Israel hints it could hit Iran's 'air force' in Syria

The Japan Times

JERUSALEM – Israel released details on Tuesday about what it described as an Iranian "air force" deployed in neighboring Syria, including civilian planes suspected of transferring arms, a signal that these could be attacked should tensions with Tehran escalate. Iran, along with Damascus and its big-power backer Russia, blamed Israel for an April 9 airstrike on a Syrian air base, T-4, that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members. Iranian officials have promised unspecified reprisals. Israeli media ran satellite images and a map of five Syrian air bases allegedly used to field Iranian drones or cargo aircraft, as well as the names of three senior IRGC officers suspected of commanding related projects, such as missile units. The information came from the Israeli military, according to a wide range of television and radio stations and news websites.


Airstrikes on Iran-backed groups in Syria apparently kill 18; Hezbollah claims downing of Israeli drone

The Japan Times

BEIRUT – Unknown warplanes targeted overnight an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, killing at least 18 fighters, Syrian opposition activists said Monday. The strikes come amid rising tensions in the Middle East and the crisis between Iran and the U.S. in the wake of the collapsing nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. An official with an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq blamed Israel for the airstrikes that hit in the eastern Syrian town of Boukamal. There was no immediate comment from Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that Iran has no immunity anywhere and that the Israeli military "will act -- and currently are acting -- against them."


Israel's shadow war with Iran bursts into the open

The Japan Times

JERUSALEM – The long shadow war between Israel and Iran has burst into the open in recent days, with Israel allegedly striking Iran-linked targets as far away as Iraq and crash-landing two drones in Hezbollah-dominated southern Beirut. These incidents, along with an air raid in Syria that Israel says thwarted an imminent Iranian drone attack, have raised tensions at a particularly fraught time. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking to project strength three weeks before national elections, while Iran has taken a series of provocative actions in recent months aimed at pressuring European nations to provide relief from crippling U.S. sanctions. Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, vowed to retaliate after a drone crashed on the militant group's Beirut media office and another exploded midair early Sunday. Israeli forces along the border with Lebanon are on high alert, raising fears of a repeat of the 2006 war.


Aramco attacks show firm's entanglement in Saudi politics

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – The weekend drone attack on one of the world's largest crude oil processing plants that dramatically cut into global oil supplies is the most visible sign yet of how Aramco's stability and security is directly linked to that of its owner -- the Saudi government and its ruling family. The strikes, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed on Iran despite staunch denials by Tehran, led to suspension of more than 5 percent of the world's daily crude oil production, bringing into focus just how vulnerable the company is to Saudi Arabia's conflicts outside the country's borders, particularly with regional rival Iran. That matters greatly because Aramco produces and exports Saudi Arabia's more than 9.5 million barrels of oil per day to consumers around the world, primarily in Asia. It also comes as the state-owned company heads toward a partial public sale. To prepare for an initial public offering, the company has recently taken steps to distance itself from the Saudi government, which is controlled by the Al Saud ruling family.


Yemeni Houthis claim drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Yemen's Houthi movement launched drone attacks on oil facilities in a remote area of Saudi Arabia, the group's Al Masirah TV said Saturday, but there was no immediate confirmation from Saudi authorities or state oil giant Aramco. A Saudi-led coalition is battling the Iran-aligned Houthis to try to restore Yemen's government, which was ousted from power in the capital, Sanaa, by the group in late 2014. The war has been in military stalemate for years. The Houthis have stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent months. "Ten drones targeted Aramco's Shaybah oilfield and refinery in the first Operation: Balance of Deterrence in the east of the kingdom," the Al Masirah channel reported, citing a Houthi military spokesman.