Daily Archives: December 3, 2014

Iran jets bomb Islamic State targets in Iraq – Pentagon

Iran has conducted air strikes against Islamic State (IS) targets in eastern Iraq during recent days, a Pentagon spokesman says.

Rear Adm John Kirby said the US, which has conducted its own air strikes in Iraq, was not co-ordinating with Iran.

A senior Iranian military official also dismissed talk of co-operation.

Representatives of the US-led international coalition against IS are gathering at Nato headquarters in Brussels for a summit.

The talks chaired by US Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss military strategy as well as ways to stem the flow of foreign fighters joining IS and how to counter its propaganda, officials told AFP news agency.

The ministers meeting will discuss ways to send “counter-messages” to de-legitimise IS, which has been adept at using social media to promote its cause, an unnamed senior US state department official told AFP.

“As we are able to de-legitimise [IS], we are able to turn populations against [IS], reduce their recruiting basis,” he added.

‘Nothing changed’

The US has said it would be inappropriate for Iran to join the coalition, even though the two long-time adversaries face a common enemy in IS.

A jet filmed over Iraq by Qatari-based broadcaster al-Jazeera has been identified by Jane’s Defence Weekly as an Iranian Phantom.

Rear Adm Kirby’s comments followed reports that American-made F4 Phantom jets from the Iranian air force had been targeting IS positions in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala.

“We have indications that they did indeed fly air strikes with F-4 Phantoms in the past several days,” he said.

It was up to Iraq to oversee and co-ordinate flights by different countries in its airspace, he added.

“We are flying missions over Iraq, we co-ordinate with the Iraqi government as we conduct those,” he said. “It’s up to the Iraqi government to deconflict that airspace.”

“Nothing has changed about our policy of not co-ordinating military activity with the Iranians.”

‘No place for US’

The Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Brig-Gen Massoud Jazayeri also denied collaboration.

He said Iran considered the US responsible for Iraq’s “unrest and problems”, adding that the US would “definitely not have a place in the future of that country”.

Shia Muslim-ruled Iran has close ties to Iraq’s Shia-led government, which struggled to counter IS militants as they seized swathes of territory in eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq.

Military analysts said earlier this year that Iran was supplying Iraq with Soviet-built Sukhoi Su-25 attack jets to help in the fight against IS.

Shia militias trained and funded by Iran have also been sent to Iraq to support Kurdish fighters battling IS militants.

Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, the US and Iran have had a fraught relationship.

Washington severed ties the following year after Iranian students occupied the US embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. They were freed in 1981.



Knesset to hold vote on dissolution, date for elections

Motion follows collapse of Netanyahu’s coalition; polls indicate likely win for Likud; Arab parties to unite

Israeli lawmakers will hold a vote Wednesday on the dissolution of Knesset and setting a date for the upcoming elections – less than two years after the previous polls – following a tumultuous week that saw the collapse of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.

Knesset party heads will meet with Speaker Yuli Edelstein to discuss the specifics of the general elections, which will likely occur in March 2015.

After the meeting, a motion to dissolve the current Knesset will undergo a preliminary reading, where it will likely be approved before being finalized on Monday.

Netanyahu on Tuesday announced early elections after having dismissed senior coalition partners and centrist leaders Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

“In the current situation and with the current government, it is impossible to lead,” Netanyahu said at a press conference.

“I will not tolerate an opposition in my government,” he said of the sackings, adding that he would call for the parliament to be dissolved “as soon as possible.”

“I won’t accept ministers attacking the policy and head of the government from within,” he said in a statement. “In a word — it’s called a putsch.”

“Frequent elections are not a good thing, but a government with no governance and ministers acting against it from within is much worse,” he said in televised remarks.

The Yesh Atid party, which is headed by Lapid, condemned Netanyahu’s decision, saying the PM “failed in his management of the country and in dealing with the needs of the Israeli public.”

“The firing of ministers is an act of cowardice and loss of control,” a party statement read. “We are sad to see that the prime minister has chosen to act without consideration for the national interests and to drag Israel into unnecessary elections – which will harm the economy and Israeli society – all for narrow political interests and a surrender to the ultra-orthodox parties, the powerful central committee of the Likud and outside lobby groups. ”

The remaining Yesh Atid ministers also tendered their resignations following the dismissal of Lapid.

In a phone conversation between the PM and Lapid, the latter said, “I expect you to act responsibly and to stop dragging the IDF and our soldiers into an election for your political needs.”

Polls indicate likely victory for Likud

Polls conducted by two major Israeli TV stations indicate that Netanyahu’s Likud party would make significant gains at the expense of Lapid and Livni’s parties if elections were held today, with 22 seats. The Jewish Home party would win 17 seats, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party 12 seats, Labor 13 seats, Yesh Atid nine, Arab parties 13, Meretz seven and Livni’s Hatnua four.

Following the announcement Arab party leaders met to discuss the possibility of joining forces.

United Arab List-Ta’al, Balad and Hadash are looking to work together especially since the threshold for participating in the Knesset was raised from 2 to 3.25 percent in March 2014.

“Now, more than any elections in the past, we must act with the utmost responsibility and create a united Arab list that will keep the unique political platforms for each party, while raising the level of Arab representation from 11 seats to 16,” Balad MK Hanin Zoabi was quoted by Israeli news site Ynet as saying. “There is no way to deal with the rising racism without uniting the Arab parties.”

Sources told Ynet that the parties agreed in theory to unite, but that issues remain over who will lead a unified party.

The US State Department issued a statement regarding the announcement of early elections in Israel, saying that it hoped the new Israeli government would be open to resuming peace negotiations.

Secretary of State John Kerry refrained from making any specific comments about the coalition collapse, but did say that: “We will continue to be supportive of our friend and our ally, the state of Israel.”


FBI continues to investigate former CIA director General Petraeus

Former CIA director and retired general David H. Petraeus

Current and former US intelligence officials say the FBI still has an open investigation into whether David Petraeus improperly provided highly classified documents to a mistress. The case has been open since 2012, when he resigned as CIA director.

While the FBI was investigating an unrelated email cyber stalking complaint, they discovered David Petraeus’ extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer. Though that discovery led to Petraeus’ resignation, the FBI still has an open investigation into whether Petraeus improperly provided highly classified documents to Broadwell. The unauthorized material was found on Broadwell’s personal computer.

“It was inappropriately shared and it should never have been shared,” one former senior intelligence official told Bloomberg News.

The FBI cleared Broadwell of the cyber stalking charges. Yet two US officials familiar with the investigation said she was never authorized to receive the classified documents found on her computer because “it included compartmentalized intelligence that only a handful of very senior officials were approved to view,” according to Bloomberg News

Paula Broadwell

That breach in the eyes of the FBI is a serious matter despite President Obama saying Petraeus never endangered national security.

At the time of the investigation in 2012, both Petraeus and Broadwell denied to investigators that he was the source of any classified information, officials said.

Since the scandal broke, the former general began working with private-equity firm KKR, and has academic posts at Harvard and the University of Southern California. Still, White House sources told Bloomberg that the Obama administration has sought his advice on the fight against the Islamic State, and still has his security clearance.

All of us who know him and are close to him are mystified by the fact there is still this investigation into him,” said Jack Keane, a retired four-star US Army General, and an adviser and mentor to Petraeus.

Keane questions whether the ongoing investigation may be driven by something other than a desire to investigate a potential crime. “It makes you wonder if there is another motivation to drag an investigation out this long,” he said.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utha), the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the investigation needs to end if there are no charges coming.

If he has done something wrong, charge him, if he has not, let him go,” he said. “At this point I don’t know what their motivation is. But I worry they will let this linger until the President leaves office.