Tag: Aleppo


A Cheat Sheet for the Battle of Mosul: Benny Avni, New York Post, Oct. 17, 2016 — To the Iraqi forces that launched a campaign to liberate Mosul and deal ISIS its most serious blow yet: Godspeed. To America: Welcome back to Iraq, and let’s hope we get it right this time.

Why the U.S. Role in Mosul Is Crucial: Tom Rogan, National Review, Oct. 19, 2016 — Approaching from the east and south, Iraqi forces have begun operations to retake Mosul.

The New Middle East: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 6, 2016 — A new Syria is emerging. And with it, a new Middle East and world are presenting themselves.

The Roots of America’s Mideast Delusion: James Traub, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 10, 2016 — From the moment he took office in 2009, President Barack Obama tried to repair America’s standing in the Middle East by demonstrating his sincere concern for the grievances and aspirations of Arab peoples.


On Topic Links


What are Israel's Strategic Military Threats for the Coming Jewish Year?: Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 14, 2016

Is the Battle to Liberate Mosul Good for Its Residents?: Ran Meir, Clarion Project, Oct. 19, 2016

The Real Middle East Story: Walter Russell Mead, American Interest, Sept. 23, 2016

Unstable, Unruly, and Reprobate: The Middle East Today: Jamsheed K. Choksy and Carol E. B. Choksy, World Affairs, Spring 2016




Benny Avni                                                                              

New York Post, Oct. 17, 2016


To the Iraqi forces that launched a campaign to liberate Mosul and deal ISIS its most serious blow yet: Godspeed. To America: Welcome back to Iraq, and let’s hope we get it right this time. “We will meet soon on the ground of Mosul to celebrate liberation,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi vowed early Monday, announcing the long-awaited start of the battle to free the country’s second-largest city from ISIS.


Capturing Mosul was ISIS’s most valuable victory. In the spring of 2014, after tearing through other parts of Iraq’s Sunni areas, these terrorists took over the city — prompting Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, its megalomanic leader, to announce a caliphate, an Islamic state that was to grow in territory, fame and influence and defeat the world’s infidels. Since then, would-be terrorists from as far as Orlando, Fla., have sworn allegiance to the victor of Mosul, which is why defeating it there is so crucial.


ISIS’s victory came about two years after President Obama ordered all US troops out of Iraq. In the face of the enemy, the Iraqi army — armed, trained and funded by America since 2003 to become the best fighting force in the Arab world — collapsed, fleeing the city and abandoning piles of modern US-made weapons.


But ISIS’s ensuing atrocities prompted Obama to quietly return to Iraq, and US-backed Iraqi units now look a bit more promising. Iraq’s counter-terrorism brigades, including the elite Golden Division, will carry most of the Mosul fighting — with American air cover (plus help from the Brits, French, Germans and others).


There’s much to worry about, though. The United States has wisely conditioned its air support on the exclusion of Iranian-backed Shiite militias from the battlefield. Abadi has agreed: Where we bomb, those militias — loyal to Nouri al-Malaki, prime minister before Abadi, and Tehran’s fave — can’t fight. But what if Abadi’s special forces aren’t enough to capture and control a city of over 1 million terrorized locals? Especially when ISIS fighters have likely booby-trapped every nook and cranny of the city, and dug deep fighting tunnels under it?


True, independent Kurdish peshmerga fighters are helping. In the early fighting, the Kurds captured several villages northeast of Mosul, as the Iraqi armies moved in from the south. But the Kurds aren’t likely to go deep into Mosul or risk major losses to liberate the city’s Sunnis. So if the Iraqi army gets bogged down (or if Iran insists), the Shiite militias might well enter the fray. Sectarian enmities will then reignite, making the rise of some new extremist Sunni threat more likely.


Turkish forces that have been stationed near Mosul may also join the battle. Officially, they’re there to protect Iraq’s Turkmen minority — but Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also detests Iraq’s Abadi. The Turks may itch to show off their prowess — and to stick it to Baghdad while expanding Turkish influence in Iraq.


Then there’s a real fear that Mosul will become an Iraqi version of the horrors of Aleppo. Unlike the Russians, Iranians and regime forces in Syria, US planes won’t target hospitals or schools — but mistakes happen, and ISIS will do its best to encourage them. Will war-shy Obama then keep his eyes on the prize, defeating ISIS? Will he insist, as he must, on keeping Iran from dominating Iraq’s Sunnis through its proxy Shiite militias? What if Tehran threatens to tear up the president’s beloved nuclear deal?


The answers to those questions depend on whether Obama has learned from one of his worst mistakes. Remember: His premature, hasty withdrawal from Iraq created the divisions that allowed ISIS to take over Mosul in the first place. To avoid a repetition, he may have to accept a deepening American involvement in the battle for Mosul. Iraqi spokesmen estimate that liberating the city will take up to six months — which leaves the messy Iraq theater as a top foreign-policy crisis for our next president, who’ll need to start handling it minutes after the Jan. 20 inauguration. Here’s hoping that he or she has learned from all the errors committed by the two previous administrations.                   





WHY THE U.S. ROLE IN MOSUL IS CRUCIAL                                                                               

Tom Rogan                                                                                                                     

National Review, Oct. 19, 2016


Approaching from the east and south, Iraqi forces have begun operations to retake Mosul. Their fight will not be easy. While ISIS, or Daesh, knows it will lose the city, it hopes to make the Battle of Mosul as militarily and politically bloody for Iraq as possible. In that scenario, Daesh believes a tactical defeat will serve broader strategic interests. If Iraq is to prevent Daesh from carrying through its ambitions, the U.S. contribution will be crucial.


Securing Mosul and deconstructing its Daesh garrison will not be easy. For a start, consider the scale involved here: Mosul has around 1 million residents spread across both banks of the Tigris, which intersects the city. It is much larger, for example, than Fallujah — where the U.S. Marines lost nearly 100 men in November 2004. Moreover, Daesh is well prepared for the attack. Estimates suggest it has three to five thousand fighters in place. They have lined houses and streets with explosives, have constructed tunnels, arms depots, and fortified positions, and will use civilians as human shields. The reliable MosulEye Twitter feed claims Daesh holds thousands of prisoners inside the city. Still, the current battle map hints at the basic Iraqi-Coalition strategy. Kurdish militias and coalition Special Operations forces are advancing on Mosul along a wide eastern front. From the south, the Iraqi army is pushing up Highway 1. In concert, these offensives appear designed to clear Daesh skirmishing forces from Mosul’s satellite villages before compressing the city’s southern and eastern approaches. Then, it seems, the final attack will begin.


In the final assault on Mosul, U.S. participation will be most instrumental. The last few weeks prove why. As researcher Kyle Orton points out, the U.S. has recently prioritized the targeting of Daesh officers who have specific operational relevance to Mosul. That’s no surprise. It shows the capability of U.S. and allied intelligence services in pummeling Daesh’s resistance networks. Yet these shaping operations cannot do everything. And as Iraqi forces enter Mosul, they will face a concerted barrage of suicide bombers, ambushes, and snipers. As the operation unfolds, Iraqi forces will rely on U.S. tools including video footage from drones and cellphone intercepts to help them navigate a city full of threats.


Of course, the major U.S. complement to Mosul’s liberation will be air strikes. As a September 2004 paper explained with regard to urban air support, “structural density restricts maneuver and makes direct-fire engagements during ground combat occur at very close ranges (25–100 meters), in contrast to similar engagements in open terrain, which occur at much greater distances (300–800 meters). Consequently, the majority of urban CAS missions will fall into the category of troops in contact or danger close.’” In essence, because Iraqi forces will be operating in close proximity to Daesh forces, the need for effective air support will be instrumental. And that means U.S. (and perhaps British and French) Special Operations forces will have to deploy within Iraqi frontline units. They must do so, because with multiple aircraft from many different nations flying overhead (perhaps including troublemaking Russians), and with Daesh moving rapidly and using civilians for cover, air strikes must be quick and accurate. Delivering those strikes requires great skill. U.S military air controllers are best able to provide it.


U.S. assistance in Mosul is equally important in its political dimensions. After all, Daesh aside, the Iraqi state remains deeply fragile. And if problems arise in retaking Mosul, Iraq’s various adversaries will seek advantage. For one, there are the Iranian-supported (and often -directed) Shiite militias opposing Iraq’s multi-sectarian democracy. Having abused Sunni civilians during other operations, the Shia militias have been banned from Mosul. But if just one of the militia leaders senses opportunity to please Iran by undercutting Iraq’s moderate prime minister, Haider al-Abadi — perhaps by killing Sunni civilians — he might do so. Another complication is the militia infiltration of certain Iraqi police units. Prime Minister Abadi hopes to mitigate that risk by assigning Iraq’s professional counterterrorism service to lead the ground incursion. At the same time, for all their courage and sacrifice, the Kurdish militias involved in the Mosul operation also have their own territorial ambitions. The U.S. must ensure that these militias respect property rights in Mosul.


These broader political dimensions cannot be understated. As I noted in March, Daesh wants to turn Mosul into a political bloodbath for the Iraqi government. They want Iraqi frontline units and Shiite militias to slaughter Mosul’s Sunni civilians under a narrative of Shiite domination. They want the Kurds to rob Mosul’s Sunni civilians. They want the Turks to continue agitating against Baghdad. Such developments, Daesh hopes, would force Sunnis to continue supporting them for reasons of self-defense. Remember, Daesh’s power resides both in weaponizing delusional theocracy and in manipulating human desperation. Thus, to counter Daesh, Iraq’s government must earn popular credibility by liberating Mosul in good order. As former Delta Force commander Jim Reese put it to me, “victory requires unity of effort and unity of command with our Iraqi partners.” If the multi-sectarian city is secured and its people protected, Iraq will have won a great victory for its future.


Regardless, the coming days will be hard. Daesh fighters in Mosul know they are going to die and will wreak havoc on their way to hell. And even if Daesh is quickly pushed into the western desert and annihilated, their organization will remain a very serious threat.                                               




THE NEW MIDDLE EAST                                                                                                 

Caroline Glick                                                                                                      

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 6, 2016


A new Syria is emerging. And with it, a new Middle East and world are presenting themselves. Our new world is not a peaceful or stable one. It is a harsh place. The new Syria is being born in the rubble of Aleppo. The eastern side of the city, which has been under the control of US-supported rebel groups since 2012, is being bombed into the Stone Age by Russian and Syrian aircraft. All avenues of escape have been blocked. A UN aid convoy was bombed in violation of a fantasy cease-fire. Medical facilities and personnel are being targeted by Russia and Syrian missiles and barrel bombs to make survival impossible.


It is hard to assess how long the siege of eastern Aleppo by Russia, its Iranian and Hezbollah partners and its Syrian regime puppet will last. But what is an all but foregone conclusion now is that eastern Aleppo will fall. And with its fall, the Russian-Iranian-Hezbollah-Assad axis will consolidate its control over all of western Syria. For four years, the Iranians, Hezbollah and Bashar Assad played a cat and mouse game with the rebel militias. Fighting a guerrilla war with the help of the Sunni population, the anti-regime militias were able to fight from and hide from within the civilian population. Consequently, they were all but impossible to defeat.


When Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to join the fight, he and his generals soon recognized that this manner of fighting ensured perpetual war. So they changed tactics. The new strategy involves speeding up the depopulation and ethnic cleansing of rebel-held areas. The massive refugee flows from Syria over the past year are a testament to the success of the barbaric war plan. The idea is to defeat the rebel forces by to destroying the sheltering civilian populations.


Since the Syrian war began some five years ago, half of the pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced. Sunnis, who before the war comprised 75% of the population, are being targeted for death and exile. More than 4 million predominantly Sunni Syrians are living in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. More than a million have entered Europe. Millions more have been internally displaced. Assad has made clear that they will never be coming home.


At the same time, the regime and its Iranian and Hezbollah masters have been importing Shi’ites from Iran, Iraq and beyond. The process actually began before the war started. In the lead-up to the war some half million Shi’ites reportedly relocated to Syria from surrounding countries. This means that at least as far as western Syria is concerned, once Aleppo is destroyed, and the 250,000 civilians trapped in the eastern part of what was once Syria’s commercial capital are forced from their homes and property, the Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah and their Syrian fig leaf Assad will enjoy relative peace in their areas of control.


By adopting a strategy of total war, Putin has ensured that far from becoming the quagmire that President Barack Obama warned him Syria would become, the war in Syria has instead become a means to transform Russia into the dominant superpower in the Mediterranean, at the US’s expense. In exchange for saving Assad’s neck and enabling Iran and Hezbollah to control Syria, Russia has received the capacity to successfully challenge US power. Last month Putin brought an agreement with Assad before the Duma for ratification. The agreement permits – indeed invites – Russia to set up a permanent air base in Khmeimim, outside the civilian airport in Latakia.


Russian politicians, media and security experts have boasted that the base will be able to check the power of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet and challenge NATO’s southern flank in the Mediterranean basin for the first time. The Russians have also decided to turn their naval station at Tartus into something approaching a fullscale naval base. With Russia’s recent rapprochement with Turkish President Recip Erdogan, NATO’s future ability to check Russian power through the Incirlik air base is in question. Even Israel’s ability to permit the US access to its air bases is no longer assured. Russia has deployed air assets to Syria that have canceled Israel’s regional air superiority. Under these circumstances, in a hypothetical Russian-US confrontation, Israel may be unwilling to risk Russian retaliation for a decision to permit the US to use its air bases against Russia.


America’s loss of control over the eastern Mediterranean is a self-induced disaster. For four years, as Putin stood on the sidelines and hedged his bets, Obama did nothing. As Iran and Hezbollah devoted massive financial and military assets to maintaining their puppet Assad in power, the Obama administration squandered chance after chance to bring down the regime and stem Iran’s regional imperial advance. For his refusal to take action when such action could have easily been taken, Obama shares the responsibility for what Syria has become. This state of affairs is all the more infuriating because the hard truth is that it wouldn’t have been hard for the US to defeat the Iranian- Hezbollah axis. The fact that even without US help the anti-regime forces managed to hold on for four years shows how weak the challenge posed by Iran and Hezbollah actually was…                                                                                                             

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




James Traub

Wall Street Journal, Oct. 10, 2016


From the moment he took office in 2009, President Barack Obama tried to repair America’s standing in the Middle East by demonstrating his sincere concern for the grievances and aspirations of Arab peoples. He gave interviews to Arab news outlets. He issued New Year’s greetings to the people of Iran. He delivered a speech in Cairo in which he acknowledged America’s past wrongs, and he called on Israel to accept the legitimacy of Palestinian demands for a state. Mr. Obama did almost everything liberal critics of the policies of George W. Bush wished him to do. And he failed. Or rather, he found that the Arab world was afflicted with pathologies that placed it beyond the reach of his words and deeds.


Had Mr. Obama had the chance to read “Ike’s Gamble,” Michael Doran’s account of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s statecraft before, during and after the Suez Crisis of 1956, he might have saved his breath. Mr. Doran, a scholar and former State and Defense Department official in the George W. Bush administration, describes a seasoned, wily and prudent president who aligned the United States with what he understood to be the legitimate hopes of Arab peoples, even at the cost of damaging relations with America’s closest allies—and made a hash of things.


Mr. Doran illuminates a narrative with which very few non-specialists will be familiar. His tale begins at the moment in the early 1950s when America was reaching its zenith. The United Kingdom was reluctantly acknowledging the end of empire, and the United States was filling the vacuum in the Middle East. Neither Eisenhower nor his fervently anti-communist secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, understood this transition in strictly geopolitical terms; both believed that the liberating American faith in national self-determination and consent of the governed would supplant Britain’s self-aggrandizing colonialism. Both morality and national interest dictated such a course. As Dulles said in a prime-time televised address in 1953: “We cannot afford to be distrusted by millions who could be sturdy friends of freedom.”


The familiar story—and it is all too true—is that Cold War competition led the United States to side with friendly but despised dictators in the region like Iran’s Reza Shah Pahlavi. Yet at the same moment that the U.S. was plotting to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected leader in favor of the shah, leading policy makers were infatuated with Egypt’s immensely popular revolutionary leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Eisenhower and Dulles saw in Nasser the kind of nationalist leader whom America needed to recruit to its side in order to demonstrate that postcolonial nations were better off in the democratic than in the communist camp.


The problem was that in order to do so, they had to sell out their closest ally. To British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Britain’s 80,000-man garrison in Suez was irrefutable proof that his nation remained an imperial force. But Eisenhower and Dulles took Nasser’s side in 1953-4 as he whittled away at British influence and demanded that Britain withdraw its forces. Unintimidated by his former wartime ally, Eisenhower brusquely advised Churchill to defer to “the very strong nationalist sentiments of the Egyptian Government and people” by agreeing to hand over control of the base. Churchill had loudly declared that he had not been elected prime minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire; having no choice, he now agreed to do just that.


Britain was one impediment to America’s grand bargain with Nasser; Israel was the other. Eisenhower, Dulles and State Department officials feared that the United States would never win Arab hearts and minds if it was seen as the ally of a nation that almost all Arabs reviled. The problem has hardly gone away over the past six decades. But while the American response today is to gently prod Israel to rein in the growth of illegal settlements, the answer in 1955 was to push Israel to make unilateral territorial concessions—and, remarkably, to present the plan to Nasser for his approval before disclosing it to the Israelis. Mr. Doran makes it clear that the anti-Semitism of the Washington elite converged with what seemed at the time to be perfectly sound strategic calculations.


But Eisenhower’s “gamble” was based on a delusion. Nasser was not an Egyptian George Washington or Moses, determined to lead his people out of colonial bondage and into a proud independence, though this witty and roguish figure did a fine job of playing those roles for gullible American diplomats. Mr. Doran shows that while Nasser claimed to be a moderate barely surviving the pressure of hard-liners, it was he who was pulling the strings. Nasser spoke of Israel as a consuming passion while viewing it more as a highly useful rhetorical target. He showed interest in buying arms from the U.S. while secretly concluding a deal with the Soviets. By now the British knew better and tried to drag the Americans off their high horse. But that was dismissed as special pleading.


Nasser was, of course, an Arab nationalist. But he was also an empire builder who saw America’s Arab allies—Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon—as dominoes to be knocked over on his path to regional hegemony. At the same time that Washington was propping up Iraq’s King Faisal and Jordan’s King Hussein, Nasser was dispatching his agents to torpedo their rule. (He succeeded in Iraq and failed in Jordan.) The great irony was that while the United States was increasingly viewed as the enforcer of the global status quo, it was bestowing blessings on the man most determined to upset it…

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




On Topic Links



What are Israel's Strategic Military Threats for the Coming Jewish Year?: Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 14, 2016—First, the good news: At the onset of 5777, the new Jewish year, there is no conventional or existential military threat against the State of Israel.

Is the Battle to Liberate Mosul Good for Its Residents?: Ran Meir, Clarion Project, Oct. 19, 2016—Mosul is one of Iraq’s largest cities – the capital of Nineveh Province. It’s a beautiful, developed city, bisected by the Tigris river. More than two and a half million people called Mosul “home” in 2014. 

The Real Middle East Story: Walter Russell Mead, American Interest, Sept. 23, 2016 —Peter Baker notices something important in his dispatch this morning: at this year’s UNGA, the Israel/Palestine issue is no longer the center of attention.

Unstable, Unruly, and Reprobate: The Middle East Today: Jamsheed K. Choksy and Carol E. B. Choksy, World Affairs, Spring 2016—Grappling with unstable, unruly, and reprobate Middle Eastern nations, and by extension North African ones such as Libya, has constantly been and will continue to be a major challenge for U.S. administrations.












Contents: Weekly Quotes |  Short Takes |  On Topic Links


Media-ocrity of the Week


“Rather than really thinking afresh about the world, Romney has chosen instead to go with the same old G.O.P. bacon and eggs — that the Democrats are toothless wimps who won’t stand up to our foes or for our values, that the Republicans are tough and that it is 1989 all over again. That is, America stands astride the globe with unrivaled power to bend the world our way, and the only thing missing is a president with “will.” The only thing missing is a president who is ready to simultaneously confront Russia, bash China, tell Iraqis we’re not leaving their country, snub the Muslim world by outsourcing our Arab-Israel policy to the prime minister of Israel, green light Israel to bomb Iran — and raise the defense budget while cutting taxes and eliminating the deficit.”[?? Sounds good to us – Ed.] (Thomas Friedman in New York Times, September 29, 2012)



Weekly Quotes


“I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down – and it will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy.”  —Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his speech to the United Nations. “Red lines don’t lead to war, red lines prevent war,” he said. “nothing could imperil the world more than a nuclear-armed Iran.…The only way you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is to prevent them from enriching enough uranium.Given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons, just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons,” Mr. Netanyahu said. To understand what the world would be like with a nuclear-armed Iran, just imagine the world with a nuclear-armed al-Qaeda.” (National Post, September 28, 2012)


“In the ultimate test, we can rely only on ourselves,”  —Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, speaking at a memorial ceremony for the soldiers who fell in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. He said [that] the clear message to be learned on this anniversary was “not to be captivated by false hopes, aspirations or wishes.”  Mr. Barak added that it was the government’s responsibility to do everything possible to “break the circle of hostility” without resorting to war, but that if left with no choice, Israel was ready to fight any battle demanded of it, “even at a painful price”. (New York Times, September 28, 2012)

“I think it’s very important that we hold our ground. It’s very important to say, ‘We live like this.’   —Salman Rushdie of the current confrontation [with Islamic extremism.]  It’s not for the American government to regret what American citizens do. They should just say, ‘This is not our affair and the [violent] response is completely inappropriate.’ ”(New York Times, September 24, 2012

"They (Israel) have no roots there in history, —Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters in New York, [just prior to his speech at] the U.N. General Assembly in defiance of a warning from UN secretary general against inflammatory remarks. "They do not even enter the equation for Iran." In addition, a summary of his speech on his English language web site quotes him as saying that, “A number of uncultured Zionists that threaten the Iranian nation today are never counted and are never paid any attention in the equations of the Iranian nation.” (National Post, September 25, 2012)

“When the heads of the world’s democracies share the UN podium with tyrants, they accept tyrants as their equals. There is no reason why they should do so. Our Prime Minister has the courage to act accordingly.”  —Peter Teitelbaum’s letter to the editor in The Globe and Mail. (Globe and Mail, October 3, 2012)


“There is land on Egypt’s eastern border called occupied Arab Palestine,”  —Saif Al-Dawla, an Arab nationalist and Egyptian President Morsi’s adviser for Arab affairs,  in an interview with Egyptian daily Al-Youm A-Sabi’ in response to a question on Egypt’s future relations with Israel. “This will remain its name till the end of time, and this is a national principle as well as a historic truth.”…“[R]emoving the constraints of the Camp David [Peace] Accords” with Israel is a top national priority. (Times of Israel, September 30, 2012)


“Ed — there is a real chance that Israel will be destroyed. And that will be the end of the Jewish people, because we are disappearing in every country — including America. …This is not like after the 1st and 2nd Temples. If Israel is gone, we are all gone.  The president will never, ever pre­empt Iran. It is not in him. A man who blames a film for world jihad will never save Israel in time — not to mention America. We are on the line and this is FDR watching the Jews dispassionately (I’m being kind) once again. I tell you once again — Edward I. Koch in his remaining years can move enough confused Jews in a state or two to give us a president who will see the world for what it is. You simply have to gather the courage you’ve always summoned to once again do what is right.”   —Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a principal at Bernstein Global Wealth Management and a City University trustee who worked for [Ed] Koch, in a letter to the former mayor of New York City trying to convince him to move his support from President Obama to Gov. Mitt Romney. (New York Post, September 30, 2012)


“…A perceived insult against one’s faith is simply not an excuse for breaking the law; it is not an excuse to persecute people with different religious beliefs. The looting and destruction of Buddhist temples and monasteries in Bangladesh by thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims is the latest example of this dangerous and warped way of thinking. The mob’s rationale: they were angry about a photo of a burned Koran allegedly posted on Facebook by a Buddhist boy. While these protesters demand respect for their religion, where is their respect for the religion of others?” —editorial from the Globe and Mail concerning the thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims who set fire to at least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes in anger over a Facebook photo of a burned Quran. (Globe and Mail, October 3, 2012)


“Our hearts and minds have been burned in this fire” —Dima, a doctor in Aleppo where the ancient central market was set ablaze amidst continuing fighting between Syrian government troops and opposition rebels. “It’s not just a souk and shops, but it’s our soul, too.”…“The rebels are not  appreciating the value  of  the  places  they are liberating,” said Abu Mihyo, an anti-government activist who studied historical sites while earning a degree in tourism. He said it appeared the rebels were trying to penetrate the city center through the old city, following a hadith (a saying attributed to  the Prophet Muhammad) that destroying the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, is better than shedding a drop of Muslim blood. (New York times, September 30, 2012)


“President Obama continues to show that he does not grasp the dimensions of what’s occurring [in the Middle East]” —Mitt Romney in his weekly online podcast. “We’ve seen a confused, slow and inconsistent response to the terrorist attack in Libya, a refusal to be frank with the American people about what happened and complete failure to explain the growing terrorist threat.” (New York Post, September 30, 2012)


“I think the work you did severing ties with Iran was not only an act of statesmanship but of moral clarity,” —Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a meeting of the two leaders [in New York]. Before entering private talks with Harper, Netanyahu called him “a great champion of freedom and a great friend of Israel.” Mr. Harper replied that “Our country has not been shy about warning the world of the danger the Iranian regime ultimately presents to all of us.” He added: “We want to see a peaceful resolution and we work closely with our allies to try to alert the world to the danger this presents and the necessity of dealing with it.”(National Post, September 29, 2012)


“I have yet to hear on a single occasion anything like the fevered cascade of denunciation that has been visited on the Innocence of Muslims on any other item or act that has delivered offence to Christians and their practice, or any other religion. It’s Islam they apologize to and no other faith. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama would be more truthful in their declarations if they said that they have “respect” for Muslim sensibilities and condemn films that mock Muhammad, but that’s where such respect stops….the U.S. has no business apologizing for a video it had nothing to do with. Apologizing for it only validates the lie that the video was the cause of killings and riots.” Rex Murphy in an op-ed article. (National Post, September 29, 2012) (Top)



Short Takes


BREAKING NEWS: MASS ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS IN IRAN— (Tehran) Riot police in Iran have clashed with protesters in the capital over sharp falls in the currency, the rial.  Tear gas was used to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom were setting fire to tyres and rubbish bins. There were many arrests, reports say. Eyewitnesses told the BBC that scores of people gathered outside the central bank, calling for the governor to stand down, chanting anti-government slogans. One woman in the city of Malayer told the BBC that Iranians were "very angry with the regime. The situation is becoming worse and worse every day," she said. "I work in the main hospital in the city and we are encountering some serious problems. We can't buy necessary medication because prices go up by 70% a day.” Reports say many shops in the central Grand Bazaar have brought down their shutters in sympathy with the demonstrators. (British Broadcasting Corp., October 3, 2012)


ISLAMIST BRITISH CLERIC TO BE EXTRADITED TO UNITED STATES(Paris) Abu Hamza al-Masri, one of Britain’s most radical Islamist clerics, was slated [Monday Sept. 25] for extradition to the United States after the European Court of Human Rights rejected his appeal of a previous British court order.  Britain’s Home Office said that it would hand him and four other suspects over, “as quickly as possible”, to the US, where they will face charges of supporting al-Qaeda and aiding in a fatal kidnapping in Yemen. (National Post, Reuters, September 25, 2012)



Human Rights Watch said that Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip commit rampant abuses against Palestinian prisoners, including beatings with metal clubs and rubber hoses, mock executions and arbitrary arrests. "There is ample evidence that Hamas security services are torturing people in custody with impunity and denying prisoners their rights," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for the New York-based group. "The Gaza authorities should stop ignoring the abuse and ensure that the justice system respects Palestinians' rights." (Winnipeg Free Press, Associated Press, October 3, 2012)


IRAN REHEARSED ATTACKING HAIFA AND DIMONA (New York) New York Times quoted classified Pentagon intelligence reports as saying [that] the Iranian military is using firing ranges designed to resemble Haifa and Dimona to rehearse an air attack on Israel. [The] Defense Intelligence Agency noted…that skittishness in Tehran over a [possible] Israeli airstrike on its nuclear facilities resulted in the Iranian military mistakenly firing on civilian airplanes and in one case on one of its own military warplanes in 2007 and 2008, according to the New York Times report. (Jerusalem Post, October 3, 2012)


BLOCKADE-RUNNING SHIP TO SET SAIL FOR GAZA (Tel –Aviv) A ship bearing pro-Palestinian activists intent on breaching Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip is en route to the Hamas-controlled enclave, Israeli Radio reported on Sunday.  Activists said the schooner Estelle, which set sail from Sweden three months ago, was expected to reach the Gaza coast by mid-October.  The ship is currently moored at the Italian port of La Spezia, and is expected to set sail for Gaza next week. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Israel does not intend to let the ship run the naval blockade. (Times of Israel, September 30, 2012)


IRAN TRANSFERS $10 BILLION TO SYRIA (London) The Times of London newspaper reported…that Tehran has transferred some $10 billion in support of Assad's war against Syrian rebels. Western intelligence sources say the failure to decide the Syrian conflict in favor of Assad has caused a split between Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s spymaster, Qassem Suleimani. “Suleimani promised Khamenei that he would turn the situation in Syria around and has failed to deliver,” a Western defense source told The Times. Instead, the conflict has become a bloody stalemate, with Iran pumping weapons, troops and cash into Syria to counter support for the rebels from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, overseen by the US. (YnetNews, October 3, 2012)


FIRE RAVAGES ANCIENT MARKET OF ALEPPO (Beirut) Fire swept through the old central souk of Aleppo, Syria, on Saturday, damaging a vast and well-preserved labyrinth of medieval storehouses, shops, schools and ornate courtyards [after] fierce clashes between security forces and insurgents vowing to carry out a “decisive battle” for the city. For many residents, the old city, with the souk at its center, is the soul of Aleppo, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and Syria’s largest. (New York Times, September 29, 2012)

REPUBLICAN MEMBER OF CONGRESS HOLDS UP AID DEAL FOR EGYPT(Washington) Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, released a statement saying she was opposed to the recently announced US aid package [to Egypt of $450 million] because the current president of Egypt, Muhammad Morsi, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The U.S. relationship with Egypt "has never been under more scrutiny."…"I am not convinced of the urgent need for this assistance and I cannot support it at this time," she said in a statement. (United Press International, September 29, 2012)


UK MEDIA WATCHDOG RULES: TEL AVIV IS NOT THE CAPITAL(London) The UK Press Complaints Commission ruled Monday that [the] British paper the Guardian was wrong to refer to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital… In [their] decision, the PCC concluded that “the unequivocal statement that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel had the potential to mislead readers and raised a breach of… the Editors’ Code of Practice. “The ruling set a precedent on British coverage of Israel, effectively barring all British publications from referring to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital,” the British branch of Honest Reporting, pro-Israel media watchdog group  behind the complaint to the PCC, declared in a statement released Tuesday. (Times of Israel, October 2, 2012) (Top)



∙       The Commentator, October 1, 2012
Hadar Sela


∙       Times of Israel, September 30, 2012
Suzan Fraser



Morsi’s Message

∙       Jerusalem Post, September 30, 2012

Jerusalem Post Editorial



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More than They can Chew

In Syria, Role of Kurds Divides Opposition

Gangs of Aleppo

The Arab Trojan Horse

Stay out of Syria Intervention is a trap

On Topic Links

An action plan for Syria

Syrian Rebels Working in Collaboration with Turkey

A Phantom Wrapped in an Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle

On the Edge

Syria's Explosive Crumbs

Guess Who's Helping Assad Get Away With Murder?




Antakya And Idleb,
The Economist, August 27, 2012
A MONTH after rebel forces launched a blazing attempt to capture Aleppo, Syria’s second city, they are starting to wilt. The regime claims to have routed them from their main stronghold in the Salaheddin district. Clashes continue in the southwest of the city and around the airport, but the best that rebel commanders can now hope to achieve is to draw the regime into a quagmire.…
Many Syrians—as well as outside observers—conclude that the rebels overreached by taking the fight to Aleppo. “Rebel commanders had a sensible strategy of fighting a war of attrition that matched their capabilities. They were going after roads, military outposts and consolidating control of the rural areas where the regime has retreated,” says Emile Hokayem, an analyst at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. “Then suddenly they diverted to a plan to ‘liberate’ a city which they knew they couldn’t do.”
Part of the problem is that the rebels are failing to win hearts and minds among the urban middle class in Aleppo. The same was true of the failed attempt to take the capital, Damascus, in July. Most Aleppans cannot stomach the regime, whose brutality has left some 20,000 dead. But they find the rebels’ tactics off-putting too, including summary executions such as that of Zaino Berri, head of a pro-regime militia. Some rebel groups have sent captives in booby-trapped cars to blow up checkpoints.…
Foreign powers are trying to strengthen civilian institutions inside the country. Late last year they cheered local co-ordination committees coalescing into more sophisticated councils overseeing cities and provinces. “But many of those have now been taken over by the rebels as the militarisation grows,” says one dejected activist. Fuel and bread go to fighters first.
Some help from Western governments, including intelligence, is still reaching the rebels. In the country’s east and north-west, fighters hope to push the army out of smaller cities by making it too dangerous for them to use the roads to resupply bases. But without a no-fly zone or plenty of surface-to-air missiles to bring down regime jets many rebels think they will struggle.…
The Idleb Military Council is one of nine or so provincial military councils that were set up late last year by defectors to oversee the fighting groups that are staffed mainly by volunteers. But this is far from a unified force. “There was a lot of hope these councils would create a nationwide military, but we haven’t seen that,” says Asher Berman at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.
Competition for resources and personal feuds have already led some groups to fall out. The two main rebel forces in the Homs area, the Khaled Ibn Walid Brigade and Farouq, both work out of the rebellious town of Rastan, but their leaders are at loggerheads. …One of Idleb’s largest groups, Saquor al-Sham, churns out mini-documentaries…These films are used to attract funding, which comes mainly from wealthy Syrians abroad and Gulf traders. Because the West will not arm and defend the opposition, weapons must often be bought with cash. So far at least there is no sign of its running out. (top)
Babak Dehghanpisheh,
Washington Post, August 18, 2012
Opponents of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad are showing signs of splintering along a deep regional fault line, with Arabs and Turks uneasy about a military offensive last month by Syrian Kurds, who overran four towns in the country’s north.
The attacks marked the first time since the 17-month-old uprising began that Kurdish fighters had joined in military action against Assad’s forces. But the Kurdish muscle-flexing has rattled groups such as the Arab-led Free Syrian Army, which until now has played the leading role in the upheaval, and it has unsettled neighboring Turkey, whose animosity toward Assad is surpassed only by apprehension about the Kurds’ broader ambitions in the region.
“Turkey is in a predicament,” said Joost Hiltermann, the deputy Middle East director for the International Crisis Group. “Turkey is very much pushing for the Syrian regime to fall. The predictable consequence and almost the inevitable consequence is the empowerment of Syrian Kurds.”
As one of the largest stateless groups in the world, the Kurds have long sought autonomy, a cause that unnerves governments across a broad belt sprawling from Syria into parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, which have all fought long and bloody battles with Kurdish separatists. In Syria, the Kurdish region is home to 2 million people (the actual number is more like 4 million and everyone keeps repeating the lower number without knowing the truth) , and many Turkish officials fear that the Kurds will begin using the area as a base from which to launch attacks on the Turkish military, as they have done for years from neighboring Iraq.
Until the recent attacks, Syrian Kurds had stayed on the sidelines, mostly, it appeared, out of concern that a victory by Arab-led opposition groups over Assad’s forces might do little to alter a power balance that has left Kurds relatively weak in Syria. There has been little cooperation between the armed Kurdish groups in the north and the Free Syrian Army, and their relationship seems to be one of mutual distrust.
But in response to the Kurdish moves, Syrian opposition groups such as the Free Syrian Army were quick to reiterate a vow that they will not permit Syria to be divided along ethnic or sectarian lines. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he stood ready to send troops into Syria to confront Kurdish forces there if it becomes a base for incursions into Turkey by Kurdish guerrillas.
The U.S. government has also expressed alarm, warning Kurdish groups in Syria that they should not seek to work with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, whose insurgency against the Turkish government has killed at least 40,000 people.
Many Kurds still dream of a greater Kurdistan, stretching across the borders of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria, but few Kurdish leaders dare discuss it….“Every Kurd believes in this dream of a united homeland,” said Alan Semo, the London-based foreign affairs representative for the PYD. “But in the regional and international circumstances today, we can’t demand separation for a united Kurdistan.”
It’s not clear how appealing this pan-Kurdish sentiment — or the idea of regional autonomy — is to the Kurdish community in Syria. But it could lead to bitter fighting between Kurds and Arabs there if Assad falls. In the view of many Kurds, the Arab-led Syrian opposition, including the Free Syrian Army, embraces the same kind of Arab nationalism that has been used to quash rights in the past.
The main Kurdish attacks took place July 19, when fighters loyal to the PYD spread out in the town of Kobani and pushed forward for three days, taking over Efrin, Derik and Amuda. There was no fighting and no casualties were incurred.…The situation has become even more complicated because of the role being played by Kurds from neighboring Iraq, where the division of power after the fall of Saddam Hussein has left Kurds with a strong base. Massoud Barzani, a prominent Iraqi Kurdish leader, said last month that he was helping to arm and train fighters from the Kurdish National Council, which is jockeying for power in Syria as a rival to the PYD.
Barzani organized a meeting this month in the Iraqi Kurdish town of Irbil that brought Kurdish and Arab Syrian opposition leaders together with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu but excluded the PYD, the Syrian Kurdish group regarded by the Turks as the most problematic.
“What Turkey needs to do is divide and rule, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do,” said Hiltermann, of the International Crisis Group. “They’re going to woo some Kurds, and they’re going to fight a lot of Kurds. And they’re going to use one Kurd against another Kurd.” (top)
William S. Lind
American Conservative, August 28, 2012
In the view of our Laputan foreign-policy establishment, what is happening in Syria and elsewhere is a conflict between “democracy” and dictatorship. Valiant youths who fight for “freedom” are destined to triumph, bringing happiness and prosperity to their formerly oppressed lands. This is the Whig version of history—the progressive narrative. It bears little resemblance to reality.
A Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi came closer to truth. He was quoted in the New York Times as saying that Syria faces “gang warfare.” Gangs are one of the most basic, and most potent, building blocks of stateless Fourth Generation war. [from state to non-state warfare,  conflict common in pre-modern times – Ed..] We commonly think of gangs in connection with crime. But through most of history, the line between crime and war was blurred, often to the point of vanishing. (See Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century.)
It was the state that drew the line clearly, but today in much of the Middle East and elsewhere states and the state system are collapsing. What is succeeding the state looks much like the 14th century Europe Tuchman describes: people and regions are at the mercy of roving bands of armed men who hire themselves out as soldiers when they can and otherwise take what they want from anyone too weak to resist them. Their only loyalty is to each other—to their gang.
One of the characteristics shared by most disintegrating states is a vast surplus of young men who have no access to jobs, money, or women. Gangs are a magnet for them. We see this in American contexts as well: in public schools, in ethnic neighborhoods, and in our prisons.…Young men are also drawn to fighting, which, conveniently, is something gangs do. 
Much of what we see in states struggling for their lives such as Syria is supply-side war. Fighting spreads not because of some “cause” like democracy but because idle young men see a fight and join in. Why not? They have nothing to do, nothing to lose, and thanks to their new gang and AK-47, lots to take: money, women, and fame. The New York Times reported from Aleppo:
Residents said there were not just clashes between the government and insurgents, but also rival militias from the countryside fighting for control of individual streets. … In a central old quarter, one man said a friend had warned him not to visit because young gunmen had established a checkpoint to rob car passengers.
Gangs fight not only the government but also each other, and their internecine wars further weaken the state.…The state arose to bring order, and widening gang wars reveal the state’s impotence. In the struggle for legitimacy that lies at the core of Fourth Generation war, a state that cannot control gangs becomes an object of contempt for friend and foe alike.…
The voices in Washington who call for us to suppress gangs in places halfway around the world underestimate the opponent.…If you want to envision places such as Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali—the list keeps growing—you could do worse than to think of spreading rumbles in the ’hood. That is a far more accurate picture than the two-sided “democracy vs. dictatorship” image purveyed by politically correct Polyannas. The bulletins of the Syrian Foreign Ministry, it seems, mislead less than those of the U.S. State Department. (top)
Eiad Wannous
Syria Today, August 2012
The Arab Spring has changed the political scene in the Middle East. Most striking is the re-touching of the image of a radical organization such as the Muslim Brotherhood to that of a potential “civil” form for future governance in the region. One might argue: “As other ideologies have not achieved well-being for Arabs, why don’t we try Islamism?” When it comes to Syria, the Egyptian presidential election and the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise within the “Egyptian Spring” have re-enforced such arguments, especially given the general public’s disappointment with the Ba’ath party’s socialist policies.
However, before any judgment can be made, a few points related to both the general history of the Brotherhood and its history within Syria must be reviewed. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, a fundamentalist Egyptian schoolteacher who advocated violent jihad and the replacement of secular governments with a worldwide totalitarian caliphate governed under strict Islamic sharia law. By the 1940s, branches of the Brotherhood had been established across the Arab world; during this period, the Syrian branch was considered second only to Egypt’s in size.
The Muslim Brotherhood is known for its supposed hostility to US policies and Israel. What is not well-known is that the spread of the movement in Arab countries was facilitated by the CIA during the Cold War era as part of the famous “strategy of containment”, the anti-Soviet, anti-communist initiative adopted by Eisenhower’s administration which lasted until the late eighties. Over these decades, the Muslim Brotherhood turned into a “Trojan horse” within countries allied with the Soviet Union.
This is not a “conspiracy theory”. Rather, recall the July 1953 photo of Eisenhower with the Princeton Islam Seminar delegation at the White House: Said Ramadan, Banna’s son-in-law and then the most distinguished figure within the Brotherhood’s hierarchy, is standing second from the right.
Now, however, although the Brotherhood’s success in Egypt may have revived its dream of becoming a 'regional governance system', differences among its branches make that a long shot in practice.…
The organisation entered Syria in 1936 thanks to Mustafa al-Siba’i, a pupil of Banna, who returned from Cairo after studying at Al-Azhar Mosque. The major shift took place in 1973, when the Vanguard Fighters, the Brotherhood’s armed wing, was established to change the Ba’athist secular government by force of arms and establish an Islamic state in Syria. A violent rebellion conducted in Syria during the late 1970s and into the 1980s left bloody memories of doctors, academics, and army officers assassinated by Muslim Brothers, along with the massacres they carried out against civilians in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama.
Such memories make this organisation much less appealing for Syrians, especially since fundamentalists represent only 1 percent of Syrian Muslims….Currently, the Muslim Brotherhood has managed to benefit from the Egyptian Spring, although it is too early to say it has succeeded in taking over the country’s political system. But in Syria, the situation does not seem promising for the Brotherhood or its allies.  [Eiad Wannous is a Syrian political analyst and journalist.] (top)
Daniel Pipes
Washington Times, August 20, 2012
Bashar Assad’s wretched presence in the presidential palace of Damascus may, contrary to Western assumptions, do more good than harm. His murderous, terroristic and pro-Tehran regime is non-ideological and relatively secular; it staves off anarchy, Islamist rule, genocide and rogue control of Syria’s chemical weapons.
As Syria’s civil war intensifies, Western states increasingly are helping the rebels overthrow Mr. Assad and his henchmen. In doing so, the West hopes to save lives and facilitate a democratic transition. Many Western voices call for more than the nonlethal aid now being offered, wanting to arm the rebels, set up safe zones and even join their war against the government.
Helping the rebels, however, neglects a fundamental question: Does intervention in Syria against Mr. Assad promote our own interests? This obvious question is missed because many Westerners feel so confident about their own well-being that they forget their security and instead focus on the concerns of those they perceive as weak and exploited.… Westerners have developed sophisticated mechanisms to act on these concerns (e.g., responsibility to protect, animal rights activism).
For those of us not so confident, however, fending off threats to our security and our civilization remains a top priority. In this light, helping the rebels entails multiple drawbacks for the West.
First, the rebels are Islamist and intend to build an ideological government even more hostile to the West than Mr. Assad‘s. If the rebels prevail, their break in relations with Tehran will be offset by their assistance for the barbarism of Islamism’s Sunni forces.
Second, the argument that Western intervention would reduce the Islamist thrust of the rebellion by replacing materiel pouring in from Sunni countries is risible. Syria’s rebels do not need Western help to bring down the regime (and wouldn’t be grateful for it if they did receive it, if Iraq is any guide). The Syrian conflict at its core pits the country’s disenfranchised Sunni Arab 70 percent majority against Mr. Assad’s privileged Alawi 12 percent minority. Add the assistance of foreign Islamist volunteers as well as several Sunni states (Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar) and the Assad regime is doomed.…
Third, hastening the Assad regime’s collapse will not save lives. It will mark not the end of the conflict but merely the close of its opening chapter with yet worse violence likely to follow. As Sunnis finally avenge their nearly 40 years of subjugation by Alawis, a victory by the rebels portends potential genocide. The Syrian conflict likely will get so extreme and violent that Westerners will be glad to have kept a distance from both sides.
Fourth, the continuing Syrian conflict offers benefits to the West. Several Sunni governments have noted the Obama administration’s reticence to act and have taken responsibility to wrest Syria from the Iranian orbit. This comes as a welcome development after their decades of accommodating the Shiite Islamic Republic. Also, as Sunni Islamists fight Shiite Islamists, both sides are weakened, and their lethal rivalry lessens their capabilities to trouble the outside world. By inspiring restive minorities (Sunnis in Iran, Kurds and Shiites in Turkey) continued fighting in Syria also could weaken Islamist governments.
When the regime falls, the Alawi leadership, with or without Mr. Assad, might retreat to ancestral redoubts in the Latakia province in Syria. The Iranians could well supply it by sea with money and arms, permitting it to hold out for years, exacerbating the confrontation between Sunni and Shiite Islamists and further distracting them from assaulting others.
The one exception to the policy of nonintervention would be to secure Syria’s vast chemical-weapon arsenal to prevent terrorist groups from seizing it and Mr. Assad from deploying it in a Gotterdammerung scenario as he goes down, although this difficult mission could require as many as 60,000 foreign ground troops deployed to Syria.
Nothing in the constitutions of Western states requires them to get involved in every foreign conflict. Sitting this one out will prove to be a smart move and staying away permits the West eventually to help its only true friends in Syria, the country’s liberals. (top)
∙       The Ottawa Citizen, August 23, 2012

Irwin Cotler

∙       BIA News Center, 28 August 28, 2012
Ayça Söylemez

∙       Gatestone Institute, August 11, 2012
Claire Berlinski

∙       Syria Today, August 2012
Alma Hassoun

∙       Gatestone Institute, July 8, 2012
Claire Berlinski

∙       Real Clear Politics, August 8, 2012
Austin Bay



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CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.





We must rediscover our love of Israel;

Jewish Aleppo, lost forever;

The Center of Jewish Culture is Already in Israel;

Chain of miracles;


On Topic Links




Stu Krantz

Washington Jewish Week, July 5, 2012


When our forefathers (for Ashkenazim) were living in shtetls in Poland, Russia, or wherever, Israel was seen as the true homeland where one day we would end up. This idea has largely disintegrated from the modern American Jewish community and has resulted in a conundrum: are we Jewish Americans or American Jews?


I go to a Jewish day school, and I can guarantee you that I'm in the minority when I declare that I am, without question, an American Jew. For me, it's all about pride in being Jewish. When I went to a 4-day event a couple months ago where I was one of maybe 5 Jews out of the 240 kids that were there, I felt something that I had never really felt before: pride in being Jewish. I really liked being part of such a small minority.


Ever since the first destruction of the temple in 586 BCE and through today, people have sought to annihilate the Jewish people at every turn….As a kid growing up in a "secular" American Jewish household (as most of my friends are), it's very easy to see our life as the "ideal" situation and forget how ridiculously lucky we are to live in this day and age. The notion that we can live our lives experiencing hardly any real anti-Semitism only arose in the middle of last century, less than 100 years ago.


OK, cool, but where does Israel fit in? It all goes back to Jewish American vs. American Jew. If we live in America, we're bound to assimilate. We can't just be Jewish in America; we must also be American. And don't get me wrong, because I love America and think America is the greatest country in the world, but the only place we can really just be Jews is in Israel.


That's why Israel is important to me. There's no Jewish Israeli vs. Israeli Jew. Sure, there may be secular and religious, but everyone is Jewish. After having no place to be for 3000 years, we finally have a place that is our own. How fitting it is that a nation of people, considered the scum of the earth for so long, has risen to the upper classes of society and has been able to build a beautiful, gleaming country out of a patch of desert land. Israel will always be ours.


As Israeli rapper Subliminal (a personal favorite of mine) says in his song "The Light and the Shadow, "האר מציון יותר מחבר חי מים ליום ואף פעם לא מוות"  In English: the light from Tzion (Israel) is more than a friend, it lives every day and never gives up. (It sounds a lot better in Hebrew.)


Israel makes me proud to be Jewish. I'm not very religious, but Israel is a source of pride for me, as is my Jewish identity. We've been persecuted for 2000 years, and now we have our own country that protects minorities, in addition to Jews. After merely surviving for so long, we can now affirmatively say, "We are here!"


And we have our own country to prove it.  (Top)

[Stu Krantz is a 15 year old  intern for the Washington Jewish Week and grandson of CIJR Director Prof. Fred Krantz.]




Joseph Dana

Tablet, August 23, 2012


The northern Syrian city of Aleppo, once a pillar of Jewish existence worldwide, is slowly being destroyed by the fighting that has engulfed Syria for the past 17 months. Last week, a Free Syrian Army rebel warned that soon “there will be nothing left to destroy in Aleppo.” Imagine Rome or Paris destroyed by civil war in the social media age.…


What made Jewish existence in Aleppo so unique and vibrant? For thousands of years, Aleppo was an unofficial capital of the Sephardic Jewish world. Fuelled by wealth from international trade and waves of Jewish immigration, the city’s Jews sustained a pious community revered for educational excellence and as a guardian of traditions with roots in ancient Israel. Aleppine folklore—some even say that one of Kind David’s generals personally laid the foundation for its great synagogue, now located at the heart of fighting—hints at the prestige of the city in Jewish history.


But the city is lost, and Jewish existence has been all but erased from its cobbled streets. Remarkably, what has not disappeared is the Aleppine way of life in diaspora communities spanning the globe.


“I would say without any hesitation that the [community of Jews from Aleppo] is the strongest Jewish community in the world in the sense of solidarity,” Yom Tov Assis, a professor of medieval history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told me in his book-saturated office. Assis was born in Aleppo and briefly experienced the violence in the city that accompanied Israel’s independence. He recently founded the center for the study of Aleppine Jewry at the Hebrew University in an effort to preserve and study the traditions of his vibrant community. “There is hardly any Jewish community apart from the Haredim, the ultra-Orthodox, that is so strongly attached to its past and traditions,” he said.


Outside of Israel, few cities in the Middle East have a richer history of Jewish cultural activity, education, and trade than Aleppo. Legend has it that the city, which is referred to as Haleb in both Hebrew and Arabic, derives its name from a story of Abraham guiding a flock of sheep through the fleecy shrubbery of the surrounding mountains. He is said to have distributed his sheep’s milk (halev in Hebrew) to the local residents of the city, nestled in Northern Syria’s rolling hills, which thereby was known as Haleb.


Starting in the late 10th century, Aleppo grew to serve as a passageway between the Jewish communities of the Babylonian center and Israel. Its geographic position and impressive sphere of influence bridged the divide from Persia to the lucrative markets of southern Europe. The city held an almost mythic or legendary status among Jews worldwide. Visiting the city in the late 16th century, Italian monk Pietro Della Valle observed in a travel journal that, “Here, in one district [in Aleppo], converges all the Orient, with its jewels, silks, drugs, and cloths; and it is also joined by the Occident, namely France (in force), Venice, Holland, and England.” Aleppine Jews also used their wealth to establish prominent educational institutions and were recognized for their carefully kept traditions in line with the biblical practices of ancient Jews. In a letter to the Jewish community of Lunel in Southern France, Maimonides noted that “in all the Holy Land and in Syria, there is one city alone and it is Halab in which there are those who are truly devoted to the Jewish religion and the study of Torah.”


Historically, Aleppo found itself at the crossroads of two of Jewish history’s major developments: the expulsion of Jews from Spain and the rise of the Zionist movement. As refugees from Iberia flooded the Eastern Mediterranean in the early part of the 16th century, Aleppo became one of the most important centers of absorption. When Aleppo fell under Ottoman rule in the 16th century, the Caliphate maintained a relatively warm relationship with the Jewish community. Provisions ensuring that synagogues were not built taller than mosques and that Jewish religious behavior was performed quietly—part of their status as Dhimmis—meant that Jews found a fragile entente.


In 1948, after the United Nations voted to implement a two-state solution in Palestine, anti-Jewish riots broke out in Aleppo. False rumors spread that the codex had been destroyed in an attack. From this point until the late 1980s, the community dismantled itself, and the Aleppine Jewish diaspora began to take shape—mainly in Israel, Brooklyn, and South America. “We used to summer in Lebanon near Beirut,” Assis told me. “One summer my parents rented a large bus with other Jews from Aleppo, and only after we crossed into Lebanon did they inform us that we would never return to Aleppo.”…


What, then, is the best way to remember Jewish life under Muslim rule in the Middle East? It’s a question that has floated through the halls of Jewish academia for at least 30 years, alternately provoking idealized versions of peaceful life in the Arab world and dramatic tales of persecution. Especially among those dedicated to European Jewish history, which still struggles to understand the tragedy that befell European Jewry in the 20th century, there is a tendency to view life under Muslim rule as exceedingly peaceful, marked by co-existence and even mutual respect. Outside of academia, the question tends to adopt political contours, with people seeking to place blame either on the Zionist movement or the Arab populations that expelled their ancient Jewish communities after the creation of the state of Israel.


Whichever side one falls on politically, it is clear that, for Jews, Aleppo was lost in 1948. The recent destruction of the city’s ancient monuments is merely a reminder of what had already been lost. While the Aleppine community in Israel is not nearly as numerous or powerful as their brethren in Brooklyn—the largest Aleppine Jewish community in the world, covered widely for their financial success and excess—their proximity to Syria and relationship with Jews from other Arab countries give the events in their lost city a more immediate feel.


Like for the Aleppine community in Brooklyn, the idea of Aleppo lives on in schools and synagogues in the exile community in Israel. During our conversation, Assis relayed stories of his adolescence moving around the Middle East. “When I arrived in Beirut and Istanbul, I found myself far more learned than any other kid my age,” he said. “We had a very strong Jewish education, we used to read the Bible and translate it on the spot to the astonishment of our teachers.”…

For people like Assis, maintaining this tradition in the face of the winds of history is nothing short of an obligation. “The Jewish world under Islam has vanished,” he said. “You can mourn the whole Jewish world under Islam, there is nothing left. What happens to the cemeteries, to the synagogues, to the books, to everything? Well, God knows.”  (Top)




Vic Rosenthal

Jewish Press, August 20th, 2012


A particularly pessimistic article about the future of France’s Jews — that is to say, about the lack of one — has prompted me to think about the future of the Jewish people everywhere.


Two major centers of Jewish culture disappeared during the 20th century, in Eastern Europe and the Muslim Middle East. Now there is pressure on what is left of the Jewish populations of Western Europe.


A general explanation for this phenomenon can and does fill books, but a quick summary is that traditional forms of antisemitism that developed in the Christian and Muslim worlds came together and exchanged DNA during the Nazi period, making both strains more virulent. Then, after 1948 and in the cauldron of the Cold War, political anti-Zionism combined with simple Jew-hatred to produce today’s particularly dangerous pathogen, which is as deadly as Nazism and as easily transmissible as left-wing politics.


Jews today are concentrated in Israel and in the US. There’s no need to discuss yet again the external and internal threats Israel faces (although I’m confident that it will prevail in the current confrontation with Iran). What about the Jewish population of the US?


America is different from Europe or the Muslim world. America defines itself as a nation of immigrants, so the Jew is not automatically an ‘other’ as in France, for example. America has an aggressive tradition of institutionalized religious tolerance which is unmatched anywhere else in the world.


The influence of Muslims is less of a problem than in Europe. American Muslims are a much smaller percentage of the population than in Europe, and they tend to be more educated, assimilated and likely to accept Western values.


That is not to say that there isn’t a certain amount of Jew-hatred here, either the more traditional “paleo” kind represented by Pat Buchanan or David Duke, or the so-called “new antisemitism” that hides behind an anti-Zionist political facade. But the great majority of Americans find these attitudes offensive. While ugly stereotypes about Jews are common, they rarely result in overt behavior. All this could change, but not easily and not quickly.


But there are other factors at work that will reduce the importance of American Jews. The Jewish community in the US is shrinking (by 5% since the 1990′s) because of a low birth rate and high degree of intermarriage among secular and Reform or Conservative Jews, who are close to 80% of the total. It is much harder for secular or liberal Jewish families to maintain Jewish cultural identity in the majority non-Jewish US than in Israel.


Orthodox Jews, on the other hand, are increasing numerically and as a percentage of the Jewish population. At least half of those are considered Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”), which is the fastest growing subgroup.


I think that these trends will gradually result in less Jewish influence on American culture and politics because of smaller numbers and the tendency of the more observant Jews — especially Haredim –  to participate less in the public sphere. While I don’t think we will see a surge of antisemitism here, I expect that the Jewish community will become smaller proportionally and less involved in American life and politics.


The center of Jewish culture — spiritual, scientific, entrepreneurial, artistic — is today, as it should be, Israel. This was not the case in 1948 or 1967, but it is true now, and I can only expect it to become more true as time goes by. Which means that the future of the Jewish people depends on the survival and prosperity of the Jewish state. (Top)



Robert M. Goldberg

Weekly Standard, May 28, 2012


There are many remarkable episodes in this compelling autobiography of Israel Meir Lau, the former chief rabbi of Israel. One in particular captures Lau’s character and shapes his future. Lulek (as he was called) was 5 years old in 1942 when he saw his father, Moshe, also a rabbi, beaten and deported to Treblinka, and only 6 when his mother, Chaya, was taken from him and murdered at Ravensbruck. Thereafter, he and his older brother Naphtali were—after working in a glass factory near the Piotrków ghetto—shipped to the Czestochowa labor camp in Poland.


The defining episode occured when the labor camp’s commandant had lined up the 10 children in Czestochowa and told them that they would be slaughtered because they were “useless.” The 7-year-old Lulek imagined he had “formed a small mound from the mud and stood on top of it in order to make myself taller.” From that imaginary mound, Lau relates, “I gave the first speech I had ever given in my life, which was also the speech of my life, in the battle for my life. I have delivered thousands of speeches [since], but none has been comparable to this speech”:


Why does the commandant say such things about us? That we are useless? That we are incapable? For twelve hours a day in Hortensia, the glass factory in Piotrków, I pushed a cart with sixty bottles of water among the furnaces of the glassblowers. Fill, empty, fill—and that was already a year ago. Now I’m older and I can do more. I, the youngest, and my friends who are older than I am—we have a right to live, too.                                                                (Top)





On Topic


∙       Israel National News, August 24, 2012
Elad Benari

∙       Jerusalem Post, August 24, 2012
Jeremy Sharon

∙       Canadian Jewish News, August 23, 2012
Rabbi Dow Marmur

∙       Jewish Press, August 24th, 2012
Lori Lowenthal Marcus


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