ISRAEL RESPONDS TO THREATS FROM HEZBOLLAH-SYRIA-IRAN AXIS Posted on March 27, 2017 Are Israeli Raids on Syrian Targets Legal?: Prof. Louis René Beres, BESA, Mar. 23, 2017— Syria, a country in the midst of chaos, has launched multiple aggressions against neighboring Israel. Warning, War Clouds on the Horizon!: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Mar. 24, 2017— Academic research has explored in depth the factors leading to the wars that broke out between nations in previous centuries… World Shrugs as Hizballah Prepares Massive Civilian Deaths: Noah Beck, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 23, 2017— Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently warned Israel that his Iran-backed terror group could attack targets producing mass Israeli casualties, including a huge ammonia storage tank in Haifa, and a nuclear reactor in Dimona. Trump’s Greatest Deal: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 23, 2017— What can be done about Iran? On Topic Links US Investment in – Not Foreign Aid to – Israel: Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, Spring, 2016 Israel Explains Arrow Intercept of Syrian SAM: Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, Mar. 20, 2017 In-House Hizballah Missile Factories Could Add to Massive Arms Buildup: Yaakov Lappin, IPT, Mar. 17, 2017 Lebanon’s Army and Hizbullah Join Ranks: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Mar. 2, 2017 ARE ISRAELI RAIDS ON SYRIAN TARGETS LEGAL? Prof. Louis René Beres BESA, Mar. 23, 2017 Syria, a country in the midst of chaos, has launched multiple aggressions against neighboring Israel. In recent years, most of these assaults have assumed the form of heavy weapons transfers to Hezbollah, a Shiite terror group with not only genocidal views about the Jewish State but also correspondingly destructive military capacities. Moreover, the de facto army of Hezbollah – a fanatical adversary sponsored by non-Arab Iran – has become even more threatening to Israel than the regular armies of its traditional Arab state enemies. These are not just operational or strategic matters. From the standpoint of international law, Israel has an unassailable right to launch appropriate measures of self-defense against Syria. Accordingly, the Israel Air Force has been conducting selective strikes against relevant targets inside Bashar al-Assad's fractured country. Significantly, almost exactly one year ago, in April 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed for the first time that Israel had been attacking convoys transporting advanced weapons within Syria bound for Hezbollah. Among other substantial ordnance, these weapons included SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, Russian arms that could enable Hezbollah to shoot down Israeli civilian aircraft, military jets and helicopters, and drones. (It is plausible that at least some of the latest Israeli-targeted weapons are of North Korean origin. Until Israel's preemptive September 6, 2007 "Operation Orchard," an expression of "anticipatory self-defense" under international law, Syria had been actively working towards a nuclear weapons capacity with North Korean assistance and direction.) Certain noteworthy operational ironies ought to be referenced here. For one, Israel's regular need to act against Hezbollah could inadvertently enlarge the power of ISIS and/or other Sunni militias now operating against Israel in the region. For another, because the Trump administration in Washington remains reluctant to criticize Russian war crimes in Syria (or anywhere else, for that matter), Jerusalem now has less reason to seek security assurances from the US. But our concern here is law, not strategy or tactics. As a purely jurisprudential matter, Israel's measured and discriminate use of force against Hezbollah terrorists and associated targets in Syria has been conspicuously consistent with legal rules concerning distinction, proportionality, and military necessity. Although both Tehran and Damascus sanctimoniously identify Israel's defensive actions as "aggression," these actions are supported, inter alia, by Article 51 of the UN Charter. Under law, Israel, in the fashion of every other state on the planet, has a primary and incontestable prerogative to remain alive. Legally, there is nothing complicated about the issues surrounding Israel's counter-terrorist raids within Syria. By willfully allowing its territory to be used as a source of Hezbollah terrorist weapons against Israel, and as an expanding base for anti-Israel terrorist operations in general, Assad has placed Syria in unambiguous violation of both the UN Charter and the wider body of international rules identified in Article 38 of the UN's Statute of the International Court of Justice. There is more. Because Syria, entirely at its own insistence, maintains a formal condition of belligerency with Israel (that is, a legal "state of war"), no charge levied by Damascus or Tehran of "Israeli aggression" makes jurisprudential sense. More practically, of course, Syria has become a failed state. In some respects, at least, with the Assad regime in full control of only limited portions of Damascus, Aleppo, and the Syrian Mediterranean coast, it makes little legal sense to speak of "Syrian responsibility" or "Syrian violations." Nonetheless, even amid the collapse of traditional boundaries between states, the Syrian president must bear full responsibility for blatantly illegal arms transfers to a surrogate Shiite militia. For Israel, the principal legal issues here are easy to affirm. Express prohibitions against pro-terrorist behavior by any state can be found in Articles 3(f) and 3(g) of the 1974 UN General Assembly Definition of Aggression. These prohibitions are part of customary international law, and of what are identified in Article 38 of the ICJ Statute as “the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations.” Following the 1977 Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, insurgent organizations are expected to comply with humanitarian international law, sometimes called the law of armed conflict. Additionally, any documented failure to comply, such as resort to "human shields" (a common practice with Hezbollah) would be known in formal law as "perfidy." Under international law, every use of force by states must be judged twice: once with regard to the justness of the cause, and once with regard to the justness of the means. This second standard concerns core issues of humanitarian international law. Specifically, even when it can be determined that a particular state maintains a basic right to apply force against another state, this does not automatically imply that any such use would comply with the law of war. In defending itself against Hezbollah terror, Israel’s actions have always been consistent with humanitarian international law. In stark contrast to the Shiite terrorist militias operating in Lebanon and southern Syria, and similarly unlike the Syrian-supported Islamic Jihad Sunni forces, who intentionally target noncombatants, Israel has been meticulous about striking exclusively hard military targets in raids on Syria. Unlike Syria, which even in its currently attenuated form opposes any peaceful settlement with Israel, Jerusalem resorts to defensive force only as a last resort. As for Syrian charges that Israel’s actions somehow raise the risk of “escalation,” this alleged risk would disappear entirely if Damascus and Tehran ceased their lawless support of Hezbollah and other criminal organizations. In this connection, it should be recalled, terrorism is always a codified crime under binding international law. It is never considered a permissible form of national liberation or self-determination… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents WARNING, WAR CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON! Dr. Mordechai Kedar Arutz Sheva, Mar. 24, 2017 Academic research has explored in depth the factors leading to the wars that broke out between nations in previous centuries, both in order to understand why wars take place and to develop ways of predicting nascent wars by "connecting the dots" between the signs signalling an approaching conflagration. Since the signals are clearly directly connected to the relations between the countries involved in a war, the literature points out the connection between internal problems affecting a state and the desire of its leaders to initiate a war with other countries. The literature also lists war-delaying factors, foremost of which is the high price of military and civilian fatalities and the damage to the country's infrastructure. Syria is no exception to the rule in terms of academic theory, since the reasons the regime was pressured into past wars were always a mixture of internal and external factors. The external cause for the ongoing state of war with Israel was the very fact of Israel's existence, never recognized by the Syrian regime. The encouragement to attack Israel came from the USSR while Israel was supported by the West. Add to that the desire to be granted a position of power in pan-Arab leadership and the need to erase the humiliating Syrian defeats in 1948, 1967, 1973 and 1982 at the hands of the Zionists. Syrian media have always played a part in the country's war effort, adding the battle for the army's morale and that of the general population to the one waged with conventional weaponry, so that the people remain willing to suffer the sights of war and continue fighting despite injuries suffered by soldiers and citizens. Syria's media are controlled by the regime, which gives them the messages they are expected to deliver to the public. This fact allows the researcher to know what the feelings of the groups leading the country are at any given time. The factors that prevented war from breaking out in the past were mainly the damage to the army and the country's infrastructure, but also the possibility that another defeat by Israel would bring more humiliation to the regime. Today, when social networks allow everyone to express his opinion freely, Syria's leadership knows that the battle for the hearts of the population will not be won through the Syrian media, because every Arab – in Syria and outside of it – knows that its reliability is limited and that its journalists cannot express themselves freely. In the past, one of the main internal reasons that pushed the Assads, father and son, to declare war on Israel was their desire to create an external threat that would cause the Syrians – especially the opposition – to put their differences aside and join Assad's fight against the "Zionist enemy threatening all of us." Today, with Syria torn between the rebel regime and the areas still under ISIS control, it is far from certain that a war with Israel would bring the rebels and ISIS to stop attacking Assad, and definitely not to the point where instead of attacking Assad, they join him in a war against Israel, Despite the losses and damage sustained by the opposition to Assad since Russia entered the fray, and despite the fact that they too are light years away from recognizing Israel's right to exist, they will not desist from fighting Assad. In fact, over the last few days, the rebels have intensified their battle for Damascus because of their defeats in other arenas, mainly in Aleppo and Homs. A war between Assad and Israel might cause the rebels to take advantage of the regular army's preoccupation with fighting Israel to score some victories. After suffering close to half a million fatalities in six years of fighting, some of the rebels might even prefer that Israel finish off Assad, not for love of Israel but due to their hatred of the despotic dictator. In sum, a war with Israel will not weaken the desire of Assad's enemies to be rid of him. Once, the external reason for war to break out was pressure exerted by the USSR in its desire to defeat the USA and Europe on a Middle Eastern battlefield. Today, it is far from certain that Russia wants a war between Syria and Israel, partly because of the minor role the West plays in today's Middle Eastern politics and partly because Putin does not want to force Trump to have to show active and obvious support for Israel, Putin is aware that the US sent fighters – "boots on the ground" – to the war being waged against ISIS. He realizes that Obama's non-interventionist policies are over and he has no wish to find himself opposite the USA in a war between Syria and Israel in which he will be forced to support Syria and oppose Israel. How great Putin's fears of Israeli military technology are is not clear to me, but the downing of a Russian SA-5 missile last week by an Israeli "arrow" missile is enough to give the Russian army pause and raise doubts about the feasibility of war between Russian and Israeli weapons. It looks as though the Russian army, which found it very difficult to overcome the light weapons in the hands of the Syrian rebels, is not overjoyed at the thought of a direct confrontation with Israeli military technology. There is also an economic situation behind the scenes, the possibility that Israel will be marketing gas to Europe on a massive scale in the near future, causing Russia significant economic difficulty, as Europe may decide to do without Russian gas. To sum up the Russian issue, it does not seem to be in Russia's best interests to bring about a struggle between Syria and Israel, because that would only complicate Syria's internal problems even more and cause Russia's attempts to have the two sides reach some kind of agreement, to fail. Thursday, March 23, is when the two sides were to begin their fifth round of talks. There are other powers functioning in Syria. The list includes Iran, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias, as well as Afghans. They have their own interests, far removed from those of Russia and Assad. In my estimation, Iran and Hezbollah want to involve Israel in the war in Syria so as to show their people, that is, the Iranians and Lebanese, many of whom are against their country's involvement in Syria, that there is no choice, despite the high price in casualties and equipment, They could then claim that this is not only a war against the rebels and ISIS, it is a campaign against the "threatening Zionist entity." Iran wants to drag Syria into a war with Israel which would be in essence a war against Trump, whose mettle the Iranians would like to test, along with his loyalty to Israel and his hostility towards Iran. They expect Russia to join the war while the US remains outside it, so as to avoid getting embroiled in a regional war and in addition, to avoid a confrontation that would damage the relations between Trump and Putin. Hezbollah is also interested in a war with Israel in order to prove to its detractors in Lebanon and the Arab-Islamic world that its weapons, especially its rocket arsenal, are meant to fight Israel and not "our Syrian brothers." In order to prove to itself, its fighters and its Iranian supporters that despite the loss of manpower Hezbollah suffered in Syria, the army is as strong as ever and that the northern Shiite alliance that has coalesced from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, is continuing to advance towards Israel in order to surround Saudi Arabia with a southern Shiite flank in Yemen… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents WORLD SHRUGS AS HIZBALLAH PREPARES MASSIVE CIVILIAN DEATHS Noah Beck Breaking Israel News, Mar. 23, 2017 Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently warned Israel that his Iran-backed terror group could attack targets producing mass Israeli casualties, including a huge ammonia storage tank in Haifa, and a nuclear reactor in Dimona. Also last month, Tower Magazine reported that, since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Iran provided Hizballah with a vast supply of “game-changing,” state-of-the art weapons, despite Israel’s occasional airstrikes against weapons convoys. In a future conflict, Hizballah has the capacity to fire 1,500 rockets into Israel each day, overwhelming Israel’s missile defense systems. Should such a scenario materialize, Israel will be forced to respond with unprecedented firepower to defend its own civilians. Hizballah’s advanced weapons and the systems needed to launch them reportedly are embedded across a staggering 10,000 locations in the heart of more than 200 civilian towns and villages. The Israeli military has openly warned about this Hizballah war crime and the grave threats it poses to both sides, but that alarm generated almost no attention from the global media, the United Nations, or other international institutions. Like the terror group Hamas, Hizballah knows that civilian deaths at the hands of Israel are a strategic asset, because they produce diplomatic pressure to limit Israel’s military response. Hizballah reportedly went so far as offering reduced-price housing to Shiite families who allowed the terrorist group to store rocket launchers in their homes. But if the global media, the UN, human rights organizations, and other international institutions predictably pounce on Israel after it causes civilian casualties, why are they doing nothing to prevent them? Hizballah’s very presence in southern Lebanon is a flagrant violation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1701, which called for the area to be a zone “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons” other than the Lebanese military and the U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The resolution also required Hizballah to be disarmed, but the terror group today has an arsenal that rivals that of most armies. Hizballah possesses an estimated 140,000 missiles and rockets, and reportedly now can manufacture advanced weapons in underground factories that are impervious to aerial attack. “Israel must stress again and again, before it happens, that these villages [storing Hizballah weapons] have become military posts, and are therefore legitimate targets,” said Yoram Schweitzer, senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Meir Litvak, director of Tel Aviv University’s Alliance Center for Iranian Studies, agrees, adding that global attention would “expose Hizballah’s hypocrisy in its cynical use of civilians as… human shields.” Even a concerted campaign to showcase Hizballah’s war preparation is unlikely to change things, said Eyal Zisser, a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. Hizballah exploits the fact that “the international community is too busy and…weak to do something about it,” Zisser said. All of “these talks and reports have no meaning. See what is happening in Syria.” Israel has targeted Hizballah-bound weapons caches in Syria twice during the past week. Syria responded last Friday by firing a missile carrying 200 kilograms of explosives, which Israel successfully intercepted. If Hizballah provokes a war, Israel can legitimately attack civilian areas storing Hizballah arms if the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) first attempts to warn the targeted civilians to leave those areas, Litvak said. But “it will certainly be very difficult and will look bad on TV.”… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents TRUMP’S GREATEST DEAL Caroline B. Glick Jerusalem Post, Mar. 23, 2017 What can be done about Iran? In Israel, a dispute is reportedly raging between the IDF and the Mossad about the greatest threat facing Israel. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot thinks that Hezbollah is the greatest threat facing Israel. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen thinks Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest danger facing the Jewish state. While the media highlight the two men’s disagreement, the underlying truth about their concerns has been ignored. Hezbollah and Iran’s nuclear program are two aspects of the same threat: the regime in Tehran. Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of the regime. If the regime disappeared, Hezbollah would fall apart. As for the nuclear installations, in the hands of less fanatical leaders, they would represent a far less acute danger to global security. So if you undermine the Iranian regime, you defeat Hezbollah and defuse the nuclear threat. If you fail to deal with the regime in Tehran, both threats will continue to grow no matter what you do, until they become all but insurmountable. So what can be done about Tehran? With each passing day we discover new ways Iran endangers Israel and the rest of the region. This week we learned Iran has built underground weapons factories in Lebanon. The facilities are reportedly capable of building missiles, drones, small arms and ammunition. Their underground location protects them from aerial bombardment. Then there is Hezbollah’s relationship to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). For more than a decade, the Americans have been selling themselves the implausible claim that the LAF is a responsible fighting force capable and willing to rein in Hezbollah. Never an easy claim – the LAF provided targeting information to Hezbollah missile crews attacking Israel in 2006 – after Hezbollah domesticated the Lebanese government in 2008, the claim became downright silly. And yet, over the past decade, the US has provided the LAF with weapons worth in excess of $1 billion. In 2016 alone the US gave the LAF jets, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and missiles worth more than $220 million. In recent months, showing that Iran no longer feels the need to hide its control over Lebanon, the LAF has openly stated that it is working hand in glove with Hezbollah. Last November, Hezbollah showcased US M113 armored personnel carriers with roof-mounted Russian anti-aircraft guns, at a military parade in Syria. The next month the Americans gave the LAF a Hellfire missile-equipped Cessna aircraft with day and night targeting systems. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun is a Hezbollah ally. So is Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and LAF commander Gen. Joseph Aoun. Last month President Aoun told Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, that Hezbollah serves “a complementary role to the Lebanese army.” And yet the Americans insist that it continues to make sense – and to be lawful – to arm the LAF. You can hardly blame them. Denial is an attractive option, given the alternatives. For the past eight years, the Obama administration did everything in its power to empower Iran. To make Iran happy, Obama did nothing as hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed and millions more were forced to flee their homes by Iran and its puppet Bashar Assad. Obama allowed Iran to take over the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military. He sat back as Iran’s Houthi proxy overthrew the pro-US regime in Yemen. And of course, the crowning achievement of Obama’s foreign policy was his nuclear deal with the mullahs. Obama’s deal gives Iran an open path to a nuclear arsenal in a bit more than a decade and enriches the regime beyond Ayatollah Khamenei’s wildest dreams… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents On Topic Links US Investment in – Not Foreign Aid to – Israel: Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, Spring, 2016—At the "Strategic Challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean" conference, Prof. Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University gives an account of the "miracles" which saved Assad's regime and turned him into the "Liberator" of Aleppo: Obama's decision not to strike, the Russian intervention, and now (perhaps) the ascension of President Trump. He suggests three possible outcomes to the civil war in Syria: a Spanish outcome (total victory for one side), an Afghan one (continued insurgency in the periphery), and a Libyan result (chaos and disintegration). Israel Explains Arrow Intercept of Syrian SAM: Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, Mar. 20, 2017—A senior Israeli Air Force officer on Monday provided operational context to the unusual March 17 Arrow intercept of a Syrian SA-5 surface-to-air missile, which the jointly developed U.S.-Israel anti-ballistic missile system was not designed to fight. In-House Hizballah Missile Factories Could Add to Massive Arms Buildup: Yaakov Lappin, IPT, Mar. 17, 2017—A recent report saying that Iran constructed underground missile factories in Lebanon for Hizballah would, if accurate, indicate a disturbing boost in the Shi'ite terror organization's ability to self-produce weapons. Lebanon’s Army and Hizbullah Join Ranks: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Mar. 2, 2017—Hizbullah has completed the process of usurping the Lebanese state and its institutions. The election of Michel Aoun as president, through a forced arrangement with Hizbullah, has fulfilled the Iranian vision of controlling Lebanon without changing the power equation that has prevailed there since the National Pact of 1943.