Iranian naval exercise follows on Israel’s northern border drill (DEBKAfile) Exclusive Report 05/01/11 7:31 PM (GMT+02:00)
Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak offered the view this week that
the next round of Six-Power talks with Iran taking place on May 23 in
Baghdad would lead nowhere, throwing cold water on the current
optimism. As for US media reports of a lessening in war tensions over
Iran because of the internal debate in Israel over an independent
attack, they were soon overtaken by significant military steps
embarked on Tuesday, May 1, by the US, Israel and Iran.
The large-scale Israel Defense Forces war game on the borders of
Syria (Golan) and Lebanon was quickly followed by naval drills along
Iran’s southern Persian Gulf coast by its border guards. Tehran was
making good on the policy agreed with Syrian and Hizballah allies in
early 2011 to counter any Western or Israel military movement in the
region with a comparable response.
Israeli army spokesmen were cagey about the scale and nature of the
exercise beyond preparing people living in the north for heavy
military traffic on regional highways and the sounds of gunshots and
DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that the IDF drilled a
strengthened, proactive presence in the North to meet al Qaeda’s
looming presence and expanding operations next door, especially in
Syria, and the threat of the Syrian civil war spilling over into
Monday, Israel started building a defensive wall 10-meter high, 2
kilometer-long along its border with Lebanon to protect the Israeli
population and highways in northern Galilee from sniper fire coming
from the Lebanese village of Kfar Kila in the Hizballah-dominated
south. According to intelligence received, the Lebanese Shiite
Hizballah plans to lash out against Israel in the hope of recovering
its waning popular support as a result of its tight bonds with the
hated Bashar Assad. Snipers are to pick off Israelis in cross-border
fire and so provoke a major firestorm that will take the world’s
attention away from the savagery in Syria.
Just as Israel estimates that the Galilee Panhandle and Golan could
become flashpoints for exchanges of cross-border fire, so too Iran is
taking into account that an operation to destroy its nuclear
facilities may also entail landings on its southern coast by American
and Israel special forces, and maybe others too.
Gen. Hossein Zolfaqari, Commander of the Iranian Border Guards, was
more forthcoming about the exercise he is leading than Israel’s army
spokesmen. He announced that the naval maneuver codenamed “Fajr”
would exercise the latest tactics in border protection with the
participation of the border guard units of the provinces of Bushehr
(site of Iran’s only nuclear reactor and parts of its uranium
enrichment facilities), the Persian Gulf Kish Island (where big
Revolutionary Guards bases at situated), Hormozgan (near the
Revolutionary Guards main headquarters at Bandar Abbas) as well as
Khuzestan and Sistan and Balochestan, Iran’s biggest oil regions.
Very much on the offensive, Tehran Monday claimed to have developed
the technological expertise for “redirecting enemy missiles to a
target which we will determine,” in the words of Brig. Farzad
Ismaili, commander of the Khatam-ol-Anbiya (Last of the Prophets) Air
Base. “This is the capability of electronic warfare in which it is we
who program the enemy missile,” he boasted.
There was also an outpouring of comment from Tehran about last week’s
deployment of US F-22 Raptors in the UAE’s Al Dhafra Air Base
opposite Iran’s southern shores. One spokesman said they posed no
danger to Iran and had been moved in for “psychological warfare;”
another that they “threatened regional security” and Gulf nations
should not allow foreign armies to take up position on their shores.
A week after the F-22 squadron was deployed in the Gulf, Elizabeth
Sherwood-Randall, special assistant to President Obama and senior
director for European affairs at the National Security Council,
disclosed Monday that the completion of the initial phase of the US-
backed missile network in Europe would be announced at the NATO
summit meeting in Chicago on May 20.
She added that additional work is underway in the next phase of the
network, designed for protecting Europe and the Middle East from
Iranian ballistic missile attack.
The chronology is significant: The announcement that the US-led
missile shield has gone operational will be made three days before
the Six Powers and Iran resume nuclear negotiations in Baghdad.
Far from reducing war tensions over Iran, America has tossed the
military ball into the Iranian court. (Copyright 2000-2012 DEBKAfile.
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