Tag: Free Syrian Army


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The New Strategic Environment: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Jewish Press, March 19th, 2013—The way it looks now, it seems that the regime of al-Assad will not last more than a number of days or weeks. A coalition of Sunni jihad organizations will succeed in toppling the government of an Arab state despite the state having used every weapon in its arsenal – including scud missiles – in order to survive.


The European Dilemmas on Arming Syrian Rebels: Jean-Loup Samaan, Al-Monitor, Mar. 27, 2013—These last weeks have been marked by a new diplomatic battle within the European Union over the question of lifting the current embargo on arms to Syria in order to raise the level of support to the rebels on the ground.


America Inches Toward War in Syria: Doyle McManus, LA Times, Mar. 27, 2013—Military intervention in the Muslim world seems to bring the United States nothing but grief. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya: None looks much like a success story now. Yet the Obama administration is edging reluctantly into a civil war in Syria, aiding rebels who are fighting to overthrow the brutal regime of Bashar Assad. And it should: The longer this war goes on, the worse it will be for the U.S. and the Syrians.


On Topic Links




Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.: C. J. Chivers & Eric Schmitt, New York Times, Mar. 24, 2013
Solution to Syrian Conflict Must Come from the Air: Faisal Al Yafai, The National (UAE), Mar 26, 2013
The Syrian Gulf War: Michael Weiss, Now Lebanon, Mar. 27, 2013

The Free Syrian Army: Elizabeth O'Bagy, Institute for the Study of War, Mar. 2013
As Syria Bleeds, Lebanon Reels: Dexter Filkins, New Yorker, Mar. 25, 2013






Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Jewish Press, March 19th, 2013


The way it looks now, it seems that the regime of al-Assad will not last more than a number of days or weeks. A coalition of Sunni jihad organizations will succeed in toppling the government of an Arab state despite the state having used every weapon in its arsenal – including scud missiles – in order to survive.


During the past two years all of the red lines have been crossed in Syria , and both sides are sunk deep in this dirty, ugly struggle, which is fought with no moral or legal constraints.  Tens of thousands of citizens, women, children and elderly, have been brutally murdered , hundreds of thousands of houses and apartments have been rendered uninhabitable; infrastructures of the country are collapsing; the economy is paralyzed and the organizational framework of the state is falling apart.


The success of the Sunni coalition (Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan) in eliminating the heretical Alawite regime, which is supported by a Shi’ite coalition (Iran, Iraq and Hizb’Allah) might trigger a wave of terror in Arab countries, especially in Iraq and Turkey, because oppressed groups in these countries – such as Sunnis in Iraq and the Kurds in Turkey – will be encouraged by the success of the jihad organizations that are fighting in Syria and by the methods that they used in their battle against the regime.


This filthy war taking place in Syria is not a battle of good versus evil, because the regime and the rebels have both used inhumane, illegal and immoral practices. Both sides have committed crimes against humanity by eliminating groups of citizens indiscriminately and both sides have resorted to repressive measures and degrading treatment of helpless citizens.


As soon as the violence began, for example, the rebels understood that every time they show up in an open area, the forces of the regime could easily destroy them with merciless determination, so they transferred their activity to the crowded urban and settled areas. As a result, they turned citizens into human shields, without their having any say in the matter, dragging the cities and the settled neighborhoods into a rebellion that they were not at all interested in.


The most significant feature of the rebellion in Syria is that it has become a magnet for jihadists from all over the Arab and Muslim world who poured into Syria to take part in the jihad against the heretical ‘Alawites and their tyrannical regime. As of today there are hundreds of combat groups in Syria, and a few tens of them speak non-Syrian Arabic dialects such as Iraqi, Saudi and Moroccan. The linguistic diversity is even more complex because some of the jihadists speak non-Arabic Muslim languages – Turkish, Bosnian, Chechen, Pashtu (Afghanistan), Urdu (Pakistan) and languages from the Caucasus. The problem with having to deal with a multitude of dialects and languages is that the intelligence organizations get a significant amount of information by listening to various means of communication, but their work may have no value, because it is especially the most dangerous groups that speak dialects and languages not understood by the listeners of other countries that exist in the area.


Conventional forces too will have a great problem in dealing with jihadi communication methods. The jihadist organizations – contrary to a regular army- use the internet as a means of passing messages, reports and commands, and it is not easy to detect the communications channels they are using in the civilian network. There are organizations that pass coded messages via the internet, and it is difficult to identify, locate and decode them. Also the way the jihadist organizations use other civilian networks such as cellular telephones, makes it difficult to locate their communications and to keep track of their operatives.


The intelligence problem becomes even more complicated regarding visual intelligence, where the information is collected from observation points on the ground and in the air. Military intelligence gatherers undergo training on the various types of tanks, cannon, and the rest tools of destruction that a regular army has. But how are they supposed to identify jihadists? According to the type of jeans or T-shirt he’s wearing? According to the type of hiarcut or beard? The problem of identification becomes more difficult regarding vehicles in the service of jihadists, which are ordinary vehicles,indistinguishable from many others. How is a drone or someone who sees the material photographed by the drone supposed to identify the vehicle of a jihadist?


A regular army has bases and camps that can be identified and attacked. A jihad organization – in contrast – can live and operate in an ordinary neighborhood, among the people, the elderly and the children. How can the jihadists be identified? How is it possible to attack them without harming others who are not involved in the action?


Jihad organizations change their structure frequently: some groups join, others break off and form new organizations, while the objectives are only partly shared. The great structural fluidity of the organizations also poses a challenge to intelligence organizations, because information that was collected last month with great difficulty, may no longer be relevant today because of the splitting or joining of other groups to the organization.


Another aspect of the character of jihad organizations is the importance of the leader, the commander. In a military unit, if the enemy succeeds in eliminating the commander and the level of officers that surrounds him, the unit will usually continue to function, albeit partly and not with total effectiveness. In jihad organizations, the leader is very important for the functionality of the organization, but from the operational point of view almost any member of the group can replace him. Therefore the elimination of the head of a jihad organization does not usually cause paralysis and elimination of the organization. The best example of this is the al-Qaeda organization: bin Laden was forced into hiding since the end of 2001 and was ultimately eliminated. Did the organization cease to function when Osama bin Laden – and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri – went underground?


But the greatest advantage that a jihad organization has over a regular army is that a jihad organization does not impose upon itself the legal and moral constraints that international law and conventions require from a regular army. Jihadi propaganda enlists the Almighty as a reinforcing player,  while a regular army musters its soldiers by means of a human message – be it national, patriotic or civil.


These properties of jihad organizations give them a great advantage over state military organizations, which explains why it is jihad organizations, contrary to what one might expect, that have succeeded in toppling the Syrian police state and bringing down the bloody, cruel and totalitarian regime, which describes the regime of Assad ever since Hafez Assad rose to power in November 1970. All of the tanks, aircraft, missiles, and even chemical weapons, did not avail the regime against the hundreds of militias that were armed with much simpler weapons but imbued with religious belief, that their comrades are willing to die at any moment and therefore the threat of death is ineffectual. On the contrary: the more cruelty that the regime exhibited , the greater the motivation of the jihadists to topple it, even at the cost of their lives.


The army of a state fighting jihadist groups must match itself to the situation in the field. When the laws of conventional warfare are not observed by one side, the other side cannot be expected to limit itself to the accepted laws of warfare according to the Geneva Convention. A military that restricts itself to international law and tries to fight against a militia that does not limit itself to this law has lost the battle before it has begun.


A state that wants to survive within a jihadist environment must suit its intelligence gathering means  to the conduct of jihad organizations, whether by the internet or civil communications networks. Intelligence gatherers must be flexible regarding dialects and languages that serve the jihad organizations, otherwise they will be deaf and will not be able to track the operatives.


A state that wants to survive in the jihadist area must find a way to plant its agents inside the organizations or enlist agents who are already inside. Sometimes it is not possible to obtain true information by any other means, especially regarding information about the intention to carry out terror attacks.


In summary, it can be said that the collapse of Syria proves that guerrilla war can be more effective than conventional war, and uncompromising jihad that does not constrain itself to international law can bring down even a cruel and dark regime such as the Syrian regime,  which also does not constrain itself to observe human rights. How can a state that constrains itself to the laws of warfare and the principles of human rights survive against jihad organizations that do not limit themselves in any way?


TODAY, THE JIHAD organizations that are fighting in Syria openly declare that “The road from Damascus to Jerusalem is through Beirut.” Meaning that after the elimination of Assad in Damascus they will come to Beirut to send the body of Hasan Nasrallah to the garbage heap of history, and then they will continue their way to Israel in order to eliminate it from the face of the earth as well. Hasan Nasrallah should take them very seriously and Israel also must prepare for a kind of war in the not-too-distant future that it is unfamiliar with.


But Israel is not the center of the matter: jihad organizations – some of which are funded with oil monies from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Emirates or Iran – operate openly not only in Syria but also in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Somalia, Mali, and other states. Additional jihad organizations operate clandestinely in almost all other states of the world. No place is immune to jihad organizations, which operate in every arena possible, either overtly or covertly. If the world does not wake up in time to see the danger, Syria will be only the first domino to fall as a a result of the operations of jihad organizations funded by Sunni money from the Gulf or Shi’ite money from Iran.


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Jean-Loup Samaan

Al-Monitor, March 27, 2013


These last weeks have been marked by a new diplomatic battle within the European Union over the question of lifting the current embargo on arms to Syria in order to raise the level of support to the rebels on the ground. The issue grew in earnest during an EU Summit in Brussels in mid-March when French President François Hollande stated straightforwardly, “We want the Europeans to lift the embargo on the weapons. Since we have to put pressure on and show we are ready to support the opposition, we have to go that far.” London is on the same page, as British Prime Minister David Cameron made similar statements in the days that followed.

The current EU arms embargo on Syria was imposed in May 2011, when the Assad regime was brutally suppressing the first peaceful protests. It included a ban on arms, military equipment and equipment which might be used for internal repression. It had already been slightly amended in February 2013 “to provide greater non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians”.


The new initiative led by London and Paris aims now at allowing explicitly the transfer of weapons to the rebels. It reflects a significant evolution in the discussion of the support to the rebels. This occurs after another development in Washington as Secretary of State John Kerry pledged the provision of non-lethal aid amounting to $60 million. Until recently, the three Western countries that have been most active on the Syrian crisis had remained cautious, and sometimes opposed, on the issue of arming the rebels. True, there had been some forms of assistance and training provided to the Free Syrian Army, but overall it remained limited. It is worth noting that in practice the British-French initiative would even go further than the Obama’s commitment which includes only nonlethal aid.


This potential adjustment in Western policies is the result of the mutation of the Syrian conflict itself. For one year and a half, the Syrian issue was merely discussed within Western circles in reference to concepts such as the ”responsibility to protect.” However as the conflict is lasting and its regional ramifications unfold, the terms of the debate have been significantly altered and it has now become a matter of pure strategic stability. For the Western countries, the first significant change occurred following the shelling of villages and refugee camps in Turkey in late 2012. Ankara asked that NATO augments the air defense capabilities in its country and following the approval by the 28 allies, the US, the Netherlands and Germany deployed six Patriot missile batteries.


Still, the position of NATO on Syria is one of containment, meaning that it is limited to the defense of its allies. It is likely to prevent a spillover to the territory of the Atlantic Alliance but by no means can it alter the developments inside Syria. So can we explain this new shift to the offensive that would demand the EU lift its embargo?


This diplomatic move may be based on the realization of two intertwined negative trends on the ground in Syria. The first is that for all the tremendous efforts and progress made in the last two years, the Syrian opposition remains fragmented and did not yet reach a decisive military breakthrough against the regime. Specifically, the long-awaited battle of Damascus has yet to start. The second phenomenon Washington, London and Paris are considering very seriously is the radicalization of Syrian rebels and, in particular, the rise of Salafi Jihadism that undermines the efforts of the Syrian National Coalition as a central body. Factions such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Cham are progressively outstripping the “mainstream” opposition in some areas of the country. Already Western intelligence sources estimate that Jabhat al-Nusra is more effective militarily than the FSA.


In that sense, the new move by the Americans, the British and the French aims at strengthening the coalition as the primary actor of the revolution. In other words, this policy shift can be understood as a measure to rebalance the forces within the rebellion to insure the leading pole is still the one that can work with the West in the post-Assad era.


However, in the EU context, this position has encountered strong opposition from a majority of the member states. It was verified during the last EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Dublin on the 22th and 23th of March. In the press conference, Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger challenged the calculus driving French and British position by arguing, “Nobody can give a guarantee that weapons delivered to the opposition in Syria will end up in the right hands.”


While countries such as Austria or Sweden have expressed clear disagreement, Germany seems to be in two minds vis-à-vis the lifting of the embargo. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle acknowledged the “good reasons” that have led Britain and France to push for this change but also emphasized the need for measures of assurance: “We are still reluctant on lifting the arms embargo. We have to help and to support the Syrian people … but … we have to avoid a conflagration and we have to prevent that aggressive offensive weapons come into the wrong hands.”


In the meantime, the evolution of the Syrian crisis is not supporting the British-French initiative. The recent nomination by the Syrian National coalition of Ghassan Hitto as interim prime minister, has been met with mixed reactions. Hitto, who lived in the US for the past 30 years, has the difficult task to bring leadership to the fragmented opposition and to enforce the coordination of efforts on the ground in the post-Assad era. His close affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood and the fact that his candidacy was strongly supported by Qatar have led a group of 12 key figures of the National Coalition to suspend their membership to oppose the legitimacy Hitto’s election. It culminated with the resignation of Moaz al-Khatib last week end from the leadership of the Coalition.


This new internal crisis within the Syrian National Coalition will logically strengthen the position of those states who argue for sticking to containment. As a result, the diplomatic battle within the EU is likely to go on for the next weeks, if not months, the key date being June 1st when the sanction regime imposed by Brussels on Syria is scheduled for renewal.


Jean-Loup Samaan is a researcher in the Middle East Department of the NATO Defense College.


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Doyle McManus

LA Times, Mar. 27, 2013


Military intervention in the Muslim world seems to bring the United States nothing but grief. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya: None looks much like a success story now. Yet the Obama administration is edging reluctantly into a civil war in Syria, aiding rebels who are fighting to overthrow the brutal regime of Bashar Assad. And it should: The longer this war goes on, the worse it will be for the U.S. and the Syrians. Already, more than 70,000 Syrians have died; perhaps 4 million have lost their homes. The arguments against intervention are eroding fast. Why? Because all the alternatives are worse.


At the moment, Syria's opposition is a mess. Last week, the U.S.-backed president of the rebels' governing council, the Syrian National Coalition, suddenly resigned, complaining that he was being undercut by the more radical Muslim Brotherhood. One side in that squabble (the moderate, Moaz Khatib) was backed by Saudi Arabia, the other (the Muslim Brotherhood) by the rival Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar. Both countries have won influence among the rebels by providing money and weapons. The United States, caught in the middle, has been trying to broker a reconciliation, but without the helpful currency of arms supplies.


U.S. restraint hasn't succeeded in stopping the war; it's merely made it more difficult to organize the opposition. Syria's neighbors — rival Arab states, plus Turkey — have funneled aid to their favorite rebel factions; that's been a recipe for division, not success.


Meanwhile, on the ground, the radical Islamist Al Nusra Front, an offshoot of Al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq, has won a reputation as the most effective fighting force on the rebel side, a record that's helping it attract recruits. So the stakes for the United States in this conflict are high. Syria is surrounded by countries that are important to the U.S.: Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. A long sectarian civil war in Syria could spill over into any of them


A war that ends with restoration of the Assad regime would be a triumph for Iran and a disaster for the United States. A war that ends with a victory for Al Nusra would be even worse.


That's why the Obama administration is still trying to prod the regime and the rebels toward a negotiated truce that would remove Assad from power. But neither side appears ready to negotiate.


The administration has taken sides rhetorically, declaring that Assad must go and recognizing the rebels as legitimate players in any new government. It has pledged almost $385 million in humanitarian aid. It has provided communications equipment and training for opposition leaders. And according to recent reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have provided carefully chosen rebel units with military intelligence and training, and helped arrange weapons shipments from suppliers such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.


One problem with that kind of quiet assistance: Most Syrians don't know about it. Even the most public part of the program, humanitarian aid, doesn't carry "Made in USA" labels. "Everybody [in Syria] asks … 'Why aren't they helping us?'" Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch told a House committee last week. "And that anger was directed particularly at the United States."


The arguments against doing more in Syria are familiar. We don't want to close off the possibility of negotiations. Military aid might prolong the war. We can't be sure that aid won't fall into the wrong hands. It might be a slippery slope toward putting boots on the ground. And we're tired, so tired, of wars in the Muslim world.


But at this point, military aid to the rebels is more likely to push the government toward negotiations, not foreclose that possibility. Military aid could shorten the war. Yes, weapons could fall into the wrong hands, but that's an argument against providing surface-to-air missiles, not rifles and ammunition.


Most important, aid doesn't need to turn into a slippery slope. In the 2011 intervention in Libya, Obama sent U.S. Air Force jets and Navy ships to war, but drew a line against putting boots on the ground, and that line held.


It's true that Libya didn't come out well. (What were you expecting, Switzerland?) Today's complaints about Libya forget the alternative at the time: air and tank attacks by Moammar Kadafi against his own cities, just as Assad is doing in Syria.


Obama has inched toward more direct intervention. Administration officials have considered options ranging from arms shipments to a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone and attacks on Syria's air force. But action has been agonizingly slow. It looks as if the president wants to make it clear that, whatever he does, it wasn't his first preference.


Last week, at a news conference during his visit to the Middle East, he complained about the no-win side of his job. If the United States "goes in militarily, then it's criticized for going in militarily," he said, "and if it doesn't go in militarily, then people say, 'Why aren't you doing something militarily?'"


The president's peevishness is understandable; he doesn't need another headache, let alone another war. But indecision is not leadership. It's not even leading from behind. We need to be doing more.


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On Topic



Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.: C. J. Chivers & Eric Schmitt, New York Times, Mar. 24, 2013—With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.

Solution to Syrian Conflict Must Come from the Air: Faisal Al Yafai, The National (UAE), Mar 26, 2013—The skies above Syria still regularly boom with the sound of military aircraft. The cities below still crackle with the sound of gunfire. In the outside world, politicians still bicker about what policy might work best. But inside the country, the concerns of ordinary people are more dramatic: sudden death, queues for food and fuel, the threat of rape, torture and murder.


The Syrian Gulf War: Michael Weiss, Now Lebanon, Mar. 27, 2013—The Syrian National Coalition’s assumption of the regime’s seat at the Arab League yesterday accomplished little practically but symbolically it represents a bodkin in Bashar al-Assad’s side. He has now been officially informed that the Sunni Arab world is united against him and is preparing for a future Syria without him.


The Free Syrian Army: Elizabeth O'Bagy, Institute for the Study of War, Mar. 2013— Fragmentation and disorganization have plagued Syria’s armed opposition since peaceful protestors took up arms in December 2011 and began forming rebel groups under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army. A lack of unity has made cooperation and coordination difficult on the battlefield and has limited the effectiveness of rebel operations. Download the PDF

As Syria Bleeds, Lebanon Reels: Dexter Filkins, New Yorker, Mar. 25, 2013— Wouldn’t it be ironic if the popular awakening sweeping the Middle East had the unintended effect of undermining the one established Arab democracy? On Friday, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned. His departure followed a stand-off over extending the term of a senior official responsible for internal security and a new national election law, but it had every sign of being sparked by the civil war unfolding across the border in Syria, which has become increasingly sectarian.


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Iran Becomes a Nuclear Threshold State : A. Savyon and Y. Carmon, MEMRI, October 5, 2012

"We just cannot continue business as usual, that every country can build its own factories for separating plutonium or enriching uranium. Then we are really talking about 30, 40 countries sitting on the fence with a nuclear weapons capability that could be converted into a nuclear weapon in a matter of months."


Syria Becomes a Wedge between U.S. and Turkey: Soner Cagaptay, Washington Post, October 4, 2012

“The close relationship that President Obama has built with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has provided the United States with a key Muslim ally in the Middle East. Washington and Ankara have worked closely to stabilize Iraq. Yet a storm awaits them in Syria.”


Be Wary of Playing Turkey’s Great Game: Con Coughlin, The Telegraph, Oct 4, 2012

“Syria might be getting all the blame for firing the first shot in the sudden eruption of hostilities on the Turko-Syrian border, but Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, can hardly claim to be an innocent party when it comes to stoking the fires of a conflict that retains the potential to ignite a regional conflagration.”


On Topic Links


Pro-/Anti-Assad Camps Concerned Syria's  Disintegration into Separate Entities:  N. Mozes, MEMRI, October 1, 2012

Turkey Gets Tough on Syria:  Amanda Paul,  Today’s Zaman, October 7, 2012

Can Sanctions Change Iran’s Mind?: Efraim A. Cohen, Jerusalem Post, October 8, 2012

Kurds to Pursue More Autonomy in a Fallen Syria: Tim Arango, New York Times, September 28, 2012

Gulen's False Choice: Silence or Violence: Stephen Schwartz, Gatestone Institute, October 5, 2012     




A. Savyon and Y. Carmon

MEMRI, October 5, 2012


The Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, bans member states from enriching uranium to a level above the 3.5%-5% level required for producing energy and above the 19.7% level required for medical research; even this enrichment is permitted only with the approval and oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


For years, the IAEA, representing the international community, had interpreted the right of NPT member states to use enriched uranium as the right to obtain the necessary enriched uranium for legitimate civilian  purposes from the IAEA/the superpowers holding the monopoly on uranium  enrichment. In line with this policy, in January 2005, then-IAEA director Mohamed Elbaradei called for a five-year moratorium on uranium enrichment activities, or, as he told the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun, "until we have completed our work on how we can have an international arrangement for the fuel cycle."…


In February 2005, El Baradei, explained to Agence France Presse: "We just cannot continue business as usual, that every country can build its own factories for separating plutonium or enriching uranium. Then we are really talking about 30, 40 countries sitting on the fence with a nuclear weapons capability that could be converted into a nuclear weapon in a matter of months."


Furthermore, this policy was the basis of the agreement signed in 2005 between Iran and Russia, on the provision of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor. Under that agreement, Russia undertook to provide fuel for the light water reactor at Bushehr, while Iran undertook to return the spent fuel rods to Russia – all under full IAEA oversight.


Thus, all IAEA decisions over the years categorically demanded that Iran immediately cease its uranium enrichment project. The negotiations between Iran and the international community focused on the demand to stop uranium enrichment, with the IAEA and the superpowers undertaking to meet Iran's legitimate civilian needs for enriched uranium. When Iran refused to stop its uranium enrichment, the U.N. Security Council placed sanctions on it – that is, sanctions by the international community.


The U.S. administration gradually reversed its policy regarding uranium enrichment. Under the new policy, the right to use enriched uranium was reinterpreted as countries' right to enrich uranium on their own soil, as long as it was for civilian/peaceful purposes. This was reflected first in general statements such as President Obama's June 2009 Cairo speech, in which he stated: "Any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access to peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal… I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust [vis-à-vis Iran] but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.  But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point."


Later, this shift was expressed in clearer terms. For example, prior to attending a security summit in Thailand in July 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in remarks regarding the security needs of the U.S.'s Arab allies in the Middle East that could come under the hegemony of a nuclear Iran, "We want Iran to calculate, what I think is a fair assessment, that if the U.S. extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it's unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer, because they won't be able to intimidate and dominate, as they apparently believe they can, once they have a nuclear weapon."


In addition to the proposed defense umbrella, President Obama has repeatedly expressed his administration's firm commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. However, both the president and Secretary of State Clinton limit their objections to nuclear weapons alone, and no longer express objections to the right to enrich uranium as long as it is for civilian purposes and under oversight….


Indeed, this new policy entitling Iran to enrich uranium on its own soil as long as it is for civilian purposes was in fact an acceptance of Iran's years-long demand that it would be given a status equivalent to that of Germany and Japan (known as the Japanese/German model) which Iran has

publicly demanded already in 2005.


In a visit to Berlin in February 2005, Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi proposed the Japanese/German model as the basis for Iran-EU negotiations. In a meeting with German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, Kharrazi elaborated on Iran's perspective on how to resolve the dispute with the EU3: "Peaceful nuclear plants in Germany and Japan can serve as a good model for Iran's nuclear projects, and serve as the basis for any round of talks in that respect.”


Also, at a May 2009 joint press conference with Japanese foreign minister Hirofumi Nakasone, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki called for implementing the Japanese nuclear model in Iran as well, saying, "The view that exists about Japan's nuclear activities should be applied to other countries including Iran." Mottaki reiterated that Iran's nuclear activities were "legal and peaceful," and said, "Japan spent many years to build confidence about its nuclear work. Iran is moving on a similar path… During the confidence-building years, Japan was never obliged to suspend its (nuclear) activities."


There are three differences between Iran and these two countries.


1)      Both Germany and Japan have constitutional prohibitions against nuclear weapons;


2)      Both countries are democracies, and have for decades acted in a way  that allows trust in their stated intentions; and


3)      Both enable full IAEA oversight of their nuclear facilities.


On the other hand, Iran:


1)      Does not enable full IAEA oversight of its nuclear facilities; IAEA reports and U.N. Security Council resolutions stress that Iran does not allow full inspection of its nuclear facilities and does not cooperate with the IAEA….


2)      Is not a democracy and its conduct does not allow trust in its stated intentions. Iran's top nuclear official openly declared recently that Iran had regularly deceived and lied to the IAEA. Moreover, Iran has in the last few months even announced that it intends to enrich uranium to 90% for military use (nuclear submarines); and


3)      Has never provided constitutional or quasi-constitutional assurances, comparable to those by Germany and Japan, that it does not intend to possess nuclear weapons. Indeed, in April 2012, an attempt was made by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to promote a substitute for an Iranian "constitutional" ban on nuclear weapons, in a form of a purported fatwa by Khamenei banning nuclear weapons….However, the attempt failed;….


The risk of this new policy, as pointed out by former IAEA director ElBaradei, is that it allows NPT member states to become nuclear threshold states, developing capabilities for enriching uranium to advanced levels on their own soil under the guise of legitimate civilian purposes.


In a September 2012 CNN interview, former president Bill Clinton also pointed out the danger of this new policy, saying, "Iran has all these extensive contacts with terrorist groups, and even if the government didn't directly sanction it, it wouldn't be that much trouble to be – to get a Girl Scout cookie's worth of fissile material, which, if put in the same fertilizer bomb Timothy McVeigh used in Oklahoma City, is enough to take out 20 to 25 percent of Washington, D.C. Just that little bit….”


It is safe to say that even if the U.S. had maintained its traditional previous policy, and opposed Iran's uranium enrichment on its own soil, Iran would still continue its efforts to attain high-level enrichment and nuclear weapons. However, this new U.S. policy provides legitimacy and impetus for Iran's efforts, and preempts any deal based on no enrichment above 5% on Iranian soil that Iran might possibly have accepted.…

These two policies – the new nuclear policy allowing the development of threshold states, and the vision of non-proliferation and global nuclear disarmament – are completely at odds with one another. This is because it is the status of threshold state, in the case of states such as Iran, that paves the way for the development of nuclear weapons – even though there is an absolute intention not to allow them in the final stage of their development.


(Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; A. Savyon is Director of MEMRI's Iranian Media Project.) (Top of Page)




Soner Cagaptay

Washington Post, October 4, 2012


The close relationship that President Obama has built with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has provided the United States with a key Muslim ally in the Middle East. Washington and Ankara have worked closely to stabilize Iraq. Yet a storm awaits them in Syria. Turkey announced Thursday that it has authorized military operations in Syria following Syrian shelling of Turkish areas this week. As the crisis in Syria has deepened, the White House has appeared willing to wait for the demise of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For Ankara, the crisis has become an emergency. 


As turmoil in Syria has grown over the past 18 months, Ankara has presumed that the United States and Turkey were on the same page regarding regime change. Now, though, differences are emerging.  The Obama administration is hesitant toward Syria for several reasons, including reticence to act before the November elections and war-weariness among Americans. Erdogan appears to view such concerns as cover for general indifference to Turkey’s Syria problem. A sign of such sentiment emerged Sept. 5, when Erdogan chided Obama on CNN for lacking initiative on Syria — a rare rebuke from an otherwise steadfast friend.


This statement could be a harbinger. Erdogan has a penchant for treating foreign leaders as friends — and losing his temper when he thinks his friends have not stood by him. The more Washington looks the other way on Syria, the more upset Erdogan is likely to get over what he sees as Obama’s unwillingness to support his policy.


To the White House, the Syrian crisis has appeared manageable. As the conflict grinds on, some have grown concerned that Syria will radicalize as Bosnia did in the 1990s: When the world did not act to end the slaughter of Muslims in the Balkan country, jihadists moved in to join the fight, and they succeeded in convincing the otherwise staunchly secular-minded Bosnian Muslims that the world had abandoned them and that they were better off with jihadists.


U.S. policy holds that a gradual soft landing could be possible in Syria. The hope is that the opposition groups will coalesce and take down the Assad regime, eliminating the need for hasty foreign intervention — an option that Washington fears could cause chaos.


Ankara, however, wants an accelerated soft landing. Particularly with this week’s strikes, Turkey feels the heat of the crisis next door — Erdogan has reason to believe that time is not on his side.

The Syrian conflict’s sectarian nature is percolating into Turkey. More than 100,000 mostly Sunni Arab Syrians have taken refuge there, fleeing persecution by Assad and his Alawite militias. Alawite Arabs in southern Turkey resent the Sunni refugees, mirroring Syria’s Alawite-Sunni split. Angry Alawites in Turkey’s southern Hatay province oppose their country’s policy toward the Assad regime, and since the summer they have been holding regular pro-Damascus and anti-Ankara demonstrations. This is Ankara’s problem, and it might get ugly if Syria descends into full-blown sectarian warfare.


Ankara also fears the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Lately, the Assad regime has allowed the PKK to operate in Syria as a means to retaliate against Ankara. A PKK car bombing in August in Gaziantep, a large Turkish city near the border, has raised citizens’ fears about PKK infiltration. For Erdogan, the political cost associated with Syrian turmoil has also risen.


None of this bodes well for Erdogan’s hopes to become Turkey’s first popularly elected president in 2014 (until recently, the country’s presidents were elected by parliament). Although Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 49.5 percent of the vote in last year’s elections, further PKK attacks are likely to dent his much-liked tough-guy image.


Moreover, Erdogan has won successive elections since 2002 by delivering record-breaking economic growth, made possible by Turkey’s image as a stable country safe for business and investors. The more protracted the Syrian crisis becomes, the more Turkey’s image could be tarnished, blighting a key ingredient of its economic success and feeding the perception that Erdogan is not delivering. Erdogan believes that he cannot stand by and watch Syria pull Turkey into the maelstrom.


In the coming days, Ankara is likely to press Washington for more aggressive action against the Assad regime, including U.S.-supported havens for refugees in Syria and measures to hasten Assad’s fall. Washington’s response is likely to be sticking to the soft-landing strategy while trying to slow Erdogan down.


As serious as these policy differences are, they are not likely to rupture the Obama-Erdogan relationship. Turkey relies on the United States too much to sacrifice its relationship lightly. Turkey is increasingly wary of Iran’s regional ambitions: Erdogan knows that Tehran’s Shiite regime militarily supports the Assad regime in Syria and the government of Iraqi Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom Ankara detests. The tumult of the Arab Spring has led Ankara to revise its erstwhile autarchic foreign policy and Turkey now seeks security with NATO — a shift symbolized by Ankara’s agreement in September 2011 to host a major missile-defense project that NATO can use as a bulwark against Iran, as well as Russia and China.


Still, given Obama and Erdogan’s divergent policies on Syria, a storm between them appears almost unavoidable.


(Soner Cagaptay is director of the Turkish Research Program and a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.) (Top of Page)



Con Coughlin

The Telegraph, Oct 4, 2012


Syria might be getting all the blame for firing the first shot in the sudden eruption of hostilities on the Turko-Syrian border, but Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, can hardly claim to be an innocent party when it comes to stoking the fires of a conflict that retains the potential to ignite a regional conflagration.


For more than a year now Turkey has been taking a lead role in the campaign to overthrow the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Working closely with a number of Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, that are also committed to ridding Damascus of Assad’s Alawite clique, the Turks have been carefully co-ordinating international support for Syria’s rebel forces. There are even reports that the Turks have established a shared command centre in southern Turkey…Something not lost on Mr Assad.


Whether forces loyal to the regime were responsible for firing the mortar round that killed five civilians – including three children – in a Turkish border village this week is unclear. If Syrian rebels were active on the Turkish side of the border, and the Turkish authorities were doing nothing to apprehend them, then Assad loyalists might have felt within their rights to attack them. The Syrian government, for what it’s worth, denies any involvement and says it is investigating the incident.


Alternatively, amid the fog of war, there is always the possibility that Syrian rebels – or those sympathetic to their cause – fired the round into Turkey as a deliberate attempt to provoke the country and its allies into retaliating….


Irrespective of who was responsible for the attack on the Turkish village of Akcakale, its effect has been to galvanise the Western powers into action, with Nato convening an emergency session of its 28 members to condemn the attack. The uncompromising tone of Nato’s statement, which denounced Syria’s “flagrant violations of international law”, will be music to Mr Erdogan’s ears, as the Turkish prime minister has spent most of this year agitating for greater Western intervention in Syria. Apart from achieving regime change in Damascus, Mr Erdogan has argued that the refugee crisis on the Turkish border, where an estimated 80,000 Syrians have sought refuge, is a compelling reason for the Western powers to play a more active role in halting the bloodshed.


But before Nato gets too carried away with committing itself to Turkey’s defence, alliance leaders would do well to consider Mr Erdogan’s less-than-altruistic reasons for seeking a change in the way Damascus is governed….


Against Mr Erdogan’s impressive economic track record must be set his increasingly authoritarian style of government, with politicians and journalists regularly being jailed for criticising his policies, and his desire to build alliances with radical Islamic governments. Before the recent wave of Arab uprisings hit the Middle East, Mr Erdogan’s main focus was to develop better relations with the ayatollahs in Tehran.


He was forced to abandon this policy only after it became clear that he could no longer tolerate the survival of the Assad regime, which just so happens to be Iran’s most important regional ally….Like Mr Morsi, the Turkish leader would be happy to see the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria emerge as the eventual victors of the crisis in that country, a development which would lead to the establishment of a network of Islamist governments – a “Sunni arc” from the shores of North Africa to those of the eastern Mediterranean.


It is highly questionable whether such an outcome would benefit Western interests. And with the Turkish parliament yesterday approving a measure that effectively gives Mr Erdogan a “green light” to invade Syria, Nato leaders should take care not to involve themselves in a conflict that only helps to further the Turkish leader’s Islamist agenda.  (Top of Page)



Pro- And Anti-Assad Camps Share Concerns Over Syria's Possible Disintegration Into Separate Sectarian, Ethnic EntitiesN. Mozes, MEMRI, October 1, 2012


"Everything in Syria these days is fragmented or divided. The regime is divided and crumbling, the land is divided, [and] the opposition is splintered and fragmented. Nothing is united… Aleppo is practically a separate [region], the Kurdish north is nearly independent, Damascus is isolated, the road to Al-Latakia is unsafe, and Homs is rebelling against the regime…"


Turkey Gets Tough on SyriaAmanda Paul,  Today’s Zaman, October 7, 2012


“The violence in Syria has already killed around 31,000 people…. The urgency of the situation has become greater not simply because of the deteriorating situation inside the country, but because violence is increasingly spreading beyond Syria’s borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.”

Can Sanctions Change Iran’s Mind?: Efraim A. Cohen, Jerusalem Post, October 8, 2012


“The UN’s efforts to alter Iraq’s actions have been cited as an example of a successful sanctions regime. Contrary to what some people now believe (or have forgotten), sanctions on Iraq were an abject failure.”


Kurds to Pursue More Autonomy in a Fallen Syria: Tim Arango, New York Times, September 28, 2012


“Just off a main highway that…slices through a moonscape of craggy hills, a few hundred Syrian Kurdish men have been training for battle, marching through scrub brush and practicing rifle drills. They are preparing for the fight they expect to come…when Mr. Assad falls [from power] and there is a scramble across Syria for power and turf.”


Gulen's False Choice: Silence or Violence: Stephen Schwartz, Gatestone Institute, October 5, 2012


When the enigmatic Turkish Islamist leader, M. Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the U.S., published, in the September 27 London Financial Times, an op-ed column with a clumsy turn from benevolent moderation to hard Islamist ambitions, he revealed his authentic character.



Contents: Weekly Quotes |  Short Takes |  On Topic Links


Launch Celebration and
 Working Session

October 12, 2012
Huntsman Hall, Philadelphia
9am – 12 noon

The Israel section of Knowledge@Wharton is a working  forum on Israel innovations that have contributed to global social impact in the areas of food, water, energy, security, health care and communications.  Our goal is to stimulate dialogue and research on the topic of Israel Innovation for Global Social Impact. Contact Bruce Brownstein at:
(215) 746-8567 bb@wharton.upenn.edu



Weekly Quotes


“…[T]he hardest question that no Arab national wants to hear is whether Israel is the real enemy of the Arab world and the Arab people. I decided to write this article after I saw photos and reports about a starving child in Yemen, a burned ancient Aleppo souk in Syria…car bombs in Iraq and the destroyed buildings in Libya. The photos and the reports were shown on the Al-Arabiya network, which is the most watched and respected news outlet in the Middle East.

The common thing among all that I saw is that the destruction and the atrocities are not done by an outside enemy. The starvation, the killings and the destruction in these Arab countries are done by the same hands that are supposed to protect and build the unity of these countries and safeguard the people of these countries. So, the question now is that who is the real enemy of the Arab world?

The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel, which they considered as their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they never recognized. The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list. The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people.  These dictators’ atrocities against their own people are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars.” —Abdulateef Al-Mulhim in an opinion piece in Arab News. (Arab News, October 6, 2012)


“It’s only when we grasp the unremitting and mindless hostility of countries such as Malaysia that we begin to understand the pain and difficulty of Israel’s place in the world. This is the context in which we should think about the Harper government’s pro-Israel policy. Israel faces automatic enmity from all the Arab nations, most other Muslim-dominated states and the many organizations in democratic countries that dedicate themselves to showering abuse on Israel (and no one else) in the name of human rights. Except during civil wars, no other state, not even the worst dictatorship, not even Iran or China, is so badly and so often maligned…. 

“Yet many Canadians apparently believe that there is something unfair in this situation, not in the invective heaped on Israel but in Canada’s habit of friendship with the only democracy in the Middle East. It’s argued that this policy has done harm to Canada. Jeffrey Simpson of The Globe and Mail says that because of our attitude to Israel, “Canada’s reputation in the Arab world is mud.” Tony Burman, of the Toronto Star, former head of Al Jazeera English, and now a journalism teacher at Ryerson University, says that our government’s “passionate pro-Israeli stance” has damaged Canada’s reputation throughout the Middle East “after decades of being one of the world’s respected ‘honest brokers’ on Mideast issues.

“Simpson says the Harper government’s policy is based on a simple-minded black-and-white view, on the evangelical Christian streak among Conservatives, on the idea that Israel is a democracy and Arab countries are not and on a hope of prying Canadian Jews away from the Liberals. Or, just possibly, there might be another reason: Because it’s the right thing to do.” —Robert Fulford in an editorial for the National Post. (National Post, October 6, 2012)


“Every kind of threat to the Turkish territory and the Turkish people will find us standing against it,” —Turkish Prime Minister Recep Yayyip Erdogan. “Soldiers loyal to Assad threw shells at us, we immediately reacted and responded with double force. We shall never stop responding.” (The Star, October 09, 2012)

"If the Jews want peace, they will stay away from Al Aksa. This is a decree from God. The Haram al-Sharif belongs to the Muslim. But we know the Jew is planning on destroying the Haram. The Jew will get the Christian to do his work for him. This is the way of the Jews. This is the way Satan manifests himself. The majority of the Jews want to destroy the mosque. They are preparing this as we speak….Anyone who studies The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and specifically the Talmud will discover that one of the goals of these Protocols is to cause confusion in the world and to undermine security throughout the world." —Sheikh Ekrima Sa'id Sabri, former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, to  Quds Media (Elder of Ziyon, 07 Oct 2012)


“You can give the rebels AKs, but you can’t stop the Syrian regime’s military with AKs,”  —Khalid al-Attiyah, a state minister for foreign affairs in Qatar. Providing the rebels with heavier weapons “has to happen,” he added. “But first we need the backing of the United States, and preferably the U.N.”(New York Times, October 7, 2012)

"There is a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon NATO's withdrawal." — Candace Rondeaux, senior Afghanistan analyst from the International Crisis Group (ICG)'s. "The window for remedial action is closing fast."  In a report – "Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition" – the ICG said that the country was on course for another set of fraudulent elections…"The Afghan army and police are overwhelmed and underprepared for the transition," said Rondeaux. "Another botched election and resultant unrest would push them to breaking point. [Afghan President] Karzai seems more interested in perpetuating his own power by any means rather than ensuring credibility of the political system and long-term stability in the country." (The Telegraph, October 8, 2012)

“We fear that the election campaign in Israel would be accompanied by more assaults on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, expansion of settlements and Judaization of Jerusalem,” — Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat in statements to a number of local news organizations. “These [actions] are war crimes.” (Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2012)

"As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional US financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued US military assistance to Israel — offered without conditions or accountability — will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories."—leaders of the Lutheran, Methodist, UCC churches, and the National Council of Churches in a  letter to the U.S. Congress calling for an investigation into possible violations by Israel of the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act, which would make Israel ineligible for US military aid. (Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2012)


“Multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the committee that prior tp the Sept. 11 attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi,” —Congressmen Darell Issa and Jason Chaffetz, Republican leaders of a powerful oversight committee of Congress. “The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington.”(Edmonton Journal, October 3, 2012)


"I have no doubt that the Iranian regime is approaching a critical moment,'' —Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Israel Army Radio. "The big question is what will come first: the development of a nuclear weapon, or the Persian Spring…We have to be ready for both options.'' "I don't know if there will be a Persian Spring, but the fact that the Iranian government is under pressure, that is a sign that the sanctions are having an impact,"  —Meir Javedanfar, an Iran expert at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. "The legitimacy of the calls for immediate military action will be reduced by the recent events."(Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2012) (Top of page)


Short Takes


NETANYAHU CALLS EARLY ELECTIONS (Jerusalem) Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced early elections on Tuesday evening, saying they must be held "as soon as possible." as he determined that the current Knesset would not be able to pass a responsible budget.  The earliest possible election date, January 12, 2013, would be three months after the dissolution of the Knesset. Netanyahu said that after completing a round of meetings with his coalition partners, he concluded he could not pass the 2013 state budget and has no choice but to initiate elections. (Jerusalem Post, October 9, 2012)


DEFECTING IRANIAN CAMERAMAN BRINGS CIA PRICELESS FILM OF SECRET NUCLEAR AND MISSILE SITES (New York) President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s personal cameraman, Hassan Gol Khanban, who defected from his UN entourage in New York on Oct. 1, reportedly brought with him an intelligence treasure-trove of up-to-date photographs and videos of Iran’s top leaders visiting its most sensitive and secret nuclear and missile sites. He stayed behind when Ahmadinejad, after his UN speech, departed New York with his 140-strong entourage. For some years, Golkhanban worked not just as a news cameraman but personally recorded visits by the Iranian president and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to top-secret nuclear facilities and Revolutionary Guards installations.(DEBKAfileOct5, 2012 )


DOZENS OF GOLAN HEIGHTS DRUZE SEEK ISRAELI CITIZENSHIP  (Golan Heights) Syrian Druze residing in the Golan Heights [who] once burned ID cards offered to them by Israeli government authorities…in 1981 are [now] flocking to the [Israeli] Interior Ministry by the dozens to request Israeli citizenship. “I believe this trend will only increase,” a Mas’ade [Golan Heights] resident who holds Israeli citizenship said. “More and more people comprehend that this [Israel] is a well-managed country and it’s possible to live and raise children here. It is preferable to turning into refugees in another country.” (Times of Israel, October 5, 2012)


FRENCH SYNAGOGUE TERRORIZED BY BLANK SHOTS —(Paris) Blank cartridges were fired at a synagogue in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil Saturday night [Oct. 6], hours after police carried out an anti-terror sweep in response to the firebombing of a kosher store near the French capital last month. A Jewish community leader told the Le Parisien newspaper that the shots were fired at the synagogue to scare the local community. “This was an act that was more against the Jewish community, it’s very worrying,” Val d’Oise Jewish community head Moshe Cohen Sabban told the paper. Other raids by French police took place around Paris, Nice and Cannes during which 11 suspects had been arrested including one man near Paris carrying a loaded pistol. (Times of Israel & New York Times, October 7, 2012)


MERCHANTS RISE UP IN TEHRAN PROTESTS — (Tehran) Iranian police and demonstrators clashed Wednesday during street protests linked to rising prices and the plunging value of the national currency. Police in black riot gear fired tear gas and moved to disperse the protesters after they had rallied outside the capital's central bazaar and then marched toward the parliament building. Many businesses and shops were shuttered, which in effect led to the shutdown of the huge marketplace. "Our checks bounced, our businesses are ruined," said a merchant who gave his name as Ali. "How shall we earn a living?" (LA Times, October 10, 2012) 


SYRIAN REFUGEE WOMEN BEING SOLD AS BRIDES (Amman, Jordan) Following the growing influx of Syrian refugees into Arab countries, women are being treated as spoils of war. Widows and daughters are being in essence sold to Arab men who are looking for cheap brides. Families of refugee women sell them into marriage to ensure they are taken care of and that they aren’t deflowered or cause problems in their new homes. (Now Lebanon, October 7, 2012)

AZERBAIJAN JAILS IRANIAN-HIRED SPIES PLOTTING ATTACK ON ISRAELI, U.S. TARGETS — (Baku, Azerbaijan) The Baku serious crimes court said Tuesday that 22 defendants were handed jail terms of between 10 and 15 years on charges that also included treason and the unlawful possession of weapons. Azerbaijani authorities said the [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards recruited an Azeri citizen Niyazi Kerimov while he was in Iran in 1999 and gave him the job of assembling a group of other Azerbaijanis to act as spies. Targets for attacks were to include the U.S. and Israeli embassies as well as Western-linked groups and companies. (Ha’aretz, October 10, 2012)

ISRAELI ADVISERS AIDED MAJOR KENYAN VICTORY OVER AL QAEDA (Nairobi, Kenya) The Kenyan army, aided by the US, France and Israel, has captured Somalia’s Indian Ocean port of Kismayo, driving Al Qaeda’s Somali franchise Al Shabaab from its last stronghold and helping block Iran’s push to the Indian Ocean and East Africa..  Kismayo is key to controlling southern Somalia.  It was the first time Israel’s military, police, intelligence and counterterrorism forces took part in an anti-al Qaeda offensive outside its borders. Israeli military officers and counterterrorism experts advised the Kenyan army in the planning of Kenyan field operations, recommending systematic special ops raids behind Shabaab lines to generate disarray in enemy ranks. Israel supplied Nairobi with the appropriate weapons, including drones and field intelligence equipment. Israeli intelligence, police and special ops specialists counseled Kenyan internal security authorities on security in the larger towns. (Somalia Online, October 2, 2012)


UNICEF USES ISRAEL-MADE WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS IN SYRIA (Jerusalem) Israel Chemicals (ICL) was given a special authorization Sunday to have one of its European subsidiaries sell water purification tablets to UNICEF with the knowledge that they will be used in the agency’s relief mission in Syria.  UNICEF is overseeing a project meant to rehabilitate Syria’s water sources, which have suffered significant damage during the 18-months revolt against President Bashar Assad. The deal will be carried out by ICL’s Ireland-based subsidiary, Medentech. The company needed government approval for the deal since it involved the delivery of Israeli products to an enemy state. (YNet News, September 30, 2012)


GAZA GROUP BLAMES JEWS FOR HOLOCAUST (Washington) The Free Gaza Movement, a U.S.-based activist group known for provisioning ships to run the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, was hit with charges of anti-Semitism on Wednesday after posting a tweet claiming that Jews were responsible for the Holocaust. “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews,” read a tweet posted Sunday to @freegazaorg, the official Twitter feed of the group, which includes Canadian author Naomi Klein and Bishop Desmond Tutu on its board of advisors. In response to the accusations of anti-semitism, the American founder of Free Gaza, Greta Berlin, said: “Would suggest you concentrate on Israel’s genocidal policies…” Within hours she also tweeted that she had intended “only” to publish the link to her private Facebook account, but it was accidentally redirected to the Free Gaza Twitter feed. (National Post, October 4, 2012)


KING OF JORDAN DISSOLVES PARLIAMENT FOR ELECTION —(Amman, Jordan) Jordan’s King Abdullah…dissolved the country’s pro-government rubber-stamp parliament, a constitutional move to pave the way for elections expected early next year. A conservative government led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Tarawneh passed an electoral law last July that has angered the country’s main Islamist opposition….The electoral law keeps intact a system that marginalizes the representation of Jordanians of Palestinians origin, on whom Islamists rely on for their support, in favour of native Jordanians who keep a tight grip on power and are the backbone of the powerful security forces. (Globe and Mail, October 4, 2012)


THE VILNA GAON AND JEWISH DESTINY —(Jerusalem) It was 215 years ago this [past] Friday, on the 19th of Tishrei during the intermediate days of Succot, that Rabbi Elijah the Gaon (Hebrew for genius) of Vilna returned his soul to its Maker. Most contemporary Jews have heard of this prodigious scholar, his vast erudition and unmitigated commitment to exploring all aspects of Jewish knowledge and learning. But few are familiar with how he laid the intellectual, spiritual and physical groundwork for the rebirth of the modern Jewish state more than a century before Theodor Herzl raised the banner of political Zionism.  And in light of some of the challenges now facing Israel in the international arena, it is well worth taking a look back at the revolution that the Gaon wrought, the lessons of which remain remarkably relevant even today. (Jerusalem Post, October 3, 2012) (Top of page)



On Topic



∙       National Post, October 6, 2012
Robert Fulford

∙       The Commentator,  October 9, 2012
Douglas Davis

∙       Arab News, Saturday,  October 6, 2012
Abdulateef  Al-Mulhim

∙       Gatestone Institute, October 10, 2012
Khaled Abu Toameh

Abbas's Plan to Steal Local Elections



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Weekly Standard, February 17, 2012

The following is a letter written by a group of foreign policy professionals
to U.S. President Barack Obama regarding the situation in Syria

Dear Mr. President:

For eleven months now, the Syrian people have been dying on a daily basis at the hands of their government as they seek to topple the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad. As the recent events in the city of Homs—in which hundreds of Syrians have been killed in a matter of days—have shown, Assad will stop at nothing to maintain his grip on power.

Given the United Nations Security Council’s recent failure to act, we believe that the United States cannot continue to defer its strategic and moral responsibilities in Syria to regional actors such as the Arab League, or to wait for consent from the Assad regime’s protectors, Russia and China. We therefore urge you to take immediate steps to decisively halt the Assad regime’s atrocities against Syrian civilians, and to hasten the emergence of a post-Assad government in Syria.

Syria’s future is not purely a humanitarian concern. The Assad regime poses a grave threat to national security interests of the United States. The Syrian government, which has been on the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list since 1979, maintains a strategic partnership with the terror-sponsoring government of Iran, as well as with Hamas and Hezbollah. For years, it facilitated the entry of foreign fighters into Iraq who killed American troops. For years, it secretly pursued a nuclear program with North Korea’s assistance. And for decades, it has closely cooperated with Iran and other agents of violence and instability to menace America’s allies and partners throughout the Middle East.

Equally troubling, foreign powers have already directly intervened in Syria—in support of the Assad regime. Russia is providing arms and supplies to the Syrian government. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah are reportedly operating in Syria, and assisting Syrian military forces and pro-regime militias in efforts to crush the Syrian opposition. In turn, the lack of resolve and action by the responsible members of the international community is only further emboldening the Assad regime.

Given these facts, we urge you to take the following immediate actions to hasten an end to the Assad regime and the humanitarian catastrophe that it is inflicting on the Syrian people:

1. Immediately establish safe zones within Syrian territory, as well as no-go zones for the Assad regime’s military and security forces, around Homs, Idlib, and other threatened areas, in order to protect Syrian civilians.…

2. Establish contacts with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and, in conjunction with allies in the Middle East and Europe, provide a full range of direct assistance, including self-defense aid to the FSA.

3. Improve U.S. coordination with political opposition groups and provide them with secure communications technologies and other assistance that will help to improve their ability to prepare for a post-Assad Syria.

4. Work with Congress to impose crippling U.S. and multilateral sanctions on the Syrian government, especially on Syria’s energy, banking, and shipping sectors.

Unless the United States takes the lead and acts, either individually or in concert with like-minded nations, thousands of additional Syrian civilians will likely die, and the emerging civil war in Syria will likely ignite wider instability in the Middle East. Given American interests in the Middle East, as well as the implications for those seeking freedom in other repressive societies, it is imperative that the United States and its allies not remove any option from consideration, including military intervention.

The Syrian people are asking for international assistance. It is apparent that American leadership is required to ensure the quickest end to the Assad regime’s brutal reign, and to clearly show the Syrian people that, as you said on February 4, 2012, the people of the free world stand with them as they seek to realize their aspirations.

Elliott Abrams

National Review, February 7, 2012

What should the United States do when a vicious enemy is on the ropes, defended only by a core of murderous loyalists plus regimes that are themselves hostile to the United States? If you answered “Nothing,” you fail the course. If you answered “make more speeches,” you too get an F.

The case in question is Syria. There, an enemy regime faces hatred and opposition from the vast majority of citizens. The Assad clan made a specialty of helping kill Americans in Iraq, while also threatening and often murdering any Lebanese leader who objected to Syrian domination. It is Iran’s only Arab ally, and the armorer of Hezbollah. It is the only real Arab friend left for Putin’s Russia. There can be no doubt that the demise of the Assad regime is good for the United States and bad for our enemies.

It is quite clear that the Syrian people want the regime ended, for many reasons: They hate the oppression, the murders, the torture, the alliances with Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, and the domination by the minority Alawite sect.…

So what do we do? Of course, if success were made of speeches and sanctions the Obama policy would be marvelous—and adequate. The problem is that Syria is at war, and one side or the other will win that war. It will be the Assad/Russia/Iran/Hezbollah side, or the popular uprising with its European, American, and Arab support. A deus ex machina ending is possible, wherein some Syrian Army generals push Assad out and agree to a transition away from Assad and Alawite rule. But such a step by the generals is far more likely if they conclude that Assad’s war is lost.

So we must make sure he loses.… The next step is to provide plenty of money and arms, training, and intelligence to the Free Syrian Army and other opponents of the Assads.… If we are squeamish about providing it directly, we should strongly urge (and pressure) others—candidates include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey—to pitch in.…

The arguments against this course are wrong. Would we be creating more violence? It was Assad who chose to make war on his people, and now the only question is whether his murderous repression will succeed. Would we be destabilizing the region? Assad’s war and the refugee flows it is creating will do that, and there will be no stability until he is gone. Would this be the path toward another Libya-like intervention? It is the way to delay and perhaps obviate the need for such an intervention without allowing an Iranian/ Russian/Hezbollah/Assad victory. Would the government that replaces Assad also be undemocratic? It certainly would be no bloodier or more repressive than his, and it would be a Sunni regime unattached to Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia.

The key issue in Syria today is who will win—our side or the opposing side, which is a real axis of evil. This isn’t about the exact confessional balance of those opposing Assad, or the exact provisions of the next Syrian constitution. All those questions will come with victory against the bad guys—but only with victory. The goal today is more simple, and more old-fashioned: to defeat our enemies. Iran and Russia appear to see this very clearly. So should we.

Fouad Ajami

Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2012

The bloodshed and the brutality of the dictatorship in Syria are at long last beginning to challenge the passivity of the Obama administration. The word is out that the Pentagon has launched a “scoping exercise” to determine what could be done should the president want to respond to the Syrian catastrophe.

For months, the administration pursued the mirage of a United Nations Security Council condemnation of Damascus, when there was no chance that Russia and China would go for it. The administration persisted even though a similar effort last October ended in failure. There was no need to court the Russians. We granted them the pride of being treated as a great power, and they played it for all it was worth, at home and abroad. The time wasted on the courtship of Russia should have been put to use “scoping” ways the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad could be brought down.

We have been here before: waiting in the face of rampant terror, exaggerating the power of regimes engaged in mass murder when deterrent power would have put an end to their barbarism. In the Obama world, the tendency to wait has become official policy.…

President Obama isn’t about to adopt the exercise of American power and burdens during the era of George W. Bush as his own. But in the face of this Syrian dilemma, he would be wise to consider the way Bill Clinton dealt with the crisis of Kosovo in 1999. Not unlike our current president, President Clinton wanted nothing to do with Kosovo when that last of the wars of Yugoslavia erupted with fury in early 1999.

American power, it should be recalled, had rallied to the defense of the Bosnians four years earlier. The horror of Bosnia had gone on for 30 cruel months, under George H.W. Bush and President Clinton alike. Legends were told about the might of the Serbs, but they were broken with relative ease and the Bosnians were rescued when President Clinton decided that American honor was sullied by the genocide in that corner of Europe—and he unleashed the power of NATO’s bombers.

But the Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic was not done. He was determined to deny the Kosovars their autonomy. There had been a terrible summer in 1998, more than 300,000 Kosovar Albanians had been forced to leave their homes. “Ethnic cleansing,” that awful euphemism, was again everywhere in the news.

For President Clinton, it was yet another plunge into the Balkan inferno. He authorized a NATO air campaign against Serbia that began on March 23, 1999, the very same day a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress voted to support it. Two days later, President Clinton spoke to the American people and laid out the stakes in that conflict—the future of Europe, the line to be drawn for brigands and killers challenging the order of nations.

The air campaign lasted 11 weeks, included more than 30,000 sorties, and crippled Milosevic’s ability to wage war on the Kosovars. The economic and military infrastructure of Serbia was damaged, even the home of Milosevic was targeted. Though a “war president” is the last thought that comes to mind when thinking of Bill Clinton, he stayed the course.…

An independent Kosovo was mid-wifed by a moderate and limited exercise of American power. We lost no American soldiers in that campaign. Two planes were lost, but their crews were recovered safely. All this was done outside the suffocating confines of the U.N. Security Council. There was no court paid Russia, even when its president, Boris Yeltsin, was on the best of terms with Washington.…

Two weeks after the end of the fighting, more than 700,000 Kosovars returned to their homes and villages. President Clinton—who would, in time, note the shame of leaving Rwanda to its terrors—would speak of Kosovo with pride in his 2004 autobiography: “The burning of villages and killing of innocents was history. I knew it was a matter of time before Milosevic was history, too.”

In this Syrian ordeal, President Obama has a similar opportunity to stop “the killing of innocents” in Homs, Hama and Deraa. The Damascus regime is living on bluster, running out of money, and relying on an army that has no faith in the mission given it or in the man at the helm. It could be brought down without a massive American commitment.…

There are risks to be run, no doubt. But at present we have only the shame of averting our eyes from Syrian massacres. If we act now, President Obama, when he pens his memoirs, could still claim vindication, or at least that he gave Homs and Hama and Deraa his best.

Sarah Honig

Jerusalem Post, February 16, 2012

Forgotten is our peculiar urban folklore, yesteryear’s spontaneous fun of small Israeli kids rapidly rolling off their tongues the names of assorted Syrian tyrants. This singsong accompanied sidewalk games and was a staple of silly summertime tongue-twister contests.

Nobody then remotely believed that riots and havoc in neighboring autocracies could betoken the rise of democracy in the Arab-speaking sphere. But for too long we’ve lost touch with our not-so-distant past, a time when recurrent “Arab Springs” were once announced with dizzying frequency. In Syria especially they followed in furious succession until, in 1970, one Hafez Assad proclaimed the longest-lasting self-styled spring and actually managed to pass on control of the abundant Damascene sunshine and blossoms to his son, Bashar.

Both Assads’ nastiness and penchant for massacres were hardly unique in their country. Syria spawned carnage and “popular uprisings” a dime a dozen. Only the durability of Assad-dynasty despotism was unusual. Nonetheless, now—having learned to view the world through the tinted lenses of hypocrite Europe and bedazzled America—we, too, fall for the “budding democracy” babble.

But back in the less-blinkered day, our assessments were more clear-headed. Never would we ascribe high-mindedness to Syrian power-grabbers. Rather than be wowed, we laughed. Incomparable satirist Shai K.(Shaikeh) Ophir popularized a sidesplitting routine consisting of a roll-call of Syrian tyrants going back to 1948. He recited them with what in hindsight appears like a forerunner of fast-paced rapper-style chants.

It was so all the rage that little pigtailed girls skipped rope and did hopscotch stunts while rhythmically intoning a sequence of rhyming names like Adib Shishakli and Shukri al-Quwatli. For a while, these were basic fare at Israeli playgrounds.

Ophir’s register of names began with Husni Za’im, who led the Syrian army’s attack on newborn Israel in 1948 and then overthrew president Shukri al-Quwatli and imprisoned him. Za’im’s reign, alas, lasted merely four-and-a-half months. He was summarily executed by his deposer Sami Hinnawi. But before Hinnawi could get comfortable in the boss’s seat, he was unseated by Adib Shishakli and assassinated in 1950. All three coups occurred during 1949.…

[Shishakli] was toppled in 1954 and ultimately assassinated in his Brazilian supposed safe-haven. Next came caretaker president Hashim al-Attassi, who already had behind him two stints in power as president and two as prime minister. In 1955 he was replaced by that old favorite, Shukri al-Quwatli. Between 1946 and 1956, Syria had 20 governments and four florid constitutions.

In 1958, al-Quwatli amalgamated Syria with Egypt, forming the United Arab Republic. Formally Syria’s president was Egyptian Gamal Abdel-Nasser.… Within a few weeks, al-Quwatli was betrayed, and his Damascus power base was usurped by Salah Bitar and Akram al-Hawrani. The latter was Nasser’s Syrian deputy, until they began to bicker. By 1959, al-Hawrani had to flee Syria.

In 1961, Abdel-Karim al-Nahlawi overthrew Nasser’s men in Damascus, and Syria became a separate entity once again, a fact that didn’t discourage Egypt from exploiting the UAR epithet till 1971. Syria was now a Ba’ath stronghold, but different factions within that party battled each other with vengeance—literally. Nazim al-Qudsi was Syria’s first post-UAR president. Upon his removal, Luwai al-Attassi presided for four months till Amin al-Hafiz replaced him, ruling the roost from mid-1964 to early 1966, when Salah Jadid ousted Hafiz.

It’s roughly here that Ophir’s long lampoon ends, replete with many more names than mentioned above. In time, Jadid was booted out by Hafez Assad, and the epilogue is now unfolding before our credulous eyes.

Suffice it to note that the miscellaneous short-lived dictatorships served the interests of incompatible components of what’s misguidedly known as the Syrian nation. They all waxed ecstatic about democratic and reformist virtues. Way back, though, no Israeli was naïve enough to take any of the ornate rhetoric seriously.

Today, intellectually indolent molders of public opinion—smugly dismissive of the lessons of history—not only fall for the fallacy but excitedly hype it. It’s little wonder that most of the international community has lost sight of what Syria was and still is. In the mix feature ignorance and fatigue, along with lots of economic and geopolitical interests. It was expedient for the world to turn a blind eye to truth. For us here [in Israel], however, it was nothing but unimaginable folly.…

But Hafez Assad’s Yom Kippur War record, sponsorship of terror and patronage of Hezbollah were obstinately overlooked. Israeli governments hankered after a deal with the same Assad who, when he served as defense minister in 1966, addressed Israelis and blustered belligerently: “We shall never call for nor accept peace. We shall only accept war. We have resolved to drench this land with your blood, to oust you aggressors, to throw you into the sea.”

Assad never took back these words nor so much as pretended to have softened. Unsurprisingly, White House residents and perfidious Europeans pressured little unloved Israel to indulge the Damascus despot by inordinately imperiling the Jewish state’s survival prospects. Predictably, Israel’s own priests of pragmatism rushed with alacrity to ingratiate themselves and decree that by ceding the Golan to benign Syrian rule, we’d be blessed with blissful coexistence.

This encapsulated the homegrown omniscients’ dalliance with Assad-the-father. Staggeringly, their enthusiasm for concessions soared after he went the way of all flesh and his son inherited the blood-stained Assad mantle. Our in-house experts uncannily perceived the agreeable aspect of Bashar, the lanky ophthalmologist with a supposed Western orientation. Bashar, we were tirelessly preached to by retreat-promoters, looks less totalitarian than his dad.…

Yet, confoundingly, life refuses to mesh with established Israeli wishful thinking. Much to the embarrassment of our indefatigable deal-peddlers, Bashar’s own citizenry is exceedingly less mesmerized by him than his Israeli boosters were until quite recently. There’s no getting away from the fact that paying off dictators to secure a semblance of accommodation is a losing proposition, because eventually dictators disappear. With them vanishes the peace we’re required to fork out for. There’s no Better Business Bureau or Customer Service to refund Israel’s hefty, tangible and eminently risky investment in land-for-peace fantasies.

Thank heaven the Golan is still ours—a buffer between our small sliver of a state and the Syrian mayhem. Imagine our misfortune if Assad’s tanks were parked on the shores of Lake Kinneret.

Those who insistently brainwashed us that this is what’s prescribed for our national well-being should atone for their sins by memorizing Ophir’s skit and performing it daily in central city squares. Our street corners should again resonate with cadenced renditions of “Adib Shishakli and Shukri al-Quwatli.…” Hopscotch and jump-rope are optional.


In an interview this week with journalist Barbara Walters, Syrian president Bashar Assad denied ordering the killing of anti-regime protesters, claiming that rogue “individuals” were to blame for the bloodshed. According to Assad, “I did my best to protect the people. I cannot feel guilty when you do your best.”


Despite Assad’s ongoing defiance, Syria reportedly agreed this week to allow Arab League observers into the country as part of a plan to end the carnage. However, it has since emerged that the regime placed a number of conditions, including the cancellation of embarrassing economic sanctions by the 22-member organization. Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby swiftly rebuffed Damascus’ demands, and the Syrian opposition accused Assad of stalling and attempting to trick Arab leaders into reversing their punitive measures.


Syria has already failed to meet several ultimatums to end the crackdown, which the UN says has killed more than 4,000 people. Yet despite tightening sanctions by Arab and other nations, the “international community” has so far failed to halt Assad’s murderous onslaught.


Neil Macfarquhar
NY Times, December 7, 2011

During his most recent news conference, [Syrian] Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem interrupted the flow of questions by waving a small white piece of paper indicating that he had important news. “I just received a note from the committee advising on the new constitution!” said the portly, white-haired minister, announcing only that one new provision bans “discrimination between political parties.”

Such creaky political theater spoke volumes about the way President Bashar al-Assad’s government has been handling the crisis engulfing Syria since March. Rather than responding to the motivations and demands behind the antigovernment uprising…the government has stubbornly clung to the narrative that it is besieged by a foreign plot. The government offers meager crumbs of political change…avoiding the sweeping reforms that might defuse public anger and ease its international isolation.…

Senior government officials—including Mr. Assad—and their supporters reel off a strikingly uniform explanation for the uprisings, blaming foreign agents and denying official responsibility for the violence. “Most of the people that have been killed are supporters of the government, not the vice versa,” Mr. Assad said in an interview with ABC News broadcast on Wednesday. In the interview, Mr. Assad denied ordering a crackdown. “We don’t kill our people,” he said.…

Virtually no one in the Syrian government links the uprisings…to a public fed up with the status quo. Instead, they say the United States and Israel, allied with certain quisling Arab governments, are plotting to destroy Syria…and to weaken its regional ally, Iran. To achieve this aim, they are arming and financing Muslim fundamentalist mercenaries who enter Syria from abroad, Syrian officials say.…

But that view does not seem to explain events unfolding on the streets. The seemingly routine flow of life in central Damascus could leave the impression that there is no crisis, or that the security approach is effective. Yet beneath the mundane, unease grips the capital as fear of civil war supplants hopes for a peaceful transition to democracy.…

Shadi Bushra

Huffington Post, December 7, 2011

Over the past months, the Arab League has incrementally stepped up pressure on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, culminating in the imposition of diplomatic and economic sanctions. Since then, the League has been showered with admiration from Western governments, media outlets, and political analysts for stepping up to protect Syrian civilians and their democratic aspirations.…

The Arab League’s “activism” comes amid widespread exasperation with Damascus. The West, once warily optimistic about the younger Assad’s prospects as a reformer, has intensified pressure with ever stiffening sanctions from the United States, Canada, and the European Union, Syria’s largest trading partner. France has even hinted at using militaries to establish “humanitarian corridors” for civilians inside Syria, a sentiment echoed by Turkey. Assad’s numerous broken promises to his erstwhile friend Prime Minister Recep Erdogan soured the gradually improving relationship between historical enemies.…

It is against this backdrop…that the Arab League was forced to act. Once the dominant members of the League calculated that, sooner or later, Assad would fall, they opted to act on the side of the opposition. But that does not mean that they did so out of concern for the Syrian people. Rather, the League acted out of concern for its image and its influence.

The Arab League has long been described as a “club of dictators.…” With that in mind, some governments have decided that promoting democratic values in other countries is a decent enough foil for criticism that they repress such ambitions at home. Qatar, for example, does not allow political parties or a national legislature but trained and armed the Libyan rebels, and led the push for Syrian sanctions. Support for political inclusion is no longer an ideal, but rather a weapon to wield against one’s rivals and a shield against scrutiny.…

Perhaps the greatest factor in motivating the Arab League to act was the fear of being outmaneuvered by the rising regional powers, Turkey and Iran. Syria’s importance—as a transit corridor, a trading partner, a military power…and a key to stability in Lebanon and Iraq—is difficult to overstate. The two non-Arab powers are staking their own positions in the conflict, with Turkey strongly pushing Assad to either reform or leave, and Iran hedging its bets by maintaining ties to the opposition and the regime. The Arab powers are particularly keen to hurt Iran by ensuring a Sunni government comes to power in Sunni-majority Syria. Were the Arab League to simply sit on the sidelines, it would give either Iran or Turkey a dominant position in a post-Assad region.

All of this does not amount to a condemnation of the sanctions’ substance, but rather of the motives behind them.… Sanctioning Assad was not a humanitarian decision, but one motivated by calculated self-interest on the part of Arab governments.

Mark Salter

Real Clear Politics, December 1, 2011

Following the release of a UN report accusing the Syrian government of crimes against humanity…the government organized another spontaneous demonstration of loyalty to the loathsome regime of Bashar Assad. The throng of professed pro-regime Syrians that filled a Damascus square Monday carried giant images of their benighted leader, chanted professions of love for the unlovable tyrant, and waved the colors of Assad’s most important international patrons, Russia and China.

And well they should, for it is those two bastions of friendship and support for the world’s worst tyrannies that steadfastly prevent the UN Security Council from acting meaningfully in support of the emerging international consensus that the Syrian government’s remorseless determination to commit any atrocity in order to hold on to power has necessitated its removal.

Even in an age with enough examples of barbarism to depress the staunchest believer in the moral perfectibility of the human race, the UN investigation that sparked the latest sanctions against Syria is a shock to our consciences. Included in its catalogue of horrors are the detention, torture, rape and murder of children, including the deliberate killing of a 2-year-old girl. It is a damning indictment of an eight-month campaign of depraved cruelty toward peaceful protesters and innocent victims.…

Yet none of the crimes has disturbed the indifference to evil that is casually part of the calculus in Moscow and Beijing. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected calls by the U.S., EU, Arab League and others for the Security Council to impose an arms embargo against Syria, and warned the world to stop threatening Assad. As speculation increased about an international humanitarian intervention in Syria, Russia announced it was deploying warships to its naval base there.

The Chinese response was a little less obtuse, and avoided a fulsome defense of Syria. China called for dialogue rather than confrontation with Damascus, and abstained from supporting a UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning the regime.

In our country [the US] and the rest of the free world, debates between realists and idealists differ on the priority we should give support for human rights in the conduct of our relations with other countries. Very few civilized people suggest that the advocacy of human rights has no role in foreign policy.… [However,], there is little evidence such considerations would enter the equations being worked out in the minds of Russian and Chinese leaders.

In Moscow and Beijing, human dignity, democratic governance and rule of law are not just trivial concerns in the formulation of statecraft that prioritizes self-interest over morality. Those values are considered inimical to their self-interest. They view the spread of freedom and justice in the world as a threat to their international influence and a boon to ours, just as they view the full possession of human rights by their own citizens as a threat to their rule.…

Although it was clearer to the free world during the Cold War, it remains the case today: The difference between us and the governments of China and Russia is more profound than occasional clashes of interests or cultural dissimilarities. We are moral opposites.… It is not chauvinism to claim we are morally superior to them. We are, and the proof is in our behavior. We are imperfect, and transgress against our own values on occasion. But we remain, flaws and all, the best hope of mankind. We have a sense of justice that can spur us to action. We care for human dignity. We are outraged by the murder of innocents.

In all the talk of resetting relations and finding common interests with the governments of Russia and China, it is foolish to forget we are as different from them as night and day, and we will be adversaries until we share the same values. To them, this is obvious. It should be to us as well.

(Mark Salter is the former chief of staff to Senator John McCain.)

Michael Rubin

Contentions, December 2, 2011

While the unrest in Syria intensifies and Syria teeters on the brink of full-blown civil war…it remains fair to ask what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s thinking is.… Should Bashar leave, he would not necessarily be denied a comfortable retirement. Unlike the late Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, for example, Bashar never tried to kill the king of Saudi Arabia, thereby disqualifying himself from that retirement community of washed-up dictators.

There is a reason why Bashar is thumbing his nose at the international community: He believes he must only wait out the next three weeks to be home free. President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq is an early Christmas present. Syria has just one consistent ally in the region: Iran. Aerial resupply is vulnerable without control of the Iraqi airspace, and Turkish sanctions may have disrupted Iran’s supply of Syria through that former ally of Bashar al-Assad. All this changes by Christmas, however, when American forces complete their withdrawal from Iraq, in a move which Vice President Joe Biden assures us is not a victory.

If Biden was once Tehran’s favorite senator, then certainly Obama is the Supreme Leader’s fantasy president.… Thanks to Obama’s willingness to walk away from talks and abandon the American relationship with Iraq, Bashar can expect his first Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps reinforcements just after Christmas. Why should he throw in the towel now?

Jeffrey White

Jerusalem Post, December 8, 2011

…The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the armed opposition group that has emerged to confront the Assad regime, appears to be gaining in strength and effectiveness, and Damascus now faces both peaceful and armed resistance. So far, the FSA has proven resilient in the face of regime measures to suppress it.

The FSA was formally announced on July 29, but can trace its origins to well before that. The group’s formation was a reaction to regime brutality against peaceful mass protests. Desertion from the Syrian army increased as individual soldiers and small units refused to obey orders to shoot unarmed demonstrators or simply decided to abandon the regime. Although not all of these soldiers have joined the FSA, numerous media reports indicate a steady flow of defectors into the group’s ranks.…

Based on available evidence, the FSA has a chain of command, organizational and rank structures and named units.

Organization and forces

The FSA appears to be a relatively flat organization, with a command and headquarters in Turkey, possibly a set of regional or area commands with subordinate groups in Syria, and, according to media reports, one or two combat elements in Lebanon. Command and control appears to be relatively loose, with the Turkish headquarters providing general direction and the units in Syria exercising largely independent control over their operations.

Earlier this month elements of two units in the Damascus area—the Abu Ubaydah al-Jarah Battalion and the Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan Battalion—reportedly cooperated in an action against regime forces, suggesting at least some degree of coordination.…

The FSA’s order of battle (command structure, units, deployment, strength and equipment) is becoming somewhat clearer over time. The group claims to have as many as twenty-two “battalions” operating against the regime.… FSA membership appears to consist largely of experienced military personnel—a cadre of officers and noncommissioned officers with, in some cases, social connections to local families and clans, towns and neighborhoods. In other words, they know how to use weapons and are fighting on terrain they know. The total number of FSA personnel is uncertain. The group’s leadership has claimed 10,000-15,000, but this seems too high. A more likely range is in the low thousands.…

FSA weapons seem to be mostly small arms (rifles, light machine guns), rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), some heavy machine guns and various explosive devices.… These types of weapons are generally well suited to the primarily urban fighting waged so far in Syria.…

Deployment and operations

The FSA is operating throughout Syria, both in urban areas and in the countryside. Forces are active in the northwest (Idlib, Aleppo), the central region (Homs, Hama, and Rastan), the coast around Latakia, the south (Deraa and Houran), the east (Deir a-Zor, Abu Kamal) and the Damascus area. The largest concentration of these forces appears to be in the central region (Homs, Hama, and surrounding areas), with nine or more battalions reportedly active there.…

Operations have included defense of local areas, ambushes of convoys and vehicles, attacks on regime positions and facilities, attacks on regime security forces and militia elements, attacks on regime officials and military officers, intervention against regime forces attacking demonstrators, and road closings. The FSA has also fought at least three serious “battles”: for Rastan/Talbisah (September 27-October 1), for Homs (October 28-November 8), and for Kherbet Ghazalah (November 14).

These actions featured sustained engagements with regime forces, and although the FSA broke off the fighting in each case, it was able to inflict losses and generate more defections.… The FSA’s actions are compelling the regime to deploy forces throughout the country and fight, not just continue to shoot unarmed civilians.


The Assad regime cannot survive without killing, and the FSA has changed the game from one in which the regime was free to kill its citizens at will and without cost, to one in which it faces an armed opposition and is suffering losses.…

Because the FSA is an increasingly important player that will likely influence the outcome of events in Syria, the United States and its partners should make contact with its members and learn as much as possible about the group. Questions concerning its nature, its potential as an armed force, and the role of Islamists can be resolved through such contact as well as intelligence work. If the results are positive, then the FSA should be assisted wherever outside aid would be both possible and effective.…

(Jeffrey White is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Studies.)

Mordechai Kedar

Independent Media Review & Analysis, December 2, 2011

The horrible events that have been occurring in Syria for the past nine months raise a worrying question: Why isn’t the world getting involved in what’s going on there? Why did NATO interfere in Libya to bring about the fall of the Qadhafi regime but in Syria the slaughter continues without the world lifting a finger?…

The whole world clearly knows that Syria is very important to Iran, and indeed Syria is the Iranian Trojan horse inside the Arab world; it is the logistical backbone of Hizballah in Lebanon, so the fall of the Syrian regime will end the Syrian support for Hizballah.… Iran has cautioned the whole world that external interference in Syria will be considered by Iran as an attack upon itself, which will result in acts of reprisals against Israel and Turkey.…

Turkey is constantly stirring up matters in Syria. Not one day passes without it’s leaders…announcing that Assad must resign and leave office, and the Turks are hosting thousands of Syrian refugees in their country. Recently, there have been scattered reports that Turkey has established a training camp within its territory for the Syrian citizens and soldiers who deserted their posts, in order to turn them into guerrilla units under the title of “The Free Syrian Army”. Turkey arms and equips them, and these are the ones who are attacking military camps, intelligence headquarters and buses of the Syrian army.…

Turkey threatens to take over several kilometers in the North of Syria along its border with Turkey, to serve as a protected buffer zone where Syrian citizens will be able to find shelter from the Syrian army. In response, Iran threatens Turkey that it will attack “NATO positions” in Turkey if Turkey will attack Syria. This warning amounts to no less than a threat of war between Iran and Turkey.

Iran’s reaction to the fall of the Assad regime may not be limited only to Turkey and Israel, but may include the Gulf. If the Iranians see that Europe is also involved in the overthrow of the Syrian regime, they may announce that there’s one naval mine—only one—in the Straights of Hormuz. This announcement would be enough—even if it wasn’t actually so—to raise the price of oil drastically in the world, and the sputtering economy of Europe will suffer a hard blow. Iran can very easily harm oil installations in the countries of the Gulf without even deploying the army; it would be enough to pay a few Shiites in Saudi Arabia to do to the oil and gas pipes in their country what the Bedouin are doing in Sinai, to the pipe that brings gas to Israel and Jordan.

Europe and The United States might react to the Iranian action and the deterioration into war between Iran and NATO may follow quickly. The result of this war would be—among other things—cessation of the export of Iranian oil to China, and a dramatic rise in the price of oil in the world. China has invested many billions in the petrochemical and other industries in Iran, and a NATO war on Iran may bring about regime change. The new regime might renege on the agreements that the Ayatollahs have made with China. This is the reason for China’s support of Iran and Syria.

Russia supports Syria too, because it too has invested many billions in Syria and Iran, and worries about these investments. But Russia has an additional, much larger fear: the fall of the regime in Syria, and the war that may break out in the Gulf as a result of that, might cause great damage to the Chinese economy.… High unemployment in China will cause many millions of unemployed Chinese to join the millions of Chinese who are flooding into Russia today in search of work. If there is anything that the Russian leaders fear, it is to be swallowed up demographically by the Chinese.… Russia [also] has military and intelligence bases in Syria, and the only ports in the Mediterranean Sea in which Russian warships anchor on an ongoing basis are the Syrian ports, Latakia, Tartus and Banias. The toppling of the Assad regime by NATO might bring to power a Western-leaning regime, and Russia will lose its special privileges in Syria.…

The economic crisis in China that might result from a war in the Gulf will also have an influence on the economy of the United States, because China lent many billions to the USA in recent years in order to support the White House in its efforts to stabilize the American economy. A crisis in China might cause China to demand the US to pay their debt or they may raise the interest on it. A scenario such as this might…damage the president’s chances for reelection.…

The fall of the Syrian regime may influence Israel as well. On one hand, it will result in the partitioning of Syria into a number of countries: Kurdish in the North, Alawite in the West, Druze in the South, Bedouin in the East and two more in Damascus and Aleppo, which have never had great love between them. This partition will improve the mood in the area, due to the departure of an illegitimate regime, which has castigated Israel all the years in order to unite all of the groups under Assad’s aegis. But the fall of the regime might also create difficult problems: a) weapons belonging to the Syrian army might get into the hands of Hizballah and other terror organizations who have representation in Syria, and b) the worsening struggle between the regime and the citizens in Syria might cause thousands of Syrians to request refuge—perhaps only temporary—in the Golan Heights.…

One sad conclusion that arises from the aforesaid is that the motives that drive the world today are economic and military interests, not ethics nor human rights. The UN, which was established in the wake of the Second World War, in order to prevent a similar occurrence, does not do anything in order to stop the butchering of thousands of Syrians which might deteriorate into a multi-national crisis.…

World leaders are well aware of the physical law, “Water seeks its own level”, and this is the very reason that the world is reluctant to give the Syrian regime what it deserves. This is another price that “les miserables” pay for globalization: a shock in one place is felt well in many other places, and the Syrians are paying the price in blood for the economic interests of many countries. Nevertheless, and despite the dangers, the world without the dark and bloodthirsty regime of Syria will be a better place, and if it will be possible for the regime of the Iranian Ayatollahs to join Assad in his final resting place, the world will surely be better, calmer and far less dangerous.

(Dr. Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, lectures at Bar-Ilan University.)