Tag: Hezbollah

HEZBOLLAH’S PLAN TO USE SUBTERRANEAN WARFARE AGAINST ISRAEL FOILED BY IDF

Are Hezbollah’s Attack Tunnels the Future of Warfare?: Michael Peck, National Interest, Jan. 20, 2019 — Israel has faced many threats during its tumultuous seventy-five-year existence: ballistic missiles, tanks, hang-gliding terrorists, suicide bombers.

How Did Israel’s Enemies Become Experts in Tunnel Warfare?: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2018— In April 2017, a lumbering MC-130 with its four whirring propellers flew over a mountainous area in eastern Afghanistan.

A League of Their Own, as Few Arab Leaders Attend Summit: Vivian Yee, New York Times, Jan. 20, 2019— The eyes of the world were nowhere near Beirut, where the kings and presidents of the Arab world had been ceremoniously summoned to a summit of the Arab League over the weekend and had, in all but two cases, ceremoniously declined.

What is the U.S. Policy Towards Lebanon?: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 24, 2018— According to the Israeli media, during his meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels last Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked for the U.S. to impose an economic embargo on Lebanon.

On Topic Links

Hillel Neuer Visits Hezbollah Terror Tunnels Ahead of UNSC Meeting: Breaking Israel News, Dec. 19, 2018

Ex-Government Agent Discusses Using AI to Battle Hezbollah Rockets: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2018

Israeli Official Briefs Italian MPs on Hezbollah, Iran: Eldad Beck, Israel Hayom, Dec. 20, 2018

What Real Border Security Looks Like: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Jan. 10, 2019

 

ARE HEZBOLLAH’S ATTACK TUNNELS THE FUTURE OF WARFARE?

Michael Peck

National Interest, Jan. 20, 2019

Israel has faced many threats during its tumultuous seventy-five-year existence: ballistic missiles, tanks, hang-gliding terrorists, suicide bombers. But now Israel faces a new threat that doesn’t go through Israeli defenses, but under them.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militant group, has dug tunnels under the border between Lebanon and the Galilee region of northern Israel. Israel says the tunnels have a deadly purpose: to allow Hezbollah fighters to enter Israel in a surprise attack to capture Israeli border communities, a feat that Arab armies have not been able to accomplish since 1948. “The plan entails fighters from Hezbollah’s elite Radwan unit infiltrating Israel from Lebanon, entrenching themselves in Israeli communities near the border while taking hostages and using Israeli citizens as human shields,” according to Israel’s Ynet News. The tunnels were sophisticated, with electricity and ventilation systems.

This is not the first time that Israel has faced tunnels. Hamas tunneled from Gaza into southern Israel, most famously emerging to capture Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, who was held captive for five years until exchanged for Hamas prisoners in 2011. This has spurred the Israel Defense Forces to develop new technology and techniques for detecting tunnels.

The work seems to have paid off. Last month, Israeli troops began destroying the Hezbollah tunnels. So far, Israel has destroyed five tunnels, though given the nature of subterranean warfare, there may very well be more. Which raises the question: Are Hezbollah’s tunnels a template for the future of warfare? It’s not that tunnels are a new weapon. The Viet Cong used them to hide from and ambush American soldiers, while North Korea is famous for building numerous tunnels under the DMZ as invasion routes into South Korea, with some wide enough for tanks to cross. Hezbollah cannot be under any illusions that it could hold the Galilee against Israeli firepower (though such firepower would kill Israeli hostages). Hezbollah “conquering” the Galilee would not be conquest in the conventional sense. It would be more like terrorists or bank robbers taking hostages.

But if Israel’s estimation is correct, then permanent conquest doesn’t matter. Hezbollah would use these tunnels to capture enemy territory in a surprise attack, to seize territory, humiliate the enemy and demonstrate their impotence before the world. Hezbollah has always displayed a keen sense of public relations, like almost destroying an Israeli warship with a missile on live television. Capturing a few Israeli towns would be even more impressive, reminiscent of the Tet Offensive, which sought to demonstrate the powerlessness of the Saigon government and its American backers by mounting a nationwide offensive across South Vietnam.

So is Hezbollah’s tunnel strategy the future of warfare? It could be—if certain conditions are met. For starters, you would need a non-state organization that’s actually more powerful than the army of the state it resides in (such as Lebanon.) That actor would be so powerful because of generous military and financial assistance from a foreign nation (such as Iran), including access to advanced weapons such as ballistic missiles.

That organization would also need to control a border territory (such as southern Lebanon), so that it would be free to build tunnels with minimal interference from a cowed central government or UN peacekeepers too weak and timid to interfere. It would also help to face an enemy such as Israel, which is sensitive to losing the lives of its citizens. If these conditions exist, then any guerrilla or militia organization could do what Hezbollah does. The problem is finding places where these conditions apply. Syria or Yemen are not conflicts where the lives of hostages seem to matter much. Muslim rebels in the Philippines don’t have ballistic missiles. The Iraqi government wouldn’t give political cover to ISIS if it dug attack tunnels into Iran. In other words, Hezbollah’s tunnels are a clever idea because of the unique conditions along the Israel-Lebanon border. Which doesn’t mean they would work anywhere else.

 

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HOW DID ISRAEL’S ENEMIES BECOME EXPERTS IN TUNNEL WARFARE?

Seth Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2018

In April 2017, a lumbering MC-130 with its four whirring propellers flew over a mountainous area in eastern Afghanistan. Just before eight in the evening, the plane dropped a 9,797 kilogram bomb, known as a GBU-43, the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used, on a tunnel network used by Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Thirty-six ISIS members were killed in the massive explosion that followed, according to US estimates. The ISIS tunnel network was more complex than the one that Hezbollah has built in southern Lebanon, but just as the US has had to contend with terrorist tunnels, Israel and all countries facing terrorism are increasingly forced to fight an underground war.

The complexity of caves and tunnels is one of many used by terrorist groups in Afghanistan. ISIS, like many terror groups, have become experts in tunnels. They didn’t invent this on their own. They graduated from what other terror groups have used, and used tunnels that have existed in places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan for decades. Some of these are bunker complexes that various regimes built, improved upon by terrorists, or they may be terror tunnels built by other groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In Douma in Syria, the Syrian rebels built a massive complex of tunnels. BBC called it “quite a work of engineering.” It was excavated from solid clay and stones, and was big enough to “drive a vehicle down.” One reporter who went down into the tunnels in Douma called it was a “subterranean life.”

Hezbollah’s tunnels into Israel have now been revealed in a recent video after Israel began operation Northern Shield. So far, the tunnels under the border have not consisted of such massive complexity and are not equipped with places for vehicles. To understand their origin and the kinds of difficulty in confronting this issue, we must look back at the Second Lebanon War of 2006.

Hezbollah spent decades improving its terror infrastructure in southern Lebanon. After Israel withdrew in 2000 from Lebanon the leaders of Hezbollah planned an extensive network of what were labeled “nature reserves” by Israel, complex tunnels and bunkers designed to conceal the growing arsenal of the group. They attempted to make them not only difficult to find but also difficult to bomb, according to a 2016 article by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. According to the report, they built fortified areas in 200 villages. In an article published by the US Army Combined Arms Center in 2008, the authors looked at Hezbollah’s tunnel expertise.

According to this study, which quoted an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officer, Hezbollah had “North Korean advisors [who] had assisted Hezbollah in building tunnel infrastructure.” One tunnel was supposedly 25 kilometers long. This extraordinary claim, printed in Asharq Al-Awsat, may not be accurate. One IDF soldier remarked that after the 2006 war, he found a bunker near Maroun al-Ras. It was 25 feet deep, linked several rooms, and had a camera that Hezbollah used to monitor outside movement.

The US army report suggests that Hezbollah – which was born in the 1980s – might have been inspired by the Viet Cong who used tunnels to confront the US military in Vietnam in the 1960s. The Viet Cong dug massive tunnel systems. One at Cu Chi was 250 kilometers long. Hezbollah might have sought to copy the Vietnamese, but it also wanted to exploit modern technology. Tunnels that were found in 2006 included some with hydraulic steel doors.

Considering Hezbollah’s close relationship with Iran and also the Syrian regime it should be expected that Hezbollah’s expertise in tunneling has more similarities with the kind of network a state might be able to create, and not just a terrorist organization. This means that tunnels have levels of technology, depth and ability to go through difficult terrain. However, as has been shown in the Syrian civil war context, any group that has even limited resources and devotion, can build impressive tunnels.

Confronting tunnels is a complex task. Militaries and law enforcement agencies, such as those dealing with drug trafficking and smuggling, have to monitor tunnels. In Gaza, the tunnels built under the border with Egypt were used to smuggle people, infrastructure and weapons. Militaries can bomb tunnel networks, like the US did in Afghanistan, but only if they aren’t located in civilian areas. ISIS, for instance, festooned civilian areas with tunnels so that its fighters could pass unnoticed under houses and roads. They were able to hold out against a 70-nation Coalition and the Iraqi army in Mosul for 9 months by using these tunnels.

Armies don’t like to send men down into tunnels because naturally the enemy has advantage in its own tunnel system and can neutralize a modern army’s technological advantage. In 2016, The New Yorker noted that Israel had developed a kind of “underground Iron Dome” to confront tunnels. But Brig.-Gen. (res) Danny Gold, who helped pioneer the above ground Iron Dome and said that “since the Vietnam War it [tunnel threats] hasn’t been solved. Between Mexico and the United States it isn’t solved. Sometimes it’s even harder than finding oil in the ground.” An Israeli system, according to this report, cost hundreds of millions of dollars, some of which the US supposed was to “field some four hundred different ideas for the detection and destruction of tunnels.”

But for countries fighting tunnels, detection is only one issue. Armies can listen for the tunnel or postulate on where it might be, but don’t want any threats or find any surprises when trying to unearth it. This may not be such an easy challenge to confront in an environment with civilians around. Once detected the goal would be to stop the tunnel if it is a threat. But a country might want to monitor what the enemy is doing before interdicting the tunnel. Also a means to dig a counter-tunnel has to be developed and used without alerting the adversary that the counter-tunnel is moving toward the original. Different countries have employed different means. Egypt flooded the tunnels along the border. The most important aspect of confronting tunnels may also be mapping their point of origin to know what threats may be lurking where they begin. Tunnels in warfare have not only been used to hide men and material, but sometimes to store explosives. Israel, by necessity, has become proficient at confronting tunnels. Hezbollah, like other terror groups and like its allied regimes, has also likely increased its skills. The subterranean war will continue to be a layer of the modern battlefield.

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A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, AS FEW ARAB LEADERS ATTEND SUMMIT

Vivian Yee

New York Times, Jan. 20, 2019

The eyes of the world were nowhere near Beirut, where the kings and presidents of the Arab world had been ceremoniously summoned to a summit of the Arab League over the weekend and had, in all but two cases, ceremoniously declined. Government jets disgorged only underlings and minor ministers onto the red carpet rolled out for them at the airport.

Libya was boycotting, and just about everyone was in a fight over whether to invite Syria at all. Nonetheless, the city puffed out its chest, put its downtown on lockdown and hoisted the flags of the 22 member states under a mercifully rainless sky. The fourth economic and social summit of the Arab League — or most of it, anyway — was hereby called to order. “We wished for this summit to be an occasion to bring together all the Arabs, leaving no vacant seats,” the host, President Michel Aoun of Lebanon, lamented in a speech that kicked off Sunday’s gathering. “Yet the hurdles were unfortunately stronger.”

As if on cue, the TV cameras panned to an empty dais on which a small Libyan flag was wilting, and an eloquent gap between the Egyptian delegation and the Lebanese one. Members of a Lebanese political party had threatened to physically block the Libyans from leaving the airport if they showed up. Syria’s empty seat was just across the vast hall, a bone of contention in the form of a large wooden desk — and a reminder that, with a few member states reopening embassies in Damascus in recent months, Syria’s pariah government appeared to be progressing toward rejoining the league.

That, of course, might first require unearthing some kind of Arab League consensus. Formed at the suggestion of the British during World War II, the league was supposed to strengthen ties among Arab countries from Morocco to Oman, with the Palestinian cause their most important shared mission. It united its members in shaking off colonialism and confronting Israel, helped broker an end to Lebanon’s 15-year civil war and developed a significant Israel-Palestine peace plan.

But by now, enfeebled by regional rivalries and disagreements, the league has acquired an all-too-mockable reputation for dysfunction. Its aged leaders have been known to fall asleep during meetings. In one recent year, one leader mused that the only thing the members had in common was the Arabic language. In 2016, the league hit what was perhaps a modern low point when Morocco announced that it would not be bothering to host the annual leaders’ summit. It dismissed it as “just another occasion” to “pronounce speeches that give a false impression of unity.” When Mauritania stepped up to host instead, only seven leaders attended.

“It’s constitutionally incapable of addressing the real problems that are facing the Middle East,” said James Gelvin, a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of California, Los Angeles. “That’s everything from bad governance and political violence to climate change, population growth, bad health care and bad educational systems.”

Matters have not improved much since 2016. “Half these countries are fighting each other in wars or undermining each other,” said Rami G. Khouri, a Beirut-based political columnist who has covered several Arab League summits. It is only a slight exaggeration. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia and its partners in the United Arab Emirates are mired in a war against the Houthis, a rebel group, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and thrust millions to the edge of famine. (Representatives of Yemen’s Saudi-backed government attended the summit, but the league took no action to address the humanitarian crisis.)

There are hostilities between the Saudis and Emiratis and the Qataris, whom the Saudis and Emiratis have tried to ostracize politically and isolate economically, and between the Saudis and anyone linked to Iran. There is bad blood between Lebanon and Libya. No one has entirely forgotten that Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, a move seen as such a historic betrayal of the bloc that Egypt was voted out for a decade.

And when it comes to Syria and the several countries that have funded rebel groups taking on President Bashar al-Assad’s government, water is only just beginning to trickle under the bridge. Soon after the Syrian war broke out, the Arab League suspended Syria’s membership, and it later welcomed representatives from the Syrian opposition. Almost eight years later, Mr. Assad has all but re-clinched control of the country. The league’s membership has had to wrestle with questions about how to rebuild Syria’s shattered infrastructure and economy — an undertaking that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars — and what to do about the more than five million refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

Those questions were always going to be extra-fraught at a summit meeting in Lebanon, where the three major political and religious camps — Christian, Shiite Muslim and Sunni Muslim — have been so deadlocked, in part over Lebanese-Syrian relations, that they have failed to form a government for eight months and counting. Mr. Assad’s government enjoys the support of Shiite-dominated factions in Lebanon and beyond, and in the weeks before the summit, Lebanon’s Parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, a Shiite, called for the whole event to be postponed until Syria was invited. What was the point of discussing Syrian reconstruction and refugees, Mr. Berri asked, if Syria was absent? He earned nothing but irritated shushings from Lebanon’s Christian president and Sunni prime minister, who were anxious to present the host country in a good light…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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WHAT IS THE U.S. POLICY TOWARDS LEBANON?

Caroline Glick

Breaking Israel News, Dec. 24, 2018

According to the Israeli media, during his meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels last Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked for the U.S. to impose an economic embargo on Lebanon. Pompeo reportedly rejected Netanyahu’s request. The meeting between the two men took place on the eve of Israel’s initiation of Operation Northern Shield last Tuesday. The operation is a military effort geared towards sealing Hezbollah’s offensive subterranean attack tunnels. It follows Israel’s stunning revelation that it had discovered the locations of Hezbollah’s attack tunnels, perhaps Hezbollah’s most secret undertaking.

According to Netanyahu, Hezbollah launched its offensive tunnel project in 2014. The existence of the tunnel program was known to almost no one in the organization. Hezbollah’s tunnels traverse the border between Lebanon and Israel. Hezbollah reportedly intended to have the tunnels serve as a means to invade Israeli territory rapidly and undetected. It is the declared goal of Hezbollah to conquer northern Israel in its next war against the Jewish state.

The Trump administration’s rejection of Israel’s request to impose economic sanctions on Lebanon signals that it supports Israel’s efforts to neutralize the threat that Hezbollah poses, with its powerful army and massive arsenal of short and long range missiles. But — like the Bush and Obama administrations before it — it rejects Israel’s interpretation of the relations between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government and armed forces.

The disparity between the U.S. and Israeli positions on the nature of Hezbollah’s relationship with the Lebanese government and Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) emerged during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. At that time, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded that Israel not attack Lebanese government targets. This despite the government’s open support for Hezbollah and the LAF’s assistance to Hezbollah during the war, particularly through the provision of targeting data for Hezbollah missile crews.

In the aftermath of the war, acting on the basis of its assertion that the LAF is an independent institution, the U.S. began massively arming and training the LAF. This policy, adopted by the Bush administration, was expanded substantially under the Obama administration. That owed in part to then-President Barack Obama’s desire to present Iran and its Hezbollah proxy as responsible regional actors in light of their opposition to the so-called Islamic State in Syria.

Throughout the years, Israel has maintained that the Lebanese government and the LAF are effectively controlled by Hezbollah, the Iranian proxy force. Its position is backed up by facts. The first relevant fact is that the LAF is controlled by the Lebanese government. And the Lebanese government has been effectively controlled by Hezbollah since 2008.

Buoyed by its domestic popularity after its war against Israel, in 2008, Hezbollah staged an effective coup against the government. Its forces took over Western Beirut from government-controlled forces, laid siege to government offices, and shut down government-sponsored media outlets. Hezbollah acted after the Lebanese government sought to end Hezbollah’s effective control over the Beirut International Airport. In light of their cooperation with with  Hezbollah in its war against Israel in 2006, it wasn’t surprising that in 2008, the LAF refused to defend the government from Hezbollah. The government was forced to back down…

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

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On Topic Links

Hillel Neuer Visits Hezbollah Terror Tunnels Ahead of UNSC Meeting: Breaking Israel News, Dec. 19, 2018—UN Watch’s Director Hillel Neuer visits Hezbollah terror tunnels crossing over the Israel-Lebanon border.

Ex-Government Agent Discusses Using AI to Battle Hezbollah Rockets: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2018—Amit Meltzer is not only a former chief technology officer for a key Israeli government agency and a top cyber security consultant, he is also a master strategist.

Israeli Official Briefs Italian MPs on Hezbollah, Iran: Eldad Beck, Israel Hayom, Dec. 20, 2018—Head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs tells Italian parliament session on Middle East that Hezbollah is helping Iran export the Islamic revolution across the region, disputing Italian MPs’ claim that Hezbollah operatives are not terrorists.

What Real Border Security Looks Like: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Jan. 10, 2019—What I saw on Wednesday while traveling along the Blue Line was … a fence. A fence studded with sensors, to be sure, but by no means an imposing one. As the accompanying photos show, here is what a long stretch of the border between two sworn enemies looks like.

 

PRAYING FOR ISRAEL: INTERVIEW WITH FORMER IDF CHIEF OF STAFF MOSHE YA’ALON

Machla Abramovitz

Community, Dec., 2018              

…To assess the current state of Israel’s security, we sat down with former IDF Chief of Staff General Moshe (“Boogie”) Ya’alon, following  his keynote address at the 30th anniversary gala of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR) in Montreal. General Ya’alon, 68, was born in Haifa, joined the Nahal Paratroop Regiment at age 18, and shortly afterward enlisted in Israel’s most elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal. Ya’alon then served as Head of Military Intelligence, was later appointed IDF Deputy Chief-of-Staff, and eventually was named IDF Chief-of-Staff.

Following his military career, Ya’alon became a politician, joining the Likud in 2008, and serving as Minister for Strategic Affairs and Vice Prime Minister. In 2013, General Ya’alon served as Minister of Defense, and a year later, he presided over Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s major military operation in Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas underground tunnels and ending rocket launches. In May 2016, he resigned from his position, and he recently founded a party named Manhigut Acheret (New Leadership.)

When asked about his position on the viability of a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, General Ya’alon explains that he supports the idea “in principle,” adding that he supported the 1993 Oslo Accords. “However,” he says, “today, nobody takes them seriously. Israelis are overwhelmingly unified on there being no Palestinian State under the present circumstances, and under any foreseeable leadership. The best we can do is give the Palestinians autonomy, help them develop economically, and hope for better leadership to arise.”

Ya’alon is critical of the Obama administration’s Middle East policies. “Yasser Arafat’s duplicitousness didn’t matter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, as they were trying to curry support among the Arabs by propping up Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians. The JCPOA [the deal reached by the Obama administration with the Republic of Iran] is a disaster. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, is doing wonderful things for Israel. Over 80 percent of Israelis support him.” The following is an edited transcript of the rest of our conversation with the General:

CM: Are wars between Israel and Iran, as well as Hamas, inevitable?

Ya’alon: Let’s distinguish between Iran and Hamas. The Iranians are trying to open another front against us in Syria. In 2015, they started launching missiles at Israel. In less than a year, this attempt ended after Israel hit back hard. This February, their units began launching drones and rockets. Subsequently, the IAF destroyed 15 Iranian units. Iran understands that they cannot successfully challenge Israel. Israeli power is superior to theirs militarily and intelligence-wise.

We don’t want Iran to either violate our sovereignty or arm our enemies; any violations on their part contravenes what we call our Red Line Strategy. [Israel prevents the Iranians from shipping arms to Hezbollah by bombing their ammunition depots and highways traveled by convoys.] I don’t see a war with Iran coming soon. Hezbollah’s 15,000 long-range, guided missiles are a problem, which Israel will eventually deal with. I foresee the possibility of a massive Israeli assault in Lebanon. Because Hezbollah installs these missiles in villages and towns and next to hospitals – as they do in Gaza – this will result in a large-scale PR problem because specific civilian structures must be destroyed to root these missiles out.

The challenge with Hamas is different. Since 2014, Hamas didn’t shoot a single bullet; and they arrested any proxy group that did. They don’t want to escalate the situation to a full-scale war. During Operation Protective Edge, we destroyed over 10,000 buildings in Gaza. They’ve been reconstructing Gaza for 20 years. So, Gazans are now releasing dangerous, incendiary balloons and kites, and are demonstrating along the border to express their frustration. The IDF is responding in a limited way. I don’t like this. We should not have accepted this behavior from the onset. It’s impossible to intercept every balloon and every kite. We must confront these terrorists vigorously. It’s the only way to handle things in the Middle East. Still, it’s not deterministic that we are going to war, even though the Middle East can erupt at any time even when it’s not intentional. I hope the government and the IDF will be able to change the rules of the game. The rules as they exist now are not in our favor.

CM: Despite Israel’s ability to manage Iranian aggression in Syria, doesn’t Iran remain a severe threat to its security?

Ya’alon: Iran remains a crucial issue. Still, with enough pressure placed on it, I believe the current regime can be persuaded to act in Iran’s best interests. Iran suspended its nuclear project in 2003 when the US invaded Afghanistan. They were afraid of President George W. Bush. The project was renewed two years later when Ayatollah Khamenei saw that the US lost its stomach for war. In 2012, he decided to re-engage with America because of political isolation, crippling economic sanctions, a credible military option, and a fear of a general uprising among Iranians. His economists told him his regime could not survive another year if he continued with his expansionist policies. Unfortunately, President Barak Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry headed the negotiations. President Trump’s determination to renew the sanctions is an excellent idea. This “irrational” regime becomes very rational when presented with a dilemma, whether to continue with their hegemonic drive or choose to survive [due to the implosion of the economy and fear of a popular uprising.] I believe they will choose to survive. Still, at some point, we’ll have to deal with the Iranians. If the US cancels the JCPOA next month, as President Trump said they would, Iran will crank up its nuclear research again. At that point, Israel must act. It cannot allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. If the US doesn’t act on this; Israel will.

CM: The accidental downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by the Syrian Air Force resulted in the deaths of 15 Russian troops for which Israel was blamed. It also resulted in Russia’s decision to supply Syria with S-300, an advanced anti-aircraft missile system with a range of 400 miles capable of shooting down planes flying in and out of Ben-Gurion Airport. How do you explain this escalation in tensions?

Ya’alon: Russia and Israel are not on the same page regarding Syria. Despite that, Israel succeeded in establishing an understanding with Russia that they don’t interrupt Israel and Israel doesn’t interrupt them in their military activities there. If the Iranians approach Israel’s border where there are Russians present, Israel warns them before taking any military action.

Still, President Vladimir Putin is very frustrated. That’s why he sparked this latest crisis between Israel and Russia. Since moving into Syria in 2010, he declared victories many times, but Syrian President Bashar al Assad controls less than 50 percent of Syrian soil. Turkey controls less than 50 percent of the north, and the Kurds and Americans are in control of 7 percent of the land [a strip along the northeast border, which contains Syria’s abundant oil reserves.] Russia wants the oil. Subsequently, it launched an unsuccessful offensive using Russian mercenaries against Syrian anti-Assad forces that are supported by the Kurds and the US, which resulted in the deaths of 150 Russians. In this regard, Putin doesn’t benefit from Syria. [The Russians benefit from naval and air bases, which gives them an outlet to the Mediterranean.] The cost of intervention for Russia is very high in terms of money and human casualties. It is, subsequently, seeking an exit strategy. The Russians used the threat of giving the S-300 to Syria, which Israelis didn’t want them to do, as a means of pressuring the Americans to accept Syrian President Bashar al Assad and bring a quick end to the conflict.

CM: The Americans are arguing for Russian non-intervention in Idlib Province, which is the last remaining autonomous Syrian province, and the gathering place of all the anti-Assad forces. Moreover, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, both hawks, want the US to remain in Syria until Iran and Russia are out of the country. As for the S-300, even if the Syrians already have the missile system, which is not clear, they must be trained to use it. Time still exists for Russia and the US to make a deal. What will Israel do regarding the S-300 should the US and Russia not make a deal?

Ya’alon: Israel has known about these missiles for some time and is working on the electronic jamming of the system. Hopefully, by the time the Syrians are trained to use it, the system will be deemed useless.

CM: Would Russia abandon President Assad and Iran if the Americans made that a condition for a settlement?

Ya’alon: Putin is committed to Putin and no one else. From the very beginning, he was committed to a stable regime, even without Assad. Otherwise, he argued, we would see more and more Islamist factions. Russian intelligence knew of about 2000 jihadists from Chechnya and other places deployed with ISIS in Syria. He told us that he prefers to keep these jihadists in Syria rather than on Russian soil. He also wanted to benefit by demonstrating his partisan allegiance – “I’m loyal to my allies, unlike Obama who abandoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak” – as well as demonstrate his military capabilities, to be a player in the game. Considering Russia’s poor economic situation, he played his cards better than Obama did. Regarding Iran, Russia’s interest is not to have Iranian dominance in Damascus. However, he needs them for boots on the ground.

CM: Why is Israel concerned about China?

Ya’alon: China is inserting itself into the Middle East in many ways, least of which is through its control of ports. Over the past few years, they bought majority holdings in ports – in Somalia, Piraeus, Greece – and they administer them. This insertion is significant because the ports are military, and they are building up

their navy there. It’s the first time in their history that the Chinese are moving outwards, which is of some concern. On the other hand, Israel has excellent relations with China – military and technical. The Chinese are investing in Israeli corporations. Still, the relationship remains complicated because they also play up to the Arab States. That can be dangerous for Israel.

Machla Abramovitz is a CIJR Academic Fellow

 

RESPONDING TO HEZBOLLAH ATTACK TUNNELS & INCREASING TENSION ON BORDER, IDF LAUNCHES “NORTHERN SHIELD”

Israel Catches Hezbollah in the Act, and the UN Looks Away: Vivian Bercovici, National Post, Dec. 13, 2018 — Earlier this week, on Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, had a chat with Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, the head of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

Israel’s Blitz of Hezbollah’s Terror Tunnels Will Help Win the PR War: Benny Avni, New York Post, Dec. 10, 2018 — Israel prizes stealth and surprise in battle.

As Syria’s Civil War Winds Down, Israel, Iran and Hezbollah Pivot to Lebanon: Frida Ghitis, WPR, Dec. 13, 2018— After seven years of civil war, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad looks set to emerge victorious thanks to the support he received from Russia, from his patrons in Iran and from Iran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

Lebanon’s Strategic Symbiosis: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Dec. 10, 2018— The question of Lebanon’s responsibility for acts of aggression emanating from its territory has long preoccupied Israeli decision-makers.

On Topic Links

Inching Towards War: Aaron S, Jerusalem Online, Dec. 12, 2018

Operation “Northern Shield” Could Reshape the Northern Front: Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, JCPA, Dec. 10, 2018

The Mole Inside the Hezbollah Tunnel: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Dec. 5, 2018

Washington’s Silent War Against Hezbollah in Latin America: Joseph M. Humire, The Hill, Oct. 8, 2018

 

ISRAEL CATCHES HEZBOLLAH IN THE ACT,

AND THE UN LOOKS AWAY 

Vivian Bercovici

National Post, Dec. 13, 2018

Earlier this week, on Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, had a chat with Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, the head of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. Since August 2006, UNIFIL has been mandated, pursuant to UNSC Resolution 1701, to ensure that all militia forces are kept behind the Litani River in south Lebanon, which flows four kilometres north of the border with Israel at its closest point. In other words, 1701 intends for a reasonable buffer to be maintained separating Hezbollah and IDF forces.

The Lebanese villages of Kafr Kila and Ramya are a literal stone’s throw from the Israeli border. A small, ordinary structure in Kafr Kila, said to be a “cement block factory” turned out to be anything but. There was significant and unusual activity for an agricultural village of 10,000. With airborne devices, the IDF noticed an awful lot of heavy truck traffic going to and from the little factory. They all arrived empty and left loaded with dirt. Israel knew what it was looking at — the site of a major tunnelling operation.

All this busy work seems to have gone unnoticed by the approximately 10,500 UNIFIL soldiers working in the area. To suggest that this strains credulity is putting it mildly. What it also clearly does is raise the issue of the neutrality of the UN force. Hezbollah, backed by the IRGC and Iran, effectively controls south Lebanon and is the de facto government. As terrorist militias often do, Hezbollah commandeers civilian homes and buildings to serve also as a base for storing weapons and, clearly, enhancing military infrastructure and capability

This particular tunnel had reached 600 meters from Kafr Kila, burrowing very close to the northernmost Israeli town of Metulla. A beautiful village where 2,000 Israelis reside, Metulla is perched at the tip of a narrow jut of land, “the finger,” it is sometimes called, and surrounded on three sides by Lebanon. (It is also home to the only indoor regulation-size hockey arena in Israel, named Canada Centre.)

Israel’s northern reaches have experienced horrific incidents too often. Among the more surreal were two brutal terrorist operations that infiltrated Israel through the Lebanese border and targeted civilians: in 1974, terrorists from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine took hostage more than 115 schoolchildren and murdered 25; and in 1980, when Kibbutz Misgav Am was attacked by commandos from a radical splinter group under the Palestine Liberation Organization umbrella, who took hostage infants and babies with their caregivers, murdering two. An IDF soldier died in their ultimate rescue.

In early 2014, shortly after I arrived in Israel to serve as Canada’s ambassador, rumours were swirling about tunnels having been dug in Gaza. One particularly surreal version, described in a write-up circulating at the time on Facebook, warned of multiple tunnels being dug from the Gaza Strip right under Israeli homes. The nightmare scenario told of terrorists popping straight into Israeli homes in the midst of family gatherings for the Jewish New Year in early fall. At the time, it was dismissed; the crazy stuff of an overheated sci-fi imagination. Until, several months later, it was proven to be true, during the war between Hamas and Israel in the summer of 2014. The tunnels were terrifyingly real.

Shortly after, residents of northern Israel spoke of hearing digging sounds, just as their compatriots living on the border with the Gaza Strip had done in previous years. Their fears were dismissed publicly, but we now know that they were true. The 2018 version of Misgav Am and Ma’alot is far more sophisticated, engineered and financed by Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah. Apparently, the plan was to have hundreds of fighters emerge from numerous tunnels (to date three have been exposed but the IDF states that there are more), ambush and encircle Metulla and distract IDF attention and response from the regular Hizballah forces that would then, according to Nasrallah, surge the border and conquer northern Israel.

Operating within Israeli borders, the IDF has neutralized tunnels exposed thus far with explosives, but clearly intends further action. Residents in the villages hosting Hezbollah operatives have received repeated warnings from the IDF since Sunday urging them evacuate their homes, clearly signalling an imminent intention to destroy the structures used as bases for tunnel construction.

In his meeting with Maj. Gen. Del Col, IDF Chief Eisenkot made it very clear that Israel considers the tunnels to be a blatant violation of UN Resolution 1701. Based on official statements, UNIFIL’s response seems to have been a flurry of meetings with Lebanese and other officials. What UNIFIL has yet to do is explain, at all, how such significant Hezbollah military activity could continue, presumably for years, unnoticed, right under more than 10,500 noses.

Incredibly, UNIFIL seems to be questioning the obvious — whether Hezbollah is responsible for the tunnels. Following a meeting yesterday with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri, Maj. Gen. Del Col issued a statement regarding the seriousness of the tunnel situation, but tempering it with a peculiar warning: “At the same time rumours and speculations should be avoided.” Presumably, this somewhat cryptic admonishment invokes the Israeli claim that Hezbollah operatives dug the tunnels.

For the UN, it would appear, Hezbollah’s culpability is anything but certain. It’s an absurdist denial and, regrettably, exactly why Hezbollah has become so entrenched in south Lebanon in spite of Resolution 1701. This is no whodunnit. It will be interesting to see what alternate theory of reality UNIFIL suggests as to who, other than Hezbollah, might have the resources, motivation and tenacity to burrow through hard rock from Lebanon into Israel.

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ISRAEL’S BLITZ OF HEZBOLLAH’S

TERROR TUNNELS WILL HELP WIN THE PR WAR                                 

Benny Avni                        

New York Post, Dec. 10, 2018

Israel prizes stealth and surprise in battle. Yet it’s now conducting a highly publicized military operation, destroying Hezbollah attack tunnels snaking under its border with Lebanon. Why? True, tunnels are a major threat, but what worries Israelis even more is Hezbollah’s ever-growing missile arsenal. The Shiite terror group’s patrons in Tehran are busy modernizing those missiles while building indigenous rocket-manufacturing factories on Lebanese territory.

So why the tunnels first? Two such tunnels have been eliminated since the Israeli Defense Forces launched operation Northern Shield last week. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the work will last as long as it takes to destroy all tunnels. Maybe months. They’re dug deep under the rocky terrain of the border region. Some are reportedly wide enough to transport tanks and other heavy military equipment. IDF briefers say one tunnel, destroyed last week, would have allowed terrorists to seize a major Israeli highway, cutting off Metula and other northern Galilee towns and, presumably, slaughtering residents.

Israel’s known about the tunneling activity for months. Galilee residents have complained about underground noises at night, and intelligence officials have reportedly used Lebanese sources to map tunneling and follow the digging process. Hezbollah has seized several southern Lebanese villages, taking over residential homes and using the locals as human shields against possible air attack. The terror outfit was apparently unaware of the wealth of intelligence Israel has gathered.

Those details, and others, emerged from press briefings the IDF has conducted regularly during Northern Shield. Netanyahu, similarly, took foreign ambassadors to the border for a detailed presentation. And on Sunday the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, hosted the commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col of Italy, at his Tel Aviv headquarters. The south Lebanon-based UNIFIL, charged with overseeing the ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel, has to date mentioned no tunneling activity in its periodic reports to the Security Council. Now Del Col readily admits the Hezbollah tunnels are a serious violation of the ceasefire terms.

And as tunnel destruction is conducted entirely inside Israel’s territory (though officials darkly hint they may at one point need to enter the other side of the border), even the toughest critics — including the UN — can’t blame Jerusalem for defending itself. But if so, again: Why the publicity blitz? Why brief the press, foreign diplomats and the UN?

Part of the answer has to do with Israel’s recognition that in the past it has won decisive military victories while losing the public relations wars. As before, in the next war “Hezbollah will hope to survive to fight another day while delegitimizing Israel in the eyes of the world,” says a new report by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. But according to JINSA, a think tank comprised of top retired US military officials, the next war will be much bloodier than past skirmishes, as Hezbollah now threatens Israel with up to 140,000 rockets, up from about 10,000 in 2006.

True, most of those rockets are primitive, but some Iranian deliveries of high precision missiles through Syria manage to evade IDF air attacks and are now housed in Lebanese villages. Over the weekend Hezbollah’s second in command, Naim Qassem, warned those rockets can reach any point in Israel.

Worse: In September, Netanyahu showed the UN photos of factories being erected near Beirut, where precision missiles are to be manufactured — bypassing the need to transfer them from Iran. Israel “knows what you’re doing, Israel knows where you are doing it and Israel will not let you get away with it,” Netanyahu said. Those factories can be a major game changer, but if the IDF wants to eliminate the threat, it must at first neutralize other menaces — like tunnels designed to slaughter Israeli civilians in retaliation for an attack on Hezbollah. And destroying those tunnels in full public view, highlighting how Hezbollah takes Lebanese villagers hostage and uses them as human shield, is a bonus in the PR battle — a major component of modern warfare.

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AS SYRIA’S CIVIL WAR WINDS DOWN, ISRAEL,

IRAN AND HEZBOLLAH PIVOT TO LEBANON

Frida Ghitis                            

WPR, Dec. 13, 2018

After seven years of civil war, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad looks set to emerge victorious thanks to the support he received from Russia, from his patrons in Iran and from Iran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah. The war is not over, but the focus on what comes next is already underway, and one change is now plainly visible: Iran, Damascus and Hezbollah are pivoting their attention to Lebanon’s future—and so is Israel.

In recent days, a flurry of military and political activity has shifted to Lebanon, confirming that the tiny country—which has for so long been caught in the vice of regional tensions, often with disastrous consequences—is once again feeling the pressure. Lebanon has been listening to the threats and counterthreats exchanged by Hezbollah and Israel, watching military activities along its borders, tracking mysterious flights by Iranian aircraft, and following a fraught political drama that shows no end in sight.

The latest chapter in Lebanon’s struggles is unfolding as the quest to form a new government in Beirut remains stalled more than six months after the latest elections. Lebanon remains vulnerable as ever, with President Michel Aoun warning that if an agreement on a new government is not reached soon, “the risks are greater than we can bear.” Lebanon’s dire economic problems are only one of the reasons why the country’s stability remains so fragile.

With Assad now reinvigorated by battlefield victories and his gradual emergence from the tent of ignominy back into the Arab fold, Damascus, in coordination with Iran, is again aiming to rebuild its dominance in Lebanon. Observers have noted that one of the reasons Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s efforts to form a new government have proven so daunting is Damascus’ involvement. The Syrians, according to the scholar Joseph Bahout, have made it clear to Hariri that he will not be confirmed by parliament unless he commits to “reestablishing the ‘privileged relationship’” between the two countries. That relationship started to unravel in 2005, even before the Syrian war, after Rafik Hariri—Saad’s father, a former prime minister and a determined foe of Damascus—was assassinated, most likely by Hezbollah agents working on Syria’s orders.

While the younger Hariri wrestles with pressure to hand powerful ministries to Hezbollah loyalists, tensions are escalating along Lebanon’s southern border. Last week, Israel launched an operation to destroy tunnels it said Hezbollah had been building beneath the border and into Israeli territory, advising Lebanese residents in Arabic to temporarily leave their homes while the demolition unfolded, lest the collapse of the tunnels and the possible ammunition within them trigger uncontrolled explosions.

For years Israelis living near the border had complained that they were hearing ominous sounds of activity under their homes. Israeli authorities had downplayed the threat, concealing the fact that they knew of and were monitoring Hezbollah’s tunnel construction. But this time they made no effort to conceal the information, in an apparent push to deter more construction. They even released photographs and videos apparently showing Hezbollah operatives caught by surprise by the Israelis while working inside what the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF, called “attack tunnels.”

Neither Hezbollah nor Israel are particularly keen on going to war right now, but circumstances could easily escalate. The demolitions, according to the Israeli Defense Forces, could take weeks, as the IDF reported finding tunnels going deep inside Israel. Israel protested what it described as a flagrant violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution that ended the most recent war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.

Some questioned the timing of the campaign, claiming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched it in an effort to protect himself from his growing legal troubles. But the general consensus among security experts in Israel is that the Hezbollah threat is real and must be challenged. The IDF said the decision to destroy the tunnels was made now because the tunnel construction, which it had been monitoring for months, had crossed into Israeli territory but had not yet become fully functional.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has threatened that the next war between the two bitter enemies will be fought in Israel, with the entirety of Israel’s territory within the reach of Hezbollah rockets and the “the boots of resistance fighters.” Israel takes the threat seriously and is trying to crush the underground paths so that there will be no Hezbollah boots on Israeli soil the next time the two sides go to war—an eventuality that seems all but assured. The operation to destroy the tunnels continues, but the IDF says it intends to remain on the Israeli side of the border.

Neither Hezbollah nor Israel are particularly keen on going to war right now, but circumstances could easily escalate. After sending his Lebanese militia to fight and die to save the Syrian dictator, Nasrallah needs to maintain his credibility as the protector of Lebanon. And however embattled Netanyahu is, Israelis across the political spectrum agree with the country’s security red lines…

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

 

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LEBANON’S STRATEGIC SYMBIOSIS

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen          

BESA, Dec. 10, 2018

The question of Lebanon’s responsibility for acts of aggression emanating from its territory has long preoccupied Israeli decision-makers. During the Second Lebanon War, for instance, Prime Minister Olmert rejected the demand by Chief-of-Staff Halutz to attack Lebanese national infrastructures in response to Hezbollah’s sustained missile attacks on Israel’s population centers.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 11, 2006, which ended the war, reflected the international hope that the Lebanese government would reassert its authority throughout the country, including the disarmament of all Lebanese armed groups and the prevention of any armed groups, apart from the Lebanese army and the UN’s force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), from operating in southern Lebanon.

Nothing of the sort happened. Not only was Hezbollah not disarmed as envisaged by the UN resolution, but it has substantially expanded its military capabilities, both quantitatively and qualitatively, and has done so with the tacit support of the Lebanese army and government. So much so that it is arguable that over the past decade, a new strategic symbiosis has evolved between the Islamist group and the institutional state of Lebanon, with a useful division of labor in numerous fields.

Thus, for example, Lebanese army soldiers, as the official state representatives, are responsible for security checks and the general protection of the Dahiya district in Beirut, home to Hezbollah headquarters; whereas the Islamist group’s fighting in Syria has served Lebanese interests (apart from those of Iran, Hezbollah’s founding patron). A high level of operational collaboration between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army was manifested in their joint fight against ISIS forces in the Qalamoun Mountains on the Syrian-Lebanese border.

No less important, Hezbollah has been the moving spirit behind the Lebanese army’s adamant objection, voiced in its monthly meetings with the IDF under the UNIFIL’s auspices, to the erection of a security fence on the Israeli side of the border.

In these circumstances, it is impossible to preclude the possibility that in a future war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese army may play an active role in helping the Islamist group to rebuff IDF operations deep in Lebanon. This is at a time when this army has been the recipient of US arms and military training over the past few years.

By skillfully exploiting this hybrid reality, Lebanon has successfully conducted itself between two opposing poles: close economic and military cooperation with the Western nations (France and the US in particular) on the one hand, and tight association with Syria and Iran (via Hezbollah) on the other. This delicate balancing act helps explain both Lebanon’s success in weathering the turbulence that has rocked the Arab world since 2011 and its ability to evade international censure for its symbiotic relationship with Hezbollah.

Given this symbiosis, and the unprecedented scope of Hezbollah’s offensive and defensive deployment throughout Lebanon, Israel needs to rethink its strategic doctrine vis-à-vis Lebanon without delay. PM Netanyahu’s warning that Lebanon would be held accountable for any acts of aggression emanating from its sovereign territory is a necessary, but by no means sufficient, step in the right direction. What is required is a sustained Israeli-led international effort to clarify to the Lebanese government (and Hezbollah) in no uncertain terms the devastating consequences to the Lebanese state of a new Hezbollah-induced war with Israel.

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Inching Towards War: Aaron S, Jerusalem Online, Dec. 12, 2018—Analysts have been saying for years that it was only a matter of time until Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist militia were again engaged in open conflict. The events of the past several days have finally woken most Israelis up to the seriousness of those warnings.

Operation “Northern Shield” Could Reshape the Northern Front: Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, JCPA, Dec. 10, 2018 —The discovery of Hizbullah’s invasion tunnels has removed a critical component of the organization’s and Iran’s plan for war against Israel, expected to break out at some time.

The Mole Inside the Hezbollah Tunnel: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Dec. 5, 2018—This week, for the first time, Israel made public its discovery of the tunnel constructed by Hezbollah and reaching into Israel’s sovereign territory.

Washington’s Silent War Against Hezbollah in Latin America: Joseph M. Humire, The Hill, Oct. 8, 2018—On July 11, 2018, the government of Argentina took its first action against Hezbollah by freezing the financial assets of 14 individuals belonging to the Barakat clan in South America.

IDF RESPONDS TO ATTACK TUNNELS IN NORTH AS WAR WITH IRAN-BACKED HEZBOLLAH MAY BE IMMINENT

Of Course Hezbollah was Tunneling Under the Border. Why Wouldn’t It?: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Dec. 4, 2018 — The IDF’s announcement Tuesday morning of an operation against Hezbollah attack tunnels from Lebanese territory into Israel is not necessarily a clear indication of an escalation with the Shiite terror group.

Israel’s Merkava Crowned One the World’s Deadliest Tanks: Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 2, 2018— Israel’s Merkava Mark IV tank has been crowned one of the five deadliest tanks in the world by the conservative American magazine the National Interest, alongside Russia’s T40 and the American M1 Abrams.

Pushing for an Israeli Victory Is the Only Way to End the Conflict with the Palestinians: Daniel Pipes, Ha’aretz, Dec. 2, 2018— From a practical political point of view, Avigdor Lieberman, Naftali Bennett, and their idea to take a tougher stand toward Hamas just went down to defeat, if not humiliation.

An Ignorant ‘New York Times’ Trashes the Maccabees: Shmuley Boteach, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 3, 2018— In the latest puerile and asinine op-ed from The New York Times about Jews and Judaism, novelist Michael David Lukas seeks to dampen the joyous energy of the festival of Hanukkah by adding a bummer liberal twist.

On Topic Links

Israel Launches Operation on Lebanon Border to Destroy Hezbollah Attack Tunnels: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, Dec. 4, 2018

Hizbullah’s Operational Plan to Invade the Galilee through Underground Tunnels: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Dec. 4, 2018

Israel Must Reevaluate Its Policy of Nuclear Ambiguity: Prof. Louis René Beres, BESA, Dec. 2, 2018

President Rivlin’s First Light of Hanuka with Haredi Soldiers: David Israel, Jewish Press, Dec. 2, 2018

 

OF COURSE HEZBOLLAH WAS TUNNELING

UNDER THE BORDER. WHY WOULDN’T IT?                           

Avi Issacharoff                                                                                         

Times of Israel, Dec. 4, 2018

The IDF’s announcement Tuesday morning of an operation against Hezbollah attack tunnels from Lebanese territory into Israel is not necessarily a clear indication of an escalation with the Shiite terror group. Except that an examination of the breadth of regional developments, including these tunnels and in particular Hezbollah’s Iran-backed factories for precision rockets, prompts a worrying conclusion: The next war between Israel and Hezbollah is already at the door.

Hezbollah, in the wake of the dwindling civil war in Syria, is a stronger organization than it was before the violence erupted there seven years ago. True, it suffered major losses, with about 2,000 of its fighters killed and four times that number wounded, as it battled against rebels on behalf of the Assad regime. But on the battlefield, Israel is now facing a more dangerous enemy, trained and practiced from a prolonged ground war.

The Lebanon-based terror group has began rehabilitating its abilities against Israel in a number of ways. First, in rocketry. Hezbollah had a vast number of rockets before the Syrian civil war erupted, although most of them were not accurate. Now, under Iranian guidance in Syria and Lebanon, it is working to change that.

The factories for producing accurate missiles that Hezbollah is working to establish, with the assistance of Iran’s Republican Guards Corps, will give the Shiite terror organization impressive capabilities to damage Israeli infrastructure, both military and civilian — the kind of damage that will make the 2006 conflict, when it last battled Israel and rained down rockets on the north of the country, look like a walk in the park.

At the same time, Hezbollah is busy enlisting fresh fighters, training them, and equipping them with Iranian weapons and money. In addition, the organization is engaged in setting up a military infrastructure on the Syrian Golan Heights, under the noses of, and with the agreement of, Syrian authorities, yet ignored by Russia. In 2015, Israel allegedly hit Hezbollah senior commander Jihad Mughniyah, who was leading that project; apparently one of his brothers has taken over.

It now becomes clear that Hezbollah’s preparations for a land operation against Israeli, within the framework of the next war, did not cease even for a moment. The goal is not just directing heavy rocket fire at Israel but also attempting to take control of Israeli communities — scenarios that Hezbollah chiefs have called “conquering the Galilee.”

Like many others, I had heard endless explanations from senior and not-so-senior IDF officers that Hezbollah has no interest in tunnels because of the cost and difficulty of digging them in the northern terrain. The limestone bedrock is completely different from the sandy soil of the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas terror group has tunneled for years. It was also asserted that a ground operation launched under the cover of darkness, in the forested areas of the north, would be more effective and efficient than investing in tunnels. Residents in the north were told the same things by the IDF.

Yet Hezbollah plainly thought differently. With the wisdom of hindsight, it is hard to understand why it wouldn’t do just what it evidently has been doing. In the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the IDF discovered that the “nature reserves” Hezbollah had set up on the northern border included a network of tunnels, carved out in that difficult hilly territory — drilled through the limestone bedrock. Therefore, it was eminently reasonable to imagine that Hezbollah would try to build attack tunnels into Israel.

Another relevant factor here is the departure of the Islamic State jihadist group from the Middle East arena, which has given Hezbollah more energy, resources, and motivation for a renewed confrontation with Israel. The extremist Sunni threat of IS has been almost completely wiped out; now it is possible to focus on efforts to harm Israel, under the close guidance of Iran. Hezbollah has taken over Lebanon and does whatever it wants there. Israeli threats to hit Lebanese infrastructure have made little impression on the group. It exists solely to serve its masters in Tehran.

A final point for consideration is that the IDF effort to uncover and counter the Hezbollah tunnels is not a military “operation” on the Lebanese home front. It is also not a daring commando raid. Rather, this is an engineering operation. True, it has the potential for escalation, but there does not seem to be a reason to worry about a war just because of an operation inside Israeli territory.

Which brings me, finally, to the Gaza Strip. Even the imperative for the work at the northern border by the IDF’s engineering corps and other units does not constitute a real reason to allow the transfer of money — $15 million to be exact, in Qatari cash, every month — to the Hamas coffers, as was apparently agreed after last month’s clashes between Israel and Hamas. With that policy, Israel is buying not quiet but the next escalation. Not from the north, but from the south.

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ISRAEL’S MERKAVA CROWNED ONE THE WORLD’S DEADLIEST TANKS

Anna Ahronheim

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 2, 2018

Israel’s Merkava Mark IV tank has been crowned one of the five deadliest tanks in the world by the conservative American magazine the National Interest, alongside Russia’s T40 and the American M1 Abrams. Conceived by Maj.-Gen. Israel Tal following the Yom Kippur War, the Merkava is the IDF’s first indigenous main battle tank. The first Merkava I entered service in 1978 and saw its premiere action in the First Lebanon War in 1982.

The Merkava is also one of the first armored vehicles to be equipped with the Trophy Active Protection System (APS), the only fully operational and combat-proven APS against anti-tank guided missiles in the world. “Combined with a tiny general population in which even minor personnel losses were felt across society, the Israeli military envisioned a tank which prioritized defensive capabilities and firepower above all else,” read the report, stating that “the construction of an entirely new class of main battle tank by Israel, a tiny country, is certainly a major achievement.”

Praising the Merkava’s hybrid modular armor, the National Interest said the tank has “excellent protection” with its turret and frontal hull area “sharply faceted to present maximum armored protection at all angles, giving the turret a knife-like edge.” The Trophy system, developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries’ Elta Group, was praised by the National Interest as being one of the most important aspects of the Merkava.

Designed to detect and neutralize incoming projectiles, the Trophy system has four radar antennas and fire-control radars to track incoming threats such as anti-tank-guided-missiles (ATGMs), and rocket propelled grenades. Once a projectile is detected, the Trophy system fires a shotgun-type blast to neutralize the threat.

The Trophy has been installed on the Merkava tanks since 2009 and received its “baptism by fire” on March 1, 2011. In that incident it neutralized an RPG anti-tank rocket which had been fired from a short range toward an IDF Merkava Mark-IV tank close to the border with the Gaza Strip. The system has since proved its efficacy in several operations, especially during Operation Protective Edge, when IDF tanks were able to operate in the Gaza Strip without suffering any losses.

The Trophy system has not only been installed on the IDF’s Namer heavy infantry fighting vehicle and the new Eitan armored personnel carrier. In June, the US Army awarded a contract worth close to $200 million for the system to shield its Abrams tanks “in support of immediate operational requirements.” A new and lightweight version of the system neutralized more than 95% of munitions fired at it in tests conducted this summer ahead of testing for the US Army’s Stryker armored vehicle.

Israel has built more than 2,000 Merkavas and is currently developing the latest generation of the tank, the Merkava IV Barak, which is expected to be ready for trial runs by the IDF in 2020.

The new Merkava 4 Barak tank is designed as a “smart tank” with dozens of sensors and a task computer, which will present all information to both the crew inside the tank as well as the other tanks and vehicles present in the field.

The new tank’s computer-controlled fire control system will also be able to acquire and lock onto moving targets, including airborne platforms, while the tank itself is moving. The sensors, along with a 360-degree camera fitted outside the tank, will also allow troops to remain in the tank at all times and a new smart helmet designed by Elbit Systems will allow the commander of the tank to see exactly what is outside the tank, such as approaching terrorists or other threats.

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PUSHING FOR AN ISRAELI VICTORY IS THE ONLY

WAY TO END THE CONFLICT WITH THE PALESTINIANS         

Daniel Pipes     

Ha’aretz, Dec. 2, 2018

From a practical political point of view, Avigdor Lieberman, Naftali Bennett, and their idea to take a tougher stand toward Hamas just went down to defeat, if not humiliation. That’s because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again showed his political skills; the first is now ex-defense minister, the second failed to become defense minister.

From a longer-term point of view, however, the duo raised an issue that for decades had not been part of the Israeli political discourse but, due to their efforts, promises to be an important factor in the future: that would be the concept of victory, of an Israeli victory over Hamas and, by extension, over the Palestinian Authority and Palestinians in general.

Victory – defined as imposing one’s will on the enemy so he gives up his war goals – has been the objective of philosophers, strategists, and generals through human history. Aristotle wrote that “Victory is the end of generalship.” Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian theorist, concurred: “The aim of war should be the defeat of the enemy.” Gen. James Mattis, the U.S. secretary of defense, finds that “No war is over until the enemy says it’s over.”

Palestinians routinely speak of achieving victory over Israel, even when this is fantastical: to cite one example, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas called his Hamas counterpart, Ismail Haniyeh, after eight days of violence with Israel that left Gaza badly battered in November 2012 to “congratulate him on the victory and extend condolences to the families of martyrs.”

Contrarily, in Israel, the notion of victory has been sidelined since at least the Oslo Accords of 1993, after which its leaders instead focused on such concepts as compromise, conciliation, confidence-building, flexibility, goodwill, mediation, and restraint. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert immemorially articulated this attitude in 2007 when he stated that “Peace is achieved through concessions.”

This perverse understanding of how wars end led Israel to make extraordinary blunders in the fifteen years after Oslo, for which it was punished by unremitting campaigns of delegitimization and violence, symbolized, respectively, by the Durban conference of 2001 and the Passover Massacre of 2002.

Such nonsense ended during Netanyahu’s near-decade-long term as prime minister, but it has not yet been replaced by a sturdy vision of victory. Rather, Netanyahu has put out brush fires as they arose in Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Syria, and Lebanon. While agreeing with the concept of an Israeli victory when personally briefed, he has not spoken publicly about it.

Meanwhile, other leading figures in Israel have adopted this outlook. Former deputy chief of staff Uzi Dayan called on the army “to return to the path of victory.” Former education and interior minister Gideon Sa’ar has stated that “The ‘victory paradigm,’ like Jabotinsky’s ‘Iron Wall’ concept, assumes that an agreement may be possible in the future, but only after a clear and decisive Israeli victory … The transition to the ‘victory paradigm’ is contingent upon abandoning the Oslo concept.”

In this context, the statements by Lieberman and Bennett point to a change in thinking. Lieberman quit his position as defense minister out of frustration that a barrage by Hamas of 460 rockets and missiles against Israel was met with a ceasefire; he called instead for “a state of despair” to be imposed on the enemies of Israel. Complaining that “Israel stopped winning,” Bennett demanded that the IDF “start winning again,” and added that “When Israel wants to win, we can win.” On rescinding his demand for the defense portfolio, Bennett emphasized that he stands ‎by Netanyahu “in the monumental task of ensuring that Israel is victorious ‎again.”

Opponents of this paradigm then amusingly testified to the power of this idea of victory. Ma’ariv columnist Revital Amiran wrote that the victory the Israeli public most wants lies in such arenas as larger allocations for the elderly and unbearable traffic jams. Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg, replied to Bennett that for her, a victorious Israel means winning Emmy and Oscar nominations, guaranteeing equal health services, and spending more on education.

That victory and defeat have newly become a topic for debate in Israel constitutes a major step forward. As media figure Ayalet Mitsch correctly notes, “even left-leaning Israelis think it’s time to win again.” Thus does the push for an Israeli victory move forward.

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AN IGNORANT ‘NEW YORK TIMES’ TRASHES THE MACCABEES                  

Shmuley Boteach

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 3, 2018

In the latest puerile and asinine op-ed from The New York Times about Jews and Judaism, novelist Michael David Lukas seeks to dampen the joyous energy of the festival of Hanukkah by adding a bummer liberal twist. In Hanukkah, he claims, we are celebrating the defeat of the pallbearers of Western culture at the hands of intolerant fundamentalist guerrillas. The Maccabees, he essentially argues, were a bunch of rightwing nuts. It’s just an “eight-night-long celebration of religious fundamentalism and violence” he declares, one based not on doughnuts or menorahs, but on “subjugating assimilated Jews.”

Lukas isn’t the first to make this silly claim. A columnist for The Forward, just a few years ago, took it upon herself to sentence the Maccabees to the “wrong side of history.” The Washington Post listed “Hanukkah celebrates a fight for religious freedom” as one of its five Hanukkah myths. Those who make this argument seem to draw an implicit parallel between the Maccabees and the “other” fundamentalist death cults we see across the world today claiming divine commission to combat Western culture. They’re also parroting a theory that is according to both the Jewish and secular historical traditions, overwhelmingly baseless.

The Hasmonean revolt was not a fundamentalist- religious movement sworn to the destruction of liberal Western ideologies. It was, instead, a popular campaign to safeguard the freedom of a people to freely practice their faith and traditions regardless of the whims of an emperor. Unlike fundamentalist terrorist groups, which are born from intolerance of other faiths, the Maccabees fought to end the Greek intolerance of theirs. Moreover, the Maccabees did not wage war against a mostly benevolent superpower encouraging religious, political and cultural reforms. Their mission, rather, was to stymie the very deadly plans of a megalomaniacal, absolutist dictator who drew no limits on the level of oppression and exploitation he would thrust upon the powerless citizens of a tiny client-state.

BEFORE WE begin to explore the depth and depravity of Antiochus’ crimes, we must first establish the crucial fact that they represented a stunning departure from Hellenistic imperial norms. Crucial, because it proves that the Jews did not revolt against Hellenistic culture – which, by the time of the revolt in 167 BCE, had been around for at least six decades – but against a king who sought to enforce that culture both to the exclusion of all others and at the pain of death. In other words, the Maccabees revolted against a tyrant who sought to destroy Judaism.

After all, from the moment Hellenistic kings conquered ancient Israel, they brought their ideologies with them. That never seemed to bother the rabbinic Jewish leadership. On the contrary, the Jewish high priest Simon the Great – probably a New York Times-certified “extremist,” considering the rabbis of the Talmud laud him – offered the warmest imaginable welcome to Alexander the Great during the first Greek foray into Israel.

During that campaign, the kingdoms of Gaza, Tyre and Sidon waged futile battles to keep Alexander and his culture far out of their homelands. When he came to Jerusalem, however, Jewish tradition teaches that the Jewish High Priest Simon left the city to greet the Macedonian king. There, he begged that Alexander spare the Temple, which he described as a “house in which we pray for you and for your kingdom not to be destroyed.” This stunning symbol of Jewish-Hellenistic cooperation has been preserved not in the books of Hellenized Jews, but in the Pharisaic, rabbinically authored Babylonian Talmud (Yoma, 69a.) While this story stands in stark contrast to the narrative told by The New York Times and Lukas, it seems all but natural, once you accept that, for the Jews of ancient Israel, the existence of competing ideologies in their native homeland just wasn’t an issue. After Alexander’s death, and the division of his empire into Seleucid Syria, Ptolemaic Egypt, and Antigonid Greece, religious tolerance became a central tenet of Hellenistic rule in general, and of the Seleucids in particular.

According to the great Jewish historian Josephus, when King Ptolemy IV gained control over Jerusalem after the battle of Raphia in 217 BCE, he paid homage to his new Jewish subjects by offering sacrifices to their God in the Temple. Even when after flaunted Jewish cultural norms by forcing his way into the Holy of Holies, he elicited a moderate response from what appears to have been a moderate Jewish community…

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

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Chag Sameach!

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Israel Launches Operation on Lebanon Border to Destroy Hezbollah Attack Tunnels: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, Dec. 4, 2018—The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday launched an operation to destroy a number of cross-border attack tunnels that it says were dug by the Iran-backed Hezbollah group into northern Israel from Lebanon.

Hizbullah’s Operational Plan to Invade the Galilee through Underground Tunnels: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Dec. 4, 2018 —One of the main lessons Hizbullah learned from the Second Lebanon War in 2006 was the necessity of changing the aims of its next war with Israel. The new goals included building up its defensive capabilities and developing methods of attack that would allow Hizbullah to fight the war within Israeli territory.

Israel Must Reevaluate Its Policy of Nuclear Ambiguity: Prof. Louis René Beres, BESA, Dec. 2, 2018—Given the upheavals cascading throughout the Middle East since 2011, Israel now faces a unique dilemma.

President Rivlin’s First Light of Hanuka with Haredi Soldiers: David Israel, Jewish Press, Dec. 2, 2018—President Reuven Rivlin lit the first candle of Hanuka Sunday evening, with soldiers from the IDF Haredi Tomer battalion of the Givati Brigade, the Hetz company of the Paratroops Brigade and the Netzah Yisrael battalion of the Kfir Brigade.

IDF INVESTIGATES GAZA OPERATION WHILE JEWISH STATE PREPARES FOR NEXT CONFRONTATION

IDF Opens Probes into Gaza Special Ops Raid that Went Awry: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, Nov. 27, 2018 — The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday announced it was launching two separate investigations into an operation that went awry in the Gaza Strip earlier this month…

Israel’s Next Northern War: Operational and Legal Challenges: Michael Hostage & Geoffrey Corn, Real Clear Defense, Nov. 3, 2018 — Hezbollah has threatened Israel’s northern border for decades.

Why Japan is Building its Military, Fast: David J. Bercuson, National Post, Nov. 6, 2018— With 18 diesel electric submarines, four so-called “helicopter destroyers” that look suspiciously like small aircraft carriers, 43 destroyers and destroyer escorts, 25 minesweepers and training ships, fleet oilers, submarine rescue ships and other vessels, Japan’s navy…

The INF Treaty Hamstrings the U.S. Trump is Right to Leave It.: Elbridge Colby, Washington Post, Oct. 23— The Trump administration has announced that it plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987.

On Topic Links

Israeli Air Force Holds First-Ever Combat Rescue Drill With Six Other Forces: Yaakov Lappin, JNS, Nov. 26, 2018

Looking at the Gaza Strip: From Short Term to Long Term: Kim Lavi, Udi Dekel, INSS, Nov. 20, 2018

Hezbollah Firepower Exceeds 95% of World’s Conventional Armies, Report Says: Sean Savage, JNS, Nov. 9, 2018

In the Middle East, You Win With Fear: Prof. Efraim Inbar, Israel Hayom, Nov. 13, 2018

                             

IDF OPENS PROBES INTO GAZA

SPECIAL OPS RAID THAT WENT AWRY                                                                 

Judah Ari Gross                                                                                                  

Times of Israel, Nov. 27, 2018

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday announced it was launching two separate investigations into an operation that went awry in the Gaza Strip earlier this month in which special forces soldiers were exposed by Hamas operatives, leading to a firefight in which one Israeli officer and seven Palestinian gunmen were killed. In response to the raid and the deaths of its men, the terror group launched a massive three-day attack on Israel, along with other terror groups in the Strip, firing some 500 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli cities and towns near the Gaza border and leading Israel to the brink of war.

On the night of November 11, Israeli special forces soldiers entered the Gaza Strip on an intelligence-gathering raid, the details of which remain under a strict gag order by the military censor. According to Hamas officials, the Israeli soldiers were from the Sayeret Matkal elite reconnaissance unit and entered the coastal enclave through a proper border crossing, either Israel’s Erez Crossing or Egypt’s Rafah. They were said to have been driving through Gaza in civilian vans, approximately three kilometers (two miles) from the border. Israel has not confirmed any of the claims.

During the mission, the unit was stopped and searched at a Hamas checkpoint, and were initially believed to be Palestinian criminals, according to recordings of the terror group’s radio chatter, transcripts of which were published by Hadashot news. At a certain point, the Israeli troops opened fire on the Hamas gunmen, prompting a gun battle. An Israeli lieutenant colonel — who can only be identified by the first Hebrew letter of his name, “Mem” — was killed and another officer, who went back to recover Mem’s body, was wounded. The special forces unit beat a rapid retreat from the coastal enclave, calling in airstrikes for cover and a helicopter evacuation from the elite search-and-rescue Unit 669.

According to the army, one investigation will be conducted within Military Intelligence. The findings will be presented to the head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Tamir Hyman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. The military said an initial probe was expected to be completed within the coming weeks. In addition, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon — the former head of IDF Operations — was also charged with a wider investigation into how the army conducts such raids. Alon was instructed to lead a team to “examine and study the challenges and [make] recommendations at the level of the General Staff, of multiple army branches and of the inter-organizational cooperation between different special forces,” the army said.

The Hamas terror group is conducting its own investigation into the Israeli raid. Last week, Hamas published photographs of eight people that it says were involved in the raid. The photographs were distributed on social media along with the email address and two phone numbers of the terror group’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in order to allow people to provide information about the operation. The phone numbers stopped working later in the day.

Pictures of the two cars allegedly used by the Israeli special forces soldiers during the raid were also published. Though freely available on the internet, the photographs could not be published by Israeli media by order of the military censor. The censor approved the publication of the pixelated photograph used in this article.

In a highly irregular public statement, the censor also called on Israelis not to share any information they have about the raid, even if they think it benign. “Hamas is working now to interpret and understand the event that occurred within Gaza on November 11, and every piece of information, even if it is considered by the publisher as harmless, is liable to endanger human lives and damage the security of the state,” the censor said. Hamas officials are said to view the gun battle as a failure, because their primary goal — according to a Hadashot news report — was to capture the IDF soldiers who had placed themselves so near Hamas’s grasp.

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ISRAEL’S NEXT NORTHERN WAR:

OPERATIONAL AND LEGAL CHALLENGES

Michael Hostage & Geoffrey Corn

Real Clear Defense, Nov. 3, 2018

Hezbollah has threatened Israel’s northern border for decades. Today, however, the nature of this threat has become dire, and the risks of escalation real, as Iran continues supplying Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon with game-changing weapons to devastate the Israeli homeland.

When the next conflict erupts between Israel and Hezbollah, its scale and intensity will bear little resemblance to those of recent memory. Hezbollah today is highly competent, adaptable and lethal. Its forces have gained invaluable battlefield experience in Syria and amassed more weaponry than 95 percent of the world’s conventional militaries, including at least 120,000 rockets and missiles. This is more than all of Europe’s NATO members combined, and ten times as many as when it last went to war with Israel in 2006.

Especially troubling is Hezbollah’s growing arsenal of powerful long-range precision missiles capable of striking targets throughout Israel. Unlike in recent conflicts, Israel’s missile defenses will be incapable of shielding the nation from such a threat. From the outset of conflict, Hezbollah will be able to sustain a launch rate of more than 3,000 missiles per day – as many as Israel faced in the entire 34-day conflict in 2006.

Despite this quantum leap in its capabilities, Hezbollah is under no illusion about its ability to inflict military defeat on Israel. It will not seek victory in the valleys of Lebanon or the skies over Israel, but in the court of public opinion. To do so, it will use combat operations to lay the groundwork for an information campaign delegitimizing Israel. Two tactics will be central to Hezbollah’s efforts: first, deliberately attacking Israeli civilian population centers to compel an aggressive response by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); second, illegally exploiting the presence of Lebanese civilians to shield itself from IDF attack.

Hezbollah will then manipulate the inevitable casualties by relying on widespread misperceptions about the true nature of combat operations and how international law (the law of armed conflict, or LOAC) regulates such operations. It will use the inevitable images of civilian suffering in Lebanon to portray Israel’s lawful operations as immoral and illegal. By weaponizing information and the law, Hezbollah will seek to force Israel to halt its self-defense campaign before the IDF can achieve decisive victory.

This is the increasingly prevalent face of hybrid warfare, where law-abiding militaries confront non-state actors like Hezbollah who blend robust combat capabilities and unlawful tactics with sophisticated information operations. This difficult reality is highlighted in a new report by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s (JINSA) Hybrid Warfare Task Force, which examines the significant operational and legal challenges Israel will confront when it is compelled to engage Hezbollah and potentially other regional adversaries including Iran.

A key finding is that Hezbollah’s intentional emplacement of rockets, missiles and other vital military assets in villages and cities throughout Lebanon will increase risks to innocent civilians. To gain strategic advantage, Hezbollah will exploit the common – but erroneous – assumption that Israel, by virtue of attacking these sites, must be acting unlawfully, even when the unfortunate effects of these attacks are rendered unavoidable by Hezbollah’s deliberate and illegal use of human shields. This dilemma for Israel is further complicated by our expectation that the IDF will be compelled to undertake large-scale, aggressive operations to neutralize as much of Hezbollah’s rocket threat as possible before it is ever employed.

This will include ground operations deep into Lebanon. In addition to their sheer scale, the nature of such operations in towns and villages will magnify the likelihood of collateral damage and civilian casualties. This will also make it much more difficult for the IDF to utilize the extensive and often innovative measures to mitigate risks to civilians that have been commonplace during more limited operations – for example, warnings and providing civilians time to evacuate before an attack.

Despite these challenges, our task force found an IDF fully committed to compliance with the LOAC, knowing full well Hezbollah seeks to exploit this very same commitment. We worry, however, that the nature of a major combined arms operation will contribute to the operational and legal misperceptions that are so adeptly exploited by enemies like Hezbollah, resulting in false condemnation of Israel from the international public, media and many states.

How this story plays out for Israel will have reverberating effects for other professional militaries, including our own. Unless the challenges of such operations become more widely understood, with more credible assessments of legality, morality and legitimacy, others will be incentivized to replicate Hezbollah’s perverse tactics.

Ultimately, this requires a greater appreciation of the realities of combat against hybrid adversaries. It also requires a greater appreciation for how the LOAC strikes a rational balance between civilian protection and military effectiveness. Nowhere will these considerations be more apparent – and more consequential – than in Israel’s next conflict with Hezbollah.

 

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WHY JAPAN IS BUILDING ITS MILITARY, FAST                                                                 

David J. Bercuson

National Post, Nov. 6, 2018

With 18 diesel electric submarines, four so-called “helicopter destroyers” that look suspiciously like small aircraft carriers, 43 destroyers and destroyer escorts, 25 minesweepers and training ships, fleet oilers, submarine rescue ships and other vessels, Japan’s navy — the Maritime Self-Defense Force — is the second largest in Asia and one of the largest in the world. It is also highly advanced technologically and is growing all the time. The two 27,000 ton Izumo-class helicopter destroyers, the largest in the fleet, with flat flight decks and islands on the starboard side of the vessels, are small compared to the United States Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers (approximately 100,000 tons) or Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers (65,000 tons). But if equipped with the new short-take-off-and-vertical-landing F-35B stealth fighter they will still pack a powerful punch. And Japan is considering adding more of these aircraft carriers to its fleet and advanced U.S.-style Aegis class destroyers, capable of shooting down medium-range ballistic missiles.

The irony in all of this is that Japan’s post Second World War constitution still contains a provision — Article 9 — that prohibits it from possessing any offensive military capability. In the early 1950s, Japan began to build its self-defence forces and now has a powerful navy, a modern medium-sized air force that will soon fly the F-35 along with specially built F-15s, alongside more than 300 fighter aircraft and 50,000 personnel, and a growing land army and marine sea landing capability.

Are these military assets “defensive” in nature? Partly, but aircraft carriers, high-speed destroyers, modern fighter aircraft and assault ships are surely as offensive as they are defensive. And Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it plain that in less than two years, he intends to seek to change the Japanese constitution to drastically curtail any obligation Japan has to maintain a purely defensive capability. In other words, he will ask the Japanese people and legislature to bless what Japan has already done. That could be more problematic than people realize.

Like Germany, Japan suffered greatly in the Second World War. Virtually all its great cities were levelled either with atomic bombs (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) or fire raids that were carried out by giant B-29 bombers at low altitude at night. The attacks burned the heart out of Japan’s cities. In March 1945, 100,000 people were killed in one night in a fire raid on Tokyo and many acres of the city were burned to the ground. Submarine blockades of Japan drastically curtailed food and fuel supplies. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese soldiers were killed either in the United States’ march across the Pacific or in the Russian invasion of Manchuria near the end of the war. Japan was a prostrate nation by the end of 1945 and its ancient system of government was a shambles.

The result of this terrible defeat was the rise of pacifist thinking throughout Japan. Having suffered from military defeat, few Japanese were interested any longer in military adventurism. At the same time democracy took root under the American occupation of Japan. To give but one example, although women still endure many disadvantages in Japan — as they do here also — the Americans forced the Japanese to accept women as fully equal in civil rights and political authority. Japanese industry re-grew and although Japan is no longer the second largest economy in the world — it was recently surpassed by China — it is still a highly technologically advanced economy turning out everything from advanced motor vehicles to high-quality TV sets and computers. Prime Minister Abe is a strong supporter of free trade as are most of the political hierarchy of Japan.

Why then would the Japanese people support a militarization of their country? We need look no further than the bellicose growth of Chinese nationalism and the recent moves by the Chinese to dominate the South and East China Seas in the way that the United States dominates the Caribbean. The Chinese have made no secret of their ambition with the creation of artificial islands that now host air bases, anti-aircraft missiles, and Chinese “coast guard” vessels that though mostly painted white (as coast guard vessels generally are), mount naval-style guns on their foredecks.

Japan is heavily dependent on sea transport, especially for fuel oil and natural gas, that comes from the Middle East via the Strait of Malacca and the Formosa Strait. With the U.S. under President Donald Trump adopting an increasing isolationist tone, Japan, like Australia and other nations in the region, will have to put more assets into their own defence.

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THE INF TREATY HAMSTRINGS THE U.S. TRUMP IS RIGHT TO LEAVE IT.          Elbridge Colby                       

Washington Post, Oct. 23

The Trump administration has announced that it plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987. This treaty banned the United States and Russia from possessing any ground-launched ballistic and cruise missile systems with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles). The administration’s decision is sure to elicit a cacophony of criticism, but the truth is that the United States should no longer tolerate the INF status quo. The reasons basically boil down to two: Russia appears unwilling to give up the systems that violate INF (meaning INF is essentially a dead letter), and, more important, the United States no longer benefits from a ban on ground-based intermediate-range systems — but because of China, not Russia.

This is not to downplay the importance of INF. The treaty played a major role in enabling and locking in the diminution of tensions that ended the Cold War. In particular, it eliminated all of the Soviet Union’s SS-20 intermediate-range missiles, which posed a particularly pressing threat to NATO’s defenses in the 1970s and 1980s.

This was all well and to the good. But today is another day. Russia is no longer abiding by the treaty, and Moscow gives no indication of being open to coming back into compliance. The treaty has therefore become a one-way arrangement: The United States is abiding by it, but Russia is not.

This would not by itself be a compelling argument for withdrawal, because the United States does not require INF-restricted systems for effective deterrence and defense in Europe, and staying in the treaty highlights Russia’s perfidy. The United States and its NATO allies must take steps to improve their defense posture against Russia, but noncompliant systems are not necessary to do this. Since the Russian threat is more modest in scale than the Soviet one was, the United States could meet the need by investing in better penetrating strike aircraft and munitions, sea- and undersea-launched missiles, improved ground-based fires, more resilient basing, better logistics, more effective and affordable air and missile defense, and the like.

Rather, the most compelling reason for withdrawal is that the United States could materially improve the military balance against China in East Asia by developing and deploying INF-noncompliant systems. China poses a much larger and more sophisticated long-term military threat than Russia, and U.S. strike options are more constrained by the geography of the Pacific. Washington would benefit from having the ability to deploy survivable land-based ballistic and cruise missile systems to provide a larger, more diverse and resilient greater strike capability in the event of a conflict in the western Pacific.

The United States is currently complying with a treaty unilaterally and suffering for it — albeit in a different theater. It was worth spending several years trying to bring Russia back in compliance, but that course has clearly failed. Now is as good a time as any to adapt our arms-control architecture to our strategic needs. Many will argue that leaving the INF treaty is tantamount to tearing down the late-Cold War arms-control architecture, thus bringing the world to the nuclear brink. But such statements are gross exaggerations. First, INF did not need to be a disarmament treaty; most arms control treaties involve ceilings rather than bans, as well as transparency and inspections. There is nothing inherently destabilizing about INF systems. In reality, it was likely that then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev simply wanted to reduce the economic burden imposed by the Soviet military, and getting rid of INF systems was a convenient way to do that.

Second, if anyone should be calling for withdrawal, it should be the disarmament community. For those who look at arms control as a useful strategic tool but not a panacea, violations are important but not existential, because resting a nation’s security on arms control would be foolhardy in the first place. It is disarmers who argue that we should put our faith in treaties — but if there is no consequence for violating them, what hope is there for disarmament?

All that this means, however, is that there is a middle course open. Russia clearly believes it needs INF systems, and the United States could benefit from them in Asia. A revised INF that regionalized the treaty and replaced the ban with ceilings and transparency measures, as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty does with strategic systems, is therefore a natural area of potential agreement. Ending up there could make sense for all parties.

Contents

On Topic Links

Israeli Air Force Holds First-Ever Combat Rescue Drill With Six Other Forces: Yaakov Lappin, JNS, Nov. 26, 2018—In the first international drill of its kind, the Israeli Air Force hosted six foreign air forces for an helicopter combat search-and-rescue drill in November.

Looking at the Gaza Strip: From Short Term to Long Term: Kim Lavi, Udi Dekel, INSS, Nov. 20, 2018—In the most recent escalation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the message conveyed by both parties was that they are not interested in paying the price of a war that will ultimately return them to square one.

Hezbollah Firepower Exceeds 95% of World’s Conventional Armies, Report Says: Sean Savage, JNS, Nov. 9, 2018—Israel and Hezbollah have been adversaries for decades now, dating back to the Jewish state’s involvement in the Lebanese civil war.

In the Middle East, You Win With Fear: Prof. Efraim Inbar, Israel Hayom, Nov. 13, 2018—The past six months have brought us violent demonstrations along the Gaza Strip border, cross-border infiltrations, rocket fire and incendiary kites and balloons. This means that a so-called “agreement” or truce is not a viable option.

IN SYRIA, I.S. “REGROUPS & REORGANIZES,” HEZBOLLAH REMAINS ACTIVE, AND IRAN’S ENTRENCHMENT CONTINUES

The Return of ISIS: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2018— Islamic State fighters operating in the Lower Euphrates river valley this week killed 68 fighters of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces.

Israel Keeps a Wary Eye on Iranian Entrenchment as Syrian Border Crossing Reopens: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Oct. 24, 2018— The recent reopening of a border crossing between Israel and Syria holds the hope of stability as the Syrian war draws to a close.  

The Israeli Campaign Against the Conversion of Rockets in Lebanon to Precision-Guided Missiles: Ofek Riemer, INSS, Oct. 23, 2018— In his speech at the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned, “Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles.”

Time to Get Tough on Hezbollah: Sheryl Saperia, CJN, Oct. 11, 2018— Public Safety Canada releases an annual report on terrorist threats, which in recent years has highlighted ISIS and al-Qaida as posing the greatest risk to Canada, along with a general category of extremists who are inspired by violent Islamist ideology.

On Topic Links

Play Nicely with Your New Toys: Jerusalem Online, Oct. 31, 2018

US Hopes Russia will Continue to let Israel Hit Iran in Syria –Envoy: Ynet, Nov. 7, 2018

Fight Against Last Vestige of ISIS in Syria Stalls, to Dismay of U.S.: Eric Schmitt, New York Times, Nov. 6, 2018

A Luxury City Shows Blueprint for Syria’s Rebuilding Plans: New York Times, Nov. 5, 2018

                                                

THE RETURN OF ISIS                                                                                                         

Jonathan Spyer                                                           

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2018

Islamic State fighters operating in the Lower Euphrates river valley this week killed 68 fighters of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces.  Under cover of a sandstorm that severely reduced visibility, the Sunni jihadis of IS launched a wave of suicide bombings against SDF positions.  The Coalition rushed 500 fighters from the Kurdish YPG to the area (the SDF in the area consisted mainly of Arab fighters from the Deir a Zur Military Council).  Intense Coalition air and artillery strikes followed.  For now the situation has returned to an uneasy stability.  The SDF and coalition offensive against the last significant IS-controlled pocket of territory around the town of Hajin continues.

It would be mistaken to see the latest Hajin incidents as merely the last stand of a few IS bitter-enders, a final if gory footnote in the often horrifying trajectory of the Caliphate declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul on June 29, 2014.  Rather, the evidence shows that IS doesn’t care for last stands under which a line can be drawn.  It had the opportunities for such gestures in its main urban conquests of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.  It avoided them – leaving a core of fighters to carry out the last battles, while key leaders and cadres escaped to reorganize for the next chapter.

The Hajin incidents should rather be seen as reflective of a larger reality: namely, that the Islamic State organization has not been destroyed. Reports of its demise have been much exaggerated.  It is currently in a process of reorganization and regrouping. And it may well recommence major operations in the not too distant future. This process is itself part of a broad strategic picture.  Two large and inter-related Sunni Arab insurgencies have arisen in the Levant and Iraq in the last decade – these are the ‘Syrian rebellion’ and the Caliphate of the Islamic State.  Both have, in conventional terms, been defeated.  The Syrian Sunni Arab rebel groups remain in existence only in a part of north west Syria, and only because of the protection of Turkey. The Caliphate, meanwhile, consists today only of the Hajin pocket and a few other isolated desert enclaves.

But the defeat of these armed campaigns has not resolved the issues that caused them to come into existence.  A very large, discontented and disenfranchised Sunni Arab population remains in the area of Syria and Iraq.  Its needs, to put it mildly, are not set to be addressed by either the Alawi-dominated Assad dictatorship in Damascus, or the Shia-led and Iran inclining Iraqi government in Baghdad.  The language which can mobilise this population, meanwhile, as the events of recent years confirm, is Sunni political Islam.

All this creates a ripe atmosphere for ISIS 2.0 to grow – on condition that the organization can extricate from the ruins of the Caliphate something resembling a coherent organizational structure for the rebuilding of an insurgent network. The evidence suggest that IS has achieved this.  It is therefore now regenerating itself. What form is this taking? A recent report by the Institute for the Study of War entitled ‘ISIS’ Second Resurgence’ quotes a US State Department estimate of August 2018 which puts the number of fighters currently available to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria at 30,000.  These fighters, the report suggests, are evenly divided between Iraq and Syria.

ISW notes that the Islamic State infrastructure does not lack for funding, the organization having smuggled $400 million out of Iraq, where it has been invested in businesses across the region.  IS also engages in kidnapping, extortion and drug smuggling within the area of Syria and Iraq itself. Embedded deep in the Sunni Arab communities from which it draws its strength, IS maintains networks of support and de facto control in a number of areas identified by the report.  These include the Hamrin Mountains in Diyala Province, the Hawija area, eastern Salah al-Din Province, the area south of Mosul city and Daquq. Local government officials also in the Sinjar area have reported sharp increases in IS activities in the area to the south of Sinjar and in the Ninawah plains in the recent period.

In all these areas, IS relies on the fear of the local populace, their lack of trust in the Shia-dominated, often sectarian-minded Iraqi security forces,  and in turn the unwillingness of those security forces to make a real effort to root out the IS presence. To do so would require determined and risky deployments of a type which the security forces lack the determination or motivation to undertake. Sheikh Ali Nawfil al-Hassan of the Al-Shammar Beduin tribe which has lands in eastern Syria and western Iraq, recently said in an interview with the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis (MECRA) that ‘in these areas ISIS is coming and going as they want freely. They move about as they wish.’…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link]

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ISRAEL KEEPS A WARY EYE ON IRANIAN

ENTRENCHMENT AS SYRIAN BORDER CROSSING REOPENS                                               

Yaakov Lappin

IPT News, Oct. 24, 2018

 

The recent reopening of a border crossing between Israel and Syria holds the hope of stability as the Syrian war draws to a close. But if Iran, Hizballah, and allied radical Shi’ite militias have their way, Syria will be hijacked and turned into a radical Iranian power projection base. Any hopes for stability would then give way to destabilizing conflict, terrorism, and new threats to Israel and Jordan. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced last week that the Quneitra border crossing between Israel and Syria, shut down in 2014, is back in operation.

Before the Syrian civil war’s outbreak, members of the Golan Heights Druze community – which identifies itself as Syrian, unlike the Israeli-Druze community – used the crossing to attend family celebrations in next-door Syria, export apples, and to study at Syrian universities. The border crossing also served as a key access point for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), tasked with trying to help keep the border region peaceful, and help Israel and Syria maintain their 40-year truce.

All of that fell apart during the bloody years of the Syrian war. The Assad regime’s sovereignty in southern Syria, like many other areas of the country, collapsed, the UN fled, and armed groups overran the area. Some parts of southern Syria came under the control of extremist Islamic State-affiliated forces, while other areas were ruled by more moderate Sunni groups. Other pockets of land were held by the Assad regime, with the assistance of pro-regime militias that Iran helped to set up and arm.

Now, southern Syria is officially back under Assad’s control, and the UN is returning to the border. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has retaken the area, and this has allowed Israel to reopen the Quneitra crossing. These developments suggest a new stability, but the reality isn’t as simple as putting the chess pieces back in their original positions. The Syria of 2018 – or what is left of it – is not the country that it was before the war, for it has been thoroughly infiltrated by Iran and its proxies. Iran has played a major role in the war that led to an estimated 500,000 deaths, and which displaced half of all Syrians, most of them Sunnis. Now that Iran’s client, the Assad regime, has emerged as the victor, Tehran is looking to ‘cash in its chips,’ and build itself a war machine in Syria.

One of Iran’s goals is to set up a network of terrorist cells to attack Israel from southern Syria. Such cells would be able to attack with border bombs, shoulder-fired missiles, ballistic rockets, and cross-border raids. They could aim for both Israeli military and civilian targets. It is a goal that Iran has already tried to realize in the past, and failed. Iran has also tried to build missile bases, drone bases, weapons production sites, and other installations throughout Syria, an effort that was thwarted by Israel. Iran has flooded Syria with militant Shi’ite militias that it recruited from across the Middle East, trained, and armed, giving it access to its own army.

Throughout the war, Syria became an active Iranian military zone. Assad’s role was essentially reduced to granting Tehran permission to further entrench itself. Assad had little choice in the matter, as the Iranian assistance he received on the ground, combined with Russia’s air power, saved his regime from destruction.

Hizballah – Iran’s forward division in Lebanon – remains active throughout Syria as well. Although Hizballah has begun withdrawing forces back to Lebanon, its chief, Hassan Nasrallah, recently signaled that some of his personnel will be remaining in Syria. “No one can force us out of Syria,” Nasrallah said in September. “We will stay there until further notice.”

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), together with its international operations unit, the Quds Force, are also staying put. They have played a critical role in assisting the return of Assad’s army to southern Syria. The IRGC has planned operations and injected Iranian-controlled militias into the SAA’s offensive.

Israeli defense sources have confirmed the presence of embedded Shi’ite militias among the returning SAA forces. This year already provided a glimpse into Iran’s future plans for the region. In May, the Quds Force used a truck-mounted rocket launcher to fire projectiles at Israel, following a string of reported air strikes against Iranian bases in Syria. “Numerous reports indicate that the Iranian forces, Hizballah, and the Shi’ite militias participated in the fighting in southern Syria dressed in Syrian army uniforms so as to disguise their presence there,” the Middle East Media Research Institute said in a July report.

Russia’s vow to keep Iranian forces 85 kilometers away from the Israeli border does not appear to be a long-term arrangement on which Israel can depend. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last Thursday that it was not up to Russia to convince Iran to pull out of Syria. U.S. lawmakers and security observers have expressed growing concern over Iran’s plan of entrenchment in Syria. The dangers posed by Iran projecting its radical power onto Syria are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

The wider picture, then, is that Iran’s takeover efforts continue to cast a dark shadow over Syria’s future, as well as the security and stability of the wider region. Jordan is as threatened by the presence of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias on its borders as Israel, due to Iran’s hostile intentions toward this pragmatic Sunni kingdom, which maintains a peace treaty with Israel, and which wishes to have no part in Tehran’s attempt to become a regional hegemon. Jordan has nothing to gain and much to lose if Iran succeeds in turning the region into a staging ground of extremist armed forces that answer to the Islamic Republic…

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THE ISRAELI CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE CONVERSION

OF ROCKETS IN LEBANON TO PRECISION-GUIDED MISSILES

Ofek Riemer

INSS, Oct. 23, 2018

In his speech at the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned, “Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles.” As evidence, he presented a map showing three sites in southern Beirut near the international airport, which Israeli intelligence claims are related to this project. The expose was accompanied by a video clip distributed by the IDF spokesperson to the media and on the social networks with more information about the project, and text messages were sent to residents of Beirut. The speech, including the disclosure of sensitive information about both the missile conversion sites in Lebanon and the warehouse of nuclear materials in Iran, met with a mixed reception. Some praised the political act designed to increase the pressure on Iran and Hezbollah. Conversely, some criticized the disclosure of the hard-earned intelligence material.

What is Israel’s ultimate goal in the campaign against the production of missiles in Lebanon – prevention or delay? And, is the media policy, including the disclosure of intelligence, useful in attaining this goal? The information about the project to convert rockets into high-precision missiles on Lebanese territory was first revealed in a Kuwaiti newspaper in March 2017. Already then the Israeli press hinted that Israel was behind this report. Three months later, then-Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate Chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi confirmed the information in a public lecture. The Prime Minister and senior military establishment leaders then declared that Israel regards “gravely” the construction of factories for production of advanced weapons in Lebanon, but refrained from threatening direct military action to attack the project.

The impression is that the Israeli leadership has refused to commit itself to take direct military action to remove the threat due to Hezbollah’s success in consolidating a deterrence equation against Israel, whereby an attack in Lebanon is a red line for Hezbollah. As part of Israel’s ongoing campaign since early 2013 against Hezbollah’s arming itself with advanced weapons, in February 2014 IDF forces attacked an arms shipment on the western side of the Syrian-Lebanese border. In a counterattack against IDF forces on Mt. Dov (Shab’a Farms), Hezbollah acted for the first time since the beginning of the campaign to enforce the red line it had drawn. Since then, the IDF has refrained from attacks on Lebanese territory. In establishing weapons production plants in Lebanon, Iran and Hezbollah therefore presumably assume that Israel will not attack them out of concern about Hezbollah’s response and the possibility of escalation in Lebanon.

In these circumstances, Israel has continued its operations against the project through air force attacks in Syrian territory – a conduit for delivery of advanced missiles and conversion equipment to Lebanon – and also probably through covert operations in Lebanon itself. In July 2017, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot claimed that Israel was “working all the time against it [missile conversion in Lebanon] with a set of tools that it is best to keep quiet about, and with the aim of not causing a deterioration [in the situation].” Two months later, he said that the IDF had successfully prevented Hezbollah from attaining capability to launch precision missiles into Israeli territory. It appears, however, that the Israeli efforts did not succeed in delaying the project for long, and Israel accordingly resumed its use of the media to reveal additional information about the project and deliver threats aimed mostly at the Lebanese side, such as in an article published by the IDF spokesperson early this year.

The repeated use of the media indicates that Israel has likely not achieved its goals in Lebanon through other means. Furthermore, in the absence of a credible threat of military action, its use of the media indicates that Israel is deterred from acting in Lebanon, thereby signaling implicitly that Iran and Hezbollah are free to continue to carry out their plans. It therefore appears that Israel’s use of the media to expose Hezbollah’s operations is not aimed at those directly responsible; rather, it is designed mainly to exert pressure on the international community and the authorities and public in Lebanon. This pressure is meant to increase concern about a war between Israel and Hezbollah that will “cause the destruction” of Lebanon, its infrastructure, and its army, and aggravate instability in the region, in the hope that the parties who are the subject of this pressure will intervene and halt the project.

Nevertheless, it appears that these efforts have not borne fruit. Even after the Prime Minister’s speech at the UN, the international community is still indifferent to the issue, and refuses to use the means at its disposal to exert pressure on Lebanon. The US administration is preoccupied with internal affairs and other urgent foreign policy issues (the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs, relations with NATO, and trade with China), and has left the Syrian-Lebanese theater to Russia. This is evident through Russia’s expanding influence in Syria, as indicated inter alia by the orchestration of diplomatic measures aimed at reaching a political settlement of the crisis and bringing the refugees back to the country; the emerging economic and security agreements between Russia and Lebanon; and the withdrawal of American Patriot missile batteries from Jordan. The sanctions imposed on Hezbollah, including those recently approved by the US House of Representatives, are also proving unsuccessful in exerting pressure on the organization on this issue. Europe, for its part, regards Hezbollah as an element contributing to internal stability in Lebanon, and still supplies unconditional monetary and military aid to that country…

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TIME TO GET TOUGH ON HEZBOLLAH                                                              

Sheryl Saperia

CJN, Oct. 11, 2018

Public Safety Canada releases an annual report on terrorist threats, which in recent years has highlighted ISIS and al-Qaida as posing the greatest risk to Canada, along with a general category of extremists who are inspired by violent Islamist ideology. But tucked away in these reports is a brief mention that Hezbollah also poses a clear risk to Canadian interests, with regard to its terrorist financing, recruitment and operations. Indeed, both the RCMP and the Ministry of Public Safety view the organization, whose objectives are to destroy Israel and establish a revolutionary Shia Islamic state in Lebanon that is modelled after Iran, as one of the most technically capable terrorist groups in the world. Yet Hezbollah generally does not receive much attention here.

Hezbollah was designated as a terrorist entity in Canada in 2002, with both the Liberal government and Conservative opposition at the time rightly rejecting the notion that the military and political wings of the organization could be distinguished in a way that would rationalize only banning the former. Aside from this crucial step, what other policy measures could be put in place to contain the threat posed by Hezbollah?  First, given that Iran provides approximately $800 million a year to Hezbollah, in addition to weapons, it is important that Canada continues to label Iran as a state sponsor of terror and ensure that Canadian money does not help enrich the regime.

One particularly tragic example of Hezbollah operating under Iran’s guidance is the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed and many more wounded. Mohsen Rabbani is said to have handled the logistics for the attack. Shortly before the bombing, Rabbani became the cultural attaché to the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires. This diplomatic appointment and its attendant passport allowed him to carry out the operation. This attack, and others like it, should heavily weigh against any consideration the Canadian government might give to allowing Iran to re-open its embassy in Ottawa. An Iranian embassy establishes a foothold inside Canada, from which serious terrorist groups like Hezbollah are positioned to spy, recruit, fundraise and carry out attacks.

Second, Canada must recognize the threat that Hezbollah poses, especially in Latin America, where it, and Iran, are particularly active. Alberto Nisman, an Argentine prosecutor who was murdered in 2015 while investigating his government’s cover-up of Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing, had previously released a report warning countries such as Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay of Iranian infiltration. Canada should urge Latin American countries to list Hezbollah as a terrorist group and even contemplate utilizing the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act to impose sanctions. As my colleague Emanuele Ottolenghi has pointed out, “In Latin America, a major factor explaining Hezbollah’s success is its ability to buy the silence and complicity of local politicians, law enforcement, judges and prosecutors, airport security and other officials.” These foreign officials’ corrupt practices may render them worthy of sanctions under Canadian law.

Finally, Canada should recalibrate its foreign policy vis-à-vis Lebanon, whose sovereignty has been largely co-opted by this terrorist organization. Hezbollah is the key power broker in the Lebanese parliament and has influence inside the Lebanese Armed Forces. This explains why Iranian civilian airliners can fly weapons destined for Hezbollah straight into the Beirut airport. Canadian policy must include measures to isolate and defang those involved in perpetuating insecurity and slaughter throughout the region, through their support for Hezbollah. Hezbollah also runs a multi-billion dollar international network of illicit activities, such as drug trafficking and money laundering. There is nothing redeeming about this organization. It’s time for Canada to get tough on Hezbollah.

Contents

On Topic Links

Play Nicely with Your New Toys: Jerusalem Online, Oct. 31, 2018—Israeli forces have no plans to target Russian-made S-300 air defense systems in Syria if the Syrian army uses them in a way that poses no threat to Israel, former Israeli deputy chief of staff and ex-head of the National Security Council Gen. Uzi Dayan told Sputnik News Agency in an interview.

US Hopes Russia will Continue to let Israel Hit Iran in Syria –Envoy: Ynet, Nov. 7, 2018—The United States said on Wednesday it hoped Russia would continue to allow Israel to strike Iranian targets in Syria, despite Moscow’s supply of the S-300 air defence system to the Syrian government.

Fight Against Last Vestige of ISIS in Syria Stalls, to Dismay of U.S.: Eric Schmitt, New York Times, Nov. 6, 2018—An American-backed military offensive has stalled against the Islamic State’s last vestige in eastern Syria. Booby traps, land mines and a militant counterstrike during a fierce sandstorm after the campaign began in September have knocked the coalition back on its heels.

A Luxury City Shows Blueprint for Syria’s Rebuilding Plans: New York Times, Nov. 5, 2018—At a building site in Damascus, trucks and bulldozers zigzag back and forth ferrying sand and stones for a luxury development of residential high-rises and shopping centers.

 

 

 

WITH SYRIA’S RECAPTURE OF SOUTHWEST, RUSSIA & HEZBOLLAH LOOK TO ESTABLISH PRESENCE ON ISRAEL’S BORDER

Moscow on the Golan: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2018 — Russia has deployed Military Police to eight observation points on the Golan.

Hezbollah Likely to Replace ISIS North of Israel: Yoav Limor, JNS, Aug. 6, 2018 — The Syrian army is expected to complete its takeover of the country’s southwest, near the border with Israel, in the coming days, according to the IDF.

The Great British Foreign Office Fantasy: Douglas Murray, Gatestone Institute, July 24, 2018— According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are ‘occupied’.

A Top Syrian Scientist Is Killed, and Fingers Point at Israel: David M. Halbfinger and Ronen Bergman, New York Times, Aug. 6, 2018— Aziz Asbar was one of Syria’s most important rocket scientists, bent on amassing an arsenal of precision-guided missiles that could be launched with pinpoint accuracy against Israeli cities hundreds of miles away.

On Topic Links

Expert Warns of Negative Consequences for Israel From Assad’s Takeover of Border Area: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, July 31, 2018

Neutralized at the Last Minute: Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom, Aug. 9, 2018

The Coming Battle for Idlib: Mona Alami, Al-Monitor, August 2, 2018

A Sliver of Good News for Israel from the Trump–Putin Summit: Mosaic, July 24, 2018

 

MOSCOW ON THE GOLAN

Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2018

 

Russia has deployed Military Police to eight observation points on the Golan. For the first time, Israeli and Russian forces are directly across from each other at a border. This has the makings of a new strategic alignment in Syria, potentially reducing Iran’s presence and bringing stability, or the opposite – increasing tensions with Moscow and its rising power in the region.

Over the last five years as Russia deepened its involvement in support of its ally in Damascus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has navigated a complex conflict through high-level bilateral discussions in Moscow. This involves a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin that is based on many visits and discussions – and respect between the two countries and their interests.

Although Israel and Russia do not always see eye to eye on Syria, and although Russia has tensions with Jerusalem’s closest ally in Washington, a beneficial relationship has nevertheless been created. During the conflict, this was built on de-confliction and understandings about southern Syria. Potential conflict was reduced and Moscow emphasized that it understood Israel’s concerns about Iran. But Iran is an ally of Bashar Assad and therefore a partner of Moscow in the Syrian war. It is also part of the Astana talks that have sought to advance some kind of an agreement in Syria between Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Israel is never part of these discussions; its dialogue about Syria is always one-on-one, either with Moscow or with Washington. Israel doesn’t speak to Tehran or Damascus, but it can make its views known through third-party channels. Reports indicate that this has happened as Israel uses a variety of public statements – and sometimes threats, private channels and kinetic power, including air strikes – to make its policies clear.

Israel and Russia have now reached an understanding regarding the 1974 cease-fire lines on the Golan. Israeli Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren met Russian journalists recently in southern Russia. “We coordinated the arrangement under which Russia pledged to make sure, as it were, that the Syrian Army will not cross the cease-fire line established under the 1974 agreement,” he said, according to the Russian news agency Tass. “It looks like everything is functioning for the time being.”

Jerusalem still demands that all Iranian troops be withdrawn from Syria. Alexander Lavrentiev, Putin’s special envoy to Syria, has indicated that Iranian forces and the militias linked to it have withdrawn 85 km. from the border. “There are no units of heavy equipment and weapons that could pose a threat to Israel at a distance of 85 km. from the line of demarcation,” he was quoted as saying.

With Russian observers on the Golan, the chance of chaos and instability directly in the border area is reduced. This is because it is in Moscow’s interest that Syria not be destabilized by Israeli retaliation for any sort of violation of the 1974 lines. In the first days after the Syrian regime returned to the border in July, there were scenes of jubilation. Assad’s image and government flags were waved from Quneitra. In addition, Syrian media reports that residents are returning to the border area. The concern is that Iran or Hezbollah may try to exploit this return.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was at the border area on Tuesday visiting with the Armored Corps on the Golan Heights and meeting with chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. He stressed that the Syrian Army is being strengthened and that the regime wants to fully control its territory. This was a way to indicate that the Assad regime is strong enough to control its own territory and therefore does not need Iran and Iranian-backed militias to help it control areas. The regime has leaned on Iran under the notion that it needed its ally to defeat the rebels and ISIS. But Liberman was asserting that now that the regime is strong enough, it’s time for the Iranians and all their tentacles to go home.

At the Knesset on Wednesday, Eisenkot said the IDF was better prepared than it has been in the last 20 years. Israel has a military edge over its opponents and has developed the best weapons systems to defend against threats and strike the enemy. Nevertheless, Israel’s enemies will always seek new ways to carry out attacks. To restrain them, Jerusalem can work judiciously with Moscow and also with Washington to prevent the next war.

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HEZBOLLAH LIKELY TO REPLACE ISIS NORTH OF ISRAEL

Yoav Limor

                                                JNS, Aug. 6, 2018

 

The Syrian army is expected to complete its takeover of the country’s southwest, near the border with Israel, in the coming days, according to the IDF. This will allegedly restore a familiar situation, in which Syria’s regime is once again stable, even if under the auspices of Russia.

On it’s face, this would seem to be an ideal situation — especially if reality on the ground reverts to the one that existed before the war began in 2011, when Syria and Israel both adhered to the 1974 cease-fire agreement in full. This would restore peace and quiet to the Golan Heights, which could once again become Israel’s most tranquil frontier.

The key word here is “if.” Unfortunately, the chances of this becoming reality are slim. The Syrian army may regain control on the ground, but it will not be the only armed presence near the border. Russia will be there, too, and its presence is both a blessing and a curse. The Russian presence — ostensibly meant to inspire restraint on all sides — will only be effective if Russia agrees to act on Israeli intelligence and thwart anti-Israeli incidents. But if the Russians prove to be a modern version of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon — which sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil —  then Israel will find itself in a terrible predicament, as its presence will make it difficult for Israel to act independently.

Russia, however, is the easy part. The bigger problems are Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah. Iranian forces are unlikely to be able to reach the Syria-Israel border, because Israel, Russia, and even Syria — which would prefer not to be dragged into a conflict with Israel — will work to prevent that from happening. Israel insists on the complete removal of Iranian forces from Syria, which is unlikely to happen. The last Russian offer on that issue was to keep Iran 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border. This can be used as a starting point for negotiations, but those will be exhausted sooner rather than later.

Hezbollah is a different story. The Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group is already in Syria. Its operatives are fighting alongside the Syrian army, and it has several hundred local villagers on its payroll. This was a strategic decision by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who wants to turn the Golan border into an active war zone with Israel.

Hezbollah is likely to employ its familiar methods: joining local militias, importing its tactical abilities — anti-tank missiles, explosives, and snipers — from Lebanon, and importing ground troops. The first stage has already been completed, the second stage is in full swing, and — unless Hezbollah is stopped — the third stage will become a reality in a few short years.

Stopping Hezbollah in its tracks is Israel’s main challenge, and doing so will become exponentially more difficult once the Syrian civil war officially ends. Until now, Israel has been able to use the chaos north of the border to eliminate any risk from that direction, but once the war ends, any Israeli use of force would have to be justified to other parties.

Legitimizing Israeli operations on this front is likely to become far more complex, and the risk for a security escalation will be greater. This will require Israel to use more carrots and sticks opposite everyone involved, as well as adamantly enforce its red lines.

Israel will also soon end the humanitarian-aid campaign that it has been carrying out on the border. The IDF hopes that the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force stationed in the buffer zone between Israel and Syria will be able to resume its operations in full, both lending a hand to the local Syrian population, and providing them with an incentive not to back the anti-Israeli elements in the area. But the situation for Israel looks to be extremely perilous.

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                 THE GREAT BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE FANTASY    

                                                  Douglas Murray

                                                Gatestone Institute, July 24, 2018

 

According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are ‘occupied’. They have been ‘occupied’ — according to the logic of the UK Foreign Office — since 1967, when Israel took the land from the invading forces of Syria. Ever since then, the Israelis have had the benefit of this strategic position and the Syrian regime has not. This fact, half a century on, still strikes the British Foreign Office as regrettable, and a wrong to be righted in due course.

Of course, since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the official position of the UK government has become ever-harder to justify. For example, if the Israeli government were at some point over the last seven years suddenly to have listened to the wisdom of the Foreign Office in London and handed over the strategic prize of the Golan, to whom should it have handed it? Should Israel be persuaded to hand over the territory to the Assad regime in Damascus? It is true that, throughout the course of the Syrian civil war, the one bit of territory to which the Syrian regime has laid claim and which it has not been able to barrel-bomb and otherwise immiserate the people there has been the Golan Heights. Only in the Golan has anybody in this ‘Greater Syria’ been able to live free from the constant threat of massacre and ethnic, religious or political cleansing.

Other candidates for the territory naturally presented themselves across the same time-frame. The armies of ISIS came right up to the villages on the Syrian side along the borders of the Golan. There, they were able to bring that form of peace-through-barbarism which the world has come to know well. If ISIS had triumphed in the Syrian conflict rather than suffering repeated set-backs, would the UK Foreign Office have handed them the territory by way of reparational justice, or victor’s prize? If not them, then perhaps the armies of Iran or Russia could have been the recipients of this feat of restorative diplomacy? Perhaps anyone who wished to lay claim to the Golan could have had it. So long as it was not the Israelis.

The ongoing madness of the British Foreign Office’s position has been highlighted in recent days thanks to a request which came from the British government, as well as the governments in other European capitals and in Washington. A request which also involved the Golan.

Over the weekend, it emerged that the British government was among foreign governments to have made a dramatic request of the Israelis. As the war in Syria appears to be clarifying towards its end-point, a group of around 800 members of the ‘White Helmets’ and their families had reportedly become trapped near the southwestern border near the Golan Heights. The White Helmets only operate in ‘rebel areas’ and are despised by the Assad regime. With Syrian government forces moving in, a massacre may well have been about to occur.

At the request of these foreign governments, the Israelis just carried out an extraordinary and unprecedented mission. In recent days, a reported 422 of the intended evacuees and their family members were saved by the Israelis. The other — almost half — of the intended number appears already to have been cut off by other forces. Nevertheless, those who did make it out were transferred by Israeli forces across the Golan and have now reportedly arrived safely in Jordan where their future status will be determined. Some may stay in Jordan; others will be moved abroad to Western countries.

The painful irony of this situation should be clear to all observers. If the Israelis did not lay claim to the Golan, there would have been no means to have got the White Helmets and their families out of Syria. Had Israel not made the Golan the peaceful and thriving area it is, it would simply be another part of Syria in which different sectarian groups were slaughtering other sectarian groups.

As it is, the area is in the control of Britain’s most reliable ally in the region. An ally which — even as it is lectured by Britain — agrees to requests from the British government that takes advantage of a strategic reality, one which the British government still refuses to accept. The Israeli government has given the British government what it wanted. Perhaps now would be a good time for the British government to reciprocate in some way? There could be no better means of doing so than by admitting that the British policy of the last half a century has been a Foreign Office fantasy and a wholesale dud of ‘realist’ regional thinking. The Foreign Office will have to back out of its self-imposed corner regarding the Golan at some point and accept the reality on the ground. How much better it would be if it did so now in a spirit of goodwill and reciprocity, rather than later on in a spirit of inevitable and grudging defeat.

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A TOP SYRIAN SCIENTIST IS KILLED, AND FINGERS POINT AT ISRAEL

David M. Halbfinger and Ronen Bergman

New York Times, Aug. 6, 2018

 

Aziz Asbar was one of Syria’s most important rocket scientists, bent on amassing an arsenal of precision-guided missiles that could be launched with pinpoint accuracy against Israeli cities hundreds of miles away. He had free access to the highest levels of the Syrian and Iranian governments, and his own security detail. He led a top-secret weapons-development unit called Sector 4 and was hard at work building an underground weapons factory to replace one destroyed by Israel last year. On Saturday, he was killed by a car bomb — apparently planted by Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

It was at least the fourth assassination mission by Israel in three years against an enemy weapons engineer on foreign soil, a senior official from a Middle Eastern intelligence agency confirmed on Monday. The following account is based on information provided by the official, whose agency was informed about the operation. He spoke only on the condition of anonymity to discuss a highly classified operation.

The attack took place on Saturday night in Masyaf, where Syria’s military research organization maintains one of its most important weapons-development facilities. It quickly prompted finger pointing at Israel by both Syria and Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Islamic militant group whose fighters have played a major role in the Syrian civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad. In this case, the accusations were well founded: The Mossad had been tracking Mr. Asbar for a long time, according to the Middle Eastern intelligence official.

The Israelis believed that Mr. Asbar led the secret unit known as Sector 4 at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center. He was said to have free access to the presidential palace in Damascus and had been collaborating with Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, and other Iranians to begin production of precision-guided missiles in Syria by retrofitting heavy Syrian SM600 Tishreen rockets. Mr. Asbar was also working on a solid-fuel plant for missiles and rockets, a safer alternative to liquid fuel.

An official from Syria and Iran’s alliance, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to Western journalists, said he believed Israel had wanted to kill Mr. Asbar because of the prominent role he played in Syria’s missile program even before the current conflict broke out in 2011.

Under Israeli law, the prime minister alone is authorized to approve an assassination operation, euphemistically known as “negative treatment” within the Mossad. Spokesmen for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman did not respond to requests for comment on Monday. Mr. Lieberman, however, earlier in the day dismissed suggestions in the Syrian and Lebanese news media that Israel was behind the blast, which also killed Mr. Asbar’s driver. “Every day in the Middle East there are hundreds of explosions and settling of scores,” he told Israel’s Channel 2 News. “Every time, they try to place the blame on us. So we won’t take this too seriously.”

As one of the directors of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, Mr. Asbar had for years been active in the Assad regime’s chemical-weapons production program, working mainly in Al Safir, outside of Aleppo, and in the city of Masyaf, west of Hama, farther to the south. He was also involved in coordinating Iranian and Hezbollah activities in Syria, according to the intelligence official. More recently, as leader of Sector 4, Mr. Asbar was primarily engaged in adapting Syria’s arsenal of low-technology rockets to make them capable of striking long-range targets with far greater accuracy — a danger that Israel has devoted enormous energy and resources to countering.

Israel is making a broad effort against Iranian and Hezbollah forces, which it began after their forces entered Syria to help the Assad government battle rebel fighters. The fear in Jerusalem is that, after the civil war ends, those forces would turn their energies against Israel. Israeli officials also worry that Iran might seek to create a permanent presence inside Syria, effectively creating a second front along Israel’s northern border.

The Iranian presence in Syria is deeply troubling to Israel. Israel’s air force has repeatedly attacked targets in Syria that it sees as a strategic threat. Among them are weapons storehouses for Iran and Hezbollah; convoys carrying arms from Iran to Syria and Hezbollah; bases for Shiite militias from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; and Syrian air bases used to house Iranian aerial vehicles. The Israelis also discovered that weapons factories were being set up in facilities of the Scientific Studies and Research Center for the benefit of Mr. Assad’s forces, Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps stationed in Syria. Last September, Israel attacked and destroyed most of the weapons factory in Masyaf where Mr. Asbar was a senior manager. This summer, though, the Iranians began to rebuild it, this time underground. In the meantime, production machines had been transferred elsewhere for storage. But Israel destroyed many of those in a missile strike on July 23.

Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center has long been a focus of Western intelligence agencies and is subject to financial sanctions in the United States and France. Before the civil war, it operated Syria’s main manufacturing and storage sites for chemical weapons, many of which have since been destroyed or abandoned. It employed around 10,000 people developing and producing missiles, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Expert Warns of Negative Consequences for Israel From Assad’s Takeover of Border Area: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, July 31, 2018 —Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s successful takeover of the area adjacent to the border with Israel marks a “very painful strategic failure” for the Jewish state, an Israeli expert told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

Neutralized at the Last Minute: Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom, Aug. 9, 2018 —The final stage of the Syrian civil war offers an opportunity, maybe the last one, for any entity that wants to eliminate threats without paying too high a price. The moment the war officially ends, which will happen soon, everything will become more complicated, from airstrikes to assassinations.

The Coming Battle for Idlib: Mona Alami, Al-Monitor, August 2, 2018—The fall of Daraa governorate, including the Golan Heights border region, to forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime on July 31 paves the way for the next battle, in Idlib.

A Sliver of Good News for Israel from the Trump–Putin Summit: Mosaic, July 24, 2018—A week before the U.S.–Russia meeting in Helsinki, Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin in an attempt to secure some guarantees for Israel in southern Syria, and later reported the terms they had settled upon to Donald Trump.

AS ISRAEL TARGETS IRAN IN SYRIA, IRAN-BACKED HEZBOLLAH CONSOLIDATES POWER IN LEBANON

Israel’s Syria Strategy: Yossi Melman, Jerusalem Post, May 16, 2018—The first two weeks of May were very hectic and dramatic for Israeli leaders and security chiefs in dealing with Iran.

Whoever you Vote For – Hezbollah Wins: Jonathan Spyer, Breaking Israel News, May 16, 2018— Lebanon’s May 6 elections have resulted in the further consolidation of Hezbollah and its associated movements within the legal frameworks of the state.

The Travesty of the Lebanese Elections: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, May 16, 2018— Tehran is delighted with the purported victory of the Hezbollah-Amal alliance, which it backed, in the recent Lebanese parliamentary elections.

On This Memorial Day, Consider What We Owe America’s Veterans: Rena Nessler, New York Post, May 27, 2018— The numbers are sobering…

On Topic Links

Report: Iranian Forces, Shiite Militias Banned From Using Airbases in Syria: Becca Noy, Jerusalem Online, May 28, 2018

Israel’s Attacks on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in Syria Spur Internal Disputes in Iran: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall and Orly Ram, JCPA, May 16, 2018

After 7 years, Syrian Government Declares Damascus Back Under its Full Control: Zeina Karam, Times of Israel, May 22, 2018

With Hezbollah Officially in Charge, Will the U.S. Finally Stop Arming Lebanon?: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, May 13, 2018

 

ISRAEL’S SYRIA STRATEGY

Yossi Melman

Jerusalem Post, May 16, 2018

The first two weeks of May were very hectic and dramatic for Israeli leaders and security chiefs in dealing with Iran. On May 1, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Mossad operatives had stolen Iran’s central nuclear archive, proving that the Islamic Republic had violated its nuclear deal with the six major world powers. A week later, in light of the revelations, and more importantly, the contents of the stolen documents and disks, the US cancelled and pulled out of the deal.

A few hours after President Donald Trump announced his decision, Israeli intelligence prevented a revenge attack by Iran. The Israel Air Force (IAF) attacked and destroyed an Iranian mobile launcher in Syria that carried rockets slated to be fired against Israel. Twenty-four hours later, the intelligence proved insufficient. From another base in Syria, Iran launched 32 rockets against Israeli military positions on the Golan Heights. Four rockets were intercepted and the rest fell in Syrian territory.

Within hours, Israel retaliated by attacking 70 Iranian positions in Syria. The targets were intelligence installations, rocket depots, army bases, logistic warehouses that Iran had built in the last year in Syria, as well as Syrian anti-aircraft systems, which fired at the Israeli planes. The operation, code-named “House of Cards” by the IDF, was the largest Israeli attack on Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War – and the closest Israel and Iran have come to the brink of a direct confrontation.

But the factor that likely played the greatest role but was most overlooked in galvanizing Israel to act against the Iranian presence in Syria is Russia. Hours before the IAF launched its massive strike, Netanyahu flew to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and attend the annual Victory Day military parade commemorating Russia’s defeat of Nazi Germany. It was their ninth face-to-face meeting in the last 32 months – since Russia deployed its forces in Syria to save the regime of Bashar Assad.

Following the meeting, a senior Russia official said that his country was not negotiating a deal to supply the Syrian army with advanced S300 anti-aircraft systems. Israel has consistently opposed the deal, fearing the batteries would limit IAF freedom of action and maneuverability over the Syrian sky. Later, a senior IAF officer, briefing Israeli reporters, admitted that Israel had coordinated in advance with Russia without telling it when and where the House of Cards operation would take place in general terms, without providing exact details.

All these factors taken together, it seems that the Kremlin has slightly changed its double game in Syria with regard to Israel. Originally, the double game meant that while Russia cooperated militarily with Iran to help the Assad regime in its war against Syrian rebels, it tolerated and turned a blind eye to Israeli strikes against Iran.

Russia still needs Iranian advisers and commanders and their proxies – Shi’ite militias from Iraq, Lebanon (Hezbollah), Pakistan and Afghanistan – to be present in Syria as “boots on the ground.” But as the Assad regime extends its control over more territory, Russia needs Iran to a lesser extent. In a cynical way, Russia no longer cares, and maybe it is even happy, if the growing Iranian presence and influence in Syria is challenged and blocked by Israeli military actions.

Iranian-Syrian relations have come a long way to reach their present peak. Since 1970, Syria has been ruled by a family dynasty – the Assads, who belong to the Alawite sect, which is an offspring of the Shi’ite community. But it isn’t only religious roots that bind the two regimes. They were also tied in the past by a common rivalry with Iraq and hatred of its late leader, Saddam Hussein. The late Syrian president Hafez el-Assad, who died in 2000, respected but also suspected Iran. His cooperation with the country was cautious and limited. Even his son and heir, Bashar Assad, didn’t fully trust Iran when he came to power. He concealed from Iran his ambitious and secret program to build nuclear bombs, a plan that was destroyed in September 2007 when the IAF demolished Syria’s nuclear reactor.

But after that, Bashar strengthened his relations with Iran. He allowed Iran to use Syria as a hub for resupplying Hezbollah with rockets and missiles after the Lebanese Shi’ite movement suffered a blow at the hands of Israel in the 2006 war. But the turning point came after the eruption of civil war in Syria in March 2011. Fearing he would lose power to the mosaic of rebel groups, including al-Qaeda (and later ISIS) supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the US, Assad asked Iran to help repel his enemies.

Iran gladly agreed. First, it sent Hezbollah warriors to salvage the Syrian regime, then its own advisers and commanders, and eventually, Shi’ite militias to serve as cannon fodder. Indeed, Iran and its proxies, together with a later Russian intervention, rescued Assad. As the combined efforts repelled and defeated ISIS, and as the Assad regime regained more territory, Iran moved to phase two of its plan. It began deepening its military deployment in Syria with three aims. One, to establish a land corridor from its territory via Iraq to Syria and then to Lebanon, as part of its expansionist policy to set strong footholds in the entire Middle East by reaching the Mediterranean and the Red Sea via Yemen.

The second aim is to reap economic benefits in Syria, particularly by gaining oil and gas concessions as well as construction deals. The third aim is to have a military presence near the Israeli border in order to threaten the Jewish state from three directions: long-range missiles from Iran; the huge missile and rocket arsenal (120,000) of Hezbollah in Lebanon; and the Hezbollah presence on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights…

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

 

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WHOEVER YOU VOTE FOR – HEZBOLLAH WINS

Jonathan Spyer

Breaking Israel News, May 16, 2018

Lebanon’s May 6 elections have resulted in the further consolidation of Hezbollah and its associated movements within the legal frameworks of the state. The movement and its allies won over half of the seats in the 128-seat parliament. At the same time, the 2018 elections do not appear set to usher in any fundamental alterations to the status quo in Lebanon.

The majority achieved was not sufficient as a basis for constitutional change to alter the rules of the game related, for example, to the sectarian power-sharing agreements that underlie Lebanese political life. However, Hezbollah and Amal and co will have comfortably more than their own “blocking third” in parliament, sufficient to prevent any changes not to their liking. Hezbollah and Amal swept the boards in the Shia parts of the country, confirming and consolidating their domination of this sector. Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah declared himself satisfied with the results, saying they confirmed Beirut as a “capital of the resistance.”

The biggest losers were the Future Movement of Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri. This list saw its representation in parliament decline from 34 seats to 21, with Hariri-supported candidates losing to Hezbollah supported Sunnis in Beirut and Tripoli. The decline in Hariri and al-Mustaqbal’s levels of support reflect the sense that the March 14 project of which they were a part is a busted flush.

Following the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and the subsequent assassination of then-prime minister Rafiq Hariri, March 14 sought to stand for a notion of Lebanon as a sovereign state, run by its institutions, and with weaponry kept out of politics. This is a project that has clearly failed. Its first testing point was in 2006 when Hezbollah carried out the attack on an IDF patrol on the Israeli side of the border which precipitated the 2006 war. This incident indicated that despite March 14’s nominal role as the governing authority, it was incapable of preventing a political party with its own militia and backed by a foreign power (Iran) from going to war at a time and in a manner of its choosing.

Its second testing point came in May of 2008 when it was established that March 14 had no ability to challenge Hezbollah writ within Lebanon, as well as on the matter of the movement’s violent campaign (or “resistance” as it prefers to term it) against Israel. At that time, the March 14 led government sought to act against Hezbollah’s de facto control of the Beirut International Airport. Amal and Hezbollah then took over west Beirut in 48 hours, forcing the government to reverse its planned measures. The third and final burial of the March 14 project for the normalization of Lebanon came with the Syrian civil war. At that time, Hezbollah was tasked by Iran with helping to make up for the Assad regime’s shortfall in manpower. It proceeded to do so, placing the population of Lebanon including its Shia constituency at acute risk, again with no permission sought.

All these facts explain the eclipse of March 14 and Hariri. They are, quite simply, a project that has failed. What will result from the elections will be a coalition government likely to include both Hezbollah and its allies, and the defeated remnants of the March 14 alliance, whose main component, the Future Movement, is led by Sa’ad Hariri. It is possible that Hariri will himself return as prime minister in the new coalition to be formed. But because of the new parliamentary arithmetic, Hezbollah and its allies will have a higher representation in the new coalition.

Analyses by Lebanese commentators of the elections have been as ever characterized by nuance, subtlety and sophisticated understanding of the sometimes labyrinthine nature of Lebanese politics. As ever, however, they have tended to focus on the minutiae of levels of support and hence of representation in the next coalition, noting the role of a new election law this time in necessitating new tactical electoral alliances, and hence breaking down the old clear structures of March 14 and its rival March 8 movement. Analysis of minutiae and process, while worthwhile, can also play the role of obscuring the larger picture and its implications. It is therefore important also to note these. The forced resignation and then rapid non-resignation of Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri in November 2017 demonstrated the essential powerlessness of the Lebanese Prime Minister on crucial matters.

The elements other than Hezbollah and its allies in the Lebanese governing system are there to play the role of convincing the world that something of the state remains and that the country has not simply become a fully fledged puppet of Tehran and its militias. For this purpose, elections are held, in line with international norms, parties contest constituencies, real issues are also at stake. There is a large swathe of national policy entirely off limits to the political discussion, and not contested by it. This is the sphere of foreign policy and “national security.”

In this regard, a governing coalition in which Hezbollah is stronger will play the role of further integrating national institutions with those of the “resistance.” But even if this were not the case, the “resistance” bodies are already stronger than those of the state, these bodies are decisive in the decision of when and with whom to make war, and this is not a reality subject to change at the ballot box. That is the salient truth regarding Lebanon today, and its presence should not be obscured by a focus of discussion on electoral laws, constituencies, and alliances…

This has been the reality for some time. Israeli planners are well aware of it. In the West, however, there are those who have yet to acknowledge the situation, despite its plainness. From this point of view, Lebanese parliamentary elections are not quite the empty charade of polls in autocratic countries – but like such sham elections, they serve to obscure the core truths of who wields power in the system, and who does not. That is, in Lebanon, in 2018, whoever you vote for – Hezbollah (i.e. Iran) wins.

 

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THE TRAVESTY OF THE LEBANESE ELECTIONS

                             Prof. Hillel Frisch

BESA, May 16, 2018

Tehran is delighted with the purported victory of the Hezbollah-Amal alliance, which it backed, in the recent Lebanese parliamentary elections. But this victory was hardly a model of democracy in action. Beyond the fact that Hezbollah is the strongest military force in Lebanon, there are precious few unimpeachable truths to be found in that beleaguered country – least of all the claim that Hezbollah-Amal won the elections in a fair fight.

To understand why Lebanese elections are a travesty, one must attempt to assess the size of the country’s population. The latest estimate by the official Central Administration of Statistics, compiled with the help of UN agencies, was 3,157,100 in 2007. The CIA estimates that that figure had grown to 4,132,000 by July 2014. But “estimate” is the critical word. A proper census (headcount), which, in most states on similar levels of development as Lebanon, typically occur at the beginning of every decade, has never taken place in the nearly one hundred years of Lebanon’s existence as a modern state. Even the much vaunted 1932 census, which produced the fictional parity between Christians and Muslims, never deserved the name.

That no census has ever been carried out in this relatively advanced state is not due to oversight. This tiny heterogeneous country is the size of Rhode Island and composed of 14 historic religious groups, each keen to preserve its exclusive identity and power. Demography has thus always been one of the most sensitive political issues in Lebanon. Little wonder that the Central Administration is ensconced in the Office of the President.

It is the mystery of Lebanon’s true population that exposes the travesty of the Lebanese elections. According to official sources, there were 3,665,514 registered voters in the recent elections to the 128-member parliament. If the estimates cited above are correct, the Lebanese population grew by roughly 100,000 persons annually since 2014. This would mean the Lebanese citizenry grew from 4,132,000 to a little over 4.5 million (though falling birth rates suggest more subdued growth).

Here’s the problem. The voting age in Lebanon is 18. The 2007 survey and the subsequent 2009 labor force survey clearly indicate that at least 35% of the population is below the age of 18. Thirty-five percent of a population of 4.5 million equals 1.575 million. The maximum possible number of registered voters stands at fewer than three million, a discrepancy of over 665,000 registered voters. This means that over one-sixth of the registered voters were resurrected from the dead.

Even more remarkable is the breakdown of registered voters by district. According to official election data, in the mostly rural Baalbek-Hermel district, which is composed almost exclusively of Shiites and is a Hezbollah stronghold, there were over 345,000 registered voters and 11 seats. Compare this to the less than half a million voters for the two voting districts that make up the city of Beirut and its immediate environs, for a total of 19 seats. Yet in the 2007 survey, the total population of Beirut was nearly double the population of the Beq’a province, of which the Baalabek-Hermel district is one small part.

The same can be said of the Nabatiya district in the south, another Hezbollah stronghold and another small district of the Beq’a province. There were 460,491 registered voters there, for a total of 11 seats – nearly the same as the total number of registered voters in all of Beirut. These two districts, which account for no more than 14% of the Lebanese population, had more registered voters than Beirut, which accounts for nearly half the country’s population. A vote in the Hezbollah strongholds is worth at least double the value of a vote in Beirut…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]  Contents

   

ON THIS MEMORIAL DAY, CONSIDER WHAT

WE OWE AMERICA’S VETERANS

Rena Nessler

New York Post, May 27, 2018

The numbers are sobering: More than 1 million men and women have given their lives serving in our military during wartime, with thousands more dying in other conflicts. Many died long ago in some of our nation’s — and world’s — most-well-known conflicts. Some died during operations few will ever hear about in history class. And, unfortunately and inevitably, more will die serving our country honorably battling terrorism, tyranny and threats to the American way of life. None will be forgotten.

Officially recognized as first having been celebrated upstate in Waterloo in 1866, Memorial Day — then known as Decoration Day — was a community remembrance. When the first official Decoration Day ceremonies were held at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868, James A. Garfield, a future president and a Civil War combat veteran, told the thousands gathered, “For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

Today, we still remember their patriotism and virtue, and that of the scores who have selflessly sacrificed since to make this the greatest country in the world. It is a blessing to count myself among those who served our nation and came home to enjoy all that America has to offer. While many have been so lucky to return, there are countless others who have struggled with the lasting effects of conflict, both physical and emotional.

In the same way we must not forget the sacrifice of those who have given their lives to protect our freedoms, we proud Americans and New Yorkers must not turn our backs on our veterans and military members in need. We owe it to our veterans grappling with post-traumatic stress to continue researching new treatment options. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, between 11 and 20 percent of our Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans deal with PTS. It is estimated that about 30 percent of our Vietnam veterans have had PTS at some point, according to the VA.

We owe it to our veterans who have fallen into homelessness or are on the verge of homelessness to ensure that they do not continue to slip through the cracks. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated in 2017 that more than 40,000 veterans were homeless on any given night, with more than 1,200 veterans experiencing homelessness in New York. As a state and a nation, we must get our arms around this crisis and implement the proper policies to make sure vets have what they need long before they reach the point of homelessness or penury. We can’t wait until people are in crisis before we help them.

We owe it to all veterans and their families to ensure they receive the benefits they’re entitled to. No veteran should have to worry that red tape will keep them from accessing health care, education, insurance and the many other benefits we offer those who served. Just as I am a proud New Yorker, American and veteran, I am a proud member of the American Legion, an organization that for nearly 100 years has advocated for veterans and active-duty military members to ensure that all sacrifices are remembered. As we near our centennial celebration in 2019, I encourage all New Yorkers — not just those who are eligible to join us — to learn more about our advocacy, programs and benefits-assistance efforts…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Report: Iranian Forces, Shiite Militias Banned From Using Airbases in Syria: Becca Noy, Jerusalem Online, May 28, 2018—The Syrian Air Force has banned Iranians and pro-Tehran Shiite militias from using its military airbases, Zaman al-Wasl reported Monday.

Israel’s Attacks on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in Syria Spur Internal Disputes in Iran: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall and Orly Ram, JCPA, May 16, 2018— Iran’s response to Israel’s extensive attack on Iranian Revolutionary Guard targets in Syria on May 9, 2018, reflects growing confusion and dissent within its leadership and security service…

After 7 years, Syrian Government Declares Damascus Back Under its Full Control: Zeina Karam, Times of Israel, May 22, 2018—Syria’s military on Monday captured an enclave in southern Damascus from Islamic State militants following a ruinous monthlong battle, bringing the entire capital and its far-flung suburbs under full government control for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.

With Hezbollah Officially in Charge, Will the U.S. Finally Stop Arming Lebanon?: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, May 13, 2018—Lebanon held elections for its parliament on Sunday for the first time since 2009. Not unexpectedly, Hezbollah was the big winner. Hezbollah’s representatives and allies now control a majority of the seats in Lebanon’s parliament. Sunni candidates allied with – or rather controlled by – Hezbollah won seats that had been controlled by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement.

 

IDF PREPARES FOR MULTI-FRONT WAR AMID GROWING TENSION IN THE REGION

How the IDF Is Preparing for Multi-Front War: Yaakov Lappin, BESA, Feb. 19, 2018— An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) plan designed to get it prepared for the challenge of multiple-front warfare is entering its third year.

How Israel Could Take the Fight Directly to Iran: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Feb. 17, 2018— The conflagration this past weekend between Israeli and Iranian forces is being billed as a new stage in the longstanding, albeit to date largely covert, war between the two adversaries.

Israeli Bombing Syria ENHANCED US National Security: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Feb. 15, 2018— Sinai strikes are a reminder that Israel should never count on Arab states to guarantee its safety. It’s the other way around.

Syrian Downing of F-16I Begs Question: Why Didn’t Israel Deploy F-35s?: Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, Feb. 14, 2018— As the Israeli Air Force continues to investigate the Feb. 10 loss of an F-16I to Syrian anti-aircraft fire…

 

On Topic Links

 

One Step Ahead: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 17, 2018

IDF Acknowledges Serious Hezbollah Missile Threat to Israeli Natural Gas Rigs: Algemeiner, Feb. 7, 2018

U.S. Air Force Weighs International Squadrons to Strike Terror Targets: Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 19, 2018

US May Boost Marine Corps Force in East Asia: Jeff Daniels, CNBC, Feb. 9, 2018

 

 

HOW THE IDF IS PREPARING FOR MULTI-FRONT WAR

Yaakov Lappin

BESA, Feb. 19, 2018

 

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) plan designed to get it prepared for the challenge of multiple-front warfare is entering its third year. The ability to operate effectively on multiple battle fronts simultaneously will be crucial for Israel’s ability to deal with unpredictable, explosive events that can begin on one front but quickly spread to others. According to Israeli intelligence assessments, none of Israel’s enemies wants a full-scale war any time soon (and neither does Israel), but the growing tension in the region means incidents can quickly escalate.

 

During a speech given to the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya at the start of January, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot identified the five fronts that pose threats to Israel’s security. He noted that a “big, strong Iranian umbrella is hovering” over all five of these sectors. The first is Lebanon, where Hezbollah, with Iranian assistance, has built up a major capability. Based on a relatively simple concept, Hezbollah’s assets in Lebanon are designed with strong layers of defense around them, combined with an ability to heavily strike the Israeli home front with projectiles. This is a model the Iranian Republican Guards Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah believe can challenge Israel’s military superiority.

 

Eisenkot named the second front as Syria, which has undergone drastic changes over the past year. Members of a Russian-led coalition, consisting of Iran, the Assad regime, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias, view themselves as the victors in Syria’s conflict and seek a presence on the Golan Heights. Iran has plans to establish an air, ground, and naval presence in Syria. “The danger to us is significant,” Eisenkot said.

 

The West Bank forms the third threatening sector. Hamas seeks to orchestrate terror attacks from there and divert “fire” away from Gaza, which it rules. Unorganized terrorism and ISIS-inspired lone attackers remain threats here too. Gaza is the fourth sector. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas and other armed Palestinian factions have built up terrorist guerilla armies, armed with arsenals of projectiles. These forces are embedded in a densely populated urban jungle. The Sinai Peninsula, where ISIS remains highly active, is the fifth sector.

 

Beyond the five fronts, Iran to the east – its nuclear ambitions and regional hegemony efforts – continue to threaten Israel.  The potential of reaching a high level of escalation “is immediate,” Eisenkot cautioned. The IDF’s preparations for multiple-front war rest on several capabilities. The first is Israeli intelligence supremacy. This gives the military a high-quality picture of enemy assets and activities and the ability to launch mass, precision strikes in the event of a war. The second key capability is robust air power.

 

During a speech delivered to the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in 2017, former Israel Air Force Chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel stated that Israel’s air power remains its most generic military force, giving it the flexibility to deal with multiple fronts quickly and simultaneously. “Speed – physics – still has a significance,” Eshel said. Threats, whether asymmetrical forces or older classical enemy divisions, can appear in bordering areas, or thousands of kilometers away. “When these approach, they can become a big problem. The solution of air power… arrives within minutes to hours,” Eshel said.

 

With no other military force able to respond this quickly, the IAF remains Israel’s first port of call in multiple-front warfare. Eshel said the IAF must be able to operate in three main sectors simultaneously, presumably referring to the north (Lebanon and Syria), the south (Gaza), and the east (Iran). “In the morning, aircraft can be over the northern front. By noon, they can be to the east, thousands of kilometers away. And in the evening, they could be operating over Gaza. No other force can do this,” he said.

 

The IAF is structuring itself to deal with symmetric and asymmetric threats, near and far, all at the same time. In addition, the idea of a preemptive strike, if necessary, is making a return to military high command due to new air capabilities. The IAF’s strike rate has “doubled twice” in recent years, Eshel said, meaning that several thousand targets can be hit within 24 hours, every 24 hours. This degree of air power is unprecedented in military history.

 

The days in which the IDF relied mainly on air power to wage a full-scale conflict are long gone. In line with the IDF’s multi-year plan, a major effort is underway to improve war readiness among ground forces. This year, enlisted operational forces are set to begin training for 17 weeks to match every 17 weeks of active security missions. This division of labor is designed to bump up combat readiness significantly, and not to let routine missions erode combat readiness.

 

In addition, the IDF has been creating light infantry brigades and deploying them to the borders with Egypt and Jordan. Their mission is solely limited to border security, thus freeing up enlisted combat forces, which would take part in ground maneuvers, for more war training. To counter the threat of armor-piercing RPGs and anti-tank missiles, which are highly prevalent in Gaza and Lebanon, the IDF is mass producing modern armored personnel carriers (APCs) and tanks. These are the tracked Namer and the wheeled Eitan APCs. The latter can travel 90 kilometers an hour on roads, giving it the ability to leap from one battle front to another.

 

Israel is also mass producing the Merkava 4 tank. On all these platforms, the Defense Ministry is installing Rafael’s Trophy active protection system. This gives the armored vehicles the ability to intercept incoming missiles and to instantly detect and share the location of enemy cells that are firing at them, enabling rapid, accurate return fire. As the IDF strengthens its ground war abilities, various command levels are training to improve their ability to launch multi-front attacks simultaneously…

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

                                                           

                                                                       

 

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HOW ISRAEL COULD TAKE THE FIGHT DIRECTLY TO IRAN

Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Feb. 17, 2018

 

The conflagration this past weekend between Israeli and Iranian forces is being billed as a new stage in the longstanding, albeit to date largely covert, war between the two adversaries. For the first time, Iranian troops perpetrated a direct attack on Israel, initially by sending a drone across the border from Syria and then by firing the anti-aircraft missile that downed an IDF jet which had reentered Israeli airspace after conducting a retaliatory mission.

 

The events were significant both because of the success in downing the Israeli warplane, the first such occurrence in decades, but also because it evidences Iran’s growing foothold in the Syrian theater, a development that Jerusalem vehemently opposes and has vowed to prevent at all costs. Overall, Iran’s actions suggest that it feels sufficiently emboldened to use its own forces to harm the Jewish state.

 

The incident constitutes a strategic shift, according to Lt.-Col. (ret.) Yiftah Shapir, a career officer in the Israel Air Force and the former head of the Military Balance Project at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, “as it marks the first occasion that the Iranians openly engaged Israel, whereas previously this was done via its proxies. It may be,” he qualified, “that the Iranians misjudged the [intensity of the] Israeli response and that the status quo will be restored for a period of time.”

 

By contrast, Saturday’s flare-up was not the first time that Israel directly struck Iranian assets. In December, the IDF reportedly destroyed a military facility being built by Tehran ​​in al-Kiswah, just south of Damascus. Notably, in 2015, Israeli strikes killed at least six Iranian troops in the Syrian Golan Heights, including a general in the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Also targeted was Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the notorious former Hezbollah operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, who was himself killed in an Israeli-attributed 2008 car bombing in Syria.

 

Furthermore, the Mossad has been implicated in the assassination of multiple nuclear scientists on Iranian soil, not to mention the deployment of the Stuxnet cyberweapon, a computer worm developed in conjunction with Washington that wreaked havoc on Iranian nuclear installations even after being discovered in 2010. So whereas the latest confrontation along the northern border was in some ways exceptional, it does not inevitably entail a long-term escalation or that the conflict be brought out into the open, although these are both distinct possibilities.

 

In fact, while the political and military echelons have made clear that Israel is not seeking an escalation, its so-called “red lines” – namely, the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria – continue to be violated; this, despite the IDF having conducted well over 100 cross-border strikes to protect its interests over the past 18 months. Additionally, Iran has started construction on a subterranean facility in Lebanon to manufacture long-range precision missiles that could allow Hezbollah to target, with great accuracy, critical Israeli infrastructure in a future war. Taken together, these developments raise the question of whether Israel’s deterrence vis-a-vis Tehran and its Lebanese proxy may be weakening, which would necessitate modifying its military strategy…

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

 

                                                                       

 

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ISRAELI BOMBING SYRIA ENHANCED US NATIONAL SECURITY

Yoram Ettinger

Jewish Press, Feb. 15, 2018

 

Israel’s unique contribution to US’ national security and US defense industries was reaffirmed on February 10, 2018, by Israel’s effective military operation against Syrian-based Iranian-Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries, early-warning radar stations, a launching-base of unmanned aerial vehicles and a command-control bunker. While Israel lost one F-16 combat plane, its air force demonstrated exceptional capabilities in the areas of intelligence, electronic warfare – especially radar jamming – firepower capabilities, precision, maneuverability, penetration of missile batteries, early-identification and destruction of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles and their mobile controller, etc.

 

Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) are analyzing the lessons of this recent operation, most of which will be shared, promptly, with the US – the manufacturer and provider of most of the systems operated by the IDF – as has been the case with a multitude of Israel’s military operations and wars.  For example, much of the battle-tactics formulation in the US Army Headquarters in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas has been based on the Israeli battlefield experience.

 

The February 10, 2018 Israeli Air Force operation against Syrian-Iranian military targets has reinforced the legacy of the late Senator Daniel Inouye, who was the Chairman of the full Appropriations Committee and its Defense Subcommittee.  Senator Inouye considered Israel a moral ally of the US, as well as the most effective battle-tested laboratory of the US military and defense industries – a primary outpost, in a critical region, sparing the US billions of dollars, which would be required to deploy additional US military forces to the area.

 

Senator Daniel Inouye, who was also the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, contended that the flow of Israeli intelligence to the US exceeded – quantitatively and qualitatively – the flow of intelligence from all NATO members combined. Chairman Inouye maintained that Israel’s battle experience – shared with the US – enhanced US national security, yielding billions of dollars to the US treasury.

 

For instance, the shared-lessons of the June 1982 Israeli destruction of 19 Syrian-operated advanced Soviet surface-to-air missile batteries and 97 Soviet combat planes, saved the US’ defense industries 10-20 years of research and development, enhanced the competitiveness of US military systems in the global market, increased US exports and expanded US employment. Moreover, the lessons of the Israeli military operation upgraded the capabilities of the US Air Force and the US’ posture of deterrence, exposed the vulnerabilities of advanced Soviet military systems – which were deemed impregnable until then – undermined the regional and global Soviet strategic stature, tilted the global balance of power in favor of the US and prevented the loss of many American lives.

 

When visiting the General Dynamics plant (currently, Lockheed-Martin) in Ft. Worth, Texas, which manufactures the F-16 and F-35, I was told by the plant manager that the US manufacturer was privy to an almost daily flow of operational, maintenance and repair lessons drawn by Israel’s Air Force, which generated over 600 upgrades, “worth mega-billion of dollars.”  Common sense suggests that similar mega-benefits are afforded to McDonnell-Douglas, in St. Louis, Missouri, the manufacturer of the F-15, which is also operated by the Israeli Air Force.

 

In Dallas, Texas, a retired US combat pilot suggested to me that “a most productive time for US combat pilots are joint-exercises with Israeli pilots.” Responding to my doubts – since Israeli pilots fly US-made planes and are not smarter than US pilots – the US combat pilot elaborated: “Israeli pilots fly, routinely, within range of the enemies’ radar and missiles, and therefore always fly under a do-or-die state of mind, which results in more daring and creative maneuvers, stretching the capabilities of the US plane much more than done by US pilots.”

 

The February 10, 2018 Israeli Air Force operation highlighted the US-Israel mutually-beneficial, two-way-street, featuring Israel’s unique contributions to US national security and defense industries. It provided additional evidence of the exceptionally high rate-of-return on the annual US investment in Israel, which is erroneously defined as “foreign aid.”  Israel is neither foreign to the US, nor is it a supplicant; it has been an unconditional, productive junior partner of the US in the liberty-driven battle against rogue regimes.

 

 

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SYRIAN DOWNING OF F-16I BEGS QUESTION:

WHY DIDN’T ISRAEL DEPLOY F-35S?

Barbara Opall-Rome

Defense News, Feb. 14, 2018

 

As the Israeli Air Force continues to investigate the Feb. 10 loss of an F-16I to Syrian anti-aircraft fire, experts here are privately questioning why, given the operational circumstances that denied Israel the element of strategic surprise, it did not opt to deploy its newest front-line fighter: the stealthy F-35I. In early December, the Air Force declared initial operational capability of the nine F-35s now in its possession. And from the aerial activity reported by residents near its home base at Nevatim, southern Israel, the aircraft are accruing significant flight time.

 

Yet none of the operational F-35s were part of the eight-aircraft force package tasked with destroying an Iranian command center in central Syria. The command center was reportedly operating the unmanned Shahed 171 drone that Israel says penetrated its airspace in the early morning of Feb. 10. Nor were they tasked to lead the follow-on wave of strikes on 12 separate Syrian and Iranian assets in the punitive operation launched later that day in response to the F-16I downing. But why not?

 

Perhaps these costly stealth fighters are too precious to use. Or perhaps the Israeli Air Force is not sufficiently confident in the aircraft or its pilots’ proficiency in operating the fifth-generation fighter.

 

Given pledges by Syria and its Hezbollah allies of “more surprises” should Israel venture additional attacks on Syrian soil, will the Israel Air Force opt to use these front-line assets next time around?

 

The official answer to all these questions, according to Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, is: “No comment.” Unofficially, former Israeli Air Force officers offer a spectrum of explanations and conjecture, including: Anemic operational experience by the service’s F-35 pilots; Failure thus far to integrate required Israeli weaponry in the aircraft’s internal weapons bay; The need to reserve these assets for only the most strategically significant missions against a much more sophisticated array of enemy air defenses.

 

However, all conceded — and on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation — that the Air Force miscalculated. By failing to anticipate the threat from saturation attacks by Syrian-based air defenses — however antiquated those SA-5 and SA-17 missiles, which were deployed to support the Syrian government, might have been — Israel suffered not only the loss of its first fighter to enemy fire in 36 years, but a serious blow to its carefully crafted and well-earned aura of invincibility.

 

With the acknowledged benefit of 20/20 hindsight, some in Israel are wondering where the F-35 was. “They were sure the F-16I could easily survive the environment, as it has done so many times before,” a retired Air Force major general told Defense News. Another former officer surmised that the weaponry Israel used in that initial strike on the T-4 airfield in central Syria was not yet integrated into the weapons bay of the F-35 stealth fighter. “If it was determined to use our own special weapons for this particular scenario and this specific formation, what good would it do to hang it under the wings? You’d lose the stealth,” the officer said.

 

The Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, refused to specify which missiles were used in the initial attack on the Iranian command-and-control trailer, but multiple sources point to the Israeli SPICE, an autonomous, all-weather, precision-attack weapon that the Air Force is well-practiced in delivering at standoff range. In conjecture officially denied by Conricus, the IDF spokesman, one officer suggested Washington may have discouraged or even vetoed Israel’s use of the F-35 at this point in the multinational program out of concern that Russian and Iranian specialists in Syria could gather information on its radar-evading capability and other characteristics. “That would be highly unlikely and would set a dangerous precedent,” a former U.S. ambassador to Israel told Defense News. “Once delivered, these aircraft are wholly owned and operated by the Israelis.”

 

Retired Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Abraham Assael, IAF Reserve Brig. Gen. Abraham Assael, CEO of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, was the only officer who agreed to be identified by name. According to the former fighter pilot, the Air Force had no reason to risk “strategic assets” against what was termed a “strategically insignificant” target. “In the past, everything went very well, so why jeopardize something so valuable and precious in an operation that used to entail no significant obstacles?” Assael said.

 

He cited the small number of F-35s in Israel’s possession and the relatively meager operational experience accrued on the aircraft as reasons for not including them in the Feb. 10 strike operations. “If they thought that the targets were so strategically important, I’m sure they’d consider using them. But they weren’t. So why risk use of the F-35s at such an early point in their operational maturity?” “Glitches and mishaps happen,” he added. “So now they’re investigating, and it could be one of the lessons will be that in this new strategic environment, we’ll see the F-35 called into action.”

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

One Step Ahead: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 17, 2018—Israel is no slouch at cyberwarfare. The Jewish state has been under incessant attack from its inception and has had to grapple with myriad enemies.

IDF Acknowledges Serious Hezbollah Missile Threat to Israeli Natural Gas Rigs: Algemeiner, Feb. 7, 2018—A senior IDF naval officer confirmed this week that Hezbollah — Iran’s proxy Shi’ite terror organization based in Lebanon — now possesses missiles that could cause serious damage to the natural gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea that provide Israel with 60 percent of its electricity.

U.S. Air Force Weighs International Squadrons to Strike Terror Targets: Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 19, 2018—The U.S. Air Force is considering forming international squadrons of low-cost fighter planes to strike terrorist targets in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, allowing deployment of higher-tech jets to areas requiring their advanced capabilities.

US May Boost Marine Corps Force in East Asia: Jeff Daniels, CNBC, Feb. 9, 2018—In a move seen as largely signaling to China, the Trump administration could soon boost its military presence in East Asia. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday the Pentagon is considering increasing its Marine Corps Expeditionary Units in East Asia as it draws down its deployments in the Middle East, citing unnamed military officials.

                                                              

 

 

IN SYRIA, U.S.-BACKED KURDS CLASH WITH TURKEY; IRAN’S “LAND CORRIDOR” COVERS SYRIA & LEBANON

Will the US Betray the Syrian Kurds?: Gwynne Dyer, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2018— Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an angry man at the best of times, but on Monday he outdid himself…

Breaking the Syrian Stalemate: Irina Tsukerman, BESA, Jan. 11, 2018— The US is currently at a great disadvantage in Syria.

Hezbollah's Reign of Terror: From Beirut and Beyond: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Jan. 21, 2018— The trial of two Hezbollah operatives accused of blowing up an Israeli tour bus in 2012, killing five Israelis and the Bulgarian driver, kicked off this week in Sofia.

The Fiction that Destabilizes the Middle East: Evelyn Gordon, Jewish Press, Jan. 16, 2018— If I were compiling a foreign policy wish list for 2018, high on the list would be ending the fiction that Lebanon is an independent country rather than an Iranian satrapy governed by Iran’s foreign legion, Hezbollah.

 

On Topic Links

 

Pence Addresses Israeli Parliament (Video): Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2018

DEBATE: What Are the Implications of the Russian-Turkish Rapprochement?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Jan. 21, 2018

Is Hezbollah Eating the Iranian People's Bread?: Yves Mamou, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 4, 2018

Israeli Experts Weigh in on Obama-Hezbollah Revelation: Michael Friedson, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 24, 2017

 

 

WILL THE US BETRAY THE SYRIAN KURDS?

Gwynne Dyer

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2018

 

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an angry man at the best of times, but on Monday he outdid himself: “This is what we have to say to all our allies: Don’t get in between us and terrorist organizations or we will not be responsible for the unwanted consequences.” That was a barely veiled threat that he will use force against American troops if they try to stop him from attacking the Syrian Kurds. The iron law of international politics in the Middle East is that everybody betrays the Kurds. It was on display again in Iraq last October when the Baghdad government seized almost half the territory ruled by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

 

In obedience to that unwritten law, nobody else objected – including the United States, even though it had armed the Iraqi Kurds to fight ISIS. But now the US government has effectively told the Syrian Kurds that they can keep the huge chunk of Syria they control for the indefinite future. And the Turkish government, predictably, has gone ballistic. In President Erdogan’s book, any Kurd with a gun in his hand is a “terrorist,” and the Syrian Kurds are a “terror army.” In fact, they played the main role, under US air cover, in destroying the Syrian base of the real terrorists: Islamic State. As a result, the army the Kurds dominate, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), now controls almost half of Syria’s territory.

 

It’s the northeastern, relatively empty part of Syria, with less than one-fifth of the country’s population, but it includes all of Syria’s border with Iraq and almost all its border with Turkey. On Sunday, Washington confirmed it will help the SDF create a new 30,000-member “border security force” over the next several years to police those borders – and also the “internal” border between Kurdish-controlled Syria and the rest of the country. The “rest of the country” is now mostly back under the control of Bashar Assad’s regime after six years of civil war, thanks largely to the intervention of the Russian Air Force and Iranian militias. Both Moscow and Tehran immediately accused the United States of planning to partition Syria, and there is some substance in the accusation.

 

Washington is indeed creating a Kurdish-ruled protectorate in northeast Syria, and has declared that 2,000 US troops will stay there indefinitely – or to be more precise: until progress has been made in the UN-led peace talks in Geneva and it is certain that Islamic State has been permanently defeated – which is another way of saying indefinitely.

 

The main purpose of this sudden escalation in the US commitment in Syria is presumably to stop the Russians from winning a total victory in the country. The Syrian regime, of course, has denounced the plan as a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty – but Turkey is the only country threatening to kill Americans over it. The Kurds always get betrayed because what they really want is an independent Kurdistan that includes all 20 million Kurds. But to create that, the four most powerful countries in the region – Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq – would all have to be partially dismantled. Those powers will do whatever it takes to prevent that.

 

Erdogan restarted the war with Turkey’s own Kurdish separatists two years ago, mainly for electoral advantage. But he really is fanatical on the subject. He is convinced that the Syrian Kurdish organization, the YFP – which he is determined to destroy – is really just a branch of Turkey’s own PKK (which does have a terrorist past).

 

The declaration of a de facto American protectorate over the Kurdish-dominated parts of Syria only makes the matter more urgent in Erdogan’s eyes. “A country we call an ally [the US] is insisting on forming a terror army on our border,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara on Monday. “What can that terror army target but Turkey? Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.” That’s nonsense. The Syrian Kurds are not terrorists, they are American allies. And when the Turkish Army first attacked Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria last spring, US troops – flying very large American flags – drove in front of the Kurdish lines to protect their allies from Turkish fire.

 

What Erdogan meant in our first quotation was: Next time, if American soldiers and flags obstruct Turkish operations, they will be blown away. Does he mean it? He may not know himself, but his army is going to move into several parts of Syrian Kurdish territory this week or next. Turkish artillery is already softening up the targets. But the likelihood of a shooting war between Turks and Americans remains very low. Like Obama before him, Trump is pursuing a policy in Syria that is not backed up by enough force to make it credible. Everybody assumes he is bluffing and will betray the Syrian Kurds in the end. For the peace of the world, it’s probably better that he does.

 

Contents

BREAKING THE SYRIAN STALEMATE

Irina Tsukerman

BESA, Jan. 11, 2018

 

The US is currently at a great disadvantage in Syria. Despite blaming its increasing irrelevancy in the region on the Obama administration’s inaction in pursuit of the nuclear deal with Iran, the Trump White House chose to box itself into a corner by disregarding sage advice that would have significantly shifted the calculus of power. Rather than supporting the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, preventing Iran from building a land corridor connecting it to the Mediterranean, and thereby making it more difficult for Lebanon’s Hezbollah to smuggle weapons and people in and out, the Trump administration chose a strategy that empowered Tehran’s proxy, Baghdad; allowed Moscow to emerge as the great dealmaker; and served Turkey’s interests with respect to the Kurdish issue in Syria.

 

Without the land corridor, Iran would have been geographically poorly positioned to expand in the direction of Central Asia, or indeed anywhere else. Instead, it is now in the best possible position to do so. Furthermore, Bashar Assad has called US-backed groups traitors, and, echoing President Putin, asked American and Turkish troops to leave.

 

The Pentagon says a US presence will remain in Syria indefinitely, but should Iran and Russia-backed Assad turn serious, US troops might find themselves having to fight enemies on several fronts. It is unclear why the US, which has essentially accepted the premises that ISIS is finished and other terrorist groups are either subdued or subordinate to state actors, chooses to remain in the area without a clear plan to remove Iranian proxies. Washington seems to have no action plan to deal with Iran, though it is certainly a threat.

 

Assad is a pawn of Iran and Russia. Tehran is looking to get rid of him; Moscow is amenable to his staying – at least for now. Assad is content with his remaining fiefdom so long as the various groups that have subdivided Syria pay their dues, recognize Syrian sovereignty, and don’t create additional problems. Iran is getting exactly what it wanted: a land corridor to suit its expansionist plans, and a naval base that will give it access to strategic waterways. Once its navy becomes fully operational, it can then fight to deny access to everyone else. Resource-poor Syria was likely never the end unto itself for Tehran, but rather a means towards outward expansion.

 

The mullahs do not care how many countries are brought to ruin so long as their path is smooth and their access to the outside world guaranteed. That Tehran does not have complete control over Syria at the moment is irrelevant. Its object is not to lord it over Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and assorted others, but to assert Iranian hegemony and break through the sanctions and obstacles by finding new routes and creating new alliances. Iran’s Iraqi militias are spoiling for a fight. They are a battle-hardened, increasingly serious force against largely untrained Gulf troops who also lack proper intelligence training. Iran feels so much in control of the situation that it is looking to completely coopt the KRG in exchange for peace.

 

Russia is unquestionably the biggest winner of all. It has established itself as a credible power broker; has outsmarted and manipulated both the Obama and the Trump administrations; and is building a naval base, despite Russia’s poor internal economy, sanctions, and increasing loss of legitimacy in the West. It has returned to its former sphere of influence and is setting the rules of the game.

 

Moscow is also is very good at taking advantage of strategic errors made by others. Ankara, for example, which managed to ruin its relations with Assad early on in the civil war, will now have a great deal of trouble imposing its will inside the country. Russia is successfully building a relationship with the Syrian Kurds and assuming a protectorate over them even as Turkey seeks to isolate the YPG and deny the Kurds legitimacy in their struggle for autonomy. Russia is succeeding at bringing the Kurds to the table in peace process negotiations, something Turkey sought to deny…

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

 

                                                                       

Contents

HEZBOLLAH'S REIGN OF TERROR: FROM BEIRUT AND BEYOND

Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Jan. 21, 2018

 

The trial of two Hezbollah operatives accused of blowing up an Israeli tour bus in 2012, killing five Israelis and the Bulgarian driver, kicked off this week in Sofia. The suspects, Meliad Farah and Hassan El Hajj Hassan, are being tried in absentia after fleeing to Lebanon, which refuses to extradite them despite Interpol warrants for their arrest.

 

This comes against the backdrop of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement last week of the formation of a new task force to combat Hezbollah’s vast drug trafficking and money laundering empire, worth an estimated $1 billion annually. That decision followed a Politico report claiming that the Obama administration interfered with a Drug Enforcement Agency initiative—code-named Project Cassandra—to crack down on the Iranian-sponsored Shi'ite organization's illicit activities for fear of jeopardizing the nuclear deal with Iran.

 

Concurrently, the British House of Commons is slated on January 25 to discuss fully blacklisting Hezbollah, whose so-called "political arm" has until now been allowed to fundraise and recruit in major European capitals in a successful attempt to bifurcate the terrorist organization into legitimate civic and martial elements. While Israel, the US and, most recently, the Arab League have listed Hezbollah, in its entirety, as a terror group, the European Union, like the UK, banned only the organization's "military wing" in the wake of the Burgas attack. "While European governments have outlawed Hezbollah's armed body, this has no distinction because, as Hezbollah itself says, it is a monolithic organization," Benjamin Weinthal, a Fellow at the Washington-based Foundation For Defense of Democracies, explained to The Media Line. "In this respect, the Europeans have engaged in a sort of savvy appeasement of Hezbollah because they are afraid of it."

 

Hezbollah was created by the Iranian regime in the early 1980s, foremost to counter Israel’s presence at the time in southern Lebanon. However, its hatred for the West quickly manifested in the 1983 attack on American military barracks in Beirut which killed 241 US Marines and 58 French peacekeepers. In the ensuing decades Hezbollah has effectively taken control of the Lebanese government while developing into one of the Middle East’s most powerful military forces, currently engaged in the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

 

According to Professor Efraim Inbar, President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, "Hezbollah uses Arab communities abroad to make inroads not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe, South America and even Asia. They are there to establish cells that will eventually attack Jewish and Israeli targets," he told The Media Line, while noting that "Hezbollah's Islamic ideological underpinnings also motivate its expansion." Inbar further explained that while Hezbollah's overarching policies are coordinated by Iran, its local branches maintain freedom of action.

 

"Unit 133, for example, primarily focuses on the West Bank where it recruits local Palestinians, transfers them funds and then provides online training [on how to conduct attacks]," Yaakov Lappin, an Associate Researcher at Israel's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Media Line. "It also has links to Sinai and Jordan and, [more broadly], has cells across the Middle East which promote terrorism against Israeli targets. The unit is a major concern of the Israeli intelligence community," he expounded, "and also is reportedly involved in drug trafficking, [which is] a source of financing."

 

In Germany, there are an estimated 1,000 Hezbollah members currently operating, with reports suggesting that additional combatants have been infiltrating the country by posing as Mideast refugees. This is part and parcel of Iran's attempt to further penetrate the continent, with German police this week having conducted wide-scale raids targeting members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds [Jerusalem] Force, who were reportedly conducting surveillance on Israeli and Jewish targets. Weinthal traces these developments to 1992, when Iranian and Hezbollah agents killed four Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant. While German authorities accused the highest levels of the Iranian government of complicity in the attack, the two countries reportedly reached a quid pro quo deal in which Tehran and Hezbollah would cease perpetrating violent attacks on German soil in exchange for being permitted to freely operate in the country.

 

Another contributing factor, Weinthal noted, is that "Europeans are so invested in the Iran nuclear deal that they do not want to act against its wholly owned subsidiary, Hezbollah. This is similar to why the Obama administration turned a blind eye to Hezbollah's illicit activities." To this end, (the) terror group is actively engaged in drug trafficking throughout the Americas, from the Tri-Border Area where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay converge, to Mexico, where it cooperates with local drug cartels. Using these funds along with those generated from sophisticated money laundering schemes, Hezbollah and, as a corollary, its patron Tehran, have been able to buy political influence throughout the region.

 

This was made evident by the previous Argentine government's attempted cover-up of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish AMIA community center in Buenos Aires, which followed the bombing of the Israeli Embassy two years earlier. An investigation into the attacks, which together killed over 100 people, was stymied for decades until, in 2015, federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman was slated to testify before a congressional panel that then-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had concealed facts about Iran's and Hezbollah's involvement. Hours before Nisman was set to reveal his findings—including that in exchange for Kirchner's compliance, the Islamic Republic would supply her government with a steady stream of cheap oil—he was found shot to death in his apartment in what was first ruled a suicide but eventually reclassified as a murder.

 

The apparent assassination garnered global headlines and "caused a growing awareness in the West of Hezbollah's negative actions," Inbar stated, before qualifying to The Media Line that "there remains a big gap between existing legal frameworks, which place an emphasis on upholding human rights, and the [steps required] to crack down on terrorist groups." For his part, US President Donald Trump appears committed to bridging this gap by pressing Congress to pass stronger sanctions on Hezbollah. The American administration also directed the Treasury Department to place multi-million-dollar bounties on senior Hezbollah leaders, in a bid to hamper its illegal infrastructure…

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

 

 

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THE FICTION THAT DESTABILIZES THE MIDDLE EAST

Evelyn Gordon

Jewish Press, Jan. 16, 2018

 

If I were compiling a foreign policy wish list for 2018, high on the list would be ending the fiction that Lebanon is an independent country rather than an Iranian satrapy governed by Iran’s foreign legion, Hezbollah. The Western foreign policy establishment maintains this fiction out of good intentions; it wants to protect innocent Lebanese from suffering the consequences of Hezbollah’s military provocations against its neighbors. But this policy has enabled Hezbollah to devastate several neighboring countries with impunity, and it’s paving the way to a war that will devastate Lebanon itself.

 

Sheltering Lebanon from the consequences of Hezbollah’s behavior is both a bipartisan and a transatlantic consensus. This was evident from the West’s wall-to-wall outrage in November, when Saudi Arabia abortively tried to end the pretense that Hezbollah doesn’t rule Lebanon by pressuring the organization’s fig leaf, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, to resign. The International Support Group for Lebanon, which includes the U.S., UN, European Union, Arab League, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, China, and Russia, issued a statement demanding that Lebanon be “shielded from tensions in the region.” The State Department’s acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, David Satterfield, demanded that Saudi Arabia “explain why Riyadh was destabilizing Lebanon.” French President Emmanuel Macron proclaimed it vital that Lebanon remains “disassociated” from regional crises. And the list goes on.

 

Yet the West has shown no similar concern for shielding the many Mideast countries which Lebanon’s de facto ruling party has destabilized for years. Thousands of Hezbollah troops have fought in Syria’s civil war, helping the Assad regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. Hezbollah also has troops in Yemen to support the Houthi rebels in that country’s civil war, and it may have been involved in firing missiles from Yemen at Saudi Arabia. It has trained Shi’ite militias in Iraq and fought alongside them. And, of course, it has built an arsenal of some 150,000 missiles–bigger than that of most conventional armies–for eventual use against Israel.

 

Granted, Hezbollah isn’t Lebanon’s official ruling party; it’s part of a coalition government led by Hariri, who actually belongs to a rival party. But not only does Hezbollah have official veto power over all government decisions, it’s also the country’s dominant military force. Hariri has no power to stop Hezbollah from sending its troops all over the region; he can’t even stop it from doing as it pleases within Lebanon itself. One small example perfectly illustrates his impotence. In early December, Qais al-Khazali, the head of an Iraqi Shi’ite militia, was videotaped accompanying Hezbollah operatives to the Lebanese-Israeli border and proclaiming his militia’s willingness to help Hezbollah fight Israel. Hariri termed the visit a “flagrant violation” of Lebanese law and ordered the Lebanese army to make sure no such incident recurred. A few weeks later, as if to underscore Hariri’s powerlessness, Hezbollah took another senior commander from a Syrian Shi’ite militia to the border for a similar videotaped pledge.

 

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the West has insisted on maintaining the fiction that Lebanon is somehow independent of Hezbollah rather than ruled by it. And in so doing, Western countries have actually enabled Hezbollah’s aggression. Thanks to this fiction, the West gives hundreds of millions of dollars in both civilian and military aid to Lebanon. Civilian aid, of which the EU has provided over $1 billion in recent years, frees Hezbollah of the need to pay for the consequences of its actions, like caring for the 1.1 million Syrian refugees its own aggression helped drive from Syria into Lebanon. American military aid, of which Lebanon is the world’s sixth-largest recipient, has given Hezbollah access to training, intelligence, equipment and other military capabilities, since the Lebanese army shares everything it receives with the organization, whether willingly or under compulsion from Hezbollah’s greater strength…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Pence Addresses Israeli Parliament (Video): Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2018—Vice President Pence delivers a speech to the Israeli parliament.

DEBATE: What Are the Implications of the Russian-Turkish Rapprochement?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Jan. 21, 2018—Q: In the aftermath of the failed coup d’état of July 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is embarking on an attempt to improve Ankara’s relations with non-Western countries to avoid international isolation. The Russian-Turkish rapprochement is a characteristic example.

Is Hezbollah Eating the Iranian People's Bread?: Yves Mamou, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 4, 2018—In the holy city of Qom in Iran, on December 30, 2017, anti-regime demonstrators shouted "Death to Hezbollah", "Aren't you ashamed Khamenei? Get out of Syria and take care of us", and "Not Gaza, or Lebanon".

Israeli Experts Weigh in on Obama-Hezbollah Revelation: Michael Friedson, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 24, 2017—US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is launching a review of a US Drug Enforcement Administration investigation code-named Project Cassandra, after Politico reported that the Obama administration covertly derailed the inquiry into Hezbollah's illicit global activities in order to ink the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.