Tag: shiites

QUAGMIRE IN SYRIA: IRAN BLUNDERS AS HEZBOLLAH FIGHTS TO PROTECT ITS HOME BASE AND THE KURDS BEGIN TO TAKE SIDES

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Iran Makes an Epic Blunder in Syria: Gary Gambill, Real Clear World, July 8, 2013— Iran's massive infusions of cash into Syria (12.6 billion dollars, according to one estimate) and stepped up training of pro-Assad forces had greatly inflamed animosity toward the Islamic Republic and its proxies throughout the Arab-Islamic world. The inflamed sectarianism wrought by Iran is likely to supersede the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "as the central mobilizing factor for Arab political life."

 

Have Syria’s Kurds Had a Change Of Heart?: Daniel Nisman, Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey), Apr. 12, 2013—Kurdish strategy in today’s conflict in Syria… In recent weeks, this once dormant player has awoken from its slumber, and may just provide Syria’s desperate rebels with a much needed boost to break their deadlock with the Bashar al-Assad regime.

 

Hezbollah's Necessary War of Choice in Syria: Aram Nerguizian, Real Clear World, June 19, 2013—While supportive of popular protesters and regime change in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, at no point has the Shi'a militant group Hezbollah signalled any intention of scaling back its support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

Let Them Eat Kebabs: T.A. Frank, The New Republic, April 25, 2013

Did Israel Bomb Latakia Last Week?: Michael Weiss, Real Clear World, July 11, 2013

The Arab World Fears the ‘Safavid’: Dore Gold, JCPA, June 9, 2013

Hezbollah Spying on Golan Heights from Syria: Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu, Jewish Press, July 11th, 2013

Syria Jihadists Lose Support As Abuses Mount: Serene Assir, Fox News, July 11, 2013

Face-To-Face with Abu Sakkar, Syria's 'Heart-Eating Cannibal': Paul Wood, BBC News, 5 July 2013

Seduced by War, Europeans Join the Fight in Syria: Nadette De Visser, The Daily Beast, June 11, 2013

U.S. Arms Showing Up in Hands of Pro-Assad Militias: Oren Dorell, USA TODAY,  July 10, 2013

 

IRAN MAKES AN EPIC BLUNDER IN SYRIA

Gary Gambill

Real Clear World, July 8, 2013

 

The growing infusion of Iranian-backed Lebanese and Iraqi Shiite fighters into the Syrian civil war is causing some veteran pundits to panic. Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, warns that "Iran is beating the U.S. in Syria." Former Bush administration deputy national security adviser Elliot Abrams sees "a humiliating defeat of the United States at the hands of Iran."

 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Setting aside the matter of how Washington can be losing a war it is not fighting, the claim that Iran is winning is dead wrong. The Islamic Republic's headlong intervention in Syria is akin to Nazi Germany's surge of military forces into the Battle of Stalingrad in the fall of 1942 – an operationally competent, strategic blunder of epic proportions.

 

To be sure, the influx of thousands of foreign (mostly non-Iranian) Shiite fighters into Syria in recent months has enabled pro-regime forces to regain some ground in the Damascus suburbs and a belt of territory linking the capital to Homs and the coast. The town of Qusayr, critical to both rebel and regime supply lines into Lebanon, fell on June 5.

 

That's a shame, but the Iranian surge won't prevent the overwhelmingly Sunni Arab rebels from eventually prevailing on the battlefield. Sunni Arabs have a 5-to-1 demographic edge over the minority Alawites who comprise most uniformed and paramilitary pro-regime combatants, and a 2-to-1 advantage over all of Syria's ethno-sectarian minorities combined. The rebels are strongly supported by the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims worldwide who are Sunnis, and their four principal sponsors – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan – have a GDP well over twice that of Iran. Russia continues to do business with the regime, but it won't intervene decisively enough to change the math.

 

Like the vaunted German Wehrmacht in the Stalingrad kessel, Iran's expeditionary forces have been thrown into a tactical military environment for which they are woefully unprepared. Although Hezbollah wrote the book on guerrilla warfare against conventional militaries, it has little experience fighting battle-hardened insurgents on unfamiliar terrain – and it shows. At least 141 Hezbollah fighters were killed in the span of just one month fighting in the battle for Qusayr, many of them elite commandos who cannot easily be replaced.

 

Iran's mobilization of Lebanese and Iraqi Shiites to fight for their distant theological cousins in Syria is unlikely to keep pace with such losses, or with the increased influx of foreign Sunni Islamists sure to come in reaction to it. In the wake of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's May 25 declaration to his Shiite followers that the Syrian war is "our battle," the Qatar-based spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, issued a fatwa calling on all Muslims with military training to fight in Syria (something he never did with respect to Israel) and characterizing the conflict as a worldwide struggle between "100 million Shiites" and "1.7 billion [Sunni] Muslims."

 

Of course, divisions among both the rebels and their external sponsors have greatly slowed the march to Damascus. Because Syrian President Bashar Assad's ultimate defeat is a foregone conclusion, all of the major players (the United States included) are focused more on bolstering their equity within the eventually-to-be-victorious rebel camp than on hastening its advance. But the eventual aggregation and coordination of sufficient rebel manpower and resources to decisively defeat pro-regime forces (first in Damascus, later in the rest of Syria) is inevitable so long as none of the players bow out or switch sides.

 

Iran's only hope of avoiding this path is to make the humanitarian cost of a decisive rebel military victory so horrific that the international community will step in and force the rebels to accept a Lebanon-style "no victor, no vanquished" political compromise. This would leave pro-regime forces intact and well poised to subvert the post-war transition, much as Hezbollah's militia survived and thrived following the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

 

But this scenario necessitates a rebel leadership willing to accept, and united enough to enforce, a ceasefire that leaves pro-regime forces in control of large swathes of the country during the transition process. With Jabhat al-Nusra and other militant jihadist groups in Syria continuing to grow in strength, neither condition will obtain for the foreseeable future.

 

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could have cut his losses early on by allowing the Assad regime to die a natural death and building bridges with its successor. Such an accommodation would have greatly impaired Iran's ability to transport heavy weapons to Hezbollah, but its Lebanese proxy would still have remained Israel's deadliest security threat for years to come. Hamas, which effectively severed its alliance with Tehran as a result of the Syria conflict, would probably have kept at least one foot in the Iranian axis. Khamenei likely declined to take this path for the same reason that Hitler refused to disengage from a no-win military confrontation in Stalingrad – a deeply metaphysical confidence in ultimate victory.

 

This delusion will cost him a great deal more than Syria. Even before the surge, Iran's massive infusions of cash into Syria (12.6 billion dollars, according to one estimate) and stepped up training of pro-Assad forces had greatly inflamed animosity toward the Islamic Republic and its proxies throughout the Arab-Islamic world. After years of successfully mobilizing Arabs against Israel (as recently as 2008, polling still showed Nasrallah to be the Arab world's most popular public figure), Tehran has managed to incite even greater hostility to itself in a fraction of the time. A recent survey by James Zogby shows that Iran's favorability ratings have fallen to an all-time low in majority Sunni countries (dropping from 85 percent to 15 percent in Saudi Arabia between 2006 and 2012, for example). Syria, he writes, has become the "nail in the coffin" of Iran's standing in the region. The inflamed sectarianism wrought by Iran, according to a detailed study by Geneive Abdo of the Brookings Institution, is likely to supersede the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "as the central mobilizing factor for Arab political life."

 

In addition to sabotaging its regional hegemonic ambitions, intervention in Syria may also have dire domestic political consequences for the Islamic Republic. The regime's involvement in a chronic sectarian conflict is sure to steadily alienate its own restive Sunni minority, while the strain on its sanctions-riddled economy will only get worse. Most importantly, the ignominious collapse of its claim to pan-Islamic leadership erodes one of the main pillars of its legitimacy in the eyes of Shiites. There are no silver linings.

 

While Abrams insists that the United States should be working to "deter" Iran "from sending more fighters to help save Assad," he's got it all wrong. The Obama administration should copy the late Soviet General Georgy Zhukov and focus not on combating the foolhardy Iranian surge, but on exploiting the strategic and political flanks left exposed by it.

 

Gary C. Gambill is a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy, The National Interest, and The National Post.

 

Contents

HAVE SYRIA’S KURDS HAD ACHANGE OF HEART?

Daniel Nisman

Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey), Apr. 12, 2013

 

“Deal with your friends as if they will become your enemies tomorrow, and deal with your enemies as if they will become your friends tomorrow.” It’s a proverb passed along through Kurdish generations – and a telling pretext to the Kurdish strategy in today’s conflict in Syria. In recent weeks, this once dormant player has awoken from its slumber, and may just provide Syria’s desperate rebels with a much needed boost to break their deadlock with the Bashar al-Assad regime.

 

Reports indicate that Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) militiamen and Syrian rebels have agreed to share control of the strategic Sheikh Maqsoud District of northern Aleppo, cutting off regime supply routes to a hospital, prison, and other key positions. Rebel fighters entered the district largely unopposed on March 31.

 

Further east, Syrian military units attacked a checkpoint manned by Kurdish militiamen in the northeastern city of Qamishli on April 4. Hours later, militiamen from the YPG attacked two Syrian military positions on the outskirts of Qamishli. The attacks resulted in a number of deaths on both sides and marked the first such incident to occur in the predominantly Kurdish Hasakah Governorate since the Syrian military withdrew from the region’s urban centers in the summer of 2012.

 

Increasing violence between Kurdish militias and the Syrian military indicates a notable shift in the policy of the Syrian Kurdish leadership’s policy of neutrality. The rebel capture of Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud area on March 31 was coordinated and facilitated by local Kurdish militias, effectively ending that district’s neutral status in the battle for control of the city. Subsequent aerial bombardments of the district indicate that the Syrian military now views Kurdish militias in the region as a hostile entity.

 

The Syrian Kurdish leadership has likely been influenced by cease-fire developments taking place between its Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) counterparts and the Turkish government. Since October 2012, the Turkish government has conducted negotiations for a draw-down of PKK fighters from Turkey with Abdullah Öcalan, a currently imprisoned, though highly influential Kurdish leader. During the Nevruz holiday in late March 2013, the PKK agreed to a cease-fire with the Turkish military and an Öcalan-approved timetable for withdrawal. In early April 2013, the leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of Syrian Kurds, Salih Muslim, stated that his constituents support cease-fire efforts being conducted between the Turkish government and Kurdish PKK separatists.

 

Subsequent statements of support by Syrian Kurdish leaders for the talks have been followed by increasing coordination of Kurdish militias with Syrian rebels, including the March 31 withdrawal from Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud. Despite the current shift of support to the rebels, Syrian Kurds still prioritize the protection and independence of their communities above the nationalist-revolutionary aspirations of the country’s Arab Sunnis. Any agreement with the Syrian opposition is thus likely to remain fragile and subject to change.

 

In the near term, the stance of the Syrian Kurdish leadership regarding cooperation with the rebels is likely to be heavily influenced by Turkish policies. Reports indicate that the Syrian Kurdish leadership expects Turkey to begin negotiating directly with the PYD in a similar manner to the PKK. Until recently, Turkey had refused any contact with the PYD over fears of setting a precedent for recognition of an autonomous Kurdish entity in Syria.

 

In addition, the PYD reportedly expects Turkey to reduce its support for extremist Syrian rebels, including those who have clashed with the group in the past. Furthermore, any breakdown of the draw-down process with the PKK would likely hinder Kurdish-rebel cooperation in Syria, and an increase in hostility from the PYD toward the Turkish government. Lastly, attacks by jihadist Syrian rebel elements against Kurdish communities could also bring an end to cooperation in mixed cities and regions in northern Syria, threatening to derail the rebel effort to end the standoff in Aleppo.

 

In the long term, the maintaining of Kurdish-rebel coordination could result in considerable setbacks for the Syrian military, particularly impacting efforts to maintain control over outlying areas. Continued bombardments by the Syrian military against Kurdish populations are likely to result in an increase of reprisal attacks against Syrian military troops stationed in the area, who are already impacted by a breakdown in resupply routes. In Aleppo, Kurdish-rebel cooperation would further pressure regime forces, by opening the way for additional staging grounds for rebel offensives against the remaining southwest districts held by the Syrian military.

 

As far back as World War I, the Kurdish people have been cast as the historic losers to the spoils of conflict in the Middle East. In a region which is no stranger to ironic twists, it should come as no surprise that this long-persecuted ethnic group has emerged as a kingmaker in a battle which will undoubtedly shape the face of the region for years to come.

 

Daniel Nisman is the Middle East and North Africa section intelligence director at Max Security Solutions, a geopolitical and security risk consulting firm.

 

Contents

 

 

HEZBOLLAH'S NECESSARY WAR OF CHOICE IN SYRIA

Aram Nerguizian

Real Clear World, June 19, 2013

 

While supportive of popular protesters and regime change in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, at no point has the Shi'a militant group Hezbollah signaled any intention of scaling back its support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. To the contrary, its support has steadily escalated from threats in 2011 to shift attention away from Syria to potential escalation along the UN Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon to an increasing military role in Syria starting in 2012. It was at least in part thanks to Hezbollah that the Syrian military was able to retake the strategic rebel-held town of Qusayr on June 5, 2013.

 

To many observers, Hezbollah's decision to commit to offensive military operations inside Syria in concert with Assad's forces borders on the irrational. The move has heightened precarious Sunni-Shi'a tensions in Lebanon exponentially and has further undermined the country's efforts to disassociate itself from the Syria conflict under the auspices of the so-called June 2012 "Baabda Declaration," a pledge that includes noninterference in Syria's conflict and was signed by all leading factions in Lebanon, including Hezbollah. To many Lebanese, such a projection of military force outside of Lebanon by Hezbollah or any other group is without precedent.

 

Although such concerns may be justified, Hezbollah's choices reflect its own narrow set of overlapping priorities in Syria: the primacy of preserving the "Resistance Axis with Iran," Hezbollah's sense that it can neither appease increasingly militant Lebanese Sunni political forces nor reverse deepening regional Sunni-Shi'a tension, and that Shi'a communal fears as a regional minority group increasingly inform a need to create strategic depth in Syria. Taken together, these factors have led Hezbollah to a bitter conclusion: it can choose to fight Sunni forces in Syria today or fight Sunni forces in Lebanon tomorrow, should Assad fall.

 

Hezbollah is now engaged in what it considers to be a preemptive war of choice in Syria, albeit one that many within the group and the broader Shi'a community view as both necessary & inevitable. However, such a war also presents the group with very real long term risks and challenges. It endangers Shi'a communities in the Gulf, further alienates regional Arab public opinion, and pushes the United States to provide anti-Assad rebels with weapons in order to "rebalance" the conventional and asymmetric military balances in Syria. It also may be a prelude to a much deeper change for Hezbollah, whereby it becomes less of a "resistance" organization against Israel and more of a sectarian tool in the service of increasingly narrow Lebanese Shi'a interests.

 

Hezbollah's Military Role in Syria

 

While Hezbollah initially avoided a direct military role in the Syria crisis, this changed starting in early 2012. The group prioritized its preliminary military efforts as follows: to defend the Sayyidah Zaynab Shrine, one of Shi'a Islam's holiest sites on the outskirts of Damascus, to protect Lebanese Shi'a villages east of the Bekaa Valley, to offer counterinsurgency training to pro-Assad forces, to protect key thoroughfares linking Lebanon to Syria, and to play a minor combat support role in Zabadani between Damascus and the Lebanese border. By early 2013, Hezbollah's priorities had significantly shifted to its combat and combat support roles with Assad's forces east of the Bekaa Valley.

 

Reports from Lebanon and Europe place the estimated number of Hezbollah fighters within Syria at up to 4,000 in support of Assad's forces. It is worth noting that other estimates on Hezbollah fighters in Syria vary from as little as 2,000 to as much as 10,000. The disparities reflect the challenges of getting an accurate picture of Hezbollah's force commitment level, never mind the current disposition of its overall fighting strength. However, it is important to remember that many of these estimates of Hezbollah's manpower levels in Syria are "guesstimates."

 

As of mid-June 2013, Hezbollah's involvement in Syria appears to have helped shape regime victories in areas opposite the Lebanese Bekaa Valley, especially in and around the town of Qusayr. Strategically significant as an opposition lifeline for aid, weapons, and fighters from Lebanon, the retaking of Qusayr secures the regime's western flank as it pushes to consolidate its hold on Homs and access to the mainly Alawite coast, cuts off rebel supply lines, and signals to the international community that the Assad regime is far from beaten. However, Qusayr may be even more important to Hezbollah. Qusayr sits on a direct road link to the mainly Shi'a Lebanese town of Hermel, a north-eastern stronghold of the Shi'a militant group and a key pipeline for overland weapons transfers from Iran via Syria. Qusayr is also ringed by Shi'a Lebanese villages inside Syria which Hezbollah feels both obligated and under pressure to protect.

 

From a military standpoint, Hezbollah's engagements east of the Lebanese Bekaa Valley have not been without cost. According to Syrian opposition and anti-Hezbollah Shi'a sources, the number of Hezbollah fighters killed in the first week of the main offensive to retake Qusayr was between 70 and 110. This reflects in part the reality that although well trained, many of Hezbollah's fighters in Qusayr were largely untested in combat. The high initial death toll may also point to the Syrian rebels' use of some of Hezbollah's own sniping and booby-trapping techniques; techniques that the Shi'a group shared in joint training exercises with Hamas and that the Palestinian militant group may have passed on to the rebels in turn.

 

While these initial losses are significant, Hezbollah can continue to absorb more combat deaths, largely thanks to the dramatic expansion of the group's armed wing in the wake of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war. Compared to some 3,000 fighters in 2006, Hezbollah's current fighting strength may be estimated at around 20,000-30,000, of which some 25 percent may be full-time active duty personnel. Meanwhile, preliminary reports indicate that Hezbollah's forces in Qusayr were far more disciplined and employed superior tactics, communication, and were better coordinated than their Syrian rebel opponents. Difficult battles like the one in Qusayr against similarly committed and ideological opposition fighters ensure that tomorrow's veterans from the war in Syria will form a combat-tested Hezbollah fighting core that may complicate future engagements against the IDF, to say nothing of Lebanese or Syrian Sunni militants…..(For the remainder of this article please click here: Real Clear World – Ed.)
 

Contents

 

Let Them Eat Kebabs: T.A. Frank, The New Republic, April 25, 2013—When she first became known to the world, Asma Al Assad, first lady of Syria, stood out for her efforts to put a twenty-first-century gloss on Middle Eastern dictatorship, a profession widely seen as hidebound and heavily mustachioed.

 

Did Israel Bomb Latakia Last Week?: Michael Weiss, Real Clear World, July 11, 2013—Last Thursday, a day after Americans were nursing Fourth of July hangovers, tracking the Trayvon Martin case at home, or the fallout from the coup in Egypt, mysterious explosions occurred at a weapons depot in the Mushayrafet al-Samouk district of the Syrian coastal city of Latakia.

 

The Arab World Fears the ‘Safavid’: Dore Gold, JCPA, June 9, 2013—In an interview on Al-Jazeera this past May, the commander of the Free Syrian Army, Brig. Gen. Salim Idris, explained that the diversion of Hezbollah forces from Lebanon to Syria to take part in the civil war was part of a “Safavid” plan for the Middle East region.

 

Hezbollah Spying on Golan Heights from Syria: Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu, Jewish Press, July 11th, 2013— The IDF is forming a new division to operate in the Golan Heights, which faces a new threat of Hezbollah terrorists and weapons that had been limited to the Lebanese border before Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah sent his army to fight with Assad loyalists against Syrian rebels.

 

Syria Jihadists Lose Support As Abuses Mount: Serene Assir, Fox News, July 11, 2013— In the early days of the Syrian uprising, when opponents of the regime were desperate for assistance from any quarter, jihadist fighters were welcomed but a spate of abuses is fuelling a backlash. Things have changed.

 

Face-to-Face With Abu Sakkar, Syria's 'Heart-Eating Cannibal': Paul Wood, BBC News, 5 July 2013—It sounded like the most far-fetched propaganda claim – a Syrian rebel commander who cut out the heart of a fallen enemy soldier, and ate it before a cheering crowd of his men.

 

Seduced by War, Europeans Join the Fight in Syria: Nadette De Visser, The Daily Beast, June 11, 2013—Men from The Netherlands and other European countries are taking up arms in Syria. But are they even more dangerous than the local fighters? Nadette De Visser reports.

 

U.S. Arms Showing up in Hands of Pro-Assad Militias: Oren Dorell, USA TODAY,  July 10, 2013—U.S. and Western weapons have been reaching Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting to keep Bashar Assad's forces in power in Syria. Analysts say it's unclear if the weapons were captured, stolen or bought on the black market in Syria, Turkey, Iraq or Libya.

 

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

Download a pdf version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

Contents:                          

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

On Topic Links

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

ISRAEL HITS SYRIA, SENDS MESSAGE TO IRAN

Ben Caspit

Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, May 5, 2013

                       

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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ANALYSIS: ISRAEL ENFORCING RED LINES ON SYRIA

Yaakov Lappin

Jerusalem Post, May 5, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

A KEY SYRIAN PARTNER IS FRUSTRATED BY OBAMA’S CAUTION

David Ignatius

The Daily Star, May 03, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

David Ignatius is published twice weekly by The Daily Star.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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SYRIAN WAR DRAWS IN NEIGHBOURS, AS REBELS, MUSLIM BROS. & NEW “UNITY” ASSEMBLY VIE

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Syria's Opposition Groups Strike Unity Deal Against Assad: Reuters, Nov 11, 2012

Syria's fractious opposition finally put aside fierce arguments to rally behind a new leader within a new coalition that its Western and Arab backers hope can topple Bashar al-Assad and take over the country.

 

How Syria’s Neighbors Are Drawn Into Its War: The Associated Press, Times of Israel, Nov. 13, 2012—Syria’s neighbors are increasingly being drawn into the country’s civil war in a variety of ways, whether militarily or due to an exodus of Syrians fleeing the fighting at home. The spillover has raised concerns that the nearly 20-month-long conflict between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and rebels trying to topple him could endanger the entire Middle East.

 

Missteps by Rebels Erode Their Support Among Syrians: Anne Barnard, New York Times, Nov. 8, 2012—Syria’s rebel fighters are losing crucial support from a public increasingly disgusted by the actions of some rebels, including poorly planned missions, senseless destruction, criminal behavior and the coldblooded killing of prisoners.

 

How the Brotherhood Builds Power in Syria's Opposition: Hassan Hassan, The National, Nov 12, 2012— The MB is viewed with profound suspicion by most Syrians. Despite 20 months of atrocious violence by the criminal regime, many Syrians – rightly or wrongly – still prefer the regime because they fear the Brotherhood more

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Tug Of War Among Syrian Opposition: Shane Farrell, NOW Lebanon, Nov 9, 2012

Israel Hits 'Source' Of Second Syrian Mortar Shell: Yaakov Lappin, Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Nov.13, 2012

UNRWA Keeps Quiet on Syria: Asaf Romirowsky, Alexander Joffe, The National Interest, Nov. 9, 2012

 

 

 

SYRIA'S OPPOSITION GROUPS STRIKE
UNITY DEAL AGAINST ASSAD

Rania El Gamal & Regan Doherty

Reuters, November 11, 2012

 

Syria's fractious opposition finally put aside fierce arguments to rally behind a new leader within a new coalition that its Western and Arab backers hope can topple Bashar al-Assad and take over the country. After days of wrangling in Qatar under constant cajoling by exasperated Arab, U.S. and other officials, representatives of groups including rebel fighters, veteran dissidents and ethnic and religious minorities agreed on Sunday to join a new assembly that can form a government-in-exile. They unanimously elected reformist Damascus cleric Mouaz al-Khatib as its president.

 

Khatib, a soft-spoken preacher who was once imam of the ancient Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, immediately called on soldiers to quit the Syrian army and on all sects to unite. "We demand freedom for every Sunni, Alawi, Ismaili (Shi'ite), Christian, Druze, Assyrian … and rights for all parts of the harmonious Syrian people," he told reporters.  It remains to be seen whether the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces can overcome the mutual suspicions and in-fighting that have weakened the 20-month-old drive to end four decades of rule by President Assad's family.  [For the complete story see On Topic links below –Ed.]

 

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HOW SYRIA’S NEIGHBORS ARE DRAWN INTO ITS WAR

The Associated Press

Times of Israel, November 13, 2012

 

Syria’s neighbors are increasingly being drawn into the country’s civil war in a variety of ways, whether militarily or due to an exodus of Syrians fleeing the fighting at home. The spillover has raised concerns that the nearly 20-month-long conflict between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and rebels trying to topple him could endanger the entire Middle East. Here is a look at how neighboring states are being affected by Syria’s bloodletting:

 

Israel

 

Israel on Monday became the second country to strike the Syrian military, after Turkey. An Israeli tank hit a Syrian armored vehicle after shells from fighting in Syria exploded in Israel-controlled Golan Heights. A day earlier, Israel fired a warning shot near a group of Syrian fighters.

 

Syrian shells have exploded inside the Golan several times in recent weeks damaging apple orchards, sparking fires and spreading panic but causing no injuries. In early November, three Syrian tanks entered the Golan demilitarized zone, and in a separate incident an Israeli patrol vehicle was peppered with bullets fired from Syria; no one was hurt in the incident and the Israeli military deemed it accidental.

 

There is concern in Israel that Assad may try to spark a conflict with Israel, opening up the potential for attacks by Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel has also warned that Syria’s chemical weapons could be turned on the Jewish state. Still, while no friend of Assad, Israel is also worried that if he is toppled, Syria could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists or descend into sectarian warfare.

 

Lebanon

 

Mortars and shells from the Syrian side regularly crash in Lebanon, causing several casualties, though Lebanese forces have never fired back. More dangerously, Syria’s conflict has heightened deep rivalries and sectarian tensions in its smaller neighbor. Lebanon is divided between pro-Assad and anti-Assad factions, a legacy of the nearly three decades when Damascus all but ruled Lebanon, until 2005. Assad’s ally, the Hezbollah militia is Lebanon’s strongest political and military movement.

 

On Oct. 19, a car bomb assassinated Lebanon’s top intelligence chief, Wissam al-Hassan. Many in Lebanon blamed Syria and Hezbollah for the assassination.

 

The northern Lebanese city of Tripoli has seen repeated clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites — the Shiite offshoot sect to which Assad belongs. Battles in the city in May and August killed at least 23 people total and wounded dozens.

 

The kidnapping of Lebanese Shiites in Syria by rebels has also had repercussions in Lebanon. In May, Shiites blocked roads and burned tires in protest over the abductions, and later in the summer a powerful Shiite clan took 20 Syrians and a Turk in Lebanon captive in retaliation, all of whom have since been released. Lebanon also shelters about 100,000 Syrian refugees.

 

Turkey

 

Turkey has struck the Syrian military repeatedly in response to shelling and mortar rounds from Syria since Oct. 3, when shells from Syria struck the Turkish village of Akcakale, killing two women and three children. The incident prompted NATO to convene an emergency meeting and Turkey sent tanks and anti-aircraft batteries to the area. Turkey’s military has also scrambled fighter jets after Syrian helicopters flew close to the border.

 

There are about 120,000 Syrian refugees sheltering in Turkish camps, with up to 70,000 more living in Turkey outside the camps. Thousands more wait at the border, held up as Turkey struggles to cope with the influx. Turkey also hosts much of the opposition and rebel leadership.

 

Turkey has called for a buffer zone in Syria where the opposition and civilians would be protected, a step that would likely require international enforcement of a no-fly zone. Russia and China have blocked robust moves against the Syrian regime at the U.N. Security Council, and the United States has been reluctant to use its military in another Mideast conflict.

 

Jordan

 

Jordan has taken the brunt of the refugee exodus from Syria, with some 265,000 Syrians fleeing across the border. Around 42,000 of them are housed at Zaatari, a dust-filled refugee camp, where riots have broken out several times by Syrians angry over lack of services.

 

A growing number of stray Syrian missiles have fallen on Jordanian villages in the north in recent weeks, wounding several civilians. Late last month, a Jordanian border patrol officer was killed in clashes with eight militants trying to cross into Syria. Hours earlier, Jordan announced the arrest of 11 suspected al-Qaida-linked militants allegedly planning to attack shopping malls and Western diplomatic missions in Jordan.

 

Iraq

 

Sunni and Shiite fighters from Iraq have made their way to Syria to join the civil war — the former on the side of the opposition, the latter siding with Assad’s regime, according to Iraqi officials and Shiite militants. Sunni al-Qaeda fighters are believed to be moving between Iraq and Syria, and some al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq’s western Anbar province have regrouped under the name of the Free Iraqi Army, a nod to the rebels’ Free Syrian Army, Iraqi officials say.

 

The United States has pressured Baghdad to stop Iranian planes suspected of ferrying arms to Syria from using Iraqi airspace. Iraq has so far acknowledged only forcing two planes to land for inspection and said it didn’t find any weapons either time. About 49,000 Syrian refugees have temporarily resettled in Iraq, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

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MISSTEPS BY REBELS ERODE THEIR SUPPORT AMONG SYRIANS

Anne Barnard

New York Times, November 8, 2012

 

 

Syria’s rebel fighters — who have long staked claim to the moral high ground for battling dictatorship — are losing crucial support from a public increasingly disgusted by the actions of some rebels, including poorly planned missions, senseless destruction, criminal behavior and the coldblooded killing of prisoners.

 

The shift in mood presents more than just a public relations problem for the loosely knit militants of the Free Syrian Army, who rely on their supporters to survive the government’s superior firepower. A dampening of that support undermines the rebels’ ability to fight and win what has become a devastating war of attrition, perpetuating the violence that has left nearly 40,000 dead, hundreds of thousands in refugee camps and more than a million forced from their homes.

 

The rebel shortcomings have been compounded by changes in the opposition, from a force of civilians and defected soldiers who took up arms after the government used lethal force on peaceful protesters to one that is increasingly seeded with extremist jihadis. That radicalization has divided the fighters’ supporters and made Western nations more reluctant to give rebels the arms that might help break the intensifying deadlock….

 

Twenty months into what is now a civil war, both supporters and opponents of the government are trapped in a darkening mood of despair, revulsion and fear that neither side can end the conflict. In recent months, both sides adopted more brutal — even desperate — methods to try to break the stalemate, but they achieved merely a new version of deadlock. To many Syrians, the extreme violence seems all the more pointless for the lack of results.

 

The most significant shift is among the rebels’ supporters, who chant slogans not only condemning the government but also criticizing the rebels. “The people want the reform of the Free Syrian Army,” crowds have called out. “We love you. Correct your path.”

 

Small acts of petty humiliation and atrocities like executions have led many more Syrians to believe that some rebels are as depraved as the government they fight. The activist from Saraqib said he saw rebels force government soldiers from a milk factory, then destroy it, even though residents needed the milk and had good relations with the owner.

 

“They shelled the factory and stole everything,” the activist said. “Those are repulsive acts.” Even some of the uprising’s staunchest supporters are beginning to fear that Syria’s sufferings — lost lives, fraying social fabric, destroyed heritage — are for naught.

 

“We thought freedom was so near,” said a fighter calling himself Abu Ahmed, his voice catching with grief as he spoke via Skype last month from Maarat al-Noaman, a strategic town on the Aleppo-Damascus highway. Hours earlier, a rebel victory there ended in disaster, as government airstrikes pulverized civilians returning to what they thought was safety.

 

Even within Mr. Assad’s most solid base, his minority Alawite sect, discontent spilled over last month in a clash that began in a coffee shop in the president’s ancestral village, Qardaha. Some were shaken recently by heavy casualties in the disproportionately Alawite military and militias, according to Fadi Saad, who runs a Facebook page called Alawites in the Syrian Revolution.

 

On the rebel side, the Aleppo battle catalyzed simmering frustrations among civilian activists who feel dominated by gunmen. One Aleppo activist said she met with fighters to suggest ways to cut government supply routes without destroying the city, to no avail. “You risked the lives of the people for what?” the activist asked. “The Free Syrian Army is just cutting the nails of the regime. We want results.”

 

Nominal leaders of the Free Syrian Army say they embrace ethical standards, contend that the government commits the vast majority of abuses and blame rogue groups for bad rebel behavior. But that did not ease the disgust after last week’s video. It shows men writhing on the ground, staring up and screaming in terror. Rebels stand over them, shouting a cacophony of orders and insults. They move like a gang, not a military unit, jostling and crowding, kicking prisoners, forcing them into a pile. Suddenly, automatic weapons fire drowns out the noise. Puffs of dust rise from the pile, now still.

 

“All the ugly stuff the regime practiced, the F.S.A. is copying,” Anna, a finance worker in Damascus, said of recent behavior. She blamed the government for making society abusive, but she said the rebels were no better. “They are ignorant people with weapons,” she said.

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HOW THE BROTHERHOOD BUILDS POWER IN SYRIA'S OPPOSITION

Hassan Hassan

The National, Nov 12, 2012

 

 

Lieutenant-Colonel Hussein Harmoush, one of the first Syrian army officers to defect, was contacted by the Muslim Brotherhood shortly after he arrived at a refugee camp in Turkey's Hatay province in June of 2011. He was one of a small group of defectors, the Free Officers. Brotherhood members visited him several times and promised him logistical, financial and material support in exchange for "cooperation". Lt Col Harmoush replied "tell me what you want and I will decide accordingly", Lt Basim Khaled, speaking for the Free Officers, told me in an interview. " They wanted him to follow their directions and support them politically."

 

No agreement was reached but the Brotherhood members stayed in touch with Lt Col Harmoush. They also contacted a more recent, higher-ranking defector who agreed to cooperate. That officer, Colonel Riad Al Asaad, formed a new entity, the Free Syrian Army, without informing the Free Officers. The Brotherhood then abruptly dropped contact with Lt Col Harmoush, who was captured by Syrian authorities under mysterious circumstances in August 2011, after disappearing in Turkey.

 

The story shows how the Muslim Brotherhood – an Islamist group with little representation within Syrian society, due to decades of systematic cleansing by the Baathist regime – has successfully built influence over the emerging opposition forces. The MB is viewed with profound suspicion by most Syrians. Despite 20 months of atrocious violence by the criminal regime, many Syrians – rightly or wrongly – still prefer the regime because they fear the Brotherhood more.

 

Activists downplay that fear, partly because the MB had acted behind the scenes. But its resistance to inclusiveness that would challenge its monopoly has become clear during the opposition's meetings in Doha. The Brotherhood has been resisting a US-backed initiative to form a more representative political entity, a plan that Syrians desperately need to reverse Brotherhood domination of the political process….

 

Some observers have criticised the US-backed plan that would include various political and regional forces hitherto unrepresented, effectively replacing the Syrian National Council. But the claim that foreign interference would undermine the popular legitimacy of these entities is invalid: the Brotherhood's political monopoly was made possible in the first place by foreign interference – the council was formed in Turkey, which has links with the MB – and by partial international recognition. That monopoly needs to be reversed by those countries.

 

The Syrian National Council took over six months to set up, largely due to disagreements over the role of the Brotherhood. When the council was finally formed in October 2011, the MB was given a bigger share of representation than, say, the Damascus Declaration – a group of reformist intellectuals formed in 2005 – in itself a major achievement for the organization.

 

Moreover, according to Muhammad Ali, an Istanbul-based Syrian analyst, some members of the Brotherhood have joined the SNC as independents, to ensure the organization the upper hand. That is why, even though the Brotherhood has reduced its representation in the SNC from 25 per cent to 20 per cent under the new "reforms", it is still a kingmaker.

 

It is hard to gauge precisely the MB's popular base, but historical evidence and well-established social dynamics offer useful insights. Tribal and Kurdish areas have over 30 per cent of the population and are loyal to their local leaders and increasingly to Salafi Islam. Non-Sunnis form 30 per cent of Syria's population and Kurds 9 per cent.

 

These bases of ethnic and religious minorities, plus the tribes – altogether making up at least 70 per cent of the population – have been outside the MB's influence in the past and will remain so. Add to that the business community in Aleppo and Damascus, which has historically had social ties with moderate religious clergy and whose interests lie in a secular-leaning government….

 

On what basis, then, does the Brotherhood dominate political and military councils today?

In a democratic Syria, the Brotherhood would have the right to engage in politics and build support. But its current dominance is not justified by true representation and this is one of the major causes of rift and hesitation among Syria's political and social forces. Its dominance needs to be addressed with urgency by activists and countries that have leverage in Syria.

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Syria's opposition groups strike unity deal against Assad: Rania El Gamal & Regan Doherty, Reuters, Nov 11, 2012—Syria's fractious opposition finally put aside fierce arguments to rally behind a new leader within a new coalition that its Western and Arab backers hope can topple Bashar al-Assad and take over the country.

 

Tug Of War Among Syrian Opposition: Shane Farrell, NOW Lebanon, November 9, 2012—Apart from wanting the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his cohorts, there seems to be very little that unites the Syrian opposition. The Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition group and once-great hope for proponents of regime change, has long been marred by infighting, defections and accusations of Muslim Brotherhood dominance, as well as of being out of touch with Syrians on the ground.

 

Israel Hits 'Source' Of Second Syrian Mortar Shell:Yaakov Lappin, Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 13, 2012 — Israel fired at and struck two Syrian mortar launchers on Monday, following the second time in as many days that Syrian artillery shells exploded in Israeli territory. A tank from the 401 Armored Brigade fired at the Syrian targets in what was an escalated Israeli retaliation to Syrian fire. Unlike Sunday’s exchange, the IDF fired with the intention of hitting its target, as part of a new policy designed to deter Syrian forces from firing into Israel.

 

UNRWA Keeps Quiet on Syria: Asaf Romirowsky, Alexander Joffe, The National Interest, Nov. 9, 2012When two employees of UNRWA, the United Nations organization for Palestinians, were killed in Syria, one by a sniper and the other in a crossfire, the organization responded by deploring “the tragic loss of life." It was even more subdued when Syrian artillery shells slammed into a United Nations school for Palestinians in a Damascus suburb….These mild responses were utterly unlike the cries of condemnation and calls for war-crimes investigations that came forth when an Israeli shell struck outside an UNRWA school during the 2009 Gaza.

 

 

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CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

ON BALANCE, OBAMA READY TO NEGOTIATE, EVEN AS SAUDIS WAGE ANTI-IRAN PROXY WAR

 

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Contents:

 

The Obama Administration Puts Its Trust in Negotiations with Iran: Barry Rubin, PJ Media, Nov. 12, 2012—

 

The most important foreign policy effort President Barack Obama will be making over the next year is negotiating with Iran. The terms of the U.S. offer are clear: if Iran agrees not to build nuclear weapons, it will be allowed to enrich a certain amount of uranium, supposedly for purposes of generating nuclear energy (which Iran doesn’t need) and other benefits, supposedly under strict safeguards.

 

Saudis’ Proxy War Against Iran: Joseph Braude, Tablet Magazine, Nov. 12, 2012 —Following the logic that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” a few influential policymakers in Washington and Tel Aviv have argued for years that support for the aspirations of non-Persian Iranians—like Arabs, Baluchis, and Kurds—would be both morally right and strategically useful as a means to destabilize the regime.

 

On Topic Links

 

Did Israel and the U.S. Just Cooperate on a Dry-Run for an Iran Intervention?: Jonathan Schanzer, The New Republic, Nov. 2, 2012

Victim Complex Redux: Iran's Fake Anger: Ali Alfoneh, The Commentator, Nov. 5, 2012

Sanctions Have Crippled Iran’s Economy, But They’re Not Working: Christopher de Bellaigue, The New Republic, Nov. 12, 2012

Responding To Iran: It’s A Matter Of Trust: Amos Yadlin, The Globe and Mail, Nov.12, 2012

The Cyber War With Iran: Bill French, The National Interest, Nov. 7, 2012

 

 

 

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PUTS ITS
TRUST IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH IRAN

Barry Rubin

PJ Media, Nov 12, 2012

 

The most important foreign policy effort President Barack Obama will be making over the next year is negotiating with Iran. The terms of the U.S. offer are clear: if Iran agrees not to build nuclear weapons, it will be allowed to enrich a certain amount of uranium, supposedly for purposes of generating nuclear energy (which Iran doesn’t need) and other benefits, supposedly under strict safeguards.

 

Will Iran accept such a deal? The Obama Administration and others argue as follow: Sanctions have taken a deep bite out of Iran’s economy and frightened the regime with the prospect of instability. Iranian leaders are concluding that nuclear weapons aren’t worth all of this trouble. They are interested in becoming wealthy not spreading revolution and this includes even the once-fanatical Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which is steadily gaining power in the country.

 

In a few months, June 2013, Iran will have elections to choose a new president to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Perhaps, goes the argument, they will pick someone more flexible and less provocative, a signal that they want to stand down from the current confrontation. Thus, a deal is really possible and it could be implemented.

 

I won’t dismiss this altogether. The truth is that despite extremist statements and radical tactics, the Iranian regime is by no means ideologically or theologically mad. The rulers want to stay in power and they have been far more cautious in practice than they have in rhetoric. Despite the claims that the Iranian regime just wants to get nuclear weapons to attack Israel as soon as possible, a serious analysis of this government’s history, its leaders and factions, indicates otherwise.

 

A key factor here is that Iran wants nuclear weapons for “defensive” purposes. By this I do not mean that a poor Tehran regime is afraid that it will be attacked for no reason at all and thus needs to protect itself. Not at all. It is Iran’s aggressive, subversive, and terrorist-sponsoring positions that jeopardize the regime. Like it or not, if the Tehran government got on with the business of repressing its own people without threatening its neighbors the world would be little concerned with its behavior. But it has refused to take that easy and profitable choice.

 

Rather, Iran wants nuclear weapons so it can continue both regime and behavior without having to worry about paying any price for the things it does. The situation has, however, changed in two respects.

 

First, the “Arab Spring” has put an end to any serious hope by the regime of gaining leadership in the Middle East or in the Muslim world. Two years ago it was possible that Arabs would dance in the street and cheer Iran having a nuclear weapon as the great hope of radical Islam. Today, though, the Sunni Islamists are on the march and have no use for rival Shias, much less ethnic Persians.

 

They want to make their own revolutions, destroy Israel, expel the West, and seize control of the Middle East for Sunni Arabs and not under the leadership of Persian Shias. Iran’s sphere of influence has been whittled down to merely Lebanon, Iraq, and a rapidly failing Syrian regime. Under these conditions, getting nuclear weapons will not bring Iran any great strategic gain.

 

Second, sanctions have indeed been costly for Iran, though one could exaggerate the extent of this suffering. Additional internal problems have been brought on by the rulers own mismanagement and awesome levels of corruption. In other words, to stay in power and get even richer Iran’s leaders, along with disposing of Ahmadinejad, might seek a way out of their ten-year-long drive for nuclear weapons.

 

Thus, it is not impossible that Iran would take up the Obama Administration on the proposed deal either because the leaders now seek riches rather than revolution or because they intend to cheat or move far more gradually toward getting nuclear weapons or at least the capability to obtain them quickly if and when they decide to do so.

 

It is, however, equally or more possible that Iran would use the negotiations to wrest concessions from the West without giving anything in return and to stall for time as it steadily advances toward its nuclear goal. As this happens, Israeli concerns will be dismissed by the administration and the mass media. The kinder ones will say that Israel is being unnecessarily concerned; the more hostile that it is acting as a warmonger when everything can be settled through compromise….

 

Of course, it is worthwhile to try negotiations. But as in all policymaking such endeavors must be entered with a clear sense of the possibilities, alternatives, goals, unacceptable concessions, and a readiness to admit the strategy isn’t working. What happens as talks drag on month after month, with Iran demanding a better offer and proof that the West has honest intentions? Certainly, as long as the talks continue the White House would argue for reducing pressure and stopping threats lest Iran gets scared or mistrustful. Already, we are receiving hints that it is Israel’s fault for scaring Iran into thinking it needs nuclear weapons, forgetting the fact that Israeli threats result from Iranian leaders’ boasts about the genocide they intend to commit once they have atomic arms.

 

Part of the Obama Administration sales pitch for U.S.-Iran talks is that Obama really will get tough if Iran stalls, uses the time to continue developing nuclear weapons, or cheats. People in positions of authority or influence—including in the mass media as well as governments—claim Obama will attack Iran if it plays him false. The administration’s patience is wearing thin we are told, it won’t let the Iranian regime make it look like a fool.

 

For my part, I don’t believe that Obama would ever initiate military action against Iran and that he will also do everything possible to prevent Israel from doing so, which means that Israel would also not launch an attack. Personally, I don’t favor an attack on Iran (for reasons I’ve explained in detail elsewhere) but it is a costly error to base a policy of concessions and letting Iran stall based on a false claim of willingness to use force at some later point. In addition, whether or not you think it a good idea, an attack on Iran by either Israel or the United States as a means of stopping the nuclear program isn’t going to happen.

 

I suggest the most likely possibilities are as follows:

 

If Iran’s leaders find the pressures of sanctions so tough, the threat to the regime’s survival so great, and their greed for remaining in power and making more money so big they will then make a deal. We will be told that Obama is a great statesman who has achieved a big success and rightly won the Nobel Peace Prize. He will indeed have avoided Iran going nuclear, at least for a while.

 

Or Iran will use the chance to talk endlessly and build nuclear weapons while the administration’s hints of dire retribution will prove to be bluffs as the leaders in Tehran expect. The year 2013 will pass without any deal. During Obama’s second term Iran will either get nuclear weapons or have everything needed to do so but will not actually assemble them for a while. U.S. policy will then accept that situation and shift to a containment strategy.

 

I’d bet on the latter outcome. But we are now going to see a campaign insisting that a peaceful resolution with Iran is at hand and ridiculing anyone who has doubts about this happy ending.

 

Top of Page

 

 

 

SAUDIS’ PROXY WAR AGAINST IRAN

Joseph Braude

Tablet Magazine, November 12, 2012

 

On the evening of Oct. 23, part of a gas pipeline facility in the western Iranian city of Shush exploded—one of several recent attacks on Iranian infrastructure near the country’s borders. In contrast to the clandestine campaign of sabotage against Iran’s nuclear facilities, whose perpetrators do not openly claim responsibility—though most suspect it is the work of the United States or Israel—the Shush hit was promptly followed by a press release put out by a group called the “Battalions of the Martyr Mohiuddin Al Nasser.”

 

The group is comprised of Ahwazi Arabs, one of several non-Persian ethnic groups inside Iran who together number at least 40 percent of the Iranian population. Some of these minority communities, which live mostly in the outlying provinces of the country, are restive and have been for years: The regime in Tehran represses their languages and cultures, chokes the local economy, and limits their movement. Increasingly, these groups have been organizing themselves politically and militarily—and some in Washington and Israel could not be more thrilled with the development.

 

Following the logic that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” a few influential policymakers in Washington and Tel Aviv have argued for years that support for the aspirations of non-Persian Iranians—like Arabs, Baluchis, and Kurds—would be both morally right and strategically useful as a means to destabilize the regime. Some even see an opportunity to partner with these groups for a ground assault to complement air strikes on Iranian nuclear targets.

 

Seymour Hersh, writing in The New Yorker in 2008, claimed the Bush Administration had begun a “major escalation of covert operations against Iran” including “support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations.” Citing retired and unnamed intelligence officials, Hersh suggested that the groups were being used to attack Iranian Revolutionary Guards and other regime targets, complementing American covert action against Iran’s nuclear program. (Hersh did not respond to a request for comment on his assertions.)

 

I recently spoke with two former U.S. government officials who had been involved in Iran policy during the Bush years. They opined that Hersh had blurred actual policy with contingency plans that had not been implemented. They also felt that the Obama Administration has had little interest in such strategies, preferring a more limited focus on the nuclear facilities themselves. These competing assertions should all be taken with a grain of salt. As Israelis say of their own Iran policy: “He who knows, doesn’t talk, and he who talks, doesn’t know.”

 

But activities in recent months prove that an equally important question is what Iran’s minorities and sympathetic neighboring countries are doing on their own. Extensive reporting from local sources in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states reveals that several countries surrounding Iran are beginning to back the country’s ethnic dissidents as a way of waging a proxy war against the mullahs. In Saudi Arabia, media and clerical elites recently mobilized to raise public awareness about the situation of Ahwazi Arabs, frame their cause as a national liberation struggle, and urge Arabs and Muslims to support them. Saudi donors are providing money and technological support to Ahwazi dissidents seeking to wage their own public information campaign, calling on Ahwazis to rise up against their rulers. The Saudi initiatives, in turn, join ongoing ventures by Azerbaijan and Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government to organize and train other dissident groups.

 

These recently expanded initiatives clearly correlate with the upsurge in violent attacks in Iran’s outlying provinces, pointing to a new campaign reminiscent of what Hersh imputed to the Bush Administration—but with local players in the lead. These players seem poised to escalate in the months to come, whether Americans or Israelis attempt to work with them or not.

 

Ahwaz as defined by Arabs (as opposed to the Persian designation “Ahvaz,” which is smaller) is a territory the size of Belarus that borders Iraq to the west and faces Saudi Arabia across the Persian Gulf. Some estimates say it is home to 3 million Arabic speakers, though locals claim the number is much larger. The area contains approximately 80 percent of Iran’s oil reserves and nearly all of its gas reserves, as well as a nuclear reactor near the city of Bushehr. Small wonder the regime in Tehran takes harsh measures to discourage separatist tendencies…

 

Few Westerners follow these happenings, and for decades, few Arabs did either: The region’s government media and semi-independent satellite channels barely covered it. Arab disinterest may have stemmed from the fact that the majority of Ahwazi Arabs are Shiite, a despised sect to many in the predominantly Sunni Arab world. “But Arab governments have also been afraid of the regime in Tehran,” said Saeed Dabat, an activist with the Movement of Arab Struggle for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz based in Copenhagen. “None of them was willing to rouse popular sentiments for a cause they wanted nothing to do with.”

 

Then, last summer, something changed. In June, a young Saudi cleric named Abdullah Al Ya’n Allah, hosting a new satellite TV program called Ahwaz the Forgotten (Al-Ahwaz al-Mansiya), castigated Arabs for ignoring the plight of their brethren living under Iranian occupation….

 

But Saudi support for the Ahwazi opposition is one piece of a larger regional picture. Saudis are also providing more modest funding to non-Arab ethnics in Iran, as are two other neighboring countries. From the Iranian province of Baluchistan, an overwhelmingly Sunni-populated area, a new separatist group announced its establishment on Oct. 11. Ya’n Allah, the Saudi host of Ahwaz the Forgotten, immediately began to publicize the group, both on television and via his Twitter followers. I reached the group’s media director in Bahrain last week. (He goes by Ali al-Mahdi, a name with a Shiite ring to it—a caustic joke for a Sunni militant who speaks about Shiites with great hostility.)

 

He complained of too little backing: “We get support for [families of] martyrs, like from students … $500, $1,000 [at a time]. It’s nothing!” For the first time publicly, Mahdi claimed credit on behalf of his organization for the mid-October suicide attack near a mosque in southeastern Iran. “If we get [more] support,” he said in response to a question about Gulf donors, “you will see Baluchistan on fire,” he said, “like Syria and Afghanistan.”…

 

Meanwhile, as Tel Aviv University’s Ofra Bengio noted last month, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government now provides Iranian Kurdish opposition groups with a safe haven and the freedom to organize, train, and access Iran across its porous eastern border. Thanks to the KRG’s warm relations with the United States and Israel, the area may also have served as a connecting point for talks and cooperation between the two powers and Iran’s Kurds (or play such a role in the future).

 

As for Iran’s Azeri population, it is better-integrated into Tehran’s power structure than the other groups—Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is Azeri himself—and therefore less likely to form a serious separatist movement. But this has not stopped the neighboring government of Azerbaijan from hoping otherwise: A parliamentary resolution was introduced this year to rename the country “North Azerbaijan,” implying that a “South Azerbaijan” should be carved out of northern Iran. The government’s present relations with the United States and Israel have never been better and hostility toward Iran never greater. Aside from the interest in its own co-ethnics in Iran, Azerbaijan also sponsors nationalistic Arabic TV programming and beams it into Ahwaz.

 

The low-grade assaults this year perpetrated by ethnic minorities receive considerably less coverage than cyber-initiatives like Stuxnet and the assassination of nuclear scientists, but they nonetheless contribute to the bleeding of the regime. This regional proxy war, now escalating, is morally questionable: Should ethnic groups’ legitimate political aspirations be exploited for other purposes? Should attacks on civilian targets, such as mosques, ever be sanctioned? It is also strategically questionable: Will some of these dissidents go on to support a radical agenda and attack the West? Is the fragmenting of Iran into several states in the long-term interest of the region and the United States.? For all its tradeoffs, it belongs in both the public discussion and the quieter conversations about our next steps on Iran policy.

Top of Page

 

 

 

Did Israel and the U.S. Just Cooperate on a Dry-Run for an Iran Intervention?: Jonathan Schanzer, The New Republic, Nov. 2, 2012—If the U.S. indeed cooperated with Israel in the attack [on Sudan], then this might have been a dry run of an entirely different sort—one that would belie the very public disagreements between the two countries over intervention in Iran.

 

 

Victim Complex Redux: Iran's Fake Anger: Ali Alfoneh, The Commentator, Nov. 5, 2012 Should the US embassy ever reopen in Tehran, the visa application line would be longer than any “spontaneous” anti-American rally the regime is capable of organizing. Besides the hollowness of the revolutionary mythology, the "commemoration" should also serve as a sobering reminder to those believing in the normalisation of relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic.

 

Sanctions Have Crippled Iran’s Economy, But They’re Not Working: Christopher de Bellaigue, The New Republic, November 12, 2012—The assumption is that the more Iranians suffer, the more their leaders will feel the pressure and either change course or be overthrown in a popular uprising. And yet, there is no evidence to suggest that this is probable, and the Iraqi case suggests the opposite.

 

Responding To Iran: It’s A Matter Of Trust: Amos Yadlin, The Globe and Mail, Nov.12, 2012 —Israel sees the threat posed by Iran, in part, through the prism of the Holocaust. The Iranian regime’s threats to wipe Israel off the map resonate of the propaganda expounded by the Nazi regime. The U.S. trauma, on the other hand, is the highly controversial and costly war in Iraq. Amid its drawn-out war in Afghanistan, the U.S. public and leadership are unlikely to stomach yet another war in a Muslim nation.

 

The Cyber War With Iran: Bill French, The National Interest, Nov. 7, 2012 —As the United States and Iran inch closer to confrontation over Tehran's nuclear program, a little-asked question lurks in the background: are the two countries already at war? In late September, massive denial-of-service attacks targeted five American banking institutions. Soon after, Senator Lieberman attributed responsibility to Iran…

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org