Volume X1, No. 4,251 • Mar. 5, 2018 • March 5, 2018

Syria | More About: Iran, TURKEY, Russia

Will We Ever Learn the Lessons of the Horrors in Syria?: Sarah N. Stern, JNS, Mar. 1, 2018— On Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the Ghouta region of Syria as “hell on earth.”

Containment: The Name of the Game on Israel's Northern Border: Yossi Melman, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 2, 2018— On Saturday February 8, Israel and Iran clashed over Syrian skies in an incident that was the closest the two countries have ever come to a direct military confrontation.

Americans and Russians Fought a Battle in Syria — It’s Time to Care: David French, National Review, Feb. 28, 2018— One of the interesting aspects of the Trump era is the extent to which our political culture is obsessing over marginalia while truly significant events transpire largely out of sight and out of mind.

Do Western "Goodists" Really Care about Helping Syrians, Palestinians?: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 5, 2018— It all happened around the same time, 200 kilometers apart.


On Topic Links


Danger in the North: PM Netanyahu Must Push Trump to Act: Ron Ben Yishai, Ynet, Mar. 3, 2018

Requiem for Syria: Bernard-Henri Lévy, Tablet, Feb. 28, 2018

Who Will Reconstruct Syria?: Roie Yellinek, BESA, Feb. 25, 2018

Analyzing the Latest Round of Big Military Moves in the Middle East: Shoshana Bryen, Breaking Israel News, Feb. 25, 2018






Sarah N. Stern

JNS, Mar. 1, 2018


On Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the Ghouta region of Syria as “hell on earth.” Approximately 400,000 people are trapped inside this embattled city — located outside of the Syrian capital of Damascus — that has been pulverized by the Iranian and Russian backed forces of Bashar al-Assad. In the last week alone, as many as 800 people in Ghouta have been massacred by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian axis.


The faces of the children inside this besieged enclave tell a harrowing story — their eyes gaunt from fear, and their bodies terribly thin from malnourishment. Most of the people are hiding in basements, or the remains of half-shelled-out buildings. Humanitarian organizations have had a difficult time delivering food and medicine there, because their convoys are prevented from coming through.


It has been seven years since the start of the Syrian war — the harshest conflict in the war-ravaged Middle East. Ceasefires have repeatedly been agreed to — and then promptly ignored. The violence all started innocently enough — when a young man, buoyed by hopes of the “Arab Spring” in 2010, scribbled a message on a school wall against Syrian dictator Assad. From there, the rapid descent into hell began, which spread throughout Syria — with a current estimate of 500,000 Syrians dead and millions displaced, also representing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.


But Ghouta, the heart of the anti-Assad rebellion, has been hit the hardest. It was the site of the infamous chemical attack that killed more than 1,000 civilians in August 2013. That attack left many more with horrific injuries, including the loss of limbs. It was in this city where the resolve of former President Barack Obama and the United States was tested — because Assad used those chemical weapons approximately one year and one day after Obama had said that if he saw chemical weapons being moved around or used, he would have to draw a “red line.” But when the time came, America failed its test miserably.


When America does not display strength, evil men and nations come crawling out of the woodwork — like the Iranian mullahs, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. After consistent years of brutal fighting, the war in Syria is not over, although the civil war might be extinguishing itself, with Assad left in power thanks to the help of Russia. However, this is not a beginning of the end. But it might be the end of the beginning. We might well be on the precipice of another, greater war — where superpowers are involved with competing interests that might intersect. Turkey, which would like to believe it is a superpower, has unleashed a particular round of fury against the Kurdish enclave in northwestern city of Afrin, Syria.


Muslim Brotherhood supporter Erdogan, who despises the Kurds, has used the chaos in Syria as an excuse to pummel this isolated region. The Kurdish enclave valiantly fought for its independent survival for at least a month, but these Kurds were badly pounded, and had been isolated and cut off from any aid from the United States. In desperation, they sought the help of Damascus in order to survive.


This is Syria today. It is one mass killing field atop of another, and the air space over the country is being used by superpowers and those that aspire to be superpowers to play out their hegemonic dreams (or in Putin’s case, to flex its muscles). At the same time, Lebanon has become overrun with Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and is now a huge base for the manufacturing of missiles.


On February 10, the Iranian-Syrian-Russian axis sent a drone missile into Israeli airspace in order to test Israel’s resolve. And, thank God, Israel — with its strong military — passed the test masterfully. The response was immediate. It was direct. And it was harsh. That is the only way to survive in the Middle East. And that is why it is so important that Israel always maintain its strategic depth and control of the high ground on the Golan Heights.


In 1994, during the heady days of the Oslo Accords, when everyone had stars in their eyes about making peace with terrorists, dictators and despots, I was part of a small band of people who worked very hard to inform the US Congress of a plan on the table to place American troops on the Golan Heights. This was conceived as a way to sweeten the bitter pill for American Jewry and the Israeli public for a withdrawal from the Golan Heights. This withdrawal was to be in exchange for a “peace treaty” signed with then-Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.


My friends and I opposed this plan, and were subject to some stinging criticisms. We knew that Assad was not to be trusted, but we were dubbed “enemies of peace.” Most of those who condemned us 24 years ago would not want to remember the position they took then. So the next time that Israel is coaxed to simply trade “land for peace” with current or potential terrorists, despots and dictators, I ask you to please remember the horrors of Ghouta and Afrin.                         







Yossi Melman

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 2, 2018


On Saturday February 8, Israel and Iran clashed over Syrian skies in an incident that was the closest the two countries have ever come to a direct military confrontation. Iran launched a drone from eastern Syria that penetrated Israeli airspace. An Israeli Apache helicopter downed the drone. In retaliation, the Israel Air Force attacked and destroyed the Iranian command and control center that operated the drone. Subsequently, clashes between the IAF and Syrian air defense system erupted.


But the military punches between Israel, Syria and Iran also contained a few more “firsts.” It was the first time that an Iranian unmanned drone penetrated Israeli space. In the past, Iranian-made drones which infiltrated Israel were operated by Hezbollah. This time, it was an all-Iranian operation led by the al-Quds Force under the command of General Qasem Soleimani – the decision, the launching, as well as the operational control and guidance.


It was also the first time that an Israeli warplane was downed by an enemy (Syrian) missile since the First Lebanon War in 1982. And it was the largest Israeli attack against Syrian anti-aircraft batteries since the same year during that war. Actually, Israel smashed half of the Syrian ground-to-air batteries, manufactured and supplied over the years by Russia. Both sides boasted about their achievements. Israeli generals praised their capabilities, which helped the IAF to identify, follow and eventually shoot down an advanced Iranian drone. An IAF senior officer indicated that it was a stealth drone modeled on a US unmanned vehicle.


On December 4, 2011, an American Lockheed Martin RQ-170 drone was captured by Iranian forces in northeastern Iran. The Iranian government announced that the drone was brought down by its cyber warfare unit, which commandeered the aircraft and safely landed it. Nevertheless, it seems that despite the enormous Iranian scientific and technological efforts, its reverse engineering wasn’t that successful and they failed to copycat the American materials, which should have made it completely undetected.


YET, IT didn’t stop the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria axis from celebrating the blow inflicted on the proud IAF. On the other hand, Israeli generals and cabinet ministers are proud of their achievements to obtain such precise intelligence that helped to destroy the Syrian air defense batteries. They also point out their operational capabilities which led to the interception and shooting down of the drone and to destroying its command center.


However, the basic reality and the conflicting interests of the involved parties have not changed. Israel remains the strongest military force in the region, and its air and intelligence supremacy are evident almost daily.


All in all, the incident indicates that the tension between Israel and Iran over its involvement in Syria and Lebanon is growing and not going away. Both sides are determined to keep pursuing their strategies.


Iran already succeeded in achieving one important goal, which has historic roots and dimensions. It has created a land corridor that in the opposing Arab-Sunni world is termed as the “Shi’ite Crescent.” The phrase was coined already in 2004 by King Abdullah of Jordan. It refers to the influence and control, which Iran has over a vast stretch of land extending from its Iranian base over Iraq, with its large Shi’ite population, to Syria, and from there to Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the 7th century, when the Shi’ites sought to be the dominant force in Islam, they never managed to get close to the Euphrates River. And now the Iranian Shi’ites are on the riverbanks in both Iraq and Syria.


Yet Iran is not fully satisfied with the situation. It continues to pursue its interests to deepen its involvement in Syria and benefit from the economic dividends once the war is over and wide stability is restored, enabling the Syrian regime led by President Bashar Assad to increase its control over the country. At the same time, Tehran seeks to use Syria as a future launching pad against Israel. For this purpose, it plans to build intelligence posts near the Syrian-Israeli border and build production facilities for long-range and precise missiles, mainly to supply them to its Hezbollah ally. Iran also plans to construct similar production sites in Lebanon itself.


Israel, on the other hand, aims to preserve its freedom of action in Syria and Lebanon to prevent the deployment of Iran’s troops or Iranian proxies (the Shi’ite international brigade mainly comprises Afghani, Iraqi and Pakistani mercenaries and Hezbollah) near its border, to stop weapons supplies to Hezbollah and to prevent the construction of missile factories. For that purpose, Israel employs both diplomacy and military strength. It uses Russia as an intermediary to convey its messages to the Syrian-Iranian- Hezbollah axis. And if they don’t get these messages, Israel uses its air force, which since the beginning of the civil war has attacked Syrian and Iranian targets at least 100 times. In most cases, Israel didn’t claim responsibility and left its operations opaque.


But Israel also doesn’t want to find itself in a direct military confrontation with the tripartite axis. It’s clear to Israeli military commanders and the cabinet that if a new war breaks out, it will be conducted on two fronts: Syria and Lebanon, with their huge arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets and missiles. Israel’s civilian population would suffer heavily. This Israeli perception was clearly demonstrated in the decision-making process to down the Iranian drone. Israel followed the drone from its first stage and decided to shoot it down not over Syrian or Jordanian airspace but to take action only after it entered Israeli airspace. Why? In order not to provoke Iran and give it a pretext for retaliation.


It seems that Iran doesn’t want to escalate the situation either. We can learn this from its response. Iran didn’t launch missiles against the Israeli planes, and the only ones to do so were the Syrians. First Iran denied that Israel shot down one of its aerial vehicles and then argued that the Israeli version was a lie and that it was downed over Syrian territory. All this is evidence that Tehran restrained itself to prevent an undesired escalation…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]






David French

National Review, Feb. 28, 2018


One of the interesting aspects of the Trump era is the extent to which our political culture is obsessing over marginalia while truly significant events transpire largely out of sight and out of mind. For example, late last year the Iraqi government announced the defeat of the ISIS caliphate within Iraqi borders — a significant moment, no doubt — but that same day Donald Trump got in a Twitter spat with the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel over the crowd size at a Pensacola rally. Guess which event got more coverage?


Part of this dynamic, of course, is the president’s fault. He should have trumpeted the allied victory and charted the road ahead. The caliphate was in ruins, but ISIS still exists. Where do we go from here? And part of this is the media’s fault. It’s just easier to follow the president’s lead. After all, that’s where the clicks are. It’s harder to look at the world and discern which stories truly matter. And that brings me to one of the most momentous mysteries of the new year. Did American and Russian forces just engage in a deadly clash in Syria, and was that clash the direct result of a Putin-approved effort to test American defenses? While Americans were arguing over Russian Facebook posts, did American air power and artillery leave up to 300 Russians dead on a Syrian battlefield?


Here’s the basic chronology. On the night of February 7, “pro-regime” Syrian forces reportedly launched an assault on a “known” American base. American forces defended themselves with attack helicopters, jets, and AC-130 gunships, and the attackers withdrew after taking significant casualties. That next week, on February 12, Reuters reported that at least two Russians died in the fighting, according to their associates. The Russian casualties were apparently contractors accompanying regime forces. By February 13, both the Washington Post and New York Times had picked up the story, and the number of rumored Russian dead swelled to “large numbers” or “dozens,” but — we were assured — there was no direct confrontation between Americans and members of the Russian military.


As rumors swirled online that the true number of Russian dead numbered in the hundreds, the Washington Post published a report suggesting that the attack on U.S. forces may have had official Russian backing: “A Russian oligarch believed to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month was in close touch with Kremlin and ­Syrian officials in the days and weeks before and after the assault, according to U.S. intelligence reports. In intercepted communications in late January, the oligarch, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, told a senior Syrian official that he had “secured permission” from an unspecified Russian minister to move forward with a “fast and strong” initiative that would take place in early February. This, by the way, is the same oligarch that special counsel Robert Mueller indicted for alleged criminal acts committed in the Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. Monday, Business Insider published unverified transcripts of “leaked audio recordings” from Russian mercenaries on the scene. The mercenaries describe a violent hellscape, where they were sitting ducks as American artillery and aircraft killed more than 200 of their comrades…


So, what is really going on here? Was this the kind of “fog of war” incident that’s nearly inevitable in a battlespace so crowded with competing militias, armies, and mercenaries? Or was it something else? Was Putin following his time-honored tactic of testing enemy will through the use of unmarked or proxy forces? Who can doubt the official sanction of the “little green men” in Crimea or the Russian “paramilitaries” in the Donbass conflict? Did a great power intentionally send its own citizens into a deliberate clash with American forces?...

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                






Giulio Meotti

Gatestone Institute, Mar. 5, 2018


It all happened around the same time, 200 kilometers apart. In one photo, Israeli schools were involved in a national drill in the event of a missile attack. In the other photo, a real missile attack in Syria caused 200 deaths, many of which were of children. On one side, you have Israel, a democracy forced to protect its children. On the other side, you have Syria, a brutal dictatorship where the civil war has caused more than 400,000 deaths.


Last month, an Israeli plane was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire. If the Syrian regime, backed by Iran and Russia, is willing to kill 200 innocent Syrians, just think what they would do to other countries' citizens, if they had the means. Yet, going by media reports of the incident, one would think that Israel had been the aggressor. How many resolutions has the United Nations dedicated against Syria the last year? Two. How many resolutions against Israel? 21. Both accurate reporting and international law have become distorted into serving as the enemies of humanity and civilization. The West is drowning in a sea of double standards and moral relativism: murderers and tyrants are allowed to wallow in their crimes, while global indignation is turned only against the sole democracy in the Middle East: Israel. Photo-opportunities must not be ruined by a row of bodies in a Syrian morgue; better to cover the story of a 17-year-old Palestinian Arab girl punching and kicking an Israeli soldier.


Israeli children running to bomb shelters periodically become a scene of ordinary life in Israel. Four-year-olds, such as Daniel Tragerman, are killed if they do not reach the shelter in time. Palestinian terrorists launch missiles into Israel from Gaza's schools and the world sides with the terrorists -- and condemns the Jewish State. The American website Salon recently called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "the most dangerous man in the Middle East". And here you thought it was Bashar al-Assad -- the poison-gasser in Damascus -- or perhaps Iran's tyrants at home, in Yemen and Lebanon, who were destabilizing the Middle East? Israeli soldiers were just wounded on the border of the Gaza Strip; Hamas missiles hit Israeli homes. And the world lectures Israel, under direct attack from its neighbors, about morality?


On September 11, 2005, after Israel totally disengaged from the Gaza Strip, CNN announced: "The Israeli flag has been lowered over Gaza, symbolizing the end of 38 years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory two weeks ahead of schedule". All the same, since then, "the Israeli occupation of Gaza", sometimes called a "siege", is promoted as a myth, even though Israel ships massive amounts of food, medicine and humanitarian supplies to Gaza every day, while Egypt, except for rare occasions, keeps its border with Gaza shut. Israel, even now, is working with Qatar, an emirate that does not recognize the Jewish State, to allow aid into Gaza. Israeli hospitals have never stopped treating Palestinians, even during wars in Gaza. Last year, one single Israeli hospital in Gaza treated 400 children from the Gaza Strip. Even the daughter of Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's leader in Gaza, was admitted to a Tel Aviv hospital.


In Syria, by comparison, Assad continues to bomb the country's hospitals. Since 2011, 454 attacks have targeted 310 medical facilities in Syria. So, which country does the World Health Organization single out to probe for healthcare "abuse"? Israel, of course. According to both Israeli and Palestinian estimates, Hamas spends $100 million a year on military infrastructure in Gaza, of which $40 million of the annual total goes to digging its terror-attack tunnels. According to another estimate by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, that money could instead have built 1,500 homes, 24,000 hospital beds, six medical clinics and three water facilities. Rather than manufacturing missiles to launch against Israel, Hamas could build a water-desalination plant. But Hamas continues to use its imported cement to reinforce its terror tunnels, rather than, as promised, building homes, schools and hospitals; and it continues using Palestinian schools as launching-pads for rockets they fire at Israeli kindergartens…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    






On Topic Links


Danger in the North: PM Netanyahu Must Push Trump to Act: Ron Ben Yishai, Ynet, Mar. 3, 2018—While the Syrian civil war is apparently winding down, fighting will most likely not conclude in 2018, since the Russians or the United Nations—in their attempts to reach a political settlement to engender calm—have thus far failed in fostering accord between all of the disparate factors and interests involved. They can't even get them all to sit down at the same negotiating table.

Requiem for Syria: Bernard-Henri Lévy, Tablet, Feb. 28, 2018—There will be more ceasefires in Eastern Ghouta and more violations thereof. More resolutions from the United Nations laboriously pursued by France and blithely gutted of all meaning by Russia.

Who Will Reconstruct Syria?: Roie Yellinek, BESA, Feb. 25, 2018—The fighting in Syria that began in 2011 between President Bashar Assad and the opposition forces seems to have reached its final stages. It is almost certain that the Syrian president will remain in power. Assad will be the one to lead Syria in the coming years, and he will have to deal with the reconstruction of the shattered country.

Analyzing the Latest Round of Big Military Moves in the Middle East: Shoshana Bryen, Breaking Israel News, Feb. 25, 2018—There are lessons to be learned from Iran firing a drone into Israeli airspace and Israel’s destruction of about half of Syria’s air defense capabilities in response…







Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

Prof. Harold Waller Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)

Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)

Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research) Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

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