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Posts Tagged ‘arms’

Iran, Syria and Sanctions-Busting Fakery

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Inevitably, Iran and Syria are gaming international maritime communications.  Both nations are under sanctions.  Both appear to be faking registry in Tanzania.  And Iran is transmitting false signals to hide the operations of Syrian cargo ships.

The fakery by the two countries’ merchant fleets has Tanzania in common –apparently as a victim – but it also has Libya.  Twenty years of peace dividends for the West, combined with the Arab Spring of 2011, have changed the security picture on Africa’s perimeter, and the direction in some segments of it is backward, to an age of little surveillance and expanding lawlessness.  Libya’s coast is one such segment.  Even if the surveillance forces of NATO are watching in the central Mediterranean, it’s not clear that the focus is there to ensure useful intelligence collection, or that there’s an organized will to do much about tankers or cargo vessels that head, on the sly, into and out of Libya.

And so, this fall, Iranian ships have been transmitting fake signals that make it appear as if they are operating in both the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, to cover the tracks of Syrian ships going back and forth between Syria and Libya.  In a tracking system, this looks like an error of some kind.  The ship in the Mediterranean is actually the Syrian ship, but in global tracking systems, there is no record of the Syrian ship making the voyage.

Meanwhile, actual Iranian tankers are shutting off their automated reporting systems as they approach Libya, and leaving them off until they have departed Libyan ports.  Peripheral evidence of this has been noted by journalists like Claudia Rosett (I wrote about it here), but the analysis reported by Reuters on 7 December provides the first specific confirmation that Iranian ships are shutting their Automated Information Systems (AIS) off to avoid being tracked into and out of Libyan ports.

The likelihood that arms have been shipped from Libya to Syria by this method is high enough to be considered a certainty – and, of course, the arms would have gone to Bashar al-Assad.  He is Iran’s protégé, and Iranian solicitude for Syrian shipping is devoted to bolstering his chances.  The irony here is obvious, as there have also been plenty of reports of arms shipments from Libya to the Syrian rebels, some of which may have been facilitated by the US mission in Benghazi.  The possibility that arms for Libya also got packed off to Assad himself cannot be discounted.

Beyond the arms route to Syria, however, the behavior of the Iranian ships is worth highlighting.  As discussed in October, several Iranian ships have made a habit for some months now of lingering off Libya’s coast.  (My own searches on ship-tracking websites show that they have been there since at least April 2012, and probably longer.)  The ships’ tracks don’t show visits to Libyan ports, but as the Reuters report indicates, the ships are making such visits.  They simply aren’t letting the visits be recorded via their AIS.

Given the arms-intensive nature of the cargo flow through Benghazi, in particular, we should keep in mind that there’s more than one way to deliver arms – and more than one customer to deliver them to.  Coastal freighters, yachts, and other small ships do cargo business at sea with larger ships the world over.  Egypt, Libya, and Algeria have long coastlines and poorly funded maritime security forces.  A ship could prowl one of their coasts for a long time, loading and offloading small cargo at sea.

This kind of primitive, under-the-radar method might not be the most effective way to arm Assad, but Iran has other clients, and Hezbollah is the one that would most obviously benefit from operating this way.  When the Israelis get wind of a big shipment to Lebanon, they interdict it.  But, operating with a very low profile, Hezbollah could get cargo piecemeal into Beirut.

The Mediterranean is not constantly patrolled by NATO anymore.  Even if it were, the will to lock it down may not be there.  Sanctions on Saddam’s Iraq gave the world a good example of how these things go when the Western nations don’t perceive an immediate threat to themselves.  Sanctions are put in place, and there is some effort made to enforce them, but little is done about the ingenious methods of sanctions evasion that promptly spring up.

U.S. Senators Urge Morsi to Halt Gaza Arms Smuggling

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

A bipartisan slate of U.S. senators urged Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to crack down on arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip.

“In order for the cease-fire to hold, it is imperative that your government bolster its efforts to halt all weapons smuggling taking place via both overland and underground routes,” said the letter, which was initiated by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and signed by another 16 senators.

In the letter, sent Tuesday, the senators said they were “encouraged” by the “constructive role” Morsi played in brokering a cease-fire to the most recent Hamas-Israel conflict in the Gaza Strip.

“This is all the more important in light of the potential easing of restrictions on the movement of people and goods through Gaza border crossings as a condition of the cease-fire you helped to broker,” they said. “Preventing Hamas from re-arming is just one step in helping to prevent violence from erupting again.”

Gaza is Not the Key, Philadelphi Is

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

The Second Hamas-Israel War of Nov. 10-21 inspired a mighty debate over rights and wrongs, with each side appealing to the large undecided bloc (19 percent of Americans according to CNN/ORC, 38 percent according to Rasmussen). Is Israel a criminal state that has no right to exist, much less to deploy force? Or is it a modern liberal democracy with the rule of law that justifiably protects innocent civilians? Moralitydrives this debate.

To any sentient person, it is obvious that Israelis are 100-percent justified to protect themselves from wanton attacks. A cartoon from the First Hamas-Israel War of 2008-09 symbolically showed a Palestinian terrorist shooting from behind a baby carriage at an Israeli soldier in front of a baby carriage.

The clearest difference between the two sides.

The tougher question is how to prevent further Hamas-Israel wars. Some background: If Israelis are 100-percent justified protecting themselves, their government also bears complete responsibility for creating this self-inflicted crisis. Specifically, it made two misguided unilateral withdrawals in 2005:

From Gaza: Ariel Sharon won reelection as prime minister in Jan. 2003 in part by mocking a rivalwho called for the unilateral withdrawal of all Israeli residents and soldiers from Gaza; then,inexplicably, in Nov. 2003 he adopted this same policy and put it into effect in Aug. 2005. I dubbed this at that time, “one of the worst errors ever made by a democracy.”

From the Philadelphi Corridor: Under U.S. pressure, especially from U.S. Secretary of StateCondoleezza Rice, Sharon signed an agreement in Sep. 2005, called “Agreed Arrangements,” that withdrew Israeli forces from the Philadelphi Corridor, a 14-km long and 100-meter wide area between Gaza and Egypt. The hapless “European Union Border Assistance Mission at the Rafah Crossing Point” (EUBAM Rafah) took their place.

The Philadelphi Corridor as it existed until November 2005.

Trouble was, the Egyptian authorities had promised in their 1979 peace treaty with Israel (III:2) to prevent “acts or threats of belligerency, hostility, or violence” but in fact permitted massive smuggling of armaments to Gaza via tunnels. According to Doron Almog, a former head of Israel’s Southern Command writing in early 2004, “smuggling has a strategic dimension” because it involves sufficient quantities of arms and materiel “to turn Gaza into launching pad for ever-deeper attacks against Israel proper.”

Almog considered these policies “a dangerous gamble” by the Mubarak regime and a “profound strategic danger” that could “endanger the Israeli-Egyptian peace accord and threaten the stability of the whole region.” He attributed the lax Egyptian attitude to a mix of anti-Zionist views among officialdom and a readiness to vent the Egyptian public’s anti-Zionist sentiments.

Sharon arrogantly signed the “Agreed Arrangements,” contrary to the strong opposition of Israel’s security establishment. Of course, by removing this layer of Israeli protection, an “exponential increase” in the Gaza arsenal predictably followed, culminating in the Fajr-5 missiles that reached Tel Aviv this month.

To permit Israeli soldiers effectively to prevent armaments from reaching Gaza, David Eshel of Defense Update argued in 2009 for the IDF taking back the Philadelphi Corridor and increasing its size to “a fully sterile security line of about 1,000 meters,” even though this would mean having to relocate about 50,000 Gaza residents. Interestingly, the Palestinian Authority’s Ahmed Qurei privately endorsed similar steps in 2008.

In contrast, Michael Herzog, formerly a high-ranking official in Israel’s defense ministry, tells me it is too late for Israel to take back the Philadelphi Corridor; that international pressure on Egypt to stop the flow of arms to Gaza is the solution. Likewise, former ambassador Dore Gold backs joint U.S.-Israel “arrangements” to keep out new weaponry. Almog goes further: noting deep Iranian involvement in Gaza, he advocates making the Philadelphi Corridor into a no-man’s-land by widening it to about 10 km. Ideally, he writes me, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will build this anti-smuggling obstacle and the American military will have a continued role policing the border. Second best, Israelis do this alone. (The still-operational Gaza-Jericho Agreement of May 1994 establishes a “Military Installation Area” under Israel’s full control – in effect, the Philadelphi Corridor – that provides Jerusalem with the legal basis to take back this crucial border.)

I am skeptical about an effective American role, whether military or diplomatic; Israelis alone have the incentive to close down the arms transfers. Western governments should signal Hamas that they will encourage Jerusalem to respond to the next missile attack by retaking and enlarging the Philadelphi Corridor, thereby preventing further aggression, humanitarian tragedy, and political crises.

This article originally published at DanielPipes.org and National Review Online on November 27, 2012.

No Dancing With Wolves

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

At times, complicated issues are most clearly understood in simple terms. Speaking before the Knesset in 2006, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who at the time was the opposition leader) captured, in two brief sentences, that which lies at the heart of the ongoing, centuries-old Arab-Israeli conflict: “The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms, there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms, there would be no more war.”

Indeed, how does one peacefully coexist with those whose singular obsession is that one should not exist at all? Can people who simply wish to live in peace do so while surrounded by those who view them as, in the words of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “a cancerous tumor” – “the most detested people in all humanity” whose very nation must be “wiped out from the map”?

But according to the burgeoning worldwide Islamic caliphate, it’s not just Israel, the “Little Satan,” that must face inhalation. So too must America, the “Big Satan,” be destroyed: “And God willing, with the force of God behind it,” Ahmadinejad once promised, “we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism.”

A nuclear-armed Iran is perhaps months away. It is folly most grave to believe that this Islamic regime – a regime that holds there can be no greater honor than to destroy both Israel and America via nuclear suicide bombings – won’t deploy such weaponry at the earliest possible opportunity.

Yet today’s anti-Semitic axis-of-the-willfully-blind – the liberal intelligentsia, rank-and-file “progressives” and that elusive creature; the “moderate Muslim” – inexplicably, if not unwittingly, rally behind the principal Islamic cause: Death to the infidels (Koran 9.5).

“Free occupied Palestine!” they drone, while either disregarding the long history of deadly Arab aggression in the region or laboring under obtuse ignorance of it.

By “occupied Palestine,” of course, Arabs and Arab sympathizers reference lands won by Israel in its defensive 1967 Six-Day War when it devastated the armies of neighboring Syria, Jordan and Egypt as those warring nations characteristically made ready to “wipe Israel from the map.”

By seizing the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank of the Jordan River, Israel had gained a defensive stronghold crucial to its very survival. Still, many of these territories remained very much occupied – and do to this day – by thousands of Arabs who now fall under Israeli governance.

Therein lies the struggle.

So in truth, Israel no more occupies this fictional “Palestine” than do Californians “occupy” Sacramento.

Yet imagine the Mexican government launching dozens of rockets each day, for years, into Los Angeles neighborhoods, intentionally targeting innocent American citizens.

Or visualize a Mexican suicide bomber with full government authority strolling into a crowded Toys “R” Us in suburban Bakersfield, ripping himself and dozens of women and children to shreds.

Picture a quiet, unassuming woman cleverly disguised as an expectant mother boarding a San Francisco trolley and blowing it up along with scores of innocent passengers.

Do you not think the international community would forcefully condemn such horrific acts of terror? Do you not think America would respond with that level of force necessary to eliminate the threat? Would it not have an absolute right – indeed an absolute duty to do so?

Of course it would.

Yet despite the recent fragile cease-fire that Hamas violated within hours, this is exactly what Israelis face each day. This is their reality.

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority – with Iran’s full economic and military backing – have been attacking innocent Israeli citizens in this very fashion for years, recently ramping up such attacks.

The only wonder is that Israel has shown such remarkable restraint in its response.

“Iran has turned Gaza into an outpost of their nation,” Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. recently told a group of Christian leaders in a special briefing convened by Liberty Counsel. “More than 5.5 million of our citizens are now under threat of missile attack, and over 1,300 missiles have been fired at us since we took action against Hamas.”

No reasonable, peace-loving person should have any sympathy whatsoever for the Iranian government, Hamas or the Palestinian Authority – all guilty of serial war crimes – even as we all mourn the tragic loss of innocent Arab lives in Gaza and anywhere else it occurs. So do the Israeli people. So does the Israeli government.

Attacks on Israel and One on an Arms Factory in Sudan

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

While Americans pondered the implications of a presidential strategy involving “Big Bird, Binders, and Bayonets” over the last day and a half, things have been heating up in the Levant.

Hamas launched 68 rockets at Israel in the space of 12 hours, from the evening of 23 October to the early morning of the 24th – a sustained level of fire more consonant with a tactical offensive than with the more typical Hamas campaign of occasional “pinprick” attacks.  Most of the rockets were short-range projectiles, not susceptible to intercept by Iron Dome.  But Iron Dome intercepted 7 longer-range rockets.  Two foreign agricultural workers reportedly sustained serious injuries, and a handful of others received lighter injuries.  There was damage to some buildings.

Israeli forces took out two of the Hamas teams firing rockets from Gaza, and attacked tunnels through which weapons are smuggled.

In the early dawn of 24 October, meanwhile, an arms factory in Sudan was attacked.  The arms factory is located in the Yarmouk Industrial Complex approximately 6 miles south of central Khartoum (see map below).  Video of the exploding building makes it clear that it was an arms factory, with an extended series of powerful secondary explosions characteristic of ammunition dumps. (H/t: Challahu Akbar)  A Sudanese official claims that four Israeli aircraft conducted a strike on the factory.

Site of Yarmouk Industrial Complex south of Khartoum; Wikimapia map.

Media reporting has suggested for more than a decade that Iran set up an arms factory in Sudan in the 1990s.  (U.S. intelligence suspected a Sudanese factory of producing weaponizable chemical agents in the ‘90s, and the Sudanese government of complicity in supplying al Qaeda.  This led to a Tomahawk missile attack on the factory by Bill Clinton after the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.  Iran was not implicated by U.S. intelligence in this installation.)  Tehran is Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s chief foreign patron – well suited to his penchant for atrocities against his non-Muslim population – and of course is also the main supplier of arms to Hamas and Hezbollah.

Members of the Sudanese opposition have told reporters the arms factory that was hit was Iranian-sponsored.  This is very probable, and it is equally probable that the attack was, in fact, conducted by the IAF.  Sudan to Egypt to Gaza is a known arms route, and during Operation Cast Lead in 2009, when Israeli forces were going after Hamas in the wake of more than 4400 rocket attacks from Gaza up through December 2008, two arms convoys intended for Hamas were attacked on the roads through northern Sudan. Another convoy for Hamas was reportedly attacked in Sudan in December of 2011.  (A peculiar report from early 2009 also suggested that a ship – possibly carrying arms – had been sunk in or near a Sudanese port.  While fun to analyze, the report could not be considered definitive.)

Cutting off the flow of Iranian arms to Hamas is clearly a national security interest for Israel.  The 24 October attack may or may not have been launched “because of” the rocket barrage from Hamas; it was certainly planned much earlier, but was probably executable on short notice, pending the weather conditions.  Perhaps a more reliable construction to put on the Yarmouk attack, however, is that Israel sees a need to accomplish something more definitive than interdicting convoys.  The time has come to administer a setback from which Hamas – and Iran – can’t recover quickly.

Another consideration for Israel may be that the window for unopposed action in Sudan might close in the not-too-distant future.  Getting strike-fighters into Sudan means routing them over the Red Sea and keeping an airborne tanker aloft there, with its own fighter protection.  Saudi Arabia and Jordan have the means to know the IAF aircraft are there, but they aren’t likely to interfere with Israeli attacks on Iranian arms facilities or arms bound for Hamas.

Potential path of an IAF strike package to Sudan; GraphicMaps.com map.

Egypt, however, also has the means to know the IAF aircraft are operating – and Egypt’s posture could well be changing.  Mohammed Morsi is not a naïve target for an Iranian charm offensive, but for his own reasons – Islamist ideology and his designs on Jerusalem – he will reach the point at which he will not be willing to stand by quietly for Israeli operations in Sudan.

Spin the Chicken

Friday, September 21st, 2012

A young Jewish man waves a female chicken over his wife’s head in the neighborhood of Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, as part of the Kaparot ritual. The rite is supposed to transfer her sins from last year onto the innocent bird, and the sinful chicken is then given to the poor.

But, wait a minute, if the poor will eat the soup that was made from the sinful chicken, wouldn’t he or she reacquire the man’s wife’s sins?

Our Friend rabbi Josh Yuter from the Stanton Street Shul has tweeted recently that we should combine the two minhagim of Tashlich and Kaparot and throw live chickens into the ocean.

It should make a splash…

One of the few times I did Kaparot was under the Delancey Street bridge, back in the early 1980s. There was a kosher chicken market there for the holidays, and it smelled, well, fowl. The bird felt warm and frightened in my arms, and it endured silently the spinning and the verses I was saying, which, had he understood English should have alerted him to what came next…

I know he would have much preferred a swim in the ocean…

A Mother’s Prayer

Friday, September 7th, 2012

You brightened my life when you entered my world
My child, my treasure, my glittering pearl.
I held you and rocked you, safe in my arms
Dreaming I’d keep you safe from all harm.

I watched you and tended your needs day and night
Never letting you out of my sight,
You grew and you played, alive and carefree
Embracing each miracle your eyes did see.

Laughing and loving, you crawled, stood, and walked
Stringing words into sentences, you learned how to talk,
My child forever, our bond is so close
Yet somehow that chest of memoirs has been closed.

Now autumn leaves of crimson and gold
Whisper a story as yet untold,
It is time for you to leave my cocoon
To learn to sing a different tune.

I see your eyes shining, mirroring high hopes
Your first day of school, of climbing new slopes,
Crisply dressed, you wait near the door
I feel a prayer flutter- what lies in store?
Will the teacher be gentle, nurturing and kind?
Will s\he listen when something weighs on your mind?
Will the teacher help you create and expand?
Or will s\he be harsh and insist on demands?

Will your spirit be prodded to grow and climb higher?
Will your heart swell and feel inspired?
And the children, your peers, will they be warm and inviting?
Will they use manners sadistic and biting?
Will your smile grow wide in a circle of friends?
Or will your heart shatter, its fabric rent?

A flower needs sunlight and warmth to grow
Not winter winds to cast it down low,
And you, my child, how will you act?
Will you always speak with kindness and tact?
Do you know that with each day’s gift comes a test
And Hashem wants to see that you do your best?

Will you remember the lessons I taught you at home?
The lessons I taught you as you have grown?
Will you respect a teacher if you disagree?
Obey if your heart calls out differently?
Will you lend a hand to someone in need?
No matter the person’s background or creed?
When someone insults you, makes you feel down
Will you judge them with favor and not rebound?
Will you have the strength to leave the crowd
If they want to do something that’s not allowed?
If you do poorly on one of your tests
Will you try again with courage and zest?

As you stand, my child, and wait near my door
My heart is aflutter, what lies in store?
I wish you a year filled with success
A year where your every effort is blessed
I wish you moments and days filled with light
Brimming with joy and sunshine so bright.

May your mind learn Torah and follow its ways
May your lips whisper prayers as you walk through your days
May your hands reach out to others in need
Helping them with warm words or by deed
May you know your talents so you can achieve
Spread your wings and fly – believe!

As part of my heart cries, “Please don’t go”
The other rejoices to see you grow
Remember I’m here for you as I was then
To listen, to soothe again and again
I will wait for you when you get home
I am your mother- you are never alone.

May Hashem be your guide as you journey forward
Wide-eyed with wonder, sailing new waters.
My heart throbs in prayer with words unspoken
Hoping that you’ll be molded, not broken.
My lips graze your cheek on this, your first day
I watch you leave and continue to pray.
I will wait near the door, my precious child
Feeling some tears, yet also a smile,
Hoping and dreaming as you live and learn
May Hashem bless you, for that my heart yearns.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/back-to-school/a-mothers-prayer/2012/09/07/

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