With Alleged Airstrike, Israel Punctuates Opposition to Syria Ceasefire Pact: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, Sept. 7, 2017— The situation playing out now with North Korea is a nightmare scenario of the dangers of nuclear proliferation.
Israel Slow to Recalibrate on Syria: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, September 4, 2017— Middle East developments over the past few years — including the civil war in Syria, the rise of the Islamic State, the expected fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the violence in Iraq — have all affected Israel’s conception of national security.
And the Winner in Syria Is … Iran: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 2017— A flurry of diplomatic activity is currently taking place in the Syrian and Iraqi arenas.
Iran, Operating From Syria, Will Destroy Europe and North America: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 27, 2017 — Iran and Russia plan to destroy Western Europe, the US and Canada by means of a new wave of millions of Syrian Sunnis fleeing to the West to escape the Shiite takeover of Syria.
Ex-IDF Intel chief: Israel Enforcing its ‘Red Lines’ with Syria Strike: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Sept. 7, 2017
'Israel May Have Struck the Syrian Weapons Facility Before Hezbollah Could Take Over': Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 7, 2017
Cornered in Raqqa: The Last Days of ISIS: Raja Abdulrahim, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 25, 2017
Iranians at the Gates: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Sept. 3, 2017
Judah Ari Gross
Times of Israel, Sept. 7, 2017
The timing of the airstrike allegedly carried out by the Israel Air Force against a Syrian advanced weapons development facility early Thursday morning could not have been more apt. The aerial attack came nearly 10 years to the day after Israel allegedly destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor; a few weeks after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah visited Damascus; two weeks after a meeting between Russian and Israeli heads of state; a day after a United Nations report formally blamed the Bashar Assad regime for a sarin gas attack earlier this year; and in the midst of the IDF’s largest exercise in nearly two decades, in which tens of thousands of soldiers are simulating a war with Hezbollah, a key part of the Syrian-Iranian Shiite axis.
In addition to whatever tactical value was gained from destroying such a facility, the early Thursday morning bombing run also presented a message to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, as well as to the United States and Russia, that Israel would continue to act in the war-torn country if necessary — ceasefire between the regime and rebels be damned.
The target was a Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS) facility, which reportedly produces and stores both chemical weapons and precision missiles, located outside the city of Masyaf, in Syria’s northwestern Hama region, nearly 300 kilometers away from Israel’s northernmost air base. “It targeted a Syrian military-scientific center for the development and manufacture of, among other things, precision missiles which will have a significant role in the next round of conflict,” wrote Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s Military Intelligence, on Twitter.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser, also noted that the rockets fired by Hezbollah at a Haifa train station during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which killed eight people, were manufactured at the Masyaf facility. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he told Russian President Vladimir Putin explicitly that Israel would act in Syria, during their meeting last month in the Russian city of Sochi. “We will act when necessary according to our red lines,” Netanyahu told reporters after the meeting. “In the past, we have done this without asking permission, but we have provided an update on what our policy is.”
But while declaring a policy publicly might send a message to Israel’s allies and enemies about its intentions, nothing can state that position more clearly than a missile. Yadlin noted that Russia and the US, which are helping negotiate and maintain a ceasefire in Syria, have been “ignoring the red lines that Israel has established.” For instance, last week, the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the US agreed to let Iran-backed militias take positions within 10 kilometers of Israel’s border with the Syrian Golan Heights, a troubling notion for the Jewish state as it would open up yet another potential front for terrorist groups in a future conflict.
According to Yadlin, the overnight airstrike also served to show that the presence of Russian troops — and their advanced air defense systems — “do not prevent actions, which are attributed to Israel, in Syria.” Israeli airstrikes in Syria, while not quotidian, have been a fairly common occurrence over the course of the country’s civil war, which began in 2011. The Jewish state has long-held a public policy of maintaining “red lines” and taking action if they are violated. Yet Thursday’s strike also represented a change in tack for Israel, Amidror said during a phone briefing with reporters organized by the Israel Project.
Yadlin wrote that the attack was “not routine.” Indeed, it was the first airstrike apparently conducted by the IAF since the Russian-American brokered ceasefire went into effect earlier this summer. Israel has cast doubts over the agreement, which it says allows Iran to entrench itself near the Golan border in southern Syria. According to Amidror, the strike on the CERS base was the first time Israel targeted not a Hezbollah weapons convoy nor a Hezbollah warehouse on a Syrian base, but an Assad regime production facility. The former national security adviser connected the airstrike to Nasrallah’s visit to Damascus last week. He said that during the terrorist leader’s visit to Syria, he likely secured a deal in which Assad would either “transfer the facility to Hezbollah or at least supply weapons to Hezbollah.”…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Al-Monitor, September 4, 2017
Middle East developments over the past few years — including the civil war in Syria, the rise of the Islamic State, the expected fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the violence in Iraq — have all affected Israel’s conception of national security. In light of these developments and the fact that for the first time in its history, Israel was not surrounded by conventional armies capable of threatening it, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) made several important changes: armored divisions were dismantled, land forces were diverted to different positions, commando units were established and infantry units were upgraded. In general, the IDF adapted itself more to guerilla warfare and fighting against widely dispersed networks of terror organizations rather than traditional large-scale wars against regular standing armies.
But over the last few months, a new perspective is beginning to penetrate Israeli’s security officials. The working assumptions that took root in recent years have been undermined and are starting to fall apart. We are not yet at the stage at which the IDF is changing course, but if events continue to advance in the direction they have gone in the last half year, then anything is possible. A formerly very high-placed source in Israel’s security system spoke to Al-Monitor last week. He said on condition of anonymity, “It’s high time to admit that perhaps all our assessments were erroneous. The prevailing consensus of the last five years was that Syria will never return to its former state. We thought that however this turns out, the Syrian state as we knew it had passed from the world. But evidently we were wrong.”
Israel’s top decision-makers have not changed course, but it is likely that such arguments are heard in private discussions, and top-secret intelligence assessments see it as a real possibility that Assad is capable of outsmarting those who prematurely eulogized him and Syria as we knew it. “Syria is returning, that is clear now,” said the source. “It’s not about the quantity of territory, it’s about central rule. If nothing unexpected happens, in the near future, Assad will be declared the final, unequivocal winner of this war. Following that, the path to Syria’s rebuilding and reconstruction will be short.”
In the current era, predictions are difficult to make and anything is possible in the Middle East. Nothing here is over until it’s over — and sometimes not even then. Recall that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced in January 2012, shortly after the civil war in Syria began, that Assad’s fate was sealed and his regime would collapse within a matter of weeks. The Israeli assessment has changed drastically, and now the fighting is expected to continue for many long years with no real winner. However, now even this outlook is shaky.
The possibility that Syria may well reinvent itself is a dramatic change from Israel’s viewpoint, obliterating the idea that the conventional Mideast front with its regular armies and heavy weaponry was a thing of the past. “It is safe to assume,” said the source, “that the Iranians will invest a fortune in rebuilding the Syrian army and we will return to dealing with [Syria’s] Division 4 or Corps 5 or the various presidential forces we got to know in the decades preceding this war,” he said.
Israel’s military and intelligence analysts must now regret all the opportunities they missed: to create important alliances with pragmatic Sunni rebels, to deliver the final mercy blow to the Assad regime during those decisive moments when battles raged around the presidential palace itself or to create a kind of security strip in the territory opposite the Golan Heights. Israel did none of these things — and cannot be faulted for doing what was safest and most convenient: standing aside and wishing success to both sides, as the fighting spared Israel from any real worries from the north or east.
But it appears now that the fighting will not last forever. When it ends, a new Syria will emerge — one much more dangerous than its predecessor. “This time,” an Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “it will be a Syria that is connected to Iraq, that is connected to Iran, which are both connected to Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s Lebanon. If in the past, the Syrian ruler was independent and it was impossible to pit him against Israel directly, it may soon be revealed that Syria has become a protectorate of Iran. It may become just another proxy with the goal of spilling as much Israeli blood as possible.”
On Aug. 23, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hurried off to another urgent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi. According to the report by Pravda, Netanyahu appeared to be in a panic and spoke with great emotion. The Russian newspaper is well-known for its close contacts with the Kremlin. However, it evidently does not keep close tabs on the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem. Whenever Netanyahu has talked about the threats accumulating around Israel, he has always done so with great emotion, excessive pathos and wild exaggeration. His behavior in this meeting was evidently true to form. Yes, developments on the Syrian front do worry Israel greatly, but they are not expected to change the basic components of Israeli deterrence. Israel will continue to emphasize that in the next confrontation in the north, it will destroy Lebanon, as the Lebanese state and Hezbollah are one and the same. The new Syria will find itself in a similar situation.
After more than six years of horrific warfare that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, there will be very few political and security figures in Damascus who will aspire to return to the horrors of war, at even greater intensity. Israel’s capacity for inflicting devastation is well-known to the entire Middle East, and it has only upgraded its abilities over the years. Thus, the tense quiet between Israel and its neighbors in the north is set against the backdrop of this deterrence equation. The choice to violate the quiet remains in Tehran's hands.
Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 2017
A flurry of diplomatic activity is currently taking place in the Syrian and Iraqi arenas. While the moves are occurring on separate and superficially unrelated fronts, taken together they produce an emergent picture. That picture is of two camps, one of which works as a united force on essential interests, the other of which at present does not.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week travelled to Sochi to discuss the issue of Syria with Russian officials. Specifically, Jerusalem is concerned with Iranian advances in the country. Israel considers that the de-escalation agreement for south west Syria reached by Washington and Moscow makes inadequate provision for ensuring that Teheran and its militia allies do not establish themselves along the borderline with the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan. It is noteworthy that this visit followed an apparent failure by a senior Israeli security delegation to Washington DC to ensure a US commitment in this regard.
As the officials were talking, the fighting fronts were on the move. Sunday saw the opening of the offensive to take the town of Tal Afar, 60 kilometers west of Mosul city, from the now crumbling Islamic State. Among the forces taking part in the offensive are the Hashd al-Sha'abi/Popular Mobilization Units. The PMU is the alliance of Shia militias mobilized to fight IS in the summer of 2014. Most prominent among them are Iranian-supported groups such as the Badr Organization, Ktaeb Hizballah and the Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
An additional notable process now under way is the attempt to induce the Iraqi Kurds to abandon their proposed independence referendum, scheduled to take place on September 25. Iran is fiercely opposed to any Kurdish move toward independence. Teheran is in the process of moving forward to a clearly dominant position in Iraqi politics, through its sponsorship of the Shia militias and the ruling Dawa party. The last thing Teheran wants would be for a major part of the country to split away. But as has become clear, the European and US allies of the Kurds are also hostile to any Kurdish bid for independence. Both German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have made their respective countries' opposition to the referendum and any hopes of Kurdish exit from Iraq plain.
Last week saw evidence of the growing closeness between Iran and Turkey. Iran's chief of staff, General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, met with President Recep Tayepp Erdogan. Following the meeting, Erdogan announced that the two countries have agreed on joint military action against the Kurdish PKK and its Iranian sister organization, PJAK. Bagheri's visit to Ankara was the first by an Iranian chief of staff since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. An additional new development came to light in the course of last week – namely, the new role of Egypt as a player in the Syrian arena. Egypt has in recent weeks played a role as a mediator in de-escalation agreements in the eastern Ghouta area and in Homs, with the permission and approval of both the Russians and the Saudis. Finally, the recent period saw the surprising visit of Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr to Riyadh, where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Sadr, a sectarian Shia figure who retains ties to Iran, has nevertheless sought to position himself as an Iraqi patriotic leader in recent months.
So what does all this diplomatic and military activity mean? In looking to locate the pattern of events, one becomes immediately aware that the activities of only one player add up to a unified whole. That player is Iran. In backing the Shia militias as political and military forces, opposing Kurdish aspirations to independence, seeking by all possible means to establish forces along the border with Israel, and seeking to draw Turkey away from the west and toward itself, Teheran is pursuing a coherent, comprehensive policy and strategy. This strategy ignores any distinction between Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, treating all three as a single arena of conflict. Allies and assets are all utilized to build the project of maximizing Iranian geographic reach and political and military potency within this space.
The Russians have limited goals in Syria, and little interest in Iraq. Russia should not be considered a strategic ally in this. The Russians have more modest goals in Syria, and little interest in Iraq. Moscow favors the increased Egyptian role in Syria which Teheran surely opposes. Russia is also not indifferent to Israeli and Saudi concerns and interests, hence the Netanyahu visit to Sochi. The US also does not currently seem to wish to be a primary player in this arena. Washington does not appear to be developing a real strategy for containing the Iranians in eastern Syria. The internal strains and turmoil in the US may indeed be a core factor preventing any real possibility of a US focus on this contest…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Arutz Sheva, Aug. 27, 2017
Iran and Russia plan to destroy Western Europe, the US and Canada by means of a new wave of millions of Syrian Sunnis fleeing to the West to escape the Shiite takeover of Syria. In my weekly column two months ago, I claimed that Iran is the real victor in the Syrian civil war. Using the war against ISIS as a smokescreen, it is taking over large swathes of Syrian territory, mainly in the scarcely populated middle and eastern parts of the country. In the more fertile and densely populated west of Syria, there are Iraqi, Afghan, and Iranian Shiite militias augmenting Lebanese Hezbollah fighters who were given carte blanche to do whatever Hassan Nasrallah decides to do there.
Assad's strength continues to increase as ISIS and the other rebel forces lose ground. The brutality of Russian involvement and the cruelty of Shiite militias overcame the anti-Assad forces, the turning point occurring when in 2015, Turkey' s Erdogan was forced by Russia to cease his aid to the rebels and ISIS. Today, although Erdogan is an unwilling ally of Russia, Alawite Assad still sees him, justifiably, as an Islamist enemy.
The Kurds of northeast Syria, treated as below third class citizens until 2011, will never agree to live under Arab mercy once again and it is reasonable to assume that should Syria remain an undivided country under Assad's rule, the Kurds will preserve relative autonomy in their region – or fight the regime for their rights. That is certainly a problem, but the main issue facing a united Syria is going to be the drastic demographic changes the country is going to face.
First of all, about half of Syria's citizens – close to 10 million – are refugees, half located in Syria and the other half in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, other Arab countries, Europe, North and South America, Australia and even Israel. Syrian refugees who reached points outside the Arab world will in all probability stay put, benefitting from the secure and orderly lives they can now lead. On the other hand, the 3.5 million now in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are awaiting the end of hostilities in order to return to their homes.
Those expectations may be dashed, however, because Syrian reality is totally changed, and large parts of its cities are in ruins after six and a half years of a cruel and bloody war. Countless bombs dropped from planes and helicopters, artillery and tank barrages, mines and explosives planted by both sides have made much of urban Syria, where most of the fighting took place, unsafe to live in. In Homs, Aleppo, Adlib, Hamat and many other cities, entire neighborhoods will have to be razed and their infrastructure rebuilt from scratch. Decades and billions of dollars are needed to rebuild the country and I, for one, do not see the world's nations standing on line to donate the necessary funds. Refugees will not agree to switch their tents in Jordan for ruined buildings lacking basic infrastructure in a desolate and destroyed Syria.
The other reason the refugees will not return is their justified fear of the new lords of the land – the Shiites. Iran has been moving Shiites from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan to Syria for a long time in a clear attempt to change the demographic makeup of the country from the Sunni majority it had before the civil war broke out in 2011. The issue could not be more clear because it is no secret that the pre-civil war Sunni majority considered the Alawite rulers heretic idol worshippers who had no right to live in Syria, much less rule over it.
The Alawites know well that the Sunnis rebelled against them twice: The first time was from 1976 to 1982, a rebellion that took the lives of 50,000 citizens. The second time, slowly drawing to an end, has cost the lives of half a million men, women, children and aged citizens of Syria. The Alawites intend to prevent a third rebellion and the best way to do that is to change the majority of the population to Shiites instead of Sunnis. They will not allow the Sunni refugees to return to their homes, leaving them eternal refugees whose lands have been taken over by the enemy. Iran, meanwhile, will populate Syria with Shiites from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
This ethnic cleansing is the Ayatollah's dream come true, the dream that sees a Shiite crescent drawn from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. This will cover the eastern Arab world from the north, while the war in Yemen is being fought in order to create a parallel southern crescent, entrapping Saudi Arabia and Jordan between the two. With the help of Allah, both those countries and Israel, the Small Satan, will soon fall into the hands of the Shiites, while Europe and America do nothing because who cares when Muslims fight other Muslims?…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Ex-IDF Intel chief: Israel Enforcing its ‘Red Lines’ with Syria Strike: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Sept. 7, 2017—A former head of Israeli military intelligence said Thursday that an overnight airstrike on a Syrian chemical weapons facility that was attributed to Israel sends a message to world powers that the country intends to enforce its red lines when it comes to protecting itself.
'Israel May Have Struck the Syrian Weapons Facility Before Hezbollah Could Take Over': Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 7, 2017—There's a strong probability that the Syrian military research center allegedly struck by Israeli warplanes on Thursday morning was targeted because of concerns that Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nassrallah had asked Damascus to hand over the facility to the Lebanon-based Shi'ite terror group.
Cornered in Raqqa: The Last Days of ISIS: Raja Abdulrahim, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 25, 2017—Before launching the battle to capture Islamic State’s de facto capital, the U.S.-led military coalition dropped leaflets calling on extremists to surrender. On the ground, militants were going door to door, demanding that residents pay their utility bills.
Iranians at the Gates: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Sept. 3, 2017—Unless something changes, Israel is sprinting headlong into another violent confrontation along its northern border, this time against either Iranian troops or Iranian backed fighters with missiles made to order from Tehran.