MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUND: Who killed Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s nuclear chief? Israel is the likely suspect

 

 

BY SIMON HENDERSON, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 11/27/20 06:00 PM EST THE HILL

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL

Speculation about President Trump using his last weeks in office to lash out at Iran’s nuclear project missed the bigger story — that Israel would use the window of political opportunity to take action which might be hard to get away with under a Biden administration.

For COVID-era fans of the Israeli spy series, “Tehran,” on Apple+, the idea of Israeli agents pulling off an assassination inside Iran would not appear far-fetched. The killing early Friday of the top Iranian nuclear-weapon scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, could have been just another plot twist. On a dusty road east of Tehran, in the shadow of the quiescent, snow-capped Damavand volcano, which dominates the capital’s skyline, Fakhrizadeh’s car was ambushed.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL : Iranian authorities said to have photos of assassins of leading nuclear scientist

NOVEMBER 30, 2020 BY JOSEPH FITSANAKIS INTEL ORG

REPORTS IN BRITAIN AND Israel claim that Iranian authorities have visually identified the assassins who were allegedly involved in the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist believed to have led Iran’s nuclear program. Fakhrizadeh was a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite paramilitary force. He was accused by the United States and Israel of leading the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program, whose existence Tehran strongly denies.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : FOCUS : Deputy Coalition commander visits northeast Syria to show ongoing commitment to SDF (PKK//PYD)

November 28-2020     01:44 AM  –  Major General Kevin Copsey (left), Deputy Commander of the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition, and SDF spokesperson Kino Gabriel (center) speak at a press conference at a Coalition base in northeast Syria, Nov. 24, 2020,

Hasakah, Northeast Syria (Kurdistan 24) – Major General Kevin Copsey, Deputy Commander of the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition in Iraq and Syria, said on a visit to northeastern Syria on Tuesday that the Coalition remains committed to fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with whom they have fought the Islamic State for years.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL BY MEIR AMIT CENTER / ISRAEL – Spotlight on Iran

November 15, 2020 – November 29, 2020 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
The meeting of the Iraqi minister of defense with the Iranian secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (Mehr, November 15, 2020)

The meeting of the Iraqi minister of defense with the Iranian secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (Mehr, November 15, 2020)

Overview
  • Senior Iranian officials have avoided publicly commenting on the statement of the IDF spokesperson about Israeli strikes on targets of the Syrian Army and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) after explosive devices were discovered in two locations on the Syrian-Israeli border on the Golan Heights. The explosive devices were placed by residents of Syrian villages located on the border, under the direction and with the financing of the Qods Force of the IRGC. The spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not confirm the report about the death of a number of Qods Force personnel in IDF strikes in Syria, and warned of a “crushing response” to those trying to disrupt the Iranian “advisory” presence in Syria.
  • The Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Zarif and the special adviser to the speaker of the Majlis met in Tehran with the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen. The two Iranian officials discussed with the high-ranking UN official the negotiations concerning the settlement of the war in Syria, and called for lifting of sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime. The adviser of the speaker of the Majlis declared that Iran continues to back Syria with all of its might.
  • In mid-November, the Iraqi minister of defense visited Tehran and met senior Iranian officials, including the minister of defense, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces, the commander of the IRGC and the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. The minister headed a delegation of military and security officials who discussed with senior Iranian military and security officials the expansion of cooperation in these spheres between the two countries. Following his meeting with the Iraqi minister of defense, the Iranian chief of staff reported that an agreement concerning security cooperation will be signed by the two countries in the near future.
  • Iraqi sources reported that on November 18, the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Qasem Soleimani, visited Baghdad and met with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kazimi, and the commanders of Iranian-backed Shia militias. According to these reports, Qa’ani asked the commanders of the militias to maintain the unofficial ceasefire with the United States, to avoid renewed escalation with the U.S. in the remaining weeks of the Trump administration.
  • Iranian activities in Iraq in the cultural and scientific spheres: The Iranian cultural attache in Baghdad met with the former Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, and discussed expanding scientific and academic cooperation between the two countries. Meanwhile, the Iranian cultural attache’s office in Baghdad reported a rise in the number of those studying Persian in Iraq, as part of courses offered by the Iranian cultural center operating in Baghdad.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
  • Senior Iranian officials avoided commenting on the statement of the IDF spokesperson about Israeli strikes against IRGC and Syrian Army targets in Syria, after the IDF uncovered multiple explosive devices in two locations near the Israeli-Syrian border on the Golan Heights. The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saeed Khatibzadeh, who was asked during his weekly press conference about the report concerning the death of a number of Qods Force personnel in the IDF strikes, did not confirm the report and remarked that the “Zionist regime” knows well that the era of “hit and run” is over, and this is why the “regime” is acting with caution. The spokesman stated that the presence of Iran in Syria is limited to an advisory role only, and warned that whoever tries to hinder it will receive a crushing response. Khatibzadeh added that the type of aggression of the “regime occupying Jerusalem” [Israel] can not be remedied, and the only way to act against it is through “resistance” (Tasnim, November 22).
  • On November 18, the IDF spokesperson announced that IDF jets struck warehouses, command centers and military compounds of the Qods Force and Syrian Army. The strikes of the Air Force hit, among other locations, targets belonging to Unit 840 of the IRGC, which operates under the Qods Force, and was responsible for placing the explosive devices. According to the IDF, members of both units that placed the IEDs are residents of Syrian border villages, who operated under the auspices of the Qods Force and with its financing (Maariv; Haaretz, November 18-19).
  •  On November 22, Mohammad Javad Zarif, spoke with the incoming Syrian Foreign Minister, Faisal Miqdad, and congratulated him for his appointment. In the call, Zarif expressed his condolences for the passing of the former Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Muallem, who passed away on November 16, and expressed hope for the continuation of strategic cooperation between the two countries (ISNA, February 22). On February 21, Zarif met with the UN Special Envoy on Syria, Geir Pedersen, and called for removing sanctions placed on Syria. The two discussed developments in Syria, the discussions of the Constitutional Committee, and efforts to end the crisis in the country (Tasnim, November 22).
  • On November 23, the special UN envoy met with the Special Adviser to the Speaker of the Majlis, Hossein Amir Abdollahian. During the meeting, the Iranian official remarked that Tehran supports the UN’s efforts to preserve the territorial integrity of Syria and to return security to the country. Abdollahian stressed that Iran continues to back Syria and its security with all of its might (ISNA, November 23).
  • During a visit paid by the Syrian Minister of Oil, Bassam Tomeh, to the oil refinery in Homs City, he received a presentation about the work of an Iranian company that is carrying out renovation and maintenance work in one of the production units in the plant. During the visit, the minister met with the engineers from the company who described to him the work of the control systems at the facility (the Facebook page of the Homs Oil Refining Company, November 12). In recent years, a number of reports were published about Iran’s intention to assist in restoring Syria’s oil refining infrastructure, which was damaged during the civil war. In late September 2017, a senior official at the research center of Iran’s oil industry announced that Iran will establish a refinery near the city of Homs, which would be able to produce 70,000 barrels of oil per day during the first stage of operation, and eventually the capacity will be doubled to 140,000 oil barrels per day. In addition, there were reports about Iran’s intention to refurbish two other refineries (ISNA, September 26, 2017).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • In mid-November, the Iraqi Minister of Defense, Juma Anad Saadoun, arrived for a visit in Tehran and met with senior Iranian officials, chief among them the Iranian minister of defense, the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, the commander of the IRGC, and the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. Saadoun headed a delegation of security and military officials, which also included the commander of Iraq’s Air Force, the commander of Iraq’s Air Defense, and several other senior officers. The visit was intended to discuss expanding security and military cooperation between the two countries. The Iranian Chief of Staff, Mohammad Baqeri, reported after his meeting with the Iraqi minister of defense that the two sides reached an agreement concerning security cooperation between the two countries, which will be signed in the near future. He mentioned that the Iraqi delegation discussed matters concerning military industries, security of shared borders, training plans and conducting joint military exercises (Mehr, November 15).
  • The Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, stated in his meeting with the Iraqi minister of defense that Iran will act decisively against any threat to the security of the people in both countries. During the meeting, the two also discussed regional and international developments. Shamkhani spoke about the cooperation between Iran and Iraq in the campaign against terror and declared that this cooperation ensures the stability and security of the region, and should be expanded to the strategic levels. He added that through its presence in the region, the United States strives to create disagreements and confrontations between the countries of the region, and that Iraq and Iran should face down this conspiracy. He praised the decision of the Iraqi Parliament, which called for the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq. The Iraqi minister of defense expressed his appreciation for Iran’s support to Iraq in the campaign against terrorism, and stressed the importance of bolstering ties between the two countries, particularly in the security and military spheres. He remarked that no third country can impact that ties between Iran and Iraq (Tasnim, November 15).
  • The Commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, vowed in his meeting with the Iraqi minister that Iran will avenge the death of Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were assassinated by the United States in January 2020 in Iraq. Salami stressed the need to ensure the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, in light of the resolution of the Iraqi Parliament, and the wishes of the Iraqi people (Tasnim, November 15).
  • The AP news agency reported (November 20) that according to two Iraqi Shia politicians, the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani, arrived for a visit in Baghdad on November 18, and met with senior Iraqi politicians and the commanders of the pro-Iranian Shia militias. According to the report, Qa’ani instructed the commanders of the militias to maintain high vigilance but avoid creating tensions vis-a-vis the United States, to avoid giving President Trump a reason to launch an attack in his last weeks in power. The Iraqi sources reported that the commander of the Shia militias who met with Qa’ani in Baghdad agreed to maintain the unofficial ceasefire with the Unites States, as negotiations continue between Baghdad and Washington concerning the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq (Shafaq News, November 21). The Turkish Andalou news agency reported (November 21) according a source close to the Iraqi government, that during his visit to Baghdad, Qa’ani also met with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kazimi. According to another report, prior to his visit in Baghdad, Qa’ani visited Damascus and Beirut and met with President Assad and Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah (BBC, November 21).
  • The Iranian Cultural Attache in Baghdad, Hojjat-ul-Islam Gholareza Abazari, stated in a meeting with the former Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, that Iran is ready to share its scientific and medical experience with Iraqi universities. The two discussed expanding ties between the two countries in the spheres of science, academia and culture, and discussed a plan to establish a portal campus focusing on medical sciences of the University of Tehran in Karbala, southern Iraq (IRNA, November 22).
  • Mohammad Reza Talari, the head of the scientific department in the office of the Iranian cultural attache in Baghdad reported a rise in the number of those learning Persian in Iraq. In an interview to the Tasnim news agency, Talari reported that the Iranian cultural attache’s office carries out dozens of Persian courses, for students at differing skill levels, at the Iranian cultural center operating in Baghdad. He mentioned that due to COVID-19 restrictions, the lessons this year are held virtually, but the exams are held in person. According to him, the Iranian cultural center completed dozens of Persian courses and 12 additional courses are taking place now, totaling 150 students (Tasnin, November 23). The courses for leaning Persian, which are carried out by the Iranian embassy to Baghdad, are part of Iran’s effort to expand its religious and cultural influence in Iraq.
  • The Iranian Qeshm airliner announced the resumption of the company’s flights from Tehran and Mashhad to the city Najaf in Iraq, which were grounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The passengers will be obligated to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the flight, and airports in both countries could ban the entry of specific passengers with possible symptoms of the virus, even with negative test results (IRNA, November 25). Some of the flights between Iran and Iraq were already resumed in October 2020, after they were halted in late September due to the rise in the infection rate in Iran, and efforts of Iraqi authorities to prevent the arrival of Iranian pilgrims by air to the Shia holy sites in Iraq.

MESOPOTAMIA PKK CHIEF WISHES PEACE & DIALOGUE WITH ERDOGAN!

Kurdish PKK leader tells ‘Post’ of ‘peaceful struggle’ against Turkey

As the commander of an ongoing insurgency, he rarely speaks with journalists.

By HADEEL OUEIS, JONATHAN SPYER   NOVEMBER 27, 2020 JERUSALEM POST

Murat Karayilan, 56, is one of the senior leaders of the PKK, or Kurdish Workers’ Party. A veteran fighter of this organization’s long struggle against Turkey and for greater autonomy and rights for Turkey’s Kurdish population, he is a marked man in the eyes of Ankara, surviving a Turkish assassination attempt in 2017.

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MESOPTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUNDER :  ‘Iran has become Mossad’s street corner’: Iran marks death of nuke chief

Iranians tweeted about the killing with surprise and also highlighting the abilities of those who allegedly killed him.

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN   NOVEMBER 27, 2020 22:49 – JERUSALEM POST

Iranians responded with awe and surprise as a key Iranian nuclear scientist was gunned down east of Tehran. Farsi social media was full of tweets about the surprising shooting of one of the key men behind the nuclear program in Iran. “It seems that Tehran has become a Mossad street corner,” wrote one man on Twitter.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a man who “avoided the limelight,” said the Guardian. Yet he was in the limelight and when he was killed the gunmen not only shot up one vehicle, but appeared to blow up a second, perhaps a security detail travelling with him. He was not so secretive. He was well known enough that within hours Iranian regime media and foreign media were already publishing reports about him. Like Qasem Soleimani, the IRGC Quds force “shadow commander,” he was not so much in the shadows, and when he came out of the shadows it was in a hail of bullets.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : PKK LEAVING SYRIA ! – Mazloum Abdi: PKK cadres have started withdrawing from Rojava

Fazel Hawramy  26. Nov 2020 – RUDAW  – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — General Mazloum Abdi, top commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has stated that non-Syrian cadres of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based in northeast Syria (Rojava) have started leaving the region, a major development that could help to alleviate Turkey’s concerns about the Kurdish self-administration.

Abdi spoke to researchers from the International Crisis Group in mid-September for a report published on Thursday, and acknowledged the sacrifices that thousands of PKK fighters have made in the area since 2011, but accepted that their presence is a headache for his administration.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : THE PKK IN SYRIA / ROJAVA IS OVER & OUT – 

 SDF/PYD(PKK) IN SYRIA NOW BETTING ON BIDEN ?

The SDF Seeks a Path Toward Durable Stability in North East Syria – ANALYSIS

A sudden U.S troop pull-out from north east Syria could prompt a humanitarian crisis, an Islamic State resurgence and renewed conflict between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces, especially its Kurdish component. The U.S. should commit to a gradual withdrawal that protects civilians. THE CRISIS GROUP  25 Nov 2020

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS PKK THREATENS WITH WAR AGAINST FELLOW COUNTRYMEN

War could return to Shingal if Erbil-Baghdad agreement implemented: YBS commander

25 Nov 2020 – Dilan S. Hussein RUDAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A Yazidi militia leader in the disputed area of Shingal has condemned the Erbil-Baghdad agreement to resolve security and administration issues in the area, and has warned of “war” if the agreement is implemented.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : A NEW MIDDLE EAST UNDER ISRAEL’S LEADERSHIP ? – Mapping the Middle East’s new alliance system

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN A new alliance system in the Middle East is emerging.

A WORKING PAPER 24 Nov 2020

The recent Israel peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have enabled the growth of a series of connections between states that share regional and strategic interests. This builds on existing ties. The new alliance system is not only one that unites countries against adversaries, such as some shared concerns about Iran or about Ankara’s current aggressive posture in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is also about wider strategy that links economic interests and security ties.

This new system is built on several existing alliances.

The Gulf, the ‘Sword of the Arabs’ training and Qatar crisis

The Gulf state system, led by Saudi Arabia, has included the Gulf Cooperation Council. This group includes Saudi Arabia long with Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. However the Gulf crisis of 2017 led to a break between Saudi Arabia and its close allies in Abu Dhabi and Manama, and Qatar. This accelerated a process that links Qatar to Turkey and their shared support for groups like Hamas and others linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Unsurprisingly Riyadh and its allies, such as Egypt, have banned the Brotherhood and have encouraged countries like the US to label it a terrorist organization. Turkey-Saudi relations continued to sour in 2018 and 2019.

In addition Riyadh led its allies into Yemen to oppose the Iranian-backed Houthis. This has led to Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, including energy infrastructure near the UAE and also the Abqaiq facility. These same states have interests in Iraq and the Arar border crossing reopened after decades of closure.

Oman has sought to be a mediator with Iran, and has also hosted Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018. Meanwhile Kuwait has tended to be more open to dialogue with Qatar. Jordan, which has colder relations with Netanyahu, seeks close cooperation with the Gulf. For instance the king of Jordan was in Abu Dhabi on November 17 along with the king of Bahrain. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Jordan and the UAE sent soldiers to Egypt for a week-long training, dubbed Sword of the Arabs, at the end of November 2020.

Since May 2019 there have been increasing tensions with Iran, including the mining of six ships off the coast of the UAE and Oman in May and June 2019. A US drone was downed. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made high profile visits to the region, along with Washington’s envoy Avi Berkowitz, who flew with the Bahrain Foreign Minister to Israel on November 17.

Pompeo was in the Gulf on August 23 and in Greece at the end of September, sketching out this emerging alliance system through his trip, which included Sudan. He has condemned Iran’s aggressive actions during these trips and the US State Department condemned Turkey for hosting Hamas leaders twice this year. This all built on the May 21, 2017 summit that Trump held in Saudi Arabia, prominently meeting with the King of Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s leader Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

The Greece-Israel-UAE connection

Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus and Greece entered into closer partnership through a gas forum that was created in the summer of 2020. In August the UAE sent F-16s to train with Greece. The Prime Minister of Greece came to the UAE on November 17 and signed an agreement cementing ties. It looks to lay the groundwork for more joint training.

F-35s can seal the deal

The US and Israel did three joint trainings this year with F-35s and the US wants to sell F-35s to the UAE, potentially creating an F-35

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