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July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Bashar al-Assad’

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be ‘Re-elected’ on Tuesday

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is going to be “re-elected” in the upcoming presidential polls scheduled for Tuesday.

Obviously, Assad will win his third seven-year term at the end of the day – if anyone other than his friends even show up to slip the ballots into the box. It would be lethal to do so.

A few “opponents” will stand as candidates to give the appearance that the elections are actually a process rather than the farce the process really is.

One of those willing to cooperate is Hassan al-Nouri, a U.S.-educated businessman who once served as minister of administrative development. Age 54, he is the first of two people ever to run against the Syrian leader – even in a rigged election. His fellow ‘opponent,’ Maher Hajjar, is a legislator from Aleppo.

The fee for Nouri’s cooperation was massive publicity. His face has been plastered all over the country on billboards from one end of Syria to the other. A savvy businessman, Nouri understands that the price of doing business is keeping your name in the news. He is a wealthy man, but more money is always welcome, and Nouri until now has been known mostly to the Damascus-area market.

Neither are really opponents, of course. Nouri even admitted as much to The Washington Post. “I’m not opposition, a hundred percent. But I’m not part of the regime,” he said. “I’m leading the third party.” Western leaders and analysts have dismissed this and the entire election as a charade.

But more to the point, Nouri expressed a view repeatedly stated by the Assad government, more succinctly and in terms a democratic audience can more easily understand: “Millions of Syrians are the silent majority. They don’t give a damn who is the president. They want food on the table, they want peace, they want security.”

The question is, what happens the day after tomorrow?

FBI ‘Wanted’ Hezbollah Commander Killed in Syria

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

A guerrilla commander in the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization, an Iranian proxy group, was killed Monday in Syria fighting rebels for President Bashar al-Assad.

The death of Fawzi Ayoub in the southern Syrian town of Nawa, located in the province of Dera’a, was confirmed by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Ayoub is listed on the FBI’s “most wanted” list for attempting to carry out a bombing attack in Israel. A veteran of the Jewish State’s prison system, Ayoub spent four years in jail (2000-2004) before he was freed as part of an early-release deal for a prisoner swap, sources told the Al Arabiya website Tuesday.

Although he was a resident of the southern Lebanese village of Ein Qa’ana, Ayoub also held Canadian citizenship and lived in the United States as well.

Israel Prepares for Terrorists on Golan Border

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

With a farcical “election” scheduled in Syria for June 3, Israel’s defense establishment will have to decide how to respond to Syria’s ongoing refusal to dismantle the country’s chemical and biological weapons arsenal. 

Bashar al-Assad has moved slowly to remove the chemical weapons in his possession, despite an agreement late last year to do so by June 30 of this year. Some observers have said this indicates the Syrian leader’s plan to retain a large parts of the non-conventional arsenal for use “some time in future.”

For Israel, “some time in future” could be sooner rather than later.  While there are growing signs that Assad has gained the upper hand in Syria’s civil war and is now in the process of re-solidifying his rule over most of the country, there is at least one area of the country that is largely held by radical Islamic rebel forces, including al-Qaeda:  The Golan Heights.

On the whole, the Heights have remained Israel’s quietist border since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. After suffering heavy losses during the initial round of fighting, IDF tank and infantry  battalions annihilated Syrian troops in what became a stinging loss for the regime of Hafez al-Assad, father of the current leader. 

As a result, Damascus has taken care to prevent cross-border incidents into Israel for fear of Israeli retribution.

But with the possibility of an al-Qaeda and Salafi presence on the Golan border, Israel will once again need to consider the possibility not only that the north-eastern border could soon become a theatre of operations, but also that Assad could use his  non-conventional arsenal against rebel forces camped on the Israeli border. Those attacks would likely not be aimed at Israel, but the poison would likely affect Israeli border towns just a few kilometres from Syrian towns like Kunetra.

According to Ben Caspit, a veteran Israeli defense correspondent, the IDF recently pulled the 36th Armored Division off the Heights and replaced the force with a division that specializes in what is known in Israel as “low-intensity security operations.” Caspit also  said the situation in Syria could create a difficult dilemma for IDF officers.

“If the insurgents do end up taking the Golan Heights,” Caspit wrote on the al-Monitor website, “Israel will have to decide how to respond to acts of provocation. For example, in the event that Assad loses his grip on the Golan Heights and Israel receives intel about a terrorist attack or a plan to unleash fire against Israel or Israeli locations from the Golan Heights, will Israel find it appropriate to operate there militarily? 

“These are the weighty issues with which Israel’s defense and political establishments are presently contending. In the end, as always, what happens on the ground will also determine the reaction,” Caspit wrote.

US Cancels Drone Contract With Turkey

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Everyone can try to pretend that relations between Israel and Turkey, and even between the United States and Turkey, are just as warm and fuzzy as they have been in the recent (recent for the U.S. is more recent than for Israel) past.

But once the U.S. starts packing up its toys and refusing to share (or sell) them with a former playmate – Turkey – there is no denying the rift.

The toys the U.S. will not be sharing with Turkey include 10 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as Predator drones.

The reason for the rupture?

Most reports point to the the Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan having disclosed to Iran the identities of 10 Iranians collecting information for the Mossad. But others see a deeper problem than one that just involves Israel. These theorists point to a more generalized problem of Turkey and Iran becoming closer collaborators, a dramatic about-turn given Turkey’s relentless campaign to unseat Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s primary puppet regime.

Yet another theory for the U.S. – Turkey rift – this one advanced by a Pakistani defense site – suggests that the drone contract cancellation was in response to Turkey’s rejection of bids from U.S. and other firms in favor of a Chinese defense firm for a $4 long-range air and missile defense system.  The Chinese firm which won that contract is sanctioned by the U.S.

Why is AIPAC Suddenly Part of the Syria Strike Push?

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

For weeks the political heavyweight, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, sat on the sidelines.  AIPAC refrained from taking a position on whether or not the United States should undertake a military strike against Syria.  Its silence continued, even following confirmation of Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.  Then, suddenly, without warning, AIPAC announced it would come out swinging with both fists. And now we know why.

It was not a big surprise to watchers of major pro-Israel organizations that AIPAC remained silent on the question of whether the U.S. should use its force against a Middle Eastern dictator who – at the moment – was not directly threatening Israel.

At least one good reason why many pro-Israel organizations were reluctant to wade into this thicket is the inevitability that the story will then become that oh-so-popular refrain: the Jews are forcing American boys to die for them. Call that the Big Blame Theory.  We’ll get back to it in a moment.

But after weeks of silence and nearly silent no-committals from the AIPAC behemoth, the word came several days ago that AIPAC had entered the hard-core lobbying front on behalf of President Obama’s “limited, tailored” strikes on Syria.

So what happened?

What happened is politics.  No, not the Jews pushing the U.S. to fight Israel’s battles.  This one was Team Obama calling in its own chits, and asking, nah, insisting that AIPAC wind-up its many operatives and get them to start pushing hard on their congressional contacts to throw in their yes vote for the Obama strikes.

At least, that’s what 23-plus year AIPAC veteran Steven J. Rosen wrote in the article, “Pushed on the Bandwagon,” appearing in the September 4th edition of the Middle East Quarterly.

Rosen’s article was long on specifics but short on sources.

Nevertheless, it is hard to believe he would write those specifics without having very sound reasons to believe them to be true.  Rosen wrote about AIPAC’s desperate effort to ensure that no one would blame “the Jews” for pushing the U.S. into a war with Iraq: AIPAC never openly endorsed the authorization; AIPAC organized a letter from 16 members of congress swearing that AIPAC did not take an official position on the war and never lobbied them on the war; former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned George W. Bush that attacking Iraq was a mistake.

Of course, none of those efforts to prove non-participation bore any fruit.  The Jews, by whatever name people chose to use – the Israel Lobby, the Jews, or the Neocons – were and still are blamed for pushing the U.S. into a massively unpopular war with Iraq. That’s the Big Blame Theory.

And so AIPAC was going to definitely, positively, absolutely stay out of this fight.  As with Iraq, Syria is not the threat to Israel that Iran is.  And AIPAC has always (at least until now) refrained from using its mighty political strength for any fight in which Israel is not directly threatened.  But now all that has changed.

As Rosen put it,

Responding to a full-court press by the Obama administration — a call to Netanyahu, a direct message to AIPAC, and messages via congressional leaders — AIPAC has weighed in fully in support of the president’s call for intervention.

There are a myriad of responses to AIPAC’s appearance in the front line of the congressional battle on behalf of  Obama’s Syrian Strike. Many analysts see only bad results for AIPAC and the pro-Israel world, no matter what happens.

It’s a classic example of heads you win, tails I lose.  If congress authorizes Obama’s plan, and things go badly – who is going to be blamed?  The Jews.  If congress votes against Obama’s plan, AIPAC looks feeble, and loses credibility as well as having wasted political chits it would have preferred to save for when Israel is directly threatened.

Something Rosen doesn’t mention, but others do, is the awkward realization that although team Obama has apparently pushed hard on AIPAC to help bring in the votes for the president’s plan, other, more logical organizations have been immune from the importuning.

U.S. Sen Foreign Relations Comm Queued Up to Vote for Strike on Syria

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

On Tuesday afternoon, September 3, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asking for its approval to launch a limited strike against Syria.

Kerry couched his request very clearly in terms of what it was not: it was not a request for approval to go to war. Kerry stated once again that “there will be no boots on the ground.”  What he was asking for was “the power to make clear, to make certain that the United States means what we say, that the world, when we join together in a multilateral statement, mean what we say.  He’s asking for authorization to degrade and deter Bashar al-Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons.

The secretary of state made the argument in the plainest terms.  He compared what Assad has done – gassing hundreds of his own people, including hundreds of children – to the greatest evil most people recognize.  This administration is adamant that Assad be held accountable for committing a heinous act whose victims, Kerry and his boss insist, cry out for retribution.

So this is a vote for accountability. Norms and laws that keep the civilized world civil mean nothing if they’re not enforced. As Justice Jackson said in his opening argument at the Nuremberg trials, ‘The ultimate step in avoiding periodic wars, which are inevitable in a system of international lawlessness, is to make statesmen responsible to the law.’ If the world’s worst despots see that they can flout with impunity prohibitions against the world’s worst weapons, then those prohibitions are just pieces of paper. That is what we mean by accountability, and that is what we mean by we cannot be silent.

After four hours of debate in the Hart Senate Office Building, the committee will go into a closed session tomorrow and then, as early as tomorrow afternoon, may gave this administration what it is seeking: congressional approval to take limited action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The initial text of the resolution authorizing “limited and tailored use of the United States Armed Forces against Syria” was made available late Tuesday evening, Eastern Time.  The committee will vote on some version of the draft tomorrow.

The secretary of state was asked what the administration will do if congress refuses to approve the use of force against Syria. Kerry said, “We’re not contemplating that, because it’s too dire.”

The draft resolution provides that the resolution upon which the committee members will vote shall be called ” Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the “Government of Syria to Respond to Use of Chemical Weapons.” It will

authorize the president to use the U.S. Armed Forces as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria, only to (1) respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction by the Syrian government in the conflict in Syria, and (2) deter Syria’s use of such weapons in order to protect the national security interests of the United States and to protect our allies and partners against the use of such weapons; and (3) degrade Syria’s capacity to use such weapons in the future.”

In addition to Kerry, secretary of defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Jack Dempsey also testified in support of the administration’s position.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement Tuesday afternoon.  Boehner said that “All votes authorizing the use of military force are conscience votes for members, and passage will require direct, continuous engagement from the White House.”

The draft resolution provides for a 60 day period during which the powers granted may be used, with a single additional 30 day extension.

Syrian Crisis Not Serious (Yet)

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Predictions of an apocalyptic Middle East war following a US attack on Syria are premature. None of the players are interested in a serious confrontation.

President Obama feels boxed in by his ‘red line’ promise, and it appears that it will be impossible to pretend that the line was not crossed. So he will, with the cooperation of the UK and perhaps France, symbolically strike some assets of the Assad regime.

This will be coordinated in advance with the Russians, who will make a lot of noise in public, but in private will not be concerned as long as Assad’s hold on power is not threatened, which it will not be.

Assad’s threats to retaliate against Israel also fall in the category of noise. His overwhelming concern is to stay in power, and although he finds it advantageous to link Israel to the ‘terrorists’ he is fighting, he knows that Israel is in fact neutral in the conflict. Why upset this applecart and risk really painful reprisals?

Assad’s gamble to use chemical weapons has thus had the following effects:

It terrorized the Sunni civilians who are supporting the rebels. Remember, this is as much an ethnic war as a political one. Like the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club, much of Assad’s deterrence depends on his reputation for being ruthless, even ‘crazy’ (although he is actually quite rational).

It embarrassed Obama. The weak response that will follow will prove to Assad that Western opposition will not be a significant restraint on his freedom to do as he wishes.

The downside for the regime will be a few Tomahawk impacts, possibly on empty buildings, but certainly not enough to affect the outcome of the civil war.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fresno-zionism/syrian-crisis-not-serious-yet/2013/08/26/

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