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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Hizbollah’

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.

Cut off the Iranian Head of the Syrian Snake

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

The civil war in Syria is no longer just about Bashar al-Assad, and even less about the desire of some liberal Syrians to have a more democratic government, personal freedom and economic development. It has become the front line in the Iranian war against the West, whose intermediate objective is to eliminate Israel, seen as a U.S. base.

From a report in the Washington Post:

Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve and protect their interests in the event that President Bashar al-Assad’s government falls or is forced to retreat from Damascus, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern officials.

The militias are fighting alongside Syrian government forces to keep Assad in power. But officials think Iran’s long-term goal is to have reliable operatives in Syria in case the country fractures into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

A senior Obama administration official cited Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria. “It’s a big operation,” the official said. “The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it’s important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on.”

Iran’s strategy, a senior Arab official agreed, has two tracks. “One is to support Assad to the hilt, the other is to set the stage for major mischief if he collapses.” I think we can safely say that direct Iranian control of Syria via Hizballah is worse for Israel than the indirect control now being exerted via Bashar al-Assad. Despite the degree to which opposition to the existence of a Jewish state is fundamental to the Assad regime, it has been possible to convince the Syrian ruler that direct confrontation would lead to the total destruction of his military capability and the end of his reign. It is much harder to apply deterrence in the same way to a non-state proxy like Hizballah.

Even if Syria fragments along ethnic lines, which seems likely in the event of Assad’s collapse, a Hizballah-controlled enclave will serve Iran’s interests as a conduit to Hizballah in Lebanon:

In a divided Syria, Iran’s natural allies would include Shiites and Alawites concentrated in provinces near Syria’s border with Lebanon and in the key port city of Latakia. Under the most likely scenarios, analysts say, remnants of Assad’s government — with or without Assad — would seek to establish a coastal enclave closely tied to Tehran, dependent on the Iranians for survival while helping Iran to retain its link to Hezbollah and thereby its leverage against Israel.

Experts said that Iran is less interested in preserving Assad in power than in maintaining levers of power, including transport hubs inside Syria. As long as Tehran could maintain control of an airport or seaport, it could also maintain a Hezbollah-controlled supply route into Lebanon and continue to manipulate Lebanese politics. There are other elements among the Syrian rebels who would also be dangerous, some associated with al-Qaeda, who could turn parts of what is today Syria into terrorist no-man’s lands.

Israel could theoretically support Assad to try to keep the status quo. But this means keeping Syria as Iran’s base in the eastern Mediterranean. Iranian arms would continue to be supplied to Hizballah in Lebanon, and certainly efforts to transfer more advanced weapons or WMD would continue. There is also the ‘small’ problem that this would mean supporting a mass murderer, someone who is coming to define the concept of a vicious despot. He is a son of a gun, and he would not even be “our” son of a gun.

Assad, after all, is only a a bit player in this drama. The real villain is the Iranian regime, which has colonized Syria and is colonizing Lebanon in its attempt to squeeze out U.S. influence in the Middle East (and as a by-product destroy Israel and become the hero of the Muslim world).

Furthermore, Hizballah does not only threaten Israel. Its terrorist web spans the world, and it is becoming particularly powerful in Latin America. It is the tool Iran will use to confront the U.S., once it has gotten those pesky Jews in the Middle East out of the way.

Conspiracy Theories Triumphant in Turkey

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

I wrote in The Hidden Hand, my 1996 book surveying conspiracy theories in the Middle East, that

Turkey and Israel stand out as the only two Middle Eastern countries where leaders are fully accountable to electorates, where the West is viewed more as an ally than as an enemy, and where conspiracy theories have a relatively minor role in public life. … Few mainstream politician, intellectual, or religious leaders [in Turkey] engage in conspiratorial thinking, which exists mostly at the fringes of polite society.

How sadly have things changed in the intervening years. Here’s one example of many, not more egregious but more spectacular than most:

The background: On Jan. 30, Israeli warplanes struck targets in Syria. A week later, the exact details remain murky, but it concerned the transfer of advanced armaments by the Syrian regime to the Hizbullah terrorist group in Lebanon. One might expect the Turkish authorities to applaud this step, both because it did damage to the regime Ankara wants to overthrow and because those advanced armaments could potentially be used against Turkish interests. But no, both the government and the communist opposition spun elaborate and unconvincing conspiracy theories about the Israel raid.

  • Government: Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu criticized the Syrian government for not responding to the Israeli attack and spoke of a secret deal. “Why has the Syrian army, which has been attacking its own people with warplanes and tanks for 22 months, not responded to this Israeli operation? Why doesn’t [Bashar al-Assad] throw a stone at the Israeli planes while they fly over his palace and insult his nation’s honor? Why doesn’t he do anything against Israel while he drops bombs on the innocent people of his country? Is there a secret agreement between Israel and Assad?” He suggested that the Israeli air strikes serve the interests of the Syrian government, arguing that Assad is “exploiting” the Israeli attack to increase his support among Muslims.
  • Opposition: SANA, the Syrian news agency, quotes Bülent Esinoğlu, vice chairman of Turkish Labor Party (EMEP), saying that the AKP government in Turkey “has cooperated with Israel in its aggression” on Syria. He goes on to claim that Davutoğlu turned a blind eye to this event and that “the Turkish Government was aware of the aggression in advance.”

In brief, the government has Assad cooperating with Israel and the communists have Prime Minister Erdoğan cooperating with Israel.

Comments: (1) This sort of reasoning can quickly leave one with a sore head. (2) With inane conspiracy theories flying back and forth, the population gets confused, public life is degraded, and the portents for Turkey look dim.

Originally published at the National Review Online, The Corner and Daniel Pipes.org on February 4, 2013.

Air Strike in Syria: The Opening Move?

Monday, February 4th, 2013

If, as international media reports say, Israel was indeed behind last week’s air strikes in Syria, it can be assumed that the attack was the opening move in a longer-term strategy to contain quickly-developing threats emerging from Syria, as well as the broader Iran-Hezbollah axis.

The ball is now in the court of Syrian president Bashar Assad and his allies in Beirut and Tehran. If they attempt further weapons transfers to Hezbollah, more air strikes can be expected – a development that will result in a wider conflict.

Iran is also releasing threats of serious retaliation against Israel, a threat which, if realized, could easily lead to a regional escalation. Days before the airstrikes, Iran warned that it would view any attack on Syria as an attack on itself.

For months, Israel has said that it would not allow strategic, advanced Syrian weapons – be they game-changing missiles or chemical weapons – to fall into the hands of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda-affiliated elements.

Israel has remained mum over the strike, and little reliable information has surfaced over what targets were struck, but reports citing Western intelligence officials said a convoy carrying advanced SA-17 Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were the target.

The SA-17 system in Hezbollah’s possession would limit the IAF’s ability to carry out vital sorties over Lebanon, whether for reconnaissance, or to attack Hezbollah targets in a future conflict.

Within days of the air strikes, Syrian state media said the target was a military research center near Damascus that carried out work aimed at “raising the level of resistance and self-defense.”

It is entirely possible that both a “research center” and an arms convoy were struck.

Syria’s vague description of the center fits well with a weapons proliferation organization known as the Scientific Studies and Research Center (better known by its French acronym, CERS).

CERS is a Syrian state organization responsible for developing biological and chemical weapons, missiles, and transferring weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas.

In the past, Israel’s former head of the National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel called on the international community to warn Syria that CERS “will be demolished” if it continues arming terrorist organizations.

According to open source intelligence reports, CERS developed ricin-based chemical weapons. The center was designated as an illegal weapons proliferator by former President George Bush and the U.S. Treasury.

On Saturday, Syrian state TV released footage showing wreckage from the air strikes.

The images appear to have inadvertently verified reports of an arms convoy being the target, as they showed large military trucks that were destroyed in the attack – vehicles that resemble trucks designed to transport anti-aircraft systems.

Since the attack, Iran has led the way in issuing threats to respond. Senior Iranian defense and regime officials have said that the attack will “have consequences for Tel Aviv,” and that a Syrian counterattack will “send Israel into a coma.”

Assad limited himself to condemning Israel as a destabilizer of Syria, and a vague statement saying that Damascus can “confront current threats and aggression against it.”

All parties concerned are aware of the fact that the Assad regime is fighting for its life, and will seek to avoid opening a second front against Israel. Any direct attack on Israel by Syria endangers Assad’s immediate survivability.

On the other hand, Iran’s threats cannot be ignored, and the possibility of retribution was factored in before taking the decision to launch the air strikes.

Iran and Hezbollah could activate terrorist cells abroad to attack overseas Israeli interests. Alternatively, terrorists acting on their behalf could fire missiles at Israel from Syrian or Lebanese territory.

It would be safe to assume that the IDF is on its highest alert for such developments.

Despite the escalated tensions, Jerusalem is projecting a business-as-usual message. Defense Minister Ehud Barak travelled to Germany for an international security conference two days after the air strikes, and IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, landed in Washington on Sunday for talks with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

Whatever happens next, last Wednesday’s air strikes mark a watershed in the gradual breakdown of the Syrian state, and send an unmistakable message: That strategic weapons proliferation will not be tolerated, whatever the price.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/air-strike-in-syria-the-opening-move/2013/02/04/

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