More Tension in the Middle East

Always on the lookout for potential end times events, these two caught my eyes as potential…

Peretz urges Israel to avoid verbal escalation with Syria

Responding to a Haaretz report that Syria is boosting its army and moving troops closer to its border with Israel, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Thursday that Israel should refrain from making further statements regarding Syria, and urged officials to avoid a verbal escalation of tensions.

Speaking at his weekly meeting with Defense Ministry officials, Peretz said that the situation would be assessed based on concrete information, and that the army would prepare itself as necessary.

Earlier Thursday, Israel Radio quoting Syrian parliament member Mohammed Habash as denying the Haaretz report. According to the radio, Habash told the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite channel that nothing has changed in terms of troop size along the border, but “Syria is fully prepared for any situation [that may develop].”

Habash warned that should “Israel decide to do something stupid, it would pay a heavy price.”

Addressing the charge that Syria’s military buildup is being funded by Iran, the radio quoted Habash as saying that the “cooperation between Damascus and Tehran is no secret, as both are being faced with a direct threat.”

The Syrian armed forces are being strengthened in an unprecedented way in recent memory with the help of generous funding from Iran and its troops appear to be moving closer to the border with Israel.

The Syrians are bolstering their forces in all areas except the air force, which has been believed to be weak for some time. The main emphasis of the efforts has been missiles and long-range rockets to compensate for the weak air force.

The Syrian navy, after years of neglect, is also being reinforced with an Iranian version of a Chinese anti-ship missile, similar to the one used by Hezbollah during the second Lebanon war to strike the Israeli destroyer INS Hanit.

In addition to the overall strengthening of the armed forces in Syria, there has been a redeployment of forces along the front lines. It appears that the Syrians have moved forces closer to the border with Israel on the Golan Heights.

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Fifth Fleet commander warns of ‘unprecedented tension’ in Gulf

ABU DHABI — Iran may pose a greater security threat to the strategic Persian Gulf than does Al Qaida, warned the U.S. Fifth Fleet commander at a news conference in Bahrain.

“We consider this moment in time unprecedented in terms of the amount of insecurity and instability that is in the region,” U.S. Fifth Fleet commander Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh said.

“Although our presence in the Arabian Gulf is for defensive and not offensive purposes, the U.S. will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or U.S. troops come under direct attack,” Walsh added.

At a news conference on Feb. 19 in Manama, Walsh said Iran could pose a greater threat to Gulf security than Al Qaida, Middle East Newsline reported. The naval commander said Iran’s frequent military exercises were meant to provoke tension in the region and threaten the closure of the Straits of Hormuz, which contains about 40 percent of global oil shipping.

“When you look at the recent Iranian exercises, in the last nine months, you see the open display and the implication of the use of mines,” Walsh said. “You also see and hear concerns and threats about the closure of the Strait of Hormuz.”

“What is different today to a year ago has been the number of exercises and the proximity of those exercises to the Strait of Hormuz,” Walsh said.

Walsh’s assertion represented the clearest signal of U.S. alarm concerning Iran’s threat to the region. Only two weeks earlier, leading U.S. naval commanders said the Iran Navy was acting with caution and seeking to avoid a conflict with the United States.

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