Hezbollah operatives and Iranian military officials, is a sign that things are going to get worse in the volatile area that encompasses southern Lebanon, Syria, northern Jordan, and northern Israel. (See also here and here.)
Among those killed were high-ranking Iranian officials connected with Hezbollah’s use of Iranian-supplied ballistic missiles, and with Iranian Special Forces units that focus on raids and small-unit tactics. In the words of a retired Israeli general (see first link, and below), this was a very high-level convoy, clearly preparing for serious incursions against northern Israel.
Meanwhile, we’ve reached the point in the post-Arab Spring Middle East at which many of the spin-off developments – perhaps most of them – are a consequence of the policies followed by the Obama administration. Although there have been long-term policy failures, it’s a specific, proximate policy failure that opened the door to the current result in the Golan Heights.
Because of the strategic importance of the terrain, Iran and Hezbollah have been building infrastructure there for some time. But their interest in the Golan skyrocketed in December.
A door opened by the Obama administration
The reason: ISIS gained a foothold there when the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade of the Free Syrian Army “defected” from the de facto alliance with the U.S.-Arab coalition against Assad, and declared its allegiance to ISIS. The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade had been one of the most active rebel factions holding territory directly adjacent to the “area of separation” between Syria and Israel administered (in theory) by the UN. In particular, it has held the southern line of confrontation with Syrian regime forces, in the transit corridor leading to the Quneitra border crossing.
That defection didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened because in early December, the Obama administration disclosed (through the back door), after more than two years of cooperation with the FSA, that it would not be working with them to build a defense force in Syria.
The point here is not that Obama should have stayed with the wrong allies. The point is that passivity, lack of leadership, and ally-hopping have consequences. Part of picking allies is shaping who they are and what expectations they have. It starts with having common and enduring goals with those allies, which keep both sides committed. These things matter to a responsible power, at any rate. The Obama administration has consistently failed to exhibit signs of being one.
The failure has had a game-changing result in the Golan. Now ISIS is there, with an entrenched infrastructure handed to it by FSA factions, and Iran can’t afford to ignore that. Iran isn’t going to let ISIS build up a stronghold of its own on the Syrian border with Israel.
But don’t imagine that that means Iran and ISIS will be having at it. Think Persian. Certainly, the Iranians and Hezbollah want to be able to operate in the Golan, and attack Israel from it. But Iran and Hezbollah don’t want to invite retaliation from Israel on southern Lebanon, where it’s important to them to protect their own stronghold. Iran would like to get Israel shooting into Syria.
Israel has so far managed to keep that necessity limited. Until very recently, the impression of the situation in the Golan has been that it is relatively stable: worrisome, but not unstable to the point of being an exploitable opportunity for one or more bad guys. Iran would like to change that, in part because preoccupying the Israelis with self-defense is the key to limiting Israel’s strategic reach against Iran. The objects of that reach include, but are not limited to, the nuclear and missile programs inside Iran.
Berlin steadfastly refuses to reveal the names of German companies who helped Syria develop its chemical weapons program according to a new report published this week by Der Spiegel. The information was made available in documents that were declassified after a 30 year embargo.
The list of firms involved in the program was handed over to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government coalition 16 months ago by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for its “extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.” Last year the OPCW organized and helped destroy Syria’s chemical weapons – those that were uncovered, that is – together with experts from the United Nations.
But 16 months later, Merkel has done nothing with the list, saying that publicizing the names would “significantly impair foreign policy interests and thus the welfare of the Federal Republic of Germany.”
The Merkel government added that doing so would be similar to releasing “trade secrets” and therefore constitute a violation of Germany’s constitution.
According to a lengthy report in Der Spiegel, however, the government did not need the OPCW list to know that German firms were involved in the Syrian chemical weapons program.
Apparently the government-funded Institute for Contemporary History published an inventory dating back to 1984 including a government document with names of companies suspected of supplying the Syrian chemical weapons program.
The release may have been accidental; it was a memo regarding the Dec. 6, 1984 visit to a deupty section head in the German Foreign Ministry by then-Israeli Ambassador to Germany Yitzhak Ben-Ari.
The Israeli official brought with him “intelligence service findings” which showed that since the mid-1970s scientists had been working on producing chemical weapons for Syria, “disguised as agricultural and medical research.”
Included were the glass producer Schott, laboratory equipment producer Kolb, technology company Heraeus, the former Hoechst subsidiary Riedel-de-Haen, pharmaceutical company Merck and the company Gerrit van Delden.
The top secret program was being carried out in the chemistry department at the UNESCO-funded Centre d’Etudes et des Recherches Scientifiques in Damascus. A pilot facility was already built. Contracts were already signed for three production lines and Ben-Ari believed that within the year, Syria would have the capacity to produce 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds) of sarin – enough to kill several million people.
On December 12, 1984, a representative of the U.S. State Department told the German Embassy in Washington that Karl Kolb GmbH & Co. KG, from the town of Dreiech in Hesse, had delivered “chemical research and production equipment for the manufacture of large quantities of nerve gas” to Iraq.
At that time, Dictator Saddam Hussein was busy building “the most modern chemical weapons factory of its time,” disguised as a pesticide factory, according to international experts who testified in 2004, Der Spiegel reports. Though only Kolb is mentioned in the files, it turns out that a related firm, Pilot Plant GmbH, delivered four facilities at a total cost of 7.5 million Deutsche marks.
American officials were trying to pressure then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to force Kolb to withdraw its technicians and “via pressure on the company prevent Iraq from producing C-weapons.”
Germany’s long-standing love affair with chemical weapons was notorious: the Nazis had used hydrocyanic acid, manufactured by German chemical companies, to murder inmates in the death camps during the Holocaust. Millions died, including six million Jews.
As it turns out, Kohl and Genscher did indeed promise to curb the companies and issued orders to that effect. Foreign Ministry internal memos clearly showed the “minister places high value on a complete investigation” and demanded “assurances that nothing more will be delivered” to Samarra.
Israel knew exactly who it was eliminating an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general in Sunday’s strike on Iranian and Hezbollah forces, according to the usually reliable al-Rai Kuwaiti newspaper.
First reports of Sunday’s attack on terrorists, known as “fighters” in sterile MediaSpeak, indicated that the aerial bombing wiped out six Hezbollah members, including a top General and an Iranian soldier.
Israel, of course, played dumb.
Reports from Iran began to surface that six Iranians were also killed including a Guards commander, and anonymous Israel officials told foreign wire services, “Huh?”
Israel’s intelligence is unarguably the best in the world. It occasional slips up, but it usually is on the mark. But someone in the top echelon was trying to sell a story that, yes, the IDF attacked terrorists who were planning to launch attacks on Israel, but did not know that one of the targets was Iranian General Mohammed Allahdadi.
Then the threats poured in like Hezbollah missiles during the Second Lebanon War. Revenge will come. Israel is doomed. Run for the sea.
Israel media analysts had a field day clawing Israeli intelligence to bits.
No one thought “out of the box” and suggested that maybe Israel was faking it to convince the Iranians, “Gee, sorry. It was an accident.”
It might have been, but it is difficult to believe that Israeli intelligence knew so many details that it was able to pinpoint the targets without knowing exactly who they are.
The plunging price of oil may do the long-term work for Israel and cripple Hezbollah, the Islamic State (ISIS) and other terrorist groups that owe their existence to income from oil.
The price of black gold has plunged by 50 percent in less than half a year, and all signs point to it remaining less than $50 a barrel, and possibly even dropping below $45.
Western sanctions have not harmed Iran enough for it to halt its development towards procuring a nuclear weapon, but a continuing slump on the oil market is more effective and non-negotiable.
Militarily, Israel on several occasions has bombed advanced weapons destined for Hezbollah, and on Sunday the IDF wiped out Iranian and Hezbollah commanders who were planning attacks on Israel.
However, Hezbollah still has approximately 150,000 missiles that its leader Hassan Nasrallah could launch a catastrophe in Israel.
The dizzying drop in the price of oil endangers the capabilities of Hezbollah and the very existence of the Islamic State.
Hezbollah has cut the salaries of some of its members, and one of its commanders told Newsweek, “There are many members…who are now paid their wages much later. Some are getting less money than before.”
Hezbollah uses oil revenues to finance its massive support system that has made it the de facto government in southern Lebanon, a system copied by Hamas in Gaza and in some parts of Judea and Samaria.
One widow in a Beirut suburb told Newsweek, “Our family only gets half of the medical care and medicine that we need. This used to come every month without any problems, but today we are suffering.”
On the political front, Hezbollah no longer can buy off allies the way it once did when oil was selling at $110 a barrel. At least two politicians said they now receive only half of the former $40,000 a month from Hezbollah.
“Salvaging the regime in Syria and fighting ISIS in Iraq have forced Iran to divert more resources away from Hezbollah at a time when the resource base in Iran is shrinking,” Hezbollah expert Randa Slim, a director at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, told The Christian Science Monitor.
One of the guiding hands behind the drop in the price of oil is none other than Saudi Arabia, which is no less afraid than Israel of Iranian and Islamic State ambitions.
The Saudis are the leading influence in OPEC and has not cut its production of oil to encourage a rise in prices.
Another victim of the dropping oil revenues is Russia, which has poured hundreds of millions of dollars to prop up the Assad regime in Syria, which is still less than Iran’s $1 billion to $2 billion monthly payments for military aid to Assad’s forces and salaries for Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria.
“Absent Iranian largesse, Assad would not be financially solvent today,” Karim Sadjadpour, a senior associate of the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Monitor.
Although Hezbollah is far from bankrupt thanks to its huge investments and makes millions of dollars from drug smuggling and other illicit trade, the drop in oil revenues has increased pressure on senior officials to stuff more money in their own pockets.
The Monitor quoted one Lebanese politician as saying, “The whole thing is falling apart. It’s corruption on a cataclysmic scale.”
The IDF reportedly moved Iron Dome anti-missile systems to defend northern communities Monday night in the wake of Hezbollah threats to punish Israel for Sunday’s spectacular counter-terror bombing raid that killed approximately a dozen Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards fighters.
The IDF told The Jewish Press, “We do not confirm or deny movements” of the Iron Dome systems, although the military previously has announced their redeployment against rockets from Gaza.
A picture of the Iron Dome being transported was posted on social media, but its location could not be verified.
Farmers in Metulla, which is smack on the northern border, were ordered off their fields by the IDF in SMS messages sent out Monday morning. Farmer Chaim Hod was quoted by Yediot Acharonot as saying that he and is workers began pruning apples tress at 6 a.m. and were ordered away from the orchards by mid-morning.
Several Metulla farms are located at the border, beyond a barbed wire fence, and are off-limits to anyone except the farmers and the IDF.
Reserve units stationed along the Lebanese border are on high alert, and several leaves of absence for regular soldiers have been cancelled.
Increased patrols were observed on both sides of the border, with UNIFIL, Lebanese and Israeli troops keeping an eye out for any suspicious activity.
UNIFIL troops are using night goggle and binoculars, according to sources quoted by the Beirut Daily Star.
Israel soldiers were seen patrolling the streets of Metulla, but civilians on both sides of the border do not seem concerned,
Hod said he actually feels safer when he sees both UNIFIL and Israeli soldiers beefing up patrols, and a Lebanese construction worker told the Star, “We are not afraid. As you see we are continuing construction work just a few kilometers from the Israelis.”
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said, “The IDF is prepared, tracking all developments, and ready to act as needed.” The air strike highlights the excellent level of Israeli intelligence operations, which are the key to carrying out counter-terror strikes and make Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah think twice and three times every time he moves.
As in the past, Israel warned Lebanon that it will be held responsible for any attacks by Hezbollah, which controls southern Lebanon and is an influential part of the fragile government.
The threat of a fierce Israeli retaliation to any Hezbollah aggression is a strong deterrent. Hezbollah has fallen into growing disfavor in strife-torn Lebanon because it has brought the war in Syria into Lebanon by fighting rebels to the Assad regime. Lebanese hate Israel but a devastating retaliation by the IDF to Hezbollah rockets would make the terrorist army and party even more unwanted.
Below is a video of the aftermath of the attack on Hezbollah and Iranian commanders, as seen in a telecast from southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah is threatening to take deadly revenge on Israel for Sunday’s strike on terrorists in Syria, but more significant is that Iran has admitted that one of its generals and (five or) six soldiers were killed in addition to Hezbollah’s casualties.
Lebanese sources identified the Iranian field commander as Abu Ali Tabtabai.
Also reported killed was Iranian General Mohammad Aji Alladadi, who was there as an advisor to the Syrian government.
Mohammad Issa “Abu Issa” who was a senior commander of Hezbollah’s Syrian and Iraq network.
Jihad Mughniyeh who was Hezbollah’s point man on the Golan Heights, setting up the terror infrastructure there.
Also presumed killed are Ali Hassan, Hussein Hassan and Majdi al0Musawi.
The IDF is on high alert for a Hezbollah attack and communities on the Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee are on a virtual war-footing.
Unlike previous attacks in Syria on missiles and other weapons destined for Hezbollah, Sunday’s raid struck Hezbollah terrorists on the ground, hitting three vehicles traveling in the Golan Heights.
As usual, Hezbollah responded with threats, especially since Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah last week warned that he will order an attack on Israel at some time or another.
Hezbollah has denied that its fighters are on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, but the aerial bombing on Sunday erased that lie. It said one of the dead was a leading commander, Mohammed Amed Issa, and it admitted that an Iranian also was killed.
The established presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Israel’s border will make it even harder for President Barack Obama to take a dovish position on the Iranian nuclear threat without Congress, as well as Israel, doing everything possible to stop an appeasement policy. J. E. Dyer wrote in The Jewish Press here on Sunday:
Syria is now uniquely important to Iran’s nuclear aspirations because of the internal turmoil. There is no meaningful mechanism for enforcing “national” Syrian accountability to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. This is an ideal situation for Iran, and is only enhanced by the fact that the Syrian nuclear program has been on the alternate path to a plutonium bomb, as opposed to Iran’s well-advanced path to a uranium bomb.
A nuclear weapon aimed at Israel is Hezbollah and Iran’s ultimate revenge.
Meanwhile, no one is discounting Hezbollah threats, but it will not have an easy time to attack Israel, especially now that it is clear that Iran is operating across the Golan Heights border.
Hezbollah has enough rockets to cripple Israel, but the price of an attack could be suicidal for the terrorist army as well as Lebanon.
It will be a lot easier and less risky if Hezbollah takes revenge by attacking Jews outside Israel.
It remains to be seen if the death of Alberto Nisman, the state prosecutor in the Hezbollah-directed bombing of the Argentine Jewish Center bombing, was a suicide, as originally suggested, or was murder.
Was it a coincidence that he was shot dead hours after Israel killed six Hezbollah commanders?
The Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror organization warned Israel Sunday night that its air strike in Syria earlier in the day “could lead to a costly adventure that will put the Middle East at stake.”
The statement, broadcast on the terror group’s linked Al Manar television news channel, came following an IAF helicopter attack on a Hezbollah convoy traveling in the province of Quneitra in Syria.
Both Hezbollah commanders Jihad Mughniyeh and Mohamad Issa, known as Abu Issa, were killed along with four other terrorists, according to a statement from the group. In addition, a number of Iranian Revolutionary Guards were killed in the attack as well, according to a statement from the semi-official Iranian Tabnak news site.
The cell has launched a number of attacks on Israelis in the Golan Heights in the past. Israeli military sources said Mughniyeh was planning a series of deadly attacks against Israel, to be focused on IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians in the Golan Heights.
Lebanese media reported the Israeli air strike on Quneitra in Syria earlier Sunday. Two missiles were fired by an IAF helicopter in the area of Amal Farms, according to the report, later confirmed by Israeli military sources. Two Israeli reconnaissance planes were also seen flying in the area.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted local sources as saying the missiles targeted armed vehicles, adding it was not clear which group the vehicles belonged to.
Lebanese sources reported that six Iranians and five Hezbollah terrorists were killed in the strike, including three senior Lebanese terrorists.
Abu Ali Tabtabai, Hezbollah field commander for Syria operations was allegedly also killed in the strike, according to local reports.
In July 2013, JewishPress.com reported that Hezbollah was setting up a terror division on the Golan Heights. This was followed by a Druze report in October 2014, which warned that Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar was in charge of organizing a special Golan Heights terror cell.
CNN Arabic reported several months ago that Mughniyeh was following in his father’s footsteps and had received a respected role in the terrorist organization. He was planning terror attacks against Israelis living in the Golan Heights, according to intelligence sources.
“Jihad Mughniyeh is a ruthless terrorist who created a serious terrorist organization with many capabilities,” a source said. Rocket barrages and infiltrations using explosives and anti-tank missiles were on the list of attacks planned by Mughniyeh, the source said.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/hezbollah-tv-warns-of-costly-adventure-after-israel-kills-2-commanders/2015/01/19/
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