Russia has deployed its new S-400 missile defense system in Syria — showing off its newest military hardware for potential buyers, but also creating a mammoth threat to Israel’s air superiority.
The system, installed in the Syrian port city of Latakia, can track and shoot down anything in the sky over a 250-mile (400 kilometer) range.
That means it threatens Israel as far as Ben Gurion International Airport, all of northern Israel and most of its central region, including Petah Tikva Ramat HaSharon, Herzliya, Kfar Saba, Netanya, Hadera, Zichron Ya’akov… you get the picture.
It also means that Da’esh (ISIS) terrorists may get their hands on the system if for some reason Russia completely pulls out of Syria, and the Iranians don’t maintain iron-clad control over the system — or if they or one of their proxy terror groups choose to share it with Da’esh in the interests of targeting the nation’s southern neighbor.
To further complicate matters, Russia has plans to sell the system to Iran for its own use on its own soil. Iran, the nation that wants to “wipe Israel off the map,” has recently developed an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range that can reach the Jewish State and which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
In addition, Russia has added to its list of buyers China, India, Venzuela and Algeria, according to Russia’s Sputnik News, quoted by the Independent Media Review Analysis (IMRA).
It appears that Russia’s Syrian campaign may have been more of testing ground and showcase for Moscow’s military weaponry and ordnance than anything else. After all, Da’esh is not wiped out, and peace is not yet in place. Assad is still in position but the country is falling apart.
Of all of the players in the Syrian drama, Russia came out with the most profit. “We are working seven days a week because of the S-400 missile systems,” a member of the Globus design bureau told Gazeta.ru. The S-300 and S-400 systems are built by Almaz-Antei, which was force to open a new production plant due to the skyrocketing demand.
Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the new production facility in Nizhny Novgorod. Another plant was opened in Kirov in February by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center of Strategic Analyses and Technology, told Gazeta.ru, “China tops the list of S-400 buyers, followed by India and now also by Venezuela, Algeria and Iran.
Russian officials explained the foreign interest in the S-400 system, saying that, unlike its S-300 predecessor, it can also engage ballistic targets.
“It is one thing when you deal with an advanced U.S. ballistic missile, and quite another when it is a less sophisticated one launched by Iran, China or North Korea,” Pukhov said.
Al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen have reportedly acquired sophisticated Russian-made surface-to-air missiles and have used them to shoot down a fighter jet this month.
In an exclusive report (March 26) The Independent claims Al Qaeda used an SA-7 surface-to-air missile to down a French-made Mirage fighter jet in Yemen. The missile was allegedly a “Strela” shoulder-mounted heat-seeking projectile with a kill range altitude of 15 to 1,500 meters.
According to the report, the incident took place two weeks ago (March 14), just outside th southern Yemeni port city of Aden.
The jet crashed into a mountainside; officials at the time told media the crash was due to a “technical malfunction” but sources told The Independent the jet was shot down by Al Qaeda using a surface-to-air missile (SAM).
The fighter jet was flying in the United Arab Emirates air force as part of a Saudi-led coalition air campaign against the Shi’ite Houthi rebels who are backed by Iran. Both pilots were killed in the crash. Locals told media the jet was flying low and attacking AQAP forces entrenched in a district west of Aden.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is deeply involved in this conflict, as is the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group, whose guerrilla fighters have been spotted among the Houthis.
If the report is true, this will mark the first time a SAM was used in the Yemen conflict – but not the first time Al Qaeda has ever used one.
In fact, Al Qaeda produced a detailed guide to help its operatives learn how to use a SAM to bring down commercial aircraft. One such guide was found in Mali as far back as three years ago, according to a 2013 report by The Associated Press.
The 26-page document, written in Arabic, was recovered by AP in a building that had been occupied by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghred (AQIM). This manual also was used for SA-7s, also called “man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS.
In that instance, the SA-7s in question were believed to have originated from the arsenal of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Not only were they found in Timbuktu, however. Atlantic Council analyst Peter Pham, a former adviser to U.S. military command in Africa and instructor to U.S. Special Forces told AP at the time he believed Al Qaeda had fighters who already knew how to use the SAMs effectively.
Moreover, the Libya-based Al Qaeda group was not the first to have MANPADS. It was also believed there were Al Qaeda groups in Iraq and Afghanistan who also had MANPADS, as well as a Somalian terror cell who boasted at the time about its SA-7 in a video message.
This Saturday, a second source told The Independent, “Al Qaeda has confiscated huge amounts of weapons from bases in Yemen.” The SA-7s in this case are believed to have been sold to Al Qaeda, or to Yemen by Bulgarian arms dealers who acquired them when the Soviet Union broke apart.
The source added, “Al Qaeda are smarter than Islamic State (ISIS); They speak with the tribal elders, they co-opt people, get them on their side. Islamic State uses fear and coercion. It’s flashy and seeks a lot of attention but Al Qaeda is laying low and playing the long game.”
The source claimed that fighters from both sides of the conflict in Yemen are selling arms to AQAP.
Donald J. Trump, who said months ago that he intended to be “neutral” in the dispute between Israel and the Arabs who live in her midst and at her borders, spoke to the American Israel Political Action Council early this evening and sounded anything but neutral. In fact, he specifically denounced what he called “moral equivalence” between “Palestinian murderers” and their Israeli victims.
Trump fed the AIPAC audience pure red meat from the beginning of his speech to its end; this time there was no mistaking which side of the dispute between Arabs and Israelis the candidate was on.
The JewishPress.com will give you Trump’s words below, and they matter. But perhaps what is most important in this Trump address, and maybe any of them, is not the words but the theater. The atmosphere. The subtext. The body language. The tone of voice. All of those things convey Trump’s promise that, at last, we’re going to hear something from a politician that he actually means. Or at least the kind of thing one does not normally hear from a politician.
Nothing shows this better than the space between the text of Trump’s speech as released – the text written by his people, saying the things his people want him to say — and the text as Trump actually delivered it. That’s the one Trump held out to his audience as a revelation of what he really thinks. Not insignificantly, some of the biggest applause lines were the extemporaneous Trumpulations that came from the very bottom of his ego.
All the Trump tics were there in force – he repeatedly exhorted the audience to “believe me, buleeeeeve me,” and told them many times that he was winning. And he’s the best. And the most. Of whatever.
Trump even had the chutzpah, in a room filled with chutzpadik Jews, to inform his audience that — well, it depends on whether you want the prepared text or the text as delivered. The prepared text, up there on a teleprompter for the first time in recent memory for a Trump speech – was a claim surprising enough as written by his peeps: it had the candidate saying that “I’ve studied [the Iran deal] issue in greater detail than almost anybody.”
But as delivered, Trump’s claim was even less modest than that: Trump confidently told AIPAC that he, Donald Trump had, personally, studied the Iran deal “greater than anybody.” Okay then.
Trump began by telling his audience he wasn’t going to pander to them, as politicians do, but instead would “speak to you about where I stand on the future of American relations with our strategic ally, our unbreakable friendship, and our cultural brother, the only democracy in the Middle East, the State of Israel.”
After he got finished saying all of that non-pandering, Trump got down to business.
Trump spent quite a bit of time on Iran, saying he would dismantle the Iran deal; he would stand up to Iran’s aggressive push back to destabilize and dominate the region, that Iran has seeded terrorist groups all over the world, in twenty five countries on five continents including in the Western hemisphere, but that he would “totally dismantle Iran’s global terror network”; and “enforce the terms of previous deals” before the JCPOA came on the scene.
Trump’s discussion of the United Nations began by saying things everyone knows and no-one will say about the UN: that it is “not a friend of democracy, freedom, not even of the U.S. and surely is not a friend to Israel.”
Moving on to recently murmured threats from the Obama administration to support or even sponsor a Security Council resolution forcing Israel to yield to the Palestinian Arabs, Trump began by mentioning that this was happening “with President Obama in his final year.” And then, — not in the prepared text but in reality — he paused, and he smiled.
With a single word, Trump told AIPAC what he thinks of the fact that President Obama’s final year has finally come: “Yay.” His hands gave a downbeat and his voice said the word they way your middle schooler would say it when delivering the news that the 7th grade bully had moved to Alaska. Yay – as in, we all know this should make us happy, RIGHT? What a relief, ok?; Bye, seeya, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
But even more significant than the lilting tone of Trump’s yay was that, when he said those words – “President Obama in his final year” — the audience went absolutely wild. A shouting, standing O. And then Trump, taking his cue from the audience instead of the other way around, answered them: “Obama may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel. Believe me. Bulleeeeve me.” None of that, by the way, was in the prepared text or in the teleprompter. It was just in Trump’s “very good brain,” as he described it just yesterday. This is the theater that matters, at least as much as, and maybe more than, the official words of the message.
And here was Trump’s only mention of the woman he hopes to defeat in November: Hillary Rodham Clinton. He wasn’t ambivalent on the subject, though he didn’t spend anywhere near as much time on her as she had on him. He dismissed her with a single categorical sentence: “Hillary and Obama have been a total disaster and have treated Israel very very badly.”
But now back to the official message. What President Obama was and is doing wrong with the UN, Trump told AIPAC, is allowing it, inviting it, helping it, “to impos[e] terms on Israel that Israel cannot and will not live with. Any agreement imposed by the United Nations would be a total and complete disaster, which the U.S. must oppose.”
Trump’s invocation of his deal-making skills is never far from the center of his sales pitch to America. But it is at the very heart of his discussion about the Middle East, because, he says whenever he discusses this subject, the peace agreement between Israel and the Arabs is “the hardest deal in the world to make.”
Trump brings his negotiating skills to bear: “for any deal, you need two willing participants. We know Israel is willing and has been trying without preconditions for years.” Here he recited the history, available for anyone who really wants to know, of the offers by various Israeli Prime Ministers which the Arabs completely rejected. Even more humiliating to the U.S., Trump said, Secretary of State Kerry “tried to come up with a framework” and that Palestinian Authority leader Abbas “didn’t even respond.”
He then said “the days of treating Israel as a second class citizen will end on my Day One.” Another wild standing O from AIPAC.
Trump also talked about what Arab “leaders” are teaching their children, and the impact of that education on the prospects for peace:
When you live in a society where the firefighters are the hero’s little kids want to be firefighters. When you live in a society where athletes and movie stars are heroes, little kids want to be athletes and movie stars. In Palestinian society, the heroes are those who murder Jews – we can’t let this continue. You cannot achieve peace if terrorists are treated as martyrs. Glorifying terrorists is a tremendous barrier to peace. In Palestinian textbooks and mosques, you’ve got a culture of hatred that has been fermenting there for years, and if we want to achieve peace, they’ve got to end this indoctrination of hatred. There is no moral equivalency. Israel does not name public squares after terrorists. Israel does not pay its children to stab random Palestinians.
More enthusiastic applause. And more after that, when he said that Hamas is the Palestinian ISIS.
Trump’s welcome insistence that Arab education of Arab children to hatred of Jews and Israel isn’t even good for the Arabs, never mind the Jews. If that’s true, then “neutrality” can benefit both Arab and Jew, if it leads the Arabs to stop destroying themselves while they try (and fail) to destroy the Jewish state.
One last point is the left-wing dog that did not bark. Yesterday’s news was the promise, or threat, by Rabbis for Human Rights, Eric Yoffe, and others to “shut down” Trump’s speech to AIPAC. But they did no such thing. To this reporter, carefully watching a live video of the event, there was not an audible peep from such people inside the hall. Apparently the “shut it down” movement was itself shut down. AIPAC’s record, of listening at least politely to the presentation by every serious candidate for President, remains intact. Polite Jews. Who’d a thunk it.
At the United Nations Security Council “consultations” held Monday, March 14, at the urging of the U.S., the Russians did something that seemed to surprise – and annoy – the U.S. The Russians argued that the language inserted by the U.S. into the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 means what it says.
In a tag team effort that pro-Israel folks have been hankering for of late, both Israel and the U.S. called on the United Nations to take action against Iran for having launched several missiles last week.
But, as already reported by the JewishPress.com, the concessions made by the U.S. to Iran in the wild and wooly days at the end of the Nuclear Iran Deal negotiations, the U.S. and its partners substituted unambiguous and prohibitory language from a 2010 UNSC resolution “Iran shall not” to the flaccid phrase “Iran is called upon not to” engage in activity involving ballistic missiles.
So when Iran launched those missiles from within its own boundaries, it took the position that it had not violated any of its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the Nuclear Iran Deal.
And so did Russia. Russia’s Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin said on Monday that Iran should not face new sanctions over its recent ballistic missile launches because doing so did not violate any U.N. resolution.
Russian holds veto power in the Security Council.
Despite the clear-sounding meaning of the new language in the latest UNSCR, the U.S. is still clinging to its position that what Iran did is wrong.
A painful exchange between State Dept. Spokesperson John Kirby and Matt Lee of the Associated Press during Monday’s State Dept. press briefing is a public display of the exchanges that likely took place on Monday behind the closed doors of the U.N. meeting regarding the missile launches.
The exchange is long, and you may feel as though you are lost either in Wonderland or Who’s on First, but at least take a glance at what the U.S. and its partners are having to do to try and make the claim (with or without a straight face), that the language they permitted as a concession to Iran in order to get the Nuclear Iran Deal approved has had dire consequences. All bolds are for ease of reading, and decided upon by the JewishPress.com.
MR.LEE: Can we move to Iran?
MR KIRBY: Iran.
MR. LEE: Yeah. So today the – or the Security Council began discussions about what to do about the Iranian ballistic missile tests, and it looks like you guys are not going to be able to get to anything, not even a council statement saying that Iran is in violation, much less a resolution that might impose more sanctions on them, at least international sanctions – the reason being, at least as explained by opponents, is that Iran didn’t actually violate 2231 because 2231 calls on Iran not to do this instead of says that they can’t or says “shall not.”
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
MR. LEE: What’s your take on that?
MR KIRBY: So it’s a good question, and I think you might be referring to comments I think the —
MR. LEE: Ambassador Churkin.
MR KIRBY: — Russians said, yeah. So look, I’m – I don’t know that it’s fruitful to get into a back-and-forth over the technical meaning of “violation,” but as you might have noticed, Ambassador Power addressed this very issue this morning, and we are very much associating ourselves with what she had to say, that – one, that we’re in the process of preparing a report on these missile test launches to the Security Council, and we’re going to raise the matter directly at the council on Monday. We believe the council is the right forum to have this discussion and we still remain deeply concerned about their recent ballistic missile test launches, which we continue to believe are provocative and destabilizing.
They are also, at the very least, inconsistent with but more practically in defiance of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which of course codified the Iran deal. So we could have an interesting discussion about the degree to which it’s technically a violation. It doesn’t mean, though, that it’s okay, and it doesn’t mean that the council should look the other way, and it doesn’t mean that it isn’t – that their actions are still not inconsistent with the obligations in that resolution, which calls on them to refrain from that activity. So we’re still going to bring it up with the council and we still believe we have a strong case on that.
MR. LEE: Well, that – I mean, really?
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
MR. LEE: Because, I mean, look – I went back and I looked. 1929, which is what replaced – sorry, which was – 2231 replaced, at least in terms of the missile technology – UNSCR 1929, number nine, and it says “decides” – this is quote – “decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.” 2231, which replaced it and enshrined the Iran deal, says, “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” How is it that you’re – that you can have any kind of a logical disagreement with what Ambassador Churkin said? You have “shall not” and then “is called upon.” And as Ambassador Churkin said, you can’t violate a call. You can ignore it, but it’s not a violation.
MR KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to get into a rhetorical debate about “violate” or “not violate.”
MR. LEE: Well, you’re going to have to, because if you’re going to push this at the Security Council, you’re going to have to convince people – like the Russians and the Chinese ––
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Foreign Ministry on Saturday night to contact the six major world nations who signed a nuclear deal with Tehran and “demand immediate punitive measures be taken in the wake of Iran’s repeated and gross violations on the missiles issue.
“This is an important step in and of itself, and is also a test of the major powers in enforcing the nuclear agreement,” Netanyahu said.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari claimed Thursday (March 10) the missile drills did not violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA) nuclear agreement between Tehran and the six major world powers.
Speaking to journalists, the spokesperson said the missile exercises also did not go against Resolution 2231 of the United Nations Security Council.
“Despite some Western allegations, the ballistic missiles fired in the nationwide exercises did not violate the JCPOA or the UN Resolution 2231.
“The short- medium- and long-range ballistic missiles fired during the drills were for deterrence and defense,” he said. “None of them could carry nuclear warheads, which by the way, is not in Iran’s defense doctrine,” he added.
Israeli intelligence experts said, however, the long-range ballistic missiles tested on Wednesday were indeed capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Ansari claimed that Tehran had issued a statement following the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 endorsing the JCPOA, which stipulated, “Iran will continue to take the necessary measures to strengthen its defense capabilities in order to protect its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity against any aggression and to counter the menace of terrorism in the region.
“In this context, Iranian military capabilities, including ballistic missiles, are exclusively for legitimate defense. They have not been designed for WMD capability, and are thus outside the purview or authority of the Security Council resolution and its annexes.”
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) began the ballistic missile exercises last Tuesday, March 8. Called ‘Eqtedar-e Velayat‘, the command, tactical and special exercises were intended to test advanced missile defense systems as well as “showcase the deterrence power and the clout of the IRGC forces in defending the country’s territorial integrity against foreign threats,” according to the semi-official FARS news agency.
The drills were held in different geographical locations, using ballistic missiles fired from silos in Central Iran and mountain ranges in the North. The IRGC also fired two Iranian-made “Qadr H” ballistic missiles from the Eastern Alborz Mountains as part of ongoing IRGC drills.
Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted by FARS on Wednesday as saying Iran’s long-range ballistic missiles can fly 400 kilometers above the ground to hit targets at 2,000 kilometers “within 12 to 13 minutes.”
Israel Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon sent an urgent letter to members of the UN Security Council this weekend calling for condemnation of Tehran’s test launch of the ballistic missiles this week.
“Iran continues to disregard its obligations to UN resolutions,” Danon wrote. “This latest provocation makes it clear that the ‘smile campaign’ of the current regime is nothing more than a smokescreen to disguise the real intentions of the ayatollah regime.”
Danon added that the missile tests were “a gross violation” of Security Council resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear agreement and which restricts Iran from launching missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
The family has met with top Obama administration officials but received little information other than reassurances the government would redouble its efforts to pressure Iran to “find” the former FBI agent.
Seven Iranian prisoners were traded in exchange for the five Americans who were freed in January, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and a Christian pastor. But Iranian government officials who originally discussed his release with American 67-year-old Levinson’s whereabouts. However, he was seen in Iranian custody several years ago by an eyewitness, according to media reports.