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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Civil War’

Putin Declares Egypt on Brink of Civil War

Monday, July 8th, 2013

“Syria is already in the grips of the civil war … and Egypt is moving in the same direction,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on Sunday.

Hours after he spoke,  the  Egyptian daily Al Ahram reported that a new compromise choice has been picked as Egypt’s next prime minister after the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists rejected the idea that Mohammed ElBaradei be named for the post.

Ziad Bahaa El-Din, a lawyer and member of Egyptian Social Democratic Party,  would be accepted by the Salafist Nour party, Al Ahram said.

Syrian Girl (13) Treated in Nahariya Hospital

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

An IDF medical team sent a 13 year old Syrian girl to the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya (northern Israel) for treatment. She suffered serious facial and body injuries, according to a report in Walla.

The girl had an fracture in her leg that required surgery, as well as shrapnel damage to her face that entered near her eye and cheek, as well as shrapnel in her hand.

She is the youngest Syrian citizen transferred to Israel so far for treatment as a result of the Syrian civil war.

Russia-US Brinkmanship Clashes with Israel’s Security

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

Russia is aggressively squaring off with an indecisive and rather meek West about Syria, and in the process, is also threatening to undermine Israeli efforts to ensure that Iran and Syria do not ship strategic weapons to Hizballah.

The Syrian civil war has become a dangerous and complex battle of multiple actors and their proxies: Sunni versus Shi’ite, Iran versus the Gulf states, al Qaeda versus Hizballah, and on a global scale, the United States versus Russia.

Moscow is trying to deter a potential U.S. or NATO-led initiative to set up a no-fly zone over areas of Syria, and is seeking to stop Western-led air strikes against chemical weapons sites.

Russia also seems concerned that recent air strikes in Damascus targeting Hizballah-bound guided Iranian missiles — strikes attributed by the foreign media to Israel — will pave the way to such an intervention.

Israel has no interest in getting involved in the Syrian civil war. Rather, it is looking out for the safety of millions of citizens, who already live in the shadow of some 80,000 Hizballah rockets, and would be threatened further by the transfer of precise, powerful missiles to Hizballah in Lebanon.

In recent days, Russia unleashed a flurry of moves to establish its support of Syria.

The Russian moves include: Declaring that it will proceed with deliveries of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Assad, mobilizing war ships to the eastern Mediterranean, and selling sophisticated surface-to-sea Yakhont missiles to Assad.

Moscow’s recent maneuvers might be more bluster than real — the S-300 has yet to be delivered, and Russia was in 2010 talked out of selling the formidable air defense system to Iran.

The threat, however, was serious enough for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make an unscheduled trip last week to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin. The two later held a press conference, repeating their public positions, but it is doubtful that those statements were a complete reflection of their private exchange.

Israel is opposed to Assad receiving the S-300 missile for several reasons: With its sophisticated radars and range of 200 kilometers, the S-300 can hamper Israel Air Force aircraft seeking to monitor Hezbollah in Lebanon. The system can also disrupt future Israeli efforts to intercept the transit of Iranian weapons to Hizbollah through Syria. Finally, Assad can choose to smuggle S-300 batteries to Hizbollah or Iran.

Should the S-300 fall into Iranian hands, the future potential mission of launching a military strike on Iran’s developing nuclear program would be more even more complex than it already is. Knowing that the S-300 was in Hizballah’s hands, and could target Israeli aircraft sent to stop it, would only boost the Shi’ite terror organization’s confidence to launch cross-border attacks on Israel. For these reasons, Jerusalem will find Russia’s delivery of such a system to Syria to be an intolerable development; it is safe to assume that Israel will act to prevent this from happening.

Similarly, the Russian Yakhont missiles already delivered to Syria threaten Israel Navy ships carrying out vital missions in the Mediterranean.

Behind closed-doors, intense diplomacy — including the sudden visit by CIA Director John Brennan to Israel — is underway to try and contain these developments, and prevent them from triggering further regional security deterioration.

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

Support the Syrian Rebels?

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Washington Post article today, “Assad forces gaining ground in Syria” by Liz Sly, argues that recent events suggest that the Assad regime is not just surviving but has gone on the offensive. Drawing on local analysts, she finds that in the civil war, “there is little doubt that the pendulum is now swinging in favor of Assad … bolstered by a new strategy, the support of Iran and Russia and the assistance of fighters with Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.”

If this in fact be the case, then, Western governments should respond by helping the rebels to prevent Assad from crushing them.

This advice is consistent with my argument (in an article titled “Support Assad” published just a month ago, when Assad appeared to be going down) that the West should prevent either side in the civil war from emerging victorious by “helping whichever side is losing, so as to prolong their conflict.”

This policy recommendation of “helping whichever side is losing” sounds odd, I admit, but it is strategic.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and The National Review, Online, May 11, 2013.

The Collapsing Crescent

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

In contrast to the desert that covers most of the Middle East, the Fertile Crescent has been an area that kingdoms thrived in since the dawn of history. The reason is simple: it was possible to maintain a reasonable and stable community life in this area because communities could establish an economy based on agriculture and raising herds of animals. The children of Israel in the Land of Israel, the Phoenicians in Lebanon, the Assyrians in Syria, the Sumerians, the Babylonians, and the Chaldeans in Iraq, all established kingdoms with a strong and effective central government, based on an agricultural society dwelling in permanent communities from which it was possible to collect taxes and enlist its sons into the ruler’s army. The desert, on the other hand, was not a place of kingdoms and regimes because its nomadic residents do not represent a civil and economic basis upon which it is possible to establish a permanent, central framework.

The modern era is a continuation, to a large extent, of the classic picture of the Fertile Crescent: Lebanon, Syria and Iraq were established as states that should have been frameworks for legitimate states with governmental systems based on a egalitarian and shared civil society, that would include the tribes and the many ethnic, religious, and sectarian groups that populate the area. The objective data of the area -plentiful precipitation, comfortable weather, flowing rivers and fertile ground – could have provided a comfortable life for the people of these states, if only they could have lived with each other in peace. The borders of the states were drawn by the colonial forces that ruled in the area, and these borders define their territories, the area of their sovereignty and the identity of their citizens. Protection of the borders is a prerequisite for the existence of every state in the world.

But in the past decade – and especially in the past two years – the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are continually being penetrated, undermined, dissolved, eroded and annulled. Those who are undermining the states are its neighboring states, organizations and individuals, who relate to borders of states as if there is no need to respect them. It is important to note that great sections of borders exist only on maps, while in reality, there is no fence, wall or any real barrier that would enable the state to protect its borders from invasion of evildoers and prevent their entry.

The efficacy of border protection is an effective indicator of a state’s overall condition: a state that protects its borders and prevents the entry of hostile elements is a state with the power to live and survive even if it is situated in an unfriendly environment. On the other hand, a state that does not succeed in protecting its borders from foreign and hostile elements  penetrating into its territory is a state in the process of deterioration that might end in its demise. The recent events in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon fully confirm this assumption.

Iraq

For the whole of the twentieth century there were factors that undermined Iraq’s borders, mainly Iran of the Shah: He supported the Kurds in the North of Iraq until 1975 and channeled weapons, equipment, fighters and money to them via the border. This undermined the integrity of Iraq, and ever since the Kurdish area was declared as a no-fly zone for the Iraqi air force in 1991, the Kurds of Iraq have lived almost totally independently. They have a parliament, government, political parties, an army, police, communications media, mass media and independent economic viability. From a practical point of view, the borders of Iraq do not include today the Kurdish area that was once the northern part of the state.

The border between Iraq and Iran has been wide open ever since the beginning of 2004, less than a year from the day when Iraq was occupied by the Western coalition led by President Bush. After the Iranians understood that the Americans did not want an additional front in Iran, they began to transfer weapons, ammunition, explosives, money and fighters into Iraq by way of the border in order to strengthen the Shi’ite militias to the detriment of the badly defeated Sunni militias, and so that the Shi’ites could successfully resist with the occupation armies and act against the influence of al Qaeda, which had established an organization called “The Islamic State of Iraq.”

Thousands of fighters from the United States and its allies were killed in Iraq with weapons and explosives that Iran smuggled into the Land of the Two Rivers. The border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia as well, served as a conduit for weapons, ammunition, money and jihadists for the Sunni organizations, chiefly al Qaeda. Only in recent years did Saudi Arabia set up  a fence on the length of its border with Iraq in order to prevent the Iraqi chaos from seeping into its territory, but the fence did not prevent Saudi Arabia from transferring anything that the Sunni Jihadists could think of, into Iraq.

Turkey never respected its border with Iraq, and its forces would often cross the border into Iraqi Kurdistan to attack the bases of the “Kurdish Workers Party” (PKK), which would send its fighters into Turkey.

Syria

The border of Iraq with Syria has served for more than ten years as a two-way membrane. Between the years 2004 and 2011 the porous border served as a passage for Hizballah fighters who crossed from Lebanon into Iraq by way of Syrian territory in order to support the Shi’ites. Since March of 2011 the border has served as a passage for Shi’ites from Iraq to support the regime in Syria, but Iraqi Sunnis also cross it freely with their weapons and explosive material in order to help their Syrian brothers in their struggle against the Assad regime and indirectly against Iran, which controls Iraq.

Since 2011, fighters, weapons and equipment have also been freely transferred by the tribes of northern Jordan to their brothers in the area of Hauran in southern Syria.  And until today almost a half million Syrian refugees have fled the Syrian inferno to Jordan.

The border between Syria and Lebanon has never been taken seriously on either side: smuggling of goods from Lebanon to Syria has provided livelihood for many thousands of Lebanese ever since the two states were established in the forties, and many Syrians have crossed the border illegally into Lebanon, fleeing the oppression of the regime, mainly since Hafez al Asad rose to power towards the end of 1970. Many Syrian workers have moved to Lebanon illegally via the porous borders, and in peak years the number has been estimated at a million.

Syria’s border with Turkey is not sealed either and many have crossed it unofficially over the years: Syrian and Turkish Kurds have always crossed it almost without restriction, just as the border between Iraq and Turkey has served as a passage for the Kurds on both sides. In the past two years Turkey has been sending to the Syrian rebels support and jihadists  who come from Saudi Arabia, from Qatar, from North Africa and from other areas, even from Europe.

Not in vain have the rebels against Assad captured the border crossings in the early phase of the rebellion, because having control of the border crossings makes it possible for them to bring into Syria people who support them in the fighting against the regime.

Lebanon

Hizballah has turned smuggling into an art form: in broad daylight as well as in darkness, in the paved streets as well as the dirt roads, at official as well as unofficial  border crossings from Syria to Lebanon, large amounts of missiles, light and heavy weapons and ammunition have been transferred from Iran, China and Russia, through Syria into Lebanon, and fighters from Hizballah have crossed by way of the Lebanese-Syrian border into Syria and Iran in order to train for their jihad against their Lebanese brothers as well as against Israel.

In the past two years Hizballah fighters have crossed with their weapons  and equipment into Syria via the breached border, in order to help Assad. In the beginning, Hizballah snipers shot demonstrators in the streets of Dara’a from the roofs, and afterwards the Hizballah people joined in the street fighting, primarily in the streets of Homs, Hama and Damascus. The “shaheeds” of Hizballah who were killed in Syria were usually smuggled into Lebanon via the open border and were buried temporarily and secretly in the Buqa’a valley, near the border, primarily to avoid media exposure. Lately, since Hizballah’s involvement in Syria has become common knowledge, the shaheeds are brought to their families for burial.

The only border of Lebanon that looks like one is the coastline, but by any effective test this border does not exist: On the breached shores of Lebanon are tens of unofficial mooring places that have served for many years in the smuggling of goods – primarily automobiles – that are stolen in Europe to Lebanon, and are transferred by agents to the Lebanese market and other Arab states. Since 2011 these moorings, along with the port of Triploli, have served the Sunnis, as a transfer point for the smuggling of weapons and ammunition to the rebels in Syria. These weapons come mainly from Libya, from two sources: Qadhaffi’s military storehouses and surplus European and American weapons that Qatar sent to the anti-Qadhaffi rebels in 2011. On the other hand, Alawites who live in Lebanon – chiefly in the  Jabal Mohsen quarter of Tripoli – cross the border between Lebanon and Syria illegally in order to support Assad.

The conclusions that can be drawn from all of the above is that the borders of the Arab states in the Fertile Crescent – Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – are increasingly losing their effectiveness, and that this phenomenon has been increasing in the past two years, since some of the Arab regimes have been under attack, but this time from within. When the borders of a state are breached, its existence as a state is undermined, and the more violated its borders become, the more its existence and its meaning are threatened.

The architecture of the fertile crescent that was bequeathed by colonialism is changing before our eyes: Iraq is breaking up, Syria is crumbling and Lebanon for some time has lost the pluralistic character that its constitution was supposed to ensure.

On the ruins of these countries new bodies arise with many and varied agendas. Some have an Islamist slant, and see the modern states as illegitimate creations that were born in the basements of colonialism, and therefore must be totally done away with. Some have a local slant – ethnic or tribal – and they are interested in establishing new frameworks based on the demographic data that colonialism tended to ignore completely.

In recent months, the battles in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have taken on an old-new hue that these states – as long as they were effective states – had relegated or marginalized, which is the religious hue, and the historical conflict between the Sunni and the Shi’a floats on the surface and becomes the name of the game, or – preferably – the name of the conflict. In Iraq, the Shi’ite government bombs the Sunni citizens using fighter jets. In Syria, the regime of Alawites, a sect that broke off from the Shi’ites and are supported by Shi’ites, bombs its Sunni citizens with jets and even uses chemical weapons against them. In Lebanon the Shi’ite group threatens to take over the whole state, and because of this threat, the state conducts itself in such a way that no one is willing to gamble on its democratic future.

The struggles along the fertile crescent have become dirty, filthy and bloody, while all of the traditional limitations increasingly collapse and man becomes an unbridled predator. The forces of the governments are not righteous, and the forces of the rebels are not pious. Both of them murder, maim, rape and cruelly violate the rights of many victims, most of whom are not involved in active fighting.

In comparison: Israel’s borders serve as an almost absolute seal against foreign invaders, with various and sundry intentions. The border with Egypt has been closed off and the number of infiltrators has become negligible. The border with Jordan is well protected by right of the joint interest of the two states. The border with Syria in the Golan Heights survives, despite the chaos in Syria, the border with Lebanon holds firm by right of Israel’s deterrence versus Hizballah, and if it weren’t for the drug smugglers, this border would be hermetically sealed. The coastal border also is protected effectively by the Israeli Navy, and only the border with the Gaza Strip serves as a point of tension because of the jihadists that have taken over the Strip.

In comparison with her neighbors, the State of Israel is an island of stability and normal life, and the borders of the state testify to this clearly and accurately. The situation in our days gives an interesting meaning to the passage from the poem in the weekly Torah portion “ha’azinu” (“listen”): “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 32:8).

Originally published at Israel and Terrorism. Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav.

With Syria, at Least Israel Seems Ready

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Several websites have picked up on a UPI report that the Israeli Air Force attacked a chemical weapons site in the Damascus area on Saturday. (Here’s the original UPI report). The report is unconfirmed by any official source, but it is credible.  There are caveats, however.

The site in question, if it was struck, was probably the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), long known to be a key facility in Assad’s chemical and biological weapons program.  (See here as well.)

The blogger, “Mossomo” at Flopping Aces put together an excellent timeline back in February on the events leading up to a previous unconfirmed report that the IAF had struck the SSRC.  This strike was reportedly conducted on 30 January 2013. Hours later, Israel targeted a truck convoy west of Damascus which was carrying sophisticated new surface-to-air missiles for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

I doubt the convoy’s cargo itself was related to the chemical weapons site; if Israel went after both targets in January, it was because they were close, geographically, and Israeli military authorities wanted to maximize the gain from a rare and dangerous penetration of Syrian air space.

But it’s not actually clear that the SSRC was hit at the end of January.  David Barnett at Long War Journal was among many who picked up a few days afterward on satellite imagery shown by Israel’s Channel 2, which seemed to show the SSRC completely unscathedafter the date of the reported attack.  Barnett concluded that the IAF probably meant to attack only the truck convoy, which was in a parking lot close to the SSRC at the time of the strike.

If the IAF actually attacked the SSRC on 28 April, the urgency of hitting it may relate to the battle being waged in its vicinity at this very moment.  According to the Lebanese Daily Star, Assad’s forces are engaged in an all-out assault to retake the area around the compound from the rebels.  Fighting in the immediate vicinity of the SSRC increases the danger that its inventory will fall into rebel hands – and thence into the hands of Islamist jihadists, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and al Qaeda.

It’s also possible that Israel attacked something near the SSRC on Saturday, but not the SSRC itself.  One factor arguing for that assessment is that attacking the SSRC would be a big job.  There’s a lot of industrial square footage to thump; the IAF would want to put more than a couple of strike fighters over the target.  Ideally, there would be sequential strikes; I would envision two strike-fighter pairs delivering an initial ordnance package, followed by another wave of pairs an hour later delivering a second one.  Additional restrikes could well be necessary – if, that is, the objective is to “k-kill” the installation, or destroy it completely so that it could not be reconstituted within a timeframe useful to the current civil war.

If that’s not the objective, it’s hard to think of one that would justify putting IAF aircraft in Syrian air space in order to strike the SSRC.  Either you go in to take it out for the duration of the civil war, or you don’t hit it at all.

So perhaps the IAF visits have been for other purposes, and the SSRC hasn’t been hit.  Assad’s forces hold the compound itself and they may well be using it to marshal other kinds of military equipment, which, like the truck convoy in January, can from time to time present a lucrative target for the IAF.

It’s hard to say, without any idea of how big the reported attack was on Saturday.  If the Israelis did attack the SSRC, however, it’s a good bet that they did whatever was necessary to achieve a useful effect.  In our brave new world, someone will put out satellite imagery in a few days, and then we’ll have a better idea.

Originally published at the Optimistic Conservative.

Syria Using Chemical Weapons: Will the US Act?

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

News item:

The Syrian regime has used lethal chemical weapons, mostly sarin gas, against armed rebels several times in the past few weeks, and is continuing to do so, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence Research Branch, Brig. Gen. ltay Baron, said on Monday.

Baron said that photographs showing victims with foam coming out of their mouths and contracted pupils were signs that deadly gas had been used.

Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Baron confirmed that “to the best of its [the IDF’s] knowledge,” weapons of mass destruction had definitely been used by the Syrian regime, a development which the United States and others say they are still trying to determine.

In his briefing, Baron said the lack of an “appropriate international response” to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons was “very worrying” and was leading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his forces to believe that there were no consequences to their use of WMDs.

This follows on a report that appeared last week:

Britain and France have informed the United Nations that there is credible evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons on more than one occasion since December, according to senior diplomats and officials briefed on the accounts.

In letters to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the two European powers said soil samples, witness interviews and opposition sources support charges that nerve agents were used in and around the cities of Aleppo, Homs and possibly Damascus, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, expressed serious concern over evidence of chemical weapon use, but left open the possibility that it was the rebels that had used them. But there is no evidence that the rebels have control of such weapons, while there is plenty that the regime does and has been preparing to use them.

Chemical weapons are difficult to use effectively and so far have not lived up to their destructive potential. Huge quantities of poison gases like chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas were used during WWI, leading to perhaps 1,000,000 casualties and less than 100,000 fatalities — a horrendous number in absolute terms, but not when compared to the overall carnage. Iraq used mustard gas and nerve agents against Iran during their war in the 1980′s, causing perhaps 100,000 casualties and 20,000 immediate deaths.

There is something deeply terrifying about these weapons, even more so than the far more potent and dangerous nuclear bombs, which have the potential to kill millions in a single attack. It has been reported that Israel informed its enemies that it would consider nuclear retaliation in response to a chemical attack, and Egypt, Syria and Iraq — all of which had developed chemical warfare capability and had used it in other conflicts — apparently believed it, and did not employ them against Israel in several wars. Such is the power of deterrence.

Last August, President Obama said that the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil war would cross a “red line” that would bring about some form of active intervention by the U.S. and its allies:

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus,” Obama said. “That would change my equation. . . . We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans.”

The president’s remarks represented his strongest language to date on how the United States might respond to contain Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. In July, he warned that Assad would be “held accountable by the international community” if he made the “tragic mistake” of deploying chemical munitions.

Immediately afterwards, an anonymous official softened the statement a bit:

On Monday, an administration official said that Obama did not intend to flag any change in policy in his latest remarks and that the appetite for military intervention remains low.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fresno-zionism/syria-using-chemical-weapons-will-the-us-act/2013/04/25/

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