Tag: Chemical Weapons

IN SYRIA, TURKEY BOMBS U.S.-BACKED KURDS, ISRAEL MONITORS I.S. THREAT, & TRUMP RESTORES U.S. CREDIBILITY

 

ISIS and the US Warning to Turkey Against Attacking Syrian Kurds: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2017 — An Islamic State attack at dawn on Tuesday killed some two-dozen people in a Syrian town on the Iraqi border.

Israelis Learn to Live With a New Neighbor: Islamic State: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 27, 2017— On one side of a fence that snakes through eucalyptus-covered ridges is a swath of Syrian villages held by Islamic State.

Syria’s Chemical Weapons Show the Limits of Arms Control: Rebeccah Heinrichs, National Review, May 4, 2017 — Arms control failed to prevent Bashar al-Assad from using weapons of mass destruction against noncombatants, and this should serve as another hard lesson in its limitations.

A Strike in Syria Restores Our Credibility in the World: Tom Cotton, New York Times, Apr. 8, 2017— After President Bashar al-Assad of Syria once again attacked his own citizens with poison gas, the civilized world recoiled in horror at images of children writhing in pain and suffocating to death.

 

On Topic Links

 

Iran's Ambitions in the Levant: Ehud Yaari, Foreign Affairs, May 1, 2017

How Iran Enables Syria’s Chemical Warfare Against Civilians: Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 17, 2017

The Syrian Sarin Attacks of August 2013 and April 2017: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Apr. 26, 2017

Will Jordan Confront IS in Southern Syria?: Osama Al Sharif, Al-Monitor, Apr. 18, 2017

 

 

 

ISIS AND THE US WARNING TO TURKEY

AGAINST ATTACKING SYRIAN KURDS   

Seth J. Frantzman                                     

Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2017

 

An Islamic State attack at dawn on Tuesday killed some two-dozen people in a Syrian town on the Iraqi border. Many of the victims were refugees who were fleeing ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria on their way to Kurdish-held Hasakah, Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces told reporters. The SDF and US soldiers who support them are in the midst of an offensive to take Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital, and have recently made significant gains against the extremists in Tabqah. However, recent attacks by Turkey against Kurdish areas in Syria have threatened to distract attention from the offensive against ISIS.

 

On April 25, Turkey launched air strikes against Kurdish positions at Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and at Karachok Mountain in northeastern Syria. Turkey claimed it targeted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which it views as a terrorist group and has repeatedly asserted is working with the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in Syria, against which Turkey appeared to threaten further action.

 

For the US this is a red line. The YPG is part of the SDF, with which the US has partnered in the war against ISIS. US forces on the ground have cultivated a close relationship with the Kurds in Syria over the last two years. Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said on April 25 that the US was “deeply concerned” about the Turkish air strikes, which he said were made “without proper coordination either with the US or the broader global coalition to defeat ISIS.” Toner said the strikes caused a “loss of life of our partner forces” and that the safety of coalition personnel must be ensured.

 

On April 30, after visiting the site of Turkish air strikes in Syria, the US sent its forces to patrol alongside the YPG – flying US flags – on the border with Turkey. The decision to display the colors and patrol along the border was intended by its visible show of force to deter further Turkish attacks. The US did the same thing in early March, around the northern Syrian town of Manbij. The SDF took Manbij from ISIS in 2016, but Turkey threatened to attack the town in March alongside its Syrian-rebel allies. The US flag-waving patrols deterred Turkey in Manbij and the tactic appears to have deterred Turkish forces again.

 

The deeper meaning of the patrols is, the US is warning off its older ally in favor of its Kurdish relationship. Turkey and the US have 70 years of close relations, formed during the Cold War. But the war on ISIS has led the US defense establishment to conclude that the best bet to defeat ISIS lies with Kurdish forces and the SDF. The Turks have a different agenda which focuses on the PKK and its affiliates. Turkey has often accused the YPG of being in the same terrorist category as is ISIS. The Turkish view sees every step toward Raqqa by the SDF and the Americans as empowering the YPG, .

 

While career diplomats in the State Department and CIA may prefer their traditional relationship with Turkey, the US Defense Department – and those who listen to it in the White House – have settled on defeating ISIS the fastest way possible. That means defending the Kurdish region from air strikes so its forces and allies can focus on Raqqa. Nothing would be more disastrous for the US than a war between Turkey and the YPG while ISIS gets breathing space to carry out attacks as it did on Tuesday.

 

Turkey will continue to challenge US policy in Syria in the coming months and try to find allies in Washington who will listen to its point of view. Turkey views a permanent US presence in northeastern Syria as highly problematic and a provocation against its sphere of influence. At the same time, the US must decide if its relationship with the Kurds in Syria is merely one of convenience – until ISIS is defeated – or if it will build on it in the coming years.

                                                                       

 

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ISRAELIS LEARN TO LIVE WITH A NEW NEIGHBOR: ISLAMIC STATE

Yaroslav Trofimov

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 27, 2017

 

On one side of a fence that snakes through eucalyptus-covered ridges is a swath of Syrian villages held by Islamic State. On the other, Yitzhak Ribak grows his Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrahs. “My grapes are just 10 meters from the border fence. Sometimes I hear the booms on the other side. Sometimes I see people on the other side. They look like shepherds, but who knows,” said the Israeli winemaker. “It’s crazy.” So far, Islamic State hasn’t bothered his vineyard. “I am here all alone on my tractor at night and I am not afraid.”

 

While most attention has focused on Islamic State’s shrinking but still vast territory in eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq, the extremist group has also proved surprisingly resilient in the pocket of land it controls just outside Mr. Ribak’s vineyard. The area sits at the confluence of Syria, Jordan and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. Known as the Khalid bin Walid Army, the local Islamic State affiliate has rebuffed repeated offensives by the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and other moderate rebels. The porous nature of Syria’s front lines and corruption within FSA ranks have allowed Islamic State personnel and weapons to infiltrate the area known as the Yarmouk Basin, said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a security analyst who follows the group.

 

The presence of Islamic State so close to Israeli-populated towns and villages along the demarcation line in the Golan Heights poses an obvious threat—albeit one that so far hasn’t materialized into cross-border attacks. “The Golan is still the quietest place in the whole country,” said Yoni Hirsch, chairman of the municipal council of Nov, an Israeli community of some 800 people about 2 miles from Islamic State-held areas. “But we know what is happening across the border, and we are getting ready for what may happen,” he added. “We know that in one day with the decision of one person on the other side, our lives can change.”

 

The Israeli government is taking no chances. Over the past three years, it has replaced the old security fence in the Golan Heights, a plateau seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, with a new structure some 20 feet high and equipped with modern sensors. It is also erecting a new fence further south along the border with Jordan. “As the dangers go up, so does the fence,” Mr. Hirsch said.

 

Islamic State, like other jihadist groups, has repeatedly pledged to eliminate Israel as part of its plan to build a world-wide Islamic caliphate. “We don’t have any doubt about their ideology and their dedication to destroying Israel,” said retired Israeli Brig Gen. Effie Eitam, a former cabinet minister and a resident of Nov. But Islamic State also has priorities and in southern Syria, the militants have focused on fighting more moderate rebels. “They are cleverer than attacking Israel. They know Israel has an army and can launch airstrikes and they don’t want to open another front line,” said Free Syrian Army Maj. Issam al-Reis, a spokesman for the coalition of rebel groups known as the Southern Front. “They are not interested in killing Israelis. What they are interested in is killing us.”

 

Such an unexpectedly peaceful coexistence with Islamic State next door helps explain Israeli perceptions of the Syrian conflict. The U.S. and its European allies view Islamic State, which has carried out terrorist attacks in the West, as the principal threat. Israeli officials, by contrast, are far more alarmed by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. Preventing Iranian proxies from getting close to the Golan has emerged as a key Israeli priority in the Syrian conflict.

 

Islamic State, also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, “is not powerful enough to make us fear,” said Ayoob Kara, the only Arab minister in the Israeli government who says he is in regular contact with various Syrian factions. “Daesh is going to lose,” he added. “There is no way it is going to be successful and by the end of the year, we won’t see it in any state around here. The problem of the Middle East is the capital of extremism that is Iran.”

 

On Thursday, Syria said Israel had launched a strike near the international airport in Damascus, where nearby buildings are believed to hold Iranian-supplied weapons bound for the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. Israel neither confirmed nor denied it was behind the blast. Later Thursday, Israel’s military said its Patriot missile defense system struck a drone over the Golan Heights that entered Israeli airspace.

 

For Mr. Ribak, who moved to Eliad in 1973 a few months before Syrian tanks attempting to recapture the Golan were stopped outside the village, the growth of Islamic State across the fence carries a clear message. Israel was lucky, he said, that its lengthy attempts at peace talks with Syria, based on trading the Golan Heights for a peace treaty, finally collapsed in 2010. “If we had given the Golan to Syria then, it would have all become ISIS-land,” Mr. Ribak said on a drive along the border fence, the minarets of a Syrian village across the valley glistening in the sun.

 

Like many people in the region, Mr. Ribak, who markets his wine under the Chateau Golan brand, said he has developed his own answer to the Middle East’s intractable problems. “I know how to solve it,” he said, proffering his peace plan. “Very simple. If all the people here start to drink wine, they will become happy and then there is no problem.”

                                                                       

 

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SYRIA’S CHEMICAL WEAPONS SHOW THE LIMITS OF ARMS CONTROL

Rebeccah Heinrichs

                                                National Review, May 4, 2017

 

Arms control failed to prevent Bashar al-Assad from using weapons of mass destruction against noncombatants, and this should serve as another hard lesson in its limitations. Civilized nations have sought to abolish the use of chemical weapons (CWs) for nearly a century, as evidenced by the 1919 Versailles Treaty, the Geneva Protocol, and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which prohibited not only the use of chemical weapons but the production and stockpiling of them as well.

 

The CWC was negotiated by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, who signed the multinational treaty in 1993. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty during the Clinton administration in 1997, but the objections to it then have proven prescient. One such objection to it was the inability to truly verify compliance, a necessary condition for any useful agreement, lest the “agreement” serve as a restraint only to the states that are already self-restraining.

 

Assad’s chemical weapons attacks certainly underscore this problem. After President Obama drew his infamous red line regarding Assad’s use of chemical weapons and then failed to persuade the Senate he had planned a prudent military response, Putin and Obama set out to strike a deal with Assad. This deal would entail Assad ratifying the CWC, something Syria had previously refused to do.

 

But believing that Assad would fully cooperate with inspectors and comply with the CWC was obscenely, willfully naïve. Assad clearly believed that it was in his country’s interest to possess and use chemical weapons, and he had just witnessed Obama’s unwillingness to quickly and decisively retaliate with force in response to several CW attacks. And, undoubtedly, he had noted how utterly unable the American president was to persuade senators who were inclined to support using force that he had a clear military plan in response. In other words, Assad knew threats of force were empty, and he did not fear them. Thus, it was foolish for Obama-administration diplomats to have any measure of confidence that Assad would comply with the treaty when they had provided no credible incentive for him to do so.

 

Sure, he declared enough of his chemical weapons to please his patron, Putin, who was exploiting the international crisis for Russia’s gain. But it never made sense that Assad had suddenly changed his calculus and concluded it was in his interest to forgo all CWs. This didn’t stop Obama officials from asserting that he did, and then they took credit for it.

 

On July 20, 2014, in a Meet the Press interview, Secretary John Kerry said of Syria, “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.” On August 18, 2014, President Obama said, “Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria’s declared chemical-weapons stockpile.” Then, remarkably, after subsequent chemical-weapons attacks by the Assad regime, President Obama’s national-security adviser, Susan Rice, said on January 16, 2017: “We were able to find a solution that didn’t necessitate the use of force that actually removed the chemical weapons that were known from Syria, in a way that the use of force would never have accomplished. . . . We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”

 

The audacity of these statements became all the more apparent when Tony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state and former deputy national-security adviser under Barack Obama, told the New York Times, “We always knew we had not gotten everything, that the Syrians had not been fully forthcoming in their declaration.” Raising the obvious question: Why would so many in the administration and those in the arms-control community who advocated for the administration’s “diplomatic accomplishment” continue to be enthusiastic about a deal that was only partially followed by the other side? Their support stems from a belief that arms control is a worthy end in itself, rather than a potential means to achieve peace or mitigate the effects of an enemy’s aggression. And it reveals an unrealistic devotion to diplomacy absent the credible threat of military force.

 

But, as history shows, this kind of dogged devotion to the “give peace a chance” slogan often leads to war and human suffering. Assad’s willingness to flout the Obama-Putin deal certainly demonstrates this in our day. To be sure: Restraining the employment of chemical weapons is a worthy endeavor. Chemical weapons, like nuclear weapons, are strategic in nature. Chemical warfare in the First World War led to renewed, immediate efforts to restrain their use even though they killed far fewer people than conventional arms, as is the case in the contemporary Syrian war. But there is more to war than body counts. There is a psychological side to war — a moral side to war, and chemical weapons fall outside the norms of what the most battle-hardened soldiers from civilized nations are willing to accept.

 

Chemical weapons cause long, agonizing deaths and, for those who survive them, a life of suffering. Chemical clouds, sometimes a ghoulish color, although often invisible, sweep silently, secretly, and indiscriminately across enemy lines . . . and across homes and schoolyards and hospitals filled with hapless noncombatants: the elderly, women, and children. Death for the victim is often preceded by seizures, foaming at mouth, and other disturbing effects that traumatize the witnessing loved ones. They are, by their very nature, weapons of terror. The United States should not — cannot — permit their use, lest they become a normalized and conventional weapon of war. And to the Trump administration’s great credit, the United States demonstrated what we can and should do if they are used. Just as verification is a necessary condition to a useful arms-control deal, so is enforcement. For just as President Obama said in his famous 2009 disarmament speech in Prague: “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” Obama proved unwilling to enforce this sentiment, but his successor certainly seems willing.

 

The U.S. military strike against Syria’s Shayrat Airfield in response to Assad’s most recent chemical-weapons attack was carefully planned, limited in its military objective, and brilliantly executed. It seems to have achieved its desired tactical and strategic outcomes. According to a Pentagon spokesman, Captain Jeff Davis, the attack “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.” It also communicated to Syria and every other nation in possession of chemical weapons that the United States has the ability and the will to make it known that any use of chemical weapons is not worth the cost.

 

Assad and those like him certainly don’t care about “international norms” let alone notions of what civilized nations deem inherently immoral. But they do care that the world not see them as weak, and they care about their own survival. They do care if we embarrass them by showcasing their weakness, and if we threaten their survival by using force. And the more credible the U.S. threat of force is, the less we will have to use it.                                                            

 

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A STRIKE IN SYRIA RESTORES OUR CREDIBILITY IN THE WORLD                                                                  

Tom Cotton                                                                                                                    

New York Times, Apr. 8, 2017

 

After President Bashar al-Assad of Syria once again attacked his own citizens with poison gas, the civilized world recoiled in horror at images of children writhing in pain and suffocating to death. President Trump voiced this justified outrage at a news conference on Wednesday, and the next day he took swift, decisive action against the outlaw Assad regime. But these strikes did more than simply punish Mr. Assad and deter future attacks; they have gone a long way to restoring our badly damaged credibility in the world.

 

It’s hard to overstate just how low the standing of the United States had fallen because of President Barack Obama’s failure to enforce his own “red line” against Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons in 2013. I was one of the few Republican members of Congress who supported strikes against Syria then. Because of that, I’ve heard from dozens of world leaders expressing their doubts about the security commitments of the United States. These doubts originated from surprising places. Of course our longtime Arab allies expressed their misgivings. Yet European and even Asian leaders have privately wondered to me whether the red-line fiasco called into question America’s security alliances in their regions. While far removed from the Middle East, they still depend on the United States and the threat of force to defend our mutual interests.

 

It wasn’t only Mr. Obama’s refusal to act in the moment that undermined our credibility. The fig leaf to justify inaction was an agreement with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to remove Syria’s chemical weapons, which Russia and Syria plainly violated from the outset. Yet Obama administration officials continued to celebrate it as a triumph. It’s also worth remembering that Mr. Obama backed down partly because he so badly wanted a nuclear deal with Mr. Assad’s patron, Iran. But his weakness in Syria only emboldened Iran, ultimately producing a worse deal while encouraging Iran’s campaign of imperial aggression in the region, support for terrorism and human rights abuses.

 

In one night, President Trump turned the tables. He showed the world that when the United States issues a warning, it will back up its words with action. There was no hand-wringing, no straw-man choice between doing nothing and launching a massive ground invasion, no dithering for consultations with others who do not have the power to act. The American president voiced his disapproval, conducted an orderly and secret process at the National Security Council, and then delivered a retaliatory strike many years overdue.

 

The world now sees that President Trump does not share his predecessor’s reluctance to use force. And that’s why nations across the world have rallied to our side, while Russia and Iran are among the few to have condemned the attack. The threat of the use of force — and its actual use when necessary — is an essential foundation for effective diplomacy. Mr. Obama’s lack of credibility is one reason the United States watched in isolation as Russia and Iran took the lead at recent Syrian peace conferences. It’s also why Iran got the better of us in the nuclear negotiations and North Korea has defied us for years.

 

With our credibility restored, the United States can get back on offense around the world. In Syria, Mr. Assad knows that we have many more Tomahawk missiles than he has airfields. So do his supporters in Moscow and Tehran. Further, leaders in Iran must now question the risks of being put “on notice” earlier this year by President Trump. After all, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo are noted Iran hawks. If they recommended decisive action in Syria, the ayatollahs have to wonder if they may be next…

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

 

 

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Iran's Ambitions in the Levant: Ehud Yaari, Foreign Affairs, May 1, 2017 —In the words of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the administration of President Donald Trump is currently “reviewing ways to confront challenges posed by Iran.” This most likely means looking for ways in which to curb Iran’s expansionism in the Middle East.

How Iran Enables Syria’s Chemical Warfare Against Civilians: Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 17, 2017—The 59 Tomahawk missiles the US fired at the Shayrat Air Base served to punish dictator Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons against civilians. The strikes on April 6 also helped shine a spotlight on Iran’s role in Assad’s repeated use of nerve agents, because the mullahs’ Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were at Shayrat.

The Syrian Sarin Attacks of August 2013 and April 2017: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Apr. 26, 2017—Although the accumulating evidence is not yet formally conclusive, it appears that chemical weapons (CW) containing the sarin nerve agent were employed by the Syrian regime’s air force against Khan Shaykhun during the massacre of April 4.

Will Jordan Confront IS in Southern Syria?: Osama Al Sharif, Al-Monitor, Apr. 18, 2017—Jordan could be preparing for joint military operations with US and British special forces against Islamic State (IS) militants in southern Syria following King Abdullah’s meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on April 5. The talks dealt with a number of issues but centered on the US-led fight against the terrorist group, the creation of safe zones in Syria and Jordan’s role in both. In his interview with The Washington Post the same day, the king alluded to Jordan’s readiness to deal with threats to the kingdom’s northern borders, saying that “non-state actors from outside coming toward our border are not going to be tolerated.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PASSOVER 5777—CELEBRATING FREEDOM FROM SLAVERY AND EXODUS FROM EGYPT

 

 

Passover – We Have Reason to Rejoice: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 9, 2017 — Tonight, most Israelis, secular as well as observant, will celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom in which we recount our life of slavery and exodus from Egypt and how we became a nation.

Passover Guide for the Perplexed, 2017: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Apr. 9, 2017 — 1. According to Heinrich Heine, the 19th century German poet, “Since the Exodus, freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent.”

Assad Had Every Reason to Believe he Would Get Away with Another Chemical Attack. But Trump Surprised Him: Michael Petrou, National Post, Apr. 7, 2017 — “The United States, they play with us, and they lie to us,” Mohammad Gohoul said this February as he sat on the floor of an apartment in Gaziantep, Turkey, where he now lives as a refuge after fleeing Syria and the tortures he endured there.

Did Putin Get the Message?: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Apr. 8, 2017 — After the Trump administration's strike on the Shayrat airfield Thursday, lawmakers, analysts, and the press are asking if the White House has a next move.

               

On Topic Links

 

Exodus – The Secret of Our Nationhood: Dr. Michael Laitman, Breaking Israel News, Apr. 9, 2017

Tillerson, McMaster, Blame Russia for US Attack on Syria: Jewish Press, Apr. 7, 2017

What Can We Expect in Wake of Syria Chemical Attack?: Clarion Project, Apr. 9, 2017

On Moral Rearmament of the West: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Apr. 8, 2017

 

 

PASSOVER – WE HAVE REASON TO REJOICE

                                                 Isi Leibler                                                                                                                         Jerusalem Post, Apr. 9, 2017

 

Tonight, most Israelis, secular as well as observant, will celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom in which we recount our life of slavery and exodus from Egypt and how we became a nation. The Haggada that we read at the Passover Seder also carries a universal theme of human rights but its focus is the Jewish People, stressing our shared past and our aspirations for a renewal of Jewish sovereignty during 2,000 years of harrowing exile, endless persecutions, expulsion and attempted genocide.

 

We read in the Haggada that “in every generation they rise against us to destroy us. But the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from them.” We appeal to the Almighty to “pour out Thy wrath” against the wicked and destroy them. The Haggada recounts the Egyptians’ pattern of Jew-hatred: they envied the prosperity of their Jewish minority, enslaved and ultimately engaged in genocide with Pharaoh’s decree to drown all newborn Jewish males. This pattern has recurred throughout the generations as we faced successive enemies: the pagans, the church, secular racist Jew-haters, Nazis and communists. And today there is a global tsunami of antisemitism, especially in Europe where Jews are being transformed into pariahs.

 

The current threat emanates from the bizarre combination of Islamists and radical leftists, who are renewing the vicious antisemitic propaganda of the 1930s that was a precursor to the Holocaust. In its current manifestation, it is also directed against the Jewish national homeland – the only nation-state in the world whose right to exist is under threat. It is horrifying to observe the culture of death and destruction in the Middle East, the barbaric bloodbaths and millions of civilians displaced from their homes. When we witness the Iranian leaders repeatedly proclaiming their genocidal objectives, we are instinctively reminded of Amalek.

 

But on Passover, we give thanks to the Almighty and rejoice that our days of powerlessness belong to the past and that we are now strong enough to deter and if necessary overcome the combined forces of all our adversaries. Today we have a State of Israel that provides a haven to all Jews wishing to settle in the Jewish homeland. Other elements in the Haggada resonate with different issues facing us today. Ha Lachma Anya (the bread of affliction) reminds us not to be complacent and to be concerned about the poor and needy and of the scandal of the neglected elderly Holocaust survivors who have been denied the minimum material support to enable them to live out their few remaining years in dignity.

 

A discussion of the Four Sons can relate to the identity challenges facing Israelis and Diaspora Jews. The chacham, the wise son, is the committed Jew. The tam, the simple son, and she’eino yodea lishol, the one who does not know to ask, are the products of assimilation and loss of Jewish identity. This includes those deprived of a Jewish education by their parents, or those who are apathetic, lazy and unsophisticated, with no desire to acquaint themselves with their Jewish heritage. Ultimately, many become indifferent and disappear. The rasha, the wicked son, symbolizes those Jews who vilify their people. In the contemporary context, this includes Jews engaged in public efforts to undermine Israel, those supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and those allying themselves with our enemies against the Jewish state. Alas, of late, several prominent American Jewish leaders have joined this category.

 

In Israel, their counterparts are those who seek to transform Israel from a Jewish state to a state of all its citizens or who promote the false narrative of those seeking our destruction. The Haggada poses problems for secular humanist interpretations of history because reason alone cannot explain the unprecedented events associated with our ongoing national renaissance. If one objectively reviews our status, the host of fortuitous “coincidences” that we have witnessed since the rebirth of a Jewish state, there is a strong case to consider that our survival and thriving existence after 2,000 years of dispersion is no less miraculous than the exodus from Egypt.

 

The greatest miracle was the reestablishment of a Jewish state, which rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the Holocaust, when at the United Nations, during the height of the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union for the first time voted together in favor of the creation of a Jewish state. Subsequently, the fledgling state, against all odds, defeated the combined forces of surrounding Arab states, which was later followed with the miracle of the Six Day War.

 

Another miracle key to Israel’s survival has been kibbutz galuyot – the ingathering of the exiles – in which Jews from all corners of the world, from the former Soviet Union to Ethiopia, made aliya, swelling Israel’s Jewish population from 600,0000 in 1948 to over six million today. Israel has successfully integrated new immigrants, molding them into a vibrant nation in which ancient Hebrew was revived as a living language. We have benefited from a mass aliya which ensued from the extraordinary liberation of Soviet Jewry, spearheaded by a few hundred assimilated Jews who courageously triumphed against the most powerful totalitarian country in the world…

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

 

 

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PASSOVER GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED, 2017

Yoram Ettinger                                                                                        

Jewish Press, Apr. 9, 2017

 

1. According to Heinrich Heine, the 19th century German poet, “Since the Exodus, freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent.”

 

2. Moses’ “Let my people go” paved the road to the Exodus. In 1850, it became a code song for black slaves, who were freed by Harriet Tubman’s (“Mama Moses”) “Underground Railroad.” Paul Robeson and Louis Armstrong enhanced its popularity through the lyrics: “When Israel was Egypt’s land, let my people go! Oppressed so hard they could not stand, let my people go! Go down Moses, way down in Egypt’s land; tell old Pharaoh to let my people go….!”  On December 11, 1964, upon accepting the Nobel Prize, Martin Luther King, Jr., “the Moses of his age”, said: “The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in Pharaoh’s court centuries ago and cried, ‘Let my people go!’”

 

3. The Exodus has been an integral part of the American story since the landing of the 17th century early Pilgrims, who considered themselves “the people of the modern day Exodus,” who departed from “the modern day Egypt” (Britain), rebelled against “the modern day Pharaoh,” (King James I and King Charles I), crossed “the modern day Red Sea” (the Atlantic Ocean) and headed toward “the modern day Promised Land” (America).  Hence, the abundance of US sites bearing Biblical names, such as Jerusalem, Salem (the original name of Jerusalem), Bethel, Shiloh, Ephrata’, Tekoa’, Bethlehem, Moriah, Zion, etc.

 

4. The Exodus is mentioned 50 times in the Torah, equal to the 50 years of the Jubilee – the Biblical symbol of liberty – which is featured on the Liberty Bell (installed in 1751 – the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges): “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof (Leviticus, 25:10).”  Moses received the Torah – which includes 50 gates of wisdom – 50 days following the Exodus, as celebrated by the Shavou’ot/Pentecost Holiday. And, there are 50 States in the United States, whose Hebrew name is ארצות הברית, the States of the Covenant.

 

5. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense – “the cement of the Revolution” – referred to King George as “the hardened, sullen-tempered Pharaoh of England.”  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – the 2nd and 3rd US presidents – and Benjamin Franklin, proposed the Parting of the Sea as the official US seal. The proposal was tabled, but the chosen seal features thirteen stars (colonies), above the Eagle, in the shape of a Star of David. Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale University – which features on its shield “Urim and Thummim,” the power of the High Priest during the Exodus – stated on May 8, 1873: “Moses, the man of God, assembled three million people, the number of people in America in 1776.” Theodore White wrote in The Making of the President 1960: “It is as if Kennedy, a younger Moses, had led an elderly Joshua [LBJ] to the height of Mount Nebo…and there shown him the Promised Land which he himself would never be entering, but which Joshua would make his own.”  In 2017, the bust of Moses faces the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and eight statues and engravings of Moses and the Tablets are featured in the US Supreme Court.

 

6. A documentation of the Exodus – which took place in the second half of the 15th century BCE, during the reign of Egypt’s Amenhotep II – was provided by the late Prof. Yehudah Elitzur, one of Israel’s pioneers of Biblical research. Accordingly, the 40-year national coalescing of the Jewish people – while wandering in the desert – took place when Egypt was ruled by Thutmose IV. Joshua conquered Canaan when Egypt was ruled by Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV, who were preoccupied with domestic affairs, refraining from expansionist operations. Moreover, letters which were discovered in Tel el Amarna, the capital city of ancient Egypt, documented that the 14th century BCE Pharaoh, Amenhotep IV, was informed by the rulers of Jerusalem, Samaria and other parts of Canaan, about a military offensive launched by the “Habirus” (Hebrews and other Semitic tribes), which corresponded to the timing of Joshua’s offensive against the same rulers. Amenhotep IV was a determined reformer, who introduced monotheism, possibly influenced by the nationally and religiously game-changing Exodus.  Further documentation of the Exodus is provided by Dr. Joshua Berman of Bar Ilan University.

 

7. Passover is the oldest Jewish national liberation holiday, highlighting the mutually-inclusive aspects of Judaism: religion, nationality, culture/morality, language and history. Passover highlights individual and national liberty and optimism, which have played a critical role in preserving Judaism, Jews and the yearning to reconstruct the Jewish Homeland, in defiance of the 40 years in the desert and the 2,500 year of exile, destruction, pogroms, the Holocaust, boycotts, wars, terrorism and anti-Semitism.

 

8. Passover stipulates that human rejuvenation – just like the rejuvenation of nature – must be driven by roots/memory/history. Therefore, parents are instructed to educate their children about the lessons of Passover. Passover was an early edition of the 19th century Spring of Nations. It is celebrated in the spring, the bud of nature. Spring is mentioned 3 times in the Torah, all in reference to the Exodus. Passover – which commemorates the creation of the Jewish nation – lasts seven days, just like the creation of the universe.

 

9. Passover’s centrality in Judaism is highlighted by the first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” The Passover ethos is included in daily Jewish prayers, Shabbat and holiday prayers, the blessing over the wine, the blessing upon circumcision, the prayer fixed in the Mezuzah (doorpost) and in the annual family retelling of the Exodus on the eve of Passover. Passover symbolizes the unity of – and interdependence between – the People of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the Land of Israel…                                                                                                 

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

 

Contents                                                                                                                  

ASSAD HAD EVERY REASON TO BELIEVE HE WOULD GET AWAY WITH ANOTHER CHEMICAL ATTACK.

BUT TRUMP SURPRISED HIM                                                               

Michael Petrou                                                                                                   

National Post, Apr. 7, 2017

 

“The United States, they play with us, and they lie to us,” Mohammad Gohoul said this February as he sat on the floor of an apartment in Gaziantep, Turkey, where he now lives as a refuge after fleeing Syria and the tortures he endured there. Gohoul took part in the demonstrations against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad that broke out in 2011. He says he wanted Syrians to live in a democracy. “We would go to Western embassies and leave flowers there,” he says, a gesture of admiration and a request for support.

 

Assad met these protests with deadly force. Gohoul was arrested. In his Gaziantep apartment, he showed how he was blindfolded and his hands were bound while he was beaten and shocked with electricity. “For nine months, I didn’t see the sun,” he said. After his release, he went to opposition-held Aleppo and then came to Turkey when Aleppo fell to the Syrian regime late last year. When Gohoul and other Syrians speak of America’s “lies” and games, they refer to an August 2011 statement made by then-U.S. President Barack Obama that Assad should step aside, which wasn’t followed by any steps to make that happen, and especially to Obama’s “red line” comments on the use of chemical weapons.

 

Such an event, Obama said in 2012, would change his “calculus” regarding military engagement in Syria. But when Assad’s regime launched a sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta the following year, killing some 1,400 civilians, Obama famously backed away from retaliation. Instead, he agreed to a Russian-brokered deal that was supposed to have resulted in Syria giving up its chemical weapons stockpiles. The utter failure of Obama’s decision has been exposed with horrific results by this week’s poison gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria. More than 80 people were killed, including at least 27 children.

 

Assad had every reason to believe he would get away with it. The current American president, Donald Trump, made his isolationist bent explicitly clear shortly after the Ghouta chemical weapons attack and while Obama was still president: “We should stop talking, stay out of Syria and other countries that hate us, rebuild our own country and make it strong and great again-USA!” he tweeted in 2013. And just last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Assad’s rule was a “political reality that we have to accept.” Assad, it seemed, could count on U.S. ambivalence regardless of his crimes.

 

Instead, Trump surprised the world. The 59 cruise missiles he ordered launched at the Shayrat Airfield, from where America believes the chemical weapons attack originated, represent a stark policy reversal for the U.S. president. It is one for which he deserves credit. It is worth underlining that while Obama publicly sought to rebuild America’s relations with the “Muslim world,” he did little while Syria was torn asunder, and while Assad brought death to hundreds of thousands of its citizens. It is Trump, for all his Muslim-bashing nativism, who has finally deployed American military force against the most prolific murderer in that country.

 

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered an awkwardly worded statement yesterday in which she said Assad’s chemical attack “raises grave questions” about the possibility of working with his regime. But Prime Minister Trudeau — also to his credit — has said Canada “fully supports” the American airstrikes. That statement puts Canada alongside many American allies, including its traditional Sunni Muslim ones in the Middle East, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which had been disappointed by Obama’s decision not to strike Syria four years ago. Trump’s decision will go some way toward improving those strained ties…                                                                                                                                       

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

 

Contents

                                         

DID PUTIN GET THE MESSAGE?                                                                          

Lee Smith                                                                                                     

Weekly Standard, Apr. 8, 2017

 

After the Trump administration's strike on the Shayrat airfield Thursday, lawmakers, analysts, and the press are asking if the White House has a next move. Certainly it was important to signal that the use of chemical weapons is something the United States could not tolerate. As President Trump explained Thursday, it is a "vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons." That is, the Trump administration enforced the redline against the use of chemical weapons that the previous White House ignored. Further, by citing the possible "spread" of those unconventional arms, Trump was alluding to the organization that is the likeliest recipient of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal—Hezbollah, Iran's praetorian guard in the eastern Mediterranean.

 

Thus the strike underscored that the Trump administration's understanding of the Syrian conflict is broader than that of its predecessor. Where the Obama White House limited its focus in the Syrian arena to an anti-ISIS campaign, Trump struck a blow against the Iranian axis. Tehran and its allies are no longer dealing with an American president eager to strike a bargain with them. The new White House has put Iranian ally Bashar al-Assad on notice. However, the 59 tomahawk missiles launched at Shayrat is perhaps best understood as a message to Russia.

 

The White House acted less than 48 hours after receiving intelligence regarding Tuesday's chemical weapons attack. The Trump White House knew immediately who was behind the attack and named names—Syrian government forces. The Russians were putting out a different story. They claimed that Jabhat al-Nusra had a chemical weapons factory in Khan Shaykun and that a strike with attack helicopters created the plume that killed civilians on Tuesday.

 

"We know from our ability to monitor that this story was false," a senior administration official told the Weekly Standard. "The aircraft that flew from Shayrat airbase to Khan Shaykun were tracked. Furthermore, no group like Nusra has ever had ever had the ability to make Sarin in Syria. To weaponize Sarin is quite a sophisticated thing. Opposition groups have not shown that they have that ability, but the Assad regime does." Presumably, the American government had access to the same intelligence resources when Assad previously used chemical weapons. However, the Obama administration's standard response was to ignore intelligence regarding the use of Syria's unconventional arsenal and avoid or downplay attribution of responsibility.

 

For instance, when Israeli intelligence showed in April 2013 who was responsible for gassing men, women, and children,a Pentagon official contended that "the use of chemical weapons in an environment like Syria is very difficult to confirm." When Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Washington in May 2013 and brought evidence of the attacks and intelligence regarding who conducted and ordered them, President Obama said that he needed "specific information about what exactly is happening there." Thus, there should have been little surprise when Obama decided not to strike Assad regime targets in September 2013 to enforce the American redline against the use of chemical weapons. Obama had shown repeatedly that he resisted blaming Assad for deploying chemical weapons—punishing him for it was almost unimaginable.

 

However, Obama's failure to act is not because of what Trump White House officials like Sean Spicer are calling his "weakness." No, the previous president brushed aside intelligence and then walked back military force because he believed that an attack on Assad was likely to crash his signature foreign policy initiative, the nuclear agreement with Iran. The Iran deal shaped both Syria policy (an anti-ISIS campaign predicated on leaving Assad untouched) and the Obama administration's larger Middle East strategy, a realignment with Iran. Obama downgraded traditional allies like Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and NATO member Turkey, while upgrading the Iranians, and opening wide a window of opportunity for Russia, grateful to once again be a player in the Middle East, after a forty-year absence.

 

Thursday's operation should be seen as part of a broader effort to rebalance America's regional interests in opposition to the Iranian axis and Russia. The tomahawk strikes were the big news of the week, overshadowing the fact that the new White House welcomed the leaders of two traditional American regional allies—Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and King Abdullah of Jordan. Sisi was treated as a leper by the Obama administration, and Abdullah sidelined. If the Jordanian king was concerned about the presence of Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia on his border, the Obama White House told him to take his concerns to Moscow, where Sisi also visited hat in hand. They had no choice—the Obama administration was not interested in protecting the regional security architecture the United States had built over 70 years…

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

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Chag Sameach!

No Daily Briefing Will Be Published on Tuesday, Apr. 10

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Exodus – The Secret of Our Nationhood: Dr. Michael Laitman, Breaking Israel News, Apr. 9, 2017—Each Passover, we focus our attention on the historic struggle between Moses and Pharaoh, and the enslavement of the Hebrews. Yet, the story of our people in Egypt is more than a collective memory; it is an accurate depiction of our current situation.

Tillerson, McMaster, Blame Russia for US Attack on Syria: Jewish Press, Apr. 7, 2017—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Director H. R. McMaster on Thursday held a press conference to review the sudden change in US policy regarding Syria, pinning the responsibility for the nerve gas attack against Syrian civilians on President Bashar al-Assad’s chief enabler, the Russian government.

What Can We Expect in Wake of Syria Chemical Attack? (Video): Clarion Project, Apr. 9, 2017

On Moral Rearmament of the West: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Apr. 8, 2017— According to an in-depth survey published last week in Israel Hayom, Israeli youth believe deeply and optimistically in the future of this country. 85% of Israeli kids in grades 11 and 12 love the country. 89% plan to stay here, no matter what. 85% think that the IDF is the most moral army in the world. 65% say it would be worthy to die for country, if necessary. 63% feel that social solidarity, volunteerism, and family values are what make Israel great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE U.S. IS BACK— TRUMP’S DRAMATIC ATTACK ON SYRIA PUTS ASSAD, RUSSIA & IRAN ON NOTICE

As We Go To Press: Several Dead in Stockholm Truck Attack—A truck drove into pedestrians in a busy shopping area of central Stockholm on Friday, killing several people and leaving many wounded in what Sweden’s prime minister called a “terror attack.” The attack appeared drawn from the playbook of low-tech terrorism—mowing down pedestrians with a vehicle—used by suspected Islamic State supporters in London last month and other European cities last year. Sweden’s security services, known as SäPo, said they had launched an investigation to determine the identity of the perpetrator and possible accomplices. “Sweden has been attacked,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said. It wasn’t immediately clear if the driver of the truck died in the attack or managed to escape. (Wall Street Journal, Apr. 7, 2017)

 

Trump’s Syria Opportunity: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 6, 2017— President Trump inherited the Syrian catastrophe from Barack Obama, and his initial instincts were to accept the awful status quo.

Trump’s Strike Signals to Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Assad: The Party’s Over: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Apr. 7, 2017 — It would be wrong to get too carried away by the overnight US missile strike on the Syrian airbase…

Trump’s Choice on Assad: Jonathan S. Tobin, National Review, Apr. 6, 2017 — As late as earlier this week, some in the White House were saying that for the U.S. to pursue the ouster of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad would be “silly.”

Celebrating Jerusalem at 'Hakotel': David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 31, 2017 — Over the next three months, there will be many jubilee celebrations of Jerusalem’s unification.

               

On Topic Links

 

Happy Passover Video: CIJR, Apr. 7, 2017

Transcript of President Trump’s Remarks about Airstrikes in Syria: David Israel, Jewish Press, Apr. 7, 2017

In Israeli Eyes, Trump’s Tomahawks Correct the Course of History: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Apr. 7, 2017

Historians Run Amok: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Apr. 4, 2017

 

TRUMP’S SYRIA OPPORTUNITY

                                                

Editorial                                                                                           

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 6, 2017

 

President Trump inherited the Syrian catastrophe from Barack Obama, and his initial instincts were to accept the awful status quo. But Bashar Assad’s latest chemical attack has galvanized his Administration to think anew, and Mr. Trump’s decision Thursday to launch a retaliatory missile strike is an important first step to save lives, enforce global order, and improve the strategic outlook for the U.S. and its allies.

 

Mr. Trump starts with the reality that Mr. Obama’s long abdication has left the U.S. with far less leverage than it had when the civil war began in 2011. Iran has become Mr. Assad’s protector on the ground via arms supplies and Hezbollah, and Russia has moved in as a military patron and patroller of the skies. The Muslim opposition the U.S. has been feebly trying to train and arm has been degraded while Mr. Assad and the Russians leave Islamic State to the Kurds and the U.S.-led coalition.

 

As recently as last week Mr. Trump seemed willing to surrender to this circumstance and do nothing beyond defeating ISIS in Syria’s east. This was reflected in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments last week that Mr. Assad was here to stay and the future of Syria would be “decided by the Syrian people.” That’s John Kerry-speak for capitulation, and it may have led Mr. Assad to believe he could unleash more chemical hell.

 

Mr. Trump also seemed to be courting an accommodation with Russia in Syria, but that road leads to more strategic retreat. Vladimir Putin’s price for restraining Mr. Assad would be steep: U.S. recognition of his conquests in Ukraine and the end of sanctions. This would erode the U.S.-Europe alliance and make Mr. Putin look like a hero back home. Iran might not cooperate in any case, and its goal is an arc of Shiite power from Tehran through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean. The alternative to this surrender is to reassert U.S. influence with diplomacy and military force, and Mr. Assad’s chemical attack is the opening. Mr. Trump may understand this as he ordered an attack on the air base from which the chemical attack was launched, and Mr. Tillerson said Thursday that Mr. Assad has no future in Syria.

 

The quickest way to punish Mr. Assad for his aerial chemical attacks, and to ensure they won’t happen again, is to destroy his air power. This is the plan that Mr. Obama flinched at in 2013 when he let Mr. Assad cross his “red line.” He has now crossed that line again—this time after having promised to destroy his chemical stockpiles. On Thursday the U.S. struck only a single airfield, though Mr. Assad has six active airfields used in the war. The U.S. used cruise missiles from outside Syrian air space, which avoided engagement with Russian-manned air defenses. The Pentagon provided the firepower, though we wish Arabs and Europeans could have been included to show the international rejection of Mr. Assad’s war crimes.

 

Mr. Putin could escalate and engage U.S. forces. But Mr. Obama used that excuse to talk himself into doing nothing, and our guess is that Mr. Putin would shrink from fighting the U.S. lest he risk the humiliation of major losses. As for Russians on the ground, a U.S. source told the press they were forewarned about the attack to avoid casualties. A stronger attack would have destroyed Syria’s entire air force, and another good step would be for the U.S. and its allies to create the “safe zones” inside Syria that Mr. Trump promised during the campaign. This would be enforced by U.S. and allied air sorties plus renewed military supplies for the opposition. The humanitarian effort would show the U.S. purpose includes protecting the Syrian people. An international force could provide support for havens in multiple locations near the Turkish and Jordanian borders.

 

Every military operation carries risks but this one could also have major political and strategic benefits if Mr. Trump follows the air strike with some forceful diplomacy. The demonstration of renewed U.S. purpose in the region could have an electrifying impact across the Middle East. The Saudis, the Gulf Sunni states and Turkey would begin to rethink their accommodation to the Russia-Assad-Iran axis of dominance that none of them wants.

 

Mr. Trump also needs to make Russia and Iran begin to pay a price for their support for Mr. Assad’s depredations. They have had no incentive to negotiate an end to the civil war because they see themselves on the road to a relatively cost-free victory. That calculus may change if it looks like the costs of intervening are rising and Mr. Assad is no longer a sure winner. The Trump Administration has to think about the kind of long-term solution it would like in Syria—perhaps a partition into ethnic enclaves—but the chances of getting there are better if the opposition has safe zones and Mr. Assad can’t maraud with impunity.

 

The larger point for Mr. Trump to recognize is that he is being tested. The world—friend and foe—is watching to see how he responds to Mr. Assad’s war crime. His quick air strike on the evening he was having dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping makes clear that the Obama era is over. If he now follows with action to protect Syrian civilians and construct an anti-Assad coalition, he may find that new strategic possibilities open up to enhance U.S. interests and make the Middle East more stable.

 

 

Contents   

                     

TRUMP’S STRIKE SIGNALS TO RUSSIA, IRAN,

HEZBOLLAH, ASSAD: THE PARTY’S OVER

Avi Issacharoff                                         

Times of Israel, Apr. 7, 2017

 

It would be wrong to get too carried away by the overnight US missile strike on the Syrian airbase, north of Damascus, from which it is believed the Assad regime launched Tuesday’s despicable chemical weapons attack. This was, after all, just a single retaliatory strike on an air base, and not a 180-degree change in US military policy. We don’t know what the Trump administration’s ongoing policy will be, should President Bashar Assad carry out further chemical weapons attacks, and we certainly have no sense that President Donald Trump will now be seeking to oust the Assad regime.

 

Nonetheless, the overnight US raid was dramatic and remarkable, especially when compared to the policy of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, which might best be summed up in the single word “inaction.” In less than three months, the much-mocked President Trump has achieved in the Middle East what Obama never sought, or even wanted to do: He has gained the trust of Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. Even the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is unstintingly in its praise of his Middle East policies and his efforts to revive the peace process with Israel.

 

The pragmatic Sunni camp, which felt itself so at odds with Obama, finally senses that it is being heard and heeded in Washington. The US administration is building relations with the correct side in this region, rather than gambling, as Obama did, on the political Islam characterized by the Muslim Brotherhood. But more than this, the US retaliatory attack sends the clear message to the Shi’ite camp — Iran and Hizballah — and to its Moscow patron, that the party is over. Only this week, Abdullah was warning about the Iranian effort to forge an area of control extending from Tehran to Beirut and Latakia.

 

Through a single, limited strike, Trump’s overnight resort to force signaled to the Shi’ite actors, and to Russia, that the rules of the game have now changed: From now on, there will be a price to be paid for invading, massacring, carrying out terror attacks, using non-conventional weapons. Such a message ought to have been delivered long ago, years ago. But Barack Obama opted not to do so. And as a consequence, the United States became perceived as weak, as afraid, as a nation that abandoned its allies in the Middle East. The overnight attack sent a very different message, especially to Assad’s opposition.

Moscow’s rapid, angry reaction, and the immediate messages of support from Saudi Arabia and from the Syrian opposition, underline how successful the single US strike has been in impacting all the necessary places. Not just the physical impact, either. Russia will now have to reassess its handling of the Syrian crisis. And as for Iran, Assad and Hezbollah, they will all have to weigh their next moves in what was once greater Syria with a great deal more care than before Trump hit back.                              

 

Contents                                                                                                      

TRUMP’S CHOICE ON ASSAD                                                                      

Jonathan S. Tobin                                                                                                                                  

National Review, Apr. 6, 2017

 

As late as earlier this week, some in the White House were saying that for the U.S. to pursue the ouster of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad would be “silly.” But after President Donald Trump’s strong statement on Wednesday about Assad’s use of chemical weapons and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s denunciation of both the Syrian government and its Russian enabler, the notion of American action — both diplomatic and possibly even military — directed against Assad can’t be considered so silly. Indeed, as the Trump foreign-policy team assesses its goals in the Middle East, reversing course on Syria may be the only way the president has of fulfilling his promise to defeat ISIS.

 

Those who cheered Trump’s determination to avoid foreign entanglements — especially ones rooted in humanitarian concerns — may be hoping that the administration’s most recent statements about Syria won’t be translated into action. Given Trump’s history of deprecating the Bush administration and his criticism of President Obama for even thinking about enforcing his “red line” threat to Assad that Trump now correctly sees as making his predecessor responsible for the mess he inherited, it is entirely possible that Trump will ultimately do nothing. But it’s also possible that this administration, like so many of its predecessors, is working its way toward inescapable conclusions about policy that contradict campaign rhetoric. Much as Trump would have liked to leave Assad in place, events may have made that impossible.

 

When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Ambassador Haley, and White House spokesman Sean Spicer were dismissing the idea of seeking Assad’s removal, they were merely acknowledging facts. Obama’s timidity combined with massive military intervention by Iran, Tehran’s Hezbollah auxiliaries, and, most importantly, Russia, meant the Damascus regime had largely won a civil war they were in danger of losing a few years ago. In 2013, when Obama stated that the use of chemical weapons by Assad meant crossing a “red line” the West would not ignore, the outcome of the war was still in doubt. While some rebel forces remain in the field, the dictator’s hold on power is no longer in question. The one truly potent threat is ISIS, which the Syrian government and its allies have largely left alone even as they have laid waste to any area where other dissidents have been located.

 

While Assad would like to reclaim all of his territory, ISIS, which still controls large stretches of both Syria and Iraq, has not been a priority. Assad and the Russians have been content to allow it to maintain its strength, since it has been a greater threat to the government of Iraq and its Western and Arab allies than to them. But his latest use of chemical weapons — which were supposed to have been collected by Russia, according to the face-saving agreement Obama concluded with Putin in order to justify his refusal to enforce his “red line” threat — has done more than generate international outrage.

 

The problem for Trump isn’t just that neither he nor the rest of his foreign-policy team are comfortable with maintaining silence about gas attacks on civilians or the fact that their Russian “friends” have no shame about providing diplomatic cover for Assad’s atrocities at the United Nations. It’s that they may be starting to realize that a tilt toward Russia may not be compatible with Trump’s promises of a successful war against the Islamic State.

 

The West rightly regards ISIS as a barbarous terror group that has inflicted countless atrocities on minority groups and political opponents in Syria and Iraq. But to Sunni Muslims in Syria, the Islamic State is the only force that is still effectively resisting the depredations of a Syrian government that many link to the Alawite minority. As much as both Obama and now Trump may have hoped that a war on ISIS could be prosecuted in cooperation with the Russian and Iranian forces helping Assad, the gas attack is a reminder that so long as Assad’s butchers are terrorizing and slaughtering civilians with impunity, ISIS will have the support of many Syrians.

 

This week’s reports of Assad’s depredations may be forcing the president to confront the basic contradictions at the heart of his approach to the region. Just as he must choose between a desire to get tough with an Iranian government that seeks regional hegemony and his desire to avoid confrontations with their Russian ally in Syria, so, too, must Trump come to grips with the fact that the military victory over ISIS he promised last year is incompatible with a policy of leaving Assad in place.

Rather than emulate Obama and sit back and let the Russians have their way in Syria, Trump must use all of the formidable resources at his disposal to get Moscow to rein in or abandon their client. As Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) suggested on Wednesday, that might involve the use of covert action or military force against Assad. The motivation for Trump pressuring the Russians in this manner isn’t so much a justified outrage at what has happened in Syria as a realization that acquiescence to the current state of affairs is antithetical to U.S. security goals about terror that Trump should regard as more important than his pro-Russian tilt.

 

It is ironic that a president whose political success was in no small measure advanced by his stand against interventionism is now being forced to deal with the costs of a policy of appeasement of Russia that he advocated. But the world looks very different from the Oval Office. This wouldn’t be the first administration that was transformed by events that weren’t foreseen or properly understood before it took office. Should Trump hesitate to press the Russians or simply let this moment pass without U.S. action of some kind, that may be what some in his base want. But Bashar al-Assad’s deplorable actions may have brought some much-needed clarity to Trump’s otherwise muddled foreign-policy vision that will compel him to change his tune.                       

 

Contents

                                          

CELEBRATING JERUSALEM AT 'HAKOTEL'                                                                                         

David M. Weinberg                                                                                                      

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 31, 2017

 

Over the next three months, there will be many jubilee celebrations of Jerusalem’s unification. Everyone will be marking 50 years since the liberation of the Old City and the return of Jewish sovereignty to the Temple Mount and the Kotel (Western Wall). It is only appropriate that the first of these celebrations was held by Yeshivat Hakotel, which was the very first major institution to be established in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem immediately after the Six Day War. Close to 2,500 alumni of this magnificent educational institution (including me) gathered this week for a gala reunion and concert in Jerusalem.

 

All the heroism, humanism, determination and vision that characterizes the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the re-anchoring of Jewish identity in Jerusalem over the past half-century is encapsulated in the story of Yeshivat Hakotel. It was only two months after the June 1967 war. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem had been laid waste by the Arabs during the 19-year Jordanian occupation. It was in total ruins. Almost every building, including many famous synagogues, had been dynamited. Fox and sheep were the only residents of the rubble.

 

Into the debris, waded the visionary Rabbi Aryeh Bina and a coterie of yeshiva students, intent on bringing Torah study back to the Temple precinct. The pioneering group schlepped food, books and electrical generators into the derelict Batei Machse buildings and established a hesder yeshiva – combining yeshiva studies with IDF service. The first classes were held on Tisha Be’Av, the day of lamentation for the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Commonwealths. It was more than symbolic that on this day the Third Jewish Commonwealth’s Religious Zionist frontiersmen trail-blazed their way back into ancient Jerusalem.

 

Levi Eshkol and Yigal Alon were drawn to the yeshiva and helped it along, admiring its unique combination of grit, faith and revolutionary spirit. Great philanthropists like Kurt Rothschild of Canada and Maurice Wohl of England later helped build the yeshiva’s colossal building; the grandest structure in the Old City since the destruction of the Second Temple 2,000 years ago.

 

Over the past fifty years, under the deanship of Rabbi Chaim Yeshayahu Hadari, and in recent years under Rabbi Baruch Wieder, Yeshivat Hakotel has grown into a powerhouse place of scholarship and leadership training. Its alumni can be found in all walks of Israeli leadership, from the yeshiva world to academia, and from business to military.

 

Hakotel’s foreign student alumni are leaders of American Modern Orthodoxy too. Many have made aliyah, while others are key donors to the yeshiva today. Many prominent yeshivas, rabbinical courts and academic institutions are today led by Hakotel alumni. This includes well-known rabbis such as Avraham Wolfson (Maaleh Adumim), Aryeh Hendler (Ramle), Beni Kalmanzon (Otniel), David Henschke (Bar-Ilan U.), David Turgeman (Dimona), Dov Singer (Kfar Etzion), Haim Sabato (Mitpe Nevo), Rafi Peretz (former IDF chief rabbi), Tuvia Lifshitz (Hakotel), Yehuda Brandes (Herzog College), Yehuda Shachor (Rehovot), Yitzhak Levy (former NRP leader), and more.

 

Rabbi Hadari’s unique personality and spiritual worldview is what drew these people together, I believe. He was questing for “Cossacks with shtreimels,” as he once picturesquely described it. Rabbi Hadari meant that he was seeking to raise a generation of soldiers who were also scholars deeply entrenched in Jewish learning; specifically Torah flavored by Hassidic thought infused with Rabbi A.Y. Kook’s Zionist-transformational bent.

 

For me, a defining educational-sacred experience was the before-dawn Friday morning Midrash class taught by Rabbi Hadari in th

e early 1980s on the yeshiva rooftop overlooking the Temple Mount. It was here that I discovered how to understand the grand sweep of Jewish history as interpreted in traditional sources, and to appreciate the mystical teachings of Rav Zadok Hacohen of Lublin and their existentialist application to modern Israel. It was on that rooftop that I forged my own commitment to aliyah, and to the building of Jerusalem as Israel’s strategic, spiritual and cultural core. It was on that rooftop that I met the scholar-student activist-doctor who is my best friend from then till today.

 

To this, I add the Friday night ritual of dancing en masse to the Kotel for Shabbat eve prayers – for which Yeshivat Hakotel was famous. It was sight to see and an experience to savor: Hundreds of white-shirted boys in rows, with arms on each other’s shoulders, streaming down the long staircase from the Jewish Quarter; like an endless flock of pure sheep skipping along the Psalmist’s mountains. Tourist groups from around the world, and many IDF units, would time their visits to the Western Wall in order to join in the singing and dancing (and take pictures). They still do. It is uplifting to all…

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

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Happy Passover Video: CIJR, Apr. 7, 2017

Transcript of President Trump’s Remarks about Airstrikes in Syria: David Israel, Jewish Press, Apr. 7, 2017—This is a transcript of President Donald Trump’s remarks on Thursday night in Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida: “My fellow Americans, on Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.

In Israeli Eyes, Trump’s Tomahawks Correct the Course of History: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Apr. 7, 2017—From an Israeli perspective, US President Donald Trump corrected the course of history in ordering airstrikes against the Syrian regime late Thursday.

Historians Run Amok: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Apr. 4, 2017—The eminent historian Niall Ferguson has devastatingly skewered his (and my) field of study in a talk for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, subsequently published as "The Decline and Fall of History."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRUMP TESTED BY ASSAD WHO, LET OFF THE HOOK BY OBAMA, USED POISON GAS AGAIN. IDF ASSESSES THREAT

The Missile, the Poison Gas and the Sheer Effrontery: Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 5, 2017 — A very short length of rope connects the launching of an anti-aircraft missile towards IAF jets on the night of March 17th and the murderous use (once again!) of the poison gas which the Syrian regime is not supposed to have by the "Butcher of Damascus." 

Following Gas Attack, Israel Reassesses Syrian Threat: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Apr. 5, 2017 — The horrifying images of the gas attack in Idlib on April 4 shocked many in Israel and led to a wide range of responses in the country, including a call for an emergency Cabinet session by Minister Naftali Bennett.

The New York Times Takes Trump’s Bait on Syria: Noah Rothman, Commentary, Apr. 5, 2017— If President Donald Trump wanted to confuse his opponents and dilute any serious criticisms of his approach to the situation in Syria, he could have done no better than to blame his predecessor, Barack Obama, for the crisis.

The Deal Trump Shouldn’t Make With Russia: Mark Helprin, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 29, 2017 — The new administration may be sorely tempted to close a showy diplomatic “deal,” the origins of which are President Obama’s extraordinary policy failures in the Middle East.

               

On Topic Links

 

Trump: Syria is Now My Responsibility: Arutz Sheva, Apr. 5, 2017

America Must Send a Strong Message to Syria that Using Chemical Weapons in War is Not Acceptable: Dennis Ross, New York Daily News, Apr. 4, 2017

Syria’s Children Die Choking. The West Tut-Tuts, Briefly, and Moves On. This is Now Normal: Terry Glavin, National Post, Apr. 5, 2017

Iran Sponsored Shi'a Militia Launches Terror Group to Fight Israel: IPT, Apr. 5, 2017

 

 

THE MISSILE, THE POISON GAS AND THE SHEER EFFRONTERY                                                

Mordechai Kedar                                                                                                

Arutz Sheva, Apr. 5, 2017

 

A very short length of rope connects the launching of an anti-aircraft missile towards IAF jets on the night of March 17th and the murderous use (once again!) of the poison gas which the Syrian regime is not supposed to have by the "Butcher of Damascus."  The rope has the words "made in Russia," on it, and the poison gas is just a continuation of the brutal behavior of the Russian armed forces who have been helping Assad. And since Russia has veto power in the Security Council, the world, even if it so wishes, is unable to force Putin to give an accounting of his army's actions in Syria and it certainly does not have the power to act against Russia in non-military fashion – by boycotting it, for example.

 

Although this latest atrocity took place during President Trump's term of office, the responsibility for its occurrence rests squarely on the former president's shoulders. Obama ignored the previous chemical weapons attacks, over 20 of them, and allowed Assad to get off the hook via an "agreement" according to which he was to dismantle his chemical weapons stores. There was no provision in the agreement for making sure Assad gave up his entire arsenal of CBW (chemical and biological weapons) nor did it have any means of preventing the renewed manufacture of chemical weapons once Assad dismantled a portion of them. All these mistakes were made during Obama's terms of office, and since then, Syrian citizens have been suffering from their reverberating outcomes.

 

With Russia's back, Assad feels free to do whatever he wishes, anything at all, legal or illegal, letting the end justify the means, including chemical means. He needs to remain the ruler in order to keep his head attached to his neck, even if he is left with only a small part of the country, from the coast eastward to the Idlib Mountains, where his defenders say he will establish an Allawite state on the ruins of Syria. Assad strides unhesitantly on  the skeletons of the people he has killed, on a road built by the Iranians, Hezbollah and the Shiite militias who came to eliminate the Sunni majority in Syria and replace it with Shiites, some local and some imported from Iran and Afghanistan. An ethnic purge of the Sunni majority is going on in Syria, and it involves using whatever means are at Assad's disposal. Exile, mass murders, all achieved using conventional weapons – or gas, the poison gas he doesn't have anymore after "destroying" the arsenal, leaving a significant amount intact and possibly the ability to manufacture more.

 

Assad is flexing his muscles, waiting to see whether the new US president has any red lines – and if so, what he might do if Assad crosses them. He is checking just how far he can go, how much patience Trump has, whether he has to be taken seriously, and just how seriously. If Trump does nothing, Assad will conclude that Trump is an Obama clone with regard to Syria and not worth taking to heart. Trump is facing his first test right now, with North Korea's nuclear threats vis a vis South Korea in the background, closely followed by Japan and the US, Russian plans for Ukraine and China's aspirations for control of parts of the China Sea. In my humble opinion, the chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun that left over a hundred dead and several hundreds injured, many of them children, is – unfortunately – the chance that the god of history has given the new American president. If I were one of Trump's advisors, I would tell him to call a press conference in the White House and read the following letter, live, to the entire world:

 

"To the Butcher of Damascus, Mr. Bashar Assad, "For the past six years you have been massacring your citizens, people whose only sin is their wish to live in a state that cares about them, and not in a state which sees itself as their enemy. You, who have turned Syria into a slaughterhouse for its people, have lost all legitimacy, if you ever had any, because you have failed in the primary and central mission of any president: ensuring that his citizens can live their lives. That concept has vanished without a trace, leaving no justification for the continuation of your regime. In the name of Syria's citizens, in the name of all mankind, you are hereby removed from your position forthwith. You have 48 hours to get out of Syria, and as Commander in Chief of the US armed forces I have already given the order to be ready for an operation that will leave you a dead man. If you are still on Syrian soil at the end of that time period, I will give the order to act. Don't call me to get a time extension because you won't get one, you simply don't deserve it."

 

A credible threat of his nature will get the entire world to its feet with one question: "What is going to happen if Assad does not give in to the threat and ignores Trump's ultimatum? Putin will have to either enter into a confrontation with the United States or convince Assad to "take a short leave" in Moscow until Trump calms down. The North Koreans will wait impatiently to see the results of Russia's threats, because they are next in line after Assad to be threatened similarly by Trump about their military nuclear plans. Iran will also be on alert during those fateful 48 hours after Trump's speech because Iran's rulers know exactly what Trump thinks of them and of the nuclear agreement Obama had them sign in 2015.

 

An ultimatum of this nature could give the United States deterrent power once again after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama, the human rights knight in shining armor, intentionally and purposefully made it disappear. If Assad gives in to the ultimatum, Trump will come out a real winner. If Assad refuses to leave and an American operation eliminates him – Trump will be an even greater winner. I do not expect Putin to battle Trump to keep Assad in power, because Russian interests are not dependent on Assad the man but on the Alawite ethnic group and the ports Russia has taken over in Syria. Russia is also interested in what becomes of the natural gas on the bottom of the sea facing Syria's coast. Syria's gas resources are much larger than those of Israel.

 

The Syrian catastrophe has to teach Israel one important lesson: No one will stand by Israel's side if the country suffers a CBW attack. Assad certainly won't care about Israel's citizens any more than he cares for his own. Israel must face Assad, his friends and supporters from the, north and east. And present them with a credible threat, backed by clear American support saying that any harm to any Israeli citizen by Syria will lead him straight to hell. Although Israel does not have to take part in the Syrian chaos, it must make its point crystal clear, and stand guard carefully, with not only a finger, but a whole hand, on Syria's pulse.

 

Contents   

                     

FOLLOWING GAS ATTACK, ISRAEL REASSESSES SYRIAN THREAT

Ben Caspit

                                                Al-Monitor, Apr. 5, 2017

 

The horrifying images of the gas attack in Idlib on April 4 shocked many in Israel and led to a wide range of responses in the country, including a call for an emergency Cabinet session by Minister Naftali Bennett. The Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) Intelligence Division and the Mossad seem to have suffered the greatest shock, however, since they are responsible for assessing the chemical weapons capabilities of the Syrian regime. The fact that the regime is suspected of using sarin nerve gas against the population casts their current assessments into doubt and challenges Israel's working assumption about when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might use any chemical weapons still in his possession. Just two weeks ago, two senior intelligence sources told Al-Monitor that Assad has very limited chemical weapons capacities, mainly chlorine gas. These weapons were described as "neutralizing," i.e., they can kill their targets but not on a wide scale. Photos from Idlib contradict this statement.

 

Before Syria reached a chemical weapons disarmament agreement with the world powers in September 2013, the IDF assessed that Assad would only use his chemical weapons against Israel if his regime found itself "with its back against the wall." The disarmament agreement, which was only signed after US President Barack Obama deliberated over whether he should embark on military action against Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles, was received with optimism in Israel.

 

Both the IDF's Intelligence Division and the Mossad concluded that the agreement had been fulfilled in its entirety, and that Assad did, in fact, forgo this strategic asset. According to intelligence sources, Assad was concerned that an American cruise missile and aerial assault would lead to the final collapse of his regime. In other words, he did have "his back against the wall," and decided to give up his chemical weapons arsenal to survive. Israel believed that the Syrian regime kept only "residual" chemical capabilities, i.e., something symbolic, or an "emergency supply" of chemical weapons, to be used only if Assad is forced to flee for his life. The same Israeli assessment also claimed that some 98% of Assad's arsenal of sarin or VX nerve gas (about 1,300 tons) no longer existed. If it was, in fact, Assad, who used nerve gas in Idlib on April 4 (no one else is capable of launching such an attack), these assessments by Israeli and other sources have been invalidated.

 

This has long-term implications. After reaching an agreement that Syria would rid itself of its chemical weapons stockpiles, it seemed obvious to Jerusalem that Israel was out of danger when it came to the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against its population. This assessment of the situation led Israel to abandon existing procedures to defend civilians from chemical weapons. Until then, every Israeli citizen received a chemical weapons defense kit from the government, which included a gas mask and other equipment. It was a convoluted and expensive setup, which was difficult to maintain (every newborn needs new equipment, mask filters must be replaced, etc.), but it remained in force as long as Israel felt threatened. And so, ever since 2013, this defense procedure was abandoned, and the manufacture of gas masks in Israel came to a halt. The April 4 incident in Idlib raises questions about that decision.

 

A senior Israeli source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, "Assad is well-aware that if he dares use chemical weapons against Israel in his current state, he will be wiped off the map by morning." Yet even this statement sounds problematic now. Assad is backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and it looks like the April 4 massacre in Idlib will pass without Assad suffering as much as a scratch. The Syrians deny that they used gas, the Russians claim that the Syrian regime bombed a rebel gas factory and the Americans blame Trump. That's it.

 

The shock in Israel on April 4 was resounding. As a people, Jews are especially sensitive to the use of gas, even if it happens beyond their borders in a hostile nation. Images of children suffocating from nerve gas sent shockwaves through the media and led to responses by everyone from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to opposition leader Isaac Herzog. Former head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin even called for Israeli military intervention. Yadlin, who heads the Institute for National Security Studies and maintains close ties with the military establishment, later explained that he meant an aerial response, not necessarily overt, which would target Syria's chemical weapons division and even attack the aircraft allegedly responsible for the gas assault.

 

Within a day, the mood started to calm down. One senior Israeli military source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, "Ultimately the basic situation hasn't changed. So it is possible that Assad does have a small supply of nerve gas, amounting to a few dozen or perhaps a few hundred kilograms. And it is possible that his recovering self-confidence allowed him to use the weapons locally, in Idlib. That still doesn't change the basic situation in the region." Not everyone agrees with this assessment. It is safe to assume that quite a few meetings about the situation took place in Israel's various intelligence agencies and divisions the night of April 4. If Assad really is capable of using nerve gas during a local incident in Idlib, it indicates that this is a different, new and more dangerous Assad, as one senior Israeli source told Al-Monitor.

 

And there is another issue. Who can now assure Israel that Assad has not managed to transfer some of that residual nerve gas to Hezbollah? A transfer of chemical weapons can be very low key, without any long convoys or heavy trucks. Hezbollah could then use Iranian technology to install the gas on its missiles. The result would be a very different Hezbollah than what Israel has been used to until now. These horrific scenarios still sound unfounded, but in the Middle East, unfounded scenarios sometimes turn into reality. At this stage, there can be almost no doubt that Israel will need to reassess its intelligence and working assumptions and reconsider what steps to take in response to the WMD held by Assad, and especially by Israel's most imposing enemy today: Hezbollah.                               

 

Contents                                                             

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES TAKES TRUMP’S BAIT ON SYRIA       

Noah Rothman                                                                                                     

Commentary, Apr. 5, 2017

 

If President Donald Trump wanted to confuse his opponents and dilute any serious criticisms of his approach to the situation in Syria, he could have done no better than to blame his predecessor, Barack Obama, for the crisis. In a statement condemning the slaughter of civilians in what appears to be the worst regime-ordered chemical attack since 2013, the president observed that Obama had drawn a “red line” over this same sort of thing but “did nothing.” Instantly, partisan battle lines were etched into the sand. The New York Times editorial board was one of many liberal outlets that felt compelled to defend Barack Obama’s Syria policy. In the process, they water down their criticisms of Trump’s approach to the nightmare in the Levant. That serves Donald Trump’s interests just fine.

 

The occasion of an attack using weapons of mass destruction in Syria that killed at least 70—including ten children—and injured over 400 is an inopportune moment for a president to pass the buck to his predecessor. Trump’s statement represented a crass attempt at obfuscation, and an abdication of an American president’s responsibility to eschew prevarications. As a political tactic, however, Trump’s maneuver succeeded beyond his wildest imaginings. President Barack Obama does deserve blame for the crisis in Syria. His administration has earned censure for compounding the disaster in a craven effort to avoid intervention into that conflict at almost all costs. Of course, Donald Trump is similarly committed to avoiding engagement in the Syrian civil war. By triggering the protective instincts of Obama’s loyal progeny, Trump has deflected criticism from his disengagement and forced the left to defend Obama’s.

 

The New York Times editorial board was in bountiful company when they jumped at the president’s bait. They were right to note that the world risks becoming inured to the images of children frothing at the mouth, writhing in agony as the struggle to breathe through chemically-scarred lungs. This attack was, however, of an order of magnitude greater than previous attacks. The Times editorial board observed that this makes no tactical sense, considering that the Assad regime has all but won the Civil War. They and their Russian and Iranian allies have, by and large, neutralized pro-Western rebels and secured the concession that the Trump administration no longer believes Assad’s ouster is a prerequisite for peace. The Times was on secure ground when it called the timing of this attack, coming less than a week after Assad’s survival was virtually assured by Washington, conspicuous.

 

The piece could have stopped there. The Times also might have gone on to note that Trump’s passing of the buck back fails to meet the measure of an American president. If they were feeling especially saucy, the opinion-page editors might have observed that Trump actually advised Barack Obama to do precisely what he is today criticizing: ignore the “red line” for action against the Assad regime. But they didn’t. Instead, the New York Times’ editorial board felt obliged to defend Obama’s record in Syria, muddying their argument and rendering it dismissible in the process.

 

The Times noted that Trump’s explicit assertion that Assad’s ouster is no longer an American priority is only the verbalization of an implicit Obama-era policy. The editorial further observed, oddly, that Obama shifted toward that view “only after repeated efforts to work with Russia on a political solution.” Indeed, it is not despite but because of those efforts that Assad is today so entrenched. “Mr. Trump ignored the fact that instead of taking military action, which Congress mostly opposed, Mr. Obama worked on with Russia on a deal under which Mr. Assad agreed to dismantle his chemical munitions.” Remember, this is Barack Obama’s defense. Barack Obama’s primetime address to the nation on the night of September 10, 2013, may be remembered as the most pivotal moment of his presidency. It was the night in which he made a prosecutorial, compelling case for military action against Assad, then announced that he had no intention of doing anything about it. Obama instead declared that both Congress and Russia would rescue him from having to deliver on his threats…

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

                                                                                   

Contents

 

THE DEAL TRUMP SHOULDN’T MAKE WITH RUSSIA

 Mark Helprin

Wall Street Journal, Mar. 29, 2017

 

The new administration may be sorely tempted to close a showy diplomatic “deal,” the origins of which are President Obama’s extraordinary policy failures in the Middle East. With American financing rather than resistance, Iran has thrown a military bridge from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, a feat the U.S. could not equal at the height of its powers when it unsuccessfully tried to construct the Central Treaty Organization in the 1950s. Worse still, Mr. Obama’s “executive agreement” with Tehran gives it a U.S.-guaranteed path to nuclear weapons. As Mr. Obama denuded the Mediterranean of armed American naval vessels and backed off supposed red lines, Russia re-established itself in the Middle East after having been almost completely excluded during the previous nine presidential terms. The result of such astounding American incompetence has been genocidal wars and the metaphorical transformation of the regional security situation from gunpowder into nitroglycerin.

 

It threatens to become even worse, in that with the presence of rival great powers, the processes at work may leap the bounds of their containment in the Middle East and unravel the long peace of Europe. Because of the March 7 meeting of the American, Russian, and Turkish military chiefs, and simultaneous Russian signals that it is ready, for a price, to abandon its support of Iran, Iran—as documented by the Middle East Media Research Institute—is in a state of “shock.” It knows that it cannot stand against the might and favorable geographic position of a combination of these forces and the proximate Sunni states. President Hassan Rouhani recently rushed to Moscow, but his meetings there were conspicuously opaque about the future of Iran in Syria.

 

Excluding Iranian troops and arms from Syria and Lebanon would be a major achievement, which could have been a feature of the Obama foreign policy before Russia reinforced in Syria. American, Saudi, Turkish, and Jordanian air power might easily have laid an air blockade across the 1,000 miles from Tehran to Damascus, and kept the few roads in wide-open country clear of overland supply. Needless to say, Iran would have found the sea route unavailing. Even now, with a Russian air component in western Syria, it is unlikely that Moscow would risk breaking a blockade any more than it attempted to breach the 1962 quarantine of Cuba, for the reason that it could not then and cannot now project power into the area of contention with even a small fraction of the force that would resist it. As the Soviets did in the Cuban crisis, Russia might resort to nuclear bluffing, but it would be only that. Its interests in the Levant, which, given its lack of power projection and capable allies, it cannot exploit, would not be worth an empty threat that it would then have to withdraw.

 

Nonetheless, nuclear brinkmanship is hardly to be considered lightly. So, given that the U.S. failed to capitalize on its open opportunities before Russia came on the scene, should it not now take the opportunity to begin putting Iran back into its cage by striking a deal with Russia? No, because this is not the only way to do so, and the price, if indeed Russia would fully cooperate, would be to bless the developing Russian alliance with a mischievous and eminently separable-from-NATO Turkey, and, much more consequently, the lifting of sanctions related to Crimea and Ukraine. That Russia is shy of the madness of Iran and foresees such a trade as (from a column in Kommersant) opening a “window of opportunity for Donald Trump’s diplomacy,” has been suggested by various Kremlin ventriloquist dummies. According to a U.S. intelligence report, the ever injudicious Vladimir Zhirinovsky proclaimed on the eve of the U.S. election that if Mr. Trump won, “Russia would ‘drink Champagne’ in anticipation of being able to advance its positions in Syria and Ukraine.”…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Trump: Syria is Now My Responsibility: Arutz Sheva, Apr. 5, 2017—US President Donald Trump condemned on Wednesday the chemical weapons attack in the Idlib province of Syria on Tuesday. As he welcomed the King of Jordan Abdullah II to the White House, Trump called the attack a “horrible thing, unspeakable,” and “a terrible affront to humanity.”

America Must Send a Strong Message to Syria that Using Chemical Weapons in War is Not Acceptable: Dennis Ross, New York Daily News, Apr. 4, 2017—Bashar Assad has struck again. The Syrian regime has carried out an air attack using Sarin gas in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. Early reporting from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggests as many as 100 are dead, many of them children. As if it was not enough to drop chemical weapons on the town, the regime then targeted, with an airstrike, the clinic where the victims of the chemical assault were being treated.

Syria’s Children Die Choking. The West Tut-Tuts, Briefly, and Moves On. This is Now Normal: Terry Glavin, National Post, Apr. 5, 2017 —Within 24 hours of a Tuesday morning chemical weapons attack that left the corpses of several dozen innocents strewn in the streets of Khan Sheikhoun, a bomb-cratered town in the Syrian province of Idlib, everything was back to normal again. The single most horrific poison gas atrocity since the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad was allowed to get away with murdering more than 1,000 civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in August 2013, and it took less than a day to show that nothing of consequence has changed.

Iran Sponsored Shi'a Militia Launches Terror Group to Fight Israel: IPT, Apr. 5, 2017—An Iranian supported Shi'a militia, Al-Nujaba, says it formed the "Golan Liberation Army" to fight Israel, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports. "This army has been trained and has detailed plans. If the Syria regime asks us to, we are ready to act to liberate the Golan [from Israel] along with our allies," Al-Nujaba spokesman Hashem Al-Mousawi said in a March 8 interview with Iran's Tasnim news agency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AS U.S. PREPARES LIMITED STRIKE ON ISIS IN SYRIA— ASSAD’S IRAN-BACKED CRIMES SHOULD NOT GO UNPUNISHED

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

The Syria Campaign: Wall Street Journal, Sept. 17, 2014 — American bombs aren't yet falling on Syria, but on Tuesday Chuck Hagel suggested they soon will.

14 Million Refugees Make the Levant Unmanageable: David P. Goldman, PJ Media, Sept. 8, 2014— There are always lunatics lurking in the crevices of Muslim politics prepared to proclaim a new caliphate; there isn’t always a recruiting pool in the form of nearly 14 million displaced people (11 million Syrians, or half the country’s population, and 2.8 million Iraqis, or a tenth of the country’s population).

Assad Policies Aided Rise of Islamic State Militant Group: Maria Abi-Habib, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 22, 2014 — The Islamic State, which metastasized from a group of militants seeking to overthrow the Syrian government into a marauding army gobbling up chunks of the Middle East, gained momentum early on from a calculated decision by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go easy on it, according to people close to the regime.

I Was Gassed by Assad: Qusai Zakarya, Foreign Policy, Aug. 22, 2014 — Every time I see President Barack Obama speak on television, I have horrible flashbacks.

 

On Topic Links

 

House Approves Obama’s Iraq-Syria Military Strategy Amid Skepticism: Ed O'Keefe & Paul Kane, Washington Post, Sept. 17, 2014

Israeli Official: Syria Kept 'Significant' Chemical Weapons: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 18, 2014

Chlorine Used as Weapon in Syria War, Group Says: Nick Cumming-Bruce, New York Times, Sept. 10, 2014

Faith, Fanaticism and Fantasy in the Middle East: Clifford May, National Post, Sept. 18, 2014

Iraq and Syria Follow Lebanon's Precedent: George Friedman, Real Clear World, Aug. 26, 2014

 

                            

                                      

THE SYRIA CAMPAIGN                                                                                           

Wall Street Journal, Sept. 17, 2014

 

American bombs aren't yet falling on Syria, but on Tuesday Chuck Hagel suggested they soon will. "This plan includes targeted actions against ISIL safe havens in Syria, including its command and control, logistics capabilities and infrastructure," the Secretary of Defense told the Senate. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, added that the attacks "will be persistent and sustainable." Let's hope so, because no campaign to destroy the Islamic State can succeed without waging a campaign on both sides of an Iraqi-Syrian border that the terrorist group long ago erased in the name of its caliphate. The Islamic State's capital is in the Syrian city of Raqqa, which it has held for over a year. It has recently scored major military victories against Bashar Assad's regime and moderate rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), particularly in the embattled city of Aleppo.

 

Those ISIS victories are a reminder that time isn't on America's side in this fight, even as the Administration contemplates a long war. That's especially true if President Obama wants to avoid helping the Assad regime and its allies in Hezbollah and Iran. Mr. Obama is three years late in making a serious attempt to train and equip the FSA. Now that he's at last publicly promised U.S. support, he needs a military strategy that helps them win. Attacking the Islamic State advances that goal, and not only because of its military gains against the FSA. As the Journal reported Tuesday in an online video of life in Raqqa, the Islamic State rules in totalitarian fashion, complete with public crucifixions. The brutality has created conditions similar to those that preceded the Sunni Awakening in Iraq in 2007—the revolt by ordinary Sunnis and their tribal leaders in Anbar province against al Qaeda. The awakening would not have succeeded without the aid of U.S. forces, which were available in adequate numbers thanks to President Bush's surge. Nothing similar can happen now because of President Obama's short-sighted pledge to put no U.S. troops on the ground. But a devastating air campaign against the Islamic State might at least weaken the group sufficiently to embolden a revolt and send new recruits to the FSA. The model here is the air cover NATO gave to Kosovars as they fought Serbian aggressors in 1999 in the Balkans.

 

Defeating the Islamic State will also require attacks on the Assad regime. Sunnis will not support the campaign against Islamic State if they think our air strikes are intended to help the regime in Damascus and its Shiite allies in Beirut and Tehran. Assad had previously helped the Islamic State by releasing its fighters from his prisons and supplying it with oil in order to isolate the FSA and consolidate his political base among Syria's Alawites and Christians. Yet now he claims he is the only plausible alternative to the Islamic State. The U.S. will have to ensure that the Islamic State's losses benefit the FSA and not Assad. The best way to start would be for the U.S. to end the siege of Aleppo, where FSA forces are trapped both by the Islamic State and Assad's forces. Saving the city—Syria's largest—would end a humanitarian calamity and provide a major psychological boost to the FSA.

 

Sooner rather than later the U.S. will also have to do what Mr. Obama wanted to do a year ago and bomb Assad's airfields. His air force consists mainly of training aircraft dropping primitive—but devastating—munitions, some of them loaded with chlorine gas. Air power is one of his principle advantages over the FSA, and removing it would make Assad more likely to negotiate with the FSA rather than risk falling to Islamic State. Mr. Obama first promised to train and arm the FSA a year ago, but that effort was microscopic and half-hearted. That helps explain why neighboring Arab states like Jordan abandoned the effort or began aiding jihadist groups instead. They will help now only if they believe Mr. Obama is serious.

Some conservatives are criticizing any intervention in Syria, but House Speaker John Boehner is right to support Mr. Obama's funding requests, no matter GOP doubts about Mr. Obama's strategy and resolve. The Republicans who opposed Mr. Obama's short-living plan to intervene in Syria a year ago have been discredited by events. That walk-back gave Islamic State time to expand and take more territory. The political lesson is that the GOP should not be the midwife for Mr. Obama's weakness, much less as a pretext for his inaction. In foreign policy the best politics is to support the right policy. The U.S. is taking sides in Iraq and Syria against two entrenched enemies of American interests. Our key allies are the Kurds, the parts of the Iraqi military that aren't dominated by Iran's militia, and the moderate Sunnis in Syria and Iraq. They must win on the ground to defeat ISIS. Early action in Syria might have spared us this predicament, but that's all the more reason to act decisively now.

 

                                                                                               

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14 MILLION REFUGEES MAKE THE LEVANT UNMANAGEABLE                  

David P. Goldman                                                                                  

PJ Media, Sept. 8, 2014

 

There are always lunatics lurking in the crevices of Muslim politics prepared to proclaim a new caliphate; there isn’t always a recruiting pool in the form of nearly 14 million displaced people (11 million Syrians, or half the country’s population, and 2.8 million Iraqis, or a tenth of the country’s population). When I wrote about the region’s refugee disaster at Tablet in July (“Between the Settlers and Unsettlers, the One State Solution is On Our Doorstep“) the going estimate was only 10 million. A new UN study, though, claims that half of Syrians are displaced. Many of them will have nothing to go back to. When people have nothing to lose, they fight to the death and inflict horrors on others. That is what civilizational decline looks like in real time. The roots of the crisis were visible four years ago before the so-called Arab Spring beguiled the foreign policy wonks. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian farmers already were living in tent camps around Syrian cities before the Syrian civil war began in April 2011. Israeli analysts knew this. In March 2011 Paul Rivlin of Tel Aviv University released a study of the collapse of Syrian agriculture, widely cited in Arab media but unmentioned in the English language press (except my essay on the topic). Most of what passes for political science treats peoples and politicians as if they were so many pieces on a fixed game board. This time the game board is shrinking and the pieces are falling off.

 

The Arab states are failed states, except for the few with enough hydrocarbons to subsidize every facet of economic life. Egypt lives on a$15 billion annual subsidy from the Gulf states and, if that persists, will remain stable if not quite prosperous. Syria is a ruin, along with large parts of Iraq. The lives of tens of millions of people were fragile before the fighting broke out (30% of Syrians lived on less than $1.60 a day), and now they are utterly ruined. The hordes of combatants displace more people, and these join the hordes, in a snowball effect. That’s what drove the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648, and that’s what’s driving the war in the Levant. When I wrote in 2011 that Islam was dying, this was precisely what I forecast. You can’t unscramble this egg. The international organizations, Bill Clinton, George Soros and other people of that ilk will draw up plans, propose funding, hold conferences and publish studies, to no avail. The raw despair of millions of people ripped out of the cocoon of traditional society, bereft of ties of kinship and custom, will feed the meatgrinder. Terrorist organizations that were hitherto less flamboyant (“moderate” is a misdesignation), e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood (and its Palestine branch Hamas), will compete with the caliphate for the loyalties of enraged young people. The delusion about Muslim democracy that afflicted utopians of both parties is now inoperative. War will end when the pool of prospective fighters has been exhausted. That is also why ISIS is overrated. A terrorist organization that beheads Americans and posts the video needs to be annihilated, but it is not particularly difficult. The late Sam Kinison’s monologue on world hunger is to the point: they live in a desert. They may be hard to flush out of towns they occupy, but they cannot move from one town to another in open ground if warplanes are hunting them. That is what America and its allies should do.

 

More dangerous is Iran, as Henry Kissinger emphasized in a recent interview with National Public Radio. Iran’s backing for the Assad regime’s ethnic cleansing of Syrian Sunnis set the refugee crisis in motion, while the Iraqi Shi’ites’ alliance with Iran persuaded elements of Saddam Hussein’s military to fight for ISIS. Iran can make nuclear weapons and missiles; ISIS cannot. If we had had the foresight to neutralize Iran years ago, the crisis could have been managed without the unspeakable humanitarian cost. We cannot do the killing ourselves, except, of course, from the air. We are too squeamish under the best of circumstances, and we are too corrupted by cultural relativism (remember George W. Bush’s claim that Islam is “a religion of peace”?) to recognize utterly evil nihilism when it stares us in the face. In practice, a great deal of the killing will be done by Iran and its allies: the Iraqi Shi’a, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Assad regime in Syria. It will be one of the most disgusting and disheartening episodes in modern history and there isn’t much we can do to prevent it.

                                                                           

                                                                                               

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ASSAD POLICIES AIDED RISE OF ISLAMIC STATE MILITANT GROUP      

Maria Abi-Habib                                                                                                            

Wall Street Journal, Aug. 22, 2014

 

The Islamic State, which metastasized from a group of militants seeking to overthrow the Syrian government into a marauding army gobbling up chunks of the Middle East, gained momentum early on from a calculated decision by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go easy on it, according to people close to the regime. Earlier in the three-year-old Syrian uprising, Mr. Assad decided to mostly avoid fighting the Islamic State to enable it to cannibalize the more secular rebel group supported by the West, the Free Syrian Army, said Izzat Shahbandar, an Assad ally and former Iraqi lawmaker who was Baghdad's liaison to Damascus. The goal, he said, was to force the world to choose between the regime and extremists. "When the Syrian army is not fighting the Islamic State, this makes the group stronger," said Mr. Shahbandar, a close aide to former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said Mr. Assad described the strategy to him personally during a visit in May to Damascus. "And sometimes, the army gives them a safe path to allow the Islamic State to attack the FSA and seize their weapons." "It's a strategy to eliminate the FSA and have the two main players face each other in Syria: Assad and the Islamic State," said Mr. Shahbandar. "And now [Damascus] is asking the world to help, and the world can't say no."

 

The Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL, has emerged recently as a major threat to the entire region and beyond. Its seizure of territory in neighboring Iraq triggered American airstrikes, and its execution this week of kidnapped American journalist James Foley prompted President Barack Obama to vow to continue the U.S. air war against the group in Iraq and to relentlessly pursue the killers. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the group can't be defeated without choking off its operations in Syria. This account of how the Islamic State benefited from the complex three-way civil war in Syria between the government, the largely secular, moderate rebels and the hard-core Islamist groups was pieced together from interviews with Syrian rebel commanders and opposition figures, Iraqi government officials and Western diplomats, as well as al Qaeda documents seized by the U.S. military in Iraq.

 

The Assad regime now appears to be shifting away from its early reluctance to engage the group. In June, Syria launched airstrikes on the group's headquarters in Raqqa in northern Syria, the first large-scale offensive against the militant group since it rose to power a year ago. This week, Syria flew more than three dozen sorties on Raqqa, its biggest assault on the group yet. The Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel-Karim Ali, denied that Damascus supported the Islamic State early on and praised his government's battlefield response to the group, pointing to dozens of recent strikes on the group's headquarters. "Our priorities changed as these groups emerged," Mr. Ali said in an interview at his office. "Last month it was protecting Damascus, for example. Today it is Raqqa." Speaking of the Islamic State aggression that has decimated the more secular FSA, he said: "When these groups clashed, the Syrian government benefited. When you have so many enemies and they clash with each other, you must take advantage of it. You step back, see who is left and finish them off."

 

Mr. Shahbandar said the Islamic State's recent success forced the Syrian government and its Iranian allies to ramp up their military assaults, hoping the West will throw its weight behind Damascus and Tehran to defeat the extremists. Such cooperation would put the U.S. and its regional allies such as Saudi Arabia in an uncomfortable position, after years of supporting the FSA and demanding that Mr. Assad step down. There are some signs that the opposing sides might be willing to work together. In Iraq, the U.S. began arming Kurdish Peshmerga forces this month, while the Iranians sent advisers. The Syrian government facilitated the predecessor to the Islamic State—al Qaeda in Iraq—when that group's primary target was U.S. troops then in the country.

 

In 2007, U.S. military forces raided an al Qaeda training camp in Sinjar, northern Iraq. They uncovered a trove of documents outlining Damascus's support to the extremists, according to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, which publicly released the records. The Sinjar records detailed the flow of extremists from across the Middle East to the Damascus airport. Syrian intelligence agents detained the fighters as they landed in the capital, holding them at the Sadnaya military prison on the city's outskirts. If deemed a threat to the country, they would remain imprisoned, the records indicate. But if their intentions were solely to fight U.S. troops in Iraq, Syrian intelligence would facilitate their flow across the border, the records show. Making that journey were many Saudis and Libyans—the same nationalities that today bolster the ranks of the Islamic State. Mr. Maliki's former spokesman, Ali Aldabbagh, said in an interview that he attended heated meetings in Damascus during which Baghdad asked Mr. Assad to stop the flow of al Qaeda militants across the border. He said Syria brushed off the requests. "The Assad regime played a key role in ISIL's rise," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf at a news conference earlier this month. "They allowed for a security situation where ISIL could grow in strength. The Syrian regime fostered the growth of terrorist networks. They facilitated the flow of al Qaeda foreign fighters in…Iraq." The Assad regime denies providing any support to the groups.

 

By the time the U.S. military withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, the militant group was nearly decimated. It regrouped in northeast Syria as the revolution was becoming a civil war. It was led by a charismatic figure from Samarra, Iraq, who goes by the name of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In May 2011, after the first protests broke out in Syria, the Syrian government released from the Sadnaya military prison some of its most high-value detainees imprisoned for terrorism, the first in a series of general amnesties. At least nine went on to lead extremist groups in Syria, and four currently serve the Islamic State, statements from the extremist groups and interviews with other rebels show. Mr. Ali, the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, said Damascus had released only common criminals in the amnesties, who were then offered money by extremist groups to fight against the government. "When Syria released these people, they hadn't committed terrorist crimes," he said. "They were just criminals. In 2011, there were calls for freedom and accusations that Damascus was imprisoning people, so we hosted several amnesties [to demonstrate] our goodwill."

 

Bassam Barabandi, a diplomat in Syria's foreign ministry at the time who has since defected, offered a different explanation. "The fear of a continued, peaceful revolution is why these Islamists were released," he said. "The reasoning behind the jihadists, for Assad and the regime, is that they are the alternative to the peaceful revolution. They are organized with the doctrine of jihad and the West is afraid of them."…

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

 

                                                                               

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I WAS GASSED BY BASHAR AL-ASSAD                                             

Qusai Zakarya                                                                                                                 

Foreign Policy, Aug. 21, 2014

 

Every time I see President Barack Obama speak on television, I have horrible flashbacks. My eyes are burning, I struggle to breathe, and when I inhale, the air stabs my lungs like a thousand daggers. A young child lies glassy-eyed in my arms, I load him into a truck, and then the world turns sideways and goes black.

Then, someone is shaking me, kissing me, crying over me. Suddenly, the world comes back into focus, and I see my friend, shouting: "You're alive! You're alive!" I am a survivor of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons attacks of Aug. 21, 2013. One year ago today, my heart stopped for 30 minutes after I inhaled nerve gas launched by Assad regime forces on my hometown of Moadamiya, a suburb of Damascus. The scene outside my front porch that morning was like something from Judgment Day: Neighbors I had known my whole life were running, screaming, and writhing in agony as an invisible killer claimed their lives.

 

Today, a year later, I remember my dear friends with sadness, knowing that the man who killed them was spared punishment for the atrocity he committed that day. But the worst sadness of my life did not come the day my friends died. It came three weeks later, while watching a livestream of President Obama. I learned from that speech that the United States would make a deal with Russia to rid Syria of its chemical weapons, instead of striking at Assad for his atrocities. I had to translate this news into Arabic for my friends — we cried harder than we had on Aug. 21, because we knew that Assad now had a green light to kill all the Syrians he wanted, so long as he did not use sarin gas. The past year has played out as I feared. Assad may have relinquished most of his sarin gas, but he has also found a new weapon to replace it, which also kills invisibly on a massive scale. Americans might recognize this weapon because fanatics from the self-styled "Islamic State" recently used it to kill Yazidis on Mount Sinjar. That weapon is starvation. Over the past year, Assad has killed hundreds of civilians in rebel-held areas across the country by denying them food, water, or medicine until they succumb to starvation. As with the Islamic State's pretend "caliph," Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Assad's only goal with starvation is to inflict unbelievable pain and suffering on innocents until they assent to his bloody rule.

 

In my hometown, there are few extremists. Emissaries from al Qaeda who came to our town to scout for recruits left Moadamiya after concluding in one day that we were "apostates." We are locals fighting for democracy in Moadamiya — and for this reason, Assad is slowly starving us to death. I was in Moadamiya until February, and I saw the full impact of Assad's "starve and surrender" weapon myself. In October 2012, Assad's forces commenced a total siege on Moadamiya, blocking all food, medicine, and humanitarian supplies from entering the town. While we initially found sustenance from a bumper crop of olives, food began to run out as winter set in, and residents were reduced to eating weeds and stray animals. Once more, I held infants in my arms as they lay glassy-eyed and dying, this time from malnutrition. I consoled parents on the deaths of their young children — such as my friend Abu Bilal, who was a grocer before the siege but could not even save his own daughter during it. Another friend of mine was desperate to get medicine for his dying daughter, but was caught by regime intelligence. We found him with his throat slashed and the skin peeled off his entire body. These are daily realities for tens of thousands of Syrians. Entire towns are slowly dying of starvation, and the U.S.-Russian chemical weapons deal made it possible. I know that the United States can save my friends and family in Moadamiya, just as it saved the poor Yazidis on Mount Sinjar.

 

Obama recently dismissed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as "former doctors, farmers, [and] pharmacists," incapable of fighting Assad and the Islamic State at the same time. I know the FSA fighters in my hometown, and the president couldn't be more wrong to write them off: Before I blacked out a year ago today, I watched with my own eyes as they repelled a massive attack by Assad troops in full chemical gear. The "farmers and pharmacists" of the Free Syrian Army have defended Moadamiya from everything Assad has thrown at them, and they deserve America's support. Last November, I initiated an indefinite hunger strike to draw attention to the horrific daily realities in my hometown. The hunger strike garnered international attention, and Congressman Keith Ellison even fasted for a day in solidarity. But it also drew the attention of regime authorities, who began to seek ways to kill me. With death possibly just around the corner, I entered into "negotiations" with the regime and managed to trick Ghassan Bilal — the chief of staff for Maher al-Assad, Bashar's brother and feared enforcer — into thinking that I was ready to work with him. This allowed me to escape to Lebanon, and from there to Turkey, before I finally found refuge in the United States.

 

Since coming to the United States, I have been shocked at how little citizens of the world's most powerful nation discuss global affairs. But I have also been pleasantly surprised by Americans' generosity and love of liberty. I see statues all over Washington celebrating the American Revolution — a revolution that could not have happened without the many farmers and doctors who took up arms. I am confident that, once Americans realize what is happening in Syria, they will come to the aid of the Syrian "farmers and pharmacists" who power our revolution as well. Obama must realize that we are fighting for our liberty, and that his inaction while we are being slaughtered will go down in history as a moral stain on his presidency.

 

On Topic

 

House Approves Obama’s Iraq-Syria Military Strategy Amid Skepticism: Ed O'Keefe & Paul Kane, Washington Post, Sept. 17, 2014—The House on Wednesday approved President Obama’s plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to counter the growing threat of the Islamic State organization, even though lawmakers in both parties remain deeply skeptical about its chances for success.

Israeli Official: Syria Kept 'Significant' Chemical Weapons: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 18, 2014 —Israel believes Syria has retained caches of combat-ready chemical weapons after giving up raw materials used to produce such munitions under pressure from foreign powers, a senior Israeli official said on Thursday.

Chlorine Used as Weapon in Syria War, Group Says: Nick Cumming-Bruce, New York Times, Sept. 10, 2014—A toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used as a weapon to attack Syrian villages in April, an international watchdog agency confirmed on Wednesday.

Faith, Fanaticism and Fantasy in the Middle East: Clifford May, National Post, Sept. 18, 2014 —“God created war,” theorized Mark Twain, “so that Americans would learn geography.” That’s as true today as it was two centuries ago. How many of us would be able to find Yemen, Somalia and Mali on a map if not for the conflicts raging in those lands?

Iraq and Syria Follow Lebanon's Precedent: George Friedman, Real Clear World, Aug. 26, 2014—Lebanon was created out of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

 

 

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ISLAM AT WAR: ASSAD POISED TO WIN ELECTION; U.S. BACKS DOWN ON “RED-LINES”; KURDS CLASH WITH ISIS: IS ISLAMIST IDENTITY TO BLAME FOR SYRIA’S TROUBLES?

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

The Remapping of Syria: Amotz Asa-El, Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2014— US campaign advisers Arthur Finkelstein and James Carville have not been hired, but Bashar Assad will still win next month’s election, and proceed to a third seven-year term as president of Syria.

Mr. Obama is Choosing Not To Act on Syria: Washington Post, May 15, 2014—  The principal achievement the Obama administration might claim in an otherwise tragically failed response to Syria’s civil war is eroding.

Wars Within Wars: Jonathan Spyer, Weekly Standard, May 26, 2014 — With Syrian presidential elections scheduled for June, the incumbent and shoo-in for reelection, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, is campaigning on the promise that 2014 will be the year in which military operations in Syria end.

Islam is What Happens When Civilization Loses: Daniel Greenfield, Sultan Knish, Apr. 8, 2014— Saudi Arabia and Qatar aren't talking to each other. Syria and Turkey are shooting at each other.

 

On Topic Links

 

Syrian al-Qaida Reach Foothills of Golan Heights: Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014

U.S.-Armed Syrian Rebel Group Seeks ‘All Syrian Land Occupied by Israel’: Adam Kredo, Washington Free Press Beacon, May 19, 2014

Syrian Fighting Gives Hezbollah New but Diffuse Purpose: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, May 20, 2014

Radical Islamists Take Hammer to Syrian Artifacts: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, May 22, 2014

Syrian War Takes Heavy Toll at a Crossroad of Cultures: Anne Barnard, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2014

 

THE REMAPPING OF SYRIA

Amotz Asa-El                                                        

Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2014

 

US campaign advisers Arthur Finkelstein and James Carville have not been hired, but Bashar Assad will still win next month’s election, and proceed to a third seven-year term as president of Syria. Coupled with Egypt’s election – to be held one week earlier, with Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s victory also predestined – and the world may be resigned to the conclusion that three-and-a-half years of upheaval have landed the Arab world back at square one. This impression may be right in Egypt, but it is unfounded in Syria, whose future will be markedly different from its past. The feeling of déjà vu is justified in Egypt, where Sisi is indeed a product of the previous establishment, and where the country has survived its upheaval intact, if bruised. Syria’s situation is entirely different. Though Assad has indeed defied early assessments that his political days are numbered, and despite gains on the battlefield, the process of Syria’s breakup is under way – and irreversible.

 

Impressions that Syria is also returning to square one were enhanced this week, with the resignation of Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special envoy who has spent nearly two years trying to get Assad and his enemies to agree to a cease-fire. Brahimi, a seasoned Algerian diplomat who had been an effective negotiator in Afghanistan and Iraq, gave up after two unfruitful rounds of talks in Geneva were followed by Assad’s announcement that he would hold the election as planned. That move has rendered Brahimi’s efforts obsolete, because the splintered Syrian opposition’s most common denominator, and most consistent demand, has been that Assad depart.

 

Assad’s diplomatic success has been more than defensive. Not only has he managed to stem the momentum that might have unseated him, he also cultivated alliances with two superpowers, Russia and China, and with one regional power, Iran, all of which keeps arms supplies and cash flowing in, if insufficiently. This configuration has so far proved far more solid and efficient than the much more reluctant and loosely connected counter-alliance behind Assad’s enemies. With the US failing to deliver on its vow to attack Syria’s chemical weapons installations, Assad saw the rest of the coalition he faced, including Turkey, France, Saudi Arabia and the Arab League, all fail to unseat him, or even seriously equip and train the rebels. At the same time, Assad’s cause has been consistently backed by Moscow and Beijing, so much so that UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon this week decried the Security Council’s failure to bring an end to the bloodshed – which has cost over the past three years some 150,000 fatalities, and displaced an estimated 6.5 million Syrians.

 

Assad’s diplomatic success has been compounded by gains in the battlefield. After having consolidated his grip on Damascus, Assad has just registered a significant breakthrough in Homs, just outside Lebanon’s northeastern tip. The town that now looks as devastated as Stalingrad the morning of its liberation, last week saw its last 1,000 rebels leave through a negotiated corridor. The triumphant return of Assad’s troops to the city where three years ago thousands filled the streets demanding his regime’s end, understandably enhanced the impression that he is in the process of fully offsetting the effort to topple his regime and reinvent his land. North of there, in Aleppo, Assad’s air force has been dropping so-called barrel bombs on neighborhoods where the rebels have also been pushed to the defensive, this while, according to France, the Syrian president launched multiple gas attacks – even after signing the deal to dismantle his chemical weapons.

 

Chances are Assad’s troops will in upcoming months be marching into Aleppo, prewar Syria’s commercial heart, thus consolidating the impression that his victory is nearly complete. Assad the son, many will rush to conclude, has done in 2014 what his father did in 1982 when he leveled the town of Hama. It may not have been as swift, conventional wisdom will go, but like his father, the son will lord over Syria for many more years, having bled its dissenters white. Well, he won’t. Back when he inherited his father’s estate, many wondered whether Bashar Assad, a soft-spoken ophthalmologist, was built to deploy the kind of brutality that animated his father’s 30-year reign. That question has since been answered, as the son has already killed more than his father, and is apparently not done. However, while the individuals at play may not be significantly different, times have changed. Assad the father could surround a city with artillery batteries and pound it with its inhabitants inside, knowing the world would take months to learn what he did. Assad the son has to contend with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, all of which empower the masses in ways the father would doubtfully manage to address any more efficiently than the son. That is why the formula on which Syria ran in recent decades, which imposed the Alawite minority over the Sunni majority, will not be fully restored. Assad has lost most Syrians’ respect, even to the minimal extent necessary for dictatorial rule, and the people have learned how to stand up to authority, even the Syrian leadership’s. There are accumulating indications – geographic, ethnic and social – that this assumption is shared by many on all sides of the civil war.

 

Geographically, Assad’s offensive is limited to the west. That is why Homs, which sits between Damascus and Aleppo, not far from the coast and also on Lebanon’s edge, is so vital to him. That is also why Assad’s army has been fighting hard to defend Quneitra, which borders Israel on the Golan Heights, and is on the southern end of the western realm that he seems out to carve. Indeed, even here Assad’s grip is shaky, as local rebel groups this week seemed to be closing in on Quneitra while Assad was unable to send them sufficient reinforcements…

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

 

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MR. OBAMA IS CHOOSING NOT TO ACT ON SYRIA           

Washington Post, May 15, 2014

                         

The principal achievement the Obama administration might claim in an otherwise tragically failed response to Syria’s civil war is eroding. Last September President Obama brokered an agreement with Russia under which the regime of Bashar al-Assad was to give up its stockpile of chemical weapons and join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits production or use of those horrific arms. Yet months after the expiration of the February deadline for removing all chemical stocks from Syria’s territory, the regime not only retains a substantial stockpile but also has returned to assaulting civilian areas with chemicals. The Obama administration’s response is all too familiar: It is trying to avoid acknowledging those facts.

 

Administration spokesmen boast that 92.5 percent of Syria’s chemical weapons and precursors have been removed from the country for destruction by the end of June. But Damascus is dragging its feet on delivering the last 27 tons of chemicals used to make deadly sarin gas. According to The Post’s Ernesto Londoño and Greg Miller, U.S. officials believe the Assad regime is using the stocks as leverage to retain a network of tunnels and buildings that could be used as storage or production facilities, which the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons wants destroyed. Meanwhile, British, French and U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that Syria is probably hiding part of its arsenal that it failed to declare, including stocks of sarin and mustard gas, according to news reports . State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed last week that the United States has been skeptical about whether Assad has revealed the extent of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

 

Finally, evidence is piling up that Assad’s forces have been dropping bombs filled with chlorine on opposition-held areas. France’s foreign minister told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that there had been at least 14 such attacks since October. Laurent Fabius, who said “things would have been different” had Mr. Obama not backed away from using force in response to a chemical weapons attack last August, said the “regime is still capable of producing chemical weapons and is determined to use them.” Ms. Psaki said April 21 that the United States had “indications” of the use of chlorine, which is not one of the chemicals Syria was obliged to surrender. But the Obama administration has taken the position that it must await an investigation by the OPCW before reaching a definite conclusion. Meanwhile, the chlorine attacks have continued. An unnamed senior U.S. official offered Mr. Londoño and Mr. Miller a frank explanation of this filibuster: “There’s reluctance to call attention to it because there’s not much we can do about it.”

 

There are, of course, many actions Mr. Obama could take to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons and to prevent their further deployment. He could begin by granting the opposition’s request for antiaircraft missiles to use against the helicopters that are dropping chlorine bombs. He could revive his plan to launch U.S. military strikes against Syrian infrastructure that supports those attacks. In reality, Mr. Assad is being allowed to disregard his chemical weapons commitment with impunity not because there’s nothing the United States can do but because Mr. Obama chooses to do nothing.                                                                                               

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WARS WITHIN WARS                                                                                              Jonathan Spyer                                                                                                    

Weekly Standard, May 26, 2014

 

With Syrian presidential elections scheduled for June, the incumbent and shoo-in for reelection, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, is campaigning on the promise that 2014 will be the year in which military operations in Syria end. However, the situation in northern Syria, exemplified by the conflict in the canton of Kobani, an area stretching from the Turkish border to south of Kobani city, and from Tell Abyad in the east to Jarabulus in the west, casts doubt on Assad’s optimism.

 

Kobani is under Kurdish control, but cuts into a larger section of territory controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a jihadist organization. ISIS aims to hold a clear, contiguous area stretching from Syria’s border with Turkey into western Iraq, where it controls territory in the provinces of Ninewah and Anbar. The existence of the Kurdish canton of Kobani interferes with this plan, and since March ISIS has launched daily attacks against positions held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) at the edges of the enclave. The Kobani situation offers a window into the Syrian conflict, a fragmented reality where in large parts of the country the regime is little more than a memory, and well-organized rival militias representing starkly different political projects are clashing. Last month, I traveled to the Kobani enclave, entering from the Turkish border with Kurdish smugglers. The road was short but perilous—a sprint toward the border fence in the dark and a rapid, fumbling climb over it.

 

Kobani was the first of three cantons established by the Kurdish Democratic Union party (PYD) since the Assad regime withdrew from much of northern Syria in the summer of 2012. There are two other such enclaves: the much larger Jazeera canton to the east, which stretches from the town of Ras al-Ain to the border with Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, and the smaller area around the city of Afrin further west. In all three of these areas, the PYD has set up a Kurdish-dominated autonomous administration. The intention of the Kurds is to consolidate their independent government and eventually to unite the three cantons. In the meantime, however, the stark reality of siege conditions in the Kobani canton was immediately apparent to me. The main electricity supply had been cut off, with only intermittent power from hastily rigged-up generators. The water supply, too, had been interrupted, and the local Kurdish authorities were busy digging wells in the hope of reaching natural springs located deep underground. Yet for all this, life in the city functions in a way closely resembling normality. The two hospitals in the city lack medical equipment and medicines, but they are open. “We are improvising, we are innovating, and we are not dying,” a doctor told me at Ayn al-Arab hospital in Kobani city. The school system is functioning, too, and in northern Syria at present these are no small achievements.

 

The Kurdish enclaves are almost certainly the most peaceful and best-governed areas in Syria. However, the Kurds are aware of the precariousness of their achievement. Ali, a member of the Kurdish Asayish paramilitary police, told me that “Assad doesn’t want to open another front now. But if he finishes with the radical groups, then he’ll come for us, inevitably.” In the meantime, as one PYD official said, “We take a third line, neither with the regime nor with the Free Syrian Army. We hope in the future to unite all the cantons. We accept a role for the Arabs, so we don’t see a problem with this. And right now, we have one goal—keeping out ISIS.” The PYD’s “democratic autonomy” project in northern Syria put it on a collision course with ISIS, which is trying to lay the basis for an Islamic state run according to its own floridly brutal interpretation of sharia law. The resulting conflict then is not simply about territory, or who will rule northern Syria; it is also about how this land will be ruled. Mahmoud Musa, a Syrian political analyst and a refugee from the town of Jisr al-Shughur, told me that “there are three serious and well-organized forces in Syria today—the Assad regime, ISIS, and the Kurds.” The last two regard themselves as at war with the regime. In reality, the rival mini-states they have carved out of a fragmented Syria are mainly in conflict with each other.

 

 ISIS has emerged as one of the strangest and cruelest of the many political-military movements now active in Syria. I spoke with a young Kurdish man named Perwer who had spent a week in ISIS captivity. He was arrested at the Jarabulus border crossing, while returning to Syria from Istanbul. First detained by members of another Islamist unit, the Tawhid Brigade, he was then handed over to ISIS and kept for five days in one of the movement’s jails in Jarabulus town, just west of the Kobani enclave. Perwer related that a Kurdish man who had been caught raising the YPG flag in a village near the border with the Kurdish enclave was tortured to death. He also noted that among his fellow prisoners were Arab residents of Jarabulus held for drinking wine. They too were tortured. The Kurdish prisoners were regularly insulted and called apostates by the ISIS guards, who came from a variety of countries. Copies of the Koran were handed out to the Kurdish detainees, and the days in their crowded cell were broken up by prayer sessions, in which ISIS would seek to instruct their Muslim captives in what they regard as the correct method of Muslim prayer.

 

ISIS’s mini-state reaches from the edges of Kobani to deep inside western Iraq. I visited the frontlines on the eastern edge of the Kobani enclave, where the positions of the YPG and ISIS push up against each other. In Tell Abyad, the two sides are camped in abandoned villages, where the ruined landscape has a slightly lunar quality. Eyewitnesses told me that ISIS forced the villagers to leave when the fighting began. Young fighters of the YPG moved carefully around their positions in the abandoned village, ever mindful of the presence of ISIS snipers. In places, the two sides are less than 500 meters apart. ISIS favors mortar fire by night and sniping by day. This has taken a toll on the male and female fighters of the YPG. Around 80 of them have died since the fighting erupted in March. Many more ISIS men, however, have been killed in their wild and uncoordinated attacks.

 

In Jarabulus on the western side, the frontline villages are still inhabited. Some of the local Arab clans are backing ISIS. A sort of de facto mini-transfer of populations has taken place in the area, largely, though not solely, along ethnic lines. I met a couple of Sunni Arabs among the ranks of the YPG fighters. There are also Kurdish volunteers among the ISIS men, including some commanders. They hail mainly from the villages of Iraqi Kurdistan, in particular from the Halabja area. Yet these details aside, it is clear the main dynamic of the conflict in this area is ethnic and sectarian, with Kurds faced off against Sunni Arab Islamists. The attitude of the YPG fighters to their ISIS enemies combines a certain contempt for their military prowess, with a sort of fascinated horror at their savage practices. “They outnumber us, often. But they lack tactics,” said Surkhwi, a female fighter and the commander of the Kurdish fighters in the village of Abduqli. “We think many of them take drugs before entering combat, and they attack randomly, haphazardly. They desecrate bodies of our fighters, cutting off heads, cutting off hands. They don’t respect the laws of war,” Surkhwi told me. “We also know that ISIS look at us women fighters as something not serious, because of their Islamic ideology. They think that if they are killed by a woman, they won’t go to paradise.”…

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

 

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ISLAM IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CIVILIZATION LOSES                     

Daniel Greenfield

Sultan Knish, Apr. 8, 2014

 

Saudi Arabia and Qatar aren't talking to each other. Syria and Turkey are shooting at each other. Not only are the Shiites and Sunnis killing each other in Syria, but the Sunni groups have been killing each other for some time now. There are even two or three Al Qaedas fighting each other over which of them is the real Al Qaeda while, occasionally, denying that they are the real Al Qaeda. There's something about Syria that splits down everything and everyone. Even Hamas had to split between its political and military wings when choosing between Iran's weapons and Qatar's money. Doing the logical thing, the military wing took the weapons and the political wing took the money so that the military wing of Hamas supported Assad and its political wing supported the Sunni opposition.

 

It's not however money and weapons that splits Muslims over Syria. Money and weapons are only the symbols. What they represent is Islam. And what Islam represents is the intersection between identity and power. A modern state derives its power from its identity. That is nationalism. The Japanese and the Russians were willing to die in large numbers for their homeland during WW2. Both countries had undergone rapid de-feudalization turning peasants into citizens with varying degrees of success. Japan and Russia however had historic identities to draw on. The rapid de-feudalization in the Arab world had much messier results because countries such as Jordan and Syria were Frankenstein's monsters made out of bits and pieces of assembled parts of history stuck together with crazy glue.

 

The Middle East is full of flags, but most are minor variations on the same red, green, black and white theme. The difference between the Palestinian flag and the Jordanian flag is a tiny asterisk on the chevron representing the unity of the Arab peoples. The Iraqi, Syria and Egyptian flags differ in that the Egyptian flag has an eagle sitting on its white strip and the Iraqi flag had three green stars (now it only has Allahu Akbar) while the Syrian flag has two green stars. The Iraqi flag was originally the same as the Jordanian and Palestinian flags. So are most of the flags in the region which are based on the Arab Revolt flag which was in turn based on the colors of the Caliphates. Every time you see the Al Qaeda "black flag" of Jihad, it's already represented in the black stripes on the flags of every Arab nation. What Al Qaeda has done is strip out the other colors representing the various succeeding caliphates and gone back all the way to the black of Mohammed's war flag…

 

Syria is split, roughly speaking, between the Kurds, who want their own country, Greater Kurdistan, to be assembled out of pieces of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, the Sunnis, many of whom want to form it into a Greater Syria, to be made out of pieces of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and the Neo-Shiite Alawites. Greater Syria was the original agenda of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It's still the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. And Al Qaeda in Iraq has become the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and is fighting for its own version of a Greater Syria tying together Iraq and Syria. What is Syria? The civil war answered that question. Like the USSR, it's a prison of nations. It exists only by virtue of men pointing guns at other men. As long as all the men with the guns agreed on what Syria was, the country existed. Once they no longer did, there was no longer a Syria. The same is true of much of the Middle East.

 

There are questions that you can resolve with democracy within a functioning country, but when your country has less of an existence than the conflicting religious and ethnic identities of its people, democracy only makes the problem worse. Democracy in Iraq means Shiites voting to be Shiite, Sunnis voting to be Sunni and Kurds voting to be Kurds. Democracy in Syria would mean the same thing. And that way lies a federation and then secession and civil war all over again. The problem in the Middle East isn't a lack of democracy. It's the lack of anything to be democratic about. Everyone in the Middle East (who isn't a Jew, Christian, Kurd, Bahai, Zoroastrian, Armenian, Circassian, Druze, etc.. ) agrees on the importance of Arab and Islamic unity and that their specific flavor of it, their clan, their tribe and their Islamic interpretation should be supreme.

 

It's not surprising that the Middle East is constantly at war. It's only a wonder that the fighting ever stops. Arab nationalism is the ideology that Arab elites used to complete the de-feudalization of their population from peasants into citizens. But what worked in Japan and Russia fell flat in the Middle East where tribe and religion are still supreme. The peasants didn't become Egyptians or Syrians. They remained Ougaidat or Tarabin. After that, they were Muslim. Their national identity came a distant third. What the Arab Spring truly showed is how little national identity mattered as democracy and the fall of governments demonstrated that there was no national consensus, only the narrower one of class, tribe and institution. It's not something that Americans should be too smug about. The left's efforts are reducing the United States to the same balkanized state in which there is a black vote and a white vote, a rich vote and a poor vote, but no national identity that transcends them. We too are becoming ‘Sunnis’ and ’Shiites’. It's no wonder that Islam finds the post-American United States and the disintegrating territories of the European Union fertile ground for its work. It's the same reason why Islam is rising in the Middle East. The rise of Islam is a striving for an era before nations and before whatever remnants of civilization accreted to the Mohammedan conquerors over the years. It's a desire for pre-civilization, for the raid, the noble savage and the twilight of morality. It's a heroic myth dressed up as a religion cloaking the naked savagery of it all…

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

 

Syrian al-Qaida Reach Foothills of Golan Heights: Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014— Atop the hill of Tel Ahmar just a few kilometers from Israeli forces on the Golan Heights, Syrian Islamist fighters hoist the al-Qaida flag and praise their mentor Osama bin Laden.

U.S.-Armed Syrian Rebel Group Seeks ‘All Syrian Land Occupied by Israel’: Adam Kredo, Washington Free Press Beacon, May 19, 2014—One of the militant Syrian rebel groups provided access to advanced U.S. missiles said that it is seeking “the return of all Syrian land occupied by Israel,” a stance that could potentially complicate U.S. military support to the armed rebel group.

Syrian Fighting Gives Hezbollah New but Diffuse Purpose: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, May 20, 2014 —For many months, Shiite communities across Lebanon lived in fear as car bombs tore through their neighborhoods, punishing Hezbollah and its supporters for sending fighters to aid President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Radical Islamists Take Hammer to Syrian Artifacts: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, May 22, 2014—Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a radical militia that controls a large swath of eastern Syria, confiscated and destroyed illegally excavated antiquities from an ancient Mesopotamian site.

Syrian War Takes Heavy Toll at a Crossroad of Cultures: Anne Barnard, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2014—The imposing stone colonnades still stand, below stark hills dotted with tombs. They still glow peach-pink in the afternoon sun, impassive, as if unimpressed by what is, after all, not their first war.

 

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SYRIA IV “THE DEAL”: PUTIN NOW IN CHARGE, OBAMA FOLLOWING FROM BEHIND AS DUBIOUS DEAL REACHED TO DISARM ASSAD OF WMD; U.S. POLL: SEND CONGRESS TO SYRIA!

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org

 

 

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US, Russia Reach Deal on Control of Syria Chemical Weapons: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 14, 2013—Russia and the United States put aside bitter differences over Syria Saturday, to strike a deal that by destroying Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical arsenal may avert US military action against his regime. The agreement after three days of talks in Geneva between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demands that Assad give a full account of his secret stockpile within a week.

 

Syria Could Still Blow Up in Putin’s Face: Shashank Joshi, The Telegraph, Sept. 16, 2013—The deal looks like a humiliation for Obama – but what happens if it starts to unravel? Whichever analogy one chooses, the conventional wisdom is hardening: Vladimir Putin has judo-flipped, checkmated and floored Barack Obama this week with a plan to inspect and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

 

The Price of the Syria Debacle: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Sept. 15, 2013 —Even those who worried about how President Obama would handle the Syrian chemical-weapons crisis are shocked at his weird behavior, which puts the world at risk of becoming even more dangerous. To start with, he has created confusion regarding the US president’s public statements.

 

Shiites: Syria War Will Ignite End Times: Ryan Mauro, Front Page Magazine, Sept. 16, 2013 —A Lebanese reporter for the Al-Monitor Middle East news service explains that Iran and Hezbollah view the Syrian civil war not only in a strategic context, but in a prophetic one. In their belief, the radical Sunnis will conquer Syria for a short period of time and then Iranian forces will intervene on their way to destroying Israel.

 

Poll: Majority Of Americans Approve Of Sending Congress To Syria: The Onion, Sept 5, 2013—As President Obama continues to push for a plan of limited military intervention in Syria, a new poll of Americans has found that though the nation remains wary over the prospect of becoming involved in another Middle Eastern war, the vast majority of U.S. citizens strongly approve of sending Congress to Syria.

 

On Topic Links

 

Text: Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 14, 2013

Into the Syrian Bazaar: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 15, 2013

Russia Wants Seat Back at Mideast Table: Steven Hurst, Real Clear World, Sept. 16, 2013

Across Enemy Lines, Wounded Syrians Seek Israeli Care: Maayan Lubell, Reuters, Sept. 13, 2013

 

 

US, RUSSIA REACH DEAL ON
CONTROL OF SYRIA CHEMICAL WEAPONS

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 14, 2013

 

Russia and the United States put aside bitter differences over Syria Saturday, to strike a deal that by destroying Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical arsenal may avert US military action against his regime. The agreement after three days of talks in Geneva between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demands that Assad give a full account of his secret stockpile within a week.

 

International inspectors would rapidly get to work to eliminate all the weapons by the middle of next year – an "ambitious" target, in Kerry's words. If Syria reneges on a commitment to comply, Washington and Moscow pledged to cooperate at the United Nations to impose penalties – though these remain to be determined and Russia is highly unlikely to support military action, which US President Barack Obama has said must remain an option. Kerry said Obama retained the right to attack, with or without UN backing.

 

For Assad's opponents, who two weeks ago were expecting US air strikes at any moment in response to a poison gas attack on rebel territory last month, the deal was a big disappointment. Despite Kerry and Lavrov's assurances that the pact may lay a foundation for broader peace, they said Assad would not comply and that the deal brought an end to their battles no closer. Warplanes struck rebel-held suburbs of Damascus again on Saturday.

 

For the world's two greatest military powers, however, the Syrian conflict has chilled relations to levels recalling the Cold War, and Saturday's agreement offers a chance to step back from further confrontation. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, it brings management of the Syrian crisis back to the United Nations. For Obama, it solves the dilemma created by Congress's reluctance to back military strikes that he was preparing without a UN mandate.

 

Yet many difficulties lie ahead – not least the technical challenge of enforcing a major disarmament involving complex and dangerous materials in the midst of a vicious civil war that has inflamed the entire Middle East. Kerry told a joint news conference in Geneva: "The implementation of this framework, which will require the vigilance and the investment of the international community, and full accountability of the Assad regime, presents a hard road ahead."

 

Lavrov said: "It shows that when there is a will … Russia and the United States can get results on the most important problems including the weapons of mass destruction problem." "The successful realization of this agreement will have meaning not only from the point of view of the common goal of eliminating all arsenals of chemical weapons, but also to avoid the military scenario that would be catastrophic for this region and international relations on the whole."

 

In Istanbul, the head of the Syrian rebel Supreme Military Council was dismissive of the deal, however, saying it would not resolve the country's civil war, now in its third year. General Selim Idris called it a blow to opposition hopes of overthrowing Assad and accused the Syrian president of circumventing any disarmament by already sending chemical weapons to allies in Lebanon and Iraq in recent days.

 

Qassim Saadeddine, a rebel commander in northern Syria and a spokesman for the Supreme Military Council, told Reuters his forces would not cooperate: "Let Kerry-Lavrov plan go to hell. We reject it and we will not protect the inspectors or let them enter Syria," he said by telephone. A US official, however, said Washington believed all Syria's chemical weapons remained in areas under the Assad government's control.

 

Assad, who with backing from his sponsor Iran and its Lebanese Hezbollah allies has fought off first demonstrations demanding democracy and now full-blown rebellion backed by Arab states including Saudi Arabia, has agreed to sign up to an international treaty banning chemical weapons and to submit to controls by the UN-backed Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

 

While submitting to its inspections, he will be deprived of arms which he denies having used. But he has averted what were likely to be heavy US and French missile strikes and bombing raids that could have weakened his defenses against rebels who control large swathes of Syria, including around the capital Damascus. Despite the diplomatic breakthrough, chemical weapons only account for around 2 percent of deaths in a civil war in which 100,000 people have been killed since 2011.

 

On Saturday, Syrian warplanes struck rebel-held suburbs of the capital Damascus and government forces clashed with rebels on the frontlines, according to residents. The residents and opposition activists, asked about the deal, said that it would not benefit normal Syrians. "The regime has been killing people for more than two years with all types of weapons. Assad has used chemical weapons six or seven times. The killing will continue. No change will happen. That is it," said an opposition activist in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus who uses the name Tariq al-Dimashqi. "The most important point is the act of killing, no matter what is the weapon," he said.

 

Syrian state media broadcast the Kerry and Lavrov news conference live, indicating that Damascus is satisfied with the deal. Having taken the surprise decision two weeks ago to seek congressional approval for military action to punish Assad for using poison gas, Obama faced a dilemma when lawmakers appeared likely to deny him that – citing unease about helping Islamist militants among the rebels and a wariness of new entanglements in the Middle East after wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

The weapons deal proposed by Putin, a former KGB agent intent on restoring some of the influence Moscow lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union, offered a way out. Russia has protected and armed Assad and has been alarmed at what it sees as Western willingness to bypass the United Nations to impose "regime change" in other states. Under the terms of the US-Russian agreement – a bilateral document which in itself may represent something of a landmark in the management of global affairs, recalling East-West deals of the Cold War-era – Syria must let the OPCW complete an initial inspection of its chemical weapons sites by November.

 

Kerry said Assad must produce a "comprehensive listing" of its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week. The goal, he said, was the complete destruction of Syria's chemical weapons in the first half of 2014. The framework agreement – which one US official described as having been worked out in "hard fought" negotiations with Russia – states that a UN Security Council resolution should allow for regular assessments of Syria's compliance and "in the event of non-compliance, including unauthorized transfer, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria, the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter". Chapter VII can include military force but can be limited to other kinds of sanction. Russia and the United States continue to have different views on what level of punishment to apply.

 

When Kerry said during the news conference that the text stated that the Council "must" impose measures under Chapter VII, Lavrov interrupted to point out that it says only it "should" impose measures. "There's no diminution of options," Kerry said, noting Obama's right under US law to order military action, with or without support from Congress or any international body.

Lavrov said of the agreement: "There [is] nothing said about the use of force and not about any automatic sanctions."

 

Putin has supported Assad's contention that the sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 around Damascus which Washington says killed over 1,400 civilians was the work of rebels trying to provoke Western intervention. If Russia were "100 percent" sure of a violation, Lavrov said, it would support UN moves to "punish the perpetrators".

 

Senior Kerry aides involved in the talks said that the United States and Russia agreed that Syria has 1,000 tons of chemical agents and precursors, including nerve agents such as sarin gas and blister agents such as sulphur mustard. But the officials, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said there was no agreement among the powers on how many chemical weapons-related sites Syria has that must be inspected under the accord.

 

The US estimate is that Assad's government has at least 45 sites associated with its chemical weapons program, one US official said. Implementation of the accord, even assuming Syria complies with its terms, will be daunting. "There are lots and lots of details that still have to be sorted through," a second US official said. To inspect, secure and destroy all of Syria's chemical stockpiles by the first half of 2014 "is daunting to say the least".

 

That timeline and others in the accord "are targets … not a deadline" another said. Syria's chemical weapons are likely to be removed through a combination of destroying them within Syria and shipping some out for destruction elsewhere, the officials said. Russia is one possibility site for destruction, but no final decisions have been made.

 

Lavrov and Kerry have said they will meet in New York at the United Nations in about two weeks to see if they can push forward a long-delayed plan for an international peace conference to try to negotiate an end to the war. A drive last year for a political solution, dubbed the "Geneva Plan" and calling for a transitional government, went nowhere as Assad refused to cede power and the opposition insisted he could not be a part of any new political order. Kerry said Saturday's chemical weapons deal could be "the first concrete step" toward a final settlement. Lavrov said he hoped all parties to the conflict could attend a conference in October, without pre-conditions.

 

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SYRIA COULD STILL BLOW UP IN PUTIN’S FACE

Shashank Joshi

The Telegraph, Sept. 16, 2013

 

The deal looks like a humiliation for Obama – but what happens if it starts to unravel? Whichever analogy one chooses, the conventional wisdom is hardening: Vladimir Putin has judo-flipped, checkmated and floored Barack Obama this week with a plan to inspect and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. For the sceptics, this was the diplomatic equivalent of polonium-210 in Obama’s teacup; Russia has sucked the Americans into a needless distraction, buying time for Assad and leaving Syria’s rebels adrift.

 

The critics have two charges. The first is that the agreement, hammered out in Geneva after late-night arms control talks reminiscent of the Cold War, is unworkable. Assad will cheat, inspectors won’t be able to operate in war zones, and the Americans will look unreasonable if they call foul. Just as Saddam toyed with UN inspectors throughout the Nineties, so will Assad hand over some chickenfeed while dispersing the crown jewels. The second criticism is that the plan might be too successful: Assad will trade off his chemical weapons for regime survival, by making himself indispensible to the disarmament effort. The United States will quietly sever what little military aid it is extending to the beleaguered rebels, and drop its insistence that Assad must go as part of a political transition.

 

Yet things aren’t so clear-cut. Russia has certainly scored a tactical diplomatic victory, but this deal – unprecedented in its ambition and timetable – could still blow up in Moscow’s face. If it works – even if only a fraction of Syria’s chemical weapons and sites are inspected and eliminated – this will do much more to degrade that capability than cruise missiles would have done. If this comes at the price of boosting Putin’s ego, that’s cheap. Inspectors will never catch every last ounce of poison gas, but so what? Remember, those missiles were never going to touch the actual stockpiles, and the strike was to be “unbelievably small”, in US Secretary of State John Kerry’s memorable and foolish words.

 

It is irrelevant that the process may take years to complete: just having inspectors inside Syria is an advance on what was thought possible a week ago. Recall, that for all of Saddam’s deception, the UN did in fact destroy virtually all of his chemical weapons by the end of the Nineties. Syria is a tougher case, because a war is raging across the country. But if Assad admits inspectors and consolidates his weapons into fewer sites, this automatically makes it harder to use them. If he does not, then he will eventually breach the agreement – and bring punitive strikes back into the picture. Providing that the US keeps the heat on Damascus – an important proviso – it has little to lose. Yes, Assad is likely to cheat. His regime developed its chemical arsenal in response to Israel’s nuclear weapons, and it will not give them up without a fight. But the United States has, rightly, insisted that the threat of force will stay on the table. The UN resolution that backs up this deal won’t explicitly authorise force, but this was never on the cards.

 

Remember Obama’s position last week. The president had lost British support for military action, was poised to lose a Congressional vote, and faced opposition from half of the G20, including Nato members such as Germany. His authority was sapped, and his options narrowed. If the cynics are right and this deal falls apart, the US will be well positioned to occupy the diplomatic high ground and renew its case for strikes. Congress will be more readily persuaded that the use of force is necessary, and even Britain – though the prospects are slim – may reconsider the issue in Parliament. Today’s UN inspectors’ verdict, reported to confirm chemical weapons use in Syria and point to regime culpability, will further strengthen the US hand. If some of Syria’s chemical weapons have already been inspected and destroyed by this time (the plan demands that inspectors visit by November), this might even make strikes easier. If Russia is intent on stringing along the Americans and shielding Assad, its plan will only buy a few months.

 

Critics are also overstating the technical difficulties involved in tackling Syria’s chemical weapons. The task is daunting, but last month’s successful inspections demonstrates that it is not impossible for inspectors to enter contested areas. Chemical weapons expert and former UN inspectors have made it clear that there are ways of putting at least some of Assad’s chemical arsenal beyond use.

 

However, in emphasising chemical weapons over conventional slaughter, has Obama given Assad a new lease of life? The text of the Russian and American agreement makes it clear that the Syrian government will be responsible for the safety of inspectors. Moreover, the guardians of Syria’s chemical weapons – the elite Unit 450 – will surely have to remain intact through any political transition if the plan is to work. The problem with this line of argument is that it assumes that a regime-shattering intervention was derailed by half-baked diplomacy.

 

But the cavalry was not coming – as, indeed, we have known for several weeks. Even as they were making the case for war, American officials were adamant both that strikes would not be intended to change the military balance, and that a negotiated political solution – via the so-called Geneva II conference – remained the US objective. With or without Russia’s gambit, the US was terrified at the prospect of Syria’s chemical warfare units dissolving and leaving their stockpiles unsecured.

 

In many respects, this deal doesn’t change much. Russia will continue to arm and fund the Syrian regime as it consolidates its rump state. The US will continue its tepid support for rebels, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar their more enthusiastic contributions. If Syria’s most obscene weapons can be taken off the battlefield, good. If not, our powder stays dry.

 

Contents

 

THE PRICE OF THE SYRIA DEBACLE

Amir Taheri

New York Post, Sept. 15, 2013

 

Even those who worried about how President Obama would handle the Syrian chemical-weapons crisis are shocked at his weird behavior, which puts the world at risk of becoming even more dangerous. To start with, he has created confusion regarding the US president’s public statements.

 

Except for Jimmy Carter, all presidents for the past century have taken care not to commit themselves to any action when they didn’t mean it. In global diplomacy, the phrase “America has spoken” carried special weight. America’s word was America’s bond.

 

Obama has depleted that capital of trust. A man who loves the sound of his voice has devalued that bond in speeches and TV appearances, setting “red lines” that slowly vanish, shouting “Assad must go” then doing nothing to make that happen and promising to arm Syrian rebels only to have the arms never arrive. And now, after waxing lyrical about “the conscience of humanity,” he has dropped everything in exchange for a ride on the anfractuous path of Russian diplomacy.

 

The second danger is the perception that Russia may have gained a veto on aspects of US foreign policy. In his New York Times op-ed last week, Russia’s Vladimir Putin made it clear his “veto” goes beyond foreign policy to include cultural topics such as the “specialness” of the United States.

Putin claimed equivalence between the USSR (“the Evil Empire,” according to Ronald Reagan) and the United States, recalling the time when “we were allies” during World War II. He forgot to mention that the USSR had been allied to Nazi Germany, switching sides only after Hitler invaded.

 

In the blink of an eye, Obama has shrunk into second fiddle to Putin. Speaking in Geneva on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a point of showing who was running the show: He said a new round of talks on Syria would start soon, with Iran and Saudi Arabia invited, to discuss transition plans for Syria.

 

The deal concocted by Moscow and bought by Obama gives Bashar al-Assad a free hand to kill Syrians as long as he doesn’t use chemical weapons. Moscow always wanted Assad to remain in power until the end of his presidential term next May. This is precisely what Obama has signed up for, since the deal gives Syria at least until next June to deliver on Moscow’s promises. The Damascus-Moscow-Tehran axis hopes to crush the Syrian rebellion within the next six or seven months and then hold fake elections in which Assad is re-elected or has one of his minions elected as president. In other words, the US has agreed to abandon Obama’s stated “Assad must go” policy in exchange for a Russian-led process. The fact that Assad is a war criminal is brushed under the carpet, a signal to actual or burgeoning war criminals across the globe to operate with impunity.

 

Whatever happens in Syria, the United States is likely to lose. If Assad’s gang keeps power, they’ll have no reason to abandon their Russian and Iranian protectors. If the rebels win, they’ll have a hard time forgetting Obama’s betrayal. The perception that America is led by a group of amateurs (some where they are only because they have risen to the level of their incompetence) is already encouraging other dangerous trends….

 

Obama’s Syria fiasco has also encouraged Iran to harden its position on the nuclear issue. In his speech at the Bishkek summit, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani tried to link the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons to Israel’s alleged ownership of a nuclear arsenal. He also said that Tehran was ready for talks with the 5+1 Group to secure recognition of “our legitimate right” to enrich uranium — ignoring five Security Council resolutions that demand an end to enrichment.

 

And in an interview Thursday, Ali-Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, said, “We do what
we want . . . They cannot do anything about it.” Tehran media report talks with Russia to help Iran build new nuclear power plants. A similar scheme that Iran signed with China 10 years ago could be revived.

 

The perception that, out of ideology or incompetence, Obama is leading the United States into strategic retreat has persuaded nations in Eastern Europe, Transcaucasia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, to review their foreign policies.

 

Finally, the Syria episode sends another message: While all nations can use force to impose their will (in 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and occupied 25 percent of that nation’s territory), only the United States is denied that right even to enforce international law. That’s the kind of “American exceptionalism” that Obama has secured.

 

Contents

 

 

SHIITES: SYRIA WAR WILL IGNITE END TIMES

Ryan Mauro

Front Page Magazine, Sept. 16, 2013

 

A Lebanese reporter for the Al-Monitor Middle East news service explains that Iran and Hezbollah view the Syrian civil war not only in a strategic context, but in a prophetic one. In their belief, the radical Sunnis will conquer Syria for a short period of time and then Iranian forces will intervene on their way to destroying Israel.

 

The unnamed reporter points out that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is, like Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, “known for being a strong believer” in the Shiite prophecy that Iran will lead an End Times war against Islam’s enemies. At that time, the Mahdi will “reappear” and defeat the infidel.

 

According to the author, Iran and Hezbollah rely upon a book of prophecies called Al-Jafr to guide them. It was passed down to Jafar al-Sadiq, for whom the Jafari school of Shiite jurisprudence is named after. Teachers of this book say that the Syrian leader will be killed in a civil war during the End Times.

 

A Sunni leader will take over Syria and persecute Shiites, Allawites and Christians. The persecution will continue until an Iranian army invades Syria via Iraq, killing this Sunni leader on the way to capturing Jerusalem. Once Jerusalem is taken, the Mahdi will appear. Interestingly, in a modern context, this means that Hezbollah is fighting to preserve the regime of a man (Bashar Assad) that they believe will be killed.

 

Keep in mind, the Jafari school of jurisprudence is mainstream Shiite doctrine. There’s bound to be disagreement over the interpretation of prophecy, but these are not the beliefs of an isolated cult. In July 2010, a senior Iranian cleric said that Khamenei told his inner circle that he had met with the Mahdi, who promised to “reappear” during his lifetime.

 

A very similar eschatological viewpoint is articulated in a 2011 documentary produced by the office of then-President Ahmadinejad. The film, titled The Coming is Upon Us, does not predict a Syrian civil war but shares many of the same details articulated by the Al-Monitor reporter in Lebanon.

 

A critical point of convergence between the two sources is about Saudi Arabia’s role in prophecy. Both agree that the death of Saudi King Abdullah will be a major trigger. In fact, this event is so central to the Iranian film that it opens up with the statement, “Whoever guarantees the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I will guarantee the imminent reappearance of Mahdi.”

 

What’s amazing about this film is the high level of detail of the discussed prophecies. It is easy to see why, if you were a devout Muslim (especially a Shiite), you would believe that the Mahdi’s return is near. The arrival of Jews in Palestine from the West and the birth of the state of Israel, the conquering of Arabia by the Al-Sauds and the global dominance of the U.S. and the West are all clearly foretold, it claims. An Allah-blessed revolution will take place in Iran led by a man based out of Qom. The narrators point to the 1979 Islamic Revolution as a clear fulfillment. After this happens, a series of vague and specific “signs” are to follow.

 

The most specific “signs” are related to Iraq. The Iranian video claims that prophecy requires the invasion of Iraq by infidels from the south with heavy use of aircraft, as happened in 2003. The infidel will cause tribal divisions and the evil dictator of Iraq (Saddam), will be killed. Other signs include the Westernization of Muslim youth (with the 2009 Green Revolution offered as evidence), the Iran-backed Houthi rebellion in Yemen and the overthrow of Egyptian President Mubarak.

 

“The preparer,” named Seyed Khorasani, will rule Iran at this decisive point in history. He will come from Khorasan Province, his strong army will have black flags and there will be a “sign” in his right hand. The filmmakers point out that Khamenei fills these requirements and has a disabled right hand.

Yamani will coordinate the offensive against the infidel with Khorasani that trigger the Mahdi’s reappearance. The film argues that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is his incarnation. Yamani will have a Yemeni background and it says that Nasrallah’s ancestors came to Lebanon from Yemen.

 

Khorasani/Khamenei’s military leader is given the name of Shoeib-Ebne Saleh. The film allegedly produced by Ahmadinejad’s office predictably says he is the incarnation of this figure. However, any military commander under Khamenei can arguably be him.

 

Analysis of these prophecies helps us see the future through the eyes of Hezbollah and the Iranian regime. Iran and Hezbollah are first focused on assembling an anti-Western Arab coalition. The Coming is Upon Us film specifically cites the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood as a step towards this, even if Iran and the Brotherhood are on opposite sides in Syria.

 

This stage includes fomenting internal strife in Bahrain, a Shiite-majority country governed by a pro-American Sunni monarchy. A representative of Khamenei said in 2011 that Bahrain presents “the best opportunity to begin setting the stage for the emergence of the 12th imam, our Mahdi.”

 

The development that Iran is eagerly awaiting is the death of the Saudi King Abdullah, which will trigger internal strife throughout Saudi Arabia. It is probable that this is when Iran hopes to begin a rebellion in the Shiite-majority Eastern Province where 90% of the country’s oil is.

 

After Assad is killed and replaced by a vicious Sunni leader, Iranian forces are to invade Syria from Iraq. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the Iraqi government’s slide into the Iranian orbit are undoubtedly seen as dramatic “signs.” Once an Arab coalition is formed and Syria is invaded, Jerusalem is to be captured by the Iranian-led forces. At this point, the Mahdi is to reappear and final victory will come that includes a Nasrallah-led march to Mecca.

 

The Al-Monitor report appears fanciful until all of these pieces are put together. Once they are, it is easier to understand why the Iran-Hezbollah bloc is confident of victory. “According to Shiites who believe in this [Al-Jafr] book, mainly Khamenei and Nasrallah, there is one possible explanation. The signs of reappearance of Mahdi are being successfully unveiled, and the Great War with Israel and the disbelievers is just around the corner,” writes the Lebanese reporter.

 

The Shiite Islamists’ End Times worldview does not necessarily result in recklessness. They do consider military strength and geopolitical realities, but the objectives of those calculations are to fulfill prophecy. Any policy debate that takes place among them is not about whether to pursue the war that summons the Mahdi, but how.

Contents

 

HUMOUR: IN A POLL, MAJORITY OF AMERICANS
APPROVE OF SENDING CONGRESS TO SYRIA

The Onion, Sept 5, 2013

 

As President Obama continues to push for a plan of limited military intervention in Syria, a new poll of Americans has found that though the nation remains wary over the prospect of becoming involved in another Middle Eastern war, the vast majority of U.S. citizens strongly approve of sending Congress to Syria.

 

The New York Times/CBS News poll showed that though just 1 in 4 Americans believe that the United States has a responsibility to intervene in the Syrian conflict, more than 90 percent of the public is convinced that putting all 535 representatives of the United States Congress on the ground in Syria—including Senate pro tempore Patrick Leahy, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and, in fact, all current members of the House and Senate—is the best course of action at this time.

 

“I believe it is in the best interest of the United States, and the global community as a whole, to move forward with the deployment of all U.S. congressional leaders to Syria immediately,” respondent Carol Abare, 50, said in the nationwide telephone survey, echoing the thoughts of an estimated 9 in 10 Americans who said they “strongly support” any plan of action that involves putting the U.S. House and Senate on the ground in the war-torn Middle Eastern state. “With violence intensifying every day, now is absolutely the right moment—the perfect moment, really—for the United States to send our legislators to the region.”

“In fact, my preference would have been for Congress to be deployed months ago,” she added.

 

Citing overwhelming support from the international community—including that of the Arab League, Turkey, and France, as well as Great Britain, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Japan, Mexico, China, and Canada, all of whom are reported to be unilaterally in favor of sending the U.S. Congress to Syria—the majority of survey respondents said they believe the United States should refocus its entire approach to Syria’s civil war on the ground deployment of U.S. senators and representatives, regardless of whether the Assad regime used chemical weapons or not.

 

In fact, 91 percent of those surveyed agreed that the active use of sarin gas attacks by the Syrian government would, if anything, only increase poll respondents’ desire to send Congress to Syria. Public opinion was essentially unchanged when survey respondents were asked about a broader range of attacks, with more than 79 percent of Americans saying they would strongly support sending Congress to Syria in cases of bomb and missile attacks, 78 percent supporting intervention in cases of kidnappings and executions, and 75 percent saying representatives should be deployed in cases where government forces were found to have used torture.

 

When asked if they believe that Sen. Rand Paul should be deployed to Syria, 100 percent of respondents said yes. “There’s no doubt in my mind that sending Congress to Syria—or, at the very least, sending the major congressional leaders in both parties—is the correct course of action,” survey respondent and Iraq war veteran Maj. Gen. John Mill said, noting that his opinion was informed by four tours of duty in which he saw dozens of close friends sustain physical as well as emotional injury and post-traumatic stress. “There is a clear solution to our problems staring us right in the face here, and we need to take action.”

 

“Sooner rather than later, too,” Mill added. “This war isn’t going to last forever.”

 

Contents

 

 

Text: Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 14, 2013

Taking into account the decision of the Syrian Arab Republic to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the commitment of the Syrian authorities to provisionally apply the Convention prior to its entry into force, the United States and the Russian Federation express their joint determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program (CW) in the soonest and safest manner.

 

Into the Syrian Bazaar: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 15, 2013—Politicians on the right and left are praising Saturday's U.S.-Russia "framework" to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons as a step away from American intervention. That is true only in the looking-glass world in which politicians are desperate to avoid voting on a military strike. The reality is that the accord takes President Obama and the U.S. ever deeper into the Syrian diplomatic bazaar, with the President hostage to Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin as the friendly local tour guides.

 

Russia Wants Seat Back at Mideast Table: Steven Hurst, Real Clear World, Sept. 16, 2013—The U.S. deal with Russia to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons has pulled the Obama administration into deep waters: the Kremlin's long-standing drive to put the brakes on American power and to restore Moscow to its place as a pivotal Mideast player.

 

 

Across Enemy Lines, Wounded Syrians Seek Israeli Care: Maayan Lubell, Reuters, Sept. 13, 2013—Not a hundred miles from Damascus, a Syrian rebel lies in a hospital bed, an Israeli sentry at the door. Nearby a Syrian mother sits next to her daughter, shot in the back by a sniper.

 

 

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How Should We Be Thinking About the Red Line Crisis?

How Should We Be Thinking About the Red Line Crisis?

Paul Merkley

The Bayview Review, Sept. 6, 2013

http://www.thebayviewreview.com/politics-law/how-should-we-be-thinking-about-the-red-line-crisis/

 

The Armageddon Question

 

It was bound to happen eventually. As the world contemplates the escalation of the civil war in Syrian and studies the implications of all those demonic elements that have raised their flags within Syria’s borders and are announcing their plans for at last accomplishing what the Prophet long ago declared to be Allah’s ultimate mandate for mankind, significant bits of Biblical vocabulary about How It All Ends have begun to slip from the lips of our proudly secularist statesmen.

 

Responding to a warning from one of his own veteran Tory Members that the tough language he is using about Assad’s use of chemical weapons could “create Armageddon,” Prime Minister David Cameron suggested: “In a way you have put the Armageddon question round the other way … If no action is taken following President Obama’s red line and if no  action is taken following this appalling use of chemical weapons,  you have to ask yourself what sort of Armageddon are the Syrian people going to be facing.”

 

I would suggest that the senior Tory MP has at least a partial grasp of the meaning of the word “Armageddon” and the Prime Minister does not grasp it at all.  David Cameron speaks of a limited catastrophe affecting large numbers of innocent people, whereas the Senior Tory MP, while off the mark in suggesting that we have it in our power to “create” Armageddon,”  does use the term in its contextual meaning: the great global war that marks the beginning of the end of everything. [“Syrians face ‘Armageddon’  without military action, says  David Cameron,” theguardian.com, September 4, 2013.]

 

This weekend, most people in our part of the world will give this present crisis as much attention, and no more, as it gives nowadays to other confusing crises figuring in the headlines. There are major sports events to be watched and God-only-knows how many new sitcoms to be discovered. There are new blockbuster movies to be viewed – leaving no time to wallow in reality. Many of the new movies, are about ultimate global catastrophes; but these are more interesting than the news, as the agents of disaster in the movie will be gigantic natural forces abetted by long-deceased pre-historic species of monsters resurrected from fossil remains by mad scientists (assisted by aliens.)

Background to the Present Red Line Crisis

 

When the “Arab Spring” began back in December 2011 with the spark of massive protest in Tunisia, that spread to  Algeria, to Morocco, to Sudan, to Egypt, to Yemen, to Jordan even to Bahrain, the consensus among Middle East commentators was that, of all the Arab regimes,  the one most likely to stay intact was that of Bashir al-Assad of Syria. The thinking here was that Syria had the most professional armed forces and that these were bound in extraordinary loyalty to their President by the fact that they were mainly recruited from a closely-bound sectarian minority called the Alawites. The Alawites, who derive from a branch of Shia Islam but are regarded by both Shiites and Sunnis as defectors from Islam (the worst kind of heretics), knew that they would  face the long pent-up rage of both Sunnis and Shiites should they ever relax their grip on power. This is sufficient explanation for the astonishing ruthlessness of Assad’s army and of the Shabiha, Assad’s all-Alawite version of Hitler’s Waffen-SS.

 

Popular insurrection against the regime started up rather later in Syria than in most places, but by the time it had became an irresistible force the dictator, Bashar al-Assad, had the recent history of Tunisia and Libya and Egypt to contemplate. From this history he drew the lesson that it would be foolish to quit under promise of quiet exile or retirement (as Mubarak did) or that democratic method would save Syria (as our leaders believed that it would save Egypt.) Western powers had already drawn from their  experience of intervention in Libya, the conclusion that political mayhem could not be halted by judicious application of political influence to the white hat side in an Arab  civil war.

 

Syria’s own recent history seem to provide the lesson that popular discontent is always manageable, if the ruler is ruthless enough. Most encouraging for Assad was an incident that had gone by without ever appearing on the front page of any major newspaper in the West in February, 1982.  This was the two-week campaign of massacre. by Hafez al-Assad’s military of at least 20,000 mainly Sunni civilians in the city of Hama who had dared to go into the streets in non-violent protest. The expert wisdom was that memory of that event was strong enough that no one in Syria would ever try that again. Thus, as public protest against the tyrant Assad spread throughout the land during 2012, it had to be significant that Hama was again, as thirty years ago, in the front ranks of this dangerous resistance.

 

By now, the Syrian conflict has exceeded all the others in all categories of loss. About 100,000 have been killed and six million made refugees (either internally or externally.) A large part of its Army defected fairly early on and formed the Free Syrian Army. Some long-serving political figures also defected fairly early, in order to participate in a Free Syrian government-in-exile in Turkey.

Escalation of the Possible Costs of Intervention.

 

Those (like myself) who said out loud in mid-2012 that Assad’s regime was doomed [“Iran’s Campaign to mobilize support for Assad’s doomed regime,” The Bayview Review, September 6, 2012.] need not, I believe, recant, but we do need to admit that the deathwatch has been prolonged beyond expectations. All efforts at diplomatic solution have failed. UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan was humiliated by Assad’s unresponsiveness, as was a delegation sent by the Arab League in early 2013. A collective response either of diplomatic or military character has been thwarted by the exercise of veto in the Security Council by both China and Russia. As each effort at a negotiated conclusion has been tried and failed the cost of failure has increased. And, more significantly, the risks of proceeding to more robust action have also increased – exponentially.

 

Until these last few days, the President of the United States and other Western leaders were relieved by knowledge that any policy more red-blooded than that of wringing hands and talking piously about suffering does not have broad support with the public and will therefore not have to be tried. That may still prove to be the case.

 

All proposals for our military to intervene and rescue the people of Syria have so far been stymied by the generally-acknowledged fact that no one of the elements now playing a major role in the crisis has both competence in government and commitment to the principles that are necessary for democratic method. None of them is committed to basic freedoms, including religious freedom. Not incidentally: all of them blame Syria’s troubles on the Zionists. All of them promise a more vigorous pursuit of war to the death against the Jews than was on offer from the Assad regime, a regime that was sleeplessly invested in support of terrorists organizations and dedicated to the eradication of Israel and the liquidation of the Jews.

 

Most sensible people concluded long ago that our interests are best served for the near future at least by deadlock among the several internal forces. The vacuum of authority that has developed in Syria as the domain of the government of Assad shrinks has made it possible for all of the Islamist groups to set up their tents and raise their flags and start developing mini-states, governed by gangs – as in Somalia.  These gangs all hate each other more than they hate us. Some of this mutual hatred follows from the Sunni/Shia split, going on for fourteen hundred years, some follows from recent history – as for example the three-way feud among ethnic Turks, Arabs and Kurds.

 

We do not have a dog in this race any more than we do in Egypt’s internal  politics. There is no such thing as an Arab democracy; there has never been a peaceful Arab kingdom or republic based on consent of the government and nurtured by respect for the freedoms that are all engrossed in UN charters.  Efforts to change this equation by intervention make things worse. Our salvation must lie in containment.

 

The Significance of the Red Line

 

Ironically, it was not until it became clear, just a matter of weeks ago,  that Assad might, against all expectations,  be regaining ground, and that there was a prospect of his imposing a peace (the peace of the grave)  upon the land, that we began to notice that our own security interests came into play. This is, I believe, the most efficient way of expressing the meaning of the concept of a RED LINE. By introducing chemical and perhaps other WMD Assad has brought into play weapons whose only real value is in killing masses of unarmed people; armies, after all, can be protected by gas masks or sheltered in large dedicated facilities. These are the weapons that rogue regimes, regimes that do not even in words recognize a rule of law in world affairs,  will depend upon to level the playing field when and if they decide it is time to punish us.

 

In  1925, the League of Nations called upon its members to sign a “Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous, or other Gases, and of Biological Methods of Warfare. This convention, like other grandiose gestures intended to compel lawful behaviour upon dictators, was mocked by the Italians, the Japanese and the Germans – all of whom walked out of the League over the next few years rather than comply with declarations of that body which hindered their plans for greater empire.

 

Closing the Circle: Realism and Idealism in Convergence

 

An honest verdict on the performance of the United Nations as the Parliament of Mankind would have to be every bit a negative as that on the League. The UN’s “peacekeeping”  exercises almost always fail and unusually end up being hindrances to peace. And so today it has fallen  to the President  of the United States to call upon “the world” to fulfill its duty under these almost ninety-year old treaties. This situation has come about because the United Nations, which holds these treaties in trust for mankind refuses to acknowledge any such responsibility.  The bottom line is that the UN’s right to act is invested in the Security Council, where China and Russia exercise their veto power against all useful action.

 

Inherent in this most recent development is an intriguing and paradoxical turn of logic. Obama’s belated discovery of America’s “national security interest” in this oncoming scenario follows from his reckoning that Americans like everybody else on earth will suffer if these weapons get put to use in this conflict – a conflict that has hitherto seemed to be “local”.  For as long as I have been a student and a teacher of American History, there has been a conventional idea among academics that advocates of foreign  policy action – both the politicians and the academics –  fall into either the “idealist” or the “realist” camp. The first camp essentially coincides with the “universalists” and the second with “unilateralists”. The logic is that practitioners of American foreign policy are inclined either to  advocate unilateral action, depending on the goodness of American purposes for rationalization – or they argue for policies that they say are necessary outcomes of the responsibilities that Americans have as citizens of the world, as human beings for whom patriotism is secondary. But this has never been a clear dichotomy  – as this present episode dramatically reveals.

 

There seems little prospect today of the United States putting together a Coalition of the Willing for the task that it proposes; and there is no chance whatever of a mandate from the Parliament of Mankind. Paradoxically, this seems to leave the US with the self-imposed mandate of  upholding a commitment made by the League of Nations, nearly ninety years ago, and never rescinded, but likewise never honoured. As the United States does so, its is being chastised by the Secretary –General of the UN and it is  being denounced as a rogue-unilateralist  by UN Security Council members (China and Russia) who are preventing it international action. In fact, just today (September 6) the Russian President told the G20 conference meeting in St. Petersburg that “the U.S. decision will drive another nail into the coffin of international law.” The positive aspect – you might even call it the refreshing part of this – is that we have  at last  reached the point where we can speak frankly of our own self-defense – our own national defense. Everything depends on our recognizing that although this threat is not yet upon us it is over the hill.  These weapons, once distributed to the arsenals of rogue nations and Islamist gangs, are capable of reducing geographical distance to irrelevance and rendering irrelevant the massive military advantage of mighty nations.

 

We are compelled (ironically) by this demonstration of a great humanitarian crisis that does not affect us YET to take action clearly called for to defend ourselves. Here the cause of mankind (“righteousness”) and our own self-interest (“peace”) have (as the Psalmist says “kissed each other.”

SYRIAN CRISIS: TO STRIKE OR NOT TO STRIKE – OBAMA STILL UNDECIDED, UN DEADLOCKED, MOSCOW IN A MUDDLE, AS IRAN, SYRIA, HIZBALLAH THREATEN ISRAEL

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org

 

 

 Download a pdf version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

Contents:

 

America’s Impending Defeat in Syria: Barry Rubin, PJ Media, Aug. 27, 2013—It’s really pretty simple. The American people understandably don’t want to go to war with Syria — not to mention with Syria’s patron, Iran — and especially not for the goal of putting the Muslim Brotherhood and murderous Islamists into power there.

 

Syria Resolution Dies at U.N., and British Lawmakers Balk: Paul Richter and Henry Chu, LA Times, Aug. 28, 2013—The Obama administration's move to punish Syria's government for allegedly using chemical weapons in a deadly attack last week appeared to suffer a setback Wednesday when the U.S. failed to get United Nations approval for use of force and British support was thrown into question.

 

Moscow Muddle: Editorial, The Daily Star, August 29, 2013—According to Vladimir Putin, the world faces a “terrible precedent” and a development that could “shake the entire foundations of the international system,” should it come to pass.

Putin was not speaking about an impending military strike against the Syrian regime, but rather the possibility – back in 2000 – that countries would dare to support the independence of the Kosovo region. Needless to say, the international order did not collapse.

 

Threatening Israel: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Aug.28, 2013—“If Damascus is attacked, Tel Aviv will burn,” a Syrian higher-up bristled this week. Israel, in light of such statements, cannot regard the escalating situation up north with the equanimity of a detached observer. There can be no passivity when a coterie of evil powers hurls deadly threats at Israel in the context of a struggle in which it is uninvolved.

 

What will the Syria Strikes Accomplish?: Max Boot, Commentary, Aug. 28, 2013—Yesterday I wrote about President Obama’s three options on Syria–light bombing designed to “send a message,” medium bombing combined with Special Operations raids to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, and heavy, sustained bombing in combination with ground action by rebel forces to topple Bashar Assad.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

Israeli Compassion Amidst Syrian Atrocities: Dave Sharma, Times of Israel, Aug. 28, 2013

Obama: I Have not yet Made Decision on Syria Strike: Michael Wilner, Maya Schwayder, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 29, 2013

Hezbollah Will Attack Israel if Strike Aims to Topple Assad: Hussein Dakroub, The Daily Star, Aug. 28, 2013

If  Bombs Hit Damascus, Israel Looks to Tehran: David Makovsky, Tablet Magazine, Aug. 28, 2013

Obama is Talking America into a War: George F. Will, National Post, Aug. 29, 2013

 

 

AMERICA’S IMPENDING DEFEAT IN SYRIA

Barry Rubin

PJ Media, Aug. 27, 2013

 

It’s really pretty simple. The American people understandably don’t want to go to war with Syria — not to mention with Syria’s patron, Iran — and especially not for the goal of putting the Muslim Brotherhood and murderous Islamists into power there. Going to war is a serious matter, to say the least. There’s no assurance how long it will take, how many lives it will cost, and what turns it may take. And the Middle East has just had several examples of these wars.

 

Iraq and Afghanistan cost a lot of money and lives as they extended for a much longer time than had been expected. In addition, they derailed the Bush administration’s electoral fortunes and domestic programs. With the main emphasis of the Obama administration being a fundamental transformation of America, such distractions are not desired.

 

There is one other important consideration: the Obama administration does not accept the traditional diplomatic and great power strategies. It believes that it can reconcile with Islamist states, it does not comprehend deterrents, it does not keep faith with allies, and it does not believe in credibility, the belief that only power exerted can convince a foe of seriousness. Of course, that wouldn’t rule out a one-time targeted attack. But even if that were to be done, is America going to fight a full-scale war on the ground with allies–including al-Qaeda –which will never be satisfied and will always be eager to stab them in the back?

 

The administration has trapped itself with two problems: the rebels who are being supported in Syria are extreme radicals who may set off bloodbaths and regional instability if they win; and a challenge has been given to the very reckless forces of Iran, Syria, and Hizballah. When the United States threatens these three players, the response is always: “Make my day!”

 

So this is the situation, and the Obama administration is bluffing. It does not want to exert force and probably won’t. Iran and Syria would be quite willing to fight a war, but the United States–people and government–do not have the will to do so.

 

What is the best option for the Obama administration? To try to negotiate — as unlikely as it is — a deal in which some kind of interim or coalition arrangement would be arranged with Russia and Iran to make a transition from the current regime. Mainly, this means a stalling tactic. This could work, though, if the regime does not actually win the war. Aid to rebels and some gimmicks perhaps, but no decisive action. There is, however, still a problem — the two Syrian sides want to wipe each other out.

 

Why should the Russians and Iranians make a deal if they have a winning hand? No diplomatic arrangement is possible. In fact, the diplomatic option is fictional. To put it flatly, there is no alternative. It is not inconceivable that the White House would consider easing sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program to have a chance in Syria. What is likely then is stalling, with the probability that the civil war will settle into stagnation for several years and thus a de facto partition of Syria.

 

The United States simply can’t win given what it is willing to do. And in a great power standoff, that’s a very dangerous situation. Remember, though: Iran cannot be said to have won as long as the civil war is continuing. The administration can simply depend on denial, which should be sufficient for domestic purposes. Finally, ask yourself one question: will the United States under Obama dare a confrontation with Iran, Syria, and Russia to keep up American credibility, deterrence, and the confidence of allies who it is already opposing on Egypt? Of course not. This is a president who could barely decide to kill Osama bin Laden.

 

Contents

SYRIA RESOLUTION DIES AT U.N., AND BRITISH LAWMAKERS BALK

Paul Richter and Henry Chu

LA Times, Aug. 28, 2013

 

The Obama administration's move to punish Syria's government for allegedly using chemical weapons in a deadly attack last week appeared to suffer a setback Wednesday when the U.S. failed to get United Nations approval for use of force and British support was thrown into question. The collapse of diplomatic efforts aimed at securing a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria was expected. The British impediment was not.

 

The developments came as President Obama warned in a TV interview that chemical weapons "that can have devastating effects could be directed at us" and made clear he is considering limited military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces. "I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria," Obama said on "PBS NewsHour." "But we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable."

 

How soon such strikes might occur remained unclear after British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has repeatedly called for strong action on Syria, was unable to muster enough support from lawmakers to push ahead with a vote to approve military intervention. Members of Parliament from both his Conservative Party and the opposition Labor Party insisted that a vote be delayed until U.N. chemical experts now in Syria issue a report.

 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the team needed four days to complete its work. "It is essential to establish the facts," he said. "The team needs time to do its job." On Wednesday, the team visited the eastern Ghouta region northeast of Damascus, the zone that apparently was hit hardest by poison gas before dawn on Aug. 21. Assad's government is suspected of carrying out the attack, which killed hundreds….

 

In London, Parliament will consider a weaker-than-expected motion Thursday that deplores the use of chemical weapons and says that a humanitarian response might require "military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria's chemical weapons." It will also say that "every effort" should be made to win a U.N. blessing for any military response. Russia, which is Assad's primary international supporter, made it clear Wednesday that it would not support any Security Council move to censure Syria or sanction military action.

 

At the U.N., in a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council, British representatives had proposed a resolution condemning Syria's use of banned chemical agents and called for "all necessary measures" to respond to it. But Russia killed the proposal and foreclosed any further discussion, diplomats said. Harf said U.S. officials would consult other countries about possible military action as well as other options, and "will take appropriate actions to respond in the days ahead."

 

The White House got a vote of support from the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the key Western military alliance. After a meeting of the group's policymaking arm, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Brussels that the suspected use of poison gas "cannot go unanswered. Those responsible must be held accountable." His statement didn't commit NATO to joining a military operation but gave its blessing if one is launched, said Jorge Benitez, an analyst with the Atlantic Council of the United States and editor of the NATOsource blog. "They're saying, 'We support what you're going to do.' "

 

NATO members signalled fewer misgivings than before other recent U.S.-led interventions. Germany and Poland, which did not support the NATO-led air campaign against Moammar Kadafi's forces in Libya in 2011, supported the NATO statement on Syria, for example. The United States appears likely to have support from France, Britain, Turkey and at least four Persian Gulf states. The Arab League voted Tuesday to condemn Syria's apparent poison gas use but stopped short of supporting military action.

 

The U.N. special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, told reporters in Geneva that an armed response without U.N. approval would be illegal under international law. He also said the Obama administration had not shared its evidence on the Assad government's alleged role in the attack. "We will be very, very, very interested to hear from them what this evidence they have is," Brahimi said. U.S. officials are expected to release an intelligence report as early as Thursday that they believe shows Syrian commanders ordered the use of chemical weapons.

 

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said the White House's outreach to Congress "has, to date, not reached the level of substantive consultation." His office sent the administration a list of questions about potential U.S. entanglement in Syria, including whether Congress would be asked to appropriate more money should a military operation drag on. Boehner urged Obama to "personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America's credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy." Assad's government has denied responsibility for the attack, blaming rebels who have fought to oust him from power since early 2011.

 

Contents

MOSCOW MUDDLE

Editorial

The Daily Star, August 29, 2013

 

According to Vladimir Putin, the world faces a “terrible precedent” and a development that could “shake the entire foundations of the international system,” should it come to pass. Putin was not speaking about an impending military strike against the Syrian regime, but rather the possibility – back in 2000 – that countries would dare to support the independence of the Kosovo region. Needless to say, the international order did not collapse. In the post-Soviet era, Moscow has sought to protect allies that it inherited from the USSR, such as Yugoslavia (in the form of Serbia), Iraq and Libya. Now it’s Syria’s turn, and Russian officials are busy sending out confusing signals in a policy that appears to be a case of hoping for the best.

 

Russia has signalled that it will veto any resolution at the United Nations Security Council authorizing punishment of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. However, Russian officials have also made it clear that their country doesn’t intend to act militarily if the West launches a military strike at Syrian regime targets.

 

Meanwhile, the Russians have taken the regime’s side on the issue of last week’s chemical weapons strikes. Moscow insisted that the attacks were the work of anti-government rebels, who apparently only have the technical ability to launch such projectiles into areas under their control, but not in the direction of military airports under the control of the regime. Russia’s stance of nearly unconditional support for Assad isn’t surprising, but the lack of forward thinking and leadership continue to puzzle some people.

 

Is Russia hugely confident that Assad’s forces will defeat the rebels and oversee a stable Syria in the wake of this victory? Moscow has begun evacuating Russian nationals, which doesn’t help its standing with Syrians who support the regime, after it alienated those Syrians who support the opposition. In the end, Russian officials are fond of showing how keen they are to protect their national interests, but their track record has been one of stubbornly hanging on, in the face of inevitable change.

 

For more than two years, Russia never managed to convince its Syrian ally that it should engage in meaningful change. Instead, it followed the regime mindset of reducing everything to a foreign-led conspiracy. Throughout all of the horrific carnage in Syria, Russia has declined to push forcefully in the direction of a political settlement, and is now faced with the prospect of international military action against its ally. And now, as Syrian officials make fiery statements of defiance, Russia is again following instead of leading, telling the world that it favors a diplomatic solution after doing nothing to see such a scenario come to pass.

Contents

 

 

THREATENING ISRAEL

Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Aug.28, 2013

 

“If Damascus is attacked, Tel Aviv will burn,” a Syrian higher-up bristled this week. Israel, in light of such statements, cannot regard the escalating situation up north with the equanimity of a detached observer. There can be no passivity when a coterie of evil powers hurls deadly threats at Israel in the context of a struggle in which it is uninvolved. In a fairer existence, this alone ought to have unsettled the international community. But it is futile to expect fair-mindedness where Israel is concerned.

 

The anti-Israel bluster from Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon appear to have disturbed none of the foreign statesmen or opinion-molders, whose alacrity to condemn Israel for any perceived transgression is nothing short of remarkable. Moreover, the veiled hints from Moscow about dire repercussions for the entire region in the event of an American attack on the Assad regime might imply warnings of punishment for Israel.

 

All the while, Israeli commentators strive to outdo each other with educated guesses about whether we are vulnerable, whether it would serve Bashar Assad’s interests to fire at us, whether we should retaliate and how. Much of the babble is superfluous. Regardless of what eventually happens, all Israelis should be deeply troubled by the profound indifference abroad to our lot – blameless as we are in the Syrian strife. The very fact that a neighboring state could be presumed to be held to ransom for events entirely outside control should shock world opinion. But it does not.

 

Israelis might be forgiven for suspecting the reaction would be radically different had any other country been similarly threatened for no fault of its own. Sadly we must come to terms with the likelihood that different criteria are applied to the Jewish state. This is disconcertingly reminiscent of our traumatic experience during the First Gulf War. Events then were also played out beyond the Israeli context. Nonetheless, Israel suffered repeated heavy missile attacks, including 40 Scud hits. The Iraqi warheads were aimed directly and unmistakably at civilian population centers.

 

Saddam Hussein’s raison d’être was that by targeting Israel he was hurting the US. In the view of all too many Middle Eastern despots and potentates, Israel is nothing but an American underling. At the time there was no audible international indignation. The only American response was to advocate Israeli restraint. Indeed Israel refrained from retaliating, thereby compromising its deterrence and underscoring its vulnerabilities for the sake of American interests. But there was no gratitude for Israel’s sacrifices.

 

Washington only pressured Israel for territorial concessions, never counted Saddam’s anti-Israel aggression among his sins and treated Israel largely as a mistress whose favors are required but must never be publicly acknowledged. The Obama administration might well want Israel to reprise this role. It is precisely this behavior that Israel must under no circumstances repeat. This time Israel has made it clear – through pronouncements by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz – that this country and its people will not be pawns in the wars that others wage.

 

Notice has been duly served to friend and foe alike and to all shades in between that Israel will not again consent to being a whipping boy. If anything can daunt the Shi’ite axis that buttresses Assad, along with his more distant supporters in Russia and China, it is such an unequivocal message from Israel. Some Assad-watchers in Israel maintain that he understands quite well that the Israel of 2013 is not the Israel of 1990. They note that it would make no sense for him to strike out against Israel because he knows that vigorous Israeli retribution would seal his fate.

 

The experts are right – in rational terms. We, however, heard precisely such learned estimations immediately before the first American invasion of Iraq, and they, too, sounded eminently reasonable… to us. The problem is that this region does not operate according to our logic.

Contents

 

 

WHAT WILL THE SYRIA STRIKES ACCOMPLISH?

Max Boot

Commentary, Aug. 28, 2013

 

Yesterday I wrote about President Obama’s three options on Syria–light bombing designed to “send a message,” medium bombing combined with Special Operations raids to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, and heavy, sustained bombing in combination with ground action by rebel forces to topple Bashar Assad. All of the news coverage since yesterday morning makes clear that–unless the administration is engaging in strategic deception on a gigantic scale–only the lightest of light options is likely to be implemented.

 

News accounts suggest that the likeliest scenario is a few days of strikes employing cruise missiles fired from warships in the Mediterranean safely out of the range of Syrian retaliation. Their target list would not include the actual depots where chemical weapons are stored but “would instead be aimed at military units that have carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks.”

 

The amount of damage that will be done, if only Tomahawk cruise missiles are used, will be strictly limited since they carry relatively small warheads of 260-370 pounds, compared with 500-pound, 1,000-pound, 2,000-pound, and even 15,000-pound bombs (the BLU-82 “Daisy Cutter”) that can be carried by aircraft. The use of airdropped munitions can make it possible to penetrate bunkers and incinerate chemical weapons stockpiles without risking the dispersion of the deadly weapons. And even if aircraft were to be employed, they would have to bomb for considerable periods to achieve any strategic effects–witness the 78 days of bombing of Kosovo in 1999 or the even longer bombing of Libya in 2011.

 

A few days of attacks with cruise missiles is a pinprick strike reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s attacks on al-Qaeda and Iraq in 1998. What did those strikes achieve? Precisely nothing beyond blowing up a poor pharmaceutical plant in Sudan wrongly suspected of manufacturing, ironically, chemical weapons. Actually, worse than nothing: those strikes, which Osama bin Laden survived easily, convinced him that the U.S. was a “weak horse” that could be defied with impunity.

 

Similar strikes would likely have a similar effect in Syria: It would convince Bashar Assad, and a lot of other people in the region, that he successfully defied the superpower. It could have, in other words, the effect of enhancing Assad’s aura of power–precisely the opposite of what Obama intends.

 

The U.S. goal in Syria, as enunciated by no less than the president himself, is to topple Assad and to end the suffering created by the Syrian civil war. That will not be achieved with cruise missiles. It will require months of bombing, combined with the arming, training, and coordination of rebel forces. Even a lesser goal of destroying Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles–a reasonable objective given the strategic threat posed by WMD–would require weeks of bombing combined with commando raids. A few days of cruise missile strikes, by contrast, will only make the U.S. appear to be a weak, posturing giant.

 

On Topic

 

Israeli Compassion Amidst Syrian Atrocities: Dave Sharma, Times of Israel, Aug. 28, 2013—Some 72 Syrian patients have been admitted to Ziv Medical Center in Safed in northern Israel since February. If they had remained in Syria, most would have died or been left permanently incapacitated.

 

Obama: I Have not yet Made Decision on Syria Strike: Michael Wilner, Maya Schwayder, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 29, 2013

US President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he had not yet made a decision on intervention in Syria, acknowledging that military engagement in the country would not stop the killing of innocent civilians, but stressing the need to deter the use of chemical weapons.

 

Hezbollah Will Attack Israel if Strike Aims to Topple Assad: Hussein Dakroub, The Daily Star, Aug. 28, 2013—A massive military strike by the United States and its Western allies on Syria aimed at changing the balance of power in the country will likely trigger a swift intervention by Hezbollah, political analysts and sources close to the group said Tuesday.

 

If  Bombs Hit Damascus, Israel Looks to Tehran: David Makovsky, Tablet Magazine, Aug. 28, 2013—Amid the killing in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt—three of Israel’s four borders—one senior security official recently likened Israel to a “coffee shop in the middle of a slaughterhouse.” The US has widely advertised its pending missile strikes on Syria.

 

Obama is Talking America into a War: George F. Will, National Post, Aug. 29, 2013—Barack Obama’s foreign policy dream — cordial relations with a Middle East tranquilized by “smart diplomacy” — is in a death grapple with reality. His rhetorical writhings illustrate the perils of loquacity. He has a glutton’s rather than a gourmet’s appetite for his own rhetorical cuisine, and has talked America to the precipice of a fourth military intervention in the crescent that extends from Libya to Afghanistan.

 

 

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SYRIA HEATS UP AS ISRAEL ENFORCES ITS RED LINE, SENDS MESSAGE TO IRAN; OBAMA DETERMINED TO DITHER

Download a pdf version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

Contents:                          

 

 

Israel Hits Syria, Sends Message to Iran: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, May 5, 2013—Whenever the situation in the Middle East looks like it can’t get any worse, it gets worse. Syria has been embroiled in a bloody civil war for two years now, and over the past year a significant number of global terror groups and ad hoc al-Qaeda cells have jumped into the fray. And now, even Israel is joining the action.

 

Analysis: Israel Enforcing Red Lines on Syria: Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, May 5, 2013—The two aerial strikes on Damascus in the past 48 hours, carried out by the Israel Air Force according to foreign media reports, are likely the result of classified intelligence indicating an imminent attempt to transfer strategic weapons from Syria to Hezbollah.

 

A Key Syrian Partner Is Frustrated By Obama’s Caution: David Ignatius, The Daily Star, May 03, 2013—Gen. Salim Idriss, the commander of rebel forces in Syria, complained late Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s desire “to wait and wait for more evidence” that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons is encouraging their continued use – and that these attacks will only stop if the United States and its allies impose a no-fly zone.

 

On Topic Links

 

Hundreds of [Syrian] Families Flee 'Death Squads': Magdy Samaan, Phoebe Greenwood, The Telegraph, May 4, 2013

Israel Strikes a Blow to Conventional Arab Thinking: Elhanan Miller, Times of Israel, May 6, 2013

Syria’s Tragedy Can no Longer Be Contained: Editorial, The Telegraph, May 5, 2013

Stalemate in the Syrian Civil War: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, April 14, 2013

The Region: Syria: The Empire Strikes Back: Barry Rubin, Jerusalem Post, May 5, 2013

Attacks Fuel Debate Over U.S.-Led Effort: David E. Sanger, New York Times, May 5, 2013

 

 

ISRAEL HITS SYRIA, SENDS MESSAGE TO IRAN

Ben Caspit

Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, May 5, 2013

                       

Whenever the situation in the Middle East looks like it can’t get any worse, it gets worse. Syria has been embroiled in a bloody civil war for two years now, and over the past year a significant number of global terror groups and ad hoc al-Qaeda cells have jumped into the fray. At the same time, Hezbollah was drawn into the struggle and is sending in hundreds of its troops into Syria. Iran is also sending in Islamic Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC] regiments. Turkey is involved, and the fire is spreading to all corners, while in Jordan they are trying to establish a buffer zone for refugees. The Golan Heights is catching ricochets, and the entire region is seething. And now, even Israel is joining the action.

 

So let’s set a few things straight: A few hints appeared in the previous article I published in Al-Monitor: the first, including an unequivocal statement by a high-ranking Israeli military official, according to which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime still maintained full control over his chemical weapons. There is no threat to them. According to assessments, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah does not want chemical weapons, as he knows they will only spell trouble for him because Israel would never tolerate weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Hezbollah’s leader. However, Israel’s highest ranking defense officials have made it clear that Israel would also stop “game-changing” weapons from making their way to Hezbollah. And not only chemical weapons. The Israeli airstrikes, according to Western Intelligence sources, around Damascus over the weekend were proof that Israel means business.

 

As far as Israel is concerned, three types of Syrian weapons constitute casus belli, game changers, the types Israel will never allow to flow to Hezbollah. And that's without addressing the issue of chemical weapons. According to experienced military sources, these are high precision, lethal Yakhont missiles that are able to strike ships or marine platforms from a distance of 300 km or farther. Missiles such as these would put the gas excavations in Israel's economic waters within strike range. The second type are SA17 anti-aircraft missiles, which are considered game changers in terms of the Israeli air force's freedom of operation. The third are the weapons hit Damascus in recent days.

 

And that’s exactly what happened. According to Western intelligence sources, the targets that were bombed twice (during the night between last Thursday and Friday, May 2, and the night between Saturday and Sunday this week, May 4) were Fateh-110 missiles depots and their solid fuel depots. Why are they considered “game changers”? Because they are far more precise than the old Scuds and Nasrallah’s rockets, and because they are propelled by solid fuel and launched from mobile launchers. In other words: precision is the critical element here. If Nasrallah gets missiles with a dispersion range of only a few dozen meters, like the Fateh missiles, it means that he would be able to threaten the Israeli air forces’ airports and other strategic facilities.

Israel cannot allow itself to be in that position. Another, even more serious matter for the Israelis: the fact that launching Fateh missiles does not require a lengthy and complex launch process that can be seen by Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicles [UAVs]. Because it is equipped with solid fuel, the Fateh can be launched quickly, within a matter of minutes, from a relatively small vehicle, and strike its target with lethal precision, with a war head weighing half a ton. You can’t make predictions, you can’t shoot them down from the air. If there is such a thing as “game-changing” weapons in the match between Israel and Hezbollah, this is it.

 

It is believed that the operation was coordinated with the United States through a very long series of discussions between the parties, at all levels. The issue was also raised during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Jerusalem at the end of March this year. According to sources which were involved in privy to these talks, the Americans gave the nod of approval and suggested that Israel only do so when it is clear that said consignments were about to make their way to their destinations, while maintaining a “small footprint,” so that Assad is not tempted to respond or forced to respond.

 

The situation is quite reminiscent of the situation right before the bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir al-Zour in the summer of 2007. According to foreign reports, Israel was responsible for the airstrike, which took place prior to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. In operational terms, the destruction of the reactor was quick and simple. The question was how to prevent the situation from deteriorating into a full-scale war between Israel and Syria. A great deal of energy was spent then to keep a low profile, while at the same time signaling that the Israeli Defense Forces [IDF] were ready to go. Then, too, half the Israeli army was performing drills in the Golan Heights, just like last week at the end of April, when the IDF conducted a major division drill in the Golan. That said, however, there are major differences between the strategic situation then and now.

 

Assad today is not the stable and self-confident leader he was then. He is fighting for his life and the survival of his regime. Some people in Israel believe that Assad’s fall would be good news, while others, whose numbers have been growing, are convinced that Assad’s fall would be bad news and that we’ll miss him more than we ever dreamt we would. I tend to agree with the latter. In any event, Assad today doesn’t have the privilege of taking action because his honor was bruised, and he doesn’t really have to respond to every provocation. Israeli action against him could actually play into his hands, as someone who is trying to persuade one and all that the uprising against him is actually a Zionist conspiracy. Assad’s military position is complex, and the last thing he needs now is to get entangled with Israel. That’s the reason that the probability of an all-out war between Syria and Israel, or between Hezbollah and Israel, due to the recent airstrike near Damascus is not very high.

 

What does Israel get out of all of this? First of all, it has reduced the risk of transfer of missiles or “game-changing” technologies into what it believes are dangerous hands. It is not a far stretch to believe that there will be other strikes, if and when. It is not unimaginable that Israel will take advantage of the chaos to drastically reduce the potential of such technology and equipment falling into the wrong hands. Second of all, Israel has once again put on a show of military, and especially intelligence, strength. The consignments that exploded with a thundering boom in Damascus in recent days are underground, protected by thick layers of concrete. While it’s true that this is still not the Fordow site, there are very few air forces in the world that know how to crack such caches, and with such ease.

 

And we still haven’t mentioned the excellent and precise intelligence. I believe that in Jerusalem they assume that Tehran is looking at bombed out and burning Damascus and understanding several things. The United States is supportive, the world is silent and the sides are ready in a face-off, closer than ever to conflict. If we think about it, we are actually right in the middle of the dress rehearsal.

 

Ben Caspit is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor's Israel Pulse. He is also a senior columnist and political analyst for Israeli newspapers.

 

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ANALYSIS: ISRAEL ENFORCING RED LINES ON SYRIA

Yaakov Lappin

Jerusalem Post, May 5, 2013

 

The two aerial strikes on Damascus in the past 48 hours, carried out by the Israel Air Force according to foreign media reports, are likely the result of classified intelligence indicating an imminent attempt to transfer strategic weapons from Syria to Hezbollah.

 

With Hezbollah deploying up to half of its fighting force to Syria to help the regime of dictator Bashar Assad fight for its survival, the Lebanese Shi’ite organization will be seeking “rewards” for its actions. Hezbollah and its patron Iran may have asked Assad to make the advanced weapons available.

 

It would seem that Assad cannot have been in the dark over the likelihood of such proliferation triggering action to stop it. Back in January, Israel reportedly sent a very clear message to Syria, Hezbollah and Iran when an air strike targeted a Hezbollah-bound convoy carrying advanced surface-to-air missiles toward Lebanon. But that apparently didn’t stop Hezbollah from trying again this weekend.

 

Assad is in no position to decline “requests” for strategic arms from his only regional allies, on whom he depends for his survival. The weapons targeted may well have been Iranian Fatah-110 missiles, which run on solid fuel and have a range of 300 kilometers. It remains unclear how long those missiles had been stored on Syrian territory. In any case, Jerusalem seems prepared to take a calculated risk now, to avoid facing a significantly worse strategic situation later.

 

It is prepared to enforce its red lines on weapons proliferation with Hezbollah, and perhaps also send a message to Iran – which is continuing with its nuclear program – that Israel’s red lines are set in stone, come what may. Although such high-profile air strikes have the potential to escalate into a wider conflict, allowing Hezbollah to acquire advanced missiles would make a damaging conflict with it more likely in the future, and hence, doing nothing is a poor option, the logic behind such strikes suggests.

 

Hezbollah is already heavily armed, with at least 70,000 rockets in its possession, and allowing it to take possession of Iranian missiles that put all of Israel in range would make a future clash with it that much more painful for the Israeli home front. Syria may be in a state of chaos, but that doesn’t mean Israel has abandoned its red lines.

 

There may be additional big-picture factors at play behind the recent events. Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior scholar at the Herzliya-based Institute for Counter-Terrorism, pointed on Sunday to contingency planning by Iran, the Syrian regime, and Hezbollah, aimed at creating an Allawite ministate on the Syrian coast, and linking it to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, as well as with southern Lebanon – both of which are dominated by Hezbollah, if the Assad regime is toppled.

 

Such an Allawite-Shi’ite entity would be under direct Iranian patronage, meaning that Iran would create a new base for itself in Syria, Karmon argued. “The importance of these bombings may be… not only to prevent Iranian strategic weapons from being transferred, but to prevent this future entity from being armed and threatening to us,” he said.

 

An Allawite-Shi’ite entity might invite an Iranian task force to defend it directly, Karmon added. “In recent weeks, we’re seeing this strategy being realized. The intense battles of [the Syrian coastal city of] Al-Qussair resulted in the Syrian Army and Hezbollah almost retaking it. That leaves a corridor open from Damascus to the Allawite area…through which Assad can withdraw, together with his chemical weapons,” Karmon said.

 

Similarly, the slaughter of Sunni civilians in the coastal Syrian city of Baniyas appears to be a deliberate act of ethnic cleansing designed to pave the way for an Allawite-Shi’ite entity in the area. Assad has been able to secure the three major cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, by retreating from other areas. He has also created a militia made up of “national committees,” tasked with fighting the rebels alongside the pro-regime and notorious Shabiha paramilitaries.

 

But that doesn’t mean he will be able to save his regime in the long run, fuelling the need for preparing a future Allawistan. Karmon doubted that Syria or Hezbollah would directly respond to this weekend’s air strikes. With Hezbollah’s fighters deployed in Syria, its forces will be “exposed to our attacks before the Iranians can help them. If the Syrians fire their last missiles against us, they endanger air strikes on their army divisions.” But Iran and Hezbollah could use their overseas terrorist infrastructure to engineer a vengeance attack, he warned.

 

Also on Sunday, the former military secretary to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, published an article saying that Iran was poised to extend its control of Syria. Shapira, a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, noted that Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah paid a rare, secret visit to Tehran last month, where he met with senior Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, and the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Gen. Qasem Suleimani, who is in charge of Iranian policy in Lebanon and Syria.  “Suleimani’s involvement in the meeting with Nasrallah was significant.

 

He has been the spearhead of Iranian military activism in the Middle East. In January 2012, he declared that the Islamic Republic controlled, “one way or another,” Iraq and South Lebanon. He now appeared to be prepared to extend Iran’s control to all of Syria,” Shapira said. Shapira cited a trustworthy source as saying that “Iran has formulated an operational plan for assisting Syria.

 

The plan has been named for Gen. Suleimani. It includes three elements: 1. the establishment of a popular sectarian army made up of Shi’ites and Allawites, to be backed by forces from Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah and symbolic contingents from the Persian Gulf.  2. This force will reach 150,000 fighters. 3. The plan will give preference to importing forces from Iran, Iraq and, only afterwards, other Shi’ite elements.

 

This regional force will be integrated with the Syrian Army. Suleimani himself visited Syria in late February-early March to prepare the implementation of this plan.” Shapira labeled these preparations as a “Plan B,” for use in the event of Assad’s fall. “Iran already seems to be looking beyond the regime’s survivability and preparing for a reality where it will have to operate in Syria even if Assad falls. Even before recent events in Syria, observers in the Arab world have been warning for years about growing evidence of “Iranian expansionism,” Shapira said.  And Hezbollah is expected to play a central role in this expansionism, he added.

 

A KEY SYRIAN PARTNER IS FRUSTRATED BY OBAMA’S CAUTION

David Ignatius

The Daily Star, May 03, 2013

 

Gen. Salim Idriss, the commander of rebel forces in Syria, complained late Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s desire “to wait and wait for more evidence” that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons is encouraging their continued use – and that these attacks will only stop if the United States and its allies impose a no-fly zone. Idriss, who heads the moderate wing of the Free Syrian Army, has emerged as the key U.S. ally in the Syrian conflict. While he appreciates the recent increase in U.S. training and humanitarian support, and the talk in Washington of sending lethal aid, he was clearly frustrated by the comments that Obama had made to reporters a few hours earlier.

 

Obama said in the televised news conference that he wanted solid evidence of chemical weapons that could prompt international action against President Bashar Assad. “If we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in a position where we can’t mobilize the international community to support what we do,” Obama said.

 

But Idriss countered that his forces have enough information now to answer Obama’s questions of how, where and when the weapons were deployed on four separate occasions. He welcomed U.S. plans to train his forces but said this strategy will be useless if Assad continues the chemical attacks. Idriss claimed the regime could deliver the chemical weapons with planes and Scud missiles, which he said must be destroyed.

 

Idriss, a German-trained engineer who defected from Assad last summer, voices moderate, nonsectarian views. He opposes the extremist Nusra Front and said he has ordered his fighters to stop cooperating with them. He repeated a February statement to me that he’s ready to negotiate a political transition with Syrian army commanders who haven’t ordered the deaths of civilians. Idriss also offered to meet “right now” with Russian officials. “If they have some interests, we will discuss the Russian role in the future. We will be very positive,” he said.

 

The Obama administration sees Russia as a necessary participant in any negotiated political transition in Syria. Obama’s desire for Russian cooperation is one reason he has been cautious in responding to allegations that Assad has used chemical weapons. Obama talked by phone to President Vladimir Putin Monday, and an official said “we still do believe there’s a constructive role for Russia to play.”

 

Idriss was emphatic about his break from the Nusra Front, which is an offshoot of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. “We don’t work with Nusra. We don’t share anything with them.” He said fighters from the extremist group had fought alongside some of his battalions, “but they were not invited.” Building up Idriss’ Supreme Military Council is crucial given the administration’s expectation of a continuing struggle after Assad is toppled. “There could be a second war after Assad falls … as factions battle for control,” explained a senior administration official Tuesday. The official said the extremist threat had been discussed with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and others.

The U.S. official agreed that there was “a growing reluctance” among Idriss’ mainstream umbrella group to work with the Nusra Front, especially after it formally pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in Iraq a few weeks ago. “Nusra’s gains haven’t been arrested, but their progress has been decelerated,” said the U.S. official.

 

Whether Idriss and his moderate forces can expand their command-and-control network is the crucial issue for the U.S. – and also the most problematic. The Syrian opposition is almost entirely Sunni Muslim and has deep Islamist roots. The battalions nominally under Idriss’ command have been fighting alongside jihadi groups for more than a year, and it will take more than official statements to accomplish a separation.

 

Squeezing the extremists will be impossible without more help from Turkey, across whose border the Syrian jihadi fighters travel daily to receive money and supplies from wealthy Gulf Arabs. The United States is hoping that Turkey will crack down harder on this cross-border traffic, and this will be a key topic when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Washington in mid-May.

 

To underline his plea for help, Idriss is sending a letter to Obama. “Mr. President, I understand the reasons behind your cautious involvement in Syria,” a draft said. “We desperately need your support, as the Free Syrian Army under my command has neither the requisite training nor equipment to counter the effects of Assad’s chemical weapons or to destroy them.”

 

Perhaps most important, Idriss said in his letter that “our future Free Syria will not need weapons of mass destruction.” In other words, to get rid of “senseless” chemical weapons, dump Assad.

 

David Ignatius is published twice weekly by The Daily Star.

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Hundreds of [Syrian] Families Flee 'Death Squads' As Israel Takes Out Missile Convoys: Magdy Samaan, Phoebe Greenwood, The Telegraph, May 4, 2013—Relatives of the dead in the Sunni Muslim villages of Bayda and Ras al-Nabaah [Syria] told The Sunday Telegraph that scores, possibly hundreds of men, women and children had been killed by Alawite militias that attacked the villages on Thursday and Friday.

 

Israel Strikes a Blow to Conventional Arab Thinking: Elhanan Miller, Times of Israel, May 6, 2013—The alleged Israeli strikes on Hezbollah weapons stashes in Syria over the weekend have left Arab observers baffled; for while many have been hoping — secretly or publicly — for a decisive military strike against President Bashar Assad, few expected or indeed wished for it to come from Israel.

 

Syria’s Tragedy Can no Longer Be Contained: Editorial, The Telegraph, May 5, 2013—The capacity of the Syrian civil war to draw other nations into its ghastly vortex has finally been realized with the Israeli air strikes on targets inside the disintegrating state. While Western powers have been anxious to stay out of the conflict, Israel cannot afford to be indifferent to what is happening on its doorstep.

 

Stalemate in the Syrian Civil War: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, April 14, 2013—On the second anniversary of the civil war in Syria, it seems that the war is here to stay. Nothing on the horizon foretells a ceasefire, a compromise to end hostilities and stop the bloodshed, or a capitulation by one of the two sides.

 

The Region: Syria: The Empire Strikes Back: Barry Rubin, Jerusalem Post, May 5, 2013—Given the recent military gains of the Syrian regime, obituaries of dictator Bashar Assad have proven exaggerated, and that puts the Obama administration in a bind. US strategy, and that of the West and international organizations, has been based on two ideas that have proven to be wishful thinking: • Assad and the opposition would cut a deal and so everything could be settled nicely and diplomatically.

 

Attacks Fuel Debate Over U.S.-Led Effort: David E. Sanger, New York Times, May 5, 2013—The apparent ease with which Israel struck missile sites and, by Syrian accounts, a major military research center near Damascus in recent days has stoked debate in Washington about whether American-led airstrikes are the logical next step to cripple President Bashar al-Assad’s ability to counter the rebel forces or use chemical weapons.

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