December 5, 2020

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01/15 Links Pt1: 4 mortar shells fired from Gaza at Israeli towns; IDF Intel Assessment: Iran Could Have Enough Uranium for Nuke by Spring; Democrats Block Resolution Condemning Iran

From Ian:

Israeli PM Netanyahu Calls for Snapback Sanctions on Tehran Regime, as Europe Triggers Iran Nuke Deal Dispute Mechanism
Two top Israeli leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ex-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, called for further sanctions on the Tehran regime on Tuesday, the same day three European powers triggered the dispute mechanism in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

In a video statement posted on social media, Netanyahu said, “We know exactly what’s happening with the Iranian nuclear program. Iran thinks it can achieve nuclear weapons.”

“I reiterate: Israel won’t allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons,” he pledged. “I also call on all Western countries to impose snapback sanctions at the UN now.”

Earlier, Gantz — the head of the centrist Blue and White party who is seeking to oust Netanyahu in the upcoming March Knesset elections — said, “The Europeans are beginning to understand that there is no other choice, that the attempts at conciliation with Iran are ineffective, and they are therefore moving toward sanctions, which I applaud.”

New IDF Intel Assessment: Iran Could Have Enough Uranium for Nuke by Spring

The IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate issued its annual assessment for 2020 on Tuesday, warning that Iran might have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb by this spring.

According to the Israeli news site Mako, the report stated that the US assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani earlier this month would have a deterrent effect, though the situation still required close monitoring.

Despite Soleimani’s death, however, without intervention, Iran could succeed in enriching enough uranium for one nuclear weapon by spring, according to the report. But it will take another two years to be weaponized sufficiently to be placed in a warhead, the report noted.

The report nevertheless theorized that Iran did not actually want to build a nuclear weapon, but rather to obtain better “cards” for negotiations with world powers, within the framework of its primary goal — spreading the “Islamic Revolution.”

Regarding Israel’s other strategic challenges, the assessment held that on the northern front, Syria would continue to be a destabilizing and potentially explosive force. Turkey would further its involvement in the northern arena and Russia would consolidate its power there.

The assessment stated that the ruling Assad regime would decide this year on how to deal with the continuing presence and influence of its ally Iran in Syria. Israel has vowed to prevent Iran from becoming entrenched in Syria and has taken military action against the Tehran regime’s attempts to do so.

Ben-Dror Yemini: The duplicity of Western progressives

For them, the problem is Trump, not the ayatollahs. The statements that they do make are mainly on lifting the Iranian sanctions.
One has to ask how it is that the West produces so many useful idiots, willing propaganda agents of the dark regime, while in Iran itself there is a generation of young people who are fighting against this reign of terror and for freedom and human rights.

Why the hell are Western progressives turning their backs on the brave young people of Iran?

We are used to this phenomenon when it comes to Israel, where progressives support a boycott of the Jewish state and the removal of sanctions on the Hamas regime in Gaza.

And they are not operating in isolation. They receive funding from the European Union as a whole and European countries separately.
This is the paradox of the radicals: progressives supporting the black-hearted and the racist.

They oppose those who are fighting evil elements, and now they are turning their backs on the Iranian protesters.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Why Some Palestinians Love Soleimani

[Many] Arabs have claimed that they cannot understand why Hamas and Islamic Jihad are mourning an Iranian general responsible for the killing and displacement of thousands of people in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Some Arabs scoffed at the two Palestinian groups for labeling Soleimani as the “martyr of Jerusalem” at a time “when most of his rockets and bullets were being used to kill Arabs and Muslims to implement Iran’s scheme of expanding its control to Arab and Islamic countries.”

Without Iran’s financial, military and political support, Hamas and Islamic Jihad would not have been able to maintain their control over the Gaza Strip…. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have demonstrated that they care nothing for the thousands of Arabs and Muslims killed by Soleimani’s Quds Force. As far as these groups are concerned… [t]he end goal for Hamas and Islamic Jihad remains the elimination of Israel….

The ongoing cooperation between Iran and the Gaza-based groups poses an imminent threat not only to Israel, but also to the PA, Egypt and other Arabs who are opposed to Tehran’s expansionist schemes in the region.

4 mortar shells fired from Gaza at Israeli towns; no injuries

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired four mortar shells toward southern Israel on Wednesday afternoon, causing neither injury nor damage, the military said.

Two of the incoming projectiles were intercepted by the military’s Iron Dome air defense system. The other two appeared to strike open fields in Israel’s Sha’ar Hanegev region, east of northern Gaza.

The mortar attack shattered a period of relative calm along the border.

“Four launches were detected from the territory of the Gaza Strip toward Israeli territory. Aerial defense soldiers intercepted two of the launches,” the military said in a statement.

The attack triggered sirens in the Israeli communities of Sa’ad, Kfar Aza and Nahal Oz, sending hundreds of residents rushing to bomb shelters.

The round of mortar fire came three days since alarms last sounded in Nahal Oz, apparently due to heavy machine gun fire from the coastal enclave.

3 pro-Iranian fighters said killed in overnight Syria strikes blamed on Israel

Three pro-Iranian fighters were killed in an airstrike on a military base in central Syria late Tuesday night, according to a Britain-based monitor.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday reported that the strike, which Syria attributed to Israel, targeted a weapons storehouse, as well as a building that was under construction and two military vehicles on the T-4 air base near Homs.

The base has long believed to be used by Iranian forces and allied Shiite militias and has been targeted by Israeli airstrikes in the past.

According to the Observatory, the number of dead was expected to rise as several other pro-Iranian fighters were reportedly injured in the strike.

The nationalities of wounded and killed fighters were not immediately known.

There was no comment from the Israeli military, which does not generally publicly acknowledge such operations abroad.

Turkey Included in IDF’s Annual Threat Assessment

Despite officially maintaining diplomatic ties, Israel’s military has added the Republic of Turkey to its list of threats in an annual assessment for the coming year, in light of the country’s growing aggressiveness in the region, The Times of Israel learned Tuesday.

This is the first time Israeli Military Intelligence has included Turkey on the list.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been increasingly strained under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who routinely speaks out against the Jewish state and allegedly allows Palestinian terror groups to operate freely in his country.

Though in its assessment, which is presented to Israeli decision-makers each year, the military does not see a direct confrontation with Turkey in the offing in 2020, the country’s increasingly bellicose actions in the region have made it one of the top dangers to watch for the coming year.

The assessment did not detail any specific threat from Turkey toward Israel, but rather indicated that policies pursued by Erdogan, whose Islamist party is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, was behind the cause for concern. Those issues were not inherent to Turkey’s outlook and would not necessarily outlive Erdogan, the assessment indicated.

A Tribute To Omani Sultan Qaboos, Ally And Patron Of Progress

Progress never comes easy — especially in the Middle East. That is why much credit is due to the late Sultan Qaboos of Oman, who died this past Friday. A patron of progress and peace, an ally of the West, and a visionary, Sultan Qaboos potentially primed the Persian Gulf for its ongoing renaissance, which remains characterized by increasing progress, tolerance, and pro-Western sentiment. For this, he deserves plaudits.

Sultan Qaboos was destined for ushering change — he beat to a different tune, ascending the throne as a possibly gay man whose colorful clothes illuminated the hostile environment he inherited. Then, slavery existed and Omani law banned electricity, radios, eyeglasses, and even umbrellas. Under Sultan Qaboos, these realities quickly became no more. He advanced Omani society, transforming it from one previously rooted in extreme traditionalism to one that, while outward-looking in nature, maintained a relatively non-interventionist persona. Under Qaboos, Oman became one of the world’s safest and wealthiest countries, and it now celebrates higher purchasing power parity per capita rates than Finland. He also provided Oman stability, ruling since 1970 and thereby becoming the region’s longest ruling head of state. In sum, he put Oman on a stable path that produced tremendous social and economic progress.

Qaboos’ aspirations for progress were also regional in scope, advancing the cause of peace. He negotiated and secured the release of Western hostages in neighboring countries, often dipping into his own pocket to do so. And while he maintained economic and political ties with Iran, he also leveraged his relationship for good, using his influence to help free Westerners detained therein.

Qaboos, while idealistic at times, did propel stronger ties with the West. Qaboos, a “close ally,” advanced U.S. military interests, allowing the U.S. access to two strategic ports and an “overland route that would enable … forces [in future conflict] to reach the Persian Gulf without transiting the Strait of Hormuz.” The Strait of Hormuz, which has been subject to the threat of closures by Iran, remains one of the world’s most important bodies of water, “through which 30% of all seaborne crude oil shipments pass.” He also sponsored American students to learn Arabic in Oman, thereby fostering stronger future ties between the two countries.

Why is Bahrain’s Israel-friendly foreign minister being given the boot?

As Israeli leaders continue to enthuse over the Jewish state’s growing rapprochement with parts of the Arab world, one of the most visible proponents of this process — the only senior Gulf official who has repeatedly defended not only Israel’s right to exist but its right to defend itself militarily — is being removed from his post.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, who has held his position since 2005, is being replaced by Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, the tiny Gulf nation’s monarch decided earlier this month. The reasons for the veteran top diplomat’s sudden ouster are unclear.

The reshuffle will take effect in April, after Zayani concludes his current term as secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Khalifa, who has repeatedly made headlines for his pro-Israel statements and gestures, will leave the foreign ministry and assume a new and hitherto undefined role as “adviser for diplomatic affairs” to King Hamad.

In announcing the shake-up, the government in Manama did not indicate whether Khalifa was being promoted or demoted, but analysts agree that being removed from the foreign ministry cannot be seen as anything but a downgrade.

What the analysts are not sure of is the background for the king’s move. (h/t Zvi)

Iran’s mullahs are right to be rattled about what is unfolding on the streets of Tehran

For now, the regime appears to have backed down from repression and mass murder. It is rattled. And well it should be. Despite the dangers to their own lives, Iranians are making it clear that the regime – and not the ‘Great Satan’ – is the oppressor of the Iranian people. They have called not for death to America but rather for ‘death to the Islamic Republic.’ According to BBC Monitoring even Iranian State Television has reported in detail on protests.

Tehran is scrambling to placate the people and international opinion. But it is too little too late. It is now almost impossible to convince anyone – save the most extreme loyalists and conspiracy theorists – that what we have seen is anything but an organic and popular uprising on the streets of Iran.

What comes next will be critical. The world’s eyes are on Iran. This has almost certainly stopped the regime from once more massacring people in the streets.

How long this forbearance will last remains unclear. After all, we have witnessed the world’s most documented genocide take place over the course of many years in Syria. It has been on our TV screens and in our inboxes to no avail. Syria taught us perhaps one lesson above all others: without real political will backed by the threat of meaningful action, things can turn deadly very quickly.

But if one thing the last year in Iran has made clear, it is that people will not stop. And they will need more from us than just our punditry.

Iran Faces the U.S. Alone

The numerous summits between Russian President Putin, Iranian President Rouhani, and Turkish President Erdogan feature plenty of smiles and photos of handshakes. But the actions of these three countries in wars on the ground tell a different story.

In Syria, Turkey is basically waging a proxy war against Syria and Russia. Russian sorties lead the campaign against the last Sunni rebel stronghold in Idlib, most of whom are armed and financed by the Turks. There is a similar Turkish-Russian proxy war in Libya. Russia is backing Gen. Haftar’s assault on the government in Tripoli which, according to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Russia has effectively given a green light to Israel to destroy Iran’s military and industrial build-up in Syria. Moscow’s tolerance for these Israeli strikes does not endear it to Tehran. Russia wants to see a strong Syrian state that can reliably host a Russian military and naval base on the Mediterranean. Iran wants to turn the Syrian state into a “Lebanon” in which pro-Iranian Shiite militias are strong and the state is weak.

As for Turkish-Iranian relations, in the pro-Iranian media outlets al-Manar and al-Mayadin, Turkey is vilified – in terms similar to those used about Israel – for its support for Sunni fundamentalists who kill Hizbullah fighters on Syrian territory. For Iran, this means it will be on its own to face the consequences if it decides to act against the U.S.

Seth J. Frantzman: Israeli F-35s Could Soon Be Taking On Iran’s Cruise Missiles

The F-35 radar is the most advanced for fighter jets, according to F-35 developer Lockheed Martin. “It enables the F-35 to be capable of identifying and intercepting airborne threats flying at a low altitude and at high speeds,” a company spokesman said on December 18. That’s important considering the emerging threats Israel now faces from Iran and Iranian-backed groups such as Hezbollah which are seeking precision guidance for their rocket arsenal. Iran is accused of using cruise missiles to attack Saudi Arabia in September. The F-35’s radar can play a role in neutralizing these kinds of threats.

Gary North, vice-president for customer requirements for Lockheed Martin says that the F-35 AN/APG-81 AESA radar can enable the interception of low altitude airborne threats. The radar is a key element of the F-35 supplied by Northrop Grumman. It is an active electronically scanned array that provides situational awareness and a view of the battlespace. “The electronically scanned nature of the AESA allows it to quickly scan any direction, compared to a mechanically scanned radar,” Avionics International notes. It sponges up data and enables the F-35 to perform its mission in combination with all the other technology and data links that fifth-generation militaries are using today. Missile Defense Review noted in early 2019 that the F-35 can “track and destroy adversary cruise missiles” and pointed out the aircraft will have other missile defense capabilities.

Israel modified its F-35 Adir to confront unique threats the country faces and to meet its needs. Low altitude and precision-guided missiles are one of the threats Israel deals with, although scanning for such threats is not usually the job of warplanes like the F-35. Israel has a sophisticated multi-layered air defense, such as the Iron Dome and David’s Sling that it uses to confront rocket threats. In the last two years, more than 2,600 rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel and Iranian IRGC networks in Syria have fired rockets and attacked Israel with drones at least five times since February 2018.

Israel’s F-35s have been operational since December 2017 and by the summer of 2019, it had received 16 of the 50 it will receive by 2024. Israel has been supplanting the F-35s it received with its other warplanes, including the F-15s which Israel has modified in the past, which also has advanced radar. These include the F-15Ds and F-15Is Israel has in its air force. Indigenous upgrades have always been Israel’s forte. It upgraded its older F-15s in the past, concentrating on better radar, data link and electronic warfare suites. Spotting low-flying cruise missiles has been an issue that radar designers have sought to confront over the last decades. However, if the F-35 is used against cruise missiles by itself it might need to carry munitions externally that negate its stealth externally, one report indicates; an added reason that using it in combination with other aircraft or systems can maximize the capabilities of each.

Israel Is Not Iran’s Primary Concern

Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad, former director of policy and political-military affairs at the Israeli Defense Ministry, said, “The Iranians need to be concerned about the United States and I think they are. You cannot compare Iran’s military might to that of America and [Iran] knows this. Also, nobody expected [Trump] to order the targeted killing of Soleimani and he could end up carrying out ‘shock and awe’ attacks against Iran if U.S. soldiers or interests are harmed moving forward.”

Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, former head of Israel’s National Security Council, said he does not envision Iran initiating “comprehensive attacks” or a “full-scale war” against Israel until achieving at least one of the following goals: “The first is to develop nuclear weapons. The second condition would be for Iran to successfully build in Syria an organization similar in military capabilities to Hizbullah, and the third is to develop a critical mass of precision missiles” that would pose a major threat to the Israeli home front.

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence and now Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, highlighted the multitude of problems Iran is facing.

“The regime is under economic sanctions that deprive it of its main oil income and that will continue to damage other sectors of the Iranian economy in the coming months. Tehran also has issues in its satellite states, such as Iraq and, to a lesser degree, Lebanon, and it has a shortage of funds to address this.”

Moreover, Iran’s weak response to losing Soleimani “has led to a growing threat to the stability of the regime, and the worst part for Iran is that the only way to solve its problems is to accede to the American demand to come back to the table and renegotiate the nuclear deal.”

Trump on Soleimani: Many of Our Soldiers Are Missing Limbs Because of ‘This Son of a B——’

President Donald Trump during a Tuesday rally derided terror master Qassem Soleimani as a “son of bitch” who was responsible for the maiming of American soldiers.

“You know, many of the young men and women you see walking around without arms or without legs were done by Soleimani. That’s what he loved, the roadside bomb, that’s what he loved,” Trump said at a rally in Milwaukee, Wis. “Thousands and thousands and thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan, roadside bombs, he was the king of the roadside bomb. Great percentages of people don’t have legs right now and arms because of this son of a bitch.”

Soleimani led the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps which trained, funded, and armed Iran-sympathetic terrorist groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and around the Middle East, killing thousands, including hundreds of Americans.

Trump added that Democrats are trying to do “everything possible” to discredit his decision.

“The Democrats should be outraged by Soleimani’s evil crimes, not the decision to end his wretched life. They are saying ‘well, he was a general, he was this, he was that’—number one, he wasn’t supposed to be there,” Trump said. “He was a designated terrorist by President Obama, who did not do anything about it, as usual.”

Congress Seeks Investigation Into Pro-Iran Lobby Group Tied to Tehran Regime

Congressional leaders have petitioned the Trump administration to investigate a pro-Iran lobbying organization that has long faced accusations of acting as the Islamic Republic’s unregistered mouthpiece in America, according to official communications obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

A group of senators has requested that the Trump administration investigate the National Iranian American Council, or NIAC. The council, a pro-Tehran advocacy group with deep ties to the Iranian regime, played a key role in the Obama administration’s pro-Iran “echo chamber,” which misled Congress and the American people about the terms of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

Senators Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), and Mike Braun (R., Ind.) are petitioning the Justice Department to investigate NIAC for potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires that lobbying groups disclose their activities on behalf of foreign nations.

NIAC, which is registered as a U.S. nonprofit, maintains close ties to senior Iranian government officials and has been the subject of public scrutiny for its efforts to broker meetings between American and Iranian officials.

As the Obama administration sought to ink the nuclear accord with Iran, NIAC acted as a central part of what Obama National Security Council official Ben Rhodes described as the administration’s “echo chamber.” A network of Obama administration officials and outside organizations disseminated talking points to reporters that bolstered the case for the deal and downplayed Iran’s sponsorship of regional terror operations.

WATCH: Wife Of Soldier Killed By Iranian IED Gives Powerful Testimony About Death Of Soleimani

Baldwin asked, “At what point did you realize, at what point did you put two and two together, that the way in which your husband was killed was ultimately at the hands of this guy Soleimani?”

Hake replied, “That was not until years later.”

Baldwin asked, “Tell me how.”

Hake: So I had known during conversations with other soldiers that he was killed by a very specific IED called an EFP; I had known that it was a very specific kind, but that’s really all I knew. I didn’t know that it was made in Iran; I didn’t know the specifics of everything at the time, and then as the years passed, I ended up getting a letter from my lawyer, who at the time wasn’t my lawyer at the time, but kind of explaining what their findings were. They were tracing these EFPs back to Iran and that they would like to have another conversation with me. At that time I went ahead and spoke with them and learned more about who actually killed my husband.

Asked what she hoped to gain from the massive lawsuit, Hake answered, “To make it public. I want the American people to understand that Iran had a part in killing my husband who was an American soldier.”

Baldwin asked Hake how she had explained her husband’s death to her son through the years. Hake answered, “There have been a few conversations here and there, I mean, at first he was so young; really we just said “Daddy died and went to heaven to be with the angels.” As he’s gotten older we have talked more about how he died, and how he is our hero, and how he’s an American hero. We’ve gone through those things as he asked questions; we try to answer them to the best we can for however old he is at the time. When we did find out that Soleimani had passed away, I did tell him that he was the one responsible for his dad’s death.

Baldwin: And he said what to you, the thirteen-year-old boy?

Hake: He kind of looked at me and he was like, “Really?” And he he just kind of started running around the house saying, “Yes! Yes! He’s dead!” I could tell he was very relieved as well.

Report: Syrian Official Gave U.S. Intelligence on Soleimani’s Location

A senior Western intelligence source told the UK’s Independent Arabic that a senior Syrian official gave American intelligence agents information on Qasem Soleimani’s movements in Syria, provided that his killing would not be carried out on Syrian soil.

Due to the information given, the Americans were able to follow Soleimani’s flight path after they were confident he was on board.

At the same time, the source revealed that the Americans had hacked the phone of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the pro-Iranian Shiite militia al-Hashad al-Sha’abi, who was also eliminated in the Jan. 3 attack.

The U.S. had tapped his conversations with Soleimani and others. In these conversations, U.S. intelligence learned that Soleimani and Muhandis were preparing for major operations against U.S., Israeli and Western targets in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Top US Jewish Group Urges Global Solidarity With Anti-Regime Protesters in Iran

A top US Jewish group expressed solidarity on Tuesday with the anti-regime demonstrators who have taken to the streets of Iran since last weekend.

“We stand with the Iranian people as they engage in peaceful protest against the oppression of Iran’s extremist regime,” Arthur Stark, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in a statement. “The brutal treatment of innocent Iranians in recent days is unacceptable and must be forcefully condemned by the international community and all who value human and civil rights.”

They added, “The violent crackdown aimed at silencing the legitimate grievances of a proud people, demonstrates the regime’s ruthless disregard for the well-being of its citizens. This follows a similar brutal response to protests that took such a heavy toll in human life several weeks ago.”

“Iran must be held accountable for its outrageous conduct at home and abroad.” Stark and Hoenlein declared. “The UN Security Council must take immediate action to deter further atrocities at the hands of the Iranian government and its proxies.”

The latest unrest in Tehran and other Iranian cities appears to be fueled by outrage over the downing of a Ukrainian commercial airliner last week just after takeoff from Imam Khomeini International Airport near Tehran.

MEMRI: The Iranian People’s Loss Of Faith In The Iranian Regime And Its Leader: ‘Liar, Step Down!’

After three days of denial, the Iranian regime finally, on January 11, 2020, acknowledged that it was responsible for the January 8 downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 shortly after its takeoff from Tehran. Most of the 176 passengers who were killed were young, promising Iranian students from the country’s elite. That day, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh tearfully took responsibility for the downing of the plane. Also that day, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for an investigation into the “regrettable incident” that, he said, was the result of human error. On January 13, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said that “[President Rohani’s] government had not lied” about the circumstances of the plane crash because it had neither known the facts nor been informed of them.[1]

Beginning on January 11, public anti-regime and anti-Khamenei demonstrations spread in cities across Iran, primarily at the universities. The protestors expressed their rage at the regime’s and the leadership’s lies and subterfuge about the plane crash, particularly at Khamenei, who had been busy with the campaign of the mourning for Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, and in presenting the January 8 IRGC missile attack on two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. military personnel as having caused the widescale loss of life and property to the U.S. that the leadership had promised in the days preceding the attacks.

Protests Reflect The Iranian Public’s Loss Of Faith In The Regime And The Supreme Leader – January 2020

While previous public protests, in December 2017 and in the “fuel revolt” of November 2019, had erupted against a backdrop of the economic situation in the country and of regime decisions that negatively impacted the public, the current protest is the result of a severe crisis of confidence among the Iranian people vis-à-vis the Khamenei regime – a protest against its culture of lies and denial of responsibility for the consequences of its actions that typifies it. This time, intellectuals and other figures identified with the reformist camp joined the people filling the public squares to protest against the regime and its leader over the lies and the refusal to take responsibility for the downing of the plane and the killing of some of the best of Iran’s young people. Many young people are taking to the streets and city squares with calls of “Death to the Leader [Khamenei],” “Death to the Dictator,” “The Islamic Republic [of Iran] Should Be Annihilated,” and “Death to the Religious Scholars who Killed the Youth of the Homeland!”

British ambassador leaves Iran after being briefly detained – report

British Ambassador to Tehran Robert Macaire has left Iran, Ynet reported on Wednesday quoting local reports.

MaCaire was briefly detained on Saturday, which Iranian officials said was because he attended an illegal demonstration, which took place amid public anger over Iran’s belated admission that its military shot down a passenger plane. He denied the accusations, saying that he had attended a vigil for victims of the crash. London said his detention was a violation of diplomat conventions.

On Tuesday Iran’s judiciary said that the ambassador was an “undesirable element,” state media reported.

“Based on international regulations, the British ambassador in Iran is an undesirable element,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told reporters, when asked about the British envoy. His remarks were carried on state television.

Rouhani to European troops: You might be targeted

Iran’s president warned Wednesday that European soldiers in the Mideast “could be in danger” after three nations challenged Tehran over breaking the limits of its nuclear deal. Tehran’s top diplomat meanwhile acknowledged that Iranians “were lied to” for days following the Islamic republic’s accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian jetliner that killed 176 people.

President Hassan Rouhani’s remarks in a televised cabinet meeting represent the first direct threat he’s made to Europe as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington over President Donald Trump withdrawing the US from the deal in May 2018.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s admission, which came at a summit in New Delhi on Wednesday, represents the first time an Iranian official referred to earlier claims from Tehran that a technical malfunction downed the Ukraine International Airlines flight as a lie. The shootdown – and subsequent days of denials that a missile had downed it – sparked days of angry protests in the country.

The current tensions between Iran and the US reached fever-pitch two weeks ago with the American drone strike in Baghdad that killed the powerful Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The general had led Iranian proxy forces abroad, including those responsible for deadly roadside bomb attacks on US troops in Iraq.

Tehran Threatens Athens over Use of U.S. Military Bases Against Iran

Tehran has warned Athens that if it allows the use of US military bases in Greece in a possible aggression against Iran it will be considered as a “hostile act” to which it will respond “in a clear and decisive manner.”

The warning came in a letter sent by the Iranian embassy in Athens to Kathimerini, which was published on January 10 in the column Readers’ Letters. It was commenting on an article published in the newspaper on January 6, which stated that “Greece will have some involvement” in case of a US operation against Iran, “though not with a warship…due to the extremely fragile balance” in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The same article said that the US Armed Forces are boosting their presence in their military base in Souda, Crete.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has made it very clear that in the event of a US-led war against the country, the concession of [military] bases by any country to the American invader will be considered a hostile act and Iran reserves the right to respond in a clear and decisive manner,” the embassy’s press office said.

MEMRI: Shi’ite Militias Crack Down On Reporters, Activists Covering Anti-Iran Protests In Iraq

Over the past three months, Iraqi journalists covering the anti-government demonstrations appear to be facing growing pressure from pro-Iran militias according to local media. The assassination of two reporters in Basra on January 10, 2020, is the latest example of an escalating threat to silence media coverage supportive of the protests. Ahmad Abdel-Samad, a 39-year-old correspondent for the local television station Dijla, and his cameraman Safaa Ghali, 37, were killed near a police station late on Friday in Basra when a group of armed men in a 4×4 vehicle approached their car and opened fire, according to witnesses.

Their killing comes only a few days after correspondents from the U.S.-funded Al-Hurra TV in Najaf and Baghdad announced on their social media accounts that they had submitted their resignations without providing reasons. Reports in Iraqi media have raised questions about the timing of these resignations, pointing out that the correspondents had been in their roles for over ten years and would therefore be unlikely to announce their resignations without giving an explanation.[1]

On December 17, 2019, several Iraqis on social media reported that the Iran-backed Shi’ite militia Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH) in Iraq had issued a hit list that includes the names of Iraqi journalists and activists, including Iraqi nationals living abroad, who use social media to show support for the ongoing protests.

While local and pan-Arab media outlets reported that the list includes 700 names, the leaked photos show only 18 names, all of whom live outside Iraq, including those in countries such as the U.S., U.K., France, and Canada.

It is worth noting that the U.S. Treasury Department announced on December 6, 2019, that it sanctioned four Iraqi officials, two of whom are leaders of AAH: Qais Al-Khazali, and his brother Laith Al-Khazali, for their roles in killing protestors.

Iranian Intelligence Agents Harass Families of Air Crash Victims

“When we heard that the plane had crashed the world crashed on our heads, but when the news came that the plane had not crashed because of technical problems and that our loved ones had died because of a missile being fired at it, it was not only sadness that was killing us but also anger. Now, instead of sympathy, what we are getting a few times every day are calls and text messages warning us not to communicate with the media or send them pictures.”

This is how the mother of a victim of the Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 describes what she went through. “My son was an ordinary person, like many others,” she tells IranWire. “He was neither an elite student for the university to issue a statement for him nor an Olympic medalist to be famous. Nor was he a political activist flying to exile. But he fell victim to the policies of the country that he loved wholeheartedly. He had a thousand hopes and left Iran to fulfil them. I supported him, too. I told him: ‘if you remain here you will just run around and end up being a tenant in your old age.’ And now he is gone.”

The grieving mother — who has asked for her name not to be disclosed because she has been threatened by security agencies — says the agents contacted her several times after it was revealed that a missile had brought down the plane. They wanted her to give interviews to the domestic media. “They said, ‘come and talk to our own media, not to the anti-regime media,’” she says. “I said, ‘you want me to say that it was America’s fault? You will never hear me whitewash you.’”

She says that some families have been forced to sit in front of the cameras and talk about “forgiving human error” — a human error that cost the lives of 176 innocent human beings. “In a video, they had the grieving father of Mehdi Eshaghi sit in front of the camera and say, ‘God giveth and God taketh away. Something happened, regardless of whether it was human error or something else. It is up to the government and our own courts to investigate.’ Only God knows what was going inside him when he was forced to sit and say, ‘We are the foot soldiers of this regime.’”

Video indicates Ukraine jet was hit by two Iranian missiles

New video footage has emerged showing two Iranian missiles tearing through the night sky and hitting a Ukrainian passenger plane, sending the aircraft down in flames and killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

The projectiles were fired 30 seconds apart and explain why the plane’s transponder was not working as it hurtled to the ground — it was disabled by the first strike, before being hit by a second, said the New York Times, which published the verified security camera footage Tuesday.

The blurry film, shot from a rooftop in a village four miles from an Iranian military site, shows the Kiev-bound plane on fire and circling back to Tehran’s airport, the Times said. Minutes later, the aircraft exploded and crashed.

Tehran had for days denied Western claims based on US intelligence that the Boeing 737 had been downed by a missile.

MEMRI: After Meeting In Iran, Shi’ite Militia Leaders And Cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr Call For One Million Man March To End U.S. Military Presence

On January 14, 2020, Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr posted a statement[1] to his Twitter account calling for a mass demonstration to end the U.S. military presence in Iraq. The statement comes one day after his meeting with leaders of armed factions in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Qom, Iran, where those present agreed on a unified position regarding their new roles following the deaths of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.[2]

In his statement, Al-Sadr says that “the sky of Iraq is being violated by the invading forces, so let us rise with an Iraqi revolution, not eastern nor western [not associated with Iran nor the U.S.], that will bring victory and blessings to Iraq, and its people.”

Al-Sadr further says that Iraqis should join his call and peacefully march in a “one-million man” march that condemns the U.S. presence in Iraq and defends their country and the highest authority of the Shi’a, referring to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

“Soldiers of Allah, soldiers of Iraq, let us have a peaceful demonstration (of one million man) that denounces the U.S. presence and its violations. Make up your mind and do not spare any efforts, Iraq and Marjayia [Highest Authority of the Shi’a] are calling upon you, so do not fall short.”

He reiterates that Iraqis “will not kneel to the power of the international arrogance [the U.S. and its western allies], we shall only kneel to Allah.”

MEMRI: Russian Ambassador To Lebanon: The Assassination Of ‘Our Comrade’ Soleimani Is Condemnable; The U.S. Should Leave Syria, Iraq

In a January 10, 2020 report in the Lebanese daily Al-Jumhouriyya, journalist ‘Imad Marmel presented statements by Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin, who harshly criticized the U.S. policy in Syria and Iraq, including the assassination of IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani.

Zasypkin described the assassination of Soleimani, who he said cooperated with Russia in fighting terror and was greatly esteemed by the Russians, as a “crime” and a disproportional response to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq. He added that the Iranian response to the assassination, on the other hand, was prudent and that Iran therefore couldn’t be blamed for escalating the tension, especially since the U.S. is the one that withdrew from the nuclear deal in the first place. The U.S. plays a negative role in the region and should pull its forces from Syria and Iraq, he concluded.

The ambassador also noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin recently visited Damascus and discussed the Iran-U.S. tension with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and that the visit was meant to convey that the alliance between Russia and Syria is solid and that the two countries will continue their joint fight against terror.

The following are excerpts from the Al-Jumhouriyya report:
The Attack On The Embassy Did Not Justify A Response Of This Magnitude

“Amid the growing pressure on the U.S. presence and interests in the region, in the wake of the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, it seems that Russia is the main beneficiary in the current situation, which may cause its ‘rivals’ in the region to face difficult trials.

Democrats Block Resolution Condemning Iran For Murdering Protesters, Shooting Down Plane

House Democrats blocked a resolution on Tuesday that expressed support for oppressed Iranian protesters and condemned Iran for shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane last week that killed 176 people.

“Consideration and a vote on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s resolution was blocked … by a vote of 226-191,” The Daily Caller reported. “The resolution would have condemned the Government of Iran for killing 1,500 Iranian citizens who were protesting their government, as well as condemned the Government of Iran for shooting down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, killing 176 people.”

“What a disappointment —Democrats just blocked a vote on a resolution supporting the Iranian protestors,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted. “This is not the time for partisan politics. This should be a time for the US Congress to speak with one voice to condemn an Iranian regime that kills its own people.”

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) tweeted: “Why in the world are @HouseDemocrats blocking the @GOPLeader ‘s resolution condemning this Iranian regime for obvious human rights violations? This isn’t complicated. Let’s stand up for the same basic right to free speech in Iran that we have here and vote on this resolution.”

WATCH: GOP Rep Who Lost Both Legs In War On Terror Asks Dems One Blunt Question About Killing Soleimani. Dead Silence.

On Tuesday morning, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), who served served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom and lost both his legs and one of his fingers after he stepped on an IED in September 2010, issued a blunt question to his Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives that left them speechless, asking them to name one name on the wall in Congress memorializing American soldiers who have died in the war on terror that did not justify the killing of the Iranian terror chief General Qassem Soleimani.

Mast began: “Some people might call this rhetorical, but I’m not going to ask it as rhetorical: there’s a number of my colleagues still remaining here. I am more than willing to yield to any of my colleagues that want to answer this question: If you walk out this hallway, and you take a right, and another right, and another right, you’re going to come to several beautiful walls that have the names of our fallen service members from the war on terror. And I would ask, can any of you provide me one name on that wall that doesn’t justify killing Soleimani? I’ve got two minutes and thirty seconds. I’ll be more than happy to sit here and wait. Somebody provide me with a name on that wall that does not justify his killing.”

After a twelve-second pause, Mast was instructed by chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), “The gentleman may continue.”

Mast replied, “I’m continuing, Mr. Chairman. I’ve got two minutes remaining. I will sit here and wait for somebody to provide me with a name on that wall that does not justify the killing of Soleimani.”

Engel tried to browbeat Mast and move on, stating, “Thank you, Mr. Mast, I think you’ve made your point. Mr. Phillips?”

Mast, unintimidated, slammed back, “Mr. Chairman, I have not yielded back my time and I still have a minute and forty-five seconds.”

‘Absolutely Correct’: Obama’s National Security Adviser Praises Trump For Killing Soleimani

Retired Marine General Jim Jones, former President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, praised President Donald Trump in an interview this week for killing Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, saying that the decision was “absolutely correct” while essentially adding that the president should not listen to Democrats on this issue.

“I think what the administration did in the Soleimani case is absolutely correct,” Jones said on Sunday at an Atlantic Council event. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

A reporter asked Jones, “Do you wish that you had done it in your time in government?”

“Well, I think we were doing it in the sense that we were really looking hard for Osama bin Laden,” Jones responded. “While I was in the White House, we found the found the house that he was and took another year to be pretty sure that he was there. So, I think the Obama administration tried to find the terrorist that was the most wanted guy in the world.”

“Soleimani is now the next guy, so I give [Trump] credit for doing that and I think it was the right thing to do and I think it’s, as articulated by the president, it’s a potential game changer,” Jones continued. “I would not let up. I would not let up.”

WATCH: ABC Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Seems Sad That Iranians Protest Against Regime

On Monday, ABC’s chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz issued a report on the current protests against the Iranian despotic regime on Monday, and while doing so, colored her language to indicate that after the U.S. killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the country was united, but now that protesters against the government have expressed their outrage, the country’s “unity” has been “shattered.”

Raddatz began, “A week ago this was a country with masses of people shouting down the United States, but this morning in Iran the anger is aimed at their own leaders. Protests in the streets of Iran over the shoot-down of that passenger jet. Overnight thousands of Iranians flooding the streets for a second day. The Associated Press showing tear gas hurled at crowds with video and witness accounts of protestors beaten and live ammunition fire; Iran denying the use of live ammunition; the denial coming after the Iranian government finally admitted that its military forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian commercial aircraft, killing all 176 passengers on board.”

She continued by invoking Soleimani’s name, and instead of noting that he was the organizing force behind Iran’s brutal terror actions across the globe, simply called him a “top Iranian general.”

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