Australia/Israel Review


Behind the News – July 2023

Jun 28, 2023 | AIJAC staff

Iran’s new hypersonic missile unveiled (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
Iran’s new hypersonic missile unveiled (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

ROCKET AND TERROR REPORT

No rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel between the end of Operation Shield and Arrow on May 13 and June 21. 

On June 20, two Palestinian terrorists affiliated with Hamas carried out a shooting attack against Israeli civilians at a restaurant near Eli in the West Bank, murdering four and wounding four others. Both terrorists were subsequently killed, one during the attack, the other while attempting to flee hours later.

In response to this attack, groups of Israeli settlers torched cars and crops, and threw stones at Palestinians in villages near the West Bank city of Nablus. One person was killed in these riots and dozens injured. 

On June 19, eight Israeli troops were wounded either by a roadside bomb or by gunfire during a raid in Jenin to arrest two wanted terror suspects. Six Palestinian gunmen and one civilian were killed in the intense battle which followed, which included an Israeli helicopter firing missiles to facilitate the evacuation of the wounded. 

Three Israeli soldiers were killed on June 3 by a rogue Egyptian border policeman who infiltrated the Sinai border, prompting an IDF probe into the security breach. 

Numerous attempted and actual shooting, stabbing and car-ramming attacks targeting both the IDF and civilians occurred in the West Bank between mid-May and mid-June, most without casualties.

 

US APPROVES PAYMENT OF BILLIONS TO IRAN

On June 10, the US allowed Iraq to indirectly pay off US$2.7 billion of its energy debt to Iran via a restricted account in Iraq that Iran can only access “for humanitarian and other non-sanctionable transactions by US-approved third parties.” 

While smaller similar payments have been routine since 2018, analysts say the US approval for this larger payment in Euros was likely a goodwill gesture to Teheran – intended to bolster indirect US-Iran talks occurring in Oman in pursuit of a limited and informal “understanding” that would see Iran limit its nuclear activity in exchange for the US providing some sanctions relief. 

 

IAEA: IRAN CAN PRODUCE 8 WARHEADS IN 3 MONTHS

The June 2023 IAEA reports on Iran indicate that Iran has amassed enough highly enriched uranium to produce sufficient military-grade fissile material for one nuclear warhead within 12 days, and eight warheads in three months. 

The IAEA also said that Iranian excuses regarding the uranium enriched to near weapons-purity (83.7%) found at Fordow in March was “not inconsistent” with other available information. In addition, IAEA investigations into two alleged undeclared old nuclear sites at Varamin and Turquzabad have been shelved, with the agency saying it has “no more questions” about them, meaning that it has given up on getting genuine answers about them from the Iranians. 

 

NEW IRANIAN UNDERGROUND NUCLEAR SITE 

Reports, photos and satellite imagery released in mid-May revealed that Iran is building a new nuclear facility deep underground next to its existing Natanz site. Built inside a mountain, the new plant will allegedly be able to withstand potential airstrikes by Israel or the US. While Iran says the facility is a future centrifuge manufacturing workshop, experts caution that it could also be used for uranium enrichment. 

Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant revealed on May 22 that Iran has been transforming civilian ships into “floating terror bases”. These large vessels, said Gallant, are already partially operational, and will carry various types of weaponry, aircraft, missiles and intelligence systems to be deployed far from Iranian shores with the aim of threatening sea shipping routes. 

 

IRAN CLAIMS SIGNIFICANT MISSILE ADVANCES

On June 6, Iran unveiled its new “Fattah” hypersonic missile, claiming that it can travel up to 1,400 km at 14 times the speed of sound and bypass Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence shield. Israeli military experts have said that, while Iran’s new missile is an impressive original design, it does not present a threat to Israel and cannot bypass Israel’s defence systems, despite Iranian claims. 

This announcement by Iran came on top of its reportedly successful testing of a conventional ballistic missile in May with a potential range of 2,000 km – far enough to hit Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems announced on June 14 that it is midway through developing a new defence system, dubbed “Sky Sonic”, for countering all kinds of hypersonic missiles.

 

BRITISH UNIS ALLEGEDLY ASSISTED IRAN’S DRONE PROGRAM

According to an investigation by the Jewish Chronicle released in early June, scientists from at least 11 British universities, including Cambridge and Imperial College London, have unwittingly contributed to Iran’s drone program through research projects. According to the report, staff across the universities produced up to 16 studies with potential Iranian military applications, including working with Iranian counterparts to test sophisticated new control systems for jet engines aimed at increasing their “manoeuvrability and response time,” and an Iranian-funded project to improve drone engines, boosting their altitude, speed and range. 

 

UN REPORT ATTACKS ISRAEL’S SUPPORTERS

The UN’s notoriously one-sided “Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel” presented its third report to the UN Human Rights Council in early June. In addition to the usual findings alleging Israeli human rights abuses, and calls for international criminal prosecution of Israel, this report accused Israel of silencing Palestinian civil society. It also attacked the 35 US states that have enacted legislation against boycotts of Israel, and demanded that Israel’s non-governmental supporters be held accountable for facilitating Israel’s alleged human rights abuses. 

 

IRAN AND QATAR’S NEW UN POSITIONS CRITICISED

On June 1, Iran was elected as a vice-president of the UN General Assembly and rapporteur of the UN’s Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Committee. On June 6, Qatar was appointed to head the International Labour Organisation’s annual conference. Both elevations have drawn condemnation from critics. 

Qatar is known for its mistreatment of migrant workers, and it has been estimated that at least 6,500 migrant workers died on the job during preparations for last year’s FIFA World Cup there.

Critics also noted that it is bizarre to appoint Iran to help oversee “Disarmament and Non-Proliferation” when Teheran is well-known for destabilising the Middle East by arming murderers and terrorists, pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities in violation of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty and illegally exporting drones and other weapons to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

 

ISRAELI FM VISITS PHILIPPINES, SOUTH KOREA

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visited the Philippine capital of Manila on June 5 in a historic visit aimed at strengthening bilateral ties in the areas of trade, tourism, and security. It was the first official visit to the Philippines by an Israeli foreign minister in 56 years.

Accompanied by a delegation of Israeli businesspeople, Cohen met with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo and other senior officials. It was also revealed that plans were being renewed to launch direct flights between Tel Aviv and Manila. 

Cohen and a separate group of businesspeople then travelled on to South Korea for additional talks.

 


Stranger than Fiction

Intelligence Failure

Shi’ite Islam’s early history is laced with tragedy. The first Shi’ite Imam, the Caliph Ali, was assassinated with a poisoned sword by a dissident while at prayer. Ali’s oldest son, Hassan, the second Shi’ite Imam, was briefly caliph until he abdicated in favour of a stronger rival, Umayyad ruler Mu’awiya. 

Hassan died prematurely, probably by poisoning. Mu’awiya, who wanted his own son to succeed him, is suspected of complicity, possibly with the help of Hassan’s wife.

The next Shi’ite Imam, Hassan’s younger brother Hussein, was killed with most of his family at the Battle of Karbala by followers of Mu’awiya’s son Yazid, after Yazid became caliph and Hussein refused to swear loyalty to him. 

However, Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militia Asaib ahl al-Haq, has a surprising wrinkle on all this bloodletting – Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, founded in 1949, was responsible for all of it! 

A video shows al-Khazali claiming, “The Jews! The Jews! The Jews! They assassinated Hassan… by using a woman. The Umayyads were mere collaborators with the Jews. Then they assassinated Imam Hussein.” 

He also claimed, “What had been the modus operandi of the Israeli-Jewish intelligence agency?… How do they get their sources? It is either through money or through women. Right? In this case, it was a woman. There is no doubt that she worked for the Israeli Mossad back then, and through her, they recruited [Ali’s killer]. (Translation by Middle East Media Research Institute)

It’s hardly surprising an Iranian proxy is making wildly antisemitic claims – that is commonplace. What is surprising about these claims is that the Iranian regime and its proxies usually assert Israel is a cancerous foreign implant in the region – yet one now says Israeli institutions have been there since the birth of Islam in the 7th century!

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