Tag: Bashar Assad


Depressing Deductions From the War in Syria: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, May 5, 2016— For the past five years, a war in which everyone is fighting everyone else has been raging in what was once called Syria.

The Islamic State Is Targeting Syria's Alawite Heartland – And Russia: Fabrice Balanche, Washington Institute, May 27, 2016— On May 23, the Islamic State (IS) perpetrated suicide bombings in Tartus and Jableh, killing 154 people and wounding more than 300.

Syrian Quagmire Delays Hizballah's Pursuit of Ultimate Objective: Yaakov Lappin, IPT, May 27, 2016— A brutal Sunni-Shi'ite war is raging across the Middle East, and the Lebanese terror organization Hizballah, originally formed to wage jihad on Israel, now finds itself in the middle.

While Ascendant, Israel’s Jihadi Neighbor Isn’t a Serious Threat: Dov Leiber, Times of Israel, May 23, 2016— Despite a pairing up of two Islamic State-linked militant groups on Israel’s northern border and a show of boldness by the new alliance, their threat to the Jewish state remains minimal, experts on jihadi groups in Syria told The Times of Israel.


On Topic Links


Is Syria Another Afghanistan for Russia?: Micah Halpern, Observer, May 26, 2016

The ISIS Challenge in Syria; Implications for Israeli Security: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, May 8, 2016

Israel's Need to Take a Stand against the Assad Regime: A Moral Imperative and Strategic Necessity: Amos Yadlin, INSS, May 22, 2016

Life Under the Islamic State: Fines, Taxes and Punishments: Sarah Almukhtar, New York Times, May 26, 2016




DEPRESSING DEDUCTIONS FROM THE WAR IN SYRIA                                                   

Dr. Mordechai Kedar                                                                                                   

Arutz Sheva, May 5, 2016


For the past five years, a war in which everyone is fighting everyone else has been raging in what was once called Syria. At least half a million people are dead, two million injured, five million – about half the population – have become refugees, some within the country, others outside it. And there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. The ceasefire is falling apart, the mass murders continue, and it's as if Syria is located on some other planet and no one sees or hears what is going on there.


This is nothing new. What's new is the disclosure by military and defense analyst Amos Harel that the Haaretz newspaper ran as its headline on May 2: "The escalation in Syria: Assad has begun using chemical weapons again." The subtitle said: "The Syrian army used chemical weapons, most probably deadly sarin gas against ISIS fighters who attacked government property near Damascus." Chemical weapons? Sarin? Wasn’t an agreement signed in September 2013, barely three years ago – between the USA and Russia – in which it was agreed that all the chemical weapons in Assad's possession after the massacre of August 2013 would be destroyed?


As a result of the agreement and the destruction of the poisonous substances the US government managed to avoid fulfilling its commitment to act against Assad if he crossed certain red lines, that is, if he used chemical weapons against his own citizenry. The Americans even set aside a special ship whose purpose was to destroy the poisonous gases and liquids out at sea, but it has now become clear that Assad held on to a substantial amount of chemical weapons allowing him to wage chemical warfare against his enemies. He may have held on to the means of manufacturing chemical weapons as well. If so, why bother to sign agreements that are not worth the paper they are printed on in today's world?


None the less shocking is the fact that the world has done nothing, despite realizing that the agreement is a worthless piece of paper, even though the agreement stipulates that the UN Security Council will enforce it if Assad does not live up to his commitment. The impression I get is that much of the West would not lose any sleep if the Arab world, and the entire Muslim world with it, was wiped off the map in a war of mass destruction.


Unfortunately, this agreement joins a good many others that the West has signed, but not enforced. An important example is the December 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which the Western Powers promised to guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine if it gives up the nuclear weaponry it was supposed to have received as a result of the breakup of the Soviet Union. What did the countries who signed the  memorandum do about Russia's invasion of Ukraine and against its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, part of Ukraine, in 2014? Not a thing. What is the Budapest Memorandum worth? Nothing. What are commitments and agreements made by the West worth? Everyone knows the answer to that question by now.


The issue is even worse when it affects the lives of so many in the third world and in particular, those in the Arab states. The West does nothing to stop the mass murders in Syria, has done nothing about the mass murders in Iraq, Libya and Yemen that have been going on unchecked for the past several years. The problem in Yemen is clear and so is its solution: a strong stand against Iran, which supports the rebels, and against Saudi Arabia, which supports the president, would have brought the hostilities to an end a long time ago, but the world – and particularly the Western part of it – are sick and tired of the Arab world's problems. The impression I get is that much of the West would not lose any sleep if the Arab world, and the entire Muslim world with it, was wiped off the map in an all-out war of mass destruction.


The war in Syria gave the world Islamic State, once called Daesh or ISIL. The entire world was aware of the thousands of volunteers, radical Muslims eager for battle, who were flooding into the Jihad fields of Syria and Iraq by way of Turkey. Every intelligence agency knew that Erdogan was helping them infiltrate into Syria to join those battling his arch-enemy, Assad. What did the world do to convince or force Turkey to cease doing this? Nothing. So who is to blame for the rapid expansion of Islamic State? Turkey alone? Or is the answer an entire slew of Western states that knew all too well the part Turkey played in smuggling Jihadists into Syria, knew that Turkey purchases Islamic State oil – because some of them do the same – knew about the arms smuggling through Turkey to Islamic State – and did nothing about it?


Worst of all is the way the world behaves towards Iran, a country which should be held responsible for a good part of the Syrian catastrophe. Iran supports Assad, a mass murderer, in every way it can: thousands of Iranian soldiers and others who came through Iran are actively fighting the rebels, massive amounts of cash travel from Iran to Syria in order to allow Assad to buy supporters in a country where there is hardly anything left to purchase with that money. Iran has injected its Lebanese cohorts, the Hezbollah, into the fray and that terrorist organization has lost thousands of fighters on the land that was once Syria.


Why is the world silent in the face of Iranian aid to mass murder? Why did the world run to sign a nuclear pact with Iran and remove the economic sanctions placed upon it? So that the hundreds of billions of dollars Iran receives can add to the fires of terror it fans in Syria, Iraq and any other place where it can buy friends?


In the Middle East, the most miserable place on this earth, Israel can survive not by the strength of its rights but by right of its strength. The West's behavior, led by the United States, in the face of the mass murders taking place in the Middle East, must turn on not only a red light but a powerful projector in order to open the eyes of Israel and its friends all over the world. The most important conclusion that Jews and Israelis must reach is to never rely on any commitment, on any agreement, oral or signed, when it comes to our own security, because when the moment of truth arrives our friends are liable to behave exactly as they did seventy years ago. Then, they were well aware that millions of Jews were being systematically murdered and did nothing to stop the genocidal Nazi machine.


Politicians, academics, artists and many public figures in the West lose no opportunity to attack Israel for what that country is forced to do to fight terror, but are struck dumb when the subject is crimes against humanity perpetrated anywhere else in the Middle East. The double standard with which they judge Israel has to be the basis of Israel's political and military behavior, especially when the subject is "Peace agreements" signed in the Middle East – pieces of paper that only the US and Europe view with a modicum of seriousness and have no intention of enforcing anyway…                                                                   

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





THE ISLAMIC STATE IS TARGETING SYRIA'S                                                  

ALAWITE HEARTLAND –     AND RUSSIA                                                                                          

Fabrice Balanche                                                                                                  

Washington Institute, May 27, 2016


On May 23, the Islamic State (IS) perpetrated suicide bombings in Tartus and Jableh, killing 154 people and wounding more than 300. This was the first time either coastal city had been targeted by such attacks since the beginning of the war. Tartus in particular had seemed like a haven up until Monday. It was still an attractive tourist destination because of its wide beaches, and it was in the middle of a construction boom given the arrival of internally displaced people (IDPs) from other parts of Syria — not just the Assad regime's fellow Alawites from Damascus, but also members of the Sunni majority from all across the country. Many Syrian refugees had even returned from Lebanon to Tartus because they considered life to be cheaper and safer there.


IS operatives can conduct simultaneous attacks of this nature rather easily given the corruption and nonchalance at coastal security checkpoints. I saw this problem firsthand when I visited Tartus and Latakia last month. After I crossed the border from Beirut via taxi, nobody asked me for my passport or searched my suitcase. The driver was known at each checkpoint, and by giving 100-200 Syrian pounds (10-20 cents) to those who stopped us, he was able to quietly proceed without hassle. Thanks to rampant corruption, he had also obtained a special permit to use military roads, further enabling him to avoid stringent controls. So it would be quite simple for terrorists to regularly infiltrate the Alawite heartland, which is also home to Russia's main bases in Syria. Moreover, IS could readily establish sleeper cell among its fellow Sunnis in these areas, who number in the hundreds of thousands (both locals and IDPs).


Through the latest attacks, the Islamic State is attempting to send different messages. The first is for the Alawites — IS wants to show them that the Assad regime cannot protect them. After all, the group has not attacked the nearby coastal cities of Banias and Latakia, which have larger Sunni populations. In Latakia's case, IDP flows have made Sunnis the majority, and IS likely prefers to avoid the risk of heavy Sunni casualties there. Regime security efforts are also more serious in Banias and Latakia, where Sunni neighborhoods erupted into armed rebellion in 2011-2012, which was not the case in Jableh and Tartus.


Sending such violent signals to the Alawites could have multiple ripple effects. IS leaders likely hope that Alawite soldiers serving in hotspots on the eastern front (e.g., Deir al-Zour, Palmyra) will refuse to fight if their families back in Tartus and other cities are not given better protection; the regime might even decide to redeploy eastern troops to the coast. The group also aims to spark discontent against the regime and Alawite reprisals against Sunnis. On February 21, IS attacks in Homs affected Alawite neighborhoods and provoked strong discontent against local authorities and the security apparatus, with people denouncing the corruption and inefficiency of officers. For now, such antipathy does not extend to Bashar al-Assad himself, but that could change if attacks continue. Meanwhile, Alawite reprisals against Sunnis could undermine the regime and its army, since many Sunnis are still fighting on Assad's side. On Monday, Alawites attacked al-Karnak camp in Tartus, home to 400 Sunni families from Aleppo and Idlib; according to unofficial sources, seven Sunnis were killed.


Yet the Islamic State's most important message is presumably to Moscow. Russia's only naval base in Syria is located in Tartus, while Jableh is close to Hmeimim, Russia's main air base. Moscow is also attempting to rehabilitate the old Soviet submarine base in Jableh. IS has already shown a pattern of targeting Russian infrastructure, most recently Tiyas airfield between Homs and Palmyra, according to the BBC. IS leaders are well aware that Moscow's assistance enabled the Syrian army to retake Palmyra and set its sights on Deir al-Zour, so they aim to increase the price of the Russian intervention and force a withdrawal from the Syrian theater, or at least from the eastern fronts.


Finally, Monday's bombings send a message to other rebel groups. Although the Islamic State's goals and methods often differ from those of Syria's various anti-Assad factions, it still wants to be regarded as the leader of the fight against the regime, Russia, and the Alawite community. It will therefore continue trying to show that it is more effective and more ruthless than al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, currently its main rival for that title.                                                   




SYRIAN QUAGMIRE DELAYS HIZBALLAH'S                                                               

PURSUIT OF ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE                                                                                                 

Yaakov Lappin                                                                                                               

IPT, May 27, 2016


A brutal Sunni-Shi'ite war is raging across the Middle East, and the Lebanese terror organization Hizballah, originally formed to wage jihad on Israel, now finds itself in the middle. Hizballah is a formidable component of the Middle East's Iranian-led Shi'ite axis. The axis is a transnational network of allies and proxies that once was focused on fomenting attacks on Israel. It still does that, but the axis is primarily engaged in an altogether different, day-to-day fight against Sunni organizations, as well as against the Sunni states like Saudi Arabia that back some of these groups.


This war is raging in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and other battlegrounds, and it has reshaped the Middle East, making it almost unrecognizable. For example, in the second half of the 20th century, Syria often would send military forces into Lebanon to dominate it. Today, Lebanese Hizballah formations dominate and shape events inside Syria. The radical Shi'ite axis is led by Iran's extraterritorial Quds Force unit, which answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The Quds Force arms and funds the Assad regime, and a series of militias and terror organizations that stretch across Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and even the Gaza Strip.


An examination of some of the paradoxes that define Hizballah today sheds light on the new reality facing the Iranian axis. The first contradiction is one of capabilities. Hizballah is by far the most heavily armed terrorist organization in the world, yet it cannot use most of its weapons – a vast arsenal of 120,000 surface-to-surface rockets and missiles – in almost any of the battles it now fights against Sunni rebels in Syria. These weapons are reserved for use against Israel, and in any case, would not be very effective in the kind of counter-insurgency warfare Hizballah is fighting against irregular rebel forces.


Additionally, Hizballah finds itself caught in a difficult political situation. It saved the Assad regime from full collapse, yet it faces pressure from Iran to send even more forces out of its home turf of Lebanon, and into Syria. This leads to a second paradox defining Hizballah today, which revolves around the issue of money. Hizballah's masters in Tehran have reduced the group's annual budget, and the organization is facing the fallout of a U.S.-led campaign to get Lebanese banks to stop working with it. Seventy percent of Hizballah's $1 billion budget comes from Iran, a decrease from recent years. Nevertheless, the budget enables Hizballah to continue building up a surface-to-surface rocket and missile arsenal that dwarfs most states. As a result of being stretched between Syria's warzones and positions in southern Lebanon, which were built for war with Israel, Hizballah, like its Iranian backers, currently is not interested in a war with Israel.


Hizballah has played down past recent incidents that could lead to conflict with Israel, and was quick to say that the assassination earlier this month of the group's operations chief, Mustafa Badreddine, was carried out by Syrian rebels, not Israel. It took Hizballah more than seven years to rebuild the southern Beirut stronghold of Dahiya after the 2006 war with Israel. Yet today, Hizballah, like the wider Iranian axis of which it is a part, is focused on its war against the Sunnis, who are bent on toppling Assad from power. The Sunni world is itself divided into pragmatic regional powers like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, and the genocidal ISIS and al-Qaida jihadists. The pragmatic Sunni elements have come to view Israel as a silent and highly valuable potential partner in a new regional realignment that is forming to fight both ISIS and the Iranian axis…


All of this has come at a very high price. More than 1,500 Hizballah members have been killed in Syria, and more than 5,500 have been wounded, forcing the organization to set up costly rehabilitation programs for Syria veterans. Recent weeks have seen many Hizballah casualties fall in Syria. So far in 2016, it has lost over 60 members in Syria's war. Last year, it lost more than 540 fighters, and in 2014, around 360 Hizballah members were killed battling Sunni insurgents. In the past, when Iran feared that Israel might imminently strike the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, one of Hizballah's main roles was to deter Israeli decision makers from ordering a strike. Today, Iran views Hizballah as the powerful Shi'ite combatant that will defend Iranian interests in Syria against the Sunnis.


For now, Iran is abiding by the Joint Plan of Action over its nuclear weapons program, opening up its economy to new investment, and flooding Iranian defense industries with cash for developing new weapons. Many of these weapons will end up in Hizballah's hands. Yet none of the above developments has caused Hizballah and Iran to give up their quest to destroy Israel. Iran has not given up on the goal of eventually acquiring nuclear weapons, and Hizballah genuinely believes it has a divine mission to destroy Israel one day…                                                                                                                                                             

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




ISN’T A SERIOUS THREAT                                                                  

Dov Leiber                                                                                                   

Times of Israel, May 23, 2016


Despite a pairing up of two Islamic State-linked militant groups on Israel’s northern border and a show of boldness by the new alliance, their threat to the Jewish state remains minimal, experts on jihadi groups in Syria told The Times of Israel. As the Syrian civil war rages into its fifth year, with some estimates putting the death toll at nearly half a million people, small to medium-sized militant groups continue to jockey for power, switch allegiances and swap control of territory. This volatile situation extends all the way to Israel’s doorstep.


The two most powerful Sunni groups that now control territory on Israel’s northern border are the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, which is estimated to have several thousand fighters, and the IS-linked Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade (YMB), which according to most estimates, has up to 1,000 members. An IDF officer told The Times of Israel in March that the Israeli army was keeping a close eye on both groups, afraid they might carry out an attack — a car bomb, rocket launching, or kidnapping — in order to score propaganda points with their benefactors; both Islamic State and al-Qaeda have threatened Israel in the past.


The overall assessment, however, remains that these jihadi groups are too pre-occupied fighting each other and reinforcing their grip on their respective territory to open a battlefront with the Middle East’s most powerful military. Of the two groups, the IDF officer suggested that though al-Nusra was more powerful, the group is considered less of a threat than YMB. Al-Nusra has gained a reputation for being a somewhat rational actor in Syria, especially in comparison to the Islamic State group, whose brazen ideology makes their affiliate on Israel’s northern border a looser canon.


Since The Times of Israel spoke with the IDF in March, there have been two important interconnected changes on the southern Syrian battlefield. First, YMB sprung an unexpected offensive against Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces in the southern Daraa province in late March-early April. The IS-linked group managed to take the towns of Tasil and Sahm al-Jawlan, and nearly split in half FSA’s territory. This could have been a disaster for the moderate fighters, as it would have cut off their northern forces from logistical support they receive from Jordan. Second, during this Daraa offensive, YMB joined forces with another, smaller IS-linked group called the Islamic Muthanna Movement (IMM)…


In an article published on Sunday, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq, examined the danger Syrian groups pose to Israel’s northern border. In the piece, he addressed the new alliance between the IS-linked groups and their brazen attack in Daraa. The immediate cause for the change of dynamics in YMB, Tamimi wrote, was the appointment of a new leader for the group in March. The replacement chief was likely sent by central Islamic State leadership, and is not a native of the Yarmouk Valley, but a Saudi by the name of Abu Abdallah al-Madani.


The new appointment cemented the transition of the group from moderate and FSA-affiliated to an IS affiliate, and set the groundwork for the bold offensive that sent the local militia fighting out if its native heartland. Despite the new leadership for YMB and their military alliance with IMM, Tamimi’s overall assessment of the jihadi threat to Israel mirrored the IDF’s. “The risk posed to Israel by the various Sunni jihadi groups in southern Syria is low,” as these groups have “far greater priorities than to focus their energies on Israel,” he wrote…                                                                                                            


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




On Topic Links


Is Syria Another Afghanistan for Russia?: Micah Halpern, Observer, May 26, 2016—ISIS attacked a Russian military base in Syria on May 14th. Four Mi-24 attack helicopters were burned, 20 trucks were destroyed, a storage depot was hit and a MIG-25 fighter jet was damaged. The base is known as T-4, sometimes also called Tiyas in Homs province.

The ISIS Challenge in Syria; Implications for Israeli Security: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, May 8, 2016—ISIS captured the world’s attention when it routed the Iraqi army in Mosul and took control over the city in early June 2014. At one point, its advance southward reached to within 75 km of Israel’s border on the Golan Heights.

Israel's Need to Take a Stand against the Assad Regime: A Moral Imperative and Strategic Necessity: Amos Yadlin, INSS, May 22, 2016—For the past five years, Israel has chosen not to take sides in the events underway in Syria. Yet while there were – and still are – some good reasons for this policy, the time has come for Israel to reassess its position on the civil war that rages across its border.

Life Under the Islamic State: Fines, Taxes and Punishments: Sarah Almukhtar, New York Times, May 26, 2016—The Islamic State is losing territory and, with it, population and resources. Its revenue has fallen almost 30 percent since last year, and it is increasing taxes and punishments to help make up for the losses, according to the IHS Conflict Monitor.










Bashar Assad's Pivot to Palmyra: Paul Salem, Real Clear World, Apr. 3, 2016— There are currently three tracks in the Syrian civil war…

ISIS May be Losing, But the Big Winners are America’s Enemies: Benny Avni, New York Post, Mar. 30, 2016— With the retaking of Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, we seem to finally have made tangible, on-the-ground gains against ISIS…

With Jihadists at the Door, Syrians on Both Sides of the Conflict Rush to Rescue their Ancient History: Maeva Bambuck, National Post, Mar. 31, 2016— With Islamic State group militants on the doorstep of his hometown in eastern Syria…                                                          

Gulf Arab States Close Doors to Syrian Refugees: Raheem Kassam, Breitbart, Mar. 31, 2016— U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has surfaced, once again to lecture the Anglosphere and the Western world…


On Topic Links


Syria’s Civil War Has Done More Than Just Ruin Lives. It Has Devastated the Region’s Economy: Frances Charles, National Post, Mar. 17, 2016

Putin's "Sacred Mission" in Syria: Dr. Anna Geifman, BESA, Mar. 27, 2016

How to Win Friends and Kill People: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Apr. 11, 2016

War and Madness: A Retrospective of Five Years of Reporting on the War in Syria: Jonathan Spyer, Rubin Center, Mar. 29, 2016



Paul Salem

Real Clear World, Apr. 3, 2016


There are currently three tracks in the Syrian civil war: the cessation of hostilities between the government and the opposition; the negotiations in Geneva; and the war against the Islamic State group. The cease-fire is barely holding, and the war on ISIS is moving forward, but the talks in Geneva are fully stalled. The Assad regime's move late last month to recapture the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS is related to all three tracks.


The pause in fighting declared in late February proved surprisingly durable, until a few days ago. The opposition was already dispirited and exhausted in the face of a sustained Russian-backed offensive, and thus welcomed — and have largely stuck to — the cessation. On the regime side, the Russian insistence on the cease-fire, followed by the partial Russian withdrawal, indicated to President Bashar Assad that Russia had reinforced the regime's battlefield positions, but would go little further in engaging in an open-ended war against the opposition. At the same time, the Russians have indicated their willingness to be more engaged in the fight against ISIS.


The cease-fire and the evolving Russian position affected Assad's strategy. His intention had been to maintain Russian help until a full battlefield defeat of the opposition, while leaving the fight against ISIS for a later stage. With the first lane closed, he was forced to reevaluate.


President Vladimir Putin announced the partial withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria on the same day that world leaders were meeting in Geneva for scheduled peace talks, with the Kremlin calling for "an intensification of the process for a political settlement" to the conflict. But the Assad government has effectively refused to negotiate. Assad himself has said that the war will continue until the regime subdues all of Syria, and his officials have insisted that any talk of a political transition is off the table. The government delegation doesn't even recognize the opposition as a negotiating partner, referring to them regularly as "terrorists." With Assad being the clear spoiler at Geneva, to the ire of both Russia and the West, the campaign to retake Palmyra deftly shifted attention from Assad's unwillingness to negotiate, to Assad's role in defeating ISIS.


Indeed, there are already politicians and commentators in Europe and the United States who have forgotten how Syria and ISIS got to where they are today, and are now rushing to embrace Assad. They are mistaking the cause for the cure. While the Assad regime can play an important role in the war on the Islamic State, and the main institutions of the Syrian state must endure through any political agreement, only a serious resolution of the Syrian political conflict — including a political transition and the eventual expiration of Assad's presidential term — will stabilize the country and ultimately defeat not only ISIS, but the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front as well.


Furthermore, while Assad's forces took Palmyra, other groups were moving against ISIS strongholds elsewhere. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which include Kurdish YPG forces and allied Sunni and Christian militias, moved closer to the ISIS capital of Raqqa. Other rebel units backed by the United States and Gulf states have pushed toward ISIS strongholds in Deir Ezzor and Dabiq. With the cease-fire freeing up fighting capacities on both sides, the war against ISIS in Syria appears to have finally begun in earnest. All sides will be scrambling to gain territory as this fight proceeds.


Although the regime has finally decided to engage the Islamic State group after allowing it to flourish for three years, it faces constraints. Palmyra was relatively close to the capital and fairly easy to capture. Campaigns to reclaim Raqqa or Deir Ezzor will be far more challenging. The regime's own fighters are stretched thin and exhausted from five years of combat; they are still willing to fight and risk death in defense of strongholds in Damascus, Aleppo, and the Alawite coastline, but embarking on ambitious campaigns in the north and east of the country will be a very difficult sell.


Among the regime's allies, Russia now regards the war on ISIS as the priority and has proven willing to provide extensive air support. But the Syrian government's Iranian and Hezbollah allies will be less enthusiastic about providing manpower. They have indicated a firm commitment to defending the core territories of the regime, but have expressed little enthusiasm for ambitious campaigns further afield. The defeat of ISIS in Syria will have to be a multiplayer affair with a role for the regime, but also important roles for the Kurdish and Arab rebel militias. Indeed, Interfax has reported that Russia and the United States are discussing concrete military coordination to liberate the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa…                      

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





Benny Avni

                                                                              New York Post, Mar. 30, 2016


With the retaking of Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, we seem to finally have made tangible, on-the-ground gains against ISIS — that is, if “we” refers to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. President Obama and several of his would-be successors are satisfied: The terrorists of ISIS are losing ground. America exerts little treasure and sheds no blood. Our allies in Syria are on the march. What’s not to like? Wait, “allies”?


During the half-decade Syrian civil war, the White House has repeatedly deemed Assad unfit to lead the country. If anything, administration officials stress again and again, he should stand trial for war crimes. Meanwhile, Hezbollah tops the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. Despite Obama’s endless overtures to Iran, the administration still considers it, at least officially, an adversary. And Russia? Well, it’s complicated, but a trusted friend they’re not.


Over the weekend, Syrian army troops loyal to Assad took Palmyra, supported by Russian warplanes. (Strange — while Vladimir Putin announced earlier this month that Russia is getting out of Syria, he keeps pouring military assets into the country.) Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps fighters helped out. It was a first for Assad. Syrian sources tell me that the Syrian army and its allies could have successfully mounted a similar attack at any time since last May, when the ISIS gangs took over Palmyra and proceeded to shock the world by smashing its cherished antiquities — or as ISIS called them, “symbols of idolatry.”


Beyond its value to Indiana Jones types, by the way, Palmyra is a strategic asset, located between Damascus and the country’s eastern deserts and the Iraqi border. So how come Assad waited so long before instructing his army to take back the city? Because Assad never really saw ISIS as his main enemy. Rather, the group was his insurance card: The scarier and stronger it seemed to the West, the more we’d see the war as a choice between him and ISIS — and choose him. So he went easy on ISIS, and attacked all other Sunni groups that vied to overthrow him.


Now, as America, Russia and the United Nations are (perhaps prematurely) beginning to plan the postwar political arrangements, Assad needs to demonstrate his value as the only serious buffer against ISIS. And so, with Russia, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah, Assad wrestles Palmyra away from those ISIS goons who shocked the world by ruining its beautiful ancient artifacts, and the world is impressed.


Publicly, official Washington maintains the “Assad must go” mantra. But behind the scenes, we welcome his latest maneuvering. After all, anyone who’d weaken ISIS is welcome. Except ISIS will be fine. Indeed, it’s already moved assets to Libya. With our hands-off approach, we failed to cultivate significant alliances in Syria (as opposed to our success in doing so during the 2007-2009 Iraq “surge”). As a result, no one does our bidding there. We therefore must rely on Russia — even though Moscow also brings along Hezbollah, Iran and (for now, at least) Assad. Beyond the stench, is a victory for that odious coalition in our interest? It’ll lead to endless unrest. Sunnis won’t accept it.


The growth of Iran’s Shiite Crescent has already ignited Iran-Saudi proxy wars in Yemen and Bahrain, in addition to Syria. And as Thomas Friedman reports from Iraq, this is a region-wide war. Meanwhile, Hezbollah and Iran are trying to establish a base on the Golan, where they hope to open a new anti-Israeli front. So, no. “We” didn’t gain in Palmyra. We farmed the battle out to others, who are no allies. Thus, we’re guaranteed intensified mayhem, which sooner or later can reach our shores, too.


It should teach us the perils of the hands-off approach. Instead, our leading presidential candidates increasingly take up Obama’s complaint that our allies don’t sufficiently shoulder the burdens of global security. One of the lessons of the Syria mess is that when America sheds responsibilities, our allies won’t pick up the baton. Instead, the void tends to be filled with the worst of the worst.





                                         RUSH TO RESCUE THEIR ANCIENT HISTORY                                                                                 Maeva Bambuck                                                                                             

National Post, Mar. 31, 2016


With Islamic State group militants on the doorstep of his hometown in eastern Syria, Yaroob al-Abdullah had little time. He had already rushed his wife and four daughters to safety. Now he had to save the thousands of ancient artifacts he loved. In a week of furious work in summer heat, tired and dehydrated from the Ramadan fast, the head of antiquities in Deir el-Zour province and his staff packed up most of the contents of the museum in the provincial capital. Then al-Abdullah flew with 12 boxes of relics to Damascus.


The pieces included masterpieces: A nearly 5,000-year-old statuette of a smiling worshipper. A colourful mural fragment from a 2nd-century temple for the god Bel. Thousands of fragile clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform writing, including administrative records, letters and business deals that provide a glimpse at life nearly 4,000 years ago in the Semitic kingdom of Mari. The move, carried out in 2014, was part of a mission by antiquities officials across Syria to evacuate everything that could be saved from Islamic State extremists and looters. The extent of the operation has been little known until now, but its participants described … a massive effort — at least 29 of Syria’s 34 museums largely emptied out and more than 300,000 artifacts brought to the capital.


The pieces are now hidden in secret locations known only to the few specialists who handled them, said Maamoun Abdulkarim, who as head of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Damascus oversaw the operation. “Other than that, no one knows where these antiquities are — not a politician, not any other Syrian.” There’s much that couldn’t be saved. The damage is most symbolized by Palmyra, the jewel of Syrian archaeology, a marvellously preserved Roman-era city. ISIL militants captured it last year and proceeded to blow up at least two of its most stunning temples.


Over the weekend, Syrian government forces recaptured Palmyra from the militants and discovered they had trashed the city museum, smashing statues and looting relics — though fortunately about 400 pieces had been hidden away by antiquities officials before the ISIL takeover.


Across the country, the destruction has been tragic. Wherever they overran territory in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State jihadis relentlessly blew up, bulldozed or otherwise tore down monuments they consider pagan affronts. They and other traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos from the 5-year-old civil war to loot sites and sell off artifacts. Even in the museums that were evacuated, some items were too large to move — giant statues or ancient gates and murals — and fell into ISIL hands, their fate unknown. But the 2,500 archaeologists, specialists, curators and engineers with Syria’s antiquities department, including some who defected to join the opposition, have often risked death to protect what they can.


One 25-year-old woman led a military convoy carrying antiquities out of the northern city of Aleppo, a major battleground between rebels and government forces. Out of fear for her safety, she requested anonymity. Guards at archaeological digs and other sites in areas now under ISIL control secretly keep tabs on the ruins and feed Abdulkarim photo updates on WhatsApp. Several of them have been killed.


Khaled al-Asaad, Palmyra’s retired antiquities chief, was beheaded by the extremists in August after spiriting away artifacts from the city’s museum. Ziad al-Nouiji, who took over from al-Abdullah as head of antiquities in Deir el-Zour, brought a second load of relics to Damascus last June. But otherwise he has remained in the government-held part of Deir el-Zour city. He knows the danger: ISIL militants besieging the area are hunting for him, posting his name on their Facebook pages as a wanted man. He relocated his family abroad but is staying put. “This is my duty, my country’s right. If we all left the country and our duties, who would be left?” he asked.


In the rebel-held northwestern city of Maarat al-Numan, archaeologists affiliated with the opposition protected the city’s museum, which houses Byzantine mosaics. There the danger was from government airstrikes, so they erected a sandbag barrier with financial and logistical support from former antiquities directorate chief Amr al-Azm, who sided with the opposition. Last June, just after the sandbagging was complete, a government barrel bomb damaged mosaics in the outside courtyard, he said. “The heroes here are the Syrian men and women on both sides who … are willing to risk their lives for their heritage,” al-Azm said by telephone from Shawnee State University in Ohio, where he teaches. “That’s what gives me hope for the future of Syria.”


The antiquities authorities didn’t take any chances, even clearing museums in government-controlled areas. At the National Museum in Damascus, the halls and galleries have been empty since the artifacts were hidden away in 2013 for fear rebel shelling could hit the building. In the pottery room, dust rings mark where the pieces once stood and only the labels remain. In 2014, with EU funding, the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO began training Syrian staff in storing artifacts and helped establish a nationwide system to document their inventory. In Damascus last month, a team of archaeologists and archivists was still processing the collection brought from the Daraa Museum in southern Syria. “With a good team, a charismatic leader and our support they managed an extraordinary feat,” said Cristina Menegazzi, head of UNESCO’s Syrian heritage emergency safeguard project.


A vital crossroads throughout history, Syria holds a legacy from multiple civilizations that traded, invaded and built cities across its territory — the Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamia, various Semitic kingdoms, the Romans and Byzantines, and then centuries of Islamic dynasties. The country is dotted with “tells,” hills that conceal millennia-old towns and cities, some of which have been partially excavated and many more that are still waiting to be discovered…

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





Raheem Kassam                    

                                                  Breitbart, Mar. 31, 2016


U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has surfaced, once again to lecture the Anglosphere and the Western world about its "duties" to hurriedly absorb nearly half a million more Syrian migrants. The war-torn country's surrounding nations, he argues, have done the heavy lifting already. Now the U.N. chief wants you and your communities to do more. There is a misconception that all Syria's neighbours have shrugged their shoulders towards their Muslim brethren, scorning the Ummah out of rugged self interest. It's not strictly true. But the dichotomy presented – that it is us or them – is a false one, and one that European and American leaders should not be afraid to reject outright.


The New York Times reports that the Sec. General opened a conference in Geneva today, demanding "an exponential increase in global solidarity", insisting that "Neighboring countries have done far more than their share" and imploring "Others [to] now step up." And, of course, the stress was on European Union member states and the United States of America to do more. The news follows quickly on the heels of Oxfam – one of the world's most political charities – demanding that France, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, and Denmark all take in more "refugees" and faster.


Of course, of the nearly 5 million fleeing Syria, most remain in the Middle East, with countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan inundated by refugees. In part, this is what has spurred Turkey on to shipping their problems off into Europe – especially the Kurdish one. It is noteworthy too, that Oxfam and Ban Ki Moon's criticisms were levelled at Western nations not because we have the infrastructure or capability to deal with the influx (we don't) – but because we are, apparently, "rich". (We'll just casually ignore our gargantuan debt crisis for the moment, shall we?)


But while the United Nations lumps the responsibility onto the West, you might ask why countries like Saudi Arabia, which claims to have absorbed around half a million Syrians, do not provide any data to support their statements. Indeed, in 2013, net migration of those deemed to be Syrian nationals stood at around just 20,000, with criticism aimed at the country for only accepting Syrians who already have families in the Kingdom.


In fact countries that could take more, and haven't remain free of criticism, presumably because they aren't signatories to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. This isn't a sign that we are better. It's a sign that we are dumber. We as Western nations afford moral and political equivalence for almost all other countries around the world nowadays (most recently, Cuba and Iran) but we don't make the same demands of these countries as we place upon ourselves.


What about Malaysia? Why can't they take more migrants and refugees? Indonesia? India? China? Argentina? Has Ban Ki Moon lobbied his home nation, South Korea? It's almost as if there's a whole world out there. But the onus is, apparently, on Britain, France, and America. We are destined to follow Germany's lead, a country now inundated with migrants not just from Syria, because Mrs. Merkel stupidly threw her doors open and declared, "Come one, come all!" Perhaps we should look to the words of Batal, a Syrian refugee who spoke to Bloomberg, for why the pressure is being placed on Western countries and the Anglosphere: "In Europe, I can get treatment for my polio, educate my children, have shelter and live an honorable life… Gulf countries have closed their doors in the face of Syrians."

On Topic


Syria’s Civil War Has Done More Than Just Ruin Lives. It Has Devastated the Region’s Economy: Frances Charles, National Post, Mar. 17, 2016—Blood-stained bodies lie on the ground. Bombs hurtle downward. A black helicopter gunship hovers menacingly overhead. When six-year-old Heba draws pictures, the only colours she uses are blood red and death black.

Putin's "Sacred Mission" in Syria: Dr. Anna Geifman, BESA, Mar. 27, 2016—On September 30, 2015, Vladimir Putin ordered Russian warplanes into Syria to begin regular aerial bombardments of targets that Moscow defined as sources of “jihadi terror.” The intervention followed an official invitation from the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who had asked his Russian ally for help against the “jihadists.”

How to Win Friends and Kill People: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Apr. 11, 2016—Last week the mayor of London heaped praise on the president of Syria for liberating Palmyra, and thereby saving its prized antiquities from ISIS. In his column for the Telegraph, Boris Johnson wrote that he knows “Assad is a monster, a dictator. He barrel-bombs his own people. His jails are full of tortured opponents. He and his father ruled for generations by the application of terror and violence."

War and Madness: A Retrospective of Five Years of Reporting on the War in Syria: Jonathan Spyer, Rubin Center, Mar. 29, 2016—The cold numbers are the first thing that hit you. Figures telling of a human catastrophe on a scale hard to compute. Suffering on a level to which any rational response seems inadequate – 470,000 people killed, according to the latest estimates; 11.5 percent of the population injured; 45 percent of a country of 22 million made homeless; 4 million refugees and 6.36 million internally displaced persons.
















Assad’s Victory is at Hand: Robert Fulford, National Post, Feb. 27, 2016— More than a quarter of a million Syrians have been killed since the Arab Spring of 2011 set the stage for the civil war in Syria.

Israel and Syria: Jerusalem Post, Feb. 14, 2016— What effect, if any, will the Syrian cease-fire plan have on Israel?

Hezbollah is Learning Russian: Alexander Corbeil, Carnegie Endowment, Feb. 26, 2016 — Hezbollah has suffered several setbacks since it began its involvement in the Syrian war…

Europe is Planning to Deport Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims: Lawrence Solomon, National Post, Feb. 8, 2016— In a recent reversal, Sweden now says it will deport half of its 160,000 migrants…


On Topic Links


Airstrikes Resume Amid Shaky Syria Truce: Raja Abdulrahim & Dana Ballout, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28, 2016

A Kurdish Convergence in Syria: Michael Cruickshank & Gissur Simonarson, New York Times, Feb. 25, 2016

Syria: Jihadi Group Claims to Kill ‘Dozens’ of Russian Generals with Car Bomb: John Hayward, Breitbart, Feb. 24, 2016

One Syrian’s Journey From Hometown Rebel to ISIS Bomber: Hwaida Saad & Anne Barnard, New York Times, Jan. 15, 2016



Robert Fulford

National Post, Feb. 27, 2016


More than a quarter of a million Syrians have been killed since the Arab Spring of 2011 set the stage for the civil war in Syria. About 11 million other Syrians have been forced from their homes by the fighting. About four million have left the country in an attempt to find safety elsewhere. As a UN report recently put it, Syria is a “fractured state on the brink of collapse.”


Russia and the U.S. have jointly announced…a cessation of hostilities in Syria (Feb. 27, 2016) … Russia has agreed to convince the Syrian government and its Iranian allies to stop fighting. The U.S. has agreed to get a similar undertaking from the factions that, with some U.S. help, have been fighting against the Syrian government. The Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations and 17 countries took part in the talks last November that led to the current negotiations.


Never in the history of human bargaining have so many argued so much and produced so little. Diplomacy is the art of pursuing results with little hope of success. Many of the diplomats involved expect the Syrian truce to fail, mainly because the two sides expect such different results. The High Negotiations Committee (HNC), representing the anti-government forces, expects an end to attacks on civilians, the freeing of prisoners and the delivery of food and medical supplies to regions isolated by war.


The president of Syria, Bashar Assad? Clearly he lives by narcissism and wishful thinking. He does not know, or believe, that he started the civil war when he turned soldiers loose on non-violent protesters opposing government policy. Eventually, the protesters and their friends answered violence with violence. Bombs have since turned much of Syria into rubble and transformed Assad into a major-league villain.


Yet he now expects that somehow he will be allowed to remain in power. And, if he pulls off a few more miracles, that may happen. There are said to be many Syrians who despise him and yet stay at his side in the wan hope that he can recreate the peaceful pre-war days, and because all known alternatives are even worse.

Russia is on his side, giving him hope for his future and stoking Vladimir Putin’s self-image as an international statesman.


At Latakia on the Mediterranean, Syria’s main seaport and the historical centre of the Assad-supporting Alawites, the Russians have built their Khmeimim airbase, with air-conditioned accommodation for 1,000 personnel and a complement of fighter-bombers and transports, along with many tanks and an advanced rocket-firing air defence system. Since the days of the British and French, few foreign states have so quickly set down such permanent-looking roots in the Middle East.


This week, the Assad government, with heavy air support from Russia, recaptured from ISIL the town of Khanaser, not far from Aleppo, a strategic centre much in contention. Russia has said that in future it expects to focus all its operations in Syria against ISIL and other terrorists. However that works out, Russia has brought Assad the equivalent of an air force, making the Syrian rebels helpless. Having lost in the civil war more territory than he now governs, Assad can dream of once more presiding over the whole country.


Two weeks ago, Assad gave a detailed account of Syria’s crisis as he sees it. He defined those who claim to be the opposition as “traitors and terrorists,” backed by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. He said these terrorists portray themselves as peaceful statesmen who wish only freedom for Syria. They call for negotiations, he said, but, “No country can agree to negotiate with terrorists.” Assad claims he’s supporting the Syrian people and the integrity of the state. Foreign countries have suggested that after the cease-fire a transitional phase might lead to changes, but “any transitional phase” must operate under the current Syrian constitution. That means under Assad’s direction.


A million editorials and numberless speeches from politicians have charged “Humanity” with saving the Syrians. It is widely believed that “Humanity,” when its moral sense is awakened, can do something. This time, it huffed and puffed, but with little effect. On Thursday morning, in the midst of controversy over the truce, the UN elected Syria (that is, Assad’s Syria) as co-chair with Venezuela of the decolonization committee that considers still-existing colonies such as Gibraltar, French Polynesia and the Virgin Islands. The committee’s job is assessing the “Subjugation of Peoples.” No one can say the UN has no sense of humour. Next month the war will be five years old.                                       




Jerusalem Post, Feb. 14, 2016


What effect, if any, will the Syrian cease-fire plan have on Israel? Announced in Munich last week by the major world powers – including Russia and the US – the plan calls for a “cessation of hostilities” within a week and immediate access for humanitarian supplies. “We believe we have made progress on both the humanitarian front and the cessation of hostilities front, and these two fronts, this progress, has the potential – fully implemented, fully followed through on – to be able to change the daily lives of the Syrian people,” US Secretary of State John Kerry declared on (Feb. 11, 2016).


The cease-fire effort is an attempt by the US and EU to end the civil war that has resulted in half a million deaths (sic), and to stop the waves of refugees making their way to Europe through Turkey. The humanitarian crisis in Syria since the civil war began five years ago has reached massive proportions with eight million Syrians – or about a third of the population – uprooted from their homes. But without a more robust American involvement in Syria, the cease-fire plan is unlikely to succeed and this could have an indirect impact on Israeli interests.


It seems likely that Russia and Russia’s allies in Syria – which include the Assad regime, Iranian forces and Hezbollah – are poised to benefit from the cease-fire. That’s because it contains a major loophole: The agreement doesn’t apply to Islamic State or the Nusra Front, two of the main targets of Assad and his allies, which leaves Moscow free to continue its air war in Syria. That means fighting in some parts of the country would continue – and even intensify – even if the cease-fire takes effect as planned.


And because insurgent groups supported by the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar often cooperate in some places with the well-armed, well-financed Nusra Front out of tactical necessity, Russia can easily argue that many of these opposition forces are, in effect, Nusra affiliates. In any event, Russia has been bombing opposition groups positioned nowhere near Nusra or Islamic State. And there is no reason to believe that the Russians will stop in the wake of a cease-fire agreement that permits them to continue to fight Nusra. They will simply claim they are attacking Islamic State and Nusra when in reality they are attacking other rebel forces.


This means Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of Sunni- controlled areas will likely continue, particularly in Aleppo and in Deraa province, the latter the less important of the two, situated in southern Syria, close to the border with Jordan. Deraa has symbolic importance because it is where Sunni tribesman started the civil war five years. Capturing Deraa is also of strategic importance for the Russians and Bashar Assad. Rebels would be cut off from assistance from Jordan. And the Nusra Front’s headquarters are located there.


The fate of Deraa is important to Israel because it is just 35 kilometers from the border fence on the Golan Heights. If the Russians capture Deraa their next step might be to recapture the Syrian Golan in cooperation with Hezbollah and the Iranians. Russian jets would be operating dangerously close to Israel, which would test the coordination between the IDF and the Russian Air Force. If the Russian-Syrian coalition captures the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, it would make it easier for the Iranians and Hezbollah to open up another front for terrorist attacks against Israel.


Admittedly, Moscow has no interest in seeing Iran and Hezbollah open up a new front with Israel. Israeli counterattacks on forces working with the Assad regime would weaken the Assad coalition. Russia does not want to see this happen. Nevertheless, Hezbollah and Iran might take the risk of carrying out limited terrorist attacks that do not lead to major Israeli retaliations, and Israel might be hesitant to respond aggressively out of concern it might hit Russian troops in the process. The cease-fire negotiated in Munich is unlikely to bring about an end to the slaughter in Syria. It is more likely to allow Russia to continue to attack Sunni targets indiscriminately. The Assad regime and its allies would then be strengthened. And this could have bad ramifications for Israel. It is imperative that Israel continue to closely monitor the situation in Syria and not let its guard down.



               Alexander Corbeil

                                      Carnegie Endowment, Feb. 26, 2016


Hezbollah has suffered several setbacks since it began its involvement in the Syrian war—over 1,300 of its fighters have been killed and thousands injured, it has had to cut back on social services it provides to its constituency and had to resort to recruiting teenagers for the fight in Syria. However, the Syrian civil war, especially the recent Russian involvement is also helping enhance the group’s fighting capabilities which is likely to have significant political and security implications in Lebanon and beyond.


Hezbollah has proven to be a forward-thinking and malleable fighting force. In 2012, when the group began to engage more robustly in Syria, it quickly learned that its defensive tactics were not applicable to the fight. Instead of a modern Israeli army, Hezbollah faced an insurgency. These rebel groups applied similar tactics to Hezbollah’s against regime soldiers and further benefited from local knowledge of the terrain in areas crucial to Bashar al-Assad’s survival. For instance, during the capture of Qusayr in 2013 Hezbollah reportedly lost around one-tenth of its fighters, with estimates ranging from 70 to 120 dead and 200 wounded, up to two dozen of whom were killed in a rebel ambush on the first day of that offensive; what Hezbollah leaders thought would be a quick victory instead turned into a drawn-out fight. Fast-forwarding to 2016, Hezbollah has refined its offensive capabilities and—under the cover of a new powerful ally, Russia—continued to help the Syrian regime take back crucial territory with lower casualty rates.


In September 2015, the Russian military entered the conflict in support of Assad, reversing the course of the war. Having suffered heavy losses, including in the city of Idlib, it seemed it was but a matter of time before the regime collapsed. But beginning in January 2016, the Syrian regime, Hezbollah, other Iranian proxy groups, and the Russian military have dealt a series of crushing blows to the country’s myriad of rebel groups. On January 12, Hezbollah and regime forces, backed by the Russian air force and artillery, captured the town of Salma, the last rebel bastion in Latakia governorate and which had threatened the regime’s coastal enclave. This was followed by the capture of the town of Sheikh Miskeen in Daraa on January 26, reportedly by regime fighters, Hezbollah, and Russian special forces. This split rebel holdings in Daraa into eastern and western pockets and cut them off from rebel-held areas in Damascus. The biggest coup by this combined force came on February 4, when Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militias under the cover of Russian airstrikes broke the siege of Nubl and Zahraa. The predominantly Shia towns had been surrounded by rebel forces for three years, and in the process pro-regime forces cut their primary supply route linking Aleppo and the Turkish border. It is now likely that these forces will surround and attempt to starve out rebels in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.


These victories make it apparent that the combination of regime irregulars, foreign militias, Hezbollah fighters, and crushing Russian bombardment has been a winning one in Syria. They have also had significant impact on Hezbollah’s fighting capabilities. While Hezbollah commanders have claimed to have received advanced weaponry from Russia, such assertions are hard to verify and have been disputed by Western officials and analysts, who believe that Moscow would not want to threaten its relationship with Hezbollah’s main enemy, Israel. It is more likely that the group is learning how a world-class army gathers intelligence, makes plans, and executes operations. Working side-by-side with Russian officers is sure to refine Hezbollah’s modern military strategy, and reports indicate that there are at least two joint Russia–Hezbollah operation rooms in Latakia and Damascus. With an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria and Iraq, the exposure and experience is likely to trickle down to individual fighters.


Other experts have pointed out that Hezbollah will likely learn better surveillance and reconnaissance skills, employ special operations tactics, and learn more about upgraded equipment they will want to use in the future. This would better enable them to detect enemy forces, execute misinformation campaigns, analyze imagery intelligence, and make appropriate use of drones in the lead up to and execution of military operations. The latter is quite important, as Hezbollah has built a drone airstrip in the Bekaa Valley and has employed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) over Syria to provide aerial reconnaissance and targeting information for its forces on the ground. These eyes in the sky have proven useful in the battle for the Qalamoun Mountains that straddle the Lebanese–Syrian border, where the group has helped the Syrian army surround Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State, and could be employed in future conflict with Israel.


The Israel Defense Forces estimate that Russia’s interaction with Hezbollah decreases the latter’s likelihood of war with Israel in the near future, figuring that Russia’s dialogue with the group is likely to restrain its response to perceived Israeli airstrikes at a time that Hezbollah is playing a crucial role in the Syrian regime’s advance. Furthermore, the Israeli army also views claims that the Russians are arming Hezbollah as baseless. Yet the longer-term impact of Hezbollah’s interaction with the Russian military is more worrying. A newly offense-minded Hezbollah, capable of more complex operations, could deal heavier blows to the Israeli army in a confrontation along the southern Lebanese border. It may even attempt to enter Israeli territory, as Hamas did in the 2014 conflict, albeit in a more capable manner.


Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah’s enhanced capabilities will ensure that the group continues to have a comparative military advantage vis-à-vis the Lebanese army, which has just had a $3 billion aid package suspended by Saudi Arabia. Improved tactics and diminished support to the national army will likely support Hezbollah’s argument that it is the only force capable of defending Lebanon from Israeli aggression and the radical Sunni threat. Already bolstered politically by the survival of the Syrian regime and the success of its own efforts in Syria—the continuation of which is thanks to Russian military support—the group will further push its agenda on crucial decisions regarding the Lebanese presidency, changes to parliamentary election practices, and security appointments. Hezbollah’s Russia education may stop with the end of the conflict in Syria, but its impact will continue to reverberate in Lebanon and the region.





                Lawrence Solomon                                   

                                                              National Post, Feb. 8, 2016


In a recent reversal, Sweden now says it will deport half of its 160,000 migrants, Finland plans to deport two-thirds of its 32,000 migrants and Germany intends to deport all migrants who arrived under false pretenses – a number that could total many hundreds of thousands – as well as all migrants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, which Germany now deems “safe” countries because they are not at war. Most countries in Europe, in fact, are now cracking down on migrants from Muslim countries, raising the possibility of a modern-day expulsion that rivals that of the 16th and 17th centuries, when Spain, to its shame, not only ethnically cleansed its territories of all Muslims but also of their descendants who had converted to Christianity.


The sea change in attitude among Europe’s political leadership – mere weeks ago, many of them insisted that they must open their doors even wider on humanitarian grounds – followed mass sexual assaults in European cities on New Year’s Eve. Although government officials and the mainstream press initially tried to cover up the extent of the wrong-doing – an estimated 1,000 Muslims in Cologne alone participated in “Taharrush,” a practice of encircling, groping and sometimes raping women – the extent of the assaults led to a fire-storm of outrage on social media that forced both the mainstream media and the politicians to acknowledge the problems and reverse course.


The reversals were a long time coming, given what Europeans have endured in recent years from the uncontrolled influx of more than a million migrants, most of them Muslim men with little appreciation of Western values. Sexual assaults aside – rapes in many European countries are disproportionately attributed by law enforcement and NGOs to Muslims – crime by migrants is rampant. Hamburg police reports 20,000 purse-snatches a year, 90 per cent of them by males in their 20s from North Africa or the Balkans. In 2014, even before the migrant stampede accelerated, 38,000 asylum seekers had been accused of committing crimes.


With Europeans increasingly stating that they don’t recognize their own countries anymore, and don’t feel safe in it, politicians now face a furious backlash. Citizens are protesting in the streets and through social media. Anti-immigrant political parties are on the rise and often lead in the polls. Forty per cent of Germans now demand the resignation of once-popular German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Opposition to the governments’ open-immigration policies doesn’t manifest itself only through peaceful outlets. Mob justice is also increasing with hooded nativists intimidating and attacking migrants. With disrespect for the rule of law increasing across the board, societal breakdown has become thinkable, all a consequence of a soft-headed if soft-hearted desire to help desperate refugees.


It’s easy to see things getting much worse before they get much better. For one thing, it won’t be easy to identify which migrants are genuine, and are entitled to refugee status, and which have taken advantage of the chaos at the borders merely to partake of Europe’s welfare benefits. German media, for example, reports that the whereabouts of half of those seeking asylum are unknown while hundreds of thousands of others, according to the German government, entered the country surreptitiously, circumventing any background checks. Even when found, deporting migrants will be difficult, since those from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tunisia, Morocco and other countries that do not qualify for refugee status routinely destroy their passports and other identifying documents, to prevent their deportation from Europe, while others purchase counterfeit Syrian documents to feign their bona fides…


Many migrants won’t take kindly to being deported, not least because home-grown activists will rise to their defense and because, as intelligence agencies report, the ranks of the migrants have been seeded by jihadists. Defiance by migrants, including rioting, is already common. As their defiance increases, so too will the backlash by the public, leading to both vigilantism and demands for curbs on immigration, changing the character of Western democracies. The free movement of peoples has begun to be restricted – for the first time since 1952, for example, Scandinavians require identification when crossing from Denmark to Sweden, the upshot of regulations introduced last month to stem illegal migrants.


The restrictions on movement can only deepen. Following the terror attacks in Paris, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security gave notice to European nations that visas may be required to enter the U.S. in future if better controls aren’t put in place, and last week the U.S. Senate in homeland security hearings raised questions about Canada’s plan to absorb 25,000 refugees. Because attacks on Western soil by jihadists posing as migrants are all but inevitable, more restrictions compounding today’s baggage checks and privacy intrusions are also all-but inevitable.


Canada has until recently entirely avoided the immigration turmoil, let alone civilizational threats, afflicting much of the West. Because we haven’t yet recklessly accepted untoward levels of migrants, we are not under pressure to recklessly deport untoward levels of migrants, as is occurring in the liberal democracies of Europe. Yet we have been coming perilously close to repeating Europe’s errors. During the last federal election campaign, a mass hysteria over the plight of migrants, and the perception that Canada was failing to be as welcoming to them as European nations, contributed to the election of Justin Trudeau, who came to office on a vow to rewrite immigration procedures in order to rush in 25,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas. When the Christmas target wasn’t met, an embarrassed government decided to double down by raising the number of Syrian migrants to 50,000 by the end of this year, an impetuous decision that seems driven by the same mix of political and humanitarian impulses that blindly led so many European countries to grief. 


Canada’s historic approach to immigration since Confederation – welcoming the multitudes who would fit in, but also requiring them to fit it – has served this country well, allowing us to maintain our liberties and grow our economy. Europe’s cautionary tale, coming to us now as it does, when we are at risk of falling prey to reckless, politically correct thinking on immigration, could not have been a more timely reminder of the ways in which our ​historic ​immigration ​policies have been ​wise.



On Topic


Airstrikes Resume Amid Shaky Syria Truce: Raja Abdulrahim & Dana Ballout, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28, 2016—The Syrian regime and its Russian allies stepped up airstrikes on opposition-held territory Sunday on the second day of an internationally backed cease-fire after a lull in violence a day earlier, according to antigovernment activists.

A Kurdish Convergence in Syria: Michael Cruickshank & Gissur Simonarson, New York Times, Feb. 25, 2016—On Feb. 17, a bus filled with Turkish soldiers stopped alongside a car at a red light in Ankara. Moments later, a dark column of smoke rose over what had been considered the most secure district of the Turkish capital. A suicide car bomb had ripped through the military bus, killing 28 and injuring more than 60.

Syria: Jihadi Group Claims to Kill ‘Dozens’ of Russian Generals with Car Bomb: John Hayward, Breitbart, Feb. 24, 2016—An Islamist militant group in Syria called Ahrar al-Sham claims to have killed “dozens of Russian generals” with a car bomb attack in Latakia on Sunday afternoon.

One Syrian’s Journey From Hometown Rebel to ISIS Bomber: Hwaida Saad & Anne Barnard, New York Times, Jan. 15, 2016 —In the early years of Syria’s revolt, he filmed protests in the streets of his rebel-held neighborhood, in the historic center of the city of Homs. He chanted for dignity and freedom with a green, white and black banner, the old version of the national flag.















We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.


Russia's Military Presence in Syria: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2015 — The current increase of the Russian military presence in northwest Syria is a function of the declining military fortunes of the Assad regime.

Assad Regime Fans Refugee Crisis: Sam Dagher, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2015 — As hundreds of thousands of refugees flee Syria for Europe, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been coming down hard on those who have stayed behind, particularly people viewed as potential threats.

For Syrian Refugees in Italy, Israel Remains Enemy #1: Rossella Tercatin, Times of Israel, Sept. 12, 2015 — At a migrant reception center near Milan’s central train station, two-year-old Mahmoud sleeps on a pillow in a pair of patched-up grey pajamas, exhausted after fleeing Damascus a month ago with his parents and relatives.

Facing Iran on its Own: Louis Rene Beres, Breaking Israel News, Sept. 8, 2015 — In core matters of war and peace, timing is everything.


On Topic Links


Middle East Provocations and Predictions: Daniel Pipes, Mackenzie Institute, Sept. 9, 2015

The Russian Bear in Sheep’s Clothing: Andrew Foxall, New York Times, Sept. 15, 2015

Iran: Russia to Help Us Improve Our Centrifuges: Times of Israel, Sept. 16, 2015

Migrants Pose as Syrians to Open Door to Asylum in Europe: Manuela Mesco, Matt Bradley & Giovanni Legorano, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, 2015



RUSSIA'S MILITARY PRESENCE IN SYRIA                                                                                      

Jonathan Spyer

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2015


The current increase of the Russian military presence in northwest Syria is a function of the declining military fortunes of the Assad regime. It represents a quantitative, rather than qualitative, change in the nature of the Russian engagement in Syria. Moscow’s goal throughout the conflict has been to keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power by all means necessary. The ends remain the same. But as the situation on the ground changes, so the Russian means employed to achieve this goal must change with it.


Since the outset of the Syrian civil war, the key problem for Assad has been manpower. Against a Sunni Arab rebellion with a vast pool of potential fighters from Syria’s 60 percent Sunni Arab majority and from among foreign volunteers, the regime has been forced to draw ever deeper from a far shallower base. At the outset of the conflict, the Syrian Arab Army was on paper a huge force – of 220,000 regular soldiers plus an additional 280,000 reserves. But the vast majority of this army was unusable by the dictator. This is because it consisted overwhelmingly of Sunni conscripts, whose trustworthiness from the regime’s point of view was seriously in doubt. Since then, the army has shrunk in size from attrition, desertion and draft dodging.


The story of the last four years has been the attempt by Assad and his allies to offset the reality of insufficient manpower for the task at hand. This has been achieved by two means. First, the regime has chosen to retreat from large swathes of the country, in order to be able to more effectively hold the essential areas it has to maintain with its limited numbers. The abandonment of the country’s east and north led to the emergence of the areas of control held by Kurdish, Sunni Arab rebel, and later al-Qaida and Islamic State forces in these areas.


But of course retreating in order to consolidate is a strategy that can be pursued only so far. At a certain point, the area remaining becomes no longer viable for the purpose intended – namely, the preservation of the regime in a form that can guarantee the needs of its Russian and Iranian backers, and the relative security of the ruling elite itself and to a lesser extent of the population which relies on it and upon which it relies.


To offset the arrival at this point, Assad and his friends have striven in ever more creative ways to put sufficient men in the field, and to maintain the edge in military equipment which could hold back the masses of the lightly armed rebels. There were the hastily assembled Alawi irregulars of the “shabiha.” Then an increasing commitment of Iranian regional assets – including the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite militia forces. Then there was the Iranian-trained National Defense Forces. In recent months, northwest Syria has witnessed the arrival of “volunteers” from as far afield as the Hazara Shi’ite communities of Afghanistan (paid for by Tehran).


Despite all this effort, the rebels have, since the spring, been pushing westward toward Latakia province. If the rebels reach Latakia, there is nowhere left to retreat to. The regime and its allies must hold the province or face defeat. The appearance of apparently Russian-crewed BTR-82A APCs on the Latakia battlefield appears to be testimony to Russia’s awareness of this – and its willingness to dig deeper for Assad – even if this means the direct deployment of Russian personnel on the battlefield in a limited way.


The apparent deployment of a growing force of the Russian army’s 810th Independent Marine Brigade at and around the naval depot of Tartus in Latakia province offers further evidence of this commitment, as well as a pointer to the interests in Syria that Moscow regards as vital. The bolder claims of Russian Pchela 1T UAVs and even Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets over the skies of the Idlib battlefield are not yet confirmed. But the respected Ruslanleviev Russian investigative website found the evidence regarding the APCs and the marines around Tartus to be persuasive.


There is a reason why the rebel march toward Latakia cannot simply be absorbed by the regime as a further tactical withdrawal, analogous to earlier retreats from Hasakah, Quneitra, most of Deraa, Aleppo, Idlib and so on. Latakia province is the heartland of the Syrian Alawi community. It is a place where regime supporters have been able to convince themselves for most of the last four years that here, at least, they were safe. If the rebels break through on the al-Ghab Plain, and the front line moves decisively into the populated areas of Latakia, this will be over.


The loss of Latakia province would render the hope of keeping a regime enclave intact no longer viable. It will raise the possibility of the regime losing its control of Syria’s coastline (vital for Assad’s Russian and Iranian backers). This, in turn, could mean rebel capture of the Tartus naval depot. Hence the deployment of the marines, who, according to information available, have not yet been placed in forward positions facing the rebels. Rather, they are gathered around Tartus for its defense.


So the steady rebel advance in the direction of Latakia is producing a Russian response of a volume and nature not before witnessed on the Syrian battlefield. Russian weaponry and Russian diplomatic support have been the vital lifelines for Assad throughout the last four years. Previous levels of support are no longer enough. So more is being provided. Still, the current indications do not appear to suggest or presage a major conventional deployment of Russian forces. That would go against the known pattern favored by President Vladimir Putin.


Rather, Russian assistance, while on the increase, is likely to be limited to an active support role, perhaps extending to the use of some air power, along with behind-the-scenes advisory and training roles and the use of some specialized personnel in combat or combat support roles…

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





ASSAD REGIME FANS REFUGEE CRISIS                                                                                         

Sam Dagher                                                                                                         

Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2015


As hundreds of thousands of refugees flee Syria for Europe, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been coming down hard on those who have stayed behind, particularly people viewed as potential threats. Ahmed al-Hamid is one of them. The 37-year-old doctor said security agents picked him up in late 2013 for his role establishing field hospitals in opposition areas in Homs and Damascus. After six months in jail—where he said he was beaten with batons and whips while strapped to boards—Dr. Hamid was released by a sympathetic judge. Last year, he fled to nearby Lebanon, joining an exodus of professionals, dissidents and others who were driven out for being on the wrong side of the Syrian regime. “There is no order, per se, but all conditions are being put in place so that people do not dare go back,” says Dr. Hamid, a stocky man with a shaved head.


Refugees from Syria’s multisided civil war have fueled Europe’s migrant crisis. More than half the nearly 400,000 who have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year are Syrian, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. The West has focused largely on those fleeing Islamic State and its atrocities, but Mr. Assad’s regime hasn’t relented with the intimidation and force it has used since the start of the conflict more than four years ago: detention, torture and mandatory drafting into the army for military-age men, along with starvation and an aerial bombing campaign of opposition-held areas. His government has also offered subtle incentives to leave, such as an easier time obtaining a Syrian passport and less hassle booking flights to foreign countries.


The regime’s tactics are pushing out its opponents and those perceived hostile to Mr. Assad, while friendlier groups are rebuilding from the wreckage of war. The cumulative results are broader demographic change designed to tighten Mr. Assad’s hold over the few places he still controls. Many Syrians say the Assad regime, along with the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, is specifically targeting Syria’s Sunni Arab majority. Syria’s rebels are mostly Sunni, while those defending the regime are mainly members of Mr. Assad’s Shiite-linked Alawite minority and Shiite foreign fighters.


Only two pro-regime Shiite villages remain in northern Idlib province after Mr. Assad lost an air base there this week to the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. Both Mr. Assad and his main allies in the war—Hezbollah, Iran and Russia—appear intent on maintaining control over Damascus and a corridor of territory connecting the capital with the Mediterranean coast via Homs…


In Damascus, the demographic changes aimed at surrounding Mr. Assad with regime-friendly groups are increasingly visible. Many residents say parts of the city’s historic quarter are now unrecognizable because of the growing presence of Iran-trained Syrian Shiite militiamen and their families. Several predominantly Sunni areas around Damascus have been recently recaptured by the regime and its allies, prompting most residents who are seen as sympathetic to the opposition to flee. Syrian officials say they are proceeding with an ambitious urban renewal plan that seeks to construct better housing and infrastructure, and that there are no broader efforts to repopulate cities with people friendly to the regime.


“Our current preoccupation is people’s return,” said Homs governor Talal al-Barazi, who was appointed by Mr. Assad. “Demographic changes in any area are forbidden.” A 27-year-old mechanical engineer and opposition activist, who asked not to be identified because his family remains in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, estimates that only 500,000 civilians are left in the area. That’s about one-third the number from two years ago, when the regime was blamed for a major chemical weapons attack on the area.


Since then the regime has kept up its bombardment of the area. In August, 556 people, including 123 children, were killed in regime airstrikes on the area, according to tallies released by local medics. The activist arrived in Beirut last month after paying to be smuggled out through a tunnel that connects the eastern suburbs with Damascus. Many Syrians who come to Lebanon are looking to move on to Europe. And those who had settled temporarily in Tripoli are doing the same.


Since the start of the conflict in Syria, this northern Lebanese city transformed into a “second Homs” for many natives of the Syrian city. Located just about 70 miles from Tripoli, Homs is close by but remains a distant dream for many Syrians. “It’s impossible to go back,” said Saeed Al-Sowas, a Homs native living in Tripoli. “Even those who remain inside now feel like strangers in their homeland.” Mr. Sowas, 25 years old, who now works in a barber shop in Tripoli, says he can count at least 40 of his friends and acquaintances, mostly Homs natives, who left Tripoli for Europe since the start of this summer. He plans to join them in Europe by the end of September. He was able to obtain a Syrian passport for $1,100, a sum that he said included bribes. The Sowas family home is in central Homs, a heavily damaged area that remains largely abandoned after the regime regained it from rebels in May 2014.


In Damascus, authorities last month began implementing a plan to build new housing units, and have started razing predominantly Sunni areas designated as illegal slums. A ceremony last month inaugurated a section of the reclaimed land for a park dedicated to the late dictator Kim Il Sung of North Korea, which has long cooperated with Syria on military and trade affairs. As many as 150,000 people living in the slums risk being displaced. Similar slums in the city occupied by Alawites weren’t affected by the regime’s housing plan…

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





FOR SYRIAN REFUGEES IN ITALY, ISRAEL REMAINS ENEMY #1                                                               

Rossella Tercatin                                     

Times of Israel, Sept. 12, 2015


At a migrant reception center near Milan’s central train station, two-year-old Mahmoud sleeps on a pillow in a pair of patched-up grey pajamas, exhausted after fleeing Damascus a month ago with his parents and relatives. Their nightmarish journey across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya was marred by beatings, starvation and dehydration, and the fear of drowning in rough waters. Yet despite the cruelty at the hands of Libyan smugglers, despite the suffering that was inflicted upon them by their own government that forced them to flee for their lives, Mahmoud’s family and other Syrian refugees I met still view Israel as their real enemy.


“First of all I respect all religions, including Judaism… In Syria we have all races and religions living together, we are all brothers… but Israel, Israel is the ultimate enemy, that’s what we’ve been told since we were kids,” said baby Mahmud’s cousin Adman, 21, who studied tourism in Syria. “But I want to stress something: Jews are not my enemy. Zionists are my enemy.” Adman was surprised that he was being interviewed by a Jewish reporter, and, more so, for an Israeli newspaper. He jumped.


“Wow, I’m almost shaking. I’ve never met a Jew before,” he said and paused. “Why would an Israeli paper be interested in stories about Syrian refugees,” he asked. He was amazed after I told him about the current debates in Israel concerning the absorption of refugees from Syria, and how the Israeli military was treating wounded Syrians in makeshift field hospitals near the border. Despite his surprise and interest, he still warned me not tell the other refugees that I was Jewish. “Some of them could react badly,” he said.


Sitting with her parents and brother, Mais, 21, is another refugee from Syria whose family also harbors strong resentment towards Israel. “Israel is a colonial power, that’s it. They stole the Palestinians’ land,” her mother Inaia was quick to respond when asked her thoughts on the subject. Beneath her bright purple headscarf, Mais smiles sweetly, looking a bit tired, but relieved that the horrific journey from Syria was behind her. “Our house was bombarded three times and the road my brother and I used to take to go to university does not exist any more,” she said. “There was no future in Syria.”


Mais’s family tried fleeing to Egypt two years ago but without success. “We wanted to be in a fellow Arab country, we felt it was important. But they treated us extremely badly,” explained her father Imad, who worked in olive production back home in Idlib. “We could not work, we could not do anything.”


As the night goes on, many refugees leave for designated shelters. Each are provided with a bright orange cloth bag of toiletries and other basic goods from donors and organizations. Twenty-eight-year-old Rima works for one of those organizations — Arca, the Italian NGO, which was chosen by Milan’s municipality to run the migrant registration facility. Since 2013, Arca has registered and assisted about 87,000 migrants, most of them Syrians and Eritreans. Rima moved to Italy from Syria in 2004 with her family but moved back to Syria in 2009 because of the economic crisis. With the start of the Syrian civil war, they moved yet again to Italy.


Rima is a veteran at the center. She registers the migrants, jokes with them, listens to their requests, translates, talks on the phone and organizes their accommodations for the night in one of the several shelters set up in the city. “Since the beginning of the war I have lost an uncle, some cousins, a baby nephew. This is why working in this center for me is so important,” she said. “It’s the one thing I can do for my people. Everyone here could be my family. Their pain is my pain.”


When she finds out that I am interested in understanding what Syrians think about Israel, she hesitates but is willing to engage. “For Syrians, Israel is Palestinian territory,” she explained. “Palestinians are our relatives, our friends, our neighbors, because a lot of them flee to Syria. My paternal grandmother is Palestinian, she left Haifa in 1948, when she was 10.” But, she insisted that she isn’t in any way against Jews. “It’s written in the Quran, we must respect Jews,” she said. Asked about her perspective on the war in Syria, she says that the war will end when Russia and Iran will stop giving arms to the regime, and America will decide that they have had enough.


Only a few hundred feet away from the shelter providing temporary refuge for the migrants is Milan’s Holocaust Memorial. So, it is only natural for the Holocaust to come up in conversation. “I know about the Holocaust and when I was in Italy I always took part in the ceremonies for [Holocaust] Memorial Day at school. It was terrible,” said Rima. “In Syria, we don’t study it in the same way, it’s only a couple of lines of the textbooks. That is why I wanted to find out more about it, and I saw some movies on the topic, like ‘The Pianist.'” However, when asked if she would be willing to read or explore different perspectives on Middle East issues and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she simply said, “Not really, I don’t read too much.”


A similar reaction arose when I brought up the possibility of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. “I don’t think that Jews should have a state. They are a religion, not a people,” Rima explained. “They can be Syrian Jews, German Jews, Italian Jews. But I don’t think a Jewish state has any reason to exist.”      




FACING IRAN ON ITS OWN                                                                                             

Louis Rene Beres

Breaking Israel News, Sept. 8, 2015


In core matters of war and peace, timing is everything. For Israel, now cheerlessly confirmed in its long-held view that U.S.-led diplomacy with Iran was misconceived, future strategic options should be determined with great care. In essence, this means that the beleaguered mini-state’s nuclear policies, going forward, should be extrapolated from carefully fashioned doctrine, and not assembled, ad hoc, or “on the fly,” in assorted and more-or-less discrete reactions to periodic crises.


More precisely, should Israel decide to decline any residual preemption options, and prepare instead for aptly reliable and protracted dissuasion of its nearly-nuclear Iranian adversary, several corresponding decisions would be necessary. These closely-intersecting judgments would concern a still-expanding role for multilayered ballistic missile defense, and also, a well-reasoned and incremental discontinuance of deliberate nuclear ambiguity. In this connection, among other things, Jerusalem will need to convince Tehran that Israel’s nuclear forces are (1) substantially secure from all enemy first-strike attacks, and (2) entirely capable of penetrating all enemy active defenses.


To succeed with any policy of long-term deterrence, a nearly-nuclear Iran would first need to be convinced that Israel’s nuclear weapons were actually usable. In turn, this complex task of strategic persuasion would require some consciously nuanced efforts to remove “the bomb” from Israel’s “basement.” One specific reason for undertaking any such conspicuous removal would be to assure Iranian decision-makers that Israeli nuclear weapons were not only abundantly “real,” but also amenable to variable situational calibrations. The strategic rationale of such assurance would be to convince Iran that Israel stands ready to confront widely-different degrees of plausible enemy threat.


In the “good old days” of the original U.S.-U.S.S.R. Cold War  (we may now be on the brink of “Cold War II”), such tangibly measured strategic calculations had been granted their own specific name. Then, the proper term was “escalation dominance.” Early on, therefore, it had been understood, by both superpowers, that adequate security from nuclear attack must always include not only mutually-reinforcing or “synergistic” protections against “bolt-from-the-blue” missile attacks, but also the avoidance of unwitting or uncontrolled escalations. Such unpredictably rapid jumps in coercive intensity, it had already been noted, could too-quickly propel certain determined adversaries from “normally” conventional engagements to atomic war.


Occasionally, especially in many-sided strategic calculations, truth can be counter-intuitive. On this point, regarding needed Israeli preparations for safety from a nearly-nuclear Iran, there exists an obvious, but still generally overlooked, irony. It is that in all foreseeable circumstances of nuclear deterrence, the credibility of pertinent Israeli threats could sometimes vary inversely with perceived destructiveness. This suggests, at a minimum, that one distinctly compelling reason for moving deliberately from nuclear ambiguity to certain limited forms of nuclear disclosure would be to communicate the following vital message to Iran: Israel’s retaliatory nuclear weapons are not too destructive for actual operational use.


Soon, Israel’s decision-makers will need to proceed more self-consciously and explicitly on rendering another important judgment. This closely-related decision would concern making an essentially fundamental strategic choice between “assured destruction” and “nuclear war fighting” postures. To draw upon appropriate military parlance, assured destruction strategies are those postures generally referred to as “counter-value” or “mutual assured destruction” (MAD) strategies…

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




On Topic


Middle East Provocations and Predictions: Daniel Pipes, Mackenzie Institute, Sept. 9, 2015—The Middle East stands out as the world’s most volatile, combustible, and troubled region; not coincidentally, it also inspires the most intense policy debates – think of the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Iran deal. The following tour d’horizon offers interpretations and speculations on Iran, ISIS, Syria-Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Islamism, then concludes with some thoughts on policy choices. My one-sentence conclusion: some good news lies under the onslaught of misunderstandings, mistakes, and misery.

The Russian Bear in Sheep’s Clothing: Andrew Foxall, New York Times, Sept. 15, 2015 —Syria is being destroyed. The civil war, now more than four years old, has left the country in ruins. The implacable Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant controls vast areas of the north and east, and the barbaric regime of President Bashar al-Assad maintains its Damascus stronghold.

Iran: Russia to Help Us Improve Our Centrifuges: Times of Israel, Sept. 16, 2015—Russia has agreed to help Iran upgrade its uranium-enriching centrifuges, Iran’s nuclear chief said.

Migrants Pose as Syrians to Open Door to Asylum in Europe: Manuela Mesco, Matt Bradley & Giovanni Legorano, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, 2015—At Budapest’s Keleti Train Station last week, Mahmoud, a Syrian from Aleppo, looked around the underground concourse packed with new arrivals like himself.








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Farewell to the Era of No Fences: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 7, 2015 — This was supposed to be the Era of No Fences.

The Horrific Results of Obama’s Failure in Syria: Michael Gerson, Washington Post, Sept. 3, 2015 — One little boy in a red T-shirt, lying face down, drowned, on a Turkish beach, is a tragedy.

The Disintegration of Syria and Its Impact on Israel: Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, JCPA, Aug. 31, 2015— The complex civil war in Syria keeps developing in ways that reinforce the trends that have been evident for some time.

Meet the Iran Lobby: Lee Smith, Tablet, Sept. 1, 2015 — Trita Parsi, the Iranian-born émigré who moved to the United States in 2001 from Sweden, where his parents found refuge before the Islamic Revolution, should be the toast of Washington these days.


On Topic Links


European Import Policy: Drybones, Sept. 7, 2015

Help Refugees: Shut the UNRWA, Fund the UNHCR: Paul Gherkin, Jewish Press, Sept. 3, 2015

At Borders to Enter Europe, Suddenly Everyone is Syrian: Dusan Stojanovic, Seattle Times, Sept. 6, 2015

How Bad is the Iran Deal? Let’s Count the Ways: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Sept. 5, 2015




FAREWELL TO THE ERA OF NO FENCES                                      

Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, Sept. 7, 2015


This was supposed to be the Era of No Fences. No walls between blocs. No borders between countries. No barriers to trade. Visa-free tourism. The single market. A global Internet. Frictionless transactions and seamless exchanges. In short, a flat world. Whatever happened to that?


In the early 1990s, Israel’s then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres published a book called “The New Middle East,” in which he predicted what was soon to be in store for his neighborhood. “Regional common markets reflect the new Zeitgeist,” he gushed. It was only a matter of time before it would become true in his part of the world, too.


I read the book in college, and while it struck me as far-fetched it didn’t seem altogether crazy. The decade from 1989 to 1999 was an age of political, economic, social and technological miracles. The Berlin Wall fell. The Soviet Union dissolved. Apartheid ended. The euro and Nafta were born. The first Internet browser was introduced. Oil dropped below $10 a barrel, the Dow topped 10,000, Times Square became safe again. America won a war in Kosovo without losing a single man in combat. Would Israeli businessmen soon be selling hummus and pita to quality-conscious consumers in Damascus? Well, why not?


Contrast this promised utopia with the mind-boggling scenes of tens of thousands of Middle East migrants, marching up the roads and railways of Europe, headed for their German promised land. The images seem like a 21st-century version of the Völkerwanderung, the migration of nations in the late Roman and early Medieval periods. Desperate people, needing a place to go, sweeping a broad landscape like an unchanneled flood. How did this happen? We mistook a holiday from history for the end of it. We built a fenceless world on the wrong set of assumptions about the future. We wanted a new liberal order—one with a lot of liberalism and not a lot of order. We wanted to be a generous civilization without doing the things required to be a prosperous one.


In 2003 the political theorist Robert Kagan wrote a thoughtful book, “Of Paradise and Power,” in which he took stock of the philosophical divide between Americans and Europeans. Americans, he wrote, inhabited the world of Thomas Hobbes, in which “true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might.” Europeans, by contrast, lived in the world of Immanuel Kant, in which “perpetual peace” was guaranteed by a set of cultural conventions, consensually agreed rules and a belief in the virtues of social solidarity overseen by a redistributive state.


These differences didn’t matter much as long as they were confined to panel discussions at Davos. Then came the presidency of Barack Obama, which has adopted the Kantian view. For seven years, the U.S. and Europe have largely been on the same side—the European side—of most of the big issues, especially in the Mideast: getting out of Iraq, drawing down in Afghanistan, lightly intervening in Libya, staying out of Syria, making up with Iran.


The result is our metastasizing global disorder. It’s only going to get worse. The graciousness that Germans have shown the first wave of refugees is a tribute to the country’s sense of humanity and history. But just as the warm welcome is destined to create an irresistible magnet for future migrants, it is also bound to lead to a backlash among Germans.


This year, some 800,000 newcomers are expected in Germany—about 1% of the country’s population. Berlin wants an EU-wide quota system to divvy up the influx, but once the migrants are in Europe they are free to go wherever the jobs and opportunities may be. Germany (with 4.7% unemployment) is going to be a bigger draw than France (10.4%), to say nothing of Italy (12%) or Spain (22%).


If Germany had robust economic and demographic growth, it could absorb and assimilate the influx. It doesn’t, so it can’t. Growth has averaged 0.31% a year since 1991. The country has the world’s lowest birthrate. Tolerant modern Germany now looks with justified disdain toward the petty nationalism, burden-shifting and fence-building of the populist Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán. But it would be foolish to think of Hungary as a political throwback rather than as a harbinger. There is no such thing as a lesson from the past that people won’t ignore for the sake of the convenience of the present.


Is there a way out? Suddenly, there’s talk in Europe about using military power to establish safe zones in Syria to contain the exodus of refugees. If U.S. administrations decide on adopting Kant, Europe, even Germany, may have no choice but to reacquaint itself with Hobbes by rebuilding its military and using hard power against unraveling neighbors.


Europeans will not easily embrace that option. The alternative is to hasten the return to the era of fences. Openness is a virtue purchased through strength.





THE HORRIFIC RESULTS OF OBAMA’S FAILURE IN SYRIA                                                                

Michael Gerson                                                                                                   

Washington Post, Sept. 3, 2015


One little boy in a red T-shirt, lying face down, drowned, on a Turkish beach, is a tragedy. More than 200,000 dead in Syria, 4 million fleeing refugees and 7.6 million displaced from their homes are statistics. But they represent a collective failure of massive proportions.


For four years, the Obama administration has engaged in what Frederic Hof, former special adviser for transition in Syria, calls a “pantomime of outrage.” Four years of strongly worded protests, and urgent meetings and calls for negotiation — the whole drama a sickening substitute for useful action. People talking and talking to drown out the voice of their own conscience. And blaming. In 2013, President Obama lectured the U.N. Security Council for having “demonstrated no inclination to act at all.” Psychological projection on a global stage.


Always there is Obama’s weary realism. “It’s not the job of the president of the United States to solve every problem in the Middle East.” We must be “modest in our belief that we can remedy every evil.” But we are not dealing here with every problem or every evil; rather a discrete and unique set of circumstances: The largest humanitarian failure of the Obama era is also its largest strategic failure.


At some point, being “modest” becomes the same thing as being inured to atrocities. President Bashar al-Assad’s helicopters continue to drop “barrel bombs” filled with shrapnel and chlorine. In recent attacks on the town of Marea, Islamic State forces have used skin-blistering mustard gas and deployed, over a few days, perhaps 50 suicide bombers. We have seen starvation sieges, and kidnappings, and beheadings, and more than 10,000 dead children. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has changed her country’s asylum rules to welcome every Syrian refugee who arrives. Syrians have taken to calling her “Mama Merkel, Mother of the Outcasts.” I wonder what they call the U.S. president.


At many points during the past four years, even relatively small actions might have reduced the pace of civilian casualties in Syria. How hard would it have been to destroy the helicopters dropping barrel bombs on neighborhoods? A number of options well short of major intervention might have reduced the regime’s destructive power and/or strengthened the capabilities of more responsible forces. All were untaken. This was not some humanitarian problem distant from the center of U.S. interests. It was a crisis at the heart of the Middle East that produced a vacuum of sovereignty that has attracted and empowered some of the worst people in the world. Inaction was a conscious, determined choice on the part of the Obama White House. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus advocated arming favorable proxies. Sunni friends and allies in the region asked, then begged, for U.S. leadership. All were overruled or ignored.


In the process, Syria has become the graveyard of U.S. credibility. The chemical weapons “red line.” “The tide of war is receding.” “Don’t do stupid [stuff].” These are global punch lines. “The analogy we use around here sometimes,” said Obama of the Islamic State, “and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” Now the goal to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State looks unachievable with the current strategy and resources. “The time has come for President Assad to step aside,” said Obama in 2011. Yet Assad will likely outlast Obama in power.


What explains Obama’s high tolerance for humiliation and mass atrocities in Syria? The Syrian regime is Iran’s proxy, propped up by billions of dollars each year. And Obama wanted nothing to interfere with the prospects for a nuclear deal with Iran. He was, as Hof has said, “reluctant to offend the Iranians at this critical juncture.” So the effective concession of Syria as an Iranian zone of influence is just one more cost of the president’s legacy nuclear agreement.


Never mind that Iran will now have tens of billions of unfrozen assets to strengthen Assad’s struggling military. And never mind that Assad’s atrocities are one of the main recruiting tools for the Islamic State and other Sunni radicals. All of which is likely to extend a war that no one can win, which has incubated regional and global threats — and thrown a small body in a red T-shirt against a distant shore.




THE DISINTEGRATION OF SYRIA AND ITS IMPACT ON ISRAEL                                                                               

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser

JCPA, Aug. 31, 2015


The complex civil war in Syria keeps developing in ways that reinforce the trends that have been evident for some time. Despite the reports on a number of proposals for ending the conflict, the chances of fostering a breakthrough remain unclear. The recent period has seen the following notable developments:


The Assad regime, with the help of Hizbullah, continues to entrench its control of areas it regards as vital, namely, the Damascus-Homs-Hama coastal axis and the vicinity of the Lebanese border. To secure its control over these territories, Syria continues to employ every tool in its disposal, including the use of chlorine gas barrels and bombing civilian population as was the case in Douma recently. Following the takeover of Qusayr and with the conclusion of the battles in the Qalamoun Mountains (with gains by Hizbullah but without a clear victory), the battle for Zabadani began. Although the regime and Hizbullah forces have made gains in this theater, where they enjoy a clear advantage, they have not yet been able to defeat the opposition, which in this area comprises local, relatively less extreme forces. In any case, the regime and Hizbullah, like the opposition, have been taking heavy casualties. In an unusual speech on July 26, 2015, President Bashar Assad explained that in light of a manpower shortage, the regime’s army is unable to reconquer all the territories that the opposition has seized, and accordingly he has to prioritize which territories to contest based on military, demographic, and economic considerations.


Turkish involvement is growing. Following the Islamic State terror attack in the Turkish town of Suruc on the Syrian border and the spate of terror attacks by the Kurdish underground within Turkey, the Turks decided to attack targets of the Islamic State and of the Kurdish underground in Iraq and to allow the United States to strike Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq from the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey. The United States and Turkey have also agreed to set up a safe zone along 95 kilometers of the Syrian border, thereby making it possible for Syrian refugees in Turkey to return to Syria. Meanwhile, Turkey is concentrating on attacking Kurdish targets, actions that, some believe, were approved by the Americans. In the face of Kurdish criticism, the U.S. Administration was forced to deny that the actions had received Washington’s approval…


Against this backdrop, tension is mounting in the Kurdish part of Syria. The area has been taken over by the PYD – the Syrian sister movement of the Turkish PKK, which cooperates with the Assad regime and is successfully fighting the Islamic State in the areas of Kobani and Tall Abyad. Its military force, the PYG, is being aided by Peshmerga forces sent from Iraqi Kurdistan. In light of Turkey’s actions against the PKK, there are signs of stronger unity among the different Kurdish factions in Syria. Considering, however, that these factions tend to be suspicious of each other, this may be a temporary phenomenon…


The nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers has boosted Iran’s capacity to support the Assad regime. The anticipated lifting of the sanctions on Iran is set to enable it to funnel additional resources to this purpose, to which Iran assigns a very high priority. In addition, some believe that the United States now sees Iran as a subcontractor that will fight the Islamic State, which imperils Assad, and is ready to accept a central Iranian role in dealing with the crisis. Not surprisingly, then, the regime feels that it has been strengthened and is waiting for its expectations to materialize. Noteworthy in this context are the increasing contacts among supporters of the Assad regime, including the recent visit to Tehran by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who holds the Syria portfolio, apparently to discuss how the nuclear deal affects Syria and the various proposals for a settlement…


Meanwhile, the regime keeps losing assets in areas it does not regard as strategically crucial. That is especially the case in the areas south and east of Damascus, including the Daraa, Sweida, and Tadmur (Palmyra) regions, and also in the north and particularly the Idlib and Aleppo regions. Recently the important city of Qaryatayn to the east of Homs (where many Christians live) fell to the Islamic State, and battles are raging around Hama, in which control of the territory keeps shifting back and forth. Many analysts have hastened to conclude from this phenomenon that the regime’s demise is now inevitable, its remaining days rapidly dwindling. It is doubtful, though, that this perception is accurate and even more doubtful that the perception has trickled down into the ranks of the regime. There appears to be no increase in the rate of senior figures’ desertion from its ranks.


As for the opposition, the Islamic forces keep gaining strength. The blow dealt by the Al-Nusra Front to Division 30 rebel troops, some of whose fighters were trained by the Americans, is further evidence of this fact. Although the Americans, nonplused, assert that from now on they will also protect the forces they have trained against their foes even within the opposition, it is doubtful that they will be able to do so. Meanwhile, the significance of the name-change for the grouping of Islamist factions that are less extreme than the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State is still unclear. At first this grouping called itself Jaish al-Fatah (the Army of Conquest/Victory), and it made gains in the Idlib region. Later it changed its name to Jaish al-Umawayn (the descendants of the house of Umaya that ruled from Syria over the upcoming Islamic Caliphate or the Army of the Sons of the Nation), emphasizing its members’ Syrian identity. Forces belonging to this grouping have been playing a central role in the fighting in the Zabadani area.


The contacts between Saudi Arabia and Russia, particularly the visit to Moscow by Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman (the son of King Salman), are also viewed as potentially affecting the course of the Syrian imbroglio. Some see the beginnings of a Saudi-Russian understanding where, in return for the huge deal with Russia involving military purchases and the building of a nuclear power station, Russia will loosen its support of Assad and agree to his being replaced. Others see indications, conversely, that the Saudis have despaired. It is unclear to what extent either evaluation has any real basis. In any case, most of the reports claim that Saudi Arabia is offering to stop backing the opposition in return for certain concessions by Assad and his supporters…

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





MEET THE IRAN LOBBY                               

Lee Smith

Tablet, Sept. 1, 2015


Trita Parsi, the Iranian-born émigré who moved to the United States in 2001 from Sweden, where his parents found refuge before the Islamic Revolution, should be the toast of Washington these days. As I argued in Tablet magazine several years ago, Parsi is an immigrant who in classic American fashion wanted to capitalize on the opportunity to reconcile his new home and his birthplace. And now he’s done it: The founder and president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the tip of the spear of the Iran Lobby, has won a defining battle over the direction of American foreign policy. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action not only lifts sanctions on Iran, a goal Parsi has fought for since 1997, but also paves the way for a broader reconciliation between Washington and Tehran across the Middle East.


In Washington, to have the policies you advocate implemented with the full backing of the president counts as a huge victory. Winning big like this means power as well as access to more money, which flows naturally to power and augments it—enhancing reputations and offering the ability to reward friends and punish enemies. And yet, Parsi (who declined comment for this story) has got to be frustrated that very few in the halls of American power—either in government or in the media—are celebrating the Iran lobby for its big win. It seems the only thing people can talk about is the big loser in this fight over Middle East policy—the pro-Israel lobby, led by AIPAC. It’s as if Parsi and NIAC had nothing to do with the Obama Administration’s decision to move closer to Iran while further distancing itself from Israel.


“It’s a huge win for NIAC,” said one Iranian-American analyst who requested anonymity. “Every other part of Iranian-American advocacy—from the Mujahedin-e Khalq, to the washed-up old monarchists—is useless, and then in comes Trita and he’s slick, presentable, and knows how to build an impressive network.” So, why is the rise of the Iran Lobby both Washington’s biggest and also its least-heralded success story of the past six years?


In part, Parsi and NIAC’s relative anonymity is the work of a White House that would rather pretend that there is no Iran Lobby, in accordance with the standard Beltway wisdom that a “lobby” is any group of people who advocate things that you are opposed to (lobbies that advocate things you are for are known as “supporters”). But the White House surely knows better, in part because so many friends and graduates of the Iran Lobby now staff key Iran-related government posts. The White House’s Iran desk officer, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, for example, is a former NIAC employee. NIAC’s advisory board includes two former U.S. diplomats, Thomas Pickering, a former ambassador to Israel, and John Limbert, who was held hostage by the revolutionary regime in 1979. Past speakers at NIAC leadership conferences include Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Colin Kahl, and the White House’s Middle East Director Rob Malley. Other past speakers from the political realm include: Robert Hunter, former U.S. ambassador to NATO; PJ Crowley, State Deptartment spokesperson under Hillary Clinton; Hans Blix, former director general of the IAEA. Other reputable names include figures like Aaron David Miller from the Wilson Center, Robert Pape from the University of Chicago, and Suzanne Maloney from the Brookings Institution.


Indeed, the impressive roster of speakers at NIAC events is evidence of Parsi’s assiduous cultivation of friendly contacts, both here and in Iran. The biggest NIAC booster in academia is the author of The Israel Lobby himself, Harvard University’s Stephen Walt. The in-house portion of Parsi’s network also includes public intellectuals, like Iranian-American authors Hooman Majd and Reza Aslan, as well as figures from Iranian business concerns, like Atieh Bahar, who are reportedly close to the Iranian regime, especially former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.


According to a deeply informed video series posted earlier this month by Iranian-American activist Hassan Dai, Parsi has partnered with Atieh Bahar since the very beginning of his career as an Iran lobbyist in order to promote a pro-trade agenda, which of course will inevitably help the regime. (In 2008, Parsi sued Dai, claiming he had “defamed them in a series of articles and blog posts claiming that they had secretly lobbied on behalf of the Iranian regime in the United States.” The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found in 2012 the work of NIAC, which wasn’t registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, “not inconsistent with the idea that he was first and foremost an advocate for the regime.”) “Parsi believed that what stood between U.S.-Iran trade and dialogue,” said Dai, “was AIPAC.”…

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


On Topic


European Import Policy: Drybones, Sept. 7, 2015

Help Refugees: Shut the UNRWA, Fund the UNHCR: Paul Gherkin, Jewish Press, Sept. 3, 2015 —There is a mass migration occurring in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). People are fleeing their home countries due to turmoil and are crossing land and sea to escape to more stable societies.

At Borders to Enter Europe, Suddenly Everyone is Syrian: Dusan Stojanovic, Seattle Times, Sept. 6, 2015—A Pakistani identity card in the bushes, a Bangladeshi one in a cornfield. A torn Iraqi driver’s license bearing the photo of a man with a Saddam-style mustache, another one with a woman in a scarf displaying a shy smile.

How Bad is the Iran Deal? Let’s Count the Ways: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Sept. 5, 2015 —A fatwa that doesn’t exist, a wish list that no one signed, a resolution that contradicts the wish list, a protocol that no one has seen…




“Day of Jewish Unity” Ahead of Congress Iran Vote: Tues., September 8, 7:00AM-12PM, Everywhere!


Tuesday, September 8, 12:30 PM  Washington, D.C.

Iran Deal Press Conference, featuring Members of Congress, Americans effected by Iranian terrorism, and luminaries to speak out against the Iranian Nuclear Deal.

Where: Washington DC: "West Grassy Area," facing the ellipse, in front of the Capitol building.


Wednesday, September 9, Toronto, ON, 4:30-6:30PM

Rally to protest the proposed agreement with Iran and the relentless ISIS genocide of the Yezidi people.

Where: in front of the US Consulate at University and Queen Streets in Toronto.


Wednesday, September 9, Washington, D.C.

Tea Party Patriots, Center for Security Policy, Zionist Organization of America To Host DC Rally

Where: West Lawn of the Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Keynote speakers: Sen. Ted Cruz , Donald Trump


Wednesday, September 9, 8:00 PM – New Jersey

Where: Congregation B'nai Tikvah, 1001 Finnegan Lane, North Brunswick Township, NJ





We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.


The Rational Ayatollah Hypothesis: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2015— Can there be a rational, negotiable, relatively reasonable bigot? Barack Obama thinks so.

You Want Hypotheticals? Here’s One.: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, May 21, 2015 — Ramadi falls. The Iraqi army flees. The great 60-nation anti-Islamic State coalition so grandly proclaimed by the Obama administration is nowhere to be seen.

Islamic State Eyes Damascus: Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, May 25, 2015 — One year after seizing vast areas of Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State group has once again reared its head.

As the Mideast Burns, Obama Talks About the Weather: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, May 25, 2015— It’s commencement season, a time when the great and the good come to campus to encourage the graduates to strive not only for greatness but for goodness, too.


On Topic Links


‘Look … It’s My Name on This’: Obama Defends the Iran Nuclear Deal: Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, May 21, 2015

How Islamic State’s Win in Ramadi Reveals New Weapons, Tactical Sophistication and Prowess: Margaret Coker, Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2015

Can the Islamic State Survive?: Ross Douthat, New York Times, May 23, 2015

The Last Battle?: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, May 8, 2015




THE RATIONAL AYATOLLAH HYPOTHESIS                                                                                   

Bret Stephens                                                                                                       

Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2015


Can there be a rational, negotiable, relatively reasonable bigot? Barack Obama thinks so. So we learn from the president’s interview last week with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg—the same interview in which Mr. Obama called Islamic State’s capture of Ramadi a “tactical setback.” Mr. Goldberg asked the president to reconcile his view of an Iranian regime steeped in “venomous anti-Semitism” with his claims that the same regime “is practical, and is responsive to incentive, and shows signs of rationality.”


The president didn’t miss a beat. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s strategic objectives, he said, were not dictated by prejudice alone. Sure, the Iranians could make irrational decisions “with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool.” They might also pursue hate-based policies “where the costs are low.” But the regime has larger goals: “maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their country,” and getting “out of the deep economic rut that we’ve put them in.” Also, Mr. Obama reminded Mr. Goldberg, “there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country,” to say nothing of Europe. If the president can forgive us our trespasses, he can forgive the ayatollah’s, too.


Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a man with an undergraduate’s enthusiasm for moral equivalency (Islamic State now, the Crusades and Inquisition then) would have sophomoric ideas about the nature and history of anti-Semitism. So let’s recall some basic facts. Iran has no border, and no territorial dispute, with Israel. The two countries have a common enemy in Islamic State and other radical Sunni groups. Historically and religiously, Jews have always felt a special debt to Persia. Tehran and Jerusalem were de facto allies until 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and 100,000 Jews still lived in Iran. Today, no more than 10,000 Jews are left.


So on the basis of what self-interest does Iran arm and subsidize Hamas, probably devoting more than $1 billion of (scarce) dollars to the effort? What’s the economic rationale for hosting conferences of Holocaust deniers in Tehran, thereby gratuitously damaging ties to otherwise eager economic partners such as Germany and France? What was the political logic to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, which made it so much easier for the U.S. and Europe to impose sanctions? How does the regime shore up its domestic legitimacy by preaching a state ideology that makes the country a global pariah?


Maybe all this behavior serves Tehran’s instrumental purposes by putting the regime at the vanguard of a united Shiite-Sunni “resistance” to Western imperialism and Zionism. If so, it hasn’t worked out too well, as the rise of Islamic State shows. The likelier explanation is that the regime believes what it says, practices what it preaches, and is willing to pay a steep price for doing so.


So it goes with hating Jews. There are casual bigots who may think of Jews as greedy or uncouth, but otherwise aren’t obsessed by their prejudices. But the Jew-hatred of the Iranian regime is of the cosmic variety: Jews, or Zionists, as the agents of everything that is wrong in this world, from poverty and drug addiction to conflict and genocide. If Zionism is the root of evil, then anti-Zionism is the greatest good—a cause to which one might be prepared to sacrifice a great deal, up to and including one’s own life.


This was one of the lessons of the Holocaust, which the Nazis carried out even at the expense of the overall war effort. In 1944, with Russia advancing on a broad front and the Allies landing in Normandy, Adolf Eichmann pulled out all stops to deport more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in just two months. The Nazis didn’t even bother to make slaves of most of their prisoners to feed their war machine. Annihilation of the Jews was the higher goal.


Modern Iran is not Nazi Germany, or so Iran’s apologists like to remind us. Then again, how different is the thinking of an Eichmann from that of a Khamenei, who in 2012 told a Friday prayer meeting that Israel was a “cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut”? Whether the Ayatollah Khamenei gets to act on his wishes, as Eichmann did, is another question. Mr. Obama thinks he won’t, because the ayatollah only pursues his Jew-hating hobby “at the margins,” as he told Mr. Goldberg, where it isn’t at the expense of his “self-interest.” Does it occur to Mr. Obama that Mr. Khamenei might operate according to a different set of principles than political or economic self-interest? What if Mr. Khamenei believes that some things in life are, in fact, worth fighting for, the elimination of Zionism above all?


In November 2013 the president said at a fundraising event that he was “not a particularly ideological person.” Maybe Mr. Obama doesn’t understand the compelling power of ideology. Or maybe he doesn’t know himself. Either way, the tissue of assumptions on which his Iran diplomacy rests looks thinner all the time.            




YOU WANT HYPOTHETICALS? HERE’S ONE.                                                                                  

Charles Krauthammer                                                  

Washington Post, May 21, 2015


Ramadi falls. The Iraqi army flees. The great 60-nation anti-Islamic State coalition so grandly proclaimed by the Obama administration is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it’s the defense minister of Iran who flies into Baghdad, an unsubtle demonstration of who’s in charge — while the U.S. air campaign proves futile and America’s alleged strategy for combating the Islamic State is in freefall. It gets worse. The Gulf states’ top leaders, betrayed and bitter, ostentatiously boycott President Obama’s failed Camp David summit. “We were America’s best friend in the Arab world for 50 years,” laments Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief. Note: “were,” not “are.”


We are scraping bottom. Following six years of President Obama’s steady and determined withdrawal from the Middle East, America’s standing in the region has collapsed. And yet the question incessantly asked of the various presidential candidates is not about that. It’s a retrospective hypothetical: Would you have invaded Iraq in 2003 if you had known then what we know now?


First, the question is not just a hypothetical but an inherently impossible hypothetical. It contradicts itself. Had we known there were no weapons of mass destruction, the very question would not have arisen. The premise of the war — the basis for going to the U.N., to the Congress and, indeed, to the nation — was Iraq’s possession of WMD in violation of the central condition for the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Gulf War. No WMD, no hypothetical to answer in the first place.


Second, the “if you knew then” question implicitly locates the origin and cause of the current disasters in 2003 . As if the fall of Ramadi was predetermined then, as if the author of the current regional collapse is George W. Bush. This is nonsense. The fact is that by the end of Bush’s tenure the war had been won. You can argue that the price of that victory was too high. Fine. We can debate that until the end of time. But what is not debatable is that it was a victory. Bush bequeathed to Obama a success. By whose measure? By Obama’s. As he told the troops at Fort Bragg on Dec. 14, 2011, “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” This was, said the president, a “moment of success.”


Which Obama proceeded to fully squander. With the 2012 election approaching, he chose to liquidate our military presence in Iraq. We didn’t just withdraw our forces. We abandoned, destroyed or turned over our equipment, stores, installations and bases. We surrendered our most valuable strategic assets, such as control of Iraqi airspace, soon to become the indispensable conduit for Iran to supply and sustain the Assad regime in Syria and cement its influence all the way to the Mediterranean. And, most relevant to the fall of Ramadi, we abandoned the vast intelligence network we had so painstakingly constructed in Anbar province, without which our current patchwork operations there are largely blind and correspondingly feeble.


The current collapse was not predetermined in 2003 but in 2011. Isn’t that what should be asked of Hillary Clinton? We know you think the invasion of 2003 was a mistake. But what about the abandonment of 2011? Was that not a mistake? Mme. Secretary: When you arrived at State, al-Qaeda in Iraq had been crushed and expelled from Anbar. The Iraqi government had from Basra to Sadr City fought and defeated the radical, Iranian-proxy Shiite militias. Yet today these militias are back, once again dominating Baghdad. On your watch, we gave up our position as the dominant influence over a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” — forfeiting that position gratuitously to Iran. Was that not a mistake? And where were you when it was made?


Iraq is now a battlefield between the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State and the Shiite jihadists of Iran’s Islamic Republic. There is no viable center. We abandoned it. The Obama administration’s unilateral pullout created a vacuum for the entry of the worst of the worst. And the damage was self-inflicted. The current situation in Iraq, says David Petraeus, “is tragic foremost because it didn’t have to turn out this way. The hard-earned progress of the surge was sustained for over three years.” Do the math. That’s 2009 through 2011, the first three Obama years. And then came the unraveling. When? The last U.S. troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, 2011. Want to do retrospective hypotheticals? Start there.





ISLAMIC STATE EYES DAMASCUS                                                                                          

Eyal Zisser                                                                                                          

Israel Hayom, May 25, 2015


One year after seizing vast areas of Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State group has once again reared its head. As it turns out, while Washington was busy eulogizing the organization and spreading rumors about the death of its leader, Islamic State was gearing up for the next round of fighting. Last week, Islamic State dealt a one-two punch to the Syrian and Iraqi regimes by seizing the Iraqi city of Ramadi, 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of the capital of Baghdad, and the Syria city of Palmyra, 200 kilometers (124 miles) northeast of Damascus. It seems the Obama administration, which was convinced Islamic State was retreating and perhaps even on the brink of collapse, was the only one to be surprised by the group's success.


Islamic State's progress is resounding proof of the failure of the American strategy, which seeks to deal with the threat via airstrikes and covert commando raids. Moreover, the group's success is also resounding proof of how detached Washington is from the reality on the ground. The problem is that in their quest to get a better grasp of the situation, the Americans have decided to adopt the Iranian point of view, placing their trust in Tehran, and therefore in Hezbollah, to indirectly assist them in curtailing Islamic State's progress in Syria and Iraq.


The advances Islamic State has made in Iraq are disturbing, but it is doubtful the group is seeking to overrun Baghdad and the Shiite areas in southern Iraq, whose government, as everyone knows, has become defunct and no longer presumes to represent the Iraqi people. Essentially, all that is left of sovereign Iraq is the Shiite people, who enjoy the backing of the U.S. and the assistance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. They have come together to fight Islamic State over the Shiite territories in southern Iraq, but have neither the interest nor the ability to defend northern Iraq from the jihadi group.


As opposed to the complicated situation in Iraq, Islamic State fighters view the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria as easy prey. In overrunning Palmyra, Islamic State dealt a blow to Assad, whose regime is barely holding on as it is. Assad has virtually no military forces fighting for him in the hundreds of battlegrounds across Syria. What is left of the Syrian army is a group of exhausted soldiers who are outnumbered and unmotivated, and Assad can do little to assist them.


While Assad, assisted by several thousand Hezbollah operatives, is fighting a rearguard battle at the Qalamoun Mountains on the Syria-Lebanon border, Islamic State has been able to seize some 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles) of Syria, and although most of this area is uninhabited, it still represent two-thirds of the country. Control of Palmyra affords Islamic State a springboard to the heart of Syria, toward Damascus in the south and Homs, which connects the northern and southern parts of Syria, in the east.


Assad's problems, however, go beyond Islamic State, as he must also contend with the Nusra Front, which is collaborating with several rebel groups backed by Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Unlike before, the rebel groups have joined forces and are threatening the Assad regime from the south, near the city of Daraa and on the Syrian Golan Heights, and from the north, where they have already taken the cities of Idlib and Jisr al-Shughur. These groups are now threatening Aleppo, the second-largest city in Syria, as well as the regime's strongholds on the Alawi coast.


In this reality, the assistance Hezbollah lends the Assad regime is a drop in the bucket. It would take a miracle to save the regime, and despite Washington's illusions, Islamic State may soon become one of the entities filling the vacuum in Syria. This will pose a problem for Israel as well.





AS THE MIDEAST BURNS, OBAMA TALKS ABOUT THE WEATHER                                                    

Father Raymond J. de Souza                                                                                       

National Post, May 25, 2015


It’s commencement season, a time when the great and the good come to campus to encourage the graduates to strive not only for greatness but for goodness, too. Commencement speeches are meant to celebrate the graduates, but with carte blanche to say something important, they reveal rather a lot about the speakers, as well. Recent addresses have brought inspiration at home and foreboding abroad.


Ten days ago I was at the Royal Military College graduation, where the commencement speaker was the commander-in-chief, Governor General David Johnston. The day after sexual abuse in the military was the lead story in the news, he spoke eloquently about how the graduates need to have a solid moral code and how the military depends upon them for force of arms and integrity of life.


I wish I had been at the Mount Allison graduation to hear Kevin Vickers speak to the graduates about the events that took place on Oct. 22, when as sergeant-at-arms he defended Parliament against a terror attack. The mace-bearer brought force of arms to bear on the shooter, but never lost sight that the man he took down was just that, a man, with an eternal soul. Vickers, having exercised his duty to dispatch Michael Zehaf-Bibeau to his judgment, prayed that it might be a merciful one.


U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the graduation of the Coast Guard Academy last Wednesday. He listed the various vital tasks the smallest of America’s military academies prepares its graduates for — safeguarding ports against terrorism, disaster relief, interdiction of smugglers, whether trafficking in people or drugs. The Coast Guard is deployed globally, including in the Persian Gulf alongside the Navy, in West Africa to fight Ebola and in the Pacific to preserve freedom of navigation along key trading routes. But that is not what the American commander-in-chief thought most pressing.


“And this brings me to the challenge I want to focus on today — one where our Coast Guardsmen are already on the front lines, and that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers — and that’s the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change. As a nation, we face many challenges, including the grave threat of terrorism. And as Americans, we will always do everything in our power to protect our country. Yet even as we meet threats like terrorism, we cannot, and we must not, ignore a peril that can affect generations.”


It turns out that on the very same day, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was also on service academy commencement duty, addressing the graduates at Imam Hussein Military University in Tehran. According to the New York Times, the ayatollah did not get around to climate change, but did have some pithy words about the nuclear negotiations with America: “Regarding inspections, we have said that we will not let foreigners inspect any military centre.” For good measure, he also had a pointed warning for Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies not to make trouble for Iran, lest they suffer the consequences. Scimitar-rattling by a regional hegemon on the threshold of nuclear capability is even a less sunny graduation address than apocalyptic climate change.



It was a perfect, almost painful, juxtaposition. Obama spoke of how “confronting climate change is now a key pillar of American global leadership — a core element of our diplomacy.” The defiance in Teheran paints a rather different picture. American leadership looks rather less impressive in Teheran’s part of the globe. The Obama administration has been begging the Iranians for a nuclear deal for years. The Iranians have not yet decided the terms on which they will grant Obama his wish, though Khamenei’s speech indicates that it will include the capacity to violate any such agreement with impunity.


If climate change is a new core element of American diplomacy, it may be because the traditional priorities of diplomacy are not faring as well. Watching Obama’s humiliation in Syria, reversals in Iraq and capitulation to Iran, American allies in the Gulf are highly nervous. A few weeks back, Obama sought to reassure them with invitations to a Camp David summit. Three of the five heads of state took a pass on meeting the president, including the new Saudi king. The king of Bahrain opted instead to attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show with Queen Elizabeth. The petro-monarchies have more pressing concerns than climate change.


Commencement addresses are often forgotten by the graduates to whom they are delivered. Perhaps it was so last week, though one expects the malevolent powers around the world took careful note that as Ramadi fell to ISIS, and Iran sets a course for nuclear weapons, Obama spoke about the weather. 






On Topic


‘Look … It’s My Name on This’: Obama Defends the Iran Nuclear Deal: Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, May 21, 2015—On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry.

How Islamic State’s Win in Ramadi Reveals New Weapons, Tactical Sophistication and Prowess: Margaret Coker, Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2015—In late April, a commander for Islamic State said his forces were ready to launch an offensive to take Ramadi, and the group called for fighters to redeploy to Iraq from Syria.

Can the Islamic State Survive?: Ross Douthat, New York Times, May 23, 2015—The fall of an autocrat leads to foreign occupation and civil war. A revolutionary movement with a messianic vision capitalizes on the chaos to gain power.

The Last Battle?: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, May 8, 2015 —The Kalamon mountains range from Mount Hermon northwards for tens of kilometers, overlooking the Lebanon Valley to the west. The official boundary between Lebanon and Syria runs along the crest of the mountain range, with the western slopes of the mountains part of Lebanon and the eastern slopes part of Syria. The Beirut-Damascus highway serves as the northern edge.







Les Palestiniens sont t-ils les plus grands mendiants de la terre ?
Ftouh Souhail
europe-israel.org, 7 janvier 2013
Le monde a ses chouchous, ses préférés et ses souffrances symboliques. Parmi les petites joies du peuple palestinien : le fait de recevoir des cadeaux de Noël toute l’année et de la part du monde entier.
Comme chaque année, en 2012, ce sont encore les Palestiniens qui ont particulier bénéficié d’une attention soutenue faisant d’eux les champions de la mendicité. La Communauté internationale continue de financer, nourrir et veiller en permanence sur les Palestiniens avec une constance remarquable. Dans le même temps, des millions d’individus dans la Corne de l’Afrique meurent dans l’indifférence générale.
Pour ne prendre que quelques exemples ; en termes d’APD (aide publique au développement) par habitant, un Palestinien a reçu en 2012 par exemple , 621 dollars d’aide ( source l’Office de secours et de travaux des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés de Palestine ou l’UNRWA) alors qu’ un Afghan 186 dollars, un Congolais 12 dollars, un Pakistanais moins de 7 dollars.
De prime à bord, une question se pose : les Palestiniens n’en ont-il pas marre de faire appel à la charité publique ?
La Ligue Arabe a indiqué le lundi, 31 décembre 2012, que l’Algérie a offert une aide financière de 26 millions de dollars à l’Autorité Palestinienne pour aider le peuple palestinien à surmonter la crise financière, dans laquelle il s’enfonce. Une aide qui sera effective dès le mois d’avril 2013, a précisé le secrétaire général adjoint de la Ligue arabe, Ahmed Benhelli.
Déjà une aide de 2,5 millions de dollars vient d’être versée aux Palestiniens le mois dernier par le Croissant rouge algérien (CRA). Cette somme d’argent a été collectée dans les fonds de la Zakat « aumône » et les ventes des timbres au nom du Croissant-Rouge algérien (CRA).
Le mois dernier, le gouvernement du Japon a fait aussi don de 2 millions de dollars à l’Office de secours et de travaux des Nations Unies pour les « réfugiés de Palestine » dans le Proche-Orient (UNRWA), pour financer des projets et des travaux d’urgence dans la bande de Gaza. Rien qu’en 2012, le Japon a fourni plus de 22,5 millions de dollars pour l’UNRWA, ce qui en fait le plus grand donateur de l’UNRWA.
Le Luxembourg avait annoncé, le 8 février 2012, qu’il faisait un don de 15 millions d’euros à l’Office de secours et de travaux des Nations Unies pour les « réfugiés de Palestine » au Proche-Orient (UNRWA). L’accord a été signé par la ministre luxembourgeoise du Développement Marie-Josée Jacobs et le commissaire général de l’UNRWA, Filippo Grandi.
Catherine Ashton, la chef de la diplomatie européenne, en tournée en janvier 2012 dans la région avait signé dans la Bande de Gaza un accord financier avec Filippo Grandi, le directeur de l’office onusien chargé des « réfugiés », pour accorder une aide de 72 millions de dollars aux Palestiniens. L’Union Européenne a offert un total de 80 millions d’euros en 2012 à l’UNWRA.
L’Australie, pour sa part a décidé de verser, en 2012, une aide de 90 millions de dollars à l’UNRWA pour financer l’embauche d’enseignants et médecins supplémentaires pour les  »réfugiés palestiniens » en Jordanie, au Liban, en Syrie, à Gaza et en Judée-Samarie. L’accord a été signé à Canberra le 27 mai 2012 par le ministre australien des Affaires étrangères Bob Carr et Filippo Grandi, le commissaire général de l’UNRWA. L’Australie a déclaré qu’elle va étaler le versement sur 5 ans.
L’Autorité palestinienne avait aussi bénéficié en 2012 d’une aide financière de 9,75 millions de dollars du Fonds des Nations unies pour la population (UNFPA) pour les deux prochaines années, destinée à soutenir des projets de développement dans les territoires sous contrôle de l’Autorité palestinienne.
En France surtout, en plein crise de croissance, des voix comment aussi à s’indigner sur la dilapidation de l’argent du contribuable au profit des Palestiniens (1). Le mois dernier l’Agence française de développement (AFD) a octroyé 2 millions d’euros supplémentaire au développement de la zone industrielle de Bethléem qui va coûter à la France une dizaine de millions d’euros. Le 14 octobre 2012 à Ramallah une convention d’aide budgétaire a été signée pour la contribution directe de la France à la hauteur de 10 millions d’euros au budget de l’Autorité palestinienne.
En mars 2012 Paris avait décidé de participer à hauteur de cinq millions d’euros pour la construction de l’usine de dessalement de Gaza. L’ancien Premier ministre François Fillon avait annoncé cette nouvelle à son homologue palestinien M.Salam Fayyad, lors de leur entretien en marge du Forum mondial de l’eau à Marseille.
L’UE a versé le 10 avril 2012 , un montant de 22,5 millions d’euros à l’Autorité palestinienne en contribution à ses dépenses en salaires et pensions dans la fonction publique (84 000 personnes) aussi bien en Cisjordanie qu’à Gaza. Cette contribution est accordée au titre du mécanisme d’aide PEGASE (Mécanisme Palestino-européen de gestion de l’aide socio-économique). L’UE aura ainsi versé 1,3 milliard d’euros depuis 2008, démarrage du programme.
L’Union européenne avait débloqué aussi, le 19 mars 2012, une aide de 35 millions d’euros pour « améliorer les conditions de vie des Palestiniens ».. La chef de la diplomatie de l’UE, Catherine Ashton et le Premier ministre de l’Autorité palestinienne Salam Fayyad avait signé un accord à Bruxelles permettant de financer, à hauteur de 22 millions d’euros, une station d’épuration des eaux et de moderniser, à hauteur de 13 millions d’euros, le point de passage frontalier de Kerem Shalom entre Israël et Gaza pour les marchandises.
L’Union européenne et la Suède avaient transféré en février 2012, 24,7 millions d’euros à l’Autorité palestinienne afin de payer les traitements et les pensions des 84.300 fonctionnaires palestiniens de Judée-Samarie et de Gaza .
Le 12 février 2012 la Ligue Arabe a appelé ses membres, lors d’une réunion au Caire, à soutenir l’Autorité palestinienne financièrement à hauteur de 100 millions de dollars par mois. Ces fonds sont nécessaires « en raison des pressions financières auxquelles font face la direction et la population palestiniennes », car « Israël ne transfère pas les fonds revenant à l’Autorité palestinienne », selon l’organisation panarabe.
Le Congrès américain a débloqué le 24 mars 2012 la somme de 192 millions de dollars pour les Palestiniens venant directement de L’Agence américaine du développement (US Agency for International Development ).
La Banque mondiale a annoncé pour sa part, le 5 mars 2012, trois dons d’un total de 50 millions de dollars à l’Autorité palestinienne pour des projets dans le développement de l’administration centrale et des municipalités ainsi que dans l’électricité. C’est la première fois depuis mai 2010 que l’institution, dont le siège est situé à Washington, débloque des fonds pour les Palestiniens.
Le don le plus important, de 40 millions de dollars, devrait « soutenir les progrès de réformes essentielles de l’Autorité palestinienne qui aboutiront à offrir de meilleurs services aux citoyens », avait indiqué la Banque mondiale dans un communiqué. Il vient de l’Association internationale de développement (IDA), filiale de la Banque qui travaille avec les pays les plus pauvres.
La Banque mondiale a déclaré aussi, le 7 avril 2012, avoir attribué 55 millions de dollars pour le développement palestinien. Mariam Sherman, directrice en charge du dossier de la Judée-Samarie et de Gaza, a déclaré que l’argent serait utilisé pour aider les entreprises, aider les diplômés et soutenir les institutions du gouvernement palestinien. La Banque mondiale a versé encore, le 9 mai 2012, un autre montant de 3 millions de dollars à l’Autorité palestinienne pour l’aider à développer son commerce, notamment celui des petits et moyens entrepreneurs et des femmes.
En juillet 2012, l’Arabie Saoudite a débloqué une aide de 100 millions de dollars à l’Autorité palestinienne pour l’aider à surmonter ses difficultés budgétaires. Le Qatar, quant à lui, a offert gracieusement 400 millions d’euros au gouvernement islamiste de Gaza en octobre 2012.
Sans parler du manque total de transparence quant à la destination de ces fonds, les Palestiniens se sont imposés comme les modèles de victimes sans que jamais personne ne vienne remettre en cause leur statut même de « victime », ou ce qu’ils reçoivent de la part des différents bailleurs de fonds internationaux. On dirait que les Palestiniens sont devenus l’opium des peuples. Tant qu’ils existeront avec leur statut actuel le monde continuera à payer.
Les Palestiniens souvent haineux, au lieu de travailler et renoncer à la violence acceptent l’aumône internationale, sans avoir le moindre orgueil, la main toujours tendue vers la Communauté internationale.
On va peut être assister en 2013 à une augmentation de ce que j’appelle un soutien inconditionnel à «ce peuple assisté » ce qui équivaut en fait a un support international sans limites à de pseudo victimes éternelles au grand désespoir de tous les peuples qui souffrent vraiment et dont les caméras ne montrent rien.
La Syrie après Assad
Jonathan D. Halevi.
Le CAPE de Jérusalem, 2 janvier 2013
Le jour de vérité approche car le régime de Bechar el Assad  a déjà perdu le contrôle sur une grande partie du pays. Le vice Président syrien, Farouk el-Shara, confirme dans une interview au journal libanais al-Akhbar que l’armée syrienne ne sera pas capable de gagner la confrontation actuelle.
Le régime d’Assad cherche à transférer des forces fidèles au pouvoir avec leurs armes et notamment chimiques vers  l’enclave alaouite située à l’ouest du pays. Ils serviraient de carte politique pour dissuader des actes de vengeance et  assurer le statut de la communauté alaouite dans un cadre futur.
Les Etats-Unis et les autres pays occidentaux ont certes reconnu la coalition nationale syrienne comme seul et unique représentant du peuple syrien, mais les rebelles l’accepteront  uniquement comme acteur temporaire pouvant mobiliser le soutien international et compléter l’effort de renverser le régime.
En réalité, les forces dominantes en Syrie sont des cadres militaires   opposés au régime depuis mars 2011. La majorité écrasante a adopté une perspective islamiste djiadiste et salafiste.
Le soutien total des forces combattantes et notamment la branche Jahbat al-Nousra, affiliée à Al Qaïda, indique cette orientation islamiste antioccidentale.
La période de transition sera marquée par une instabilité gouvernementale et par un manque de contrôle central sur une partie des forces combattantes.
Dans ce contexte, la chute du régime d’Assad deviendrait une menace militaro-terroriste contre Israël.
Le régime syrien a perdu définitivement sa légitimité à gouverner, et pourra survivre pour une période supplémentaire en utilisant sa puissance de feu destinée à infliger un grand nombre de victimes parmi les rebelles et au sein de la population civile.
L’armée syrienne a utilisé tous les moyens militaires et tout son arsenal à l’exception des armes chimiques. Les fortes mises en garde des Etats-Unis et d’autres pays occidentaux ont eu sans doute un effet dissuasif.
La majorité des forces rebelles est hostile à Israël et réitère son  appel à étendre le djihad jusqu’à  la “libération de Jérusalem”.
La chute d’Assad, allié proche de Téhéran, sera un coup dur pour les intérêts de l’Iran au Moyen-Orient et pourrait provoquer une onde de choc qui affaiblirait l’influence de l’Iran dans toute la région.
Cela concerne particulièrement le Liban, où les forces sunnites islamistes sont déjà organisées pour le jour d’après, et pour modifier l’équilibre politique et militaire et affaiblir la dominance du Hezbollah. L’effondrement de l’arrière pays syrien déclenchera probablement des affrontements violents qui pourraient dégénérer en une nouvelle guerre civile.
En Irak, devenue sous domination iranienne croissante après le retrait des forces américaines du pays, les sunnites se tourneront probablement vers leurs alliés syriens en vue de renouveler leur campagne contre le gouvernement shiite à Bagdad.
A l’heure actuelle les forces rebelles accusent l’Iran, la Russie, et la Chine de sauvegarder le régime d’Assad. La Russie a un intérêt majeur dans le maintien de son influence en Syrie, et jouera probablement un rôle important  pour frayer un chemin vers les rebelles aussi. En dépit des tensions idéologiques, les Frères musulmans attribuent une importance stratégique suprême aux relations avec l’Iran malgré les massacres perpétrés quotidiennement. L’objectif est de contrer l’influence occidentale au Moyen-Orient et de former un front commun contre l’Etat juif. 
Les pires antisémites de 2012
Guy Millière
menapress.org, 6 janvier 2013
J'évoquais, la semaine dernière, la désignation de la personne de l'année par divers magazines. Le choix de Barack Obama par le Time me semblait pertinent, mais pas pour les mêmes raisons que celles avancées par l’hebdomadaire américain.
Si le désastre économique et géopolitique qu'il a provoqué et qu'il poursuit n’est pas interrompu, le Président Obama mériterait même le titre de personne du siècle. Pour y avoir droit, il lui faudrait réaliser quelques gestes encore : assurer l'arrivée des Frères Musulmans au pouvoir dans deux ou trois pays supplémentaires dans le monde sunnite, parvenir à un degré d'endettement qui signifiera la ruine irrémédiable des Etats-Unis, et il y arrivera presque. Permettre à l'Iran d'obtenir l'arme atomique, et Obama y sera tout à fait.
J’écrivais aussi que le choix de l'habitant des implantations par le magazine israélien en ligne +972 me semblait approprié, en précisant que ce qui déplaisait si fortement à ce media, à l’inverse, me réjouissait.
Je pense que les accords d'Oslo ont été une erreur catastrophique qui a coûté la vie à mille trois-cents Israéliens, sans compter les blessés et les mutilés. A mes yeux, une décision qui coûte la vie d’une seule personne est déjà lourde à porter, alors mille trois-cents !
Le mot catastrophe me semble encore faible. Le retrait de Gaza a transformé la bande côtière en une sorte d'émirat totalitaire aux mains de terroristes aux idées génocidaires. Quant à Mahmoud Abbas, je lui fais à peu près autant confiance pour gérer un Etat, aussi minuscule soit-il, qu’à un pyromane multirécidiviste dans une forêt en situation de sécheresse. Je considère que confier un Etat au chef du Fatah reviendrait à fournir à ce pyromane un bidon d'essence et un briquet en prime.
Lorsque j’entends parler d'Etat palestinien démilitarisé, je préfère lever les yeux au ciel que répondre. J'attends le moment où l’on m’entretiendra de « terroristes non violents », en me disant qu'au point où nous en sommes, cela viendra. Si Mahmoud Abbas se convertissait au bouddhisme tibétain, je pourrais à la rigueur réviser mon jugement, mais l'atmosphère au Proche-Orient n'y est pas propice.
Je suis d’avis qu'il y a déjà un Etat palestinien : la Jordanie ; un deuxième : le Hamastan ; et un troisième, qui existe sur le papier : l'Autorité Palestinienne, transformée à l'ONU en Etat associé, qui devrait, à mon goût, rester sur le papier.
La période, cela dit, est aussi aux palmarès. De même qu'il existe un classement des dix meilleures chansons, des dix meilleurs romans ou de je ne sais quoi d'autre, il y a le classement, établi par le centre Simon Wiesenthal1, des pires propos antisémites de l'année 2012.
Vu le nombre d'antisémites sur la planète, la sélection n'a pas été une tâche facile. J'aurais, pour ce qui me concerne, attribué une place de choix au dirigeant de l’Autorité Palestinienne, que je viens d’évoquer. Si sa thèse de doctorat négationniste incarne un atout à vie pour lui, son discours à l'ONU, le 29 novembre dernier, a pris la forme, en soi, d’un chef d'œuvre.
Depuis l'élaboration des Protocoles des sages de Sion par l'Okhrana, la police secrète du Tzar, on a rarement fait référence aux Juifs comme Abou Mazen dans cette allocution. Et je comprends tous les antisémites de l'Union Européenne et de l'administration Obama, qui, en l'entendant s’exprimer, ont immédiatement répété qu'on était en présence d’un véritable homme de paix.
Le président de l’AP ne figure toutefois pas dans le classement du centre Simon Wiesenthal. Khaled Mashal et Ismaïl Haniyeh, qui ont pourtant fait leur possible pour figurer au hit-parade, non plus.
Mais y sont répertoriés deux des principaux dirigeants de la fratrie des Frères Musulmans, le parti du président égyptien Mohamed Morsi : Mohamed Badie et Ftouh Abd al Nabi Mansour, deux hommes dont les paroles citées auraient séduit Adolf Hitler s'il était encore de ce monde.
On trouve aussi, dans le palmarès de l’année écoulée, quelques phrases de Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, un personnage qu'il n'est plus besoin de décrire.
Les Etats-Unis y sont aussi représentés, grâce à un voisin et ami de Barack Obama à Chicago, Louis Farrakhan, qui dirige la Nation de l'islam [la principale organisation politique musulmane aux Etats-Unis]. Farrakhan est un admirateur, dans le même élan d'enthousiasme, des œuvres de Mahomet et de celles du Troisième Reich, et il n'hésite jamais, lorsqu'il en a l'occasion, de cracher sur les Juifs.
L'Europe n'est pas laissée de côté non plus et occupe une place importante dans le tiercé vainqueur : le Hongrois Marton Gyongiosy, du parti Jobbik (Mouvement pour une Meilleure Hongrie), qui a récemment déclaré que les Juifs représentaient une « menace pour la sécurité nationale du pays », méritait d'être distingué.
De même un Norvégien converti à l'islam, Trond Ali Linstadt, qui a prononcé de bien belles paroles, que ceux qui détestent les Juifs aimeraient entendre plus souvent. Ce qui montre au passage que la Norvège ne produit pas que des Anders Behring Breivik dans le répertoire de l’infect !
Certains mots de Nikolaos Michaloliakos, le dirigeant d’Aube Dorée, le parti grec autoproclamé néo-nazi, ne pouvaient être oubliés.
L'Ukraine également a apporté sa propre moisson, et les fortes paroles des politiques Igor Miroshnichenko et Oleg Tyagnibok, qui rêvent que le pays soit « purgé » de toute présence juive, sont répertoriées (considérant la haine des Juifs qui semble régner en Ukraine, déjà si visible au temps de la Shoah par balles, on est surpris que les Israélites y vivent encore).
Les fans de football européen, qui ont effectivement tant contribué à l'antisémitisme, ne pouvaient être oubliés : les supporters de l'équipe italienne du Lazio et ceux de l'équipe anglaise de West Ham semblent nourrir une affection verbale pour les pogroms et les croix gammées. Quand ils savent qu'un joueur d'une équipe adverse est juif, personne ne peut plus les tenir.
Une liste de propos antisémites européens sans des phrases allemandes étant lacunaire, le centre Simon Wiesenthal a donc recensé le journaliste du Spiegel, Jakob Augstein. Je ne l'ai jamais lu ou entendu, mais ce qu'en dit un chroniqueur de Die Welt (Le Monde), Henryk Broder, donne envie de se  pencher sur son cas : « C'est un antisémite pur qui n'a pas pu faire carrière dans la Gestapo parce qu'il est né après la guerre ». Il a, en revanche, fait carrière au Spiegel et à la télévision allemande. Réconfortant ? Je n'en suis pas sûr.



UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan announced on Monday that a new framework has been reached with President Bashar Assad to end the violence in Syria. “We agreed on an approach which I will share with the armed opposition,” Annan said following a two-hour meeting with Assad which he described as “candid and constructive.”


Annan’s efforts to broker an end to the Syrian conflict have unravelled in recent months, as the uprising that began with peaceful protests in March 2011 has spiralled towards civil war. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that 17,129 Syrians have been killed in the last 16 months, including 11,897 civilians.


Annan’s optimism follows his acknowledgement Saturday in an interview with the French daily Le Monde that the international community’s attempts to find a political solution to the escalating violence in Syria have failed. As per his new plan, then? Annan reportedly will focus on long-time Syrian ally Iran, which he believes “should be part of the solution.”

Annan arrived in Tehran late Monday for related talks.


Despite previously agreeing to a series of peace proposals, the Assad regime has repeatedly ignored its commitments and instead continued to wage a brutal crackdown on dissent. There is little evidence that Annan’s latest effort will promote a different result.



Daily Star (Lebanon), July 9, 2012

Kofi Annan’s return to Damascus on Sunday adds insult to injury after his admission over the weekend that his peace plan for Syria has failed. Since the U.N.-Arab League envoy’s six-point plan was apparently introduced in April, activists say some 4,000 more people have been killed, bringing the total to around 17,000.

The cease-fire that it called for has been ignored by both sides on a daily basis, and the 300 observers who are currently in the country are rarely even allowed to leave their hotel rooms due to violence outside their doors.

Reaching a conclusion the rest of the world had seemingly already arrived at, Annan this weekend admitted that, “Evidently, we have not succeeded.” But rather than follow that admission up with an announcement that the mission will cease operations, surely the next logical step, Annan actually returns to the scene of the crime, to continue flogging this dead horse.

The observer mission, which will already go down as a black mark on the history of the United Nations, has no purpose in Syria. Undeniably, it was to face huge challenges but it has proven incapable of improving the situation on the ground in any tangible way, instead actually bearing witness to one of the bloodiest periods in the now 16-month-long uprising.

Whether due to miscalculations, personal political ambitions, or a mixture of both, the mission has now become an accomplice in the enduring regime-sponsored destruction of Syria and its people. And the sooner the U.N. withdraws the mission, the better, for this act might finally prompt the international community to sit up and create alternative, effective methods to end the massacres.…

Appeals to the regime, and to President Bashar Assad himself, whom Annan met Sunday evening, are no longer enough. A regime which kills its own people, destroys its cities, ruins its economy, makes refugees of its citizens and which can count its remaining international friends on one hand, is not a regime which will make compromises and agree to concede power.

The Syrian government has shown no indication that it has any intention to veer from its own “security solution,” and yet Annan seems to think he can politely discuss a cease-fire in Damascus. If his failed six-point plan has achieved anything, it is to prove, once and for all, that the regime is prepared to fight to retain power, at any cost.

If anything is to be salvaged from Annan’s meaningless six-point plan now, it is vital for the international community to take his admission of failure as a cue to introduce a new round of measures against the Assad regime, and measures which actually hurt the regime, not merely tickle it.

This dictatorship has persisted for 40 years now, and if the necessary steps are not taken by world powers, it is not impossible that it will continue its killing and its burning until it feels the next 40 years are guaranteed.


Washington Post, July 6, 2012

It was just a week ago that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cheerfully reported that Russia was ready to “lean” on the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad as part of a new United Nations plan for a transitional government. “They have told me that,” she assured one interviewer following a June 30 conference  in Geneva. “They’ve decided to get on one horse, and it’s the horse that would back a transition plan that Kofi Annan would be empowered to implement,” she told another.

Oops. It immediately became clear that Moscow had no such intention. In the past week, the official Ms. Clinton cited as her source—Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov—has said repeatedly that his government will not pressure Mr. Assad to leave power. “This is either an unscrupulous attempt to mislead serious people who shape foreign policy or simply a misunderstanding of what is going on,” Mr. Lavrov said [last] Thursday. Western policy, he added, “is most likely to exacerbate the situation, lead to further violence and ultimately a very big war.”

At yet another [“Friends of Syria”] conference in Paris [last] Friday, Ms. Clinton had changed her tune. Now she is accusing Russia and China of “blockading” progress on Syria, insisting that is “no longer tolerable” and warning that they “will pay a price.” She pleaded with participating governments to lobby Vladimir Putin to change course. This raises an interesting question: Was Ms. Clinton taken in by Mr. Lavrov? Or did she know all along that the new U.N. plan she has been promoting was stillborn?

Either way, the Obama administration’s Syria diplomacy is making it look foolish as well as feckless. U.S. officials, apart perhaps from Ms. Clinton, appear to have no faith in their own policy. Conceding that the plan to appoint a transitional government is going nowhere, while Syrians die by the score every day, they resort to blaming Russia—as if they are shocked to discover that the Kremlin doesn’t want to support a pro-Western, pro-democracy agenda.

In fact Mr. Putin’s intransigence was entirely predictable. Apart from the fact that the Assad regime is a long-time Russian client and arms purchaser, the KGB-trained strongman seethes at the notion of Western intervention to support a popular revolution against a dictator. Blocking such action—and being seen to do so—is his overriding priority. The more Ms. Clinton blames him for “blockading,” the more Mr. Putin preens.

The administration does have reason to pretend that Russia is cooperating or can be induced to do so. Were it to acknowledge that that cause is hopeless—and that action at the United Nations is therefore impossible—it might come under pressure to consider other measures. One would be the protection of an rebel safe zone in northern Syria, which could help turn the military tide against the regime. The Turkish government reportedly proposed—again—at a NATO meeting last week that preparations for such a step be made. According to the Hurriyet newspaper, the idea was rejected by the United States, among others.

So which government is preventing effective action on Syria, and which will pay the price? Ms. Clinton’s attempt to pin the blame on Russia looks like a diversion.

The following is excerpted from Barry Rubin’s July 4 article,
titled “Extra! Extra! World Agrees On How To Solve Syrian Civil War!”,
describing the outcome of the June 30 international conference on the Syrian crisis.

Here it is at last. The perfect case study of the “international community’s” diplomacy on the Middle East, as quoted from a Wall Street Journal article describing efforts to resolve the Syria conflict. And the article has the perfect headline, too! “World Powers Reach Syria Compromise.”

So the problem is solved, right? Below find the stunning solution:

“‎An international meeting in Geneva on Syria’s crisis agreed, with support from Russia, to support a political transition. However, officials at the meeting said any chance for a political transition to succeed rests on the willingness of the Syrian regime to cooperate.”

That’s right! The powers have agreed to a transition to a new government which will go into effect as soon as the current dictatorship agrees to be overthrown and its rulers flee for their lives and watch their supporters probably be massacred. Perhaps the world will then install a new Islamist government in Syria, forcing it down the throats of the real democratic opposition, which will be dedicated to spreading revolution and striking against Western interests. And the opposition isn’t happy about being asked to leave the regime in power until the dictatorship decides to step down.

Isn’t diplomacy wonderful?…

Ruslan Pukhov

NY Times, July 6, 2012

Many in the West believe that Russia’s support for Syria stems from Moscow’s desire to profit from selling arms to Bashar Assad’s government and maintain its naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartus. But these speculations are superficial and misguided. The real reason that Russia is resisting strong international action against the Assad regime is that it fears the spread of Islamic radicalism and the erosion of its superpower status.…

Since 2005, Russian defense contracts with Syria have amounted to only about $5.5 billion—mostly to modernize Syria’s air force and air defenses.… Syria is among Russia’s significant customers, but it is by no means one of the key buyers of Russian arms—accounting for just 5 percent of Russia’s global arms sales in 2011. Indeed, Russia has long refrained from supplying Damascus with the most powerful weapons systems so as to avoid angering Israel and the West—sometimes to the detriment of Russia’s commercial and political ties with Syria. To put it plainly, arms sales to Syria today do not have any significance for Russia from either a commercial or a military-technological standpoint.…

The Russian Navy’s logistical support facility at Tartus is similarly unimportant. It essentially amounts to two floating moorings, a couple of warehouses, a barracks and a few buildings. On shore, there are no more than 50 seamen.… Tartus has more symbolic than practical significance. It can’t serve as a support base for deploying naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea, and even visits by Russian military ships are carried out more for demonstrative purposes than out of any real need to replenish supplies.

Russia’s current Syria policy basically boils down to supporting the Assad government and preventing a foreign intervention aimed at overthrowing it, as happened in Libya. President Vladimir Putin is simply channelling public opinion…while playing his customary role as the protector of Russian interests who curtails the wilfulness of the West.

Many Russians believe that the collapse of the Assad government would be tantamount to the loss of Russia’s last client and ally in the Middle East and the final elimination of traces of former Soviet prowess there—illusory as those traces may be. They believe that Western intervention in Syria (which Russia cannot counter militarily) would be an intentional profanation of one of the few remaining symbols of Russia’s status as a great world power.

Such attitudes are further buttressed by widespread pessimism about the eventual outcome of the Arab Spring, and the Syrian revolution in particular. Most Russian observers believe that Arab revolutions have completely destabilized the region and cleared the road to power for the Islamists. In Moscow, secular authoritarian governments are seen as the sole realistic alternative to Islamic dominance.…

There is no doubt that preserving his own power is also on Mr. Putin’s mind as his authoritarian government begins to wobble in the face of growing protests that enjoy political approval and support from the West. He cannot but sympathize with Mr. Assad as a fellow autocratic ruler struggling with outside interference in domestic affairs.

But ideological solidarity is a secondary factor at best. Mr. Putin is capitalizing on traditional Russian suspicions of the West, and his support for Mr. Assad is based on the firm conviction that an Islamist-led revolution in Syria, especially one that receives support through the intervention of Western and Arab states, will seriously harm Russia’s long-term interests.

(Ruslan Pukhov is publisher of the Moscow Defense Brief.)

Matt Gurney

National Post, June 29, 2012

Perhaps the only real practical argument that can be made for Western intervention in Syria is that civil wars have a nasty habit of jumping borders and simply becoming wars. As Syria’s vicious crackdown on an armed insurgency continues, and violence spreads to the capital of Damascus, its neighbours are becoming increasingly wary. This is especially true given last [month]’s shoot-down of a Turkish reconnaissance plane near Syrian airspace.…

That is not to deny that there are moral or humanitarian reasons for getting involved in Syria. The regime of Bashar Assad has long been brutal, and having seen what befell other leaders who did not react with sufficient swiftness to the Arab Spring (Tunisia and Egypt being notable examples), it has found it within itself to be even more brutal as it tries to crush an uprising that would otherwise be likely to sweep it from power. This has involved using military forces and heavy weapons in civilian areas, directly targeting Western journalists and using state-supported militaries outside the formal military chain of command to attack civilian populations in areas under (or believed to be under) the sway of the rebellion. Torture, executions and rape are reported to be rampant in Syria’s detention facilities, where enemies of the regime—real or imagined—are being held by the thousands.

Any of these things would be sufficient moral reason for someone to come along and clobber Assad…if it ended there. But it doesn’t. Syria’s advanced military forces would not be a pushover as is often the case when international humanitarian interventions are being considered abroad in a Third World country. It would require a powerful and sophisticated military force to overwhelm the Syrian forces with the speed and firepower needed to keep casualties, on all sides, to an acceptable level. Effectively, only NATO could do it, or the U.S., alone or with coalition partners.… And even that is not guaranteed.…

Yet the West cannot afford to turn a blind eye to what is happening in the region beyond Syria’s borders. Turkey has already skirmished with its neighbour, losing a plane and two aircrew in the process. It is currently moving anti-aircraft weapons and armoured ground units to its border with Syria, warning that any Syrian military forces that approach the Turkish frontier will be fired upon on sight. Fighting has already spilled over the border into Lebanon on several occasions. Syrian military forces have conducted offensive operations against the rebels in close proximity to its land border with Western-aligned Jordan. And, of course, Israel is closing watching its always tense frontier with Syria.

Any of these borders could easily become a flashpoint, if, for example, Syrian military forces crossed any of these borders to pursue fleeing or regrouping rebels, or if two military units, each on their side of the border, “bumped” into each other. This is what happens when countries mobilize their forces and push them into border areas. It doesn’t take much to set off the shooting.

On the face of it, Syria has nothing much to gain from adding a conventional border war to the civil war its already fighting. But it’s far from clear that the central government in Damascus is even fully in control of its armed forces—armed forces, it must be said, that possess one of the largest chemical weapon stockpiles in the world. NATO and the West may not see any reason to get involved in a Syrian civil war. But they can’t ignore the possibility that a civil war that began in one country could quickly begin to suck in all the neighbours.…

Yaakov Katz

Jerusalem Post, June 29, 2012

A few weeks ago, Syrian civilians broke into a UN peacekeeping post along the border with Israel. The civilians came to steal supplies, but in Israel, the event—which would have been unheard of a year ago—was noted with extreme interest as another sign that President Bashar Assad was losing control over his country.

An even further sign is the increase in the number of land mines being dug up by Syrian civilians near the border and thrown into Israel. Since the beginning of the year, six mines have been thrown into the country, compared to two in 2011 and zero the year before.

All of this adds up to a dire assessment within the IDF Northern Command that Syria is on its way to becoming something of a “hybrid” state where Assad will continue to control some parts—particularly main metropolitan areas like Damascus and Aleppo—but will lose control over other parts like Hauran, an area in the southwest along the border with Israel.

For this reason, the IDF…is focused on preparing for scenarios it believes could evolve over the coming months, with an eye on the increase in the presence of global jihad elements in Syria and their potential involvement in attacks against Israel.

The change for the IDF is significant.

One place where that change is apparent is along a section of the border in the central Golan Heights where for years the IDF had invested in creating obstacles to prevent Syrian tanks from crossing into the country. Today, the military is creating obstacles aimed at preventing people from infiltrating the border, as part of an understanding that the new threat is one of guerrillas and terrorism.

This is a lesson from what has happened along one of the country’s other active fronts today—the Sinai, which also used to be under the control of a regime (Hosni Mubarak) but today is a lawless territory where terrorists appear to run free.…

The fighting between [Syrian] rebels and the military is not yet directly along the border with Israel, but it is not far, reaching places like Deraa—a mere 11 km. from Israel.…



Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2012

Syria continues to sink deeper into a civil war that we were told would break out if the U.S. and its allies intervened to oust Bashar Assad. So the West has stayed out, but the killings have multiplied to include at least four massacres in [three] weeks.… Even “leading from behind” worked better than this.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued her intervention of words [last week], disclosing that “We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria.” Russia’s foreign minister responded the next day by saying the U.S. arms other countries in the region—which doesn’t do much for Syria’s opposition, which is carrying a gun to a tank and artillery fight.

This is the same Russia that has protected Mr. Assad from even the mildest U.N. sanctions. Readers may also recall that Russia and Syria were Exhibits A and B of Mr. Obama’s policy of engaging with countries that supposedly only disagreed with America because Dick Cheney was Vice President. Four years later, Syria remains Iran’s best ally and is slaughtering its own people, while Russia of the famous “reset” in relations is resorting to its Cold War vetoes of collective Western action.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called on the U.N. Security Council to enforce U.N. envoy to Syria Kofi Annan’s cease-fire, by military force if necessary. That would be the same cease-fire that Mr. Assad agreed to honor in April but has since violated every day. The Russians and Chinese can veto any such U.N. move.…

The reality is that Mr. Assad and his protectors aren’t going to accept any cease-fire or peace plan until it is the peace of the grave for his opponents. This is an existential fight for survival by a hard regime backed by even harder regimes that don’t want to lose a client. Mr. Assad isn’t going to accept a “transition”—Mrs. Clinton’s policy word of choice for Syria—until he is dislodged by force.

Mr. Assad the ophthamologist can see even without eyeglasses that Mr. Obama has no desire to intervene militarily to stop the slaughter. That perception alone gives Damascus a freer hand to carry out the very massacres Mrs. Clinton and her colleagues condemn.…

The Administration’s stated case against military intervention is that it would make the humanitarian situation worse, though we doubt that is how they see it in the massacre towns of Houla and Qubeir. There’s also the fear that we don’t know enough about the Syrian opposition and what it might do if it came to power.… But it’s hard to imagine how Syria under new leadership could be worse for U.S. interests than the Assad clan.

If the realists are right that Iran is America’s greatest threat in the region, then ousting Iran’s best friend would be a strategic victory. On the other hand, if Mr. Assad murders enough people to survive, he will be even more beholden to Iran and Russia, and more inclined to make trouble for Lebanon, Turkey, Israel and the Gulf Arab states. If he prevails, the rest of the region—and the world—will also know that he did so despite insistent but irrelevant calls from the U.S. that he had to go. American credibility and influence will be weaker for it.

Intervening in Syria does not mean reprising the war in Iraq. A Bosnia-style air campaign targeting elite Syrian military units could prompt the general staff to reconsider its contempt for international opinion, and perhaps its allegiance to the Assad family. Short of that, carving out some kind of safe haven inside Syria would at least save lives.

The best argument against intervention at this point is Mr. Obama himself. Only a U.S. President can lead a coalition of the willing outside of the U.N…and Mr. Obama clearly doesn’t want to do it.… Mr. Obama wants his Syrian nightmare to go away before the election, and with Russian helicopters and Mr. Assad’s efficient butchery, it might.

Fouad Ajami

Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2012

The ordeal of Syria has been a rebuttal of what the diplomacy of Barack Obama once promised and stood for. It is largely forgotten now that Syria and Iran were the two regimes in the Greater Middle East that Mr. Obama had promised to “engage.”

Back when he was redeemer in chief, Mr. Obama had been certain that the regime in Damascus would yield to his powers of persuasion. He cut Damascus a wide swath, stepped aside when the Syrian regime all but laid to waste the gains of the 2005 Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, assassinating and terrorizing its way back into its smaller neighbor.

When the storm that broke upon the Arabs in early 2011 hit Syria, the flaws of the Obama approach were laid bare. It took five months of hesitation and wishful thinking before Mr. Obama called on the Syrian ruler to relinquish power. That call made, he had hoped that the storm would die down, that the world’s attention would drift from the sorrows of Syria.

But the intensifying barbarism of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the massacres and atrocities have given Mr. Obama nowhere to hide. A United Nations report recently determined that children as young as 9 have been subjected to “killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, and use as human shields.”

For months the abdication over Syria sought cover behind the diplomacy of Kofi Annan, the designated envoy of the Arab League and the U.N. But Mr. Annan has conceded that his diplomacy has been helpless before the violence. A regime built for a crisis such as this, fine-tuned by a ruling family and a dominant sect over the last four decades, had nothing but contempt for U.N. diplomacy.…

Indeed, the U.N. monitors [in Syria] came under attack last week. En route to the besieged town of Haffa, their convoy was shot at and set upon by thugs throwing stones and wielding metal rods. U.N. chief peacekeeper Hervé Ladsous described the situation on the ground well when he said, “Keeping a peacekeeping force when there is definitely no peace to observers—that summarizes the situation.” Last Saturday’s official suspension of that peacekeeping effort is an acknowledgment of that glaring reality.

Those hamlets of grief that came to fame in recent days, Houla, Qubair, sites of cruel massacres, tell us that the Assad regime is convinced that no outside intervention is on the horizon. Syria is in the midst of the sectarian war Assad sought all along. He has trapped his own Alawite community, implicating it in his crimes. In the recent massacres, Sunni areas have been sacked by neighboring Alawi villages. The army did the shelling, then the Alawi neighbors closed in and did the killing—women and children shot at close range, corpses burnt, crops and livestock and homes destroyed.

This sectarian slaughter is what the Assad tyranny had wrought, and what the abdication of the democracies had fed in the cruel, long year behind us. In this ordeal, there was always another appeal to the Russians. We ascribed to them powers they did not have because their obstructionism was useful. The Assad regime, long a Russian asset in the region, is a variation on the Russian autocracy of plunder and terror. By all accounts, there is glee in Moscow that Washington and NATO pay tribute to Russia.

And why would Russian strongman Vladimir Putin do us any favors over Syria? Despite Mr. Obama’s inane announcement Monday at the Group of 20 summit that he and Mr. Putin “agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence,” Russia has come to believe the Syrian regime is engaged in a war with Islamist radicals much like its own against the Chechens. Grant Mr. Putin his due; the way he brushed aside Mr. Obama’s pleas on Syria should lay to rest the fantasy of a Russian compromise.…

The Obama policy rests on a blissful belief that Syria will burn out without damage to American interests, and that the president himself can stay aloof from this crisis.… The wider forces at play in the Greater Middle East do not detain this president. His political advisers have not walked into the Oval Office reporting that he’ll win re-election if only he takes a more assertive stance toward the dictators in Damascus or Tehran. The world can wait—Syria has twisted for 15 months, and it is only five months until [November].…

(Fouad Ajami is the author most recently of “The Syrian Rebellion.”)

Dore Gold

Israel Hayom, June 15, 2012

The crisis over Syria is the third major case of mass murder in the last 20 years in which the U.N. has completely failed to halt the continuing bloodshed. The inability of the U.N. to intervene in the previous crises in Rwanda and Srebrenica (Bosnia) caused many commentators to charge that the U.N. was becoming a bankrupt organization, that was not fulfilling one of its main original purposes.

After all, the U.N. was established in 1945, when the horrors of the Holocaust were on the minds of its founders. One of its most critical early documents, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, spoke of the “barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.” It was clear that the U.N. was founded to prevent this sort of mass murder from ever recurring. In that spirit, the U.N. General Assembly also adopted the Genocide Convention at the same time.

However, in the 1990s, the U.N. proved to be completely ineffective in halting the very acts of genocide it was intended to prevent.

In 1994, the commander of the U.N. forces in Rwanda, Gen. Romeo Dallaire, sent a cable to U.N. headquarters in New York saying that he had information from an informer that the country’s Hutu leaders were planning to massacre Rwanda’s Tutsi population. Dallaire wrote that he planned to destroy the Hutu militias’ weapons depots. The head of U.N. peacekeeping, Kofi Annan, cabled back instructions to Dallaire to refrain from interfering. In the months that followed, some 800,000 Rwandans were butchered. The U.N. Security Council debated what action should be taken but ultimately did nothing; the Rwandan regime in fact sat on the council as a legitimate diplomatic partner.

The failure of the U.N. to stop mass murder continued. After the outbreak of the Bosnian War, the U.N. Security Council created a “safe area” for Bosnian Muslims in the area of the town of Srebrenica. The U.N. commander declared to the Muslim population that had fled to Srebrenica: “You are under the protection of the United Nations.” He added: “I will never abandon you.” Yet, in July 1995, the Bosnian Serb army assaulted the Srebenica enclave and began systematically killing 8,000 Muslims.…

When tested, the U.N. peacekeeping force did not protect the Muslims. Its Dutch battalion fled. The Dutch press reported that while the massacres were underway, the peacekeepers held a beer party in the Croatian capital of Zaghreb. The U.N. launched an internal investigation about Srebrenica. The report concluded by saying that “the tragedy of Srebenica will haunt our history forever.…”

Now the U.N. has [a] new Srebenica.… So far more than 14,000 people in Syria have been killed. Yet again, the U.N. is failing…to prevent the mass murder of innocent civilians.

The reason why the U.N. fails time and again to halt mass murder and even genocide is because of the interests of its member states. It refuses to take a firm moral position condemning those who perpetrate massacres and then it refrains from imposing effective measures against them. In the case of the Darfur rebellion, which began in 2003, while the U.S. called the actions of the Sudanese army “genocide,” the U.N. refused to adopt the same term and adopted ineffective actions for the following eight years, while thousands died.

There are two lessons for Israel from the international response to the Syrian crisis. First, the behavior of the U.N. proves yet again that Israel must never compromise its doctrine of self-reliance when its own security is at stake by relying on the protection of international forces. A second lesson is how Israel should relate to the constant criticism it receives from various U.N. bodies.…  If the U.N. is a paralyzed organization that cannot take decisions about cases of genocide…then why should Israel listen to its moral judgments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?…

Indeed, the Syrian crisis is just the latest example of how the U.N. has lost the moral authority it had when it was founded. Israel must internalize the change in the U.N.’s status the next time a U.N. official decides to issue another politicized “condemnation” about its actions.

(Dore Gold, a former Israeli Ambassador to the UN,
is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Yaakov Katz

Jerusalem Post, June 14, 2012

It was July 2007 and in Aleppo, Syria, the muezzins were just starting to issue the early-morning call for prayers. It was a different Syria at the time—Bashar Assad’s rule appeared stable and was not threatened by rebels.…

But then the city was rocked by an explosion. Looking out their windows, residents could see smoke rising from a military base located on the outskirts of the ancient city. The damage was isolated to a single building, one that very few people—even those who served in the base—knew the purpose of.

Fifteen people were reported killed and several dozen more were rushed to the Aleppo University Hospital nearby with severe burns all over their bodies.… The Syrians immediately blocked off the base and prevented the media from reaching the scene. They also tried to destroy any evidence of the work that was taking place inside.… A few months would pass before the real nature of the explosion was to be revealed.

Apparently, the base everyone in Aleppo thought was an old arms dump was really one of the most secretive installations in Syria’s chemical weapons program. The nondescript building that was destroyed in the blast had been a sophisticated laboratory used to manufacture non-conventional warheads with VX, Sarin and mustard gas. The explosion took place as Syrian and Iranian engineers were reportedly trying to weaponize a Scud missile with a mustard gas warhead. The blast led to the dispersion of various chemical agents, causing the severe burns on people outside the facility who were not wearing the necessary protective gear.…

The Syrian-Iranian alliance was the result of a series of defense agreements the countries had signed since 2005 aimed at advancing military cooperation, including assistance each side would provide the other in the event of a military confrontation with Israel or the United States. The agreements also reportedly included a Syrian commitment to allow Iran to store weapons on Syrian soil.

Two years later, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, then-head of Military Intelligence, gave a little more insight into the way the relationship worked between the countries. Weapons were usually designed and developed in Iran, Yadlin said in 2009, while production took place in Syria. When it was time to test the weapons, special invitations would be sent to Hezbollah and Hamas headquarters as well as to North Korea, which often sent its own military representatives to the events.…

The threat that Israel faces from Syria’s chemical weapons…focuses on two stark possibilities. The first is that the weapons will fall into rogue hands—either al-Qaida or Hezbollah, which is believed to already be working to move some of the advanced military systems it has been storing in Syria to Lebanon out of fear that they will be captured by rebel forces. The recent takeover of an air defense base in Syria by rebels underscores that fear.

The second option…is that Assad will use the weapons against Israel if he starts to think that his end is near. This way, he will try to divert attention away from the massacres his military forces have been perpetrating throughout Syria and instead have his people rally behind him in a war against Israel.…

It is not known how many times the Syrians were close to using their chemical weapons against Israel. One case, though, was in September 2007, shortly after Israel bombed the Al Kibar nuclear reactor Assad was building covertly along the Euphrates River. According to a US diplomatic cable from 2008 published by Wikileaks, Assad had put his mobile missile forces on high alert after the strike but ultimately ordered them not to fire.… Then-prime minister Ehud Olmert told a delegation of US congressmen visiting Jerusalem: “That took discipline.”

In recent years, as the explosion in [Allepo in] 2007 demonstrated, Iran has played a key role in helping Syria upgrade its chemical weapons and missile capabilities.… Today, Syria is assessed to have one of the largest chemical weapons arsenals in the world with thousands of bombs that can be dropped from the air alongside dozens of warheads that can be installed on Scud missiles.… While Israel has developed the Arrow missile defense system to protect against Syrian Scuds, the major question is what it will do if intelligence one day shows the chemical weapons beginning to proliferate to rogue actors throughout the region.…

Israel’s options vary. One possibility could be to attack from the air convoys of chemical weapons or bases where the weapons are stored. While this would be seen as an act of aggression by Israel, if done in the twilight of Assad’s regime, the chances that it would spark an all-out war would be slim. On the other hand, an Israeli strike against a weapons convoy in Syria could provide Assad with the opportunity to use Israel as a scapegoat and divert attention away from his violent crackdown.…

None of the options are particularly appealing for Israel but with the situation in Syria escalating daily, a decision will need to be made. What Israel does could determine the future balance of power in this ever-changing Middle East.

Daniel Nisman

Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2012

This [month] has witnessed a remarkable shift in the Israeli government’s approach to the Syrian conflict. Politicians and defense officials alike have taken turns slamming Bashar al-Assad’s regime, bringing an end to Israel’s year-long policy of disciplined ambiguity on the Syrian unrest.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the charge, adding his voice to the chorus of national leaders who condemned Mr. Assad for the latest massacre near Hama. Mr. Netanyahu told his cabinet that “the axis [of evil] is rearing its ugly head”—a reference to Iran and Hezbollah. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, declared that “on behalf of the Israeli people and the Jewish people, I say directly to the Syrian people: we hear your cries. We are horrified by the crimes of the Assad regime. We extend our hand to you.” Kadima Party Chairman and Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz has now called for international intervention in Syria.…

Until very recently though, Israeli’s leaders had been hesitant to speak out against the atrocities, leading Western pundits to suggest that Israel actually preferred the rule of the House of Assad to the chaos that might engulf Syria in its stead. Mr. Assad is, after all, the devil Israelis know—a ruthless dictator and staunch enemy, who nonetheless kept the peace on the Golan Heights. In the Arab world, Israel is commonly portrayed as Mr. Assad’s partner in genocide. Cartoons depicting Israeli and Syrian tanks side-by-side, flattening Sunni Arabs, have become common in Arab media (conveniently ignoring the decades-long, bitter rivalry between the two nations).

The fact is that Israel, perhaps more than any other nation in the region, stands to benefit from Mr. Assad’s downfall. Despite the 40-year stability along their shared border, tension between the two states has long been boiling beneath the surface. The Syrian military is the focus of a high number of the Israeli Defense Forces’ large-scale training exercises.… Most importantly, Mr. Assad remains the key link to Iranian influence in the eastern Mediterranean.…

The silence from Jerusalem over the past 15 months of Syrian conflict was not due to Israeli fears over a destabilized Syria, nor of the rise of a more radical, Sunni-dominated regime. It was rather part of Israel’s closely adhered-to government policy aimed at preventing the Assad regime from delegitimizing its opponents by portraying their struggle as a foreign conspiracy. The decision to break that silence was also carefully strategized—both in timing and in nature.

In condemning Assad’s regime, the Israelis appealed directly to the hearts and minds of the Sunni-Arab world at a time when both find themselves pitted against a common enemy: Mr. Assad. Accusations of Iranian involvement in Syria are meant to remind Mr. Assad’s opponents in the Gulf that Israel stands on their side in the struggle against Shia regional domination.

The recent appointment of Syran-Kurdish activist Abdelbasset Sida to head the main opposition group in exile, the Syrian National Council, now presents Jerusalem with an opportunity to express tacit support for a possible successor to Mr. Assad. The Kurds have traditionally maintained positive views of Israel, a relationship that grew from their peaceful coexistence with Jews in northern Iraq prior to the Jewish expulsion after World War II.…

Ultimately, the Israelis are convinced that the hourglass of Mr. Assad’s tenure has been flipped on its head, and have begun making preparations for the day after his ousting.… While few in Jerusalem expect a peace agreement to follow Mr. Assad’s downfall, Israeli leaders have made their position clear to the region and world: When it comes to Syria, they’ll take anyone but Mr. Assad.


Compter les réfugiés de Palestine?

Daniel Pipes

National Review Online, 29 mai 2012

Adaptation française: Anne-Marie Delcambre de Champvert

Le cœur fétide et sombre de la guerre des Arabes contre Israël, ai-je longuement argumenté, ne réside pas dans les litiges sur Jérusalem, les points de contrôle, ou les "colonies". Il concerne plutôt les soi-disant réfugiés de Palestine.

Ainsi appelés [«soi-disant»] parce que de presque 5 millions de réfugiés officiels dont s'occupe l'UNRWA (l'abréviation pour «Office de secours et de travaux des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés de Palestine dans le Proche-Orient »), seulement environ 1% sont de vrais réfugiés qui correspondent à la définition de l'office « les personnes dont le lieu de résidence habituel était la Palestine entre juin 1946 et mai 1948, qui ont perdu à la fois leur maison et leur gagne-pain à la suite du conflit israélo-arabe de 1948 ». Les autres 99 % sont des descendants de ces réfugiés, ou ce que j'appelle les faux réfugiés

Pire: ceux qui étaient en vie en 1948 sont en train de mourir et dans une cinquantaine d'années pas un seul vrai réfugié sera encore en vie, alors que (extrapolant à partir d'une estimation faisant autorité dans Refugee Survey Quarterly par Mike Dumper) les faux descendants de réfugiés seront au nombre de 20 millions. Sans contrôle, la population va grandir très rapidement sans jamais s'arrêter jusqu'à la fin des temps. [L’origine de l'expression employée par Daniel Pipes « grandir comme Topsy » c'est la petite esclave Topsy dans la case de l'oncle Tom (NDLT)]

Cela est important parce que le statut de réfugié a des effets néfastes: Il gâche la vie de ces millions de non réfugiés en les privant de leurs droits tout en leur imposant un vilain, irrédentiste et irréaliste rêve. Pire, le statut de réfugié les garde comme un poignard permanent visant le cœur d’Israël, menaçant l'État juif et perturbant le Moyen-Orient. Résoudre le conflit israélo-arabe – si on le dit en peu de mots – exige de mettre fin à la mascarade absurde et nuisible de la prolifération des faux réfugiés de Palestine et de leur installation à vie [dans ce statut]. 1948 c'est passé ; il est temps de devenir réaliste.

Je suis fier d'annoncer que, se fondant en partie sur les travaux effectués par Steven J. Rosen et moi-même au forum du Moyen Orient, au cours de l'année passée, la commission du crédit budgétaire du Sénat américain, le 24 mai a voté à l'unanimité un amendement limité mais potentiellement important aux 52,1 milliards du projet de loi de l'exercice fiscal 2013 pour les crédits budgétaires du ministère des affaires étrangères. L'amendement, proposé par Mark Kirk (républicain de l'Illinois) exige que le ministère des Affaires étrangères informe le Congrès à propos de l'utilisation annuelle de 240 millions de dollars provenant de fonds directs des contribuables américains donnés aux réfugiés de Palestine via l'UNRWA. Combien de bénéficiaires, demande Kirk, répondent à la définition de l'UNRWA citée ci-dessus, pour être considérés comme de vrais réfugiés? Et combien ne le sont pas, mais sont les descendants de ces réfugiés?

L'amendement Kirk n'appelle pas à éliminer ou même à réduire les prestations aux faux réfugiés. Malgré son caractère limité, Kirk appelle l'obligation d'information légale "un tournant" En effet, cela a inspiré ce qu' un haut conseiller du sénat appartenant à ce vieux grand parti républicain [GOP « Grand Old Party » désigne le parti républicain(NDLT)] a appelé «une opposition énorme» du gouvernement jordanien et de l'UNRWA elle-même, causant ce que Josh Rogin du magazine Foreign Policy appelle une bataille qui fait rage.

Pourquoi cette rage? Parce que, si le ministère des affaires étrangères est contraint de faire la différence entre véritables réfugiés de Palestine et les faux réfugiés, le gouvernement des États-Unis et d'autres gouvernements occidentaux (qui, ensemble, recouvrent plus de 80 pour cent du budget de l'UNRWA) pourraient finalement décider de supprimer les faux [réfugiés]et par ce moyen porter atteinte à leur revendication d'un "droit au retour" en Israël.

Malheureusement, l'administration Obama a bâclé cette question. Une lettre du ministre adjoint des Affaires étrangères, Thomas R.Nides s'oppose à la version antérieure de l'amendement Kirk démontrant une incohérence complète. D'une part, Nides déclare que Kirk voudrait, en forçant le gouvernement américain à « rendre un jugement public sur le nombre et le statut des réfugiés palestiniens … préjuger et déterminer l'issue de cette question sensible. » D'autre part, Nides lui-même se réfère à « environ cinq millions de réfugiés [de Palestine], » ce qui amalgame les réfugiés vrais et faux – et juge d'avance précisément la question qu'il désire fortement laisser ouverte. Cette déclaration de 5 millions de réfugiés n'était pas un coup de chance ; quand interrogé à ce sujet, le porte-parole du ministre des Affaires étrangères Patrick Ventrell a confirmé que « le gouvernement américain soutient » le principe directeur consistant à «reconnaître les descendants des réfugiés comme réfugiés. »

En outre, en prédisant une « très forte réaction négative [à l'amendement] de la part des Palestiniens et de nos alliés dans la région, en particulier la Jordanie, » Nides a invité les Arabes à faire pression sur le Sénat des États-Unis, une sale manœuvre indigne du ministère des Affaires étrangères.

À travers l'ensemble des 64 ans d'existence d'Israël, tous les présidents américains, l'un après l'autre, ont décidé de résoudre le conflit israélo-arabe, mais chacun d'eux a ignoré le plus laid des aspects de ce conflit – l'exploitation délibérée de la question des réfugiés pour contester l'existence même de l'État juif. Bravo au sénateur Kirk et à son équipe pour avoir eu la sagesse et le courage de commencer l'effort pour aborder les réalités désagréables, initiant un changement qui va finalement parvenir au cœur du conflit.

Massacres en Syrie : la doctrine Obama en action

Guy Millière

dreuz.info, 30 mai 2012

Il n’est pas de bon ton de critiquer Barack Obama en France où il a toujours le statut d’un demi dieu, ou peu s’en faut. Il serait carrément sacrilège de le traiter de criminel de guerre. Cette expression pouvant paraître excessive, j’en choisirai une autre, et je dirai que c’est un irresponsable dont l’irresponsabilité fait des morts par centaines, si ce n’est par milliers. A son tableau de chasse, il y a l’arrivée des islamistes au pouvoir au Maroc et en Tunisie, le chaos qui règne en Egypte et en Libye, le pillage des arsenaux du régime Kadhafi et la dissémination de leur contenu vers l’Afrique subsaharienne, où vient de naître la République islamique de l’Azawad dans le Nord du Mali. On peut ajouter l’abandon de l’Irak à l’Iran et le retour, programmé, des talibans en Afghanistan, la mainmise accentuée du Hezbollah sur le Liban et le glissement progressif de la Turquie vers l’islam radical sans que celle-ci quitte l’Otan.

On pourrait ajouter aussi l’avancée de l’Iran vers l’arme nucléaire sans que des sanctions efficaces aient été prises (Obama a toujours refusé des sanctions efficaces, celles touchant la Banque centrale d’Iran par exemple), et l’abandon des modérés en Syrie au profit d’une cohorte menée par les Frères musulmans, eux-mêmes soutenus par le Qatar et l’Arabie Saoudite. Face à l’Iran, la plus grande crainte d’Obama était qu’Israël décide d’agir. Et il s’est employé à ce qu’Israël n’agisse pas, en contribuant à faire divulguer les projets d’action israéliens. Il est parvenu à obtenir du gouvernement israélien une promesse de non intervention pour une durée de six mois, qui conduira après les élections présidentielles de novembre, ce aux fins, a-t-il dit, d’obtenir un « accord » de Khamenei par l’entremise de la Russie.

Face à la Syrie, ce qu’Obama ne voulait pas était trancher. Et il s’est employé à ne pas avoir à trancher et à laisser le bain de sang se poursuivre. Il a, sur ce plan, l’intention de parvenir à un accord avec la Russie, qui soutient le régime Assad et entend garder sa base militaire à Tartous et avec l’Iran, sans offusquer le Qatar, l’Arabie Saoudite et la Turquie, ce qui ne sera pas simple (se courber devant tout ce monde à la fois n’est effectivement pas simple). Obama espère parvenir à l’accord dans la période de six mois susdite.

Les effets concrets de cette politique sont que l’Iran sait disposer de six mois de tranquillité pour vaquer à ses occupations et, fort du soutien de la Russie, peut envoyer des combattants en Syrie soutenir Assad. Ils sont qu’Assad sait ne pas risquer une intervention directe et pouvoir garder les mains libres. Les Casques bleus en Syrie font ce qu’ils font partout ailleurs, ils regardent passer les balles et ils comptent les cadavres. Les envoyés de l’ONU font ce qu’ils savent faire : ils parlent pour ne rien dire. Les tueurs font eux aussi ce qu’ils savent faire : ils tuent. Que va-t-il se passer ?

L’Iran va sans aucun doute accélérer ses travaux nucléaires, et il n’y aura pour les retarder que des virus informatiques, fort heureusement très performants. Obama et ses amis russes ne parviendront à aucun accord avec Khamenei avant l’élection présidentielle américaine : des réunions comme celle qui vient de se tenir à Bagdad se tiendront encore, avec Catherine Ashton et un Chinois pour jouer les figurants. Les communiqués finaux diront : « dialogue constructif, pas d’avancé significative ». Si Obama est réélu, il proposera sans doute un échange de l’abandon de son programme nucléaire par l’Iran contre une dénucléarisation générale du Proche-Orient qui visera au premier chef Israël. Israël devra, alors, agir, ou se soumettre, en sachant que les promesses de l’Iran ne vaudront que pour ceux qui croient aux promesses de l’Iran. Si Obama est battu, il sera urgent de changer d’orientation, vraiment urgent.

Que va-t-il se passer, disais-je. Le régime Assad va sans doute faire son possible pour massacrer le plus grand nombre d’opposants dans le minimum de temps. Puis, il pourra y avoir une continuation du régime Assad sans Assad, avec quelques compensations pour les Frères musulmans. Il n’est pas certain que les Frères musulmans acceptent le marché, d’autant plus que du côté sunnite, interviennent des gens d’al Qaida en nombre croissant. Si Obama est réélu, un régime Assad sans Assad allié à l’Iran sera en place dans un contexte où la guerre civile pourrait fort bien continuer. Si Obama est battu, il faudra là aussi changer d’orientation. Et ce sera très difficile. 

Bilan global pour l’heure? Les Frères musulmans sont les grands gagnants de l’hiver islamique qui a déferlé sur le monde arabe. Il n’est pas certain qu’ils seront gagnants aussi en Syrie. Le soutien qu’Obama leur a apporté jusque là se heurte, là, à la complaisance d’Obama vis-à-vis de l’Iran et de la Russie. Israël est isolé régionalement et se trouve contraint de tolérer la politique d’apaisement d’Obama vis-à-vis de l’Iran et de la Russie, jusqu’à novembre.

Les Etats-Unis sous Obama en sont réduits à être les alliés des Frères musulmans et à se soumettre, pour l’essentiel, aux exigences russes et iraniennes. Les Etats-Unis n’ont jamais été dans un tel abaissement depuis les années Carter. Et même Carter ne s’est pas aussi mal conduit qu’Obama vis-à-vis d’Israël, c’est dire. Il faudra un jour compter les morts provoqués par la politique Obama sur la planète. Mais il restera sacrilège de le traiter de criminel de guerre, bien sûr.

 La naïveté de l’Occident face au nucléaire iranien

Centre des Affaires Publiques et de l'État, Jérusalem, 31 mai 2012

Ces jours-ci nous entendons dans les capitales occidentales un son de cloche qui laisse à penser que les Iraniens sont cette fois-ci assez sérieux dans la volonté de discuter de leur programme nucléaire. Des diplomates soulignent que l’Iran s’est présenté aux pourparlers devant les représentants du Forum 5 + 1 (les cinq pays permanents du Conseil de Sécurité + l’Allemagne) sans conditions préalables. Yukiya Amano, directeur de l’Agence Internationale pour l’Energie Atomique (AIEA) a même déclaré qu’un accord entre les deux parties pourrait être signé prochainement. Catherine Ashton, la représentante de la Communauté européenne, a estimé que ces discussions « s’achemineront vers le début de la fin du programme nucléaire de l’Iran ».

Ces estimations optimistes, en particulier celles d’Ashton, sont incompatibles avec les amères expériences que l’Occident avait subies lors des précédents pourparlers. Déjà en 2002, suite à la première divulgation de l’infrastructure iranienne pour l’enrichissement d’uranium, une commission composée de la Grande-Bretagne, de la France, et de l’Allemagne (UE-3) avait négocié avec l’Iran pour qu’il cesse ses travaux. Le 21 octobre 2003, à Téhéran, le Forum UE-3 avait conclu avec les Iraniens « de suspendre toute activité d’enrichissement de l’uranium » ainsi que de cesser les efforts de production du plutonium. La suite est bien connue et illustre parfaitement les intentions de l’Iran. Ce pays n’est pas capable de respecter ses engagements et ses promesses.

Après la signature de cet accord, les diplomates iraniens ont trouvé toutes sortes de prétexte et ont affirmé que cet accord n’était valable que sur l’introduction du gaz uranium dans les centrifugeuses de l’usine de Nataz et qu’il ne se référait pas à toutes les autres étapes préliminaires nécessaires au processus. Les Iraniens ont réitéré leur droit de poursuive la construction de centrifugeuses. L’étape de pré-enrichissement est surnommée « conversion » et elle comprend l’utilisation de l’uranium intitulé « gâteau jaune ». C’est par ce processus que le gaz produit est introduit dans les centrifugeuses. En 2003, l’Iran n’avait pas encore de site de conversion. En 2005, juste après les négociations avec les Occidentaux, les Iraniens avaient déjà réussi à compléter l’installation à Ispahan et l’avaient mis en marche, et ce en proclamant la fin de la suspension du programme d’enrichissement.

Dans un discours tenu secret, Hassan Rouhani, chef de la délégation iranienne aux négociations, s’était vanté d’affirmer que les Iraniens ont profité de ces négociations pour pouvoir installer leur site à Ispahan. La manière dont l’Iran a utilisé les négociations est l’une des pierres angulaires de sa diplomatie essentiellement basée sur la diversion et l’abus de confiance. Dans son ouvrage, « régime islamique », publié avant la révolution de 1979, Ayatollah Khomeiny, explique à ses fidèles que « dans chaque discussion nous devons garder le principe de la « Takya », nous devons présenter un certain souhait tout en cachant nos véritables intentions. » Ainsi fonctionne la diplomatie iranienne au sujet du programme nucléaire. L’ancien ambassadeur britannique à Téhéran, Sir Denis Wright, expliqua le phénomène en disant un jour: « les Iraniens disent le contraire de ce qu’ils pensent et font le contraire de ce qu’ils disent ».

Ces remarques ne sont pas des propos racistes mais reflètent bien la manière dont est appliquée la tradition religieuse -chiite dans les débats diplomatiques disputés aujourd’hui entre l’Iran et l’occident. Dans toute négociation avec l’Iran le principe de transparence demeure essentiel. Le contrôle des installations secrètes a été à plusieurs reprises retardé en violation flagrante des engagements. Les Iraniens avaient profité du laps de temps pour enterrer les preuves incriminantes.

Pour exemple, les Iraniens ont retiré le carrelage des murs dans le site électrique de Kalia, pour empêcher les inspecteurs de l’AIEA à vérifier les restes des produits radioactifs issus des essais effectués dans les nouvelles centrifugeuses.  Dans l’institut de recherche de Levisane, destiné au recyclage à des fins militaires, les Iraniens ont simplement détruit six bâtiments et ont même retiré de profondes couches de terre afin qu’on ne puisse prélever des échantillons radioactifs. En janvier 2005, au cours d’une inspection à Parchine, les Iraniens ont également limité le mouvement des inspecteurs à certains bâtiments précis. Nous devrions comprendre que chez les ayatollahs, la différence existe bien entre un accord de principe et entre ce que l’on pourra faire sur le terrain.

Toutefois, afin de répondre à la question si l’Iran respecterait les accords conclus avec l’Occident, il est important de ne pas s’attarder uniquement sur les détails techniques. Déjà en juillet 1991, le guide suprême iranien, ayatollah Ali Khamenei expliquait que la stratégie de la sécurité nationale de l’Iran est surtout expansionniste. Le général Kassem Suleiman, commandant des forces d’al Qouds au sein des Gardiens de la révolution, a affirmé récemment : « l’Irak et le sud Liban sont sous contrôle de Téhéran. » Autrement dit, l’Occident ne négocie pas avec un des pays possédant une infrastructure nucléaire, tel que le Japon ou la Suède mais avec un Etat aux ambitions hégémoniques qui ignore éperdument l’optimisme qui s’est emparé actuellement chez les diplomates occidentaux!