The plane has seating for an entourage and journalists who will enjoy, among other things, Internet services and computers to work on during flights.