Palestinian Hamas calls for all-out confrontation outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Palestinian Hamas calls for all-out confrontation to curb Israeli regime aggression

News Code : 1119859

The Hamas Movement has affirmed that an all-out confrontation with the Israeli occupation state is the only way to curb its ongoing aggression.

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): The Hamas Movement has affirmed that an all-out confrontation with the Israeli occupation state is the only way to curb its ongoing aggression.

Commenting on Israel’s attack on Syria last night, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem described it as part of its crimes and its aggressive behavior in the region.  

“The Zionist entity’s persistence in practicing such terrorism reflects the logic of bullying, expansion and aggression that has accompanied this entity since its emergence and will not stop unless the entire nation engages in an all-out confrontation with it,” spokesman Qasem underscored.

The Syrian army said Israel conducted a rocket attack Sunday evening on targets in the vicinity of Damascus.

Its statement said the attack came from the Golan Heights and that it downed most of the missiles.

The Iran Deal is Dying

Iran Refuses U.S. Nuclear Talks As Tensions Rise in Persian Gulf, Syria and Iraq

By David Brennan On 3/1/21 at 5:51 AM EST

Fresh violence in the Persian Gulf and Syria is ratcheting up regional tensions as the U.S. and Iran remain locked in a stalemate over the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.

This weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for last week’s explosion aboard an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. His accusation came just after Syria reported an Israeli missile attack launched from the annexed Golan Heights at targets around the capital Damascus on Sunday night.

The incidents follow tit-for-tat actions by Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups and U.S. forces in the region over the past month, which threatened to hamstring the multilateral efforts to revive the JCPOA.

The spike in violence comes as Tehran continues to refuse talks with the U.S. over the JCPOA, demanding instead that all sanctions are lifted before any further negotiations.

Netanyahu said on Monday that Thursday night’s attack on the MV Helios Ray vehicle-carrier “was indeed an operation by Iran. That is clear.” Asked whether Israel would retaliate, he replied: “You know my policy. Iran is Israel’s biggest enemy. I am determined to fend it off. We are striking at it all over the region.”

Iran denied the claim, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh telling reporters Monday: “The security of the Persian Gulf is extremely important for Iran.” But Tehran has been implicated in similar attacks in recent years, and international shipping in the strategic waterways off its coast offer Iran easy and high-profile targets for limited escalation and retaliation.

Israel is already staunchly opposed to the revival of the JCPOA, claiming the deal is deeply flawed and will only embolden the regime in Tehran to expand its weapons research programs and use of regional proxy militias. Netanyahu said last week: “With or without an agreement we will do everything so [Iran is not] armed with nuclear weapons.”

But the Biden administration is pushing ahead with its plans to return to the deal despite opposition from regional allies and conservatives in the U.S. The White House and Tehran have both said they want the deal to succeed, but the two sides are stuck in a stalemate over who will take the first step.

Iran has expanded its nuclear program beyond what is allowed under the JCPOA since Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and began applying ever-harsher sanctions on the country.

Iran wants Biden to lift these Trump-era sanctions before it scales back its nuclear activity. But the Biden administration says it will not lift any sanctions until Iran returns to compliance with the JCPOA.

The Biden administration has said it is now willing to meet with JCPOA signatories to find a way to resurrect the deal. The White House hopes the JCPOA can become the basis for a “longer and stronger” agreement placing limits on Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional militia network; two key concerns among JCPOA critics.

The European Union has also suggested unofficial talks between the parties as a prelude to full negotiations. The EU and the three European signatories of the deal—Germany, France and the U.K.—could serve as referees for a phased return to the deal for both the U.S. and Iran.

But Khatibzadeh said Sunday that it is too early for talks. “In view of the recent stances and measures taken by the United States and the three European countries, the Islamic Republic of Iran believes this is not a good time for holding an unofficial meeting on the accord,” he said in a statement.

“There has been no change in the United States’ stances and behavior, and the Biden administration has not only failed to abandon Trump’s failed policy of maximum pressure, but has also failed to declare its commitment to the implementation of all its obligations under the JCPOA,” the spokesperson added.

“The path forward is quite clear: the U.S. must end its unlawful and unilateral sanctions and return to its JCPOA commitments,” Khatibzadeh said.

This picture taken on February 28, 2021 shows a view of the Israeli-owned Bahamian-flagged MV Helios Ray cargo ship docked in Dubai’s Mina Rashid cruise terminal. GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty

Iran Upgrades It’s Nuclear Horn: Revelation 8:4

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses in a televised speech marking the annual Quds, or Jerusalem Day, in Tehran, Iran

Iran to install new gen centrifuges at Fordow, Natanz nuclear facilities

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) will install new generations of IR2M and IR6 centrifuges at the Fordow and Natanz nuclear facilities, official media reported.

Within the time limit specified in the law passed by the Iranian Parliament, the installation of these centrifuges will be completed and gas will be injected, Abolfazl Amoui, the spokesman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament, was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Amoui said that, based on the law, the AEOI should also produce 120 kg of 20 per cent enriched uranium within a year.

In December 2020, Parliament passed the law of “Iran’s Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions” which obliges the government to further reduce the obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), unless the US lifts sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

As a result of the US’ unilateral 2018 exit from the nuclear agreement, Iran has surpassed JCPOA-stipulated limits on its uranium enrichment level and on its stockpiles of heavy water and low-enriched uranium.

The Islamic Republic has also lifted JCPOA limitations on its nuclear research and development activities.

–IANS

Israel Keeps the Fight outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Robo-Snipers, Suicide Drones and Robattle – The Story of Israel’s Defense Industry

With its considerable line-up of ‘robo-snipers’, ‘suicide drones’ and ‘robattle’ battlefield robots, Israel’s defence industry is pushing the envelop of autonomous machines with only token human involvement.

In recent years, the use of autonomous weapons has seen a dramatic increase on modern battlefields – and the proliferation has increased international concern over the ethics governing their use.

Israel has established itself as a pioneer of autonomous weapons, specifically with the Harop ‘Suicide Drone’, Robattle wheeled battlefield robot, and Sentry-Tech automated border control machine gun.

The increasing demand for automated weapons comes amid a global revolution in military affairs (RMA), as nations seek to exploit the advantages of offensive firepower manned by tireless machines without the loss of human life.

Suicide drones, or ‘loitering munitiions as they are technically known, are a hybrid between drones and guided missiles. They are defined by being able to ‘loiter’ in the air for a long period of time, before striking a target entering a pre-defined zone, or waiting for human guidance.

— Long Haired Hippie Rebel 🕉 (@lbox327)

Euphemistically described as a ‘fire-and-forget’ weapon, the Israeli Aerospace Industries’ Harop autonomously attacks any target meeting previously identified criteria, but includes a ‘man-in-the-loop’ feature that allows a human to technically prevent an attack from taking place.

Given the cutting-edge nature of autonomous weapon platforms, there is little in the way of international law regulating their production or sale.

Demand for autonomous ‘suicide drones’ is at an all-time high after the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict of 2020, which established a benchmark for the effective use of kamikaze drones against conventional military forces. Throughout the conflict, Azerbaijan made prodigious use of Israeli ‘loitering munitions’ and manned Turkish drones.

With demand, comes opportunity. On February 11, more than Israelis including several former defence officials came under investigation for illegaIly designing, producing and selling ‘suicide drones’ to an unnamed Asian nation.

The Israelis are suspected of national security offenses, breaching arms exports laws, money laundering and other financial offenses,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

But for Israeli authorities, the crime wasn’t due to a lack of regulation.

Instead, it was for making personal profit from s technology owned by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). In the same week, Israel made three official sales to anonymous Asian nations.

Is the concern real?

Researchers from the Institute for Strategic, Political, Economic and Security Consultancy argue that development on automation is moving so fast its outpacing the laws that could even hope to regulate it.

To this end, they describe a slippery slope where the role of human beings in decision loops is quickly fading away, with the lack of a clearly defined line over what is acceptable and what is immoral.

— 3rdcenturytakis (@3rdcenturytakis)

Take the Israeli Border Control Sentry-Tech turret currently deployed along Gaza’s border. They were designed to prevent Palestinians from leaving the Gaza strip and entering Israeli territory.

Automated ‘Robo-Snipers’ set up along the Gaza border, designed to create “automated kill-zones” at least 1.5 km deep. But they aren’t merely robotic guns. The turrets feature heavy duty 7.62 calibre machine guns tied into a network spanning the entire border. If any turret detects human movement, the entire chain of guns can train their sights and concentrate firepower on the interloper. Some turrets are also able to fire explosive rockets.

With such overlapping fields of fire, even heavily armored vehicles would be quickly eliminated. The effect on a human body would be overwhelming, disproportionately violent, and would leave little in the way of human remains.

To increase its effectiveness, its automation consumes information provided by a larger network of drones and ground sensors spanning a 60 kilometer border.

Rafael, Sentry-Tech’s manufacturer emphasises that a human operator in a hardened bunker still has to make the ultimate decision.

Barbara Opall-Rome, former Defence News bureau chief, reports that the turret was designed as an automated closed-loop system, without the need for human input, speaking to Wired Magazine.

She notes, “until the top brass is completely satisfied with the fidelity of their overlapping sensor network – and until the 19- and 20-year-old soldiers deployed behind computer screens are thoroughly trained in operating the system — approval by a commanding officer will be required before pushing the kill button.”

The chilling testimony suggests a move towards a slow decrease in oversight over lethal autonomous weapons, made possible by a lack of state-enforced regulation, and international norms that have yet to adapt to the risks and possibilities of modern technology.

Moral challenge

Concern over the development of autonomous weapons is not limited to ethicists. In 2015, more than a thousand artificial intelligence researchers and notable public figures such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk co-signed an open letter to the United Nations, calling for the ban of autonomous weapons.

Their concerns are many. Vocal critics of automation believe that defence companies are building fully autonomous weapon platforms, with only token add-on human involvement pathways, that can be easily removed.

More critically, it’s nearly impossible to externally distinguish between a kill made with human oversight or machine autonomy, blurring the lines of accountability on the battlefield.

The rapid rise of automated weaponry has far reaching legal, ethical and security implications.

Can automated weapons distinguish between soldiers or civilians, and will military conceptions of acceptable risk and collateral damage be coded into their parameters? Who can be held responsible in the event an autonomous weapon makes a mistake? How do automated machines that seek to optimise kill/death ratios and accuracy account for morality, human rights law, and just cause?

Most importantly, is it ethical to allow a machine to harvest a human life without a conscious human decision to do so? For many, a machine making decisions of life violates the concepts of human dignity, while absolving human decision-makers for the burdens of morality and responsibility.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

The India-Pakistan ceasefire is smoking mirrors

Approach the India-Pakistan ceasefire with cautious optimism

For ceasefire violations to sustain in the long run, it means that the Pakistan army has to turn away from its decadal dependence on terror. That seems unlikely

BSF

The surprise ceasefire between India and Pakistan has been the focus of media attention, with breathless speculation on the role of the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, and the ‘secret’ talks with a ‘third country’ involved.

Interest peaked when Moeed Yusuf — a Washington-based academic turned into special adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on national security — claimed such feelers in October 2019, which was denied by the Ministry of External Affairs, only to then deny it just after the ceasefire was announced.

Yusuf chose to portray this as a success of established channels between the director generals of military operations on both sides. That’s rather strange. Most people would like to take credit for major developments. It seems Yusuf would rather distance himself from it.

Ceasefire Violations

The whole saga begins with the 1949 agreement under the United Nations’ auspices, by which a Ceasefire Line was delineated. With some changes this became the Line of Control after the 1971 war. Surprisingly, both agreements held for a long while, with a raft of agreements signed through the 1960s into the 1980s, including the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 and a 1988 Agreement on non-attack against each other’s nuclear facilities, among others.

It was after Pakistan began to sponsor terrorism behind the confidence of its nuclear weapons test of 1998 that the LoC literally caught fire, with terrorists slipping in under covering fire by the Pakistani army. India has since fenced the international border and the LoC with a mix of sensors. But a fence still needs to be guarded, and patrolling along a ‘live border’.

Reasons for violations are as diverse as they are bizarre. Sometimes firings would rise when India’s Prime Minister visited the Kashmir valley, or a foreign head of state was in Delhi; sometimes on religious festivals or Independence Day; or to ‘test’ a new unit. Terrain also matters, and more ceasefire violations occur south of the Pir Panjal where posts are easier to target.

Pakistan also wants to keep the Kashmir issue alive. A peaceful LoC doesn’t deliver that. Sometimes, ceasefire violations have flared to include the international border, when even mortars have been used. That means political complicity, since local commanders have to take clearance.

It’s a complicated situation, but the underlying commonality is that unlike a conventional war — where heroes on both sides are honoured, decades of terrorism (which is the dirtiest of wars) has led a deep hatred and suspicion. Unsurprisingly, therefore, Indian forces tend to view the Pakistan army chief’s “hand of peace” offer with deep suspicion. That in turn will reflect on the hand on the trigger at the LoC.

Border Management

To achieve lasting peace at the LoC that closed loop has to be broken. Consider the joint statement which says “in the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the border, the two DG’s MO agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have propensity and lead to violence”. As seen, there are a lot to address, which can be broadly divided into reasons related to the ground, and the politics of the problem.

Step one, therefore, is to evolve a clear and relatively transparent, clear border management strategy between the two sides. The Karachi Agreement specifies some of these, such as minimum distance between two opposing posts, no new construction or increase of forces etc., while others have evolved over time. There are the ‘hotlines’ at the DGMO level, to the commanders level informally or through flag meetings. Each post has its own standard operating procedures adapted to conditions there. None of these are institutionalised, making it prone to breaking under stress. Putting in place an institutionalised structure should be the first priority. At any rate expect the ‘third country’ — clearly the US — to push both in this direction.

That is the easy part. The difficulty is political will.

Political Will

Past offers from Pakistan to cast the 2003 ceasefire in stone has been linked to a role for the UN in monitoring it — which is totally unacceptable to India. It also raises a withdrawal from Siachin, which is a different kettle of fish altogether, mired as it is now with the Chinese actions in Depsang.

The main glitch which is ‘resolution of Kashmir’ may well be done with, once Islamabad turns Gilgit Baltistan into a full province, thus virtually ending the ‘Kashmir problem’.

As can be seen what is needed is the building up of trust, and what better way than to start an Asian highway across Pakistan into Afghanistan and Central Asia, maybe even China. Islamabad’s mind seems to be running along the same lines. It now says it has shifted from geopolitics to geoeconomics. If that’s true, then the LoC can to be turned into an international border and highway connections opened up.

Nothing builds trust like money. It’s possible. But all that means the Pakistan army has to turn away from its decadal dependence on terror. That seems unlikely, in which case a ceasefire is about as likely to sustain as a bridge built with straw. Certainly, Moeed Yusuf seems to think so, and he should know.

1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

New York City isn’t immune to earthquakes; a couple of small tremors measuring about 2.5 on the Richter scale even struck back in 2001 and 2002.But on August 10, 1884, a more powerful earthquake hit. Estimated from 4.9 to 5.5 in magnitude, the tremor made houses shake, chimneys fall, and residents wonder what the heck was going on, according to a New York Timesarticle two days later.The quake was subsequently thought to have been centered off Far Rockaway or Coney Island.It wasn’t the first moderate quake, and it won’t be the last. In a 2008 Columbia University study, seismologists reported that the city is crisscrossed with several fault lines, one along 125th Street. With that in mind, New Yorkers should expect a 5.0 or higher earthquake centered here every 100 years, the seismologists say.Translation: We’re about 30 years overdue. Lucky for us the city adopted earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Antichrist allows Pope to visit ‘suffering’ Christian community

Pope’s Iraq trip brings him close to ‘suffering’ Christian community

Warda said it was “historical and courageous” for the pope to visit Iraq amidst security threats and the COVID-19 pandemic.

 March 1 2021   11:19

Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil Basha Matti Warda speaks during an interview with Kurdistan 24 (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Pope Francis’s upcoming trip to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region will be his chance to be close to the suffering Christians of the region, Basha Matti Warda, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil has told Kurdistan 24.

The Roman Catholic leader is planning to visit Iraq and the Kurdistan Region from March 5-8 to show solidarity to a Christian community that has been decimated by ongoing wars since 2003 and attacks from jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State that target minorities, including Christians and Yezidis (Ezidis).

Warda said it was “historical and courageous” for the pope to visit Iraq amidst security threats and the COVID-19 pandemic. He predicted it will not be easy for Francis and his delegation but “it’s needed and so he will make it.”

ISIS entered Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June 2014 and eventually occupied a large territory that included Christian-populated areas in the Nineveh plains. Around 200,000 were displaced and many fled to the autonomous Kurdistan Region.

The archbishop said preparations for the pope’s historic visit began two weeks ago. “We are very grateful for the government of Kurdistan that they put everything needed to help to make this successful,” he told Kurdistan 24 in an exclusive interview in the capital’s predominately-Christian Ankawa suburb. “Of course, Erbil will have the biggest event, which is the final Mass.”

Francis will hold a final Mass, generally an important milestone in a pope’s trip abroad, in Erbil’s Franso Hariri Stadium on March 7 before departing for Rome. Organizers have limited attendance to no more than 10,000 people because of COVID-19 concerns.

Decline of Christians in Iraq

“The number of Christians has started declining since 2003,” Warda said. “But we cannot deny the fact also that there are certain areas in the country that welcomed the Christians, like Kurdistan.”

He added that ISIS attacks had devastating results on the Christian community. “But thank God with the work and contribution of all we were able to maintain 8,000 families and keep them safe here in Erbil.” 

In 2019, the archbishop told the BBC that the Christian community had dwindled by 83 percent, from around 1.5 million to just 250,000.  

The US State Department’s most recent annual report on religious freedom estimated that between 10 and 22 Christian families are leaving Iraq and the Kurdistan Region every month, many driven out by discrimination and threats of violence.

Some Christians returned to the Nineveh plains in 2016 and 2017, Warda said. However, there are still 2,600 Christian families living in the Kurdistan Region that were unable to return to Mosul and “need help to rebuild their houses” there, as well as programs to help them rebuild their livelihoods.

The Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani told France 24 in a recent interview that he hopes the pope’s visit will prompt more international support for refugees, including Christians who have been displaced to the Kurdistan region.

Solving problems for the Christian community

The archbishop underlined that the pope’s visit will highlight the importance for politicians to work together to “maintain the diversity of the Iraqi population.”

“This is not a typical everyday story, especially if you consider that His Holiness Pope [John Paul II] wanted to make this trip in the year 2000, but he couldn’t,” Warda said.

In 2019, Pope Francis said he would embark on his first trip to Iraqi the following year, but it was postponed due to regional tensions and the global coronavirus pandemic. According to Warda, who has met the pope several times, it was the pontiff’s wish to visit Iraq.

“He always mentioned that he wanted to visit this country and he wants to be close to the suffering of the people of Iraq,” Warda said.

Kurdistan 24 English

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Erbil’s Chaldean Archbishop talks to K24 about the upcoming Pope visit to Iraq

However, he added that the pope will not be able to solve issues such as the confiscation of Christian homes by militias and influential families in Iraq.

Earlier this month the Vatican News service reported that 38 illegally expropriated houses and land in Iraq were returned to Christian owners after a campaign by the influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Francis is scheduled to meet top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani in the city of Najaf on March 6.

Warda stressed that resolving the Christian community’s problems “is the responsibility of the Iraqi government because Christians, first and foremost, are citizens of Iraq, and they have rights as citizens of Iraq.”

“So his holiness, when he comes is just [with] a message of peace and support, that’s all,” Warda added. “He is coming for the Christians as a pastor, as a father, as a shepherd, but when it comes to the rights of [Christians] this is the responsibility of the Iraqi government.”

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly

The China Nuclear Horn Prepares for Nuclear War: Daniel 7

China said to speed up move to more survivable nuclear force

By ROBERT BURNS , Associated Press

March 01, 2021 – 5:35 AM

WASHINGTON — China appears to be moving faster toward a capability to launch its newer nuclear missiles from underground silos, possibly to improve its ability to respond promptly to a nuclear attack, according to an American expert who analyzed satellite images of recent construction at a missile training area.

Hans Kristensen, a longtime watcher of U.S., Russian and Chinese nuclear forces, said the imagery suggests that China is seeking to counter what it may view as a growing threat from the United States. The U.S. in recent years has pointed to China’s nuclear modernization as a key justification for investing hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming two decades to build an all-new U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Biden strikes on Syrian sites may threaten the Iran nuclear deal

Biden strikes Syrian sites: What impact on Iraq and Iran nuclear deal?

Ellen Laipson

| The Daily Star

In its sixth week in office, the Biden administration has already used military force in the Middle East. Seven bombs were dropped on a group of buildings in Syria associated with pro-Iran Shiite militias, allegedly responsible for a recent attack on a US and coalition base outside Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The attack has been characterized as carefully calibrated; the president chose one of the less aggressive options presented to him, with the goal of keeping the damage inflicted proportional to the attacks that triggered the action.

Over the past year, Shiite militias have lobbed rockets against the large US Embassy compound in Baghdad, inflicting property damage but no significant casualties. The February Irbil attack, which wounded several and killed one non-US-citizen contractor, appeared to be a continuation of a pattern. In response, the US targeted a compound of multiple buildings used by several Shiite militias to support their operations in Iraq. US defense officials explained that the operation was defensive in nature, to protect US and allied personnel, and “our Iraqi partners.

This formulation is an interesting departure from the approach of the Trump administration, which scolded and bullied the Iraqi government when such attacks occurred, threatening in 2020 to close the US Embassy in Baghdad if the Iraqi security forces could not protect Americans present in the country. Biden is sending a very different signal, that the US presence in Iraq is for the shared mission of preventing terrorism from Daesh (ISIS) or other extremists, and building greater capacity and stability in Iraq.

The choice of a facility in Syria and the vague attribution to the Irbil attack could generate criticism in coming days. The compound the US bombed was very close to the border of Iraq, southwest of Irbil, but arguably could be seen as an offensive act against a state that did not cause the original harm.

While the US may not feel obliged to follow diplomatic protocols related to the Syrian regime, it was Russia, Syria’s main security partner, which reacted badly to the attack, complaining that the US gave Moscow only an hour’s notice before sending fighter aircraft into the territory that Russia helps control. In addition, US officials have said that Iraq will investigate the Irbil attack to determine the perpetrators, yet the US believed it had sufficient intelligence to select the target and carry out the raid. The group that actually claimed responsibility, Awliya Al-Dam, or Guardians of the Blood, is one of several offshoots of the main Shiite militia Kataeb Hezbollah.

Some early commentators have questioned whether this sequence of events could derail the nascent pas de deux between Biden and Iran over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal. They worry that any escalation of tensions between the US and Iranian proxies will undermine or at least slow down the diplomatic efforts to return to full compliance with the 2015 JCPOA. Both Washington and Tehran will need to take clear steps to restore the status of the agreement, but there is much jockeying about sequencing and reciprocity.

For the US, reversing Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to leave the agreement is complicated by the legalities of US sanctions policies, and by the conviction that it is Iran that has to demonstrate its continued commitment to the terms of the agreement. Iran, for its part, has been playing hard ball, declaring that it cannot reverse its recent enrichment activities that violate its JCPOA obligations until the US removes all sanctions. The Biden administration has taken one tentative step, by agreeing to participate in an EU-hosted meeting with all the JCPOA signatories. Iran has not yet signaled its intention to attend such a meeting.

One could argue that the specific issue of defending US and coalition bases and facilities in Iraq is quite separate from diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear activities. In addition, the explicit demonstration by the new president of his willingness to use force could send an important signal to Iran. During the Obama administration, some interpreted the failure of the US to follow through on its tough rhetoric on the Syrian civil war as evidence that achieving a diplomatic success with Iran was the paramount American interest. Staying out of Syria was seen as avoiding a source of tension with Iran that could hurt the nuclear talks.

That perception is probably off the mark; Obama had made some strategic choices about Syria that were more complicated than just considering their impact on Iran. But the Biden team has now avoided such ambiguity. It will protect and defend its basic interests in the region, while working the nuclear negotiations on their own merits.

If Iran wanted to signal back to Washington, it could rein in the militia or take other steps to try to disavow these particular anti-American actions. By some accounts, Iran may not be in complete control of the Shiite militia. While the groups have surely benefitted from Iranian political, military and financial support, they operate in an Iraqi context. Past Iraqi political leaders have used and misused these militias in power struggles that were not necessarily part of a master plan from Tehran. 

At times, the US and Iran have found common ground in support of Iraq. They worked in parallel to defeat Daesh’s occupation of Mosul and other territories in northern Iraq. They have sometimes indirectly found ways to signal their preferences for the same candidates in past protracted negotiations over government formation after elections in Iraq. Both parties can be pragmatic when it comes to Iraq.

But when it comes to US-Iran relations, put your money on the more pessimistic interpretation. Iran is already prickly about Biden’s overtures, and faces presidential elections in June. The brutal experience with Trump and the volatile cycles in US presidential politics have made Iran more cynical about engaging Washington. And the January 2020 US assassination of Qasem Soleimani on Iraqi soil may not have been avenged, in Iran’s view. The activities of the Iraqi Shiite militias may retain considerable value to Iran in this ongoing asymmetric struggle.

Ellen Laipson, a former vice chair of the US’s National Intelligence Council, is currently director of the international security program at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Virginia. She is a former president and CEO of the Stimson Center in Washington. The Daily star publishes this commentary in collaboration with Syndication Bureau.

Israel strikes back at the Iranian Horn

Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria, responds to ship attack – report

By REUTERS, JERUSALEM POST STAFF   MARCH 1, 2021 13:48

Smoke and flames rise over the Syrian border town of Kobani after an airstrike, October 20, 2014

(photo credit: REUTERS)

The strikes on Sunday night come just days after an Israeli-owned commercial vessel was attacked by mines in the Gulf of Oman.

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Israel reportedly bombed Iranian targets near Damascus in Syria late Sunday night leading to speculation that the airstrikes were in response to what is believed to be an Iranian attack on an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last Thursday.   

The Syrian army said on Sunday evening that an Israeli airstrike targeted parts of southern Damascus in escalating attacks that regional intelligence sources say target Iran-linked assets.

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כאן חדשות

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Feb 28, 2021

דיווחים בסוריה: ישראל תקפה באזור דמשק, פיצוצים נשמעו

@kaisos1987

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@kann_news

התקיפה המיוחסת לישראל בדמשק: תגובה לפיצוץ הספינה בידי איראן. המטרות שהותקפו הן איראניות. תיעוד: פעילות מערכת ההגנה האווירית הסורית

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1:32 PM · Feb 28, 2021

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A Syrian Army statement said the attack came from the Golan Heights and that it had downed most of the missiles, in the second such strike in less than a month on the outskirts of the capital.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the report.

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The strikes on Sunday night come just days after an Israeli-owned commercial vessel was attacked by mines in the Gulf of Oman.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi blame the attack on Iran, although Iran has not officially taken responsibility.

On Sunday morning, an analysis in the Iranian-regime controlled Kayhan daily, tied to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, referred to the attack on the Israeli vessel as a response to strikes on Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq.

The analysis stated that there is “no trace” of the identity of the attackers and claimed that the vessel was flown under the flag of another country. The paper additionally claimed that the ship was a military vessel spying in the Persian Gulf and not a commercial vessel.

The Iranian analysis concluded that the ship was “probably ambushed by one of the branches of the Axis of Resistance,” but did not go as far as explicitly stating that Iran or one of its proxies was responsible for the incident.

While Israeli media reported that the strikes on Sunday night were an Israeli response to the attack on the ship, no official government or military statement was made on the matter. In the past, the IDF has often confirmed when it responded to specific attacks.

The strikes also come just days after the US targeted Iranian sites in eastern Syria, killing at least one militant and wounding several others, in response to a rocket strike blamed on pro-Iranian militias on a US military base at Erbil International Airport in northern Iraq on February 15 in which a non-American contractor was killed, as well as a series of additional rocket attacks on other locations in Iraq with US forces, according to Reuters.

The last alleged Israeli strikes to target the Damascus area were reported on February 15, reportedly targeting equipment belong to Iranian and pro-Iranian forces near the Damascus International Airport, as well as other targets.

The strikes are the seventh in the past two months, with strikes attributed to Israel reported in eastern, southern and Western Syria in January and earlier in February.

Israel has struck a wider range of targets than usual since the start of the year, including a major strike on Iranian-linked strongholds further east near the Iraqi border.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Friday said Israel was taking action “almost weekly” to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

Regional intelligence sources were quoted in the media saying that Iran’s Quds Force and militias it backs, whose presence has spread in Syria in recent years, have a strong presence in the Sayeda Zainab neighborhood of southern Damascus where Iranian backed militias have a string of underground bases.

Israel has regularly attacked what it says are Iranian-linked targets in Syria in recent years, and stepped up such strikes this year in what Western intelligence sources describe as a shadow war to reduce Iran’s influence.

Kochavi said in December Israel had struck over 500 targets in 2020.

Tensions remain high in the region in the aftermath of the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh just east of Tehran, which Iran blames on Israel, and the one-year anniversary of the US assassination of former IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January. Israel’s northern border remains tense as well due to continued threats by the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization to carry out a revenge attack against Israel in response to the death of a Hezbollah militant in Damascus in July in an airstrike blamed on Israel.

Concerns surrounding the Biden administration’s intent to return to the nuclear deal with Iran have also been raised in recent weeks, with Kochavi stating last month that he had ordered operational plans to strike Iran’s nuclear program to be ready if necessary.

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.