‘More Israeli strikes against Iranian positions likely as Tehran seeks to destabilize region,’ says analyst

Fragments of a Syrian anti-aircraft missile found in Alonei Abba, about 2 miles (3.2 km) from where the remains of a crashed F-16 Israeli warplane were found, at the village of Alonei Abba, Israel February 10, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 11 February 2018
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‘More Israeli strikes against Iranian positions likely as Tehran seeks to destabilize region,’ says analyst

JEDDAH: Saturday’s sudden military escalation between Israel and the Assad regime may be a harbinger of what lies ahead as the Syrian fighting winds down and an emboldened Iran establishes a military presence that Israel vows it will never accept, analysts told Arab News.
“We can expect more Israeli strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah positions on Syrian soil in the future as Tehran seeks to further destabilize the region,” said Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program.
The escalation also shows that “Iran is at the helm of what remains of Assad’s military, and has supplanted any semblance of Syrian sovereignty,” he said.
“The Assad regime’s military suffered a major blow as a result of Iran’s military incursion. The Israeli airforce counterattack destroyed a significant portion of Assad’s long range SA-5 integrated air defense network outside Damascus.”
Gerald Feierstein, the US Ambassador to Yemen and director for Gulf affairs at the Middle East Institute, said: “Even though both sides are indicating that they don’t seek an escalation, the heightened tensions and the proximity of all of these forces are a clear threat.
“These kind of incidents can spin out of control with unintended consequences. The possibility that Russia and the US could be pulled into a confrontation between Israel, Syria and Iran should make everyone very worried.”
In Washington, the Pentagon said: “We share the concerns of many throughout the region over Iran’s destabilizing activities that threaten international peace and security, and we seek greater international resolve in countering Iran’s malign activities.”
Other analysts said they did not expect further escalation for now, but suggested the heavy anti-aircraft fire showed Syria was more emboldened to stop Israel’s strikes.
Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group said Russia should mediate since “it is the only stakeholder which has strong relations with all sides today.
“This incident signals a new phase … of the war in Syria,” he said.


British defense contractor under fraud investigation over suspected corruption in Algeria

Updated 12 min 18 sec ago
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British defense contractor under fraud investigation over suspected corruption in Algeria

LONDON: Ultra Electronics on Thursday announced that the UK’s Serious Fraud Office had opened a criminal investigation into “suspected corruption in the conduct of business” by the British defense contractor in Algeria.
Ultra said in a statement that it had referred itself to the British fraud authorities and that the SFO investigation concerned the business conduct of Ultra, its subsidiaries, employees and associated persons.
“Given the stage of these matters, it is not possible to estimate reliably what effect the outcome of this matter may have on the group,” Ultra said, adding that it continued to co-operate with the SFO.
The SFO in a statement said it was looking into Ultra but said it could not provide additional information as the investigation “is live.”
Ultra shares were down 6 percent in early trade.
The SFO’s investigation into Ultra, which makes military electronics for land, air and sea forces, follows probes into other British companies operating in the defense sector including Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems.
Ultra Electronics’s biggest market is North America with just 17 percent of its revenue coming from what it calls “rest of the world.” It does not mention Algeria in its annual report.
Ultra, which last month abandoned a bid for US company Sparton Corp. due to anti-trust concerns, is currently without a chief executive.
Douglas Caster assumed the role of executive chairman last year after the previous CEO quit. New CEO Simon Pryce is due to join in June.
The SFO has been criticized by lawmakers in the past over its efforts to bring companies and senior individuals to book. More recently it has secured deferred prosecution agreements with Rolls-Royce and Tesco and filed unprecedented criminal charges against Barclays and former senior executives.