Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
L'institut Canadien de Recherches sur le Judaisme
Strength of Israel will not lie

Tag: Hezbollah

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!

 

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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…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link]  

 

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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…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link]

 

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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.]

 

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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.]

                                                           

                                                                       

 

Contents

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.]

 

                                                                       

 

Contents

   

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.

 

 

Contents

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.]   

 

 

Contents

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.

 

 

                                                              

 

 

ISRAEL AND WEST “REVOLUTIONIZING” WAR WITH ADVANCED WEAPONS TECHNOLOGY, INCLUDING IRON DOME, F-35, & ROBOTICS

Threatened South to North, IDF Seeks Calm While Steeling for Worst: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, Nov. 14, 2017— With tensions rising in the south amid fears that the Islamic Jihad terror group will attempt to avenge a tunnel demolition two weeks ago…

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft: What It Brings to the IAF: Yaakov Lappin, BESA, Oct. 29, 2017— The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet is poised to become a key tool to help Israel stop Iran and its proxies from creating a threatening military outpost in Syria.

How Technology Is Revolutionizing War: Jeremy Rabkin & John Yoo, National Review, Nov. 14, 2017— In his 2017 inaugural address, President Trump protested that for decades the American people “subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military…

Canadian Forces Pull off a Rare Feat: a Procurement Triumph: Editorial, National Post, Nov. 3, 2017— The Canadian Forces may have recently pulled off a rare feat: a military procurement triumph.

 

On Topic Links

 

‘Israel Not Prepared for Drone Threat’: Yona Schnitzer, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 16, 2017

Don't Return Bodies For Nothing: Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, Israel Hayom, Nov. 6, 2017

Canada’s Peacekeeping Incoherence: Richard Shimooka & Don Macnamara, Globe & Mail, Nov. 14, 2017

North Korea and the Threat of Chemical Warfare: Theo Emery, New York Times, Oct. 27, 2017

                                                           

 

 

THREATENED SOUTH TO NORTH,

IDF SEEKS CALM WHILE STEELING FOR WORST

                                                       Judah Ari Gross

Times of Israel, Nov. 14, 2017

 

With tensions rising in the south amid fears that the Islamic Jihad terror group will attempt to avenge a tunnel demolition two weeks ago, the Israeli military is finding that striking a delicate balance between keeping terror groups from preparing for a future war and keeping the region relatively calm is easier said than done. While neither side may be gunning for a fight, a miscalculation by the IDF runs the risk of triggering a bloody tit-for-tat fight that can lead to all-out war.

 

For the past two weeks, the military has been trying to prevent such an escalation as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group has vowed revenge for the army’s demolition of its attack tunnel that crossed into Israeli territory from Gaza. Israel Defense Forces troops in southern Israel have been on alert following last month’s tunnel razing. In the army’s most recent measure, on Monday it deployed its Iron Dome missile defense system in central Israel — including at least one battery in the greater Tel Aviv region — out of concerns the group may retaliate with a barrage of rockets.

 

In addition to preparing for attack, the Israeli military has also been trying to prevent one, repeatedly warning against a retaliation in direct addresses to both the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Strip’s rulers, Hamas. The army blew up the tunnel, which originated in the Gazan city of Khan Younis and crossed into Israeli territory, near Kibbutz Kissufim, on October 30. In total, 14 terrorists were killed, two of them from Hamas and the rest from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including two senior commanders. The bodies of five of the Islamic Jihad terrorists, who were working on the tunnel inside Israeli territory, were recovered by the IDF a few days later.

 

But according to the army, this high body count was not intentional. The goal for the operation, per the IDF, was the destruction of the tunnel, not assassination. In comments after the blast, IDF officials also noted that many of the terrorists died not in the explosion, but in botched rescue attempts. But the military stressed it does not regret the deaths of terrorists, after facing backlash from politicians who interpreted the officers’ comments as apologetic. In light of the body count, the military determined that the group “will have a hard time holding back.”

 

Incidentally, Tuesday also marks five years since the IDF killed then-Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari in an airstrike, which sparked the week-long Operation Pillar of Defense campaign in Gaza. Palestinian terror groups have been known to carry out attacks to coincide with significant anniversaries. Former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin praised the military on Monday for preparing to counter the threats from Gaza, but warned it not to forget that “the northern front is Israel’s main focus — Assad, Hezbollah, and Iran will seek to challenge the IDF.”

 

On Saturday, Israel shot down a drone from Syria with a Patriot missile in the third such incident this year, which military officials say is an indication of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s increasing brazenness in light of his successes in the country’s civil war. The army’s top brass and Israeli government officials are also currently locked in intense discussion with their American and Russian counterparts concerning a ceasefire agreement for southern Syria, especially the distance from Israel’s borders that Iran-backed militias will be allowed to operate.  While Iranian entrenchment along the Golan border presents a far greater strategic threat to Israel’s security in the long term, the more pressing concern seems to be the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which could attack at any time.

 

When the IDF uncovered two Hamas attack tunnels that also crossed into Israeli territory last year, there was also concern of a potential retaliation, but this faded fairly rapidly. In those cases, however, there were no terrorist casualties, as in last month’s demolition. Late Saturday night, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, published a video message in Arabic directed to the Islamic Jihad leaders in Damascus, telling them that the IDF is aware of the group’s terror plots and that they are “playing with fire.” “We are aware of the plot that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is planning against Israel,” Mordechai said. “Let it be clear: Any attack by the Islamic Jihad will be met with a powerful and determined Israeli response, not only against the Jihad, but also against Hamas,” warned the general.

 

The group responded a day later, saying the Israeli threats against its leaders constituted “an act of war,” and vowing to continue to try to carry out a revenge attack against Israel. “We reaffirm our right to respond to any aggression, including our right to respond to the crime of aggression on the resistance tunnel,” Islamic Jihad said.

 

In the eyes of the military, its strike on the tunnel was entirely justified, legally and morally, as it entered Israeli territory and threatened Israeli civilians. As such, the army feels, while it may smart, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad needs to just count its losses and move on. “They violated Israeli sovereignty. They were conducting an act of hostility against Israel. We were able to thwart that, and that is the end of the sentence,” said army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus in an extended interview with the Israel Project’s podcast on Monday. “And if they will try to aggress again, that will be met with significant resolve and power,” Conricus added.

 

On Monday, Israeli forces arrested a top commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, in what seems to be a non-verbal deterrent message to the terrorist group. The Shin Bet security service confirmed that Tariq Qa’adan, a senior officer in the Gaza-based terror group’s West Bank wing, was picked up by the IDF in Arrabeh, southwest of Jenin, in the northern West Bank. A Shin Bet official said Qa’adan was arrested “for being a member of a terrorist group.”

 

According to Yadlin, who now runs the esteemed Institute for National Security Studies think tank, the messages put out by Mordechai and the army’s spokesperson’s office are important tools to prevent escalation and also show a significant change in tack by the military since the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge. “The messages and warnings that Israel has been sending to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) over the last couple of days are not incidental, but actually indicate concrete intel according to which PIJ plans to respond to the destruction of his terror tunnel into Israel,” Yadlin wrote on Twitter. “It seems Israel learned the lessons of Operation Protective Edge, and this time it will focus on hitting the heads of the organizations (with a particular focus on the chiefs of their military/terror branches) and their operational infrastructure,” he said.            

 

Contents

THE F-35 JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER AIRCRAFT: WHAT IT BRINGS TO THE IAF

Yaakov Lappin

BESA, Oct. 29, 2017

 

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet is poised to become a key tool to help Israel stop Iran and its proxies from creating a threatening military outpost in Syria. It will also play a leading role vis-à-vis Hezbollah’s heavily armed fortress in Lebanon. The Lockheed Martin-produced aircraft, which is due to become fully operational in December of this year, brings with it a number of new capabilities that ideally suit Israel’s requirements in terms of monitoring and, when necessary, striking Iranian-Hezbollah-Syrian military targets in Syria and Lebanon. The aircraft is well suited for the mission of selectively targeting the ongoing Iranian-Hezbollah weapons trafficking program.

 

The F-35 is an intelligence-gathering machine in a league of its own. It is able to deploy a range of sensors to gather detailed information on events on the ground. It can fuse unprecedented quantities of intelligence automatically, then share it with other aircraft and with the Israel Air Force’s (IAF) ground control stations.

 

This intelligence can then be sent to Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate for further analysis and for the creation of a large databank of targets. This will provide Israel with a significantly enhanced picture of the activities of Iran, Hezbollah, and the Assad regime throughout the northern arena. It will also give Israel a strong starting position in the event of an escalation of the security situation, since these targets can be struck in the future.

 

In mid-October, an Assad regime SA-5 surface-to-air missile battery detected and fired upon Israeli jets, which were reportedly on an intelligence-gathering mission over Lebanon. That incident is an indication of a growing Iranian-Assad-Hezbollah determination to harass Israel’s intelligence operations. But the F-35, with its stealth capabilities, should be able to evade enemy radar detection, making such crucial missions smoother. Israeli F-35s could be sent to gather intelligence in contested air space filled with hostile radar systems and avoid detection.

 

IAF officials say they are also working on getting the F-35 to communicate effectively with the older, fourth-generation F-16s and F-15s. In combat situations, the F-35s would be able to spearhead operations, moving first into contested battle zones, striking enemy targets before being detected, and sending back valuable data to the fourth-generation aircraft. Such capabilities will be critical going forward, as both Syria and Lebanon have become filled with a variety of surface-to-air missile systems. Several different types of missile batteries are in the possession of Hezbollah and the Assad regime. In recent years, Russia has also stationed its advanced S-300 and S-400 batteries in Syria.

 

The F-35’s value in this increasingly complex and challenging environment is clear. It becomes even more pronounced when examining Israel’s need to improve its long-range strike capabilities in the event of a conflict with Iran. The F-35 has unique long-range capabilities. By 2024, Israel will have two full squadrons of F-35 A jets – a total of 50 aircraft. The last 17 of these jets were purchased by Israel in August of this year. The Planning and Organization Department within the IAF is in the midst of intensive preparations aimed at integrating the F-35 into daily operations.

 

The IAF expects the new aircraft to affect the way the rest of the air force operates and to boost Israeli capabilities across the board. The IDF’s ground forces, too, could experience its benefits. The F-35’s data could be relayed quickly to units on the ground, improving their lethality and battle space awareness. For now, the IAF is continuing to gather vast quantities of intelligence and engage in low-profile action against the radical Shi’ite axis to the north – but it is also planning for the possibility of open conflict. If such conflict unfolds, the IAF will unleash waves of heavy firepower never before seen in the region’s military history. The F-35’s unique awareness of its combat environment will let it take a leading role in such operations.                                                         

 

Contents

HOW TECHNOLOGY IS REVOLUTIONIZING WAR

          Jeremy Rabkin & John Yoo

National Review, Nov. 14, 2017

 

In his 2017 inaugural address, President Trump protested that for decades the American people “subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military . . . spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.” No longer would the United States waste its blood and treasure fighting abroad for the interests of others. “From this moment on,” Trump declared, “it’s going to be America first.” During the campaign, Trump had launched even sharper critiques of U.S. foreign policy. Paying attention to the interests of foreigners had led the United States into disastrous wars, most lamentably in Iraq. “We shouldn’t have been there, we shouldn’t have destroyed the country, and Saddam Hussein was a bad guy but he was good at one thing: killing terrorists,” Trump said during the campaign.

 

Despite such rhetoric, the administration did not pursue a foreign policy of isolationism or even non-interventionism. In the Middle East, the United States has not only continued fighting foes from its recent wars but gone beyond them. In April 2017, the Trump administration set aside the passivity of its predecessor and launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against a Syrian air base in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. It expanded the American deployment of ground troops in the Syrian civil war, provided arms to Kurdish militias, and lent air and tactical support for Iraqi forces fighting the Islamic State terrorist group. U.S. troops continued to fight in Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban, even going so far as to use a massive ordnance bomb against insurgent tunnels. Promising to “bomb the hell out of ISIS” during the campaign, Trump has authorized a significant increase in drone strikes and special operations by both the CIA and the U.S. armed forces.

 

In Asia, the Trump administration did not send U.S. forces into direct combat, but it resorted to the threat of force to support its foreign policy. To pressure the North Korean regime to halt its nuclear-weapons program, Trump dispatched the USS Vinson aircraft-carrier strike group and a nuclear submarine to the area. “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” he said. “Absolutely.” His administration proposed a more aggressive response to China’s building of artificial islands in the South China Sea. “Building islands and then putting military assets on those islands is akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea. It’s taking of territory that others lay claim to,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in his confirmation hearing. “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.” To enforce such demands would require more frequent freedom-of-navigation patrols and could even call for naval blockades.

 

For all that, President Trump shows little sign of reversing the Obama administration’s caution on risking American lives. He continues to criticize the U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan as “costly” — by which he seems to mean costly in American lives but also in budget allocations. The Trump administration faces a quandary. Restoring a muscular American foreign policy will demand a higher rate of operations and deployments, increasing costs and risking greater casualties. Though the administration has proposed increases in military spending, it remains cautious about costly foreign commitments.

 

Technology can help resolve this looming impasse. Robotics, the Internet, and space-based communications have increased productivity across the economy. These same advances may have a comparably transformative impact on military affairs. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) allow pilots to strike targets more precisely at reduced cost, with less harm to bystanders and less threat to themselves. Cyber weapons permit nations to impose disruptions on an adversary in more precisely targeted attacks and without physical destruction. Space-based networks enable militaries to locate their forces exactly, lead their troops more effectively, and target their enemies more precisely.

 

These new advances are turning military development away from the 20th century’s reliance on draft armies equipped with simple, yet lethal, mass-produced weapons. As nations use force that becomes more precise and discrete, they can consider changing rules developed in the era of mass armies and attrition warfare. The laws of war need not fuss over the line between targetable military and immune civilian assets when nations can rely on UAVs to deliver precision-guided munitions on particular targets.

 

As it is, reluctance to use force has led western nations to rely on economic sanctions, which punish entire populations. Drones and cyber attacks might achieve comparable results to economic sanctions by inflicting harm on the target state’s economy, but in a more precise manner. Such an approach may avoid unintended effects of sanctions and operate much more quickly and reliably, leaving adversaries less time to adapt to (or circumvent) sanctions. To make the most of those new capacities, we should rethink current legal formulas purporting to regulate when “military force” is lawful, and against what targets.

 

New weapons technologies could help the United States and its allies protect international stability. WMD proliferation, international terrorism, human-rights catastrophes, and rising regional powers are threatening the liberal international order constructed by the U.S. and its allies after World War II. Nations will be discouraged from confronting these problems with conventional force. But if new technology reduces the costs of war while improving its effectiveness, nations may turn to force more often to promote desirable ends. Promoting international stability remains a global public good, in that peace benefits all nations regardless of who pays for it. This gives nations a strong incentive to free-ride off the efforts of others to maintain international peace and security. If using force becomes less expensive and more effective, nations may turn to force more readily when the times require it. New weapons may be particularly helpful in situations where a large-scale military response would seem excessive but mere words seem insufficient.

 

In fact, new weapons technologies may produce the welcome benefit of reducing the harms of individual disputes. While the United States, among others, is rapidly developing new means of fighting, these innovations may limit war. Robotics can reduce harm to combatants and civilians by making attacks more precise and deadly. Cyber can more effectively target enemy military and civilian resources without risking direct injury to human beings or the destruction of physical structures. Space satellites will provide the sensors and communications that make possible the rapid, real-time marriage of intelligence and force, and future orbital weapons may create a viable defense to nuclear missiles.

                                                                       

 

Contents

CANADIAN FORCES PULL OFF A RARE FEAT: A PROCUREMENT TRIUMPH

Editorial

National Post, Nov. 3, 2017

 

The Canadian Forces may have recently pulled off a rare feat: a military procurement triumph. We are reluctant to even write these words, lest the cosmos note this aberration from the natural order of things and immediately smite the project. Barring otherworldly intervention, though, the recent conversion of MV Asterix is the kind of smart, efficient military procurement we see so rarely. Asterix is a large ship, originally intended to serve as a commercial vessel, which was rapidly refitted by Quebec’s Davie Shipyard to serve as a logistical support ship for the Royal Canadian Navy. She is completing sea trials now and will be ready for active service imminently, perhaps as early as this month.

 

A modern navy is only as effective as its logistics ships, floating warehouses that sail with the warships and provide stores of food, fuel, ammunition, spare parts and advanced medical care facilities for fleets on the move. In recent years, Canada had lost both of its support ships to a combination of old age, bad luck and political mismanagement.  Old age: the ships were well into their fifth decade when retired, and well behind the technological curve. Bad luck: both ships were suddenly retired after unforeseen crises — an onboard fire and a collision at sea, respectively. Political mismanagement: even though the fire and collision were unforeseeable, the need to replace the ships wasn’t, but both Liberal and Conservative governments had failed to invest the funds necessary to replace the vessels.

 

Without them, the Navy is essentially limited to being a coastal patrol force. New ships have been ordered, at an estimated cost of billions, but aren’t due until the early 2020s. Enter the Asterix. She will return a vital capability to the Navy, and the total cost of the project is less than $700 million — a comparative bargain. So much so that we question the need to wait for the new ships at all. The government should at least explore the possibility of repeating the process with another vessel, so that we can put one on both the east and west coasts. But at least the Navy can begin functioning as a proper fighting force again. We hope the success of this project, and its real economic and military advantages, are not overlooked by a government (and Navy) that needs all the good news it can get.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

‘Israel Not Prepared for Drone Threat’: Yona Schnitzer, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 16, 2017—he IDF has  yet to develop a suitable response to the threat of cross border drone attacks, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said in a special report issued Wednesday that also looked at regulation of domestic drone use.

Don't Return Bodies For Nothing: Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, Israel Hayom, Nov. 6, 2017—The Israel Defense Forces has racked up three recent achievements on the southern front: locating an attack tunnel leading into Israel and blowing it up; striking over a dozen terrorists, including senior Islamic Jihad operatives; and according to an IDF report on Sunday, holding on to bodies of the terrorists who were in the tunnel at the time of the strike.

Canada’s Peacekeeping Incoherence: Richard Shimooka & Don Macnamara, Globe & Mail, Nov. 14, 2017—Over the past few weeks there has been a renewed impetus toward Canada undertaking a new peacekeeping mission. While some of the motivations behind such an intervention are laudable, they present a number of challenges and considerations that should be fully understood before a commitment is made.

North Korea and the Threat of Chemical Warfare: Theo Emery, New York Times, Oct. 27, 2017—The war of words between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over Pyongyang’s nuclear program has rattled nerves around the world. But the trial of two women in Malaysia for using the nerve agent VX to kill Mr. Kim’s half brother is a reminder that North Korea’s lethal arsenal isn’t limited to nuclear weapons. The North’s chemical weapons pose a grave risk to South Korea and to regional stability.

 

 

 

 

 

IRAN’S M.E. HEGEMONIC ASPIRATION AND SHIA “ARC OF CONTROL” THREATENS ISRAEL & U.S. ALLIES

Lebanon's Fall Would be Iran's Gain: John Bolton, Pittsburgh Tribune, Nov. 11, 2017— Almost unnoticed in the coverage of President Trump's Asia trip, Lebanon is slipping under Iran's control.

The Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah Connection: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 8, 2017— The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, has had enough.

In Shadowy Covert Wars, Iran Takes Center Stage: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, November 14, 2017— In the shadowy world of covert proxy wars, Iran is taking center stage, both as a target and as a player.

On the Left, the Missing Debate over the Iran Deal: Matthew RJ Brodsky, National Review, Oct. 26, 2017— President Trump’s decision to remain in the nuclear agreement with Iran while working to fix its numerous flaws has temporarily put to bed an ideological debate…

 

On Topic Links

 

Trump, Iran, and a Fast-Changing Middle East (Interview): Daniel Pipes, L'Informale (Italy), Nov. 13, 2017

Is the JCPOA Working?: Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon, Algemeiner, Nov. 7, 2017

Report: Iran Establishing Permanent Military Presence in Syria Near Israeli Border: Avital Zippel, Jerusalem Online, Nov. 11, 2017

Will There be a Russian-Turkish-Iranian Alliance?: Jonathan Adelman, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 12, 2017

                                                           

LEBANON'S FALL WOULD BE IRAN'S GAIN                                                      

John Bolton

Pittsburgh Tribune, Nov. 11, 2017

 

Almost unnoticed in the coverage of President Trump's Asia trip, Lebanon is slipping under Iran's control. On Nov. 3, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni, resigned, citing fears of assassination by Hezbollah, the Shia terrorist group funded and controlled by Iran. No one can say Hariri's fears are unjustified since his father, former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, was murdered in 2005 — almost certainly at Syrian or Iranian direction.

 

While the full ramifications of Saad Hariri's resignation remain to be seen, Tehran's ayatollahs have now significantly extended their malign reach in the Middle East. This is bad for the people of Lebanon; bad for Israel, with which Lebanon shares a common border and a contentious history; bad for Arab states like Jordan and the oil-producing Arabian Peninsula monarchies; and bad for America and its vital national interests in this critical region.

 

Sadly, Iran's progress was foreseeable from the inception of Barack Obama's strategy of using Iraqi military forces and Shia militia units as critical elements in the campaign to eradicate the ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The Baghdad government is effectively Iran's satellite. Accordingly, Obama's decision to provide that regime with military assistance and advice strengthened Iran's hand even further and materially contributed to its efforts to establish dominance in Iraq's Shia regions. Moreover, Iran itself, supported by Russian forces in Syria, aided and directed the Bashar Assad regime in fighting against both ISIS and the Syrian opposition. Iran also ordered Hezbollah to deploy from Lebanon into Syria, thus effectively creating a Shia-dominated arc of control from Iran itself to the Mediterranean.

 

Apparently, neither the Pentagon, nor the State Department, nor the National Security Council advised the new Trump administration of the implications of facilitating Iran's Middle East grand strategy. Obama's approach is, ironically, easier to understand, given his determination to secure his “legacy” by conceding vital U.S. national interests to nail down the Iran nuclear deal. Seeing Iran enhance its hegemonic aspirations throughout the region was, in his view, just another small price to pay to grease the way for the nuclear deal. Trump's advisers have no such excuse.

 

Hariri's resignation shows the inevitable consequences of blindly following Obama's approach. Very little now stands in the way of Hezbollah's total domination of the Lebanese government, thereby posing an immediate threat to Israel. In recent years, Tehran continued supplying the Assad regime and Hezbollah with weapons systems dangerous to Israel. Even more Israeli self-defense strikes are now likely, as Iran's conventional threat on Israel's borders grows.

 

Nearby Arab states also see the potential dangers of an unbroken Shia military arc of control on their northern periphery. The Middle East thus faces an advancing Syria, backed by Iran's imminent nuclear-weapons capability, deliverable throughout the region — and likely able to reach America in short order. The Trump administration cannot continue idly watching Iran advance without opposition. Washington and its regional allies need a comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran, not a series of ad hoc responses to regional developments. Time is fast running out.  

 

Contents

THE IRAN-HAMAS-HEZBOLLAH CONNECTION

Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 8, 2017

 

The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, has had enough. Last week, Iran finalized its takeover of Lebanon when Hariri resigned, and reportedly fled to Saudi Arabia. Hariri, denouncing Hezbollah and its Iranian backers, said he feared for his life. Hariri has good reason to be afraid of Hezbollah, the powerful Shia terror group and Iranian proxy that effectively controls Lebanon.

 

Indications show that Iran and Hezbollah are also planning to extend their control to the Gaza Strip. Iran already provides Hamas with financial and military aid. It is precisely the support of Iran that has enabled Hamas to hold in power in the Gaza Strip for the past 10 years. It is also thanks to Iran that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another major terror group in the Gaza Strip, are in possession of thousands of missiles and rockets. It is Iranian money that allows Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to continue digging terror tunnels under the border with Israel.

 

Relations between Iran and Hamas have grown stronger in the past few weeks. Last month, a senior Hamas delegation visited Tehran to attend the funeral of the father of the senior Iranian security official, Qasem Soleimani. A few weeks earlier, another senior Hamas delegation visited Tehran to brief Iranian leaders on the latest developments surrounding the "reconciliation" agreement reached between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA).

 

It was the first time senior Hamas officials visited Iran since relations between the two sides became strained in 2011. That year, Iran suspended its ties with Hamas over the latter's refusal to support Syria's dictator, Bashar Assad, against his opponents in its civil war. The sudden rapprochement between Hamas and Iran has raised concerns among Abbas and his Palestinian Authority officials regarding Hamas's sincerity in implementing the "reconciliation" agreement. President Abbas and his officials wonder why Hamas rushed into arms of Iran immediately after reaching the "reconciliation" accord under the auspices of the Egyptian authorities.

 

Iran and Hezbollah are no fans of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Abbas is terrified that Hamas is trying to bring Iran and its Hezbollah proxy into the Gaza Strip. Abbas and his PA are eager to return to the Gaza Strip, but the presence of Iran there creates a serious problem. Like Hariri, Abbas would have good reason to fear for his life if Hamas brings the Iranians and Hezbollah into the Gaza Strip.

 

Abbas's fear is also not unjustified. Earlier this week, a senior Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzouk, disclosed that his movement and Hezbollah were working towards strengthening their relations. "Relations between Hamas and Hezbollah were never cut off," Abu Marzouk stated. "We have ongoing contacts and understandings. But we preferred to keep them away from the spotlight. Hamas and Hezbollah are in one line in the fight against Israel, and we coordinate our positions regarding the Palestinian cause. Hamas will continue to cooperate with resistance groups that support the Palestinian resistance."

 

The alliance between Hamas and Hezbollah is a direct result of the renewed relations between Iran and Hamas. With the help of Hezbollah, Iran has managed to take control of large parts of Syria. With the help of Hezbollah, Iran already controls Lebanon. Now that the Iranians have sole control over Lebanon, their eyes are set on the Gaza Strip. They know that the only way to access the Gaza Strip is through the Hamas door. Iran wants to see Hezbollah inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas, for its part, is thirsting for Iranian resources. Hamas knows that it will have to pay a price: allowing Iran and Hezbollah to set foot in the Gaza Strip. Judging from the remarks of Abu Marzouk, Hamas appears to be happy to pay the price.

 

Hariri, Abbas and many Sunni Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, felt betrayed by the Obama Administration's policy of détente towards Iran — a policy that emboldened the Iranians and gave them a green light to meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries to try to establish, as they seem to have done, a "Shiite Crescent" from Persia through Yemen and now Lebanon, clear to the Mediterranean Sea. The Sunni Arabs are apparently particularly worried about the nuclear deal signed between the Obama Administration and Iran. They feel that the Obama Administration's attempt to appease the Iranians has emboldened the country that is the world's leading sponsor of terrorism. Iran has since taken advantage of the nuclear deal to threaten and try to terrorize America, its friends and its Arab allies…

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

 

 

Contents

IN SHADOWY COVERT WARS, IRAN TAKES CENTER STAGE

Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, November 14, 2017

 

In the shadowy world of covert proxy wars, Iran is taking center stage, both as a target and as a player. In the latest signal of escalating proxy wars, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) announced that it had “dismantled a terrorist team” that was “affiliated with global arrogance,” a reference to the US and its allies, in the Islamic Republic’s northwestern province of East Azerbaijan. The announcement came weeks after Iran said it had eliminated an armed group in a frontier area of the province of West Azerbaijan that borders on Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. It also followed Iran’s assertion two months ago that it had disbanded some 100 “terrorist groups” in the south, southeast, and west of the country.

 

To be sure, intermittent political violence in Iran cannot be reduced exclusively to potential foreign exploitation of minority ethnic and religious grievances in a bid to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Nor can foreign exploitation be established beyond doubt despite multiple indications that it is a policy option under discussion in the US and Saudi Arabia. There is, moreover, little doubt that Iran’s detractors had no connection to a June 7 attack on the Iranian parliament and the grave of Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran that killed 12 people and was claimed by ISIS, despite Iran’s claims that Saudi Arabia was responsible.

 

Nor can revived agitation by Kurds, Baloch, and Azeris be simply written off as foreign creations rather than expressions of longstanding and deep-seated grievances, even if the revival may in part have been inspired by secessionist trends among Iraqi and Syrian Kurds as well as developments in Catalonia. There is, however, also no reason to exclude the possibility of the US and its allies, including Saudi Arabia and Israel, seeking to exploit those grievances.

 

Iran is by no means a country wracked by political violence. Still, violence is gradually mounting. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) announced in January that it was resuming its armed struggle not “just for the Kurds in Iran’s Kurdistan, but [as] a struggle against the Islamic Republic for all of Iran.” PDKI militants, operating from Iraqi Kurdistan, have since repeatedly clashed with Iranian forces.

 

Pakistani militants in the province of Balochistan reported a massive flow of Saudi funds in the last few years to Sunni Muslim ultra-conservative groups, while a Saudi think tank believed to be supported by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman published a blueprint for support of the Baloch and called for “immediate counter measures” against Iran. Without a doubt, US and Saudi moves to counter Iran go beyond potential exploitation of ethnic and religious grievances. Supported by the Trump administration, Saudi Arabia recently forged close ties to the predominantly Shiite Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi – despite Al-Abadi’s rejection of demands that he roll back the power of Iranian-backed Shiites who played a key role in the fight against IS.

 

Similarly, US President Donald J. Trump appears to be goading Iran into walking away from the 2015 nuclear agreement. Trump earlier this month refused to certify to Congress that Iran was in compliance with the accord. The US has also sought to limit the benefits Iran should garner from the accord. The Trump administration, in its latest move, blocked Iranian participation in ITER, a multibillion-dollar fusion experiment in France. Increased scientific cooperation was part of the agreement’s bid to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

 

Included in the recent release of 470,000 documents captured during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout, in which he was killed, was the Al Qaeda’s leader’s personal diary. The diary and other documents provide evidence of Iran’s complex relationship with the jihadist group and serve to strengthen justification of the Trump administration’s tougher approach towards Iran. Iran has not restricted its opportunistic, albeit calibrated, support for militants to Al Qaeda, but has played both sides of the divide in Afghanistan. In an indication that ties to the Taliban could strengthen because of US pressure on Pakistan to halt its support for militants, including the Taliban, Taliban fighters are looking to Iran as an alternative safe haven. “Many Taliban want to leave Pakistan for Iran. They don’t trust Pakistan anymore,” an Afghan fighter told The Guardian.

 

In a bid to counter Saudi influence in Afghanistan that dates back to the US-Saudi-backed jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s, Iran played, in the wake of the US ousting of the Taliban, a key role in the Bonn conference that united disparate Afghan factions behind the government of Hamid Karzai. Iran has since allowed the Taliban to open a regional office in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan. Late last year, Iran hosted several senior Taliban figures at an Islamic Unity conference.

 

The record of past efforts to engineer regime change in Iran through covert wars is mixed at best and dismal on balance. There is little reason to assume that a potential new round will fare any better. If anything, the attempts persuaded Iran to keep its lines open to Sunni Muslim jihadists, who are hardly natural allies for a Shiite Muslim regime. At the same time, the two-year-old experience with implementation of the nuclear agreement, as well as Iranian support for not only the Taliban but also the government in Kabul, suggests grey areas in which reduction rather than escalation of conflict may be possible.

                                                                       

 

Contents

ON THE LEFT, THE MISSING DEBATE OVER THE IRAN DEAL

Matthew RJ Brodsky

National Review, Oct. 26, 2017

 

President Trump’s decision to remain in the nuclear agreement with Iran while working to fix its numerous flaws has temporarily put to bed an ideological debate…between the two main conservative camps, known as “the Walkers” and “the Fixers.” The fix-it approach adopted by the president was developed in think tanks such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the Institute for Science and International Security, and it involves a comprehensive strategy called “decertify, pressure, and fix.” With the writing on the wall, the Walkers, who favored withdrawing from the agreement, have joined with the Fixers, albeit skeptically, and they reserve the right to say “I told you so” later.

 

Mark Dubowitz of FDD recently wrote that the president’s choice “moved the debate on the fatally flawed nuclear deal from ‘keep it or nix it’ to ‘fix it or nix it.’” The problem, however, is that movement is discernible only on the political right. Across the political aisle, no such debate or internal discussion is taking place. To grasp why, it is crucial to understand that for “the Vanguard,” the leading camp on the left, the Iran deal was always about much more than the nuclear file. The reason that they and “the Believers” they spawned are so vocal in their opposition to tinkering with the agreement today is that Trump was elected, which gives him the authority to kill their deal and shine a light on its shortcomings. In the meantime, they are simply regurgitating the old lines without taking stock of their handiwork two years on.

 

The Underpinnings From the outset, the Obama administration set out to lessen the American footprint abroad — especially in the Middle East. Part of that endeavor included trading traditional alliances for new ones that could bear the burden of the Middle East maladies in America’s absence. To that end Barack Obama, shortly after taking office in 2009, began a process designed ultimately to reestablish full U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran.

 

For the Vanguard, reaching a nuclear accord with Iran was identified as the means to lock in America’s strategic shift. In that sense, the deal was about transforming Iran so that it could “take its rightful place in the community of nations” and become a constructive regional player as America withdrew. Iran and its proxies were seen as a more cohesive and capable unit to inherit the Middle East than the mix of Sunni states, most of whom were working at cross-purposes. The years of Arab upheaval that began in 2011 only reinforced that notion.

 

Adopting this new approach, they believed, would help bring stability to the Middle East, allowing the U.S. to correct its unfortunate plague of foreign-intervention, which sprung from “a mindset out of step with the traditions of American foreign policy.” Doing so would “restore America’s standing in the world,” which was a promise that candidate Obama made in September 2008. It was to be “the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy,” as Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told progressive activists in January 2014. “This is health care for us, just to put it in context.”

 

Of course, flipping Iran from the dark side wouldn’t be easy, nor would convincing skeptical Americans that the deal they were cooking up would be in their interest. It required a group of core believers who could carry the Obama administration’s message, which was initially based on the fiction of an ongoing struggle between Iranian moderates and hardliners, epitomized by the 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president. He defeated the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. According to the Vanguard’s logic, anyone elected short of Caligula could be considered a moderate compared to Mr. “wipe Israel off the map” Ahmadinejad. That election served as the pretext that Obama needed to sell America on the idea that the winds of change were blowing in Tehran, allowing him to keep his goal of a grand bargain hidden. In reality, the Obama administration sat on the sidelines a few years earlier in June 2009 and watched the regime brutally crush the Green Revolution with techniques that it later exported and perfected for Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian slaughterhouse.

 

Marketing this new formula under the guise of a nuclear deal necessitated an avoidance of any back-and-forth discussion of the merits of the agreement itself, a willingness to attack all those who raised important questions about its shortcomings or sought to improve the deal, and the circumvention of Congress, which, if presented with it as a treaty, would surely have voted it down. Most of all, once the Vanguard caved on all of the promises it had made regarding what would be in deal, it had to rest its case on the bottom-line assertion that those who were opposed to it offered only war as a solution. The debate today should be over whether to ‘fix it or nix it,’ despite the Vanguard’s continuing attempts to kneecap the efforts of those trying to strengthen the agreement.

 

For this monumental task, Obama turned to Ben Rhodes, who developed, ran, and subsequently bragged to David Samuels of the New York Times about his creation of an echo chamber designed to sell their alternative facts about the Iran deal to the American people. Rhodes handpicked newly minted experts who then began popping up at think tanks. They didn’t think like the American foreign-policy establishment — “the blob,” as Rhodes called them — they simply acted as parrots. To spread their centralized hot takes, the Vanguard relied on “hundreds of often-clueless reporters,” as Samuels described Rhodes’s understanding of them. As Believers, they were only too willing to oblige. Together, they generated a feedback loop of misinformation, amplification, and reiteration.

 

And it all worked brilliantly. Barack Obama and his Vanguard’s echo chamber sold the JCPOA lemon in 2015 as an exclusive choice between the deal they cooked up or war. Those who opposed the agreement were smeared as warmongers who shared a common cause with the Iranian-regime hardliners. They scolded and undermined the Fixers then as they do now and then bypassed Congress to seal the deal at the United Nations. And they did so claiming that they had reached the best agreement possible, having exhausted the limits of U.S. leverage in search of a deal, and that to turn down what was now available would leave America with no other option besides war. All of that is garbage…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Trump, Iran, and a Fast-Changing Middle East (Interview): Daniel Pipes, L'Informale (Italy), Nov. 13, 2017—Donald Trump decertified the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, leaving it up to the U.S. Congress whether to sanction Tehran or not. Do you agree with John Bolton, Martin Sherman, and others that it is futile to "fix" the deal and necessary to "nix" it?

Is the JCPOA Working?: Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon, Algemeiner, Nov. 7, 2017—All JCPOA supporters rely on the notion that “the agreement is working” and on the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that Iran is in compliance with the agreement eight times since it came into force in January 2016.

Report: Iran Establishing Permanent Military Presence in Syria Near Israeli Border: Avital Zippel, Jerusalem Online, Nov. 11, 2017—An intelligence source told the BBC that Iran is establishing a permanent military base in Syria, according to a report issued on Friday. The official claimed that the construction has significantly progressed, which may be a result of recent gains made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army.

Will There be a Russian-Turkish-Iranian Alliance?: Jonathan Adelman, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 12, 2017—With the winding down of the war in Syria, some pundits have seen an alliance of Russia with Turkey and Iran in the Middle East as possible and even likely. They see a rising authoritarian Russia and Iran uniting with an authoritarian Turkey to dominate the Middle East.

 

 

WITH ASSAD’S VICTORY IN REACH, IRAN PLANS “LARGE & PERMANENT MILITARY FOOTPRINT” IN SYRIA

The Coming Confrontation Between Israel and Iran: Elliott Abrams, Atlantic, Oct 15, 2017— In the United States, discussions of Iran have, for the last few years, centered mostly around the JCPOA—the nuclear deal negotiated by President Obama.

In Syrian Barrage, a Confident Message Signed by Iran and Russia: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Oct. 22, 2017— It’s not clear if the sudden barrage of rockets “bleeding” into Israel from Syria Saturday had anything to do with the presence in Damascus of Iran’s defense chief.

Hizballah's Nasrallah Escalates Threats as Syria Turns Into Iranian Base: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Oct. 10, 2017— A recent speech by Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah contained unusually aggressive statements, calling for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel, and claiming that a future war would lead to Israel's "demise."

Russia’s Air Defenses in Syria: More Politics than Punch: Guy Plopsky, BESA, Oct. 18, 2017— In early October 2016, Russian Defense Ministry chief spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov warned the US-led anti-ISIS coalition that “Russian air defense crews are unlikely to have time to clarify via the [de-confliction] line the exact flight path of missiles and who their carrier platforms belong to,”…

 

On Topic Links

 

Golan Heights Residents on Edge After Latest Cross-Border Exchange of Fire: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Oct. 22, 2017

As ISIS’ Role in Syria Wanes, Other Conflicts Take the Stage: Anne Barnard & Hwaida Saad, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017

Moscow Nears ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria: Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, Oct. 23, 2017

Iran Steps Up Its Economic Domination in Syria: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Oct. 19, 2017

 

 

THE COMING CONFRONTATION BETWEEN ISRAEL AND IRAN

Elliott Abrams

Atlantic, Oct 15, 2017

 

In the United States, discussions of Iran have, for the last few years, centered mostly around the JCPOA—the nuclear deal negotiated by President Obama. In the Middle East, things are different. This is because, while we have been debating, Iran has been acting—and Israel has been reacting. Israel has struck sites in Syria 100 times in the last five years, bombing when it saw an Iranian effort to move high-tech materiel to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Last month Israel bombed the so-called Scientific Studies and Researchers Center in Masyaf (a city in central Syria), a military site where chemical weapons and precision bombs were said to be produced. Now, there are reports…that Iran is planning to build a military airfield near Damascus, where the IRGC (Revolutionary Guards) could build up their presence and operate. Fishman also wrote that Iran and the Assad regime are negotiating over giving Iran its own naval pier in the port of Tartus, and that Iran may actually deploy a division of soldiers in Syria.

 

Such developments would be unacceptable to Israel, and it will convey this message to Russia and to the United States. Russia’s defense minister will soon visit Israel, after which Israel’s defense minister will visit Washington. Previous Israeli efforts to get Putin to stop Iran (during Netanyahu’s four visits to Moscow in the last year) have failed, which suggests that Israel will need to do so itself, alone—unless the new Iran policy being debated inside the Trump administration leads the United States to seek ways to stop the steady expansion of Iran’s military presence and influence in the Middle East. Whether this happens remains to be seen. Whatever the debate over the JCPOA, there may well be a broader consensus in the administration that Iran’s growing military role in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the region must be countered.

 

Whatever the American conclusion, if Iran does indeed plan to establish a large and permanent military footprint in Syria—complete with permanent naval and air bases and a major ground force—Israel will have fateful decisions to make. Such an Iranian presence on the Mediterranean and on Israel’s border would change the military balance in the region and fundamentally change Israel’s security situation. And under the JCPOA as agreed by Obama, limits on Iran’s nuclear program begin to end in only eight years; Iran may now perfect its ICBM program; and there are no inspections of military sites where further nuclear weapons research may be underway. As Senator Tom Cotton said recently, “If Iran doesn’t have a covert nuclear program today, it would be the first time in a generation.” Israel could be a decade away from a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and bases in Syria—and could logically therefore even place nuclear weapons in Syria, just miles from Israel’s border.

 

Fishman, the dean of Israel’s military correspondents, wrote: “If the Israeli diplomatic move fails to bear fruit, we [Israel] are headed toward a conflict with the Iranians.” That conclusion, and the Iranian moves that make it a growing possibility, should be on the minds of Trump administration officials as they contemplate a new policy toward Iran’s ceaseless drive for power in the Middle East.

 

                                                           

 

Contents

IN SYRIAN BARRAGE, A CONFIDENT

MESSAGE SIGNED BY IRAN AND RUSSIA                                                           

Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, Oct. 22, 2017

 

It’s not clear if the sudden barrage of rockets “bleeding” into Israel from Syria Saturday had anything to do with the presence in Damascus of Iran’s defense chief. But given Iran’s seemingly unstoppable drive to entrench itself militarily in the region, the Syrian regime’s newfound confidence, and some other suspicious factors, it’s likely the volley was more than just an accident.

 

Though inadvertent fire has hit Israel in the past, this incident doesn’t fit that mold, and seems more like a Syrian attempt to send a message. First, there’s the timing — around 5 a.m. Most of the fighting in the Syrian civil war has taken place in the daylight hours, certainly not before the crack of dawn. Second, none of the previous inadvertent volleys consisted of five consecutive rockets. Indeed, the incident appears to be connected to the anti-aircraft fire Syria directed at Israeli jets flying a reconnaissance mission over Lebanon last week, and a more aggressive recent tone from Damascus.

 

These developments are evident of the boost in self-confidence the Syrian regime is experiencing. Just Saturday, Assad’s army captured the Christian town of Qaryatayn, which had previously been taken by Islamic State and used as a base for the terror group. Assad may feel that victory in the civil war is within his reach thanks to having Tehran by his side, along with Shiite militias from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and 8,000 well-armed Hezbollah fighters. So maybe he considers this a good time to send Israel a defiant message.

 

It doesn’t hurt that the same day, Iranian defense chief Mahmoud Bagheri signed a memorandum of understanding with his Syrian counterpart, Ali Ayyoub. According to the Syria’s state-run SANA news outlet, the memorandum is meant to deepen ties between the countries in intelligence sharing, technology and military to “improve the fight against terror.” The statement also served as a reminder of how deeply Iran is managing to entrench itself unimpeded in Syria, as the US-led coalition and Kurdish militias wrap up their campaign to drive Islamic State out of the country.

 

For now, at least, it doesn’t seem there is anybody who can stop the spread of Iran’s influence in the region. Russia may be willing to turn a blind eye to the next Israeli airstrike, but that won’t torpedo Iran’s plan for Syria, which includes a broad and lasting military presence. As for the Americans: The US is increasingly seen as unwilling to intervene, even for its allies. That was made clear by the blind eye the Trump administration turned to the retaking of Iraqi Kirkuk from the Kurdish forces it had backed. The US sold the Kurds down the river in favor of a Baghdad government backed by Shiite militias supported by Iran, if only to keep the Iraqis close to Washington.

 

In many ways, the US abandonment of Kirkuk may come to echo the aftermath of the Ghouta chemical attack of 2013, when president Barack Obama failed to enforce his red lines. Then, to Moscow, Damascus and the rest of the Middle East, the lack of action translated into the idea that the US was afraid.

 

Russia, in contrast, hasn’t hesitated to step in and protect its allies, and it is Moscow’s assistance that is most credited with bringing Assad’s regime back from the dead. In a roundabout way, Assad has Islamic State to thank for bringing Russia riding in to save him. One of the main reasons for Moscow’s intervention in the war was the fear that IS could spread, both as a military power and as an idea, to the Allawite-majority region near the coast, where Russia has strategically important assets including a naval base.

 

There’s no reason to assume that had the Syrian regime been battling the Free Syrian Army or another moderate group, the Kremlin would have been so quick to jump into action to back Assad, one of the greatest tyrants of modern history, a man responsible for the death of some half a million people — many through torture, execution, and chemical attacks. Islamic State may have been the greatest threat to the Assad regime, but it was also his greatest lifeline.         

                                                                                   

Contents

HIZBALLAH'S NASRALLAH ESCALATES THREATS

AS SYRIA TURNS INTO IRANIAN BASE                                                        

Yaakov Lappin

IPT, Oct. 8, 2017

 

A recent speech by Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah contained unusually aggressive statements, calling for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel, and claiming that a future war would lead to Israel's "demise." Nasrallah said Israeli Jews should "leave and return to the countries from which they came so they are not fuel for any war that the idiotic [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu government takes them to… They will have no secure place in occupied Palestine."

 

The speech echoed rhetoric recently espoused by the Iranian regime and its military officials, who said Tel Aviv would be "destroyed" if Israel made "a mistake," and that Israel would not survive for more than 25 years. "Israel should remain silent and count down the days to its death, because any minor mistake would lead to its demise as fast as lightning," said Iranian army commander Maj.-Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi.

 

These threats contain two messages. The first message is a reaffirmation of the Shi'ite axis's jihadist, ideological, long-term commitment to Israel's destruction. The second message is more immediate; it is an attempt to deter Israeli decision makers from trying to stop Iran and its proxies from taking over Syria. Iran, together with its chief agent Hizballah and several other Shi'ite militias, are helping the Assad regime complete its victory in Syria, with the assistance of Russian airpower. This is a victory made possible by the mass murder and terrorization of Syria's Sunni population, and the ensuing mass movement of refugees out of the country.

 

The upsurge in war-like rhetoric towards Israel is a signal of growing Iranian-Hizballah confidence, fuelled by their victories in Syria. Radical Shi'ite forces – armed, funded, and commanded by Iran – are moving into the vacuum left behind by ISIS. Tehran's objective is to turn Syria into another Lebanon; a heavily armed outpost from which Iran can launch attacks against Israel.

 

So far, the international community has shown no interest or willingness to stop this development from happening. Despite the latest bluster, Nasrallah made sure to issue his statements from the safety of his Lebanese bunker – an indication he still fears Israel's powerful reach. Nasrallah and his Iranian masters have good reason to remain fearful of Israel, for it is the only state that has both the capability and determination to challenge their takeover of Syria.

 

There have been a series of reported Israeli precision strikes on weapons production centers and arms smuggling attempts in Syria. One strike reportedly targeted the Assad regime's Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS) weapons facility, where chemical, biological, and advanced ballistic missiles are developed and manufactured. The targeted facility may have been where Iran tried to hand over powerful weapons to Hizballah.

 

Israel is running a low profile campaign against the dangerous buildup of Hizballah's weapons arsenal. These are arms that are produced in Iran and Syria, and trafficked to Lebanon. This Israeli campaign is a thorn in the side of the Shi'ite axis. There is a wider Israeli warning here: Jerusalem has no intention of sitting on the side and watching Syria turn into an Iranian-Hizballah base.

 

Israeli leaders are issuing their own warnings, making it clear that provocations by the Shi'ite axis can lead to devastation. "The next conflict, if it erupts, will have a completely different character. Our enemies will try first to strike our population centers and civilian infrastructure. And if our red lines will be breached, the other side must know in advance that it is going to pay very heavy prices," said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. In addition, Israel has stated it will not tolerate an approach to its border by Iranian or Hizballah forces operating in Syria.

 

Sunni states like Jordan and Saudi Arabia are equally disturbed by events in Syria. But Israel is the only regional state with the ability to stop the Iranian game plan. Only time will tell whether the world continues to turn a blind eye to the radical Shi'ite entrenchment in Syria, and leave Israel to deal with this mess by itself.

 

Meanwhile, recent comments by the head of the Mossad, Israel's overseas intelligence service, serve as a timely reminder of the fact that the Iranian nuclear program remains a threat. The nuclear program is only temporarily dormant. "Iran continues to possess a vision of having a significant nuclear capability, leading to a military nuclear ability," said Mossad chief Yossi Cohen in recent days.

 

"Iran continues to act with increasing aggression in activating military forces and operations in the Middle East, closer to our border than ever, in the Lebanese and Syrian arenas [which are] as one. Iran continues to support Hizballah, and recently, it is increasingly supporting Hamas. Iran continues to transfer advanced and precise weapons to terrorist organizations in our area," the Mossad chief said. The Mossad conducts "thousands of operations, some complex and daring, in the heart of enemy states," Cohen added.

 

This not-so-cold war between Israel and the Iranian axis looks set to continue. Lines are being drawn in Syria by both sides. Israel's lines are purely defensive, while Iran and its agents are following a belligerent, encroaching agenda, which threaten to destabilize the entire region.

 

 

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RUSSIA’S AIR DEFENSES IN SYRIA: MORE POLITICS THAN PUNCH

Guy Plopsky

BESA, Oct. 18, 2017

 

In early October 2016, Russian Defense Ministry chief spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov warned the US-led anti-ISIS coalition that “Russian air defense crews are unlikely to have time to clarify via the [de-confliction] line the exact flight path of missiles and who their carrier platforms belong to,” adding that “any air or missiles strikes on territory controlled by the Syrian government will pose a clear threat to Russian military servicemen.” The warning, issued in response to an accidental US strike against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad the previous month, renewed fears that Russia may attempt to target coalition and Israeli aerial assets.

 

Since then, however, both the US and Israel have struck pro-regime targets in Syria with no blowback from the Kremlin. Why has Moscow proven reluctant to respond? Concerns about Russia restricting coalition and Israeli freedom of action over Syria intensified in late November 2015, following the downing of a Russian Su-24M strike aircraft by a Turkish F-16. Commenting on the shoot-down, Lieut.-Gen. Sergey Rudskoy threatened that Russia would destroy “every target posing a potential threat.” Shortly afterwards, Russia deployed its much feared S-400 Triumf long-range SAM system at Khmeimim Airbase near Latakia.

 

The S-400 deployment created the impression that pro-Assad forces would benefit from Russia’s new SAM umbrella. However, numerous IAF strikes against weapons shipments destined for the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group proved this assumption wrong. The strikes indicated that Moscow, despite its rhetoric, takes Jerusalem’s red lines seriously and does not wish to escalate tensions with Israel, a major regional power and key US ally. Moscow has no desire to see Israel expand its involvement in the conflict, especially given that the regional balance of power is not in Russia’s favor. A recent unanswered strike, allegedly executed by Israel, against a chemical and missile production and storage facility near Masyaf – just 13km from a new Russian S-400  site – appears to support this notion.

 

Several incidents have occurred involving Russian and Israeli military assets, including unconfirmed reports of Russian forces firing on Israeli aircraft. Yet Israeli and Russian leaders have held a number of meetings intended to, in the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “strengthen the security cooperation between us so as to avoid mishaps, misunderstandings, and unnecessary confrontations.” Furthermore, Israel and Russia established a deconfliction line in October 2015 that has helped reduce the risk of clashes.

 

Moscow’s warnings to Israel are therefore directed more towards the Syrian and Russian public than they are towards Jerusalem. Offering no threatening response to Israeli airstrikes would make the Kremlin appear weak, prompting pro-Assad factions to question Moscow’s commitment to the regime and weakening Russia’s influence. At the same time, Russia has been rebuilding Syria’s air defenses in the hope that they would deter both Israel and the coalition from further strikes. Russia’s Defense Ministry has mentioned Syrian air defenses in warnings directed at coalition forces and has pledged to “increase [their] effectiveness” following the April 7, 2017, US Navy Tomahawk cruise missile strike against al-Shayrat Air Base. Doing so could backfire for Moscow, however, given that it might prompt Israel or the US to target Syrian air defenses and possibly other regime military assets as well.

 

As for Russia’s own air defenses, Moscow has not utilized them to defend Assad’s forces and is unlikely to do so for fear of an armed confrontation with the US and its partners. Indeed, while Syrian fighters are known to have flown escort missions for Russian strike aircraft, the reverse has not occurred. Furthermore, like Israel, the US maintains a deconfliction line with Russia and has developed deconfliction agreements to avoid clashes.

 

Interestingly, a Russian TV special on Khmeimim Air Base, which aired on June 11, 2017, claimed Russia has agreed not to target coalition aircraft as long as they maintain a distance of 60 km or more from the base. The special featured Lieut.-Gen. Viktor Gumyonny, head of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ (VKS) Air and Missile Defense Troops, who asserted that coalition aircraft approaching Khmeimim are tracked by Russian air defenses (presumably by the S-400’s fire control radar) and immediately leave the area. Coalition sources have confirmed neither the validity of these claims nor the truth of whether or not coalition aircraft have flown within close proximity to Khmeimim; nevertheless, such statements highlight Moscow’s reluctance to defend regime forces.

 

On June 18, a week after the airing of the TV special, a US Navy F/A-18E downed a Syrian Su-22 strike aircraft near Raqqa, prompting Russia’s Defense Ministry to issue another warning – one that seemed to convey a shift in Russia’s policy on targeting coalition aircraft. The warning asserted that “jets and unmanned aerial vehicles of the international coalition discovered west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by Russian air and ground defenses as air targets.” However, as Western analysts were quick to point out, this rather ambiguous threat, like those before it, was intended primarily to reassure Russian and pro-Assad audiences, and to deter coalition forces from further strikes against regime forces. Moreover, though Russia threatened to cut the deconfliction line with the US, the line remained open…

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

 

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On Topic Links

 

Golan Heights Residents on Edge After Latest Cross-Border Exchange of Fire: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Oct. 22, 2017—Residents of Israel’s Golan Heights region are on edge following the latest exchange of fire on the border with Syria.

As ISIS’ Role in Syria Wanes, Other Conflicts Take the Stage: Anne Barnard & Hwaida Saad, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017— American-backed forces have barely begun to clear the land mines from Raqqa after pushing the Islamic State from the city, the de facto capital of its self-declared caliphate.

Moscow Nears ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria: Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, Oct. 23, 2017— By the end of this year, Syria will be free of Islamic State, apart from small pockets that will disappear with time

Iran Steps Up Its Economic Domination in Syria: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Oct. 19, 2017— With the approaching military defeat of the Islamic State, Iran is stepping up its economic involvement in Syria.