Daily Briefing: TENSIONS ESCALATE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND IRAN FOLLOWING MYSTERIOUS EXPLOSIONS

Meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Following the meeting with the leaders of Iran and Turkey, Vladimir Putin held a separate bilateral meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (Source:Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:

Mysterious Explosions Escalate Israel, Iran Tensions:  Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, July 7, 2020


Iran’s ‘Ring of Fire’: A Growing Threat to Israel:  Bob Feferman, The Times of Israel, July 8, 2020


The Capitulation of the Iraqi Prime Minister to Iran:  Yoni Ben Menachem, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, July 5, 2020


China Inks Military Deal with Iran Under Secretive 25-Year Plan:  Simon Watkins, OilPrice.com, July 6, 2020

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Mysterious Explosions Escalate Israel, Iran Tensions
Ben Caspit
Al-Monitor, July 7, 2020

Several days after the massive July 2 explosion that destroyed the upper level of Iran’s centrifuge upgrading and uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, reports emerged in Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked Mossad Director Yossi Cohen to stay on an additional year once his five-year term expires at the end of the year. However, “the head,” as the spy agency director is known, only agreed to a six-month extension. Shortly after, in the pre-dawn hours of July 3, Israel launched its Ofek 16 spy satellite carried on a Shavit rocket from its Palmachim military base. The satellite significantly enhances Israel’s ability to track events around the world, in particular Iran. Its particularly sophisticated camera enables the identification of items as small as 50 centimeters (19.5 inches) from a height of up to 450 kilometers (280 miles). Ofek 16 joins six other Israeli reconnaissance satellites orbiting earth and transmitting real-time data on developments around the world.

Intelligence officials believe Iran is now reassessing what they dub its “strategic patience policy.” The Iranians themselves admit it. A commentary on Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said, “Iran so far has tried to prevent intensifying crises and the formation of unpredictable conditions and situations.” However, it continued, “the crossing of red lines of the Islamic Republic of Iran by hostile countries, especially the Zionist regime and the United States, means that strategy … should be revised.” It now appears that the Iranians are in discussions on recalibrating their course, indeed. They are no longer convinced that their famed patience serves their ongoing military nuclear ambitions and the tense wait for the results of the November US presidential elections.
The series of mysterious explosions in Iran began in late June with a blast at the weapons manufacturing facility in Parchin. It was followed by reported sabotage at a Tehran area hospital and then by the main event, the blast at Natanz that sparked a heavy fire and destroyed significant sections of the aboveground facility at which Iran was manufacturing sophisticated IR-6 and IR-8 enrichment centrifuges.

Israel is closely monitoring the Iranian dilemma. “I have no doubt the Iranians are holding discussions these days about their patience policy,” former Military Intelligence Director Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin told Al-Monitor. According to a report in Israel, the Iranians had recently tried to plan and carry out attacks against Israeli interests, such as embassies and other targets around the world, mostly in Europe, but the Mossad, along with its Western partners thwarted these attempts. “Israel is preparing for every possible Iranian response,” a senior Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “It could be carried out by one of Iran’s proxies, it could be carried out on an Israeli target abroad and it could also come in the shape of a cyberattack, the likes of which we already experienced in recent weeks.”

However, even an overt Iranian response indicating that Tehran had run out of “strategic patience” will not sway Israel from its declared goal of foiling by all means possible Iran’s ongoing attempts to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Western intelligence sources assess that the blast at Natanz set back Iran’s nuclear weapons race by two years. “They were about to complete the manufacture of the sophisticated centrifuges at Natanz,” Yadlin, currently the director of the Institute for National Security Studies, told Al-Monitor. “These centrifuges were supposed to greatly speed up Iran’s nuclear ‘breakout’ time. They are six to eight times faster than the old centrifuges, which operate in the underground part of that same site. Whoever was behind the Natanz attack knew exactly what they were doing,” he said. Yadlin declined to speculate on foreign reports attributing the sabotage to Israel. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Iran’s ‘Ring of Fire’: A Growing Threat to Israel
Bob Feferman
The Times of Israel, July 8, 2020

While the world’s attention is focused on the coronavirus and the potential Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, there are major events happening in the Middle East regarding Iran’s missile program and its nuclear ambitions. Given these developments, it’s important to look at the wider context with a focus on the dangerous strategy developed by Iranian leaders who call for the destruction of Israel.

On June 26th, a mysterious explosion occurred outside the Iranian capital of Tehran at a major missile production facility. A week later, a fire was reported at Natanz in a facility for the production of advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium. Some analysts raised the possibility of a cyberattack, and a report in a Kuwaiti newspaper attributes the attacks to Israel.

Over the past months, there has also been a significant increase in air strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria. Although Israel has not claimed responsibility for these attacks, it is widely understood that these ongoing operations are connected to what the Israeli military calls, “the campaign between the wars.”

The goal of the Israeli strategy is to delay the next war, and hopefully to preempt a much greater threat to the survival of Israel.

What is the exact nature of this threat?

Iran’s military strategy toward Israel can be summed up in four words: “A ring of fire”. The term refers to the efforts of Iran to expand its precision guided missile project throughout the Middle East in order to build, “… a ring of fire around the State of Israel.”

The phrase was coined by Major General (res.) Yaakov Amidror, the former head of the Research Division of Israeli Military Intelligence. Today, he is a Senior Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security.
 
In an important speech given a year ago, Amidror explained, “The first element is Hezbollah in Lebanon, the second element is the independent Iranian war machine in Syria which will be connected to tens of thousands of Shiite militia members located in Syria or Lebanon, or both, and a land corridor going from Iran through Iraq into Syrian and Lebanon.”

In Lebanon, Iran has already succeeded in supplying its loyal proxy Hezbollah with a massive arsenal of more than 130,000 rockets. Over the past several years, Iran has been working to upgrade these rockets into precision guided missiles.

In addition, Iran is also working to build production facilities inside Syria to manufacture precision guided missiles. It’s important to note that Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the precision guided missile project go hand-in-hand. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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The Capitulation of the Iraqi Prime Minister to Iran
Yoni Ben Menachem
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, July 5, 2020

On June 25, 2020, Iraqi forces raided the Baghdad headquarters of the Hizbullah Brigades, a militia loyal to Iran, and arrested 14 operatives on suspicion of planning and carrying out rocket attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq, including on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and Iraqi army bases where U.S. troops are based.

The raid also captured a workshop manufacturing “katyusha” rockets and several ready-to-fire rockets.

The raid was ordered by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who promised Americans a month ago in the first round of Iraqi-U.S. strategic talks to stop the attacks on U.S. military in Iraq. The raid was welcomed by many in Iraq who saw it as a first sign of the new prime minister’s determination to disarm the pro-Iranian militias in the country.

However, shortly after the raid, pro-Iranian militia members of the Al-Hashd Al-Sha’bi (Popular Mobilization Forces) umbrella organization began issuing threats at Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Qais al-Khazali, Chief of the Aas’ib Ahl al-Haq militia, warned Prime Minister Kadhimi that he should not get into a confrontation with Al-Hashad Al-Sha’bi militias.

“I am giving you some good advice. These militias represent the people. Nobody can prevent the fighters from fighting American forces to get them out of Iraq if they do not withdraw peacefully,” said Khazali.

According to Iraqi sources, Qais al-Khazali threatened Iraqi Prime Minister Kadhimi that he would work to overthrow him and reminded him that Kadhimi’s government is only a transitional government that will hold office until the early elections.

Prime Minister Kadhimi appeared to be alarmed by the threats, and the 14 activists arrested in the raid were released soon after their arrest. As soon as they were freed, they went to the center of Baghdad to celebrate, where they trampled images of Prime Minister Kadhimi and set fire to Israeli and U.S. flags.

“We will not hand over our weapons, only to Imam ‘Al-Mahdi,’ [a messiah-like figure],” the released activists shouted. In interviews with Iraqi media, they claimed that among the counterterrorism forces who arrested them were Americans in civilian dress.

Did Kadhimi Capitulate or Was There a Deal?

Sources close to Prime Minister Kadhimi claimed that the Hizbullah Brigade militants were released as part of a deal, in which they would halt attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq in exchange for release. However, senior officials at the Al-Hashad Al-Sha’bi umbrella organization have firmly denied this. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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China Inks Military Deal with Iran Under Secretive 25-Year Plan
Simon Watkins
OilPrice.com, July 6, 2020

Last August, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif, paid a visit to his China counterpart, Wang Li, to present a roadmap on a comprehensive 25-year China-Iran strategic partnership that built upon a previous agreement signed in 2016. Many of the key specifics of the updated agreement were not released to the public at the time but were uncovered by OilPrice.com at the time. Last week, at a meeting in Gilan province, former Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alluded to some of the secret parts of this deal in public for the first time, stating that: “It is not valid to enter into a secret agreement with foreign parties without considering the will of the Iranian nation and against the interests of the country and the nation, and the Iranian nation will not recognize it.” According to the same senior sources closely connected to Iran’s Petroleum Ministry who originally outlined the secret element of the 25-year deal, not only is the secret element of that deal going ahead but China has also added in a new military element, with enormous global security implications.

One of the secret elements of the deal signed last year is that China will invest US$280 billion in developing Iran’s oil, gas, and petrochemicals sectors. This amount will be front-loaded into the first five-year period of the new 25-year deal, and the understanding is that further amounts will be available in each subsequent five year period, provided that both parties agree. There will be another US$120 billion of investment, which again can be front-loaded into the first five-year period, for upgrading Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure, and again subject to increase in each subsequent period should both parties agree. In exchange for this, to begin with, Chinese companies will be given the first option to bid on any new – or stalled or uncompleted – oil, gas, and petrochemicals projects in Iran. China will also be able to buy any and all oil, gas, and petchems products at a minimum guaranteed discount of 12 per cent to the six-month rolling mean average price of comparable benchmark products, plus another 6 to 8 per cent of that metric for risk-adjusted compensation. Additionally, China will be granted the right to delay payment for up to two years and, significantly, it will be able to pay in soft currencies that it has accrued from doing business in Africa and the Former Soviet Union states. “Given the exchange rates involved in converting these soft currencies into hard currencies that Iran can obtain from its friendly Western banks, China is looking at another 8 to 12 per cent discount, which means a total discount of around 32 per cent for China on all oil gas, and petchems purchases,” one of the Iran sources underlined.

Another key part of the secret element to the 25-year deal is that China will be integrally involved in the build-out of Iran’s core infrastructure, which will be in absolute alignment with China’s key geopolitical multi-generational project, ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR). To begin with, China intends to utilise the currently cheap labour available in Iran to build factories that will be financed, designed, and overseen by big Chinese manufacturing companies with identical specifications and operations to those in China. The final manufactured products will then be able to access Western markets through new transport links, also planned, financed, and managed by China. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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For Further Reference:

Cyber Strike by Foreign Force Caused Iran Explosion: Israeli Experts:  Arie Egozi, Breaking Defense, July 2, 2020 — A mysterious attack using a “kinetic cyber” weapon has caused extensive damage to one of Iran’s most important nuclear facilities, experts here say.

Israeli Analysts Say Incident At Nuclear Facility A Message to Iran:  Radio Farda, July 05, 2020 — Israeli media have widely covered recent mysterious explosions in Iran, especially those related to the Islamic Republic’s military and nuclear installations, reflecting analysts’ assessments of the incidents.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah Talks to Government about Iran Fuel Idea:  Reuters, July 7, 2020 — The powerful Hezbollah group said on Tuesday it is in talks with the Lebanese government about the possibility of Iran supplying the country with refined oil products in exchange for Lebanese pounds.

Former Mossad Chief: Iran Can’t Be Stopped in Nuke Bid, But Can Be Deterred David Horovitz, Times of Israel, July 8, 2020 — Mossad chiefs don’t tend to give interviews. Certainly not while in the post and, in many cases, hardly ever even after they’ve retired.