23 killed as Israeli strikes in Syria, 16 of them likely Iranian

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

23 killed as Israeli strikes in Syria, 16 of them likely Iranian – war monitor

Identities of foreigners killed in attacks not immediately confirmed; Russia denounces Israeli strikes, calling them a ‘wrong move’

An Israeli M109 self-propelled howitzer is stationed near the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on November 19, 2019, after Israeli air defenses intercepted four rockets fired from neighboring Syria. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

An Israeli M109 self-propelled howitzer is stationed near the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on November 19, 2019, after Israeli air defenses intercepted four rockets fired from neighboring Syria. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

At least 23 “fighters” were killed in Israel’s predawn airstrikes in Syria Wednesday, 16 of them likely Iranians, according to a Syrian war monitor.

The Israel Defense Forces launched the strikes against Iranian and Syrian targets around the capital of Damascus and on the Syrian Golan Heights in response to a Tuesday morning rocket attack.

The military said it targeted dozens of sites connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, including a facility at the Damascus International Airport, which Israel says was used to coordinate the transport of military hardware from Iran to Syria and on to other countries in the region.

“We struck a building staffed by Iranians at the Damascus airport. We assess that there are Iranians killed and injured,” a Israeli senior defense official said Wednesday, on condition of anonymity.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a damaged building targeted by Israeli missile strikes is seen in Qudsaya suburb, western the capital Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (SANA via AP)

Israel also targeted a number of Quds Force facilities on Syrian military bases. When Syrian air defenses fired on Israeli jets, the IDF also targeted those batteries, the army said.

A large explosion is seen over the Damascus skyline in footage purportedly taken on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, November 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

Israel has repeatedly warned Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to not intervene during IDF strikes on Iranian targets in his country or else his military will also be targeted, as was the case Wednesday.

According to the Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 23 people were killed in the strike, and 16 of them were foreigners. Though presumed to be Iranian, that could not be immediately confirmed by SOHR.

Four civilians were wounded, the monitor said.

Video footage from Syria appeared to show a Syrian air defense missile crashing to the ground in a heavily populated area shortly after launching, which may account for some of the casualties.

Russia on Wednesday condemned Israel for the strikes. Moscow backs the Assad government and has criticized previous Israeli strikes in the country, especially those that target Syrian military bases in addition to Iranian facilities.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the strikes were a “wrong move” that is in “stark contrast” to international law, Interfax reported.

He added that Moscow had reached out to its allies regarding the incident, the report said.

On Wednesday morning, the IDF said it had coordinated its airstrikes with Russia.

Following its reprisal raids, the Israeli military said it was preparing for a potential Iranian retaliation.

“We are preparing for defense and attack, and we will respond to any attempt to retaliate,” IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters first thing Wednesday morning.

“We are ready for three scenarios: no response, a minor response, and a more significant response,” he said.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and that it will retaliate for any attack on the Jewish state from Syria.

Zilberman said the military targeted both “the host, Syria, and the guest, Iran.”

“Our message to the leaders of Iranian is simple: You are not immune anymore. Wherever you send your octopus arms — we will hack them off,” said newly installed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the strike: “I have made clear that any who attack us, we will attack them. That is what we did tonight toward military targets of the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian military targets.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. (YouTube screenshot)

The Quds Force, led by Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, is a part of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations, and is a key actor in Syria — both against rebels and in Tehran’s efforts to entrench itself along Israel’s border and threaten the Jewish state from there.

Early Tuesday morning Israel’s anti-missile defense system intercepted four rockets fired from Syria toward the Golan Heights.

The rockets triggered sirens in the northern Golan Heights and Galilee region at 4:52 a.m., sending residents rushing to bomb shelters.

Last week Syrian state media reported that an Israeli strike hit the home of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist in Damascus, Akram al-Ajouri, killing his son and another person. Islamic Jihad accused Israel of being behind the strike in Damascus. The Israeli army refused to comment.

On the same day, an Israeli airstrike killed Islamic Jihad military commander Baha Abu Al-Ata, whom Israel blamed for recent rocket fire into its territory, in a strike on his home in Gaza City. Around 450 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the military operation against Abu Al-Ata, according to the Israeli army, as the military struck back at Islamic Jihad targets. A ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad was reached after 50 hours of clashes.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets over the last several years, but does not generally comment on specific attacks. Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah and Gaza terrorists.

In August, in a rare announcement, the IDF said it had targeted sites in the town of Aqrabah, southeast of Damascus, near the city’s airport to foil what it said was an imminent armed drone attack on Israel by Iran-backed fighters.

In January Israel was said to have conducted a daylight missile attack on Iranian targets at the airport. Iran responded by firing a surface-to-surface missile at the northern Golan Heights, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system over the Mount Hermon ski resort, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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COMMENTS

Iran’s Khamenei defines Iran’s goal of ‘wiping out Israel’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘Not anti-Semitic’: Khamenei defines Iran’s goal of ‘wiping out Israel’

Belying Tehran’s relentless threats to ensure ‘nothing left’ of Jewish state, ‘raze’ Tel Aviv and Haifa, leader says aim is to abolish ‘regime,’ get rid of ‘thugs’ like Netanyahu

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with thousands of students in Tehran, Iran, November 3, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with thousands of students in Tehran, Iran, November 3, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

When Iran speaks of wiping Israel off the map, it doesn’t mean the mass slaughter of the country’s Jews but rather eliminating the Jewish state’s “imposed regime,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.

“The disappearance of Israel does not mean the disappearance of the Jewish people, because we have nothing against [Jews],” Khamenei said, speaking alongside senior Iranian officials at the so-called 33rd International Islamic Unity Conference.

“Wiping out Israel means that the Palestinian people, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, should be able to determine their fate and get rid of thugs such as [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Khamenei continued, according to Iranian media.

Khamenei further argued that “had the Islamic world been committed to unity, there would have been no tragedy in Palestine.” He lamented that Muslims couldn’t even adhere to what he called the lowest level of unity — non-aggression between Muslims.

“We are not anti-Semitic. Jews are living in utmost safety in our country. We only support the people of Palestine and their independence,” he said.

“Our position on the case of Palestine is definitive,” he said. “Early after the victory of the [1979 Islamic] revolution, the Islamic Republic gave the Zionists’ center in Tehran to the Palestinians. We helped the Palestinians, and we will continue to do so. The entire Muslim world should do so.”

A Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is on display next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an exhibition by Iran’s army and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard celebrating “Sacred Defense Week” marking the 39th anniversary of the start of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran regularly threatens to annihilate Israel, viewing the country as a powerful enemy allied with the United States and Sunni countries in the region against Tehran and its nuclear ambitions.

Contrary to Khamenei’s claims, those threats commonly refer to the physical destruction of Israeli cities, rather than of just the regime.

In September, Abbas Nilforoushan, the deputy commander of operations of the IRGC, threatened that if Israel attacks Iran, it will have to collect “bits and pieces of Tel Aviv from the lower depths of the Mediterranean Sea.”

“Iran has encircled Israel from all four sides. Nothing will be left of Israel,” said Nilforoushan in an interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim.

“Israel is not in a position to threaten Iran,” he said according to a translation published by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Iranian senior cleric Ahmad Khatami delivers his sermon during Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on January 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Last year, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a key leader of weekly Muslim prayers in Iran, reacted to reports that Israel viewed a war with Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah as likely by saying: “If you want Haifa and Tel Aviv to be razed to the ground, you can take your chance.”

In September, the commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said that destroying Israel was now an “achievable goal.”

Four decades on from Iran’s Islamic revolution, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime,” Major General Hossein Salami was quoted saying by the IRGC’s Sepah news site.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami speaks at Tehran’s Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense museum, during the unveiling of an exhibition of what Iran says are US and other drones captured in its territory, on September 21, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

“This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream [but] it is an achievable goal,” Salami said.

Iran has lately been on edge, fearing an attack on the country over a drone-and-missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in September attributed to Tehran. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed the attack, but the US and others allege Iran was behind it.

The attack in Saudi Arabia was the latest incident following the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, over a year after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the accord. The nuclear deal was meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons — something Iran denies it wants to do — in exchange for economic incentives.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a sharp critic of the nuclear deal negotiated under the administration of former US president Barack Obama, and welcomed Washington’s pull-back from the accord, urging further pressure on Iran.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Rockets Rain Down On Gaza Strip And Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Rocket fire rained from the sky across the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, leaving at least seven people dead in Gaza and dozens more injured on either side Tuesday. Among the dead was Bahaa Abu el-Atta, commander of a militant group in Gaza known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The IDF announced early Tuesday that it had successfully targeted Abu el-Atta in an airstrike — a move that set off a furious barrage from Gaza. The Israeli military says militants retaliated by launching scores of rockets into Israel, where residents in the country’s center and south scrambled into shelters and schools closed amid the wail of air raid sirens.

“He was a ticking bomb,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Abu el-Atta during a news conference Tuesday, asserting that the militant leader was “in the midst of planning additional attacks in the immediate short term.”

PM of Israel

@IsraeliPM

WATCH: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks today at the joint statement with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and ISA Director Nadav Argaman (English captions available).
Full remarks:https://bit.ly/2pVXulD 

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“Over the past year, this arch-terrorist was the main instigator of terrorism from the Gaza Strip. He initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks,” Netanyahu added — including “hundreds of rockets at communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip.”

The prime minister noted that he and Israeli military and intelligence leaders approved the operation 10 days ago and that they waited for a “unique window of opportunity to carry out the action, under optimal conditions with maximum chance of success and minimal chance for hitting anyone uninvolved.”

Still, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reports that the attack killed not only Abu el-Atta and his wife but also at least three other Palestinians. At least 45 other people in Gaza reportedly were injured, according to Gaza health officials, and at least 19 people in Israel were injured in the retaliation.

A mother mourns her 25-year-old Palestinian son Tuesday in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said it had carried out an airstrike in the area amid an escalation of violence between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

Anas Baba/AFP via Getty Images

Syria’s state-run media agency says that around the same time as the Israeli raid on Gaza, Israeli warplanes fired missiles at a residential building in Damascus, where SANA reports two civilians were killed and 10 others injured. The attack targeting another Islamic Jihad commander, Akram al-Ajouri, reportedly failed to harm him but killed his son and granddaughter.

Israel did not comment Tuesday on the reported attack in Syria.

“Israel executed two coordinated attacks, in Syria and in Gaza, in a declaration of war,” Khaled al-Batsh of Islamic Jihad said at a funeral for Abu el-Atta in Gaza, according to Reuters. The wire service noted that other mourners replied by firing their weapons in the air and chanting, “Revenge!”

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, condemned Abu el-Atta’s killing in a series of statements Tuesday, saying the move represented a “dangerous escalation and a continuation of the Israeli aggression and terrorism against the Palestinian people and resistance.”

“Targeting an icon of the Palestinian resistance reveals preliminary intentions of the Israeli occupation to go into a new battle against the Palestinian resistance in order to export its internal crises and impose new rules of engagement,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for the organization, which the U.S. and Israel consider a terrorist group.

“This aggression will backfire in the face of Israeli occupation and its criminal leaders,” he added. “The Israeli occupation has started such attack and thus has to pay a price for it.”

The spasm of cross-border violence, the deadliest to rack the region in months, comes at a turbulent time in Israel’s domestic politics.

Two muddled elections this year have failed to break a stalemate between Netanyahu’s conservatives and the centrist Blue and White party of his rival Benny Gantz. Just last month, Netanyahu acknowledged his failure to form a new governing coalition, leaving the mandate to Gantz. But with both their parties nearly evenly matched among lawmakers, it’s unclear whether Gantz will have any greater success.

If he, too, fails to form a government, Israel faces the prospect of holding yet a third election in the span of less than a year.

Saudi: 6 Civilians Killed in Russian Airstrike in Idlib

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

6 Civilians Killed in Russian Airstrike in Idlib

Saturday, 2 November, 2019 – 12:15
FILE PHOTO: Russian and Syrian national flags flutter on military vehicles near Manbij, Syria, October 15, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
A Russian air strike killed on Saturday six civilians including a child in the embattled opposition bastion of Idlib in northwestern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The strike hit the village of Jaballa in the south of the Idlib region, taking the lives of all six from the same family, it said.

The monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria, says it determines who carries out an air strike according to flight patterns, as well as aircraft and ammunition involved.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said it was the bloodiest such Russian air raid in two months since Moscow announced a truce for the surrounding area on August 31.

Since then, eight other civilians have been killed in Russian air strikes on different dates in the region, he said.

Bashar al-Assad’s forces launched a devastating military campaign against Idlib in April, killing around 1,000 civilians and forcing more than 400,000 people to flee their homes.

But a ceasefire announced by the regime’s major backer Moscow has largely held since late August, though the Observatory says skirmishes persist.

How dangerous is Trump? Ask the Kurds

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

Newsletter: How dangerous is Trump? Ask the Kurds

President Trump speaks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the opening ceremony of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018.

President Trump speaks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the opening ceremony of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018.
(Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Beginning on a positive note, we should celebrate the fact that the Dodgers will avoid losing three World Series in a row. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Last Friday, the Kurds in northern Syria went to bed after yet another day existing precariously between warring factions that would brutalize them were it not for the skeletal presence of U.S. forces. On Monday, the Kurds faced a military incursion from Turkish forces and a renewed threat from Islamic State made possible by a sudden American withdrawal. What happened?

This is one of those rare cases in which a president like Donald Trump can have immediate, deadly and long-lasting consequences, thanks to both the vast powers vested in the position of commander in chief and the malignant incompetence of the person holding it.

President Trump deserves blame for mishandling a number of issues, but a problem like the trade war with China was preceded by a generation of economic duplicitousness by Beijing. Trump’s sudden withdrawal from parts of northern Syria, however, has all the fingerprints of his particular unfitness for the job: his impulsiveness, his purely transactional approach to foreign policy (remember, they “didn’t help us with Normandy”), his affinity for autocrats like Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his supreme confidence in his own “great and unmatched wisdom.”

This is what happens when we let Trump be Trump — or as the L.A. Times Editorial Board put it in a scathing piece: “This episode is a reminder that, whether or not Congress concludes that Trump committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ deserving of impeachment, he is operatically incompetent in discharging the duties of the presidency.”

Trump will only get more Trumpy. Virginia Heffernan writes that the the unconstitutional refusal by the president’s counsel to cooperate in the House impeachment inquiry is bad enough, but it pales in comparison to what Trump himself is doing: “To see a panicky president endanger our national security while he showers Erdogan and Putin with gifts is to see a leader over the edge. He has no intention of even pausing his traitorous crime spree on the way to impeachment.” L.A. Times

It’s (probably) safe to eat red meat again, but not because of some recent breakthrough in raising livestock. In fact, the food’s stayed the same, but the way some scientists are looking at the evidence has changed. Nina Teicholz writes that the latest flip-flop on red meat — clarification that, in fact, eating it has not been shown to be associated with a higher heart disease or cancer risk — uses the best science in place of scientists’ best guesses. L.A. Times

Want someone to blame for blackouts? Look in the mirror. Besieged utility Pacific Gas and Electric is getting plenty of deserved flak for its preemptive power outages in Northern California during high winds. But wind-driven wildfires sparked by malfunctioning electrical lines would be killing fewer people and destroying less property if so many Californians weren’t living in high-risk areas. L.A. Times

Trump is creating the worst constitutional crisis in 150 years. The term “constitutional crisis” gets thrown around too often, and it really does not have any legal significance. It is used properly to describe a breakdown in the constitutional order, something that has happened only a few times in U.S. history, most significantly before the Civil War. And Trump, by refusing to recognize the House’s sole power of impeachment as afforded in the Constitution instead of simply making his case to the American people, has touched off that kind of crisis. L.A. Times

Everyone made money off her athleticism  except the athlete. UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi is one of the most celebrated college gymnasts ever; clips of her perfect-10 floor routine have gone viral. Problem is, the only participant in her fame who didn’t make any money from it was Ohashi. She explains why she believes that’s wrong, and why she supports California’s new law that will allow students to be compensated for their athleticism. New York Times

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Car Bomb Goes Off Near ISIS Prison in Northeastern Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Car Bomb Goes Off Near ISIS Prison in Northeastern Syria

Saturday, 12 October, 2019 – 11:45
A car bomb went off near a prison holding ISIS extremists in northeastern Syria. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
A car bomb went off Saturday near a prison holding ISIS extremists in northeastern Syria, where Turkey is pursuing an offensive, a war monitor and a Kurdish official reported, according to the German news agency (dpa).

The bombing took place outside the central prison in the district of Ghuwaran, in the northeastern city of al-Hasakeh, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) rushed military reinforcements to the prison to prevent ISIS detainees from escaping, the watchdog added. No casualties were reported.

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali blamed ISIS for the attack.

The reported bombing comes a day after at least three civilians were killed in a car bombing claimed by ISIS in the city of Qamishli, in northeastern Syria.

On Wednesday, Turkey started an incursion into northeastern Syria, saying it is targeting ISIS extremists and Kurdish militias, whom Ankara considers to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) waging an insurgency within the country.

Syrian Kurdish authorities are already struggling to guard ISIS fighters captured during the long US-backed campaign against the extremists and to keep a lid on ISIS supporters and family members thronging displacement camps.

Their hold will suffer even more as they fight Turkey.

The White House has said Turkey will take over responsibility for the thousands of imprisoned fighters. But it is not clear how that will happen.

Kurdish authorities run more than two dozen detention facilities, scattered around northeastern Syria, holding about 10,000 ISIS fighters. Among the detainees are some 2,000 foreigners, including about 800 Europeans.

Most of the facilities are unidentified and unmarked, some of them set up in abandoned or re-purposed buildings; others are mobile “pop-up prisons.” Some are reportedly close to the border, which may make them vulnerable to being hit in clashes or bombardment.

Guarding those facilities has long been a strain on the SDF as it juggles multiple tasks in the volatile area.

Despite its territorial defeat, ISIS has maintained an insurgency in Iraq and Syria, carrying out suicide bombings, assassinations and ambushes. Some reports suggest 14,000 to 18,000 ISIS members remain in Syria and Iraq, including 3,000 foreigners, but a recent report by the inspector general of the Department of Defense said figures from experts greatly vary.

ISIS militants have carried out 80 to 90 attacks in Kurdish-held areas of Syria. In August alone, ISIS militants claimed 78 attacks, according to the Rojava Information Center, including the assassination of Kurdish fighters and explosive devices planted near patrols.

The group has also been reviving financial networks through extortion, “taxing” the local population or collecting ransoms from kidnapping.

India-Pak nuke war could trigger another ice age: Study

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

An India-Pak nuke war could trigger another ice age: Study

In the scenario, simulated using state-of-the-art global climate models, India and Pakistan use 100 and 150 strategic nuclear weapons respectively, releasing 16-36 million tonnes of soot (black carbon) in smoke that would rise into the upper atmosphere, blocking solar radiation.

INDIA Updated: Oct 03, 2019 07:25 IST

Dhrubo Jyoti
Dhrubo Jyoti
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looks at a nuclear war scenario between the two neighbours in 2025.
The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looks at a nuclear war scenario between the two neighbors in 2025. (Reuters file photo)

At least 50 million people could die and the world will be hit by a decade-long global atmospheric catastrophe if a nuclear war broke out between India and Pakistan, said a new study published on Wednesday, though Indian experts termed the chances of such a conflict astonishingly small.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looks at a nuclear war scenario between the two neighbors in 2025.

In the scenario, simulated using state-of-the-art global climate models, India and Pakistan use 100 and 150 strategic nuclear weapons respectively, releasing 16-36 million tonnes of soot (black carbon) in smoke that would rise into the upper atmosphere, blocking solar radiation.

Also Watch | ‘Pakistan’s plans will fail if J&K moves towards development’: Jaishankar

‘Pakistan’s plans will fail if J&K moves towards development’: Jaishankar
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has hit out at Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. Speaking at a center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, Jaishankar said that the decision to abrogate Article 370 was not taken lightly.
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This could lead to a decline in sunlight reaching the Earth by 20 to 35%, cooling the surface by between two and five degree Celsius.

“In addition, severe short-term climate perturbations, with temperatures declining to values not seen on Earth since the middle of the last Ice Age, would be triggered by smoke from burning cities,” read the paper.

This could reduce precipitation by up to 30% and diminish the rate at which plants store energy as biomass by almost a third on land. “Crops would be affected by colder temperatures, less precipitation, less sunlight, and more ultraviolet radiation due to ozone depletion,” Alan Robock, a professor at Rutgers University and one of the authors of the paper, told HT.

The paper found a high casualty figure because both India and Pakistan are densely populated, and based its calculation on a scenario where both countries attack urban centres. Under its scenario, Pakistan’s losses would be about twice those of India in terms of a percentage of the urban population.

“Smoke from burning cities will rise into the stratosphere and spread globally within weeks. Widespread agricultural failures are likely,” Owen B Toon, lead author and professor at the University of Colorado, told HT. Impact on food production is seen to range from crop-growing regions of North America and Eurasia, Southeast Asia and fisheries in the north Atlantic and Pacific.

Robock said such instant climate change was only experienced after super volcanic eruptions, such as the Toba eruption roughly 74,000 years ago in present day Sumatra, Indonesia. It is one of the largest Earth’s largest known eruptions.

Nuclear rhetoric in the sub-continent has been charged in recent weeks, especially by Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan who warned at the United Nations General Assembly of a potential of a nuclear war over Kashmir.

But experts said the chances of such a conflict realistically breaking out are next to zero. “The possibility is almost non-existent is because of the shared culture and communities. The two countries have never fought wars of annihilation because you’re literally cutting too close to the bone. Our wars have been very limited,” said Bharat Karnad, a professor at the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi. He added that the rhetoric around nuclear war is often used for deterrent purposes.

First Published: Oct 02, 2019 23:33 IST

France, Germany, and UK say Iran is responsible for attacks on Saudi Arabia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

France, Germany, and UK say Iran is responsible for attacks on Saudi Arabia

“It is clear for us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack,” the leaders of the three European powers said. “There is no other explanation.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a lunch on “digital transformation” in Biarritz, France, on August 26, 2019.
 Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration has blamed Iran for the attacks on two vital oil facilities belonging to Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company Aramco nine days ago. That assertion was met with deep skepticism by politicians, experts, and even some US allies, mostly because the Trump administration has executed a maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic and many believe Washington has exaggerated intelligence about Tehran in the past.

But America’s claim received a major boost on Monday as the leaders of three key allies — France, Germany, and the UK — put out a joint statement at the UN saying that there’s no question Iran was behind the apparent drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia.

“It is clear for us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack,” they said. “There is no other explanation.”

“These attacks may have been on Saudi Arabia but they concern all countries and increase the risk of a major conflict,” the statement continued. The European powers also called on Iran to act more responsibly and in line with the terms of the Iran nuclear deal.

Raphaël Justine@RaphJustine

Leaders of 🇫🇷, 🇩🇪 and the 🇬🇧 just met in NYC and issued a joint statement:

It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation. We support ongoing investigations to establish further details.

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This is significant. Ever since the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement last year, the European countries who are party to the agreement — which include the nations from the statement — have tried to maintain good relations with Tehran.

French President Emmanuel Macron in particular has worked tirelessly to keep the accord alive and even tried to broker a meeting between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, at the UN this week.

But it seems they cannot ignore the intelligence they have, and decided to openly condemn the Islamic Republic.

With more allies on its side, the Trump administration may feel emboldened to increase the pressure on Tehran even more. That could come in the form of even more sanctions, or cyberattacks that can digitally render critical Iranian computers and networks useless. Those punishments could now be seen as more legitimate since other major world powers more friendly to Iran have also blamed it for the Saudi attacks.

Perhaps trying to fend off the worst, Iran has warned that a military response might prompt an “all-out war” in the Middle East.

The question now is how Iran will respond. With even more countries lambasting it publicly, it’s possible that it may choose more belligerence as a way to compel the US and others to lift the mounting economic and political pressure on it. If it goes that route, though, it may find itself in much more trouble than it’s already in.

India: Jaish facility in Balakot bombed by IAF jets in February is fully functional again

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Jaish facility in Balakot bombed by IAF jets in February is fully functional again

The development, with the blessings of Pakistan, follows India’s August decisions to revoke Article 370 of the constitution, stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, and bifurcate the state into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh.

INDIA Updated: Sep 22, 2019 10:28 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Picture of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) facility destroyed by Indian Ar Force strikes in Balakot, Pakistan on Tuesday, Feb 26, 2019.
Picture of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) facility destroyed by Indian Ar Force strikes in Balakot, Pakistan on Tuesday, Feb 26, 2019. (Photo: ANI)

Almost seven months after Indian Air Force jets bombed the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist facility in Pakistan’s Balakot, the globally proscribed group has revived the complex, where it is training 40 jihadists to carry out attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in India, in the garb of a new name to avoid international scrutiny, HT has learnt.

The development, with the blessings of Pakistan, follows India’s August decisions to revoke Article 370 of the constitution, stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, and bifurcate the state into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh.

Islamabad relaxed restrictions over terror groups targeting India after August 5, when the Indian government pushed through the moves on Kashmir, and on the eve of the “Leaders dialogue on strategic responses to terrorism and violent extremism” at the United Nations General Assembly on September 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will speak at the conference, followed by Microsoft Corp CEO Satya Nadella and others.

On February 27, IAF fighters flew deep into Pakistan to bomb the Markaz Syed Ahmad Shaheed facility at Balakot in Manshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in reprisal for a February 14 suicide car bombing in J&K’s Pulwama that killed 40 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force in the deadliest single attack in 30 years of insurgency. Tensions between the subcontinental neighbours escalated as a result.

According to Indian counter-terror operatives, anti-India terror groups that have kept a low profile following Pulwama and its aftermath were reactivated after August 5 with JeM operational commander Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar meeting his handlers in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency, the very next day in Rawalpindi to formulate a jihadist response to the Indian moves on Kashmir.

Intelligence inputs indicate that JeM may target not only Jammu and Kashmir but also Gujarat and Maharashtra under a new name to avoid international scrutiny. Pakistan-based terror groups have been asked to use Kashmiri- origin terrorists and,in this context, are also reviving dormant groups like the Al Umnar Mujahideen led by Mushtaq Zargar alias Latram.

Pakistan watchers say that the Jaish has started advanced “daura tarbiya” courses for 50 jihadists in Markaz Subhan Allah and Markaz Usman-o-Ali in Bahawalpur, with the Peshawar and Jamrud facilities also being activated for action in Kashmir. Daurya tarbiya is a religious programme designed to radicalise a recipient and a precursor to weapons and subversive training.

Refresher courses have been started by the terror group in its camps in Manshera, Gulpur and Kotli with the Balakot facility being reactivated for jihad training for the first time after the Indian air strike. The reactivation of the Balakot facility has been confirmed by the Indian national security establishment and the highest levels of government have been informed.

While Jaish has intensified its recruitment drive for Kashmir action in places like Charsada, Mardan and Swabi of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , the terror group, headed by the now terminally ill global terrorist Masood Azhar, has decided to divert its cadre from the Afghanistan front to J&K in a phased manner.

According to intelligence reports, around 100 Jaish cadre are waiting at launch pads across the Poonch and Rajouri sectors at Neelum/Leepa Valley with the focus of planned attacks on Jammu and not Srinagar. Inputs reveal that Mufti Asghar on August 11 itself had instructed his cadre in Sialkot to focus on the army cantonment in Jammu as well as security force convoys plying on the national highway.

“We have reports about Jaish fidayeen (suicide attackers) waiting for lifting of full telecom restrictions in the state to infiltrate and launch attacks,” said a national security official on condition of anonymity.

In Jaish’s Madina Madina fortnightly magazine, Talha Saif, on behalf of Masood Azhar, criticised the leaders of some Muslim countries for coming under the influence of the United States, and simultaneously urged Indian Muslims to rise against the Narendra Modi government.

Rawalpindi’s other terror arm, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) , has reactivated its terror camps post the revocation of Article 370, including aquatic facilities at Mangla in Mirpur and Head Maral in Sialkot while its leader Hafeez Saeed is in custody in Lahore.

According to available inputs, Lashkar has started a two-month-long refresher course at its Manshera camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while its second line leadership, led by Saeed’s son Talha, is advocating jihad in Kashmir through sermons and video messages.

The third group, Hizbul Mujahideen, has also been activated after its leaders met ISI handlers on August 26 and tasked with infiltrating its cadre across the Gurez sector.

First Published: Sep 22, 2019 04:45 I ST

US Report: Khamenei Approved Saudi Attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

US Report: Khamenei Approved Saudi Attack

Thursday, 19 September, 2019 – 09:00
Saudi Arabia displays the wreckage of the Iranian weapons that were used in the oil facilities attack. (SPA)
Asharq Al-Awsat
An American report revealed Wednesday that Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei had approved the attack against two Saudi Aramco oil facilities last week.

He gave his blessing “but only on the condition that it be carried out in a way that made it possible to deny Iranian involvement,” a US official told CBS News.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday displayed wreckage of Iranian cruise missiles and drones. The circuit boards can be reverse engineered to determine the exact route the weapons flew, said the report.

“But US officials said the most damning evidence is still unreleased satellite photos showing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard making preparations for the attack at Ahvaz Air Base in southwestern Iran,” it added.

The satellite photos were of no use in stopping the attack since their significance was not realized until after the fact, explained the report.

“We were caught completely off guard,” one US official said.

The Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have pointed the finger at Iran for the September 14 raids, which hit the world’s biggest crude oil processing facility and initially knocked out half of Saudi output.

The French army spokesman said it sent seven experts to Saudi Arabia to join an investigation.

UN officials monitoring sanctions on Iran and Yemen are also helping probe the attack.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the attacks, which he described as an “act of war” against Saudi Arabia, would be a major focus of next week’s annual UN General Assembly meeting.

He had arrived in Jeddah on Wednesday for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.