TENSIONS RISE BETWEEN ISRAEL & IRAN OVER TEHRAN’S SYRIAN ADVENTURES

AS WE GO TO PRESS: MISSILE STRIKES ON SYRIAN MILITARY BASE KILL DOZENS — Missile strikes on Syrian bases overnight killed dozens of pro-regime forces, raising the risks of a wider regional war just weeks after Israel was blamed for hitting an air station in the country used by Iranian elite forces. “Enemy missiles” targeted military bases in Aleppo and Hama, Syrian state news agency SANA reported Monday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 27 people, most of them Iranians, were killed. The base in Aleppo is also widely thought to be used by Iranian forces and allied militias. Syrian media close to the regime of President Assad said photos from the site revealed Israel as being behind the attack, purportedly using GBU-39 bombs fired by F-35 jet fighters. Israeli military declined to comment, in line with a policy of neither confirming nor denying strikes in Syria. (Wall Street Journal, Apr. 30, 2018)

 

Threatening Regional Storm Clouds: Isi Leibler, Israel Hayom, Apr. 25, 2018 — Notwithstanding the exuberance of Israelis at the jubilant 70th Independence Day celebrations, justified in light of Israel’s extraordinary achievements and progress on both the diplomatic and defense fronts, the Jewish state will be facing major challenges over the next few months.

Stopping the S-300: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 28, 2018— Russia’s s-300 surface-to-air missile platform is one of the most sophisticated air defense systems in the world.

Tensions Intensify As Israel Endeavors To Keep Iran From Growing A Second Proxy State On Its Border: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Apr. 27, 2018 — Tensions between Iran and Israel have risen significantly following a military strike on an airbase in central Syria this month that targeted an Iranian military presence.

220 Airstrikes on Palestinians; World Yawns: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 26, 2018— While all eyes are set on the weekly demonstrations organized by Hamas and other Palestinian factions along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel…

On Topic Links

Who are Iran’s 80,000 Shi’ite Fighters in Syria?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 28, 2018

Donald Trump, Syria and the Prevention of Genocide: Louis Rene Beres, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 25, 2018

Nobel Knock-Offs and the Syrian Chemical Weapons Charade: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Apr. 26, 2018

How Hezbollah Will Use Foreign Fighters to Conquer Lebanon: David Daoud, Ha’aretz, Apr. 27, 2018

 

THREATENING REGIONAL STORM CLOUDS

Isi Leibler

Israel Hayom, Apr. 25, 2018

Notwithstanding the exuberance of Israelis at the jubilant 70th Independence Day celebrations, justified in light of Israel’s extraordinary achievements and progress on both the diplomatic and defense fronts, the Jewish state will be facing major challenges over the next few months.

Until recently, largely due to the effective diplomacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel was in an ideal situation, receiving the support of the Trump administration as well as enjoying a unique relationship with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. This, despite Putin’s determination to retain influence in Syria and his wish not to breach his cordial relations with the Iranians who, for their own reasons, have played a key role in assisting him to save Syrian President Bashar Assad from oblivion. However, this has encouraged the Iranians to overtly create military bases in Syria while shamelessly and repeatedly proclaiming their determination to wipe Israel off the map, which Israel regards as serious, potentially existential threats.

Until now, frequent consultations between Israel and Russia have served to avoid conflicts. Israel refrained from engaging in activities intended to bring about regime change or threaten Russia’s regional interests. In turn, the Russians did not react to Israel’s repeated bombing incursions in Syria to neutralize arms shipments to Hezbollah or prevent the Iranians from advancing toward its northern borders. Unfortunately, Israel is now finding it extremely difficult to maintain these delicate balances. Assad’s employment of chemical weapons against his own citizens has outraged the international community which, until only recently, had been passive while hundreds of innocent civilians were butchered weekly by Assad’s forces.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who, to Israel’s dismay, had announced his intention to withdraw all American troops from Syria, then reversed his decision and succeeded in persuading the French and British to join him in a joint military intervention to punish the Syrians. It was a strictly limited operation in which four major installations were destroyed with minimal casualties because the Syrians were made aware of the potential targets and evacuated them in advance. It was not an attempt to achieve regime change. But even this limited operation contrasted starkly with former President Barack Obama’s cowardly failure to follow up previous threats when the Syrians engaged in chemical warfare.

However, the tension between Israel and the Iranians has escalated. The Iranians have been employing Lebanese and Palestinian surrogates to carry out their terror activity and in February, in what was their first direct attack on Israel, the Iranians dispatched a drone from one of their Syrian air bases carrying explosives intended to devastate a location in Israel. It was shot down by an Israeli Apache helicopter. Israel made it clear that Iranian bases in Syria were unacceptable and launched a retaliatory raid, targeting the major T4 air base in central Syria and in which an F-16 fighter jet was lost. In a second wave of strikes, Israel destroyed a significant percentage of Syria’s air defenses, which also incurred Iranian casualties. Although no Russians were injured, the Putin government criticized Israel for this foray. Following the Syrian chemical attack on April 9, Israel was alleged to have launched additional long-range surface-to-air missiles, which were said to have destroyed the Iranian control center and killed 14, including seven Iranians, one of whom headed the drone unit. The Russians protested and the Iranians swore to retaliate.

Against the backdrop of these tensions on the Syrian front, early this month Hamas initiated a campaign in which it enlisted thousands of Gaza residents to breach the Israeli border. Hamas gunmen and fighters hurling Molotov cocktails were interspersed with the civilian demonstrators. The IDF took defensive action, using live gunfire where necessary against those using assault weapons or trying to penetrate the borders. Thousands were injured and dozens, primarily identifiable Hamas terrorists, were killed. Despite photographic documentation of the violence, the employment of human shields including women and children, and the repeated statements by Hamas leaders that the objective was to bring back the refugees and destroy Israel, the U.N. Security Council sought to condemn Israel for responding “disproportionately.” The resolution was vetoed by the U.S. The atmosphere throughout the region is extremely tense and Israel is girding itself for the possibility that war could erupt at any time on any front…

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

 

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STOPPING THE S-300

Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 28, 2018

Russia’s s-300 surface-to-air missile platform is one of the most sophisticated air defense systems in the world. It is for that exact reason that Israel and the united states have worked tirelessly over the years to prevent its delivery to Iran and why Israel is now working to stop it from getting to Syria. The real question concerns Russia’s intentions and why it recently announced its intention to deliver the system to the Bashar Assad’s military.

What makes the s-300 a cause of such concern in Israel is that it has the reported ability to track up to a hundred targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12 at the same time. It has a range of about 200 kilometers and can hit targets at altitudes of 27,000 meters. Moscow has already deployed the system in Syria – as well as the more advanced s-400 – but they are under the control of the Russian military. The new systems would be given to the Syrians.

This poses two problems for Israel. First is the possibility that it will be used to shoot down Israeli aircraft. Due to its long range, it can reach deep into Israel and hit planes taking off and landing at Ben Gurion Airport, not to mention Israel Air Force jets operating over Syria. In addition, there is the possibility that Syria will transfer the system to Hezbollah in Lebanon, further undermining Israel’s operational freedom and aerial superiority in the region. In Israel, there have traditionally been two schools of thought with regard to the severity of the s-300 threat. On the one hand, there are those like former air force commander Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ido Nehushtan who said a few years ago: “We need to make every effort to stop this system from getting to places where the IAF needs to operate or may need to operate in the future.”

Other officials have been less concerned and claim that … if and when the s-300 is delivered to Iran or Syria, Israel will be able to develop an electronic warfare system to neutralize it. The problem is that delivery of this system to Syria could lead to a war. Defense minister Avigdor Liberman told Ynet last week that if the s-300 is used against Israel, “we will act against it.” Moscow has reportedly warned of catastrophic consequences if Israel attacks the system once it reaches Syria.

Russia’s aim seems to be, on the one hand, an attempt to bolster the regime of Bashar Assad that it has been fighting to keep in power for the last few years. At the same time, it wants to use the threat of delivering the system to Syria as diplomatic leverage in its dealings with the United States over the future of the middle east. What Israel will do if the s-300 is delivered to Syria remains to be seen. It will have to navigate between destroying a system that could significantly under – mine its capabilities and at the same time avoiding a direct military confrontation with Moscow.

Russia should be careful. It is true that it has deployed significant military assets in Syria, but Israel has proven over the last few years that a Russian presence does not stop it from acting against strategic threats. The IAF has carried out more than 100 strikes against targets in Syria in recent years, most recently, according to foreign sources, on an Iranian drone base. Russia should not be allowed to get away with whatever it wants in Syria. US president Donald Trump has already accused Vladimir Putin of responsibility for allowing Assad to gas his own people, but he needs to keep the pressure on the Russian leader to stop the delivery of the s-300.

It is in Israel’s interest that Syria be stabilized, but it is in the world’s interest that weapons do not proliferate to terrorist groups and terrorist regimes. Giving the Syrian military the s-300 achieves the exact opposite. The world needs to act now to stop that from happening.

 

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TENSIONS INTENSIFY AS ISRAEL ENDEAVORS TO KEEP IRAN FROM GROWING A SECOND PROXY STATE ON ITS BORDER

Yaakov Lappin

IPT News, Apr. 27, 2018

Tensions between Iran and Israel have risen significantly following a military strike on an airbase in central Syria this month that targeted an Iranian military presence. Iran blames Israel for the strike and is threatening to respond. But this incident is merely a symptom of a much larger event unfolding in the region, which is Iran’s pursuit of a grand, expansionist plan for the Middle East, and Israel’s determination to disrupt this dangerous process.

Media reports speculated about what was hit at the T4 Syrian airbase on April 9. One report said it was an Iranian surface-to-air missile system, while others suggested it was an Iranian armed drone program. What’s clear is that several members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) were killed in the attack on the airbase, and Iran quickly blamed the strike on Israel. Since then, Iranian officials have unleashed a series of threats, promising retribution.

In response, the Israeli defense establishment appears to have sent its own warning, reportedly releasing maps of Syria that show the location of Iranian military assets, thereby reminding the Iranians of what they stand to lose if this conflict escalates. Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, responding to a flurry of Iranian threats on Tel Aviv and Haifa, told a Saudi media outlet that any attack on Tel Aviv would be answered by a retaliatory strike on Tehran.

Yet these events, while indicating a surge in tensions, are actually part of a wider and more disturbing picture. Iran is following a grand, long-term plan made up of multiple stages, which is designed to make it the dominant Middle Eastern power, able to activate armies of terrorist-guerilla forces. Iran is working patiently toward this goal, employing the ‘strategy of a thousand cuts’ to move into Syria.  Ideologically, Iran remains committed to the idea of exporting the Shi’ite Islamic fundamentalist revolution, as espoused by the regime, far and wide. From the start, it cast itself “as an Islamic Revolution for Muslims throughout the world.”

The Islamic Republic continues to view the doctrine of its founding father and first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomenei, as a cornerstone for its policies, Doron Itzchakov, a research associate at the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Khomenei preached “Shi’ite activism,” and set up a regime based on defining the enemy as the West and Israel, Itzchakov said. Khomenei also called for spreading the “Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist” model, which the regime in Tehran bases itself on, far and wide. Later on in his life, Khomenei called for the establishment of a “resistance axis,” a call that today provides legitimacy for the IRGC’s subversive activities across the region.

The Iranian regime also creates its own definition of “repressed” and “repressor,” and uses that as a justification for spreading its influence and military activities, Itzchakov said. Iran’s religious elite use the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the eight-year long Iran-Iraq war, as proof of divine backing, and they regularly make use of concepts of defensive and offensive jihad to justify Iran’s activities, he added.

To be sure, some segments of Iran’s population do not buy into the regime’s position, and have recently become more emboldened to say so. Chanting “not Gaza, not Lebanon, I give my life for Iran,” Iranian protesters, driven by major economic troubles, recently made it clear they oppose spreading out in the region and investing treasure for that purpose, before the protests were crushed.

Despite such protests, the Iranian regime continues to exploit deep-rooted hatred for Israel, a hatred that was embodied by Khomeini, as “a mechanism to prove that it is sticking to his path, and therefore, when it comes to Israel, there is a consensus among the various factions in the Iranian regime,” Itzchakov added. Iran relies heavily on Khomenei’s tenets, but there is no doubt that its program to spread Iranian hegemony in the area stems “from geopolitical and geo-strategic motivations, which illustrate its ambition to lead the Muslim world,” he said.

This strategy, if successful, would turn Iran into an actor to be reckoned with: a state able to control large swaths of territories beyond its borders. As part of that vision, Iran is creating a land corridor linking Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea, via Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon – a corridor it could use to move military forces and proxies. The IRGC was once limited to being the overseer of ground operations in Syria, organizing, supporting, and advising the combatants fighting for the Assad regime. But now, it is attempting to set up its own permanent military presence in Syria.

Iran would like to flood Syria with more radical Shi’ite armed proxies, and insert its own military capabilities as well. This vision, if left unchecked, could lead to the creation of Iranian air force bases, and naval ports appearing in Syria. The land corridor could be used to move Iranian military formations into Syria. All of this would turn Syria into one big Iranian forward base, allowing it to threaten Israel in an unprecedented manner. Meanwhile, Iran seems willing to wait patiently for the nuclear deal to expire, so that it can reactivate the program from a position of greater military and economic strength, and eventually produce nuclear weapons…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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220 AIRSTRIKES ON PALESTINIANS; WORLD YAWNS

Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, Apr. 26, 2018

While all eyes are set on the weekly demonstrations organized by Hamas and other Palestinian factions along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, as part of the so-called March of Return, a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus is facing a wide-scale military offensive and ethnic cleansing by the Syrian army and its allies. The war crimes committed against the Palestinians in Yarmouk camp have so far failed to prompt an ounce of outrage, much less the sort of outcry emerging from the international community over the events of the past four weeks along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The international community seems to differentiate between a Palestinian shot by an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian shot by a Syrian soldier. In the first case, Hamas and several Palestinian groups have been encouraging Palestinians to march towards the border with Israel, with some even trying to destroy the security fence and hurling stones and petrol bombs at Israeli troops. The organizers of the Gaza demonstrations say their real goal is to “achieve the right of return and return to all of Palestine.”

Dozens of local and foreign journalists have shown great interest in the “March of Return.” Reporters from different parts of the world have been converging on the Gaza Strip and the border with Israel to report about the weekly demonstrations and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. How many journalists, though, have traveled to Syria to cover the plight of the Palestinians in that country? A small handful, perhaps? Why? Because the Palestinians who are being maimed and murdered in Syria are the victims of an Arab army — nothing to do with Israel.

Yarmouk camp was once home to some 160,000 Palestinians. Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, however, the number of residents left in the camp is estimated at a few hundred. On April 19, the Syrian army and its allies, including the Russians, launched a massive offensive against opposition groups and Islamic State terrorists based in Yarmouk. Since then, 5,000 of the 6,000 residents left in Yarmouk have fled the camp, according to the United Nations and human rights organizations. Most of the camp’s houses have been destroyed in the past few years as a result of the fighting between the Syrian army and opposition groups that found shelter inside Yarmouk.

Yarmouk has been under the full siege of the Syrian army since 2013, a situation that has caused a humanitarian crisis for the residents. According to some reports, the situation has gotten so bad that residents living there have been forced to eat dogs and cats to survive. In the past week, at least 15 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes and artillery shelling on Yarmouk.

According to the London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, 3,722 Palestinians (including 465 women) have been killed since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011. Another 1,675 are said to have been detained by the Syrian authorities, and another 309 are listed as missing. More than 200 of the Palestinian victims died because of the lack of food and medical care, most of them in Yarmouk. Since the beginning of the civil war, some 120,000 Palestinians have fled Syria to Europe. An additional 31,000 fled to Lebanon, 17,000 to Jordan, 6,000 to Egypt, 8,000 to Turkey and 1,000 to the Gaza Strip. On April 24, Syrian and Russian warplanes carried out more than 85 airstrikes on Yarmouk camp and dropped 24 barrels of explosives; 24 rocket and dozens of missiles were fired at the camp. A day earlier, Syrian and Russian warplanes launched 220 airstrikes on Yarmouk camp. The warplanes dropped 55 barrels of dynamite on the camp, which was also targeted with 108 rockets and missiles.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the conflict in Syria “continues to disrupt the lives of civilians, resulting in death and injuries, internal displacement, extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and persistent humanitarian needs. Affected communities suffer indiscriminate violence, restrictions on their freedom of movement and continued violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Palestinians are among those worst affected by the conflict.” UNRWA said that of the estimated 438,000 Palestine refugees remaining inside Syria, more than 95% (418,000) are in critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance. Almost 254,000 are internally displaced, and an estimated 56,600 are trapped in hard-to-reach or wholly inaccessible locations.

The silence of the international community to the war crimes being committed against defenseless Palestinians in a refugee camp in Syria is an insult. Dropping barrels of dynamite on houses and hospitals in a Palestinian refugee camp is apparently of no interest to those who pretend to champion Palestinians around the world. Nor does the issue seem to move the UN Security Council. But the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel: for the world, that is where the real story is unfolding. Certainly not in Syria, where Palestinians face ethnic cleansing on a daily basis…

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

 

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On Topic Links

Who are Iran’s 80,000 Shi’ite Fighters in Syria?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 28, 2018—There are 80,000 Shi’ite militiamen, trained and recruited by Iran, in Syria. Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon displayed a map Thursday at the UN, asserting that some of them were being trained several kilometers from Damascus. “They are trained to commit acts of terror in Syria and across the region,” he said.

Donald Trump, Syria and the Prevention of Genocide: Louis Rene Beres, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 25, 2018—President Donald Trump recently announced his intention to get out of Syria, “very soon.” The president’s stated intention here could soon run starkly counter to this country’s urgent obligations under the binding international law.

Nobel Knock-Offs and the Syrian Chemical Weapons Charade: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Apr. 26, 2018—As most of the local media was focusing on the brouhaha over Natalie Portman’s snub of Israel – that is, her refusal to attend a ceremony in Jerusalem to receive the Genesis Prize, the publicity stunt its founders have dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” – another entity, with an authentic Nobel Prize, was finally granted access by Russia, Iran and the Assad regime to the Syrian town of Douma, the site of an April 7 chemical attack.

How Hezbollah Will Use Foreign Fighters to Conquer Lebanon: David Daoud, Ha’aretz, Apr. 27, 2018—Hezbollah has promised that ‘thousands’ of foreign Shi’ite fighters will deploy to Lebanon to fight Israel in the next war. They’ll use conflict as cover to bring them into Lebanon – and they won’t leave.