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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Hizbollah’

New Moderates: Syrian Rebels, Iranian President, and the Taliban

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Let’s say that you feel Iran is the bigger of the two evils and that Tehran, Hizbollah, and Russia cannot be allowed to have a victory in the Syrian civil war. Therefore, the United States has to supply weapons to the rebels despite the fact that they are America-hating Islamists. I can understand that argument but let’s explore the adventure that the United States and European Union is about to embark on.

The cost is the U.S. backing for the Sunni Islamist takeover of much of the Middle East. The benefit is…denying Syria to Iranian influence after 30 years. Of course, it won’t be under U.S. influence. And many wars may flow from this policy: A Sunni Islamist regime’s war on Israel, Hizbollah in Lebanon, the Syrian Kurds, and possibly Iraq (Sunni versus Shia) and Jordan (Islamist subversion to help the Muslim Brotherhood).

If the United States supplies enough weapons to just keep the rebels going, that would be one thing. But American policymakers are likely to be carried away–as often happens to Americans in this situation–and to see rebel victory as the equivalent of good, the heroic freedom fighters battling for the liberation of puritanical Sharia.

It is surprising that it doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people to support an antisemitic, anti-Christian, anti-woman, anti-gay movement that has already committed atrocities, whose leading organization also once collaborated with the Nazis, and about 20 percent of which consists of al-Qaida supporters? 
 
Also we have just seen the proliferation of weapons and terrorists following the U.S.-sponsored support of Islamists after the Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan wars.

Moreover, don’t count the rebels out yet despite the hysteria that Assad is winning. Five weeks ago everyone claimed the rebels were winning. Moreover, while I don’t want the Syrian regime to win, let’s remember that two short years ago the Obama Administration was courting Syria as a potential ally, treating what was still a dreaded dictatorship as if it was one step from singing, “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Visiting U.S. officials and members of Congress became apologists for the regime. For those remembering these events, the current scene is disgusting. Suddenly Syria became a ferocious dictatorship. It was always a ferocious dictatorship. Suddenly it became an ally of Tehran, a stance that the Obama Administration claimed two short years ago that it was going to reverse. In fact, it has been an ally of Iran for more than 30 years.

How short are memories. Analogies to other recent events are also often ridiculous–World War Two, the Spanish Civil War–made by people who know nothing about Syria. In Iraq, for example, there were viable democratic forces and the United States had real leverage over the situation. While one might want the overthrow of the Assad regime, that just isn’t true in Syria.

In Syria, the United States has not just accepted but backed from the start an exile leadership that not only was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood but which refuses to even allow a significant representation by liberal moderates and the Kurds! If U.S. policy, soon to be paying the bills and giving the weapons, cannot achieve that then why give help without conditions? Again, one wants the Assad regime to fall but cannot Washington even extract any political price for this support of the rebels? From Turkey to get more support for U.S. policy toward Iran from Ankara? No.

Will the murder of Christians and other rebel atrocities incur any penalties on U.S. backing or not? Everyone should know that the United States cannot protect one Syrian civilian from murder and persecution by the rebels. Who is doing who a favor?

The strategic issues have also not been fully thought out. Iran is not Nazi Germany and it is going to get nuclear weapons no matter what happens in Syria. Its ability to project influence into the Arab world is limited to Lebanon–where the United States has always accepted it before–and to a lesser degree to Syria and a bit to Iraq. One can make the case that the Sunni Islamists, without a big source of money or arms, are less threatening than Iran. Yet that depends, too, on how Sunni Islamist policy, which largely means the Muslim Brotherhood, develop. What is needed here are cool-headed evaluations; what we see is bordering on hysteria.

There’s something in the U.S. military culture called “mission creep,” that means the task given the U.S. army is extended far beyond the original intention. Also, in military affairs nothing turns out to be as easy as you expect. If, for example, the rebels can’t win otherwise will there need to be a no-fly zone? Or more intervention? All to produce a likely result of an anti-American terrorist-sponsoring dictatorship? Or perhaps it can be bought off for a while by sending billions of dollars of aid to subsidize a Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship. Already we see the war hysteria building.

So let’s say that Obama sets a policy of sending only limited numbers of light weapons to moderate forces. Naturally, though, the U.S. trainers will not be able to vet every trainee. We know that’s true and there will no doubt be terrorist-minded and extremist soldiers whose skills will increase thanks to Uncle Sam. Many of them are young. Perhaps some of them won ‘t retire after the Syrian civil war ends.

But what’s really worrisome is the next step. Suppose the rebels still aren’t winning. The aides and experts and advisers then explain to the White House that unless more and better weapons are sent then “our” side will lose. That can’t happen, right? It will be an even more humiliating loss to the Russians, Iranians, Hizbollah, and the Syrian regime that not so long ago—just over two years ago–was Obama’s good buddy.
At that point, there comes escalation: more weapons, more American involvement, better arms. That is going to be a big temptation and who is going to stand up and say, “No.”
Now think of the opposite outcome. The rebels quickly reverse the tide of battle and they are winning. In that case, the officials say, “Just a little more aid and we can have a big victory.” Once again, mission creep.

And what would the U.S. government do if and when the rebels start murdering civilians. Imagine, there are people who don’t support Israel and want the United States to reduce help because it is “immoral” doing certain things. But they are going to accept rebels cutting off the heads of people, wiping out dozens of civilians, shooting prisoners, and even eating a few body parts of murdered Syrian prisoners?

All of these things have already happened and will happen more. And, here’s the big thing, the United
States will have no leverage to affect this behavior. The leaders are not in control; the rebels don’t want to do America’s bidding. Will the aid be cut off at that point? No. Too many reputations will be on the line; too much political capital will have been extended.

Meanwhile the Sunni Muslim side and particularly the Sunni Islamist side will urge the United States on, promising it anything if it puts their friends in power. Obama will believe that the Arabs love America and will support U.S. interests. Until, of course, the day after they take over—or say several months afterward—when the Muslim Brotherhood turns on America and the Salafists attack Israel.

There is, however, one possible way out: if the United States can say Iran made us do it by escalating its own involvement in the war. There is something peculiar happening after the Iranian presidential election.  On one hand, the media throughout the West is proclaiming that Iran is now moderate, forgetting that the same thing (the election of a relatively moderate president 16 years ago) without changing anything. On the other hand, though, Iran seems to have become more aggressive and threatening after the election. The Iranian supreme guide directly insulted Obama, saying he was a puppet of Zionist interests and was only elected in a phony process, unlike the freedom enjoyed in Iran. The point is that Iran may have overplayed its hand, throwing away a wonderful opportunity to fool the West and get sanctions reduced while still building nuclear weapons.
At any rate, this is a big mess and it will not turn out well.

Speaking of big messes, to consolidate the Obama Doctrine–allying or engaging with Sunni Islamist extremists–the United States is now entering public negotiations with the Taliban.  The Afghan Taliban, you might remember, was a partner in the September 11, 2001, attacks and has been unrepentant. The supposed price will be that the Taliban, which is killing Americans on a daily basis in Afghanistan, may merely renounce al-Qaida. But since al-Qaida doesn’t exist any more in Afghanistan this is  hardly significant. Mere words from the no-doubt-trustworthy Taliban–or will even an apology be required–will make up for the murder of around 3000 Americans.  According to U.S. policy, there is a radical and moderate wing of the Syrian rebels, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood regime, the Turkish stealth Islamist regime, probably now the Iranian regime, and several others as well no doubt.

The Taliban has been calling the Afghan government an American puppet and the Afghan government reacted to news of the talks angrily, with a feeling of betrayal, and broke off its own talks with the United States. Sound like a pattern? The U.S. government siding with enemies and subverting historical allies?

Oh, and four American soldiers were killed by a Taliban attack the same day as these diplomatic developments happened.

Finally, the new Iranian president has been declared a moderate by much of the Western establishment. First, it is assumed he is a moderate. True, he was the person out of desperation who was supported by the opposition but he has a long record as a key national security official who does not differ from the main political line. Second, he is powerless because the supreme guide is in charge.

Imagine a “Cold War” in which the United States would have taken the Communist side and you get a picture of current U.S. policy.

The West’s New Syrian War

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

One day people will ask how the United States and several European countries became involved in mass killings, genocide, corruption, arms smuggling, and the creation of another anti-Western and regionally destabilizing government. Even if a single Western soldier is never sent, the West is on the verge of serious intervention in Syria. The choices are unpalatable and decisions are very tough to make but it appears to be still another in a long history of Western leaps in the dark, not based on a real consideration of the consequences.

At least people should be more aware of the dangers. As I entitled a previous book on Iran (Paved with Good Intentions), the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. People are dying and suffering in Syria. That’s true. But will this make more people or fewer people die and suffer?

So now we are seeing the trial balloons rise. As the Bashar al-Assad regime proves to be holding on—but not recapturing the country or winning the war—the West is panicked into sending aid to the rebels.  In fact, the government is merely holding the northwest area (where the ruling Alawite group lives), the region along the Lebanese border (with Hizbollah’s help), Damascus (where the best troops are based and there is a favorable strategic situation in the army holding the high ground), and part of Aleppo. It seems that U.S. decision makers are panicking over these relatively small gains. If the Syrian army plus Hizbollah tries to advance too far it will stretch its resources then and face a successful rebel counteroffensive.

Understandably, the opposition is demanding arms. If the opposition did not consist mostly of al-Qaida, the Salafists, and the Muslim Brotherhood, that would be a good idea perhaps. But since the opposition is overwhelmingly radical—even the official “moderate” opposition politicians are mostly Muslim Brotherhood—this is a tragedy in which the West does not have a great incentive to say “yes.”

President Barack Obama is said to be close to sending weapons to carefully chosen rebel units who are moderates. Now, pay close attention here. The Western options for giving assistance are:

The Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. This is Muslim Brotherhood type people including, most importantly, the Farouk Brigades from the Homs area and Aleppo’s Tawhid Brigade. Around 50-60,000 fighters in total who are autonomous.

Do you want to give arms to them? Weapons that might soon end up in the hands of (other) terrorists? Weapons to be turned against not only Israel, but Jordan, Saudi Arabia, U.S. diplomats, and who knows who else?

Or perhaps you like the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), an alliance of more hardline Islamist forces, including Ahrar al-Sham from the north.  Ahrar al-Sham is probably around 15,000 fighters. The SIF as a whole probably around 25,000.   These people are Salafists meaning that the Brotherhood is too moderate for them. They are the kind of people who attack churches in Egypt, who want to wage jihad alongside Hamas, and so on.

Do you want to arm them so they can establish another Sharia state?

How about Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise with around 6,000 fighters and reportedly the fastest growing militia.

Want to give guns to those who committed the September 11, 2001, attacks and the Benghazi attack? Of course not! You want the Free Syrian Army (FSA), headed by the untested General Salim Idris, who Senator John McCain met with. Now those are moderates who, after all, are just led by former officers in the repressive, historically anti-American Syrian army. And the FSA is just not a serious factor in military terms.

The West will say it supports the FSA; the FSA will be pushed aside by an Islamist regime if it wins, its Western-supplied weapons seized even during the course of the war. Moderates–even if we define radical Arab nationalists as moderates–don’t have the troops on the ground. It’s too late to organize and train a moderate force now. That should have been done two years ago.

On the political level, U.S. pressure failed to force the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated exile leadership to add the real political moderates! Even as financial aid is being (temporarily?) withheld the “official” opposition won’t expand its base. How about withholding all money and aid until they yield or choosing a new official leadership?  If the United States can’t stop–or doesn’t want to–the Brotherhood from dominating an exile leadership how is it ever going to do after a victory in the civil war?

Syrian Rebels Demand Hezbollah’s Expulsion

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

In an interview on Tuesday, Salim Idris, the head of the Syrian rebel army, called on Lebanon’s president Michel Suleiman, the Arab League, and the UN to remove Hezbollah from Syria within 24 hours.

Idris threatened that if Hezbollah is not gone within 24 hours, their men would be hunted down wherever they are.

Idris said that Suleiman is responsible for Hezbollah’s activities.

It was also recently reported that Iran, despite the sanction’s against it, has recently supplied Syria with between $3 billion to $7 billion dollars in loans and lines of credit.

Iran supports Syria and Hezbollah.

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.

Former Military Intelligence Chief: ‘Iran Has Crossed the Red Line’

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

“Israel can attack Iran alone and can also deal with the aftermath,” Major-General (Ret.) Amos Yadlin, the former IDF head of military intelligence told the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies. According to Yadlin, Iran has already “crossed the new red line drawn by Israel.”

Yadlin estimated that “the Iranians can very quickly produce a nuclear bomb even now, and the closer they get to the breakthrough moment, the faster they’ll be able to do it – under a presidential order. He warned that as early as this summer Iran will be at a stage where the time lag between an order and a finished bomb will come down to a month or two.

At that point, he warned, it would be extremely difficult to stop Iran.

Gen. Itai Baron, head of the research division at Military Intelligence, said that back in 2012 Israeli experts recognized a difference between the real capabilities of Iran and what it was actually prepared to execute. He estimated that the sanctions imposed on Iran, including international pressure, damage and deter Iran. Yet, despite those influences, Iran’s nuclear program continues to advance in an obvious direction.

“We are in a period of a lot of risks, uncertainties and instability, in an explosive atmosphere and an increased likelihood of escalation scenarios,” Baron concluded. But he nevertheless stressed that the IDF is not expecting an all out war of annihilation directed at Israel, similar to the Yom Kippur War 40 years ago.

Gen. Baron also warned against the Syrian government’s repeated use of chemical weapons and of repeated attempts to send Syrian military equipment to the Hizbollah in Lebanon.

The Meaning of European ‘Resolve’ Against Terror

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Yesterday, March 11, 2013, the European Union commemorates the 9th European Day in Remembrance of Victims of Terrorism.

Here’s the key part of an official statement released by the E.U. Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove:

All acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, wherever they took place or whoever committed them. Therefore, our resolve to defeat terrorism must never weaken or falter even for a day, and our support to victims to meet their needs must remain a priority, as well as our commitment to actively promoting a policy of international solidarity.

Seems like a good time to remind him of the need to outlaw the outrageous and flagrant terrorists of Hizbollah whose supporters operate within the law in Europe with no evident interference from officials of the E.U. or of its Counter-Terrorism Coordinator. This ought to surprise us given that a Bulgarian court found last month that it was Hizbollah that stood behind the terrorist attack last summer on a tourist bus full of Israelis, killing five of them and their driver.

Mr de Kerchove knows this. But despite his public call today never to weaken or to falter ”even for a day” in the battle to defeat terrorism, he doesn’t actually seem to mean the Hizbollah brand of terrorism, but other terrorisms. (Truthfully, we’re not completely sure which, but it seems that he is).

Here is how he expressed it in a January 28, 2013 interview (“EU official: Hezbollah unlikely to get on terrorism blacklist“) with E.U. Observer when asked if Europe should go along with the requests of the United States and Israel to make it illegal, for instance, to give donation money to Hizbollah:

…For De Kerchove, the situation is not so simple. “First, we need to reach conclusions with strong evidence that it was the military wing of Hezbollah [which indeed carried out the terrorist bombing at Burgas airport in Bulgaria]. That’s the prerequisite, even in legal terms, but then, as always in the listing process, you need to ask yourself: ‘Is this the right thing to do?’… For Hezbollah, you might ask, given the situation in Lebanon, which is a highly fragile, highly fragmented country, is listing it going to help you achieve what you want? … There is no automatic listing just because you have been behind a terrorist attack. It’s not only the legal requirement that you have to take into consideration, it’s also a political assessment of the context and the timing…”

The interview was given just before the Bulgarians found, judicially, that Hizbollah was the culprit, so at least that prerequisite was satisfied. But that – why are we surprised? – is evidently not enough.

He noted there is “no consensus” among EU states on whether listing Hezbollah would be helpful or not [E.U. Observer]

which is a very good way to say what official Europe really feels about the battle against the terrorists.

In simple terms, the Commissioner’s official statement today, the one that appears in the press release above, should not be taken too seriously. Perhaps it was only intended for the terror victims and their commemoration ceremonies in the first place. If you really want to go after the terrorists, then the way forward – according to Europe’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator – calls for more than mere resolve. You need consensus and agreement as to whether it will be helpful.

European politics is populated by a multitude of individuals who are hopelessly ambivalent about the Islamists. As for serious European moves against terror, we can expect to see them limited to press releases and wreath laying ceremonies in civic squares.

Out on the streets and railways and airports of Europe? Not so much.

Visit This Ongoing War.

Europe Rolls Over for Hizbollah Blackmail

Friday, March 8th, 2013

The main objective of Israeli President Shimon Peres’s week-long state visit to Brussels, Paris and Strasbourg March 5-12 is apparently to persuade reluctant European leaders to designate Lebanon’s Hizbollah movement a terrorist organization.

Blacklisting Hizbollah would deprive the militant group of significant sources of fundraising by enabling the freezing its bank accounts and assets in Europe. It would also facilitate intra-European police cooperation aimed at pursuing and arresting Hizbollah operatives believed to be living underground throughout Europe.

Several Western countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands officially classified Hizbollah as a terrorist organization years ago. But the European Union has steadfastly resisted calls to sanction Hizbollah.

E.U. leaders say they do not have enough information to make a judgment about whether Hizbollah is involved in terrorism. They have tried to justify themselves by saying that because the issue is legal, not moral, in nature, they need “courtroom evidence” of Hizbollah’s culpability.

Well, at least that has been clarified: in recent weeks Bulgarian authorities implicated Hizbollah in the July 18, 2012 terrorist attack which killed five Israeli tourists and their driver in the Black Sea resort of Burgas.

Bulgaria’s February 5 public announcement, which angered many E.U. countries afraid of provoking Hizbollah, was the first time that an E.U. member state has officially established that Hizbollah was guilty of a carrying out a terrorist attack on E.U. territory.

European officials have long rationalized their lack of resolve against Hizbollah by claiming that the organization has both a military wing and a political wing, and that cracking down on the former would cripple the latter, which consequently would lead to the destabilization of Lebanon as well as the broader Middle East.

Many analysts, however, say this high-mindedness is a smoke screen behind which Europeans are hiding to conceal the real reason why they are reluctant to confront Hizbollah: fear, fear and more fear.

Europeans are afraid to call Hizbollah what it is because they fear reprisals against European interests at home and abroad. Europeans also fear that if they take a hard line against Hizbollah, the group may activate sleeper cells and carry out attacks in European cities. (According to a leaked German intelligence report, there are more than 900 Hizbollah operatives in Germany alone.)

In addition, Europeans are afraid that Hizbollah may retaliate against European troops, known as UNIFIL, participating in the United Nations mission in Lebanon.

In Spain, for instance, where Hizbollah was involved in the April 1985 bombing of a restaurant near Madrid in which 18 Spanish citizens were killed, the case was closed in 1987 due to a lack of arrests.

After six Spanish peacekeepers were killed in a Hizbollah bomb attack in southern Lebanon in June 2007, a fearful Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero recruited that same Hizbollah to safeguard Spanish troops, presumably as a way to safeguard his own job.

Less than a month after those killings, it emerged that Spanish intelligence agents met secretly with Hizbollah militants, who agreed to provide “escorts” to protect Spanish UNIFIL patrols. The quid pro quo was that Spanish troops look the other way while Hizbollah was allowed to rearm for its next war against Israel.

The Spanish government recently announced that it will cut the number of its troops within UNIFIL to half by the end of 2013. What is clear is that Spain, as well as its European partners, have abandoned the letter and the spirit of UN Resolution 1559, the main objective of which was to disarm Hizbollah and to transfer effective control over the southern Lebanon to Lebanon’s armed forces.

Europeans are also afraid of inciting the thousands of shiftless young Muslim immigrants in towns and cities across the continent. The fear of angry Muslims is, in fact, so pervasive in European capitals that in practical terms Islam has already established a de facto veto on European foreign policymaking.

In addition to the investigation in Bulgaria, there has also been the trial in Cyprus of Hossam Taleb Yaakoub, a captured Hizbollah operative with joint Lebanese and Swedish citizenship who is suspected of plotting attacks on Israeli targets. The trial, which is scheduled to end on March 7, has provided many insights into Hizbollah’s secret operations in Europe.

A Hard Reckoning for Assad

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Bashar Assad faces a hard reckoning. Not the one that comes from rebels battling for control of key Syrian assets, or the one that may come some day from charges of genocide at the International Criminal Court. The reckoning that comes from understanding that your key ally, Iran, has interests in your country other than you and regional interests bigger than you.

Iran connects with a variety of countries and non-state actors to advance its worldwide interests; Assad’s Syria is only part of the equation. Iran continues to supply the Syrian army and has military forces of its own there, but Iran is also moving to protect and preserve its Mediterranean proxy Hezbollah. Weapons are already moving into Hezbollah hands in Lebanon, which may have prompted an Israeli air strike late last month. Iranian and Hezbollah commanders appear to be building militias within Syria to retain a presence if Assad falls or leaves the country.

U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen said Iranian and Hezbollah commanders oversee the Jaysh fighters, one of many groups that have sprung up as Syria disintegrates. In response, Syrian rebel forces are threatening to take the fight to Hezbollah directly, but the revelation means Syria may be on the path to resemble the morass of Lebanon during the 1970s.

A little history helps here.

The Alawite minority that has ruled Syria for decades is not of the Shiite mainstream; Alawites have been called “idol worshippers” — the worst possible sobriquet — by some Shiite religious authorities. (For the details see Martin Kramer). The short of it is that a marriage of convenience began in the 1970s between Hafez Assad, by most accounts a more clever despot than his son, and Iranian Shiite religious leaders.

It expanded after the Iranian Revolution brought those religious leaders to power, and it continues to this day. In the early days of the Iran-Iraq war, Assad did side with fellow secular Ba’athist Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But by 1982 (some sources put the timing after the Syrian massacre of 20-35,000 Sunnis in Hama to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood) relations between the two soured, leaving an opening for improved Syrian-Iranian ties.

According to CIA reports of the time, Iran and Syria agreed that Syria would close the Iraqi pipeline through its territory in exchange for subsidized Iranian oil. Shortly thereafter, Iran was known to have sent 2,000 Iranian Guard Corps troops to Syria and from there to Lebanon in support of Hezbollah, which was just emerging as a power center after the 1982 Israel-Lebanon war.

Syria has been a passageway for Iranian arms to Hezbollah, both by sea, and through the Damascus airport and overland, giving Iran influence in the internal affairs of Lebanon as Hezbollah continued to grow, particularly after Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

After the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, the expanded UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon was tasked with ensuring that only weapons of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) were south of the Litani River; this should have meant disarming Hezbollah, but the mandate of UN Resolution 1701 did not include guarding or even monitoring the Syria-Lebanon border. Iranian arms shipments continued apace and in 2011, Hezbollah became the dominant member of the Lebanese Government.

Whatever the fate of Bashar Assad, Iran is unlikely to abandon its investment in Hezbollah or in other Syrian groups, but Iran’s interests go well beyond the Syria/Hezbollah axis. Iranian influence in predominantly Shiite Iraq continues to grow and there are reports of Iran building Iraqi Hezbollah militias as the security situation continues to deteriorate since the American departure in 2011.

Iranian warships have been docking in Sudan, where it appears that in December, Israel destroyed a missile depot housing Iranian Fajr-5 rockets destined for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Iranian warships returned to Sudan later that month.

Iran’s relationship with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has been well documented. But in the late 1980s and 1990s, Argentina sold Iran nuclear materials and modified an Iranian nuclear reactor. Relations were cut short after Iran was implicated in the 1992 and 1994 bombings of the Israeli Embassy and Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires. Trade relations were never halted though, and of late, Argentina’s sales of agricultural products to Iran have made it Iran’s 7th largest trading partner. The assumption is that Iran will pay for commodities it sorely needs with oil that it cannot sell owing to Western sanctions, which Argentina ignores.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-hard-reckoning-for-assad/2013/03/04/

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