The Watchman On The Wall

The Watchman On The Wall
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Verse 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Middle East Report Nov. 5, 2015

Image result for Russian Metrojet Flight 9268
The British Cobra (emergency cabinet) decision of Wednesday, Nov. 4, not to send airliners to or from Sharm El-Sheikh, where 20,000 British tourists are stranded, further strengthens the assumption that the Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 was downed over Sinai Saturday by a terrorist missile. It confirms that air traffic over Sinai and landings at Sharm are under threat from the ground. Otherwise, why leave a large group of Britons under virtual siege in the Egyptian Red Sea resort? London said that the suspension of flights to Sharm was “indefinite.”
Moscow early Thursday accused London of being moved to this action out of hostility to Russia rather than security concerns.
Downing Street released a statement Wednesday saying: "As more information has come to light, we have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device.” This statement was criticized by Egypt as “premature” – not a good omen for the conversation Prime Minister David Cameron is due to hold with his visitor, Egyptian president Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi, later Thursday.
The British government has therefore stubbed toes in Moscow and Cairo without coming up with an emergency plan for evacuating its citizens from Egypt, whether overland to Cairo by bus or by sea aboard ships picking them up at the Red Sea resort and sailing through the Suez Canal.
This lack of initiative is a sign of confusion and uncertainty.
So far, the drawn-out deliberations and prevarications by officials in several countries regarding the crash of the Russian plane are meant for one purpose: to gain time for doing nothing about ISIS in Sinai. Neither the US, Russia or Britain is ready to send forces to the peninsula to confront the terrorists head-on.
The Ansar al Sharia terrorist organization in Libya, which attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and murdered the American ambassador in 2012, has the very missiles capable of shooting down large airliners flying at high altitudes: Russian-made ground-to-air Buk missiles, which have a range of between three and 42 kilometers. This ultra-violent Islamist terror group has very close operational ties with ISIS-Sinai, and very possibly smuggled the missile system into Sinai from Libya.
A number of intelligence agencies are aware of this and so a flock of leading European and Persian Gulf airlines lost no time in rerouting their flights to avoid Sinai straight after the Russian air disaster.
By causing this disaster, the Islamist terrorists coolly aimed for four goals:
1.  Retaliation for Russian intervention in Syria
2.  An attempt to destabilize the regime of Egyptian President Fattah Al-Sisi
3.  To show up the inadequacies of the 63-member coalition that the US formed in its effort to fight ISIS  
4. To parade before the world the Islamic State’s operational prowess, its ability to shoot down the large passenger planes of the world’s biggest powers.
For five days, intelligence and flight safety experts dismissed the claim of responsibility that ISIS issued on the evening of October 31, maintaining that it was not to be taken seriously because no proof had been provided to support the claim – as if the charred fragments of the plane spread across tens of kilometers of desert were deniable.
In the second of its three messages, ISIS repeated its claim Wednesday, Nov. 4, promising details of how it downed the plane at a later date.
While more and more Western governments are coming around to accepting that the Russian airliner’s crash was caused by an explosive device, my counterterrorism sources repeat that they cannot rule out the possibility of a missile. The argument made on Wednesday in Washington and London that terrorist organizations do not have missiles capable of downing such planes is are simply wrong.
ISIS-Sinai’s possession of an advanced ground-air missile system does not only endanger planes in the peninsula’s airspace, but also those aircraft flying over the Suez Canal as well as parts of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel. One of the Egyptian president’s main purposes in his London visit was to try and persuade Prime Minister Cameron to join an Egyptian military operation against Ansar al Sharia in Libya and so eliminate a major prop and arms supplier for ISIS-Sinai. He does not hold out much hope of success.

Despite having been staunch political and military allies over many years, relations between the U.S and Israel have increasingly become strained. Much of this souring of relations has been due to an increasing support in U.S towards the Arab nations sworn to the destruction of Israel. 

Initially, soon after his election as U.S President, Obama took steps to allay Israeli concerns. This included instructing the Pentagon to develop military options against Iran’s Fordow facility. In addition, Obama also embraced an existing campaign of covert action against Iran, expanding cooperation between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

Personal tensions between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister  Netanyahu then developed, and reportedly erupted at their first Oval Office meeting later in 2009. Since then, the leader’s mutual relationships have been largely uneasy and prone to mistrust. 

A major trigger for the U.S–Israeli suspicions and mistrust has been the accommodative stance taken by the Obama administration over Iran’s nuclear program. Israel has made no secret of its concern regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. 

Neither has Israel been vague about its intentions to destroy Iran’s nuclear development sites and equipment in a proactive and pre-emptive self-defense strategy. Military air-strikes accompanied by commando-type raids have all along been considered options. The U.S, on the other hand sees Israel’s strike preparations as an attempt to usurp American foreign policy. 

The U.S was effectively walked a tight-rope: assisting Iran’s nuclear ambitions while simultaneously trying to hide details from Israel, and hoping to keep everyone happy that way. The U.S and Israel were also seemingly split regarding if and when to use diplomacy, covert action or military strikes. 

The stalemates could not be broken and in the end, Israel had to spy to learn the content of the nuclear talks, while the U.S spied on Israeli strike plans. Such was the level of deterioration in their mutual diplomatic circles. According to current and former Israeli officials, Mr. Netanyahu reserves the right to continue covert action against Iran’s nuclear program, which could then put the spy services of the U.S. and Israel on a collision course.

Perhaps the most dramatic of the tension-triggers was pulled when IDF fighter jets covertly flew into Iranian air space in 2012, in what was thought to have been a dry run for a commando raid at the sensitive Fordow nuclear site. The site, embedded on a mountain-side is Iran's most fortified nuclear facility. Once the U.S found out, they scrambled to send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East and prepared fighter jets "in case all hell broke loose." 

Other reported sticking points between the U.S and Israel over the past several years have included the following:

• Mossad leaders said US officials made clear they were not interested in taking more serious actions against the Islamic regime to block its path to a nuclear arsenal. Such actions would inclide collapsing its financial system or regime.

• US officials say the Mossad began to run several covert operations unilaterally such as the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. At the same time, the White House pressed the Israelis to scale back their assassination campaign and turned down their requests for more aggressive covert measures, U.S. officials said.

• The Stuxnet computer virus was used by the US and Israel to thwart Iranian centrifuges in the year 2010, but after the virus spread accidentally on the internet, Obama called for more caution, while Israel argued the steps were only slowing, and not stopping, Iran's nuclear program.

• The US claimed Israel didn't have the right equipment to take out Iran's facilities, but Israel responded by briefing the US on its attack plan. In response the US said the plan was too dangerous and demanded advance warning before the attack was launched. The Israelis were non-committal.

• Back in December 2011, Senator John Kerry was sent to discuss diplomatic channels with Iran in a meeting with leaders of Oman. The White House hid the talks from Israel, deciding only to give Netanyahu information if a deal appeared possible. The secrecy cemented Israel’s distrust of Mr. Obama’s intentions, according to Israeli officials. The US spied on Israeli communications to see if the secret talks had been exposed. It was later confirmed that this was so.

• In early 2012, US spy agencies picked up a flurry of meetings between Netanyahu and his top security advisers, which Israeli officials say ranged from mission logistics to the fallout caused by the potential strike. Former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who championed a strike, said Mr. Netanyahu had come close to approving a military operation against Iran. But Israel’s military chiefs and cabinet members were reluctant, according to Israeli officials.

• The US then decided to increase satellite surveillance of Israeli aircraft, as well as Israeli practice missions and intelligence gathering to find weak points in Iran's air defenses. At the time, concern and confusion over Israel’s intentions added to the sense of urgency inside the White House for a diplomatic solution.

• Tensions heightened amid an Israeli request for V-22 Osprey aircraft that can take off and land like helicopters, making them perfect for dropping commandos. Likewise, Israel wanted to obtain the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound bunker buster bomb designed to destroy Fordow. Netanyahu reportedly wanted "somebody in the administration to show acquiescence, if not approval” for a military strike." The Obama administration retorted: ‘We think this is a big mistake.'" Predictably, the White House turned down the requests. 

• As talks began in 2014 on a final accord, U.S. intelligence agencies alerted White House officials that Israelis were spying on the negotiations. Israel denied any espionage against the U.S. The Israeli officials said they could learn details, in part, by spying on Iran, an explanation U.S. officials didn’t believe.

U.S. officials now pledge to work closely with their Israeli counterparts to monitor Iran’s compliance with the international agreement. But it is unclear how the White House will respond to any covert Israeli actions against Iran’s nuclear program, which current and former Israeli officials said were imperative to safeguard their country.

It remains to be seen how relations will proceed for Israel and the US on the Iran issue, now that the controversial Iran deal has been sealed. The Watchman believes US and Israel relations will continue downhill especially if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

The Iranian deal obligates Western powers to protect Iranian nuclear sites from sabotage. US Secretary of State John Kerry has indicated the U.S would have no choice but to intervene should Israel attack Iran. 

Just how exactly the US would intervene in such a conflict has been left ambiguous but most analysts agree, Israel's protected status with the US is gone.
The head of Russia's air force Lt. General Gen. Viktor Bondarev said Thursday that Russian fighter jets could be hijacked in countries neighboring Syria and used to attack Russian forces. Missile systems have therefore been sent to Syria to protect its military forces there. "We have calculated all possible threats,” he said. “We have sent not only fighter jets, bombers and helicopters, but also missile systems," Bondarev told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. "We must be ready."
A car bomb exploded in the Lebanese town of Arsal near the Syrian border on Thursday afternoon, leaving 10 people dead and dozens wounded. The vehicle was adjacent to a building used by Syrian religious scholars in the Sabil neighborhood. Arsal is is a Sunni enclave within a Shiite area, and parts of the town are populated by rebels from the various militant groups fighting along the Syria-Lebanon border.  
The battle for Al-Safira, 20 km. south of Aleppo and the key to its capture will go down in Iran’s Revolutionary history as the most humiliating defeat its elite forces have sustained in all its 36 years. The 2,000 Iranian elite troops sent into battle were dirven back and routed by ISIS and Nusra.

My military sources said Tuesday that the US is sending 12 F-15C Eagle warplanes, pictured above, armed exclusively with air-to-air missiles, to Turkey. The sources said the planes will protect US and Turkish warplanes carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, and be based at Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey. Washington is sending the planes in response to Russia's deployment of Sukhoi Su-30s fighters to Syria.
 Image result for Russian Gen. Andrei Kartapolov

Russian and US air forces conducted a joint exercise Tuesday morning to drill skills of interaction between crews and ground forces in case of midair proximity, Gen. Andrew Kartapolov, pictured above, head of the Russian Armed forces General Staff Department of Operations disclosed in Moscow. He recalled that the Russian and US defense departments last week signed a memorandum of understanding to prevent air accidents in Syria.
Iran's state-run news agency reported on Wednesday that an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Colonel Mostafa Ezzatollah Soleimani, pictured above, was killed in the area of the Syrian city of Aleppo while serving as an advisor for Syria's army.  He was the fourth senior Iranian officer killed in Syria during the month of October, and according to official Iranian sources, his death raised the number of the IRGC's casualties in Syria to 20 during the last 21 days of the month. The number of wounded among Iran's army is estimated to be much higher than reported.  

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