The Price of Powerlessness: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Aug. 18, 2016— This week Russian bombers flew out of Iranian air bases to attack rebel positions in Syria. The State Department pretended not to be surprised. It should be. It should be alarmed. Iran’s intensely nationalistic revolutionary regime had never permitted foreign forces to operate from its soil. Until now.
What Outcome Do We Seek in Syria?: Shoshana Bryen, Jewish Policy Center, Aug. 22, 2016— Russian warplanes took off this week from Iran to hit targets in Syria. Russia has used Iranian bases for refueling and resupply in the past, but this is its first bombing mission from the Islamic Republic — it is also the first foreign military operation to take place from Iranian soil since the 1979 revolution. Iran’s National Security chief said Iran and Russia “enjoy strategic cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Syria, and share their facilities and capacities to this end.”
Israel’s Virtual Security Zone: Jonathan Spyer, The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 12, 2016— Cautious and prudent, Israeli policy over the last five years has largely succeeded in sealing off the Syrian civil war from Israel’s territory. This has been achieved through the careful cultivation of a working relationship with rebel militias on the other side of the Golan Heights border, along with a readiness to act on occasion decisively to neutralize emergent dangers.
Israel Values U.S. Military Aid But Does Well On Its Own Steam, Too: Moshe Arens, Haaretz, Aug. 22, 2016— A number of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s critics claim they could have obtained a better deal in the negotiations for the U.S. military aid package; it’s like in that Irving Berlin song: “Anything you can do I can do better.” There’s a lot of hype in these claims, but the subject of U.S. military aid to Israel is still worth discussing.
On Topic Links
Iranian Vessels Chases US Ship Out of International Waters [WATCH]: Abra Forman,Breaking Israel News, Aug. 25, 2016
US Moves Nuclear Weapons From Turkey to Romania: Georgi Gotev& Joel Schalit, EurActiv, Aug. 18, 2016
U.S. Concedes $400 Million Payment to Iran Was Delayed as Prisoner ‘Leverage’: David E. Sanger, New York Times, Aug. 18, 2016
Raqqa Delenda Est: Why Baghdadi’s “Caliphate” Should Be Destroyed: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, Aug. 10, 2016
Were Obama and Hillary Founders of ISIS? You Bet: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Breitbart, Aug 12, 2016
Washington Post, Aug. 18, 2016
This week Russian bombers flew out of Iranian air bases to attack rebel positions in Syria. The State Department pretended not to be surprised. It should be. It should be alarmed. Iran’s intensely nationalistic revolutionary regime had never permitted foreign forces to operate from its soil. Until now.
The reordering of the Middle East is proceeding apace. Where for 40 years the U.S.-Egypt alliance anchored the region, a Russia-Iran condominium is now dictating events. That’s what you get after eight years of U.S. retrenchment and withdrawal. That’s what results from the nuclear deal with Iran, the evacuation of Iraq and utter U.S. immobility on Syria. Consider:
Iran: the nuclear deal was supposed to begin a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. Instead, it has solidified a strategic-military alliance between Moscow and Tehran. With the lifting of sanctions and the normalizing of Iran’s international relations, Russia rushed in with major deals, including the shipment of S-300 ground-to-air missiles. Russian use of Iranian bases now marks a new level of cooperation and joint power projection.
Iraq: these bombing runs cross Iraqi airspace. Before President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq, that could not have happened. The resulting vacuum has not only created a corridor for Russian bombing, it has gradually allowed a hard-won post-Saddam Iraq to slip into Iran’s orbit. According to a Baghdad-based U.S. military spokesman, there are 100,000 Shiite militia fighters operating inside Iraq, 80 percent of them Iranian-backed.
Syria: when Russia dramatically intervened last year, establishing air bases and launching a savage bombing campaign, Obama did nothing. Indeed, he smugly predicted that Vladimir Putin had entered a quagmire. Some quagmire. Bashar al-Assad’s regime is not only saved. It encircled Aleppo and has seized the upper hand in the civil war. Meanwhile, our hapless secretary of state is running around trying to sue for peace, offering to share intelligence and legitimize Russian intervention if only Putin will promise to conquer gently.
Consider what Putin has achieved. Dealt a very weak hand — a rump Russian state, shorn of empire and saddled with a backward economy and a rusting military — he has restored Russia to great-power status. Reduced to irrelevance in the 1990s, it is now a force to be reckoned with. In Europe, Putin has unilaterally redrawn the map. His annexation of Crimea will not be reversed. The Europeans are eager to throw off the few sanctions they grudgingly imposed on Russia. And the rape of eastern Ukraine continues.
Ten thousand have already died and now Putin is threatening even more open warfare. Under the absurd pretext of Ukrainian terrorism in Crimea (reminiscent of Hitler’s claim that he invaded Poland in response to a Polish border incursion), Putin has threatened retaliation, massed troops in eight locations on the Ukrainian border, ordered Black Sea naval exercises and moved advanced anti-aircraft batteries into Crimea, giving Moscow control over much of Ukrainian airspace.
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Aug. 18 that negotiators had “deliberately leveraged” Iran’s desire to get a $400 million payment from a decades-old arms deal to ensure authorities would not renege on freeing three Americans in January. (U.S. Department of State) And why shouldn’t he? He’s pushing on an open door. Obama still refuses to send Ukraine even defensive weapons. The administration’s response to these provocations? Urging “both sides” to exercise restraint. Both sides, mind you. And in a gratuitous flaunting of its newly expanded reach, Russia will be conducting joint naval exercises with China in the South China Sea, in obvious support of Beijing’s territorial claims and illegal military bases.
Yet the president shows little concern. He is too smart not to understand geopolitics; he simply doesn’t care. In part because his priorities are domestic. In part because he thinks we lack clean hands and thus the moral standing to continue to play international arbiter. And in part because he’s convinced that in the long run it doesn’t matter …
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jewish Policy Center, Aug. 22, 2016
Russian warplanes took off this week from Iran to hit targets in Syria. Russia has used Iranian bases for refueling and resupply in the past, but this is its first bombing mission from the Islamic Republic — it is also the first foreign military operation to take place from Iranian soil since the 1979 revolution. Iran’s National Security chief said Iran and Russia “enjoy strategic cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Syria, and share their facilities and capacities to this end.”
Whether temporary or serving longer term Russian interests, the increasing breadth and capability of the Russian military in the region — allied with the State Department’s number one designated state sponsor of terror — presents problems for the United States. The Obama administration, however, appears oddly unconcerned.
A State Department spokesperson said, “We have nothing to announce at this time. We speak regularly with Russian officials about ways to strengthen the Cessation of Hostilities, improve humanitarian access and bring about the conditions necessary to find a political solution to this conflict.” Another spokesperson called it, “unfortunate, but not surprising or unexpected.” From the Pentagon, “As we understand it, they hit three areas in Syria. One area had ISIS fighters in it, and we have hit there ourselves before. The other two areas do not have ISIS concentrations.”
The area that did not have ISIS fighters had anti-Assad rebels. Does the State Department think Russian bombing will help “find a political solution to the conflict”? What does the U.S. think a “political solution” should look like?
There is no easy side for America to take — if we take any. On one side is a war criminal, whose allies are Russia, Iran, and Hizb’allah (a U.S.-designated terrorist organization). On the other is the “opposition,” a collection of fighters including Jabhat al-Nusra — until last week calling itself an arm of al Qaeda — the Free Syrian Army, ISIS-affiliated rebels, and groups with acronyms previously unknown. Some will fight ISIS. Someare ISIS. Some will fight only Assad. Just about all are Sunni Islamists supported financially by America’s erstwhile allies in the Gulf plus Turkey. Among the Kurdish groups, some are Assad’s allies; some are America’s allies. All are the enemy of Turkey, a NATO member.
Our allies have their own agendas, as do our adversaries.
The Iran-Russia axis anchors the ends of the Shiite Crescent from Iran across Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, ending in the Mediterranean. The Crescent is an Iranian goal that threatens a variety of countries on its periphery, including Israel and Turkey. Russia’s goals include 1) maintaining a friendly government in Damascus that will permit Russian bases at Tartus and Latakia, 2) broader military access to the region, and 3) status as “go to” power as the United States withdraws its influence. Partnership in the Shiite Crescent ensures all three.
Washington has been trying to find a way to cooperate with Russia in Syria without acknowledging that Russia’s goals, and Iran’s, are inimical to the president’s insistence that Assad has to go. The Washington Post reminded its readers this week of Mr. Obama’s words in 2012. “With allies and partners, we will keep increasing the pressure, with a diplomatic effort to further isolate Assad and his regime …
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jerusalem Post, Aug. 12, 2016
Cautious and prudent, Israeli policy over the last five years has largely succeeded in sealing off the Syrian civil war from Israel’s territory. This has been achieved through the careful cultivation of a working relationship with rebel militias on the other side of the Golan Heights border, along with a readiness to act on occasion decisively to neutralize emergent dangers.
The success of such a policy is by definition fragile, as is the calm it produces. A single mishap could transform the situation. In recent weeks, there has been a notable uptick in the volume of incidents on the border, though a general deterioration still seems distant.
Reserve soldiers serving along the borderline describe a reality in which both regime and rebels are engaged in constantly testing the alertness of Israeli forces, looking to take advantage of any momentary lapse of attention. Israel responds to all instances of fire into Israeli territory, including when these appear to be inadvertent rather than deliberate. The intention is to keep the war away from the border.
One of the unplanned results of this policy is the emergence of small tent emplacements close to the line of division. Refugees have made their way to the border area, assuming that the Syrian Army will tend to avoid it. July was a busy month. On July 4, the technical fence was damaged by Syrian Army fire. Israel responded by striking at two regime targets. Then on the 18th, a drone was dispatched across the border to Israel. Israeli attempts to down it were unsuccessful – Russian officials later reportedly admitted that the UAV belonged to the Russian military. A week later, Israel responded to stray Syrian mortar rounds that came across the border. An Israeli aircraft destroyed the mortar emplacement.
July witnessed an unexpected visit to the Quneitra area by Gen. Muhammad Reza Naqdi, commander of the Basij paramilitary forces in Iran. There were also reports of Israeli bulldozers operating in the demilitarized zone east of the technical fence, in the area between Ein Zivan and Quneitra. This reporter witnessed evidence of this work, on a recent trip to the Golan.
The Assad regime and its allies control only a few points along the border. Most of it is held by rebel forces, described by IDF soldiers stationed at one of the border posts as a mix of Jabhat al-Nusra and other free army groups. The southern part of the border, however, is the area of greatest concern. This is held by the Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigade, a franchise of Islamic State, formerly known as the Shuhada al-Yarmuk Brigades. The Israeli assumption is that, at a certain point, this organization will almost certainly turn its guns against Israel. In the meantime, the two sides watch each other closely.
The entry of rebel and civilian wounded via the border fence is a regular occurrence, as is the transfer of humanitarian aid. The UN is the body that facilitates this process. It all seems to be working smoothly. The sound of gunfire punctuates the days and the nights on the Golan. Sometimes it is the distant, ominous boom of heavy artillery, perhaps from the area south of Damascus. The Syrian capital is only 70 km. away. At other times the rattle of small arms fire can be heard. This is closer, perhaps evidence of a skirmish between the rebels and the jihadists of the Khalid Ibn al-Walid …
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Haaretz, Aug. 22, 2016
A number of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s critics claim they could have obtained a better deal in the negotiations for the U.S. military aid package; it’s like in that Irving Berlin song: “Anything you can do I can do better.” There’s a lot of hype in these claims, but the subject of U.S. military aid to Israel is still worth discussing.
After the Yom Kippur War, when the Israel Defense Forces had to be rebuilt and rearmed, U.S. military aid to Israel equaled 20 percent of Israel’s gross domestic product and covered about half the Israeli defense budget. Most of the equipment the IDF acquired came from the United States.
The quality edge, so essential to Israel, was provided by American arms that were superior to the Soviet arms in the hands of Israel’s enemies. This was assistance that Israel needed for its survival, both from an economic and a military point of view.
Much has changed in the past 42 years. Israel has prospered, and in most areas, with the exception of fighter aircraft, the IDF’s quality edge in weaponry is the product of Israeli research and development. At the present time, Israel’s GDP is well over $300 billion, and U.S. military assistance equals about 1.5 percent of Israel’s GDP and covers a little over 20 percent of Israel’s defense budget.
U.S. aid is much appreciated, but at this stage it’s not essential to Israel’s survival. If an economic crisis in the United States led to a cancellation of this aid, Israel would have to, and could, survive without it. It’s economically possible to cover the entire defense budget from Israeli resources, but this of course would require cuts in the budgets of other sectors. A change in the U.S. aid package deleting the money Israel is allowed to spend in the Israeli defense industry would hurt most in the near term.
Actually, the major downturn in U.S.-Israeli military relations came with the cancellation of the Lavi fighter aircraft in 1987. The Lavi project reflected U.S. consent that a substantial part of U.S. military aid could be applied to procurement in Israel, rather than being restricted to procurement in the United States.
But conveniently forgotten by many, the Lavi was an Israeli-American project in which American aerospace companies were major participants. This was part of a breakthrough in U.S. policy that permitted American defense contractors to participate in the project and allowed free transfer of U.S. technology.
A Lavi fighter aircraft prototype. Courtesy of IAI
Pratt & Whitney provided an engine developed specifically for the Lavi. Grumman built the wings and tail. Lear Siegler provided the fly-by-wire computer, and Hughes Aircraft the head-up display. All were permitted to sign license agreements with Israeli companies for subsequent production in Israel. That kind of technological cooperation between Israel and the United States, which would have been a precursor to future cooperation, ended with the cancellation of the Lavi …
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Moshe Arens, Former Israeli Minister of Defense and Ambassador to the U.S, is a Member of CIJR’s International Board
Iranian Vessels Chases US Ship Out of International Waters [WATCH]: Abra Forman, Breaking Israel News, Aug. 25, 2016— Four Iranian warships harassed a US Navy destroyer in the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, speeding so close to the destroyer that the US ship had to swerve to avoid collision. The incident took place in the strait leading out of the Persian Gulf. The USS Nitze, a guided-missile destroyer, was surprised by four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy high-speed patrol boats weaving towards it in a serpentine formation.
US Moves Nuclear Weapons From Turkey to Romania: Georgi Gotev& Joel Schalit, EurActiv, Aug. 18, 2016— EXCLUSIVE/ Two independent sources told EurActiv.com that the US has started transferring nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey to Romania, against the background of worsening relations between Washington and Ankara. According to one of the sources, the transfer has been very challenging in technical and political terms. “It’s not easy to move 20+ nukes,” said the source, on conditions of anonymity.
U.S. Concedes $400 Million Payment to Iran Was Delayed as Prisoner ‘Leverage’: David E. Sanger, New York Times, Aug. 18, 2016— The State Department conceded for the first time on Thursday that it delayed making a $400 million payment to Iran for several hours in January “to retain maximum leverage” and ensure that three American prisoners were released the same day.
Raqqa Delenda Est: Why Baghdadi’s “Caliphate” Should Be Destroyed: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, Aug. 10, 2016— While Iran remains the greatest threat to the region, the continued existence of IS fortifies rather than enervates Iran’s quest for hegemony. The destruction of IS should be the first stage in a campaign designed ultimately to isolate and contain Iran.
Were Obama and Hillary Founders of ISIS? You Bet: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Breitbart, Aug 12, 2016— Even the left-stream media is now acknowledging that Donald Trump “has a point” when he blasts Hilary and Obama for creating ISIS. “Hillary Clinton is vulnerable. ISIS did gain strength during her time as Secretary of State,” said ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz