The American Kafir

2012/05/09

Arming Iraq is a mistake

Arming Iraq is a mistake

Source Article Link: Israel Hayom

By Dore Gold

As Tehran became increasingly frustrated with Turkey earlier in the week, and Iran was looking for alternative locations, besides Istanbul, to hold its nuclear talks with the West, one of the options that came up was Baghdad. It appears that since the U.S. completed the withdrawal of troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, Iran has grown increasingly comfortable, in the diplomatic sense, in the Iraqi capital. There are multiple signs indicating that Iraq is increasingly becoming a satellite state of Iran.

To begin with, there is a considerable Iranian military presence within Iraq, which commands significant political influence. In January 2012, the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, General Qassem Sulemani, was widely quoted by the Arab press as boasting that Iran today is in control of Southern Lebanon as well as Iraq. Dr. Amal al-Hazani, a professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, wrote in al-Sharq al-Awsat on January 28, 2012, that “even Sunni politicians in Iraq confessed meekly that the Quds Force is the absolute master of Iraqi affairs.”

If that is the present state of affairs, then U.S. plans to build up the new Iraqi Air Force are particularly troubling. A senior IDF officer told Yaakov Katz, the Jerusalem Post’s military correspondent and defense analyst, that Israel is increasingly concerned with intelligence reports that the Revolutionary Guards are solidifying their presence in Iraq. The context of the Israeli concern is the Obama administration’s decision to go ahead with the sale of 36 advanced F-16 Block 52 fighters, which have the same capabilities as the F-16 fighter jets sold to Israel. Iraq is expected to need a total of six fighter squadrons to defend its airspace, which could lead to a force of up to 96 aircraft.

At this time, the commander of the Iraqi Air Force doesn’t expect the F-16s to be operational until 2015, but Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Malaki, is pressing for accelerated delivery by 2013. There are reports that the Iraqi F-16 weapons systems, like its air-to-air missiles, will have “slight downgrades,” but these can be easily fixed. With the Iranian penetration of Iraq continuing, no one should be surprised if there are reports in the future that Iranian pilots are inspecting the Iraqi F-16s in order to develop their own countermeasures to Western aircraft and weapons systems. If the administration is equipping Iraq to be a counterweight to Iran, then somebody in Washington is making a big mistake.

Arms sales to the Iraqi Air Force present a difficult dilemma for the U.S. On the one hand, arms sales are one of the oldest methods employed by the U.S. to develop pro-American attitudes among the officer corps of Arab military establishments. Early this year, Iraqi pilots arrived at an airbase in Tucson, Arizona to begin learning how to fly the F-16. They will develop relationships with their American trainers. Today in Egypt, with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the time the U.S. has invested in training, equipping and exercising with the Egyptian Army undoubtedly has helped preserve its pro-Western orientation.

On the other hand, building close ties with the officers of Arab air forces does not guarantee the political orientation of their country in the future. In Iran, after the fall of the Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini purged the officer corps of the Iranian armed forces. In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the arrest of dozens of Turkish officers who he suspects might plot a coup against his Islamist government. In Iraq, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are right there on the ground, while the U.S. is thousands of miles away with only an embassy, which has been reduced in size, in Baghdad.

Israel is not the only country which should be raising its eyebrows at the prospect of a U.S.-equipped Iraqi Air Force emerging in the years ahead. Saudi Arabia should also be concerned with the Iraqi military buildup. Politically, the two countries belong to competing axes in the Arab world. Iraq is not only pro-Iranian, it also backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Indeed, when the U.S. asked Prime Minister al-Maliki to close off Iraqi air space to Iranian aircraft resupplying Assad, he refused and opted to help Iran instead.

Many forget that al-Maliki lived in exile in Iran for eight years; his party, al-Dawa, was close with Hezbollah. The Iraqi prime minister’s recent actions will undoubtedly reconfirm the suspicions of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who once called al-Maliki “an Iranian agent,” according to a March 2009 Wikileaks cable that was noted on an earlier occasion in this column.

Now the “Iranian agent” will be getting state-of-the-art American aircraft. It should be recalled that Saudi Arabia is Iran’s main adversary in the Arab world and it is a leading opponent of the Assad regime. Indeed, right after the recent Arab summit in Baghdad, al-Maliki launched a verbal tirade criticizing Saudi Arabia and Qatar for their hostile attitude toward the Assad regime. Along with its growing political differences with Baghdad, Saudi Arabia will have to face new Iraqi military capabilities along its northern border, which it hasn’t had to deal with since 1990. The new situation will allow Iran to encircle Saudi Arabia with pressures on three fronts: Bahrain in the east, Yemen in the south, and Iraq in the north.

Israel will need to carefully monitor political and military developments in Iraq. It is imperative that Israel raise this sale with Washington when the issue of Israel’s qualitative military edge is raised. Iraq has been absent from the strategic balance in the Middle East for two decades. Besides investing in its air force, the Iraqi government hopes to build a land army of 14 divisions. It is also buying Abrams tanks from the U.S.

But as much as Washington will still try to control events in a country where its army once ruled, it will have to recognize that, unfortunately, Iran, at present, is emerging as the dominant power in Baghdad, which will ultimately influence what strategic objectives the Iraqi Army will serve along Israel’s eastern front.


(From left) Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, Efraim Inbar, Ze’ev Maghen and Eytan Gilboa .“We’re realists, not just conservatives.”Photo credit: KOKO

Sanctions or strike: Five Israeli experts weigh in on Iran

Source Article Link: Israel Hayom

By Shlomo Cesana

Israel Hayom presents a special roundtable discussion in which five Israeli experts in Middle Eastern and international politics discuss the Iranian nuclear threat, whether Israel can trust the U.S. and whether the era of American deterrence in the region is over • Meanwhile, 60 percent of Israelis believe the only way to stop Iran is by means of a military strike, according to a new poll.

Seven years ago, Professor Efraim Inbar wrote a document whose bottom line could be summed up as advocating for Israel to attack Iran to stop it from attaining a nuclear capability. This week, Inbar, a political scientist who currently serves as the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, is somewhat encouraged that more and more Israelis have now reached the same conclusion.

To bolster this line of thinking, a poll commissioned this week by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the think tank headed by Dore Gold, indicates that 60 percent of the Israeli public believes the only way to stop Iran is by means of a military strike. Inbar agreed to Israel Hayom’s request and invited four research fellows to take part in a discussion aimed at re-examining the Iranian issue.

“We are realists, not just conservatives,” Inbar said. He also offered a reminder of how his scholar colleagues were correct in their analyses of the Arab Spring, the proliferation of the arms race, the peace process, and Turkey’s shift in policy.

Every semester, Inbar begins the first lesson in his war and strategy course by informing students that there are two significant factors that govern relations between states: Who can hurt the other more; and who can withstand the pain more. He wants to apply these two equations to the Iran issue. “We need to ask ourselves, what goal have the Iranians chosen for themselves and what is the price in pain that they are willing to pay?” he said. “That is the only way we will be able to understand what it is they want to do tomorrow.”

“The way to stop Iran is by means of a military assault,” Inbar said. “I don’t believe that sanctions will help. Officials in Tehran view the bomb as their regime’s insurance policy. Their opinion was reinforced by the West’s behavior toward the Libyan regime. The former ruler of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, gave up nuclear weapons and eventually was removed from power. If he would have developed nuclear weapons, it would be reasonable to assume that the West wouldn’t cause him any trouble.”

“If the Ayatollahs’ regime comes into possession of nuclear weapons, it will be very difficult to create an effective level of deterrence in the future,” he said. “I also don’t agree with assessments that a second strike is effective enough since this is a dynamic process that requires [Israel] to improve itself in relation to the enemy’s capabilities. Iran’s development of the bomb would trigger a nuclear arms race. In a relatively compact region [like the Middle East], deterrent systems and short distances bear critical significance.”

Trust no one

Inbar minces no words, in expressing his unequivocal view that Israel cannot trust the United States. The era of American deterrence in the region is over. In the short term, the Americans are preoccupied with elections. In the long term, it is uncertain as to whether there will still be a window of opportunity for an attack. Yet even if that window closes, the Americans still believe negotiations can solve everything.

The promises the Americans are making now will not stand up in another month. A history of U.S.-Israel relations teaches us that there have been a great number of promises that haven’t been honored, like the Bush letter regarding settlement blocs that has not been adopted by President Barack Obama.

“States act according to their interests, and they are flexible,” Inbar said. “At the end of the day, you have to be realistic. The world wants quiet. The world wants oil at a reasonable price. If Israel disrupts this calm and upsets global economic stability, the international community will do everything to prevent us from launching a military attack. Another thing is that there are people who say the Iranians are rational. But what if the person who makes this assessment is 10 percent wrong? There is no reason to trust the Iranians.”

Despite his firm beliefs, Inbar knows that the enemy can be unpredictable when it comes to its response to an Israeli or American attack. “It is reasonable to assume that Iran would react with missiles and terrorism,” he said. “We’ve already seen this. People should always remember what price we will have to pay if we don’t attack and if we don’t have nuclear weapons. There’s also the possibility that they won’t do anything and not respond at all.”

Still, Inbar does add a caveat. “On the other hand, I believe that the regime in Iran, in the event that it knows it will one day no longer be in power, is capable of fomenting destruction, and it would want to exit the stage and go down in history as the one who did damage to Israel,” he said. “That is why we mustn’t allow them to reach the stage [of getting a nuclear weapon].”

Worthless sanctions

Professor Eytan Gilboa, who also teaches at Bar-Ilan University and whose area of expertise is U.S. policy in the Middle East as well as international diplomacy, believes the U.S. cannot afford to allow Iran to gain a nuclear bomb. “If Iran goes nuclear, the U.S. would for all intents and purposes lose its position in the Middle East and its hegemony on a global level,” he said. “The Americans are aware of this possibility, and that is why they are constantly declaring they won’t allow it to happen.”

“A nuclear Iran would mean that from now on, Iran is the actor that wields the most influence on governments in the Middle East, not the U.S.,” he said. “Obviously this would give a boost to all of the extremists in the region, which would result in damage to the global economy, the world’s energy markets, and the ability of states to monitor the spread of atomic weapons by way of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”

To boost his argument, Gilboa also cites America’s guiding principles. “The administration vows that it won’t allow Iran to go nuclear,” he said. “Here we are dealing with the credibility of the U.S. government. They say they will employ whatever means they have at their disposal. To me, this sounds more like an empty slogan. Many within the administration as well as those outside it say that it is impossible to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon. They say the price of a non-nuclear Iran would be higher than that of a nuclear Iran.”

“In the event that Iran does go nuclear, there are two choices: Either halting the program and bolstering deterrence, or containment and deterrence,” he said. “On the surface, the Americans say that containment is not an option. But in the next breath they talk out of both sides of their mouth and begin leaking stories about how they won’t allow an attack on Israel and don’t support it. Officials in Washington don’t want to reach a fork in the road where they’ll have to decide between a nuclear Iran or a military operation.”

“At this stage, the Americans want to exhaust the option of negotiating with the Iranians, and the Iranians, for their part, are not ruling out talks,” Gilboa said. “The question remains: What do you base the negotiations on? The Iranians want talks so that they can move forward with their nuclear program. The Americans want negotiations so that they can stop the nuclear program. And then you have people in Israel and abroad who say, ‘Give negotiations a chance.’ But why? Germany, the U.K., and France held talks with Iran for five years that went nowhere, and eventually they came to the conclusion that Iran was being deceptive in order to continue with its plans. So any attempt by the West to hold talks is playing into Iranian hands.”

“The sanctions and negotiations could work only if the threat of military action was hovering over the Iranians’ heads,” he said. “Since the Americans aren’t wielding this threat, the Iranians understand that while life may be a bit tougher with sanctions, that’s it. They could still move forward with their nuclear program.”

The U.S. has lost its way

Professor Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, is less optimistic. In his view, the Americans and the Israelis are both a long way away from understanding the reality in the Middle East. “Since 2003, when the Americans invaded Iraq, the Saudis have gradually lost faith in their most important ally, the U.S. The results of American policy in the Gulf have all proven detrimental to the Saudis,” he said. “The situation has gotten so bad in the wake of the Arab Spring that Saudi Arabia finds itself considerably weakened. Riyadh has understandably asked itself, ‘Is this how the U.S. supports its allies in the region? This is how Washington supports Hosni Mubarak? This is how it supports [deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali?”

“The Saudis are worried about the Iranian nuclear issue, but they understand that the current administration in power in the U.S. is very limited in its capabilities,” he said. “One of the results of the failed U.S. policies in the region was the Shiite uprising in Bahrain that was staged by just 12 percent of the population that lives near a wealthy, oil-producing region. Saudi Arabia views Bahrain as a kind of protectorate, so the massive Iranian presence there is akin to deploying Soviet missiles in Cuba.”

“The U.S. conduct there led them to the conclusion that they need to be more independent,” he said.

A lack of understanding

According to Prof. Ze’ev Maghen, an expert on Islam and modern Iran who currently sits as the chair of the Department of Middle Eastern History at Bar-Ilan University, the West is suffering from a terrible case of ignorance on everything taking place in Iran as well as its relationship with the West and Israel. He was irked by President Shimon Peres’ speech in Washington last month, during which he called on the Iranian people to return to their illustrious past and abandon Islamization.

“The ignorance is also evident in the intelligence assessments in the West as well as the attempt to search for a bomb,” he said. From his standpoint, one can clearly reach the conclusion that the Iranians are building a bomb just by listening to what they are saying.

“They have every reason in the world to build an atomic bomb,” he said. “If I were the president of Iran, I would also make sure my country would have a nuclear weapon. Iran is surrounded by traditional enemies, like Russia and the Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia. The Iranians are using Israel to try to unite the Muslim world under its leadership.”

“Since Mecca, which belongs to the anti-Sunni Wahhabi movement, cannot be the focal point of the Muslim world, there is one place that can unite all the aspirations of various sects in Islam, and that place is Jerusalem,” he said. “That explains [the Muslim] desire to conquer it. We are speaking in completely different languages and our worldviews are also totally different. It is hard for us to understand what a theocracy really is. The West doesn’t understand this reality, one in which a country’s population views the Quran and holy scripture as the last word.”

“Here in Israel, people are always looking for the hidden meaning behind statements,” he said. “They ask, ‘Okay, but what is really happening? Is this a political issue? An economic issue?’ This is where we make the same mistake time and again. The same goes for our attempts to understand the process taking place in Egypt. Here there were those who interpreted the events in Egypt as an oppressed population that rose up to demand its rights. There are obviously masses of people there who want their rights protected, but what they really want is the deeper meaning of life that is predicated on Islam. This is the significance of what is taking place, and it is obvious, but people here can’t quite manage to understand this.”

“From Egyptians’ standpoint, we in Israel have for a while now missed the gist,” he said. “There was a time when they referred to us as the ‘Zionist entity.’ Now they are calling us the ‘shopping mall entity.’ In other words, their reason for being is to take a trip to the shopping mall. They look at us and say, ‘They’ve lost it.’”

America’s strength

Professor Hillel Frisch is a political scientist and expert in Middle Eastern politics who teaches at Bar-Ilan University. He is a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and the author of a book on security relations between Israel and the Palestinians. His main line of thinking is that over the last 20 years the violent struggle between Israelis and Palestinians has been replaced by an Arab cold war.

There is an ongoing struggle between the camp comprising Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, and the camp of moderate Arab states. “There is one dimension that is gaining steam all the time, and that is the Sunnis being pitted against the non-Sunnis,” he said.

According to Frisch’s theory, the Americans have adopted the view that empires fall at precisely the moment they have the upper hand, which means that they collapse from within. The sun never set on the British Empire, but the British Empire grew dark from within.

According to Frisch, the Americans are preoccupied with battling another empire – China. Still, he notes: “We have the Iranian problem, which threatens to change the reality in the cold war between Sunnis and Shiites. The Americans know there is a tremendous gap between the economic might of the Saudis and their allies and their military capabilities. So they will continue to preserve their superiority.”

Frisch diverges from his colleagues on this issue. “The Americans have an obligation,” he said. “People think that the U.S. is on the decline from the standpoint of being ready to act, but still they have the ability to do this.”

“The U.S. in the era following its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a country with significant power,” he said. “I believe that the U.S. will take care of the Iranian threat if necessary, and it wouldn’t be a difficult battle for the Americans. In my view, the Iranians understand the balance of power perfectly. Unfortunately for us, they are smart enough to get the U.S. not to attack.

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2012/03/28

Obama’s Support for Pro-Islamist Syrian Opposition and the Duplicity of Turkey

View this document on Scribd

2012/03/27

Syrian violence drives 50,000 Christians from homes

Source Catholic News Agency

Syrian violence drives 50,000 Christians from homes

Damascus, Syria, (CNA).- Almost all Christians in the conflict-torn Syrian city of Homs have fled violence and persecution, amid reports that their homes have been attacked and seized by “fanatics” with links to al-Qaida.

With ninety percent of Christians having reportedly left their homes, the violence is driving fears that Syria could become a “second Iraq” with church attacks, kidnappings and forced expulsions of believers.

The exodus of 50,000 or more Christians has taken place largely in the past six weeks. It is part of al-Qaida-linked militant Islamic groups’ “ongoing ethnic cleansing” of Christians, according to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Homs has been home to one of Syria’s largest Christian populations and Church sources say that the faithful have borne the brunt of the violence. They have escaped to villages, many of which are in mountains 30 miles outside the city.

Islamists have allegedly gone from house to house in the Homs neighborhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan and have forced Christians to leave without giving them a chance to take their belongings.

The crisis in Homs has increased fears that Islamists are gaining influence in the region in the power vacuum left by the overthrow of other Arab governments in the “Arab Spring.”

The comparisons with Iraq are also ominous. Anti-Christian violence in Iraq has helped drive the Christian population from 1.4 million in the late 1980s to less than 300,000 today.

In both Syria and Iraq the Church is being targeted for its perceived close links with regimes under attack from opposition parties and rebel groups.

The uprising in Syria started in March 2011 with protests advocating political reform. The uprising has become increasingly militarized. More than 8,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the past year, U.N. figures say.

Many in the opposition are from the country’s Sunni majority, while religious minorities continue to back President Bashar al-Assad. The exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has said it will not monopolize power in a new regime but will back a democratic state with equality for all citizens and respect for human rights.

On March 26, Syrian government forces shelled Homs and carried out arrest raids. A human rights group says that government forces appear to be preparing to retake rebel-held parts of the city, the Associated Press reported.

The government has accused insurgents of terrorism and international conspiracy, while the government itself faces accusations of torture and massacres of civilians.

The Christian community has suffered from terrorist attacks in other cities.

On March 18, a car bomb explosion targeted the Christian quarter of Aleppo, close to the Franciscan-run Church of St. Bonaventure. Aid to the Church in Need is helping families of the victims.

“The people we are helping are very afraid,” said Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, who is overseeing the aid program. “The Christians don’t know what their future will hold. They are afraid they will not get their homes back.”

The displaced people of Homs are desperate for food and shelter. Aid to the Church in Need has announced an urgent $100,000 aid package to relieve their needs.

Each family will receive $60 each month for basic food and lodging. Organizers of the assistance hope that they can return home by the summer.

Bishop Audo told Aid to the Church in Need that it is very important to help those in distress.

“Pray for us and let us work together to build peace in Syria,” he said.

2012/03/24

Iran: The leading state sponsor of int’l terrorism

Source JPost

Iran: The leading state sponsor of int’l terrorism

By IRWIN COTLER

By training, arming, financing and instigating groups like Hezbollah, the Iranian regime gives violent expression to the genocidal narrative of its leadership.

There is increasing – and compelling – evidence of Iranian footprints in a series of recent aborted terrorist attacks in India, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Thailand.

The Indian police have just reported that the Iranian connection to the bombing of the Israeli Embassy car has been “conclusively established” and that the bombing was connected to a botched attack targeting Israeli consular staff in Bangkok.

Thai officials have now detained three Iranian nationals in connection with the plots, while a fourth has been detained in Malaysia. Similarly, an Indian journalist with close ties to Iran’s notorious Quds Force was also arrested last week for facilitating the New Delhi attack. An Indian court has now issued arrest warrants for three other Iranian nationals in connection with the bombing.

Two other Iranian nationals suspected of involvement in the Thai attack, including the alleged mastermind who is presently in Iran, remain fugitives.

Moreover, Thai investigators have released photos of unexploded bombs found in the home of one of the suspects, which are strikingly similar to those used in the Georgian and Indian attacks. And in what is perhaps the most shocking – albeit least reported – development yet, Azerbaijani police are reporting that they are detaining nearly two dozen people for allegedly plotting attacks on the country’s U.S. and Israeli Embassies and other Jewish and Western targets. According to initial reports, a number of the operatives were trained in Iranian military camps and armed by its intelligence agency.

Given the evolving evidence of Iranian involvement, these attacks constitute a major Iranian escalation in its state sponsorship of international terrorism and in the systematic targeting of diplomatic missions in defiance of preemptory norms of international law.

Such an escalation dovetails with the converging Iranian fourfold threat – nuclear, incitement, terrorism, massive domestic repression – and its corresponding incendiary rhetoric which finds increasing expression in the regime’s serial use of terrorist violence as a central tenet of its foreign policy.

Indeed, the recent web of attacks comes in the aftermath of ominous warnings by Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the spokesman for Iran’s Joint Armed Forces Staff that “the enemies of the Iranian nation, especially the United States, Britain and the Zionist regime have to be held responsible for their activities.” Senior Iranian officials have also recently warned of their intention to strike Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide.

In particular, since the fraudulent election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, Iran’s escalating rhetoric has been accompanied by increasingly brazen terrorist acts and attempts. In what has become an annual tradition, Iran was once again designated by the US State Department’s Country Report on Terrorism as “the most active state sponsor of terrorism.”

The United States’ recent indictment of senior Iranian officials, accused of orchestrating an elaborate plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington is but the latest example.

Indeed, as part of the same plot – though this has gone largely unremarked – the indicted Iranian officials also conspired to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Saudi Embassy in Argentina. By striking at diplomatic targets – indeed, all four of the February attacks targeted Israeli Embassy and consular officials – Iran demonstrates not only its hatred and rejectionism of Israel but its violent rejection of the principle of diplomatic immunity, a foundational principle of international law.

It should be noted that the notorious Quds Force has been at the forefront of Iranian state terror, and has been implicated in the planning, arming or carrying out of attacks against civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, the United States and Asia. Indeed, the IRGC remains the epicenter of threats to international peace and security – to regional and Middle East stability –and is now involved also in the brutal Syrian crackdown on its people, in the beatings, killings and torture, constitutive of crimes against humanity.

US officials have recently acknowledged that aid from Iran to Syria “is increasing, and is increasingly focused on lethal assistance.” Syrian army defectors tell of Iran’s involvement in summary executions, torture and other atrocities carried out against civilians, including the torture of hospital residents.

WHAT IS more, the Revolutionary Guard Corps has been at the forefront of a long-standing global campaign of terror against perceived opponents of the regime. The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center has linked senior regime officials to the extrajudicial murder of at least 162 political activists in 18 countries from East Asia through Western Europe to the United States. In a particularly brazen incident, Iranian agents assassinated four Kurdish activists at a Berlin restaurant in 1992.

A Berlin court concluded that “Iran’s political leadership ordered the crime.”

By its ongoing and escalating statesponsored terror on foreign soil, Iran is in standing violation of every cannon of domestic and international law. Iran also continues to act as chief patron of Hamas and Hezbollah. These groups are not just terrorist entities, though this would be bad enough. But they have an objective which is genocidal – an ideology which is anti-Jewish – not because I say so but because their charters proclaim it – and where terrorism is an instrument for the implementation of their objectives. The recent attacks – all of which targeted Israeli and Jewish institutions – also bore the hallmark of Hezbollah, and follow the January arrest of one of the Hezbollah operatives suspected of planning the attacks in Bangkok. Hezbollah has also been accused of acting at the behest of Iran in the escalating terrorism in Homs, Syria.

The spate of violence is particularly worrying given the recent and incendiary pronouncements by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, to the effect that Israel is a “cancerous tumor” that must be eradicated, and will be eradicated.

Lest there be any ambiguity as to the genocidal intent of Iran’s clerical and political leadership, the supreme leader explained in a subsequent interview that there is a “jurisprudential justification to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel and that Iran must take the helm.”

By training, arming, financing and instigating groups like Hezbollah, the Iranian regime gives violent expression to the genocidal narrative of its leadership.

Indeed, the convergence of Iranian state-sanctioned incitement to genocide and its state-sponsored terrorism has not suddenly emerged in the context of the current standoff with the West over the Iranian nuclear weaponization program. Rather, since the early days of the Islamic Revolution, Iranian terrorist threats have materialized into attacks against civilians around the globe.

The regime’s anti-Jewish brutality was witnessed most vividly on 18 July 1994, when a bomb tore through Argentina’s Jewish Community Center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires. The Argentinean minister of justice advised me that “this was the worst terrorist atrocity in Argentina since the Second World War.”

The Argentine Judiciary concluded that the attack, which killed 85 people and wounded 300 others, was planned, orchestrated and implemented at the highest echelons of the Iranian leadership, including both the office of the president and the Iranian Embassy in Argentina – yet no Iranian official has been brought to justice for the attack.

On the contrary – and reflective of the culture of impunity that reigns in Iran – Ahmed Vahidi, wanted by Interpol for his role as an organizer of the Argentinean bombing, currently serves as Iran’s Defense Minister, and was appointed in 2009 – Ahmadinejad’s defiant response to Obama’s “outstretched hand” during his year of engagement with Iran.

In a particularly chilling reminder of Iran’s no-holds-barred capacity to engage in state-sponsored terrorism in association with the most deadly of terrorist groups, a New York Federal District Court ruled in December that Tehran materially and directly supported al-Qaida’s devastating September 11 attacks on the United States.

The court’s findings included:

  •  Proof that a Revolutionary Guard contingency plan for unconventional warfare against the US included a plan to crash hijacked airlines into the World Trade Centres and the Pentagon.
  •  Proof of coded messages from an Iranian government official during the weeks before 9/11 to the effect that the aforementioned plan had been activated.
  •  Evidence that Iran facilitated the escape of al-Qaida leadership from Afghanistan during the US invasion.
  •  Evidence that Ali Khamenei was aware of the 9/11 attacks as early as May 2001.
  •  Evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives met with the 9/11 hijackers in the months leading up to the attacks.

Given the evidence of the escalating Iranian state sponsorship of international terrorism – and the increasing targeting of diplomats – all states have the responsibility to invoke the legal, diplomatic, economic and political instruments at their disposal to confront Iranian terrorist aggression. These instruments include, but are certainly not limited to: increasing bilateral and multilateral diplomatic and economic sanctions; the mobilization of political pressure to isolate the Iranian regime as a pariah among nations; and invoking legal remedies against the Iranian regime and its terrorist agents.

Specifically, State Parties to the Genocide Convention should initiate interstate complaints before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Iran – also a state party to the Genocide Convention – for its incitement to genocide, a violation of the Convention.

Similarly, states may bring Iran before the ICJ for its attacks against diplomats, pursuant to the Islamic Republic’s obligations under Article 13 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, which it ratified in 1978.

States should also list the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, an organization that has been at the vanguard of the Islamic Republic’s campaign of state terrorism, as a terrorist entity. The Argentinean Judiciary’s decision – and resulting Interpol arrest warrants – should be enforced. Civil suits should be instituted where appropriate against Iran and its terrorist agents for its perpetration of acts of terror; and the principle of universal jurisdiction should be invoked to hold Iran’s leaders – under indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity – accountable.

Ahmed Vahidi, such an indicted criminal, should not be able to travel freely with impunity.

Simply put, the recent wave of terrorist attacks must serve as a wake-up call for the necessary action to be taken by the international community to combat this culture of incitement, terror and impunity. Indeed, history teaches us that a sustained and coordinated international response is required in combat such grave threats to peace and security. We must act now to hold Iran’s state-sanctioned terror to account, lest more lives be lost. Such Iranian statesanctioned terror is a chilling warning of what dangers await the international community should Iran become a nuclear power.

Irwin Cotler is a member of the Canadian Parliament, emeritus professor of law at McGill University and a former minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada. He is the Canadian representative on the International Parliamentary Coalition Against Terrorism and has initiated a series of civil and criminal remedies to combat terror.

2011/11/25

Reports of Coming Military Action in Syria

Filed under: Arab Nations, Bashar Assad, National Security, Syria, Turkey, War — - @ 6:58 pm

Reports of Coming Military Action in Syria

by Ryan Mauro

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad​ can feel the noose around his neck tightening. France is now calling for a humanitarian corridor in Syria and multiple reports talk of a Turkish-Arab military action following an authorization from the Arab League. The U.S. is telling its citizens to immediately leave the country. War may be on the horizon.

On Thursday, the French Foreign Minister asked the Arab League to endorse a “secured zone to protect civilians” in Syria. France is also officially embracing the Syrian National Council, an umbrella of opposition groups and figures, as a legitimate body. Foreign Minister Alain Juppe played a game of semantics, saying France was not endorsing a military intervention for a “buffer zone,” while admitting that the proposed “secured zone” would need military protection to ensure the delivery of aid.

At the same time, Israeli officials expect Turkey to soon establish buffer zones within Syrian territory near the border to create a safe haven for civilians and military defectors. The Turks are already housing the leadership of the Free Syria Army that is waging an armed struggle against Assad. The Kuwaiti Al-Rai newspaper is being told by senior sources in Europe that the plan is for a no-fly zone to be enforced by Arab and possibly Turkish air power after the Arab League approves of it. The U.S. will be involved behind-the-scenes, offering logistical support but no direct participation. NATO has ruled out military action in Syria.

According to the report, the no-fly zone will not be limited to only stopping Syrian airplanes and helicopters, which have been rarely used in putting down the uprising. It will enforce a ban on all movement of military vehicles and artillery, forcing them off of the streets. It is hoped that Assad’s military will be forced to end operations “in less than 24 hours.” This account differs from the Israeli one in that it states that Turkey has ruled out sending its military into Syrian territory to create a buffer zone.

Turkish state television revealed on Tuesday that the commander of the army was evaluating the forces stationed along the border with Syria. The Syrian military is reinforcing its positions in the area, digging trenches and moving tanks behind trees. The Turkish government is telling its citizens returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca not to travel through Syria following an incident where Assad’s security forces fired upon two buses filled with Turkish citizens.

The U.S. is telling its citizens in Syria to immediately depart. Ambassador Robert Ford’s planned return to Syria has been canceled. It should be noted that the Obama administration waited to support military intervention in Libya until all American citizens had left.

Three cities near the Turkish border have become the focal points of the protests and the fighting between the regime and the Free Syria Army: Idlib, Homs and Hama, the lattermost being the base of the Muslim Brotherhood​ revolt in 1982 that was crushed by the regime. Part of Idlib is said to be free of the regime’s control. This makes it a candidate to be the Syrian version of Libya’s Benghazi where the opposition headquartered its revolution.

The Free Syria Army’s strategy is to create a safe haven in northern Syria near Turkey and then win international support for its fight to overthrow Assad. The leader of the Free Syria Army claims to have 15,000 defectors under his command, up from the number of 10,000 he regularly boasted of. This may be an exaggeration, but it is clear that the forces’ capabilities are increasing. It recently carried out attacks on the Air Force Intelligence headquarters near Damascus and the ruling Baath Partyheadquarters in the capital.

Read the entire article at FrontPageMag

Related Article:

Only Action Can Stop the Syrian Slaughter

2011/11/04

Arab Spring or Islamist Surge?

Source Article Link: National Interest

Arab Spring or Islamist Surge?

By Benny Morris

Rioting in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011 unleashed a tidal wave of unrest across the Arab world that was soon designated the “Arab Spring.” Enthusiasts in the West hailed a new birth of freedom for a giant slice of humanity that has been living in despotic darkness for centuries. But historians in fifty or a hundred years may well point to the 1979 events in Teheran—the Islamist revolution that toppled the Shah—as the real trigger of this so-called “spring” (which is looking more and more like a deep, forbidding winter). And the Islamist Hamas victory in the Palestinian general elections of 2006 and that organization’s armed takeover of the Gaza Strip the following year probably signified further milestones on the same path.
For, if nothing else, the past weeks’ developments have driven home one message: That the main result of the “Arab Spring” will be—at least in the short and medium terms, and, I fear, in the long-term as well—an accelerated Islamization of the Arab world. In the Mashreq—the eastern Arab lands, including Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq—the jury may still be out (though recent events in Palestine and Jordan are not encouraging). But in the Maghreb—the western Arab lands, from Egypt to the Atlantic coast—the direction of development is crystal clear.

In Tunisia the Islamist al-Nahda (Ennahda) Party won a clear victory in the country’s first free elections, winning some 90 out of 217 seats in the special assembly which in the coming months is to chart the country’s political future. Speculation about whether the party is genuinely “moderate” Islamist—as its leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, insists—or fundamentally intent on imposing sharia religious law over Tunisia through a process of creeping Islamisation a la the Gaza Strip and Turkey is immaterial. The Islamists won, hands down and against all initial expectations—and in a country that was thought to be the most secular and “Western” in the Arab world. Freedom of thought and religious freedom are not exactly foundations of Islamist thinking, and whether Tunisian “democracy” will survive this election is anyone’s guess.

To the east, in the tribal wreckage that is Libya, the Islamist factions appear to be the major force emerging from the demise of the Qaddafi regime. In the coming weeks and months we are likely to see movement toward elections that will hammer down another Islamist victory.

And much the same appears to be emerging from the far more significant upheaval in Libya’s eastern neighbor, Egypt, with its 90 million inhabitants—the deomographic, cultural and political center of the Arab world and its weather vane. The recent crackdown, by a Muslim mob and then the ruling military, against Coptic Christian demonstrators (protesting the destruction of a church) was only, I fear, a taste of things to come. All opinion polls predict that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood—which has long sought the imposition of strict sharia law and Israel’s destruction—will emerge from next month’s parliamentary elections as the country’s strongest political party, perhaps even with an outright majority. An Islamist may well win the presidential elections that are scheduled to follow, if the army allows them to go forward.

And the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip has become, following Mubarak’s fall, a lawless, Islamist-dominated territory. Egyptian writ runs (barely) only in the northeastern (El Arish-Rafah) and southeastern (Sharm a-Sheikh) fringes. The peninsula’s interior is in the grip of Islamists and bedouin gunmen and smugglers and has become a major staging post for Iranian arms smuggling into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

For months now the Egyptian natural gas pipeline to Israel (and Jordan) has been cut, the military unable to prevent continued incidents of Islamist-beduin sabotage. The severance of the gas export—in effect, a continuing Egyptian violation of an international commercial agreement—has meant that Israel has had to dole out hundreds of millions of additional dollars for liquid fuel to run its electricity grid.

And last week witnessed a further, violent aftereffect of the “Arab Spring”—three Grad rockets (advanced Katyushas), launched from the Gaza Strip, landed 20-25 miles away in open fields outside the central Israeli cities of Ashdod and Rehovot. There were no casualties and air force jets hit what Israel called “terrorist” targets in the strip in retaliation (apparently also causing no casualties).

But the direction is clear. After the Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange, the region may be heading toward increased violence. If so, such violence would be part and parcel of the unfolding Islamisation of the region—both in terms of the anti-Zionist Islamist ethos and attendant concrete developments on the ground, one of which is the giant arms smuggling operations that have followed the downfall of Gaddafi. Thus, the “Arab Spring” has brought both Islamization and chaos (and the Islamization will only benefit from this transitional chaos). Ordinary smugglers have collaborated with Islamists to plunder Qaddafi’s armories, and the Middle East’s clandestine arms bazaars are awash with Grads and relatively sophisticated shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles. Israeli intelligence says that many of these weapons have recently made their way into the Gaza Strip via the Sinai Peninsula. One anti-aircraft missile was fired at an Israeli helicopter in a recent skirmish on the Sinai-Israel border.

All these developments suggest an accelerating trend in the Middle East that is far different rom what many Western idealists anticipated when they coined the term “Arab Spring.” It’s a trend that could severely alter Muslim-Western relations across the board.

Benny Morris is a professor of history in the Middle East Studies Department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His most recent book is One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict (Yale University Press, 2009).


Links:
[1] http://www.addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=250&username=nationalinterest
[2] http://nationalinterest.org/profile/benny-morris

2011/11/03

PM Netanyahu’s Speech at Opening of the Knesset’s Winter Session

Source Article Link: Israel Prime Minister Office

PM Netanyahu’s Speech at Opening of the Knesset’s Winter Session

October 31, 2011

Photo By GPO

The Knesset is returning to its winter session at a time when the most dramatic events of our time are taking place in our region.

The Arab street has awoken; old regimes have toppled, others are swaying and new ones are rising.

No-one can guarantee how good or how stable these new regimes will be, nor their attitude towards Israel. Unfortunately, this attitude, which left much to be desired to begin with, is not expected to get any better in some, or most, of the new regimes, not in the foreseeable future.

These new regimes depend on the masses, the raging masses, of which many of the people have been systematically poisoned with anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist propaganda. This incitement began even before the State of Israel was established, and continues at full steam today.

If the results of the elections in Tunisia a few days ago are anything to go by, we will probably see the rise of other governments with a dominant Islamist component.

In most countries in the region, the Islamist movements are the strongest, most organized power, while the liberal forces, striving for freedom and progress, as we define the terms, are divided and weak.

If the positions of the religious extreme do not become more moderate, I doubt that any of the high hopes that blossomed in the Arab spring, will be realized.

It is possible that these hopes will only be fulfilled a generation from now, after this wave subsides, when progress will be given a chance to lead the Arab world along a new path.

If I had to summarize what will happen in our region, I would use two terms: instability and uncertainty.

The collapse of Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, the bloody incidents in Syria, the American forces leaving Iraq, the new government in Tunisia, the upcoming elections in Egypt and many other events – these are all expressions of the immense changes occurring around us. These changes can increase the instability within these countries, and the instability between countries.

Regional powers who have control in the Middle East will try to ensure they have greater influence on the new regimes – influence that will not always support us or be of benefit to us, to say the least. One of these regional forces is Iran, which continues its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran would pose a dire threat on the Middle East and on the entire world. And of course, it poses a grave, direct threat on us too.

To cope with the instability and the uncertainty we are faced with, we need two things: strength and responsibility. Strength in all areas: security, economy, society, everywhere; and responsibility in navigating the stormy sea in which we are sailing. We must continue to strengthen Israel in all areas of security so that we can respond to the new challenges and threats we are facing.

Only a few days ago we were reminded that one of the challenges we face is dealing with the tens of thousands of rockets and missiles in the hands of our enemies, and aimed at our cities.

The Iron Dome batteries and other defense systems provide only a partial solution. They boost the protection of the citizens of the South, and I intend to deploy these systems in other places in the country. But a security philosophy cannot rely on defense alone. It must also include offensive capabilities, which is the very foundation of deterrence.

We operate and will continue to operate intensely and determinately against those who threaten the security of the State of Israel and its citizens.

Our policy is guided by two main principles: the first is “if someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first,” and the second is “if anyone harms us, his blood is on his own hands.”

For two thousand years our people could not realize these two basic principles of self defense. The Jewish people paid the ultimate price in the history of the world due to this inability.

This changed when the State of Israel was established, and the Israel Defense Forces was founded. The governments of Israel acted on these principles: they fought those who threatened us and attacked those who harmed us.

Since assuming the office of Prime Minister, I have instructed the IDF and security forces to act systematically and decisively against the terrorist leaders and those who carry out the attacks.

That is what we did with the terrorist group from the Sinai a couple of months ago. The person who initiated and organized the attack was eliminated several hours later. That is also how we acted this weekend. And I would express my appreciation once more to the IDF soldiers, to the armed forces and the intelligence units who work tirelessly, around the clock, morning-evening-night, to protect our country and all of us.

We will continue to act strongly to defend ourselves, and we will continue to conduct ourselves responsibly in the complex reality of our region. Some of the Members of Knesset may not have noticed that we live in a complex reality.

We witnessed this complexity two months ago, when an enraged mob attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo. The mob didn’t care whether we have a treaty or not. Its intentions were clear and its message was obvious. Those were intense and complex moments. I thank Defense Minister, Barak and Foreign Minister, Lieberman. We worked together with the US Administration and the Egyptian Government and we brought the incident to its conclusion, bringing those who were trapped in the embassy, ​​and their families, home.

Reality, which is changing before our very eyes, presents many obstacles that we are faced with from time to time. It also provides us with opportunities that we do not necessarily see. In this changing world, Israel is rapidly becoming a leading force in the cyber field, known as the war of computers.

Thanks to our special abilities in this area, large, important countries want to cooperate with us. This opens up opportunities for establishing new partnerships that were not available to us in the past and I anticipate that it will become a major factor on the international level. In order to strengthen our standing in the cyber arena, I recently established the National Cyber ​​Directorate. That is the future, and we are already there.

Fostering the strength and responsibility required to fortify Israel’s security is also paramount in our quest for peace. In the Middle East, peace is made with the strong, not with the weak. The stronger Israel is, the closer peace will be.

The people in Israel are united in their desire for peace. Yet we seek real peace; peace that is anchored in the right of the Jewish people to a nation-state in its homeland; peace that is based on security.

We are willing to compromise, but not to discard our security. Even before the earthquake shook our region, I stood firm on Israel’s security interests, and today more than ever.

I assure you that in the negotiations for peace, we will continue to insist on our national interests, first and foremost, security.

Last weekend it was said that I am a tough bargainer. I know that was said as criticism, but I take it as a compliment.

Well, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, President Abbas, I am not tough when it comes to peace. I am tough about the security of the State of Israel and its citizens, and I will continue to be so – that is my utmost duty, my very basic responsibility as the Prime Minister of the State of Israel.

I am willing to make real peace with our neighbors, but I am not willing to risk our security and future. Any peace deal must be accompanied by firm security agreements on the ground; otherwise it just will not last.

For the negotiations to end, they first need to be started. I have called upon the Palestinian leadership time and time again to enter direct negotiations without delay. I appealed to them to do so in my Bar Ilan Speech, I asked them to do it in my speech at the Knesset, I urged them to do it in my speech at the American Congress and I recently proposed it to them at the United Nations , and dozens of other times in between.

I also accepted the Quartet’s proposal for direct negotiations with the Palestinians with no preconditions. Regrettably, the Palestinians continue to refuse to engage in direct negotiations with us. Instead of sitting at the negotiation table, they decided to join the Hamas and take unilateral steps at the United Nations.

We will not idly sit by while these steps harm Israel and severely violate the most basic obligation that the two parties took upon themselves in the peace process – to resolve the conflict between us only through direct negotiations.

Unfortunately, while we support the foundation of a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement, the Palestinians are trying to reach a Palestinian state without a peace agreement. That is the essence of our reality and anyone with eyes to see and a sense of decency knows it.

And I will not agree to that.

No responsible leader would.

Our friend, the United States, stands firmly at our side and opposes the Palestinian unilateral steps at the United Nations, and we are very grateful for that.

I know that there are those who have doubted the Israeli-American relations. But the alliance between us is deeply rooted and solid. The cooperation between the United States and Israel encompasses many important areas.

The alliance is based on the strong support of the American people for Israel, on shared values ​​and common goals. This support has become even stronger in the last few years.

Like us, the United States attaches great importance to the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

These treaties are an anchor of stability in the region and are clearly an Israeli interest.

Over the last year we also enhanced our ties with other countries in the region from Greece to Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria.

And regarding Turkey, we see that even when we disagree, we help each other out in times of need due to natural disasters.

That is what Turkey did during the Carmel forest fire and it is what we did after the earthquake in Turkey last week.

I hope that we find the way to improve the relations between the two countries in the future.

Strength and responsibility, they are the driving force behind our actions in the political and security arena, and they are our compass.

The same means are needed for successfully dealing with the great challenges in the economic and social area.

Over the last few years, the world economy has been in a crisis which is not over yet. The sea is stormy there too.

Major Western countries that did not act responsibly, that did not heed the danger, were occupied with chatter and did not do what was required of them – those countries now find themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. Not only have their credit ratings gone down, but many, many people are unemployed.

So far this economic storm has skipped over Israel. There is no doubt that the responsible way in which Israel has conducted itself over the last decade contributed to that fact.

There is one golden rule that every citizen knows from his own home economy: over time, if you spend more money than you make, you will eventually go bankrupt. The overdraft grows and you collapse. This is true for a family and it is true for a country. There are countries around the world that forgot the rule, and are now paying dearly. Israel acted differently, responsibly.

Israel acted differently, responsibly. That is how I acted as Finance Minister, it is how the finance ministers after me acted, and it is how we act today. But you cannot generate the growth that is vital for creating jobs, growth that is vital for resources, for education, health, you cannot generate growth only by responsibly sticking to the budget. In order to make the market grow one must encourage competition. Not cartels, not monopolies, but fair, supervised competition that benefits the consumer. Competition is not the enemy of the consumer. On the contrary – it is the consumer’s greatest friend. It reduces prices, improves service, reduces gaps, and raises the standard of living. Lack of competition in Israel is one of the most severe causes for the increase in the cost of living, and that is why a year ago, Mr. Speaker, not now, not two or three months ago, I established the Committee on Increasing Competitiveness in the Economy. That is why we are advancing the section of the Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendations on increasing competition in the market, and for good reason.

Yesterday, at the Cabinet Meeting held in Tzfat, we approved the recommendations of the committee dealing with taxation; we cancelled the planned increase on excise tax, a step that benefits every Israeli citizen; we reduced the purchase tax and duty on commodities; we gave extra tax credit points to fathers of children up to the age of three, which will be very helpful for young couples. But these are only the first steps.

I am pleased that all the Members of Knesset want to help, and you will all have the opportunity to do so, as I plan to introduce several bills to the Knesset during this session that will help the citizens – guaranteed. Education for preschoolers will cost less, the burden of taxes will not be so heavy and housing will be more available. I am aware of the real difficulties which you speak about, Mr. Speaker, and I am committed to solving them, including resolutions that we will pass during this session, and I hope the opposition will help too.

Members of Knesset, I promised that I would give you an answer. We are committed to acting with the utmost social sensitivity to change priorities, but I do not accept the claim that the free-market system has collapsed, that we must return to a centralized economy run by clerks, an economy in which the government must be involved in everything and control everything, an economy in which the citizens will have to run around government buildings and beg before the bureaucratic powers. We have been there and we are not going back. That is how to kill an economy, how to destroy it.

MK Gilon is concerned about social needs. But you cannot take care of these things if you do not create the resources, and the resources are not generated by the government, but by the free, open economy. So we must balance the needs of economic growth with social needs, and that is precisely what we are doing and are going to do. […] And invest in the periphery of Israel.

Yesterday, we inaugurated, with you, Mr. President, a new medical school in Tzfat. This is great news for the Galilee. After a decade of promises, we will soon start moving military bases to the south, which is great tidings for the south. We are a government that not only promises but does, a government that not only talks about things but realizes them. We are building highways, interchanges, overpasses, trains, and we are finally easing Israel out of the Hadera-Gedera traffic jam.

Yesterday, at Tzfat, I gave an account of my grandfather and father going there 91 years ago. They went from Yaffo or Neve Tzedek, that what Tel Aviv was at the time. They took the Emek (Valley) railroad. They arrived in Tzemach and sailed in a stormy sea to Tiberius. And from there they continued up. Before leaving for Tzfat I asked my father, and he said “a hard, harsh journey.” That is how he described it. Through Rosh Pina, having to change the horses with carriage. This trip, this journey took three days, 91 years ago. A few years ago it would take three hours. I asked the Mayor of Hatzor HaGlilit, Swissa, how long it takes him now. He said one hour and 40 minutes. I told him it’s going to be faster. Not only because of the interchange at HaMovil Junction which has opened up the Galilee, but soon there will be interchanges at Golani Junction and Amiad Junction, and in our vision, among others, there will be one multilane highway, with no traffic lights, all the way from Metula to Eilat. It is not impossible, but it hasn’t been done. We are doing it. We are bringing the periphery of Israel closer.

Our goal is to strengthen the periphery and bring it closer to the center, but ultimately, when the drive to most areas in the country will be so short, we will be able to cancel the term ‘periphery.’ There is no reason in our country … I want to tell you, our country is huge, in spirit, in actions, our nation is skillful, but our country is tiny, and there is no reason why there are places that are cut off, disconnected, distant in such a small country. Therefore, in addition to the roads and the trains and the interchanges and the overpasses – and the entire country can see the great things we are doing at huge investment, whether they want to admit it or not – we are diligently developing the two largest areas of the country, the Galilee and the Negev. That way we will get people out of Gush Dan, we will better their lives and improve the lifestyle of the residents of the Galilee and the Negev, Jews and non-Jews alike. That is a very important social step.

But the biggest social revolution we are creating is in education. After many years of decline – and it was measured; it has been tested in IDF reading tests, standardized tests, international tests – for the first time since the reforms were implemented, and new changes are being introduced now, we can already see a change in direction, we can see an improvement in the test results of Israeli children.

And after a decade we began salvaging higher education. Two years ago, Nobel Prize laureate Ada Yonath, said that she was afraid that without investing in education and in higher education, we would not have any more Nobel Prize winners. And I took what she said seriously, and Professor Trajtenberg who we all now know, is committed to helping create a revolution in higher education.

We have invested, we have started to invest over NIS 7 billion in a multi-year plan, and I was so happy to hear from our new Nobel Prize laureate Professor Dan Shechtman, that he can see the changes that our government is leading. And he is right, because we launched the program to save higher education. I want to promise you, we will continue to invest and we will see many more Israeli Nobel Prize laureates.

Members of Knesset, I have spoken, and I must admit not always successfully, about strength and responsibility.

I also want to talk about something that links the two: unity. Two weeks ago we brought our soldier Gilad Shalit home after being held captive by Hamas for over five years. Like everybody else, I was extremely moved when I saw Gilad step off the helicopter. For a few days the entire country was united, unified, excited about one soldier whom we had brought home. Last week, in coordination with Egypt and with the help of the American government, we released Ilan Grapel, who made aliya alone, volunteered to serve in the paratrooper unit and was injured during the Second Lebanon War. We will continue to work for the release of Uda Tarabin who has been imprisoned in Egypt for 11 years. And I want to tell you and the entire people of Israel, I never, not for a moment, forget Jonathan Pollard, who has been in jail in the United States for 26 years. We will continue to do everything we can to bring him to Israel and we will not cease to try to obtain information about the fate of our missing soldiers.

The unity that brings us to work together for one soldier is a testament to the ability of our people to come together in times of trouble. It is an expression of our strength, our responsibility, our mutual accountability. I believe in the power of this unity in times of trouble in the Knesset too. I believe that in spite of all the disagreements, at the moment of truth we will rise above them and work together for the important and common goals. These are the things that guide us: strength, responsibility and unity. We have one country, together we can protect it.

Thank you.

Hizbullah Discusses Its Operational Plan for War with Israel: Missile Fire on Tel Aviv and Conquest of the Galilee

Filed under: Hasan Nasrallah, Hizbullah, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Syria — - @ 4:56 pm

Hizbullah Discusses Its Operational Plan for War with Israel:

Missile Fire on Tel Aviv and Conquest of the Galilee

Written By Shimon Shapira

  • In recent weeks Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah held a series of meetings with his top-level military command as well as field commanders responsible for preparing for war with Israel. According to a source close to Hizbullah, Nasrallah’s operational directive was that in the next military conflict with Israel, Hizbullah will hit Tel Aviv with missiles at the outset of the war, while also dispatching forces to conquer the Galilee.
  • Hizbullah forces are being trained to fire at least ten thousand missiles, right at the war’s outset, at military and strategic targets such as airfields, military camps, and vital facilities including maritime ones, followed by the firing of rockets from launch sites whose location will come as a surprise to Israel.
  • The operational plan was formulated in tandem with senior Iranian strategic experts and will include a force of five thousand fighters who have recently trained in Iran, tasked with taking over designated zones in northern Israel including Nahariya, Shlomi, and Carmiel.
  • It was said that engineering units of the Iranian army had mined areas in the eastern Bekaa Valley that were seen as possible landing sites for Israeli special forces, and that Hizbullah had equipped itself with “smart” Iranian anti-tank missiles that can disrupt the defensive systems of Israel’s Merkava tanks.
  • Nasrallah’s recent escalation of public statements stems from heightened fear in Hizbullah that an Israeli and/or American attack on Iran is drawing nearer. As a strategic arm of Iran, Hizbullah sees itself as Iran’s first line of defense against Israel.

On 27 October 2011 the Lebanese newspaper Al Joumhouria reported that in recent weeks the leader of Hizbullah, Hasan Nasrallah, held a series of meetings with the organization’s highest level military command, as well as field commanders and operational-level commanders responsible for preparing Hizbullah’s military force for war with Israel. Nasrallah updated his commanders on regional developments, the situation in Lebanon, and on Hizbullah’s internal and organizational affairs. Nasrallah emphasized the supreme importance of maintaining the organization’s field security, given U.S. and Israeli intelligence organizations’ successes in penetrating Hizbullah and recruiting individuals holding sensitive posts. The exposure of agents within Hizbullah was profoundly unsettling to Nasrallah and the other leaders.

According to a source close to Hizbullah, Nasrallah’s operational directive to the commanders was to prepare for the fact that in the next military conflict with Israel, Hizbullah will hit Tel Aviv with missiles at the outset of the war, while also dispatching forces to conquer the Galilee. The source stressed that this is an operational directive and not a matter of psychological warfare.

Hizbullah’s conclusion from the lessons of the Second Lebanon War is that, next time, Israel will have no red lines in waging all-out war against Lebanon and Hizbullah. Hence, Hizbullah is planning “many surprises” that will change the force equation with Israel both at the start of the conflict and during its operational phase.1

The Operational Plan

The operational plan to conquer the Galilee was first aired in Nasrallah’s announcement on 16 February 2011, as part of events marking the third anniversary of the assassination of Hizbullah commander-in-chief Imad Mughniyeh. Nasrallah told his fighters to be prepared for the fact that, should Israel launch a war against Hizbullah, they will be conquering the Galilee. Since that announcement, Hizbullah forces have been training and preparing to carry out Nasrallah’s order. This preparation includes:

  • Identifying landing sites for Israeli helicopters where explosive charges have been laid and dispersed.
  • Deploying substantial rocket and artillery firepower in areas Hizbullah does not see as suitable for guerrilla warfare, mainly in parts of the Bekaa Valley.
  • Visits by commanders to the front, which have included delegations of military experts headed by Haj Zu Alfikar. He is none other than Mustafa Badr Aldin, Mughniyeh’s replacement as the most senior security-military figure in Hizbullah, who is continuing to act despite an extradition order against him for the murder of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The senior military delegation visited the Bekaa Valley and southern Lebanon.
  • The end of a series of intensive training sessions for some 727 fighters in Iran, who learned new combat methods for guerrilla and special commando units.
  • The completion of courses for operators of advanced missiles and anti-tank weapons. Here it was said that Hizbullah had equipped itself with “smart” Iranian anti-tank missiles that can disrupt the defensive systems of Merkava tanks on the way to striking them.

The military scenario for which Hizbullah forces trained is the firing of at least ten thousand missiles, right at the war’s outset, at military and strategic targets such as airfields, military camps, and vital facilities including maritime ones, followed by the firing of rockets from launch sites whose location will come as a surprise to Israel.

The Operational Plan to Conquer the Galilee

The source said that the operational plan Hizbullah has formulated in tandem with senior Iranian strategic experts is based on using a force of five thousand fighters who have recently trained in Iran, particularly in the context of this plan. Another report said that in recent weeks Hizbullah forces had completed intensive training in Iran and had been deployed in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. It was further reported that in the area of Maydon in the western Bekaa Valley, Hizbullah engineering units had finished excavation work and the improvement of positions, while engineering units of the Iranian army had mined areas in the eastern Bekaa Valley that were seen as possible landing sites for Israeli special forces tasked with attacking Hizbullah’s missile and artillery deployment.2

The source close to Hizbullah said its fighting force would number five brigades, each consisting of a thousand fighters. Each brigade has a designated combat zone in northern Israel that it is tasked with taking over. Each brigade is familiar with the layout and special topographical conditions of its sector and has trained to conquer it.

  • Brigade 1 will take over the town of Nahariya or parts of it, after crossing the border in the area of Rosh Hanikra. According to Hizbullah information, means of protection in that area are meager, the distance is small (seven kilometers), and there are no military capabilities or special topography that will retard the unit in achieving its goal. Concurrently, a force of 150 fighters from the first brigade will reach Nahariya by sea in speedboats that Hizbullah already possesses. This force’s mission is to take as many hostages as possible so as to prevent Israel from bombing the Hizbullah forces in this sector.
  • Brigade 2 will take over the town of Shlomi, which has 6,500 residents and is about 300 meters from the border. The aim is to cut the IDF’s supply lines and force it to send reinforcements from the east.
  • Brigade 3 was ordered to reach the town of Carmiel and conquer areas south of it with the aim of blocking traffic from Acre, on the Mediterranean coast, to Safed.
  • Brigade 4 will take over the communities of Malkiya, Ramot Naftali and Yiftach in order to prevent the IDF from firing from these areas into southern Lebanon.
  • Brigade 5 will serve as a strategic reserve force for special missions.

Syria

Hizbullah is discussing the question of whether Bashar Assad will take part in the war, and is not excluding this possibility, particularly in light of Syria’s domestic situation. On 27 October 2011 the newspaper Al Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, disclosed that Nasrallah had met with Assad a few days earlier in Damascus. It said Nasrallah had come to explain to Assad why Hizbullah insists that the Lebanese government stop contributing to the funding of the international investigatory commission (the STL) on former Lebanese premier Hariri’s murder. Assad, according to the paper, did not give a clear answer on the issue and only emphasized the need to maintain the Lebanese government’s representation. If such a Nasrallah-Assad meeting indeed occurred, it can reasonably be assumed that the subject of a military conflict with Israel was central to it.3

A day after the article appeared in Al Akhbar, the paper published a correction saying the Nasrallah-Assad meeting had not occurred and apologizing for the error.4 It should be stressed that the paper is very close to Hizbullah and not infrequently serves as Nasrallah’s mouthpiece. It is hard to imagine that it would publish a detailed report of this meeting, including specific quotations, against Hizbullah’s wishes. It could be that, on second thought, Hizbullah decided the timing of the article was unwise. As Assad kills his people, Hizbullah faces bitter criticism for supporting him and is losing its standing in the Arab street. Indeed, since the reports in the Lebanese press on Hizbullah’s operational plan and preparations to implement it, Hizbullah has in no way related to these matters either directly or indirectly.

Summary

Nasrallah’s recent escalation of public statements on concrete targets for the next war – rocket fire on Tel Aviv at its outset and the conquest of the Galilee, along with the completion of military preparations – do not come in a vacuum. They stem from heightened fear in Hizbullah that an Israeli and/or American attack on Iran is drawing nearer. Hence, as a strategic arm of Iran that sees itself as Iran’s first line of defense against Israel, Hizbullah is seeking, with Iran’s help, to deter Israel. This explains Nasrallah’s care in emphasizing that he is not referring to an offensive thrust by Hizbullah but, rather, a harsh response to an Israeli move that would engulf Lebanon in war. But even if what is envisaged is a reaction by Hizbullah, let alone a surprise move by Nasrallah, it is important to see the picture as reflected in Hizbullah’s vision.

*     *     *

Notes
1. Al Joumhouria, 27 October 2011.
2. Al Shiraa, 27 October 2011.
3. Al Akhbar,  27October 2001.
4. Al Akhbar, 28 October 2011.

Source Article Link JCPA

2011/10/16

Syrian operations against regime opponents in the USA

Source Link: Internet Haganah

Syrian operations against regime opponents in the USA

A grand jury in Alexandria, VA, has returned a 6 count indictment against Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid. (PDF Copy Below The Article)

Highlights of the indictment:

  • USA alleges Soueid is a Syrian intelligence officer.
  • It is clear from the indictment that there were others in the US who were actively assisting Soueid in his work.
  • Soueid & Co. infiltrated at least one anti-regime group in the USA and acquired what amounts to their membership list.
  • Soueid & Co. conducted surveillance of anti-regime demonstrations with the aim of identifying participants and provided all such data collected to the Syrian intelligence apparatus.
  • At all times Soueid acted under the direction of and maintained contact with ranking Syrian intelligence officials, not to mention at least one individual at the Washington, DC embassy.

The indictment is not without its humorous moments, such as this:

There is also a rather less funny element to the charges against Soueid, namely his purchase of a handgun and three boxes of ammo.

It’s not unreasonable to suspect that individual anti-regime activists in the USA were to be assassinated. Note that Soueid returned from Damascus on/about July 6, 2011, and purchased the firearm on 11 July, 2011. Of particular interest were Syrians who had filed suit against a Syrian government official not named in the indictment, but likely Ambassador Imad Moustapha:

View this document on Scribd

2011/10/10

Irans Two Navies

By Commander Joshua Himes, U.S. Navy

The Arab Spring has fomented increasing uncertainty in the Middle East, a circumstance in which Iran’s regional intentions are of increasing concern. U.S. attempts to isolate the regime are driven by concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, the enduring energy chokepoint at the Strait of Hormuz, and Iran’s export of radical Shi’a militancy through proxy groups across the region, particularly as it affects Iraq, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.

Tehran has historically used its naval forces to send strategic signals and project its foreign policy ambitions and priorities. The regime views its naval resources as its most visible counterforce to U.S. and allied operations off Iran’s shores and the best prepared of Iran’s military services to conduct conventional military operations.

View this document on Scribd

Source Link for above PDF: Understanding War.Org

2011/10/05

Assad threatens to attack Tel Aviv in case of NATO strike

Source Article Link: YNet News

Assad threatens to attack Tel Aviv in case of NATO strike

In meeting with Turkish FM, Syrian president discusses possibility of NATO strike, says ‘I won’t need more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets to Golan to fire at Tel Aviv’

Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday threatened to set fire to the Middle East, and especially to Israel, if NATO attacks Syria, the Iranian Fars news agency reported.

In a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Assad said: “If a crazy measure is taken against Damascus, I will need not more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights to fire them at Tel Aviv.”

Davutoglu reportedly conveyed a message of warning from the US to Assad. The Iranian report has not been verified by other sources.

According to the Fars news agency, the Syrian president stressed that Damascus will also call on Hezbollah in Lebanon to launch a fierce rocket and missile attack on Israel, one that Israeli intelligence could never imagine.

Related Article Highest-ranking Syrian defector takes refuge in Turkey

2011/04/01

Syria’s ‘reformer’

Filed under: Dictators, Hillary Clinton, National Security, Obama, Syria — - @ 2:52 pm

Source Link Washington Post
Written By Charles Krauthammer

Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.

— Hillary Clinton on Bashar al-Assad, March 27

Few things said by this administration in its two years can match this one for moral bankruptcy and strategic incomprehensibility.

First, it’s demonstrably false. It was hoped that President Assad would be a reformer when he inherited his father’s dictatorship a decade ago. Being a London-educated eye doctor, he received the full Yuri Andropov treatment — the assumption that having been exposed to Western ways, he’d been Westernized. Wrong. Assad has run the same iron-fisted Alawite police state as did his father.

Bashar made promises of reform during the short-lived Arab Spring of 2005. The promises were broken. During the current brutally suppressed protests, his spokeswoman made renewed promises of reform. Then Wednesday, appearing before parliament, Assad was shockingly defiant. He offered no concessions. None.

Second, Clinton’s statement is morally obtuse. Here are people demonstrating against a dictatorship that repeatedly uses live fire on its own people, a regime that in 1982 killed 20,000 in Hama and then paved the dead over. Here are insanely courageous people demanding reform — and the U.S. secretary of state tells the world that the thug ordering the shooting of innocents already is a reformer, thus effectively endorsing the Baath party line — “We are all reformers,” Assad told parliament — and undermining the demonstrators’ cause.

Third, it’s strategically incomprehensible. Sometimes you cover for a repressive ally because you need it for U.S. national security. Hence our muted words about Bahrain. Hence our slow response on Egypt. But there are rare times when strategic interest and moral imperative coincide completely. Syria is one such — a monstrous police state whose regime consistently works to thwart U.S. interests in the region.

During the worst days of the Iraq war, this regime funneled terrorists into Iraq to fight U.S. troops and Iraqi allies. It is dripping with Lebanese blood as well, being behind the murder of independent journalists and democrats, including former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. This year, it helped topple the pro-Western government of Hariri’s son, Saad, and put Lebanon under the thumb of the virulently anti-Western Hezbollah. Syria is a partner in nuclear proliferation with North Korea. It is Iran’s agent and closest Arab ally, granting it an outlet on the Mediterranean. Those two Iranian warships that went through the Suez Canal in February docked at the Syrian port of Latakia, a long-sought Iranian penetration of the Mediterranean.

Yet here was the secretary of state covering for the Syrian dictator against his own opposition. And it doesn’t help that Clinton tried to walk it back two days later by saying she was simply quoting others. Rubbish. Of the myriad opinions of Assad, she chose to cite precisely one: reformer. That’s an endorsement, no matter how much she later pretends otherwise.

And it’s not just the words; it’s the policy behind it. This delicacy toward Assad is dismayingly reminiscent of President Obama’s response to the 2009 Iranian uprising during which he was scandalously reluctant to support the demonstrators, while repeatedly reaffirming the legitimacy of the brutal theocracy suppressing them.

Why? Because Obama wanted to remain “engaged” with the mullahs — so that he could talk them out of their nuclear weapons. We know how that went.

The same conceit animates his Syria policy — keep good relations with the regime so that Obama can sweet-talk it out of its alliance with Iran and sponsorship of Hezbollah.

Another abject failure. Syria has contemptuously rejected Obama’s blandishments — obsequious visits from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry and the return of the first U.S. ambassador to Damascus  since the killing of Hariri. Assad’s response? An even tighter and more ostentatious alliance with Hezbollah and Iran.

Our ambassador in Damascus should demand to meet the demonstrators and visit the wounded. If refused, he should be recalled to Washington. And rather than “deplore the crackdown,” as did Clinton in her walk-back, we should be denouncing it in forceful language and every available forum, including the U.N. Security Council.

No one is asking for a Libya-style rescue. Just simple truth-telling. If Kerry wants to make a fool of himself by continuing to insist that Assad is an agent of change, well, it’s a free country. But Clinton speaks for the nation.

letters@charleskrauthamm er.com

Uprisings in Syria

Filed under: Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, Obama, Protests, Syria — - @ 2:44 pm

Source: Stratfor

Analyst Reva Bhalla explains the factors behind the Syrian president’s apparent confidence as the regime prepares for a more forceful crackdown.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

While protests in Syria are increasing in size and scope, the Syrian regime does not appear to be taking chances by parsing out political reforms that could further embolden the opposition. Instead, the Syrian regime is more likely to resort to more forceful crackdowns, which is likely to highlight the growing contradictions in U.S. public diplomacy in the region.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad delivered a speech to parliament on Wednesday in which he was expected to announce a number of political reforms including the lifting of the state of emergency, which has been in place since 1963. Instead, Bashar al Assad largely avoided talk of reforms. He said that security and stability needs to come first. He also built on a narrative that foreign elements were exploiting the grievances of the Syrian people and trying to break the country apart.

The minority Alawite regime in Syria faces immense socioeconomic challenges as well as demographic challenges but there are a number of reasons why the Syrian president appears to be so confident. Protesters in Daraa have come under heavy pressure by Syrian security forces and continue to come out in large numbers. Protests have also spread beyond Daraa to cities like Damascus, Latakia, Homs, Hama and Kamishli, but the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which is the main opposition group in the country, has not put its full weight behind the demonstrations and probably for good reason. The Muslim Brotherhood remembers well the 1982 massacre at Hama which devastated the movement and essentially razed that city to the ground. The Brotherhood is likely looking for assurances from the West that they’re going to receive protection as the crackdowns intensify.

But there’s really no guarantee that the Syrian opposition is going to get those assurances. The U.S. administration has been very careful to distinguish between the humanitarian military intervention in Libya and the situation in Syria, arguing that the level of repression in Syria hasn’t escalated to a point that would require military intervention. The U.S. really has no strategic interest in getting involved in Syria in the first place. Syria would be a much more complicated military affair. The prospects for success would be low and the downfall of the al Assad regime is also not a scenario that the Israelis want to see. The al Assad regime remains hostile to Israel but the virtue in that regime from the Israeli point of view lies in its predictability. The Israelis don’t want to see situation developed in which Syrian Islamists could create the political space in which to influence Syrian foreign policy.

To help ensure that it’s not going to get the Libya treatment, the Syrian regime is likely looking to Turkey for some assistance. Turkey, which has become much more assertive in the region and has stepped up its mediation efforts in Syria, does not want to see another crisis flare up on its border. While encouraging reforms in Syria, the Turks have also likely played a key role in getting the Syrians to clamp down on Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad activity in the Palestinian territories recently. While the Turks will be encouraging the al Assad regime to make reforms at the right time, they could play key role in quietly sustaining external support for the Syrian regime. Syria’s crisis is far from over and the protests could continue to escalate especially now that the al Assad regime has made clear it’s not willing to go down that slippery slope of offering concessions to the opposition. The Syrian security and intelligence apparatus remains a formidable force and remains fairly unified in its approach to dealing with the uprising. What we’ll see in the coming days is whether those crackdowns will actually have the regime’s desired effect.

2011/03/31

Lebanon: Kidnapped Estonians In Syria

Filed under: Lebanon, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Syria — Tags: , — - @ 1:27 pm

Source Stratfor

According to unconfirmed reports March 31 from a STRATFOR source linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, seven Estonians kidnapped March 23 in the Bekaa Valley are in Syria. The Syrians suspected the foreigners because they were in Syria during protests, traveling to places rarely visited by tourists, and because they were riding bicycles, which allowed them to explore Syrian installations and side roads. Syrian officials did not want to apprehend the Estonians in Syria, so they asked them about their next destination and waited for them there. Local Syrian agents, most likely members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, kidnapped them and brought them back to Syria for questioning. The Estonians will soon be returned to Lebanon and released from there, the source said.

Iranian and Hizbullah Silence in the Face of U.S. Support for the Syrian Regime

Filed under: Hizbullah, Iran, Israel, Jihad, National Security, Obama, Syria — - @ 10:12 am

Source Link: Jerusalem Center

Written by Shimon Shapira

As bloody riots threaten Bashar Assad’s regime and the minority Alawite rule, the silence of Iran and Hizbullah, Syria’s closest allies, is striking.

Iran is following developments in Syria with concern, and through its silence is supporting Syria’s massive use of force, which it had earlier criticized in other countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain.

Iran’s main concern is losing its most important strategic ally in the Middle East. This alliance gives Iran free rein in Lebanon, thus allowing Hizbullah to flourish, and helps fan the flames of jihadi zeal against Israel within Palestinian organizations.

The Iranian influence in Syria has grown significantly since Assad replaced his father. In recent years, Assad has permitted Iran to invest enormous sums toward the creation of a new Shiite community within Syria to act as a counterbalance to the Sunni majority. These investments include the building of new Shiite mosques in Damascus and the surrounding cities, the establishment of educational and cultural institutions to enable Iranian clergy to spread Shiite beliefs, and Persian-language classes in cultural centers across the country. Syria has become a favorite destination of Iranian tourists who visit holy places in Damascus (such as the Shrine of Sayidda Zaynab) and other cities, as well as a transit station for Iranian “Jihad tourism” to Hizbullah battle sites, including those in southern Lebanon. Thus it is no surprise that cries of “no to Iran” and “no to Hizbullah” have become common slogans among the rebels fighting against Assad’s regime.

Hizbullah leader Nasrallah, who issued a furious attack against Arab leaders who were massacring their people and offered assistance to Bahrain’s Shiite citizens in their rebellion against the Sunni authorities, drew his inspiration from Tehran in keeping quiet, as well. Al-Manar, Hizbullah’s official television channel, which broadcasts continuous coverage of the “Arab Spring,” hardly reports on the developments in Syria. The reasons for this are obvious. In contrast with his father, Hafez Assad, who refused to meet with Nasrallah and regarded him as simply one of many Lebanese leaders, Bashar Assad turned Nasrallah into a revered hero who fought Israel with military and strategic success. Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and Hizbullah’s “divine victory” in 2006 transformed Nasrallah into a modern-day Saladin in Assad’s eyes, and he has warmly embraced him. Even the mysterious assassination of Hizbullah Chief of Staff Imad Mughniyeh in the center of Damascus did not harm the special relationship between the two. Nasrallah has never publicly blamed Assad for Mughniyeh’s inadequate protection.

Astonishingly, as events appear today, Nasrallah has been encouraged by American policy towards Assad, who enjoys public American support for his continued leadership. It seems that even Nasrallah is not willing to voice his support of Assad in such a public way as has the U.S. Secretary of State.

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

2011/03/30

Media sources reveal details of a conspiracy by Bandar Bin Sultan and Feltman to “destroy” Syria

Source Link: Champress

Media sources reveal details of a conspiracy by Bandar Bin Sultan and Feltman to "destroy" Syria

Several media sources have revealed the details of a “well-organized” plan to destroy Syria and create chaos in the country. The plan is said to be drawn up by Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States,  in collaboration with the former U.S. Ambassador in Lebanon, “Jeffrey Feltman” to overthrow the regime in Syria and to bring Syria back to the “stone age”, according to the sources.

The lengthy and detailed plan, developed by Bandar bin Sultan and his friend Feltman in 2008 with a funding reached  $ 2 billion, consists of many items and precise details which significantly intersect with the incidents  of disturbances the city of Daraa has recently witnessed.

According to sources, the plan “strategically” depended on the exploitation of peoples’ legitimate desire in freedom, dignity and getting rid of corruption and on the turning of these wishes into a revolt against the regime through convincing the people that the road to reform from within the regime  is closed and the solution is an all-out  revolution.

However, the plan tactically divided Syria into three areas (big cities, small cities and villages), and the established five types of networks:

1- The “Fuel”:  This network comprises educated and unemployed youths who are to be linked in a decentralized way.

2- The “Thugs” network  which includes outlaws and criminals from remote areas, preferably non-Syrians.

3- The “Ethnic-Sectarian” network which consists of young people with limited education representing ethnic communities that support or oppose the president. They must be under the age of 22.

4- The “Media” network that comprises some leaders of civil society institutions which have European funding not American one.

5- The “Capital” network which comprises traders, companies owners, banks and commercial centers in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs only.

On how to use these networks and  link between each others, the plan provides for:

The utilization of ambitious young people from the first network (Network of fuel) through attractive phrases such as:

– You must have a voice

– Change can’t be achieved except by force

– Your future is yours to determine

– Your silence is the cause, and so on ….

The plan also provides for exploiting the skills of members of the second network (Network of thugs) through:

– Training the thugs on professional killing including sniping and murdering in cold blood.

– Training them on burning public buildings quickly by using flammable substance.

– Training thugs on penetrating prisons police centers and security buildings.

According to the plan, members of the third network (sectarian ethnic netwrok) will be exploited by

– Feeding their strong feeling of support for or opposition against the President.

– Making them feel that their communities are threatened in all cases.

– Creating the concept of using excessive force against others.

– Convincing them of the idea that all who oppose them in anything are traitors.

– Leading them to a “state of color blindness”, so see only black and white.

-Exploitation their age and lack of knowledge of history and geography and leading them to the brink of being ready to do anything.

The fourth network (media network) will also be exploited to serve the plan. Members of this network will be recruited and their skills will be enhanced  to lead the (public opinion) through:

– Enabling them to communicate with the media by satellite phone that can’t be monitored or cut off.

– Promoting them as nationalists and as individuals who don’t oppose to the regime, but call for civil society.

– Qualifying cadres and training them on techniques of modern media such as blogging and using the Internet which help them communicate with the public.

– Holding regular meetings with them and coordinating their efforts so that no one will contradict the other.

The fifth network (capital network) will be exploited by using their fear of their money being wasted, so the following must be achieved:

– Linking traders with trade officials in the European embassies under the cover of trade relations.

– Holding luxurious parties to be attended by businessmen and during which exclusively Arab Gulf deals and investments are to be made.

– Threatening them with certain sexual relations that are filmed for later blackmailing them.

– Urging them against the regime and creating ideas such as: “The country is yours and outsiders control you. The regime makes wealthy people on your expense. You are the ones who build the country and others rule it. Bashar al-Assad steals you via taxes and his supporters enjoy it. All your businesses projects are a loss due to bribery and corruption. Your wealth is threatened and must be transferred outside Syria because the regime will collapse. We will make you rule the country after the collapse of the regime. ”

The plan also contained in its “executive”  chapter several scenarios, and precise details of how to start and move, how networks will be exploited and how to move forward.

According to executive chapter, the plan adopts the following stages:

1- If a targeted person from the Fuel Network responded, another stage will immediately begin based on exploiting his/her need for money, so the plan starts to:
– Provide him/her with small amounts of money.
– Ensure him/her a rented car, a cellular phone and Internet connection.
– Ask him/her to look for and bring other young people and use the same method with them.

– When the number of young people reach 5000 in major cities and 1500 in small cities and 500 in the villages, these people are asked to start to express their desire in change and reform. At this very stage any talk against any side of the people must be avoided. Not a word on sectarian, partisan, rightist or leftist basis is allowed at this stage.

As this stage proceeds, objections by non-enthusiasts are to be faced by a set of appropriate responses such as:
– If someone says there is a change, the response must be: “There is no change at all. This is all a lie”
– If he says change is coming, then the response must be: “We have heard this for more than 40 years”
– If anyone says that time is not suitable, the response must be: “So when must we move. Are we going to move after 100 years”
– If one says that of our dignity lies in resisting America, the response must be: “We have nothing to do with resistance, we want to live” and so on…

– A Moving group has to be pushed into streets inside already existing gatherings such as in crowded markets, in mosques after prayers and in narrow alleys.  This group is divided into three rings: The shouters, the photographers, and the hidden people.  The shouters gather at the center of the circle and begin chanting within the gathering. This ring is surrounded by the ring of the hidden people, while the photographers’ ring surrounds all. If anyone tried to disperse the shouters the hidden people defend them under the pretext: ” let them speak”, and if no one try to disperse them, the same ring of the hidden people assaults the shouters and disperse them. In both cases,” We get an excellent picture for the media.”

– In general, the authorities have to be provoked to be drawn into the use of torture and cruelty. Here the authorities have to choose one of two solutions; either to intervene or not to intervene.

– If the authorities don’t interfere, the number of enthusiasts will begin to increase, because young people’s demands will attract a bigger number of new enthusiasts who all, according to the plan, must not know anything about the network link.

– If the authorities intervene and arrest one of the network members, he/she must make himself/herself appear “innocent and pathetic”, immediately change his/her stance and illusively promise the authorities not to do that again. According to the plan he/she is to be completely frozen to the final stage, but funding continues.

– If the authorities intervene and arrest one from outside the network, the incident must fully be exploited by raising the level of demands. If the security forces torture him/her, this will be better as it will help in fueling the people’s feelings and here phrases linking torture to the whole regime not only to the security forces are to be promoted and the following statements and ideas are to be disseminated:  “Have you seen what happened to the poor man, this is what the president wants.  It isn’t fair, the man wants only to live. Do those traders only have the right to have money. Is it a government or a group of thieves. The reason behind this is the top leadership”, and so on …

2- When moves start in the streets, people must be instigated as fast as possible to change their just demands into calls for the downfall of the regime. Here the following must be implemented:

– The second network, “network of the thugs”, is introduced  to the scene immediately to attack all of the demonstrators and security personnel.

– Videos and photos for dramatic events which hurt religious and social feelings, such as attacking women, preferably veiled ones, must be taken. As a result alleged demonstrators shout general slogans and if they are attacked by security forces it will be very excellent. But if they are attacked by civilians, the group says “security forces dressed in civilian clothes,” attacked the demonstrators. However, if no one attack them, a member of the same group will attack the demonstrators, even if this leads to minor injuries. Video shots must not last more than 20 seconds and they must be taken from a very close position not from a far one.

– The rapid use of bloodshed, because of its significant impact on the people. This includes the killing of a protester from outside the network, preferably a youth from big and famous families, or a youth who has major social ties or a highly  educated person, especially a doctor, an engineer or an intellectual. The killing must be committed rapidly by snipers and with bullets of the same type used by police or security forces. This stage also includes the killing of security personnel or guarding police.

– Burning properties of the traders who have been involved in the plan and dragging them into a state of fear together with other economic figures with the purpose of having influence on the lives of as many people as possible.

– Provoking Bashar al-Assad loyalists and engaging them in polemics with others, especially the Islamists,. Here the loyalist are to be accused of being  from the intelligence and that they are horns of the regime and beneficiaries from the authority.
Creating mistrust and tension between the loyalists and the people, telling about the near end of Bashar al-Assad and calling for random supportive demonstrations and calls advocating slaughter, murder and terrorism are planned to be launched. In turn, opponents keep calm and delay any move till after the creation of sectarian and ethnic killing. They have to be well-organized in their calls for political reform, freedom, democracy and civil life.

– Foiling any attempt to attain political solutions by the regime through burning symbols of power such as the Baath Party headquarters, police stations, prisons and security forces centers in addition to distorting Bashar al-Assad pictures.

3- The fourth network (The media) is introduced. The aim here is to link Bashar al-Assad to all previous era and to devalue all his actions by opening all the old files and holding the current regime responsible for them.

Bandar bin Sultan recognizes in his plan that Bashar Assad enjoys a real popularity inside and outside Syria that should not be underestimated. He believes that this popularity must be exploited and transformed from a point of strength into a point of weakness through the use of the enthusiasm of supporters against demonstrations.

To undermine the military, the government and the security system, Bandar believes that they must be torn into sects, and here comes the role of the third network the ( “ethnic-sectarian” network)  taking into account the neutralization of major doctrines like the Shafi’I and the Hanafi. This will be done as follows:

– Urging each sect to commit horrible bloody massacres against violators. These crimes must be filmed and posted to the media as soon as possible. The start should be in places far from Damascus and there should not be a lot of blood for fear that people may retreat.

For instance, in Lattakia and Tartous, people from the Alawite sect from the network slaughter youths from the Sunni sect, cut parts of their bodies chant long live Bashar.
In Aleppo, Salafis from the network attack Alawites’ villages, burn their homes and terrorizing the people to leave their villages and chant “Death to the “Nasirien” death to the enemies of the Sahaba”.
In Hasakah, Arabs from the network slaughter and hang some young people and make fun of the Kurds in a visual way without language and clear enough to be understood by the Kurds without translation. Some Christians, particularly Armenians are planned to be killed.
In Daraa, “snipers” from outside the city of Daraa kill young people from the Jawabra and the Mahamid families without  approaching anyone from the  Abazeed and the Masalmeh families.

In the city of Al-Boukamal, the Shi’ites kill Sunnis and scream, “Oh Karbala, Oh Hussein”.
In Homs, Arabs kill Turkmen and loot their shops, particularly gold shops and also kill Catholic Christians and Murshdis.
In Sewidaa, Druze members of the network kill a number of Christians in surrounding villages and burning several churches
In Qamishli, Kurd members of the network avenge the killing of Kurds in Hasaka. Some Armenians also kill Arab Muslims.
In Deir Ez-Zour, “snipers” from outside the city kill young people from the Agidat and Bani Naeem tribes without approaching smaller tribes like the “Rolla”, the “Jabour” or the “Shummar” and scream during the filming in the name of the  “Bokhabour  and the “Mohassan”.

Bandar thinks that the regime as a whole will be busy trying to settle the disputes between communities and ethnic groups. Bashar al-Assad will send delegates from his government to resolve sectarian and ethnic differences while Damascus will be empty of government pillars and here comes the turn of Damascus where each minority group avenge and the city flares up from all sides. This will be done as follows:

– The Christians in the east of Damascus kill Muslims who live among them in areas like Qassaa and Bab Touma. They also kill the Druze in the village of Jaramana.

– The Sunnis in the south of the city kill Shiites living among them in the “Shaghour” and the “Muhajereen” areas.

– Salafis in the areas of “Duma” and “Darayya” burn the headquarters of the municipality, courts and police stations.

– Alawites in the west of the city in “Mezze Jabal” area kill Sunnis who live among them.

– Kurds in the north of the city in “Rukn Eddin” area attack Arabs from all sects.

Meanwhile, Bandar believes that the army will be divided, the security systems and the government will collapse and Bashar will only have the Republican Guard, which he will not be able to move because the army will stand against him. This will make Bashar al-Assad’s presence in power the cause of all problems, and here comes the role of the fifth network the (network of the capital). The following has to be implemented:

– Holding a meeting between capital owners (businessmen) and leaders of the army and security bodies as well as ministers from Damascus and Aleppo. The plan is to convince them to abandon Bashar al-Assad promising them survival after the end of the President’s rule.

– In case some businessmen refuse to cooperate, they are threatened of canceling authorizations, of withdrawing investments and of sex scandals if they are among those penetrated by sexual relations.

– In case some army leaders refuse, they are threatened of imprisonment or assassination. If it is possible under a state of chaos, officers of high ranks, not from Damascus or Aleppo, could be assassinated to terrorize them.

-A national council of businessmen, ministers and security chiefs must be formed and recognized by the United States, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

President al-Assad addressing the nation: Syria is strong and great with its people..Conspirators prepared a mix of sedition, reform demand and daily needs to destabilize Syria

Filed under: Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, Obama, Syria — Tags: — - @ 3:23 pm

Source Link:Champress

President al-Assad addressing the nation: Syria is strong and great with its people..Conspirators prepared a mix of sedition, reform demand and daily needs to destabilize Syria
Whoever belongs to the Syrian people will always keep his head high

Damascus, Champress- President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday addressed the Syrian people through the people’s Assembly and stressed that Syria is strong and great with its people and that whoever belongs to the Syrian people will always keep his head high.

In his first speech after the unfortunate incidents which took place in the cities of Daraa and Lattakia, President al-Assad said that those events were a “test to our unity”.

Our enemies work daily to hit Syria’s stability

President al-Assad pointed out that what happened in the Arab arena consolidates the Syrian view point and expresses a popular unanimity and when there is a popular unanimity “we have to be satisfied whether we agree or don’t agree on many points.

Our enemy was stupid in targeting the wrong country where such conspiracies don’t work

President a-assad said: “I know that the Syrian people have been awaiting this speech since last week, but I was waiting to get the full picture… to avoid giving an emotional address that would put the people at ease but have no real effect, at a time when our enemies are targeting Syria.”

He  added that “We admit that our enemy was clever in using very developed tools to make their conspiracy a success, but was stupid in targeting the wrong country where such conspiracies don’t work.”

The President expressed belief that Syria will emerge as victorious out of the test of unity it is facing.

He said Syria’s enemies had taken advantage of the needs of the people to incite strife. “This conspiracy is different in shape and timing from what is going on in the Arab world,” he said, while noting that Syria is not isolated from the region, but at the same time is not a copy of other countries.

President al-Assad also noted that the enemies of Syria are working to continuously hit Syria’s stability. While expressing hope that the latest developments would support the Palestinian cause.

He recalled that Syria’ foreign policy has been based on a decision to hold onto rights and defend the Arab resistance. “Therefore, the objective behind the latest plot against Syria aimed at ending its leadership of the resistance against Israel,” he highlighted.

Addressing the weekend developments in Syria, President al-Assad stressed that the strife began weeks ago through the instigation of satellite TV stations. He praised the people of Daraa who constitute the main arm in protecting Syria.

The President turned to announce the state’s readiness to launch the process of reform.

“We are all for reform. That is the duty of the state. But we are not for strife,” he said. “Reform is not a trend,” he added. “When the people demand their rights, it is the state’s duty to fulfill their demands. What we should watch out for is starting reforms under these circumstances right now, this passing wave.”

President al-Assad stressed that the measures announced Thursday were not taken under pressure. “The measures announced Thursday were not made suddenly,” he said. “The emergency law and political parties’ law have been under study for a year. There are more, unannounced reforms … but giving a timeframe is a logistic matter. When we announce it in such circumstances, it is difficult to make that deadline,” the president said.

“We were late in implementing reform but we will start now,” President al-Assad said, addressing those asking for reform. He said that ties between the state and the people are not based on pressure but on the rights and needs of citizens. He also announced plans to combat corruption and increase job opportunities.

The Syrian President’s Apparent Confidence

Filed under: Libya, Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, Obama, Syria — - @ 3:10 pm

Source Stratfor

ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images Pro-government demonstrators rally in Damascus on March 29

Summary

The spread of protests in Syria led to speculation that Syrian President Bashar al Assad, in a speech delivered to parliament March 30, would announce reforms or repeal the country’s emergency law. However, al Assad avoided making even token political reforms that could have been construed as a sign of the regime’s weakness. The Syrian regime, still in a relatively stronger position compared to many of its Arab counterparts, is likely to resort to more forceful crackdowns in an effort to discourage the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood from throwing their full weight behind the demonstrations.

Analysis

Syrian President Bashar al Assad delivered a speech to parliament March 30 that focused on asserting his authority amid intensifying protests. Ahead of the speech, speculation was swirling that al Assad would announce an end to the country’s emergency law, which has been in place since 1963, and a handful of reforms in an attempt to quell demonstrations, which have spread from the southwest Sunni stronghold of Daraa to Damascus, Latakia, Homs, Hama and Qamishli in recent days. Instead, al Assad only vaguely mentioned the need for future reforms (he did not mention the emergency law at all) but, like the Bahraini government, maintained that security and stability would need to come first. He also spent time on a narrative of foreign conspirators exploiting the grievances of the Syrian people to break Syria apart.

When the wave of regional uprisings was still in its nascent stages, al Assad, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, acknowledged the growing need for reforms in Syria while confidently asserting that his country was immune to a popular uprising. In spite of that obviously premature assertion, the Syrian president has observed the tactics employed by neighboring embattled Arab leaders and has deduced that the promise of reform, if announced when a regime is acting defensively in the current regional environment, is more likely to embolden than quell the opposition.

Al Assad instead appears to be steadfast in his intent to intensify a crackdown on protesters. While the protesters in and around Daraa have remained defiant and continue to take to the streets in large numbers, protests elsewhere in the country remain relatively limited so far. The regime’s priority is to halt the demonstrations’ momentum while it still can, in order to avoid giving the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) the confidence to throw its full weight behind the demonstrations. (The Syrian MB still remembers the 1982 Hama massacre, when the government violently put down the Syrian MB’s uprising.) There are some early indications of MB involvement in the demonstrations in Daraa, where the religious movement and tribal landscape is linked to the Jordanian MB. However, it appears that the Syrian MB is waiting for stronger assurances from the West that it will be defended in the event of a severe crackdown.

So far, there is no sign of such assurances. The U.S. administration has been attempting to carefully differentiate the humanitarian military intervention in Libya from the escalating situation in Syria, claiming the level of oppression in the latter does not warrant a discussion of military intervention to protect Syrian citizens. Though this distinction is very blurry — and now much more complicated, given that al Assad is refraining from announcing even token reforms — the United States and its Western allies (including Israel) do not appear to have any strong motivation to entangle themselves in the Levant region and risk the instability that could result from the downfall of al Assad’s regime. Turkey, which has stepped up its mediation efforts with Syria, does not want to see further instability on its borders. Al Assad is likely looking to Ankara for assurances that NATO will not intervene in Syria as it did in Libya, should the government resort to more forceful crackdowns. In return for such assurances, Syria could be helping to clamp down on Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad activity.

The 45-year-old al Assad does not face the same succession issues with which many other old and ailing embattled Arab leaders are struggling. Like many regimes in the region, the al Assad regime has its fissures, though those appear to be largely contained for now. A key family feud to monitor is a long-standing rivalry between the president’s brother and head of the elite Presidential Guard, Maher al Assad, and his brother-in-law, Gen. Asef Shawkat, deputy chief of staff of the Syrian army. According to a STRATFOR source, Maher al Assad was staunchly against al Assad’s announcing a package of political reforms and ending the emergency law. He, along with many within al Assad’s inner circle, believes that even token political reforms are a sign of weakness. So far, that view appears to be prevailing.

The Syrian security and intelligence apparatus has been struggling to put down the protests but remains a pervasive, fairly unified and competent force for internal security. Opposition organizers and protesters are being rounded up daily and the regime, well-versed in intimidation tactics, is making clear to the protesters and their families the consequences of dissent. Whether this will be enough to stamp out the current uprising remains to be seen, but the Syrian regime is capable of bringing much more force to bear on the demonstrators should the protests escalate.

Saudi Arabia, U.S.: Plan To Overthrow Syrian Regime Published

Filed under: Corruption, National Security, Obama, Protests, Saudi Arabia, Syria — - @ 12:10 pm

Source Stratfor

A highly detailed plan to overthrow the Syrian regime has been attributed to former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States Bandar bin Sultan in collaboration with the former U.S. ambassador in Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, Champress reported March 30. The plan, drawn up in 2008 and with a budget of $2 billion depended on the exploitation of Syrian’s ‘desire of freedom’ and to end corruption though a full-scale revolution. The plan details a method of protest involving ‘shouters’ who gather at the center of a circle and begin chanting. If no one challenges the shouters, the ‘hidden people’ should begin to assault them, giving the media “an excellent picture.” In addition, the plans acknowledges the need to form a council of businessmen, ministers and security chiefs to be recognized by the United States, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

2011/03/29

Syria: Winners and Losers in Eventual Regime Change

Source JerusalemCenter

Written by Jacques Neriah

The recent protests in Syria and the subsequent crackdown by the regime have shown once more that the old concepts governing the assessment of the stability of regimes in the Middle East and North Africa have failed to forecast the demise of totalitarian rule in the Arab world.

The old adage used to say that because of the regime of fear governing those countries, and bearing in mind their mighty internal security apparatuses, most of the totalitarian Arab regimes would survive any popular uprising.

The “Arab Spring” proved that these old notions were no longer applicable to the reality of the twenty-first century, and that they have contributed to reaching false conclusions about the stability of the different regimes.

Even if Bashar Assad succeeds in surviving this political tsunami (as he did twice before since he took power in 2000), the Syrian regime will have to make concessions on human rights and freedom of expression that will limit the absolute powers he has enjoyed for the last ten years.

Should the Syrian regime fail to quell the protests, these could be the last days of Alawite Shiite rule in Syria. Syria under the Assads means rule by a minute minority of Alawites, representing barely 10 percent of the Syrian population. The Sunni majority has been kept out of power for more than 40 years and now it is claiming its share in the power game. One can draw a parallel with Iraq where Shiites have finally taken power from the Sunni minority (with the American assistance) and Bahrain where the majority Shiites are demanding to be partners in power-sharing with the ruling Sunni minority. Sectarian tremors and Shiite unrest have also been felt by the ruling Wahhabi family in Saudi Arabia. Even in Yemen, the northern Shiites are demanding to separate from the Sunni south.

In the event of the fall of the Assad regime, who could be the next ruler? For more than forty years the opposition has been harassed, persecuted, jailed, deported, and killed. It is very difficult today to identify a figure to rally around. If the regime should fall, it may be expected that the ruling Baath Party will not be allowed to continue as before (Tunisia and Egypt were quick to dismantle their one-party systems). Today, most of the opposition lives and operates outside Syria. The Muslim Brothers – who were very active in Syria until 1982, when Hafez Assad, the father, quelled their rebellion in Hamat at the cost of 17-40,000 killed – could be active again. Some Sunni politicians could be called on and asked to become part of a transitional government. Another possibility could be a (Sunni) military officer who would emerge to lead the country.

Historically, until the military coup staged by Hafez Assad in 1970, Syria had been a very volatile country where governments succeeded one another at an astounding pace. Military rulers staged military coups, to be replaced by fragile civilian governments. The stability that characterized Syria for the last four decades will be replaced by instability, which could radiates on its neighbors, and certainly on Israel.

Since 1974 (in the aftermath of the October 1973 war), Israel has enjoyed relative calm on its border with Syria. A change of regime, and certainly to a militant one, would not be to Israel’s advantage, especially if the new Syrian regime would try to “warm up” the border with Israel in order to divert public opinion from domestic problems. Moreover, Israel had been tempted in the past to adventure into peace negotiations with Syria. It is obvious that a regime change in Syria would postpone any such possible negotiations.

Iran also might be a loser from regime change in Syria. Assad is a strategic ally who pushed for a close relationship with Tehran. As such he also served a transit area for weapons, equipment, and manpower coming from Iran to Hizbullah in Lebanon and vice versa. The protesters in Daraa shouted: “no more Iran, no more Hizbullah,” which might signify that the new Syria will be reluctant to proceed in its policy towards Iran and Hizbullah. Such a development could create tension between the parties and also bring the different parties into a collision course, one favorable to Israel. As an offshoot of this policy, one can assess with a great degree of certainty that Syria will not relinquish its territorial claims in Lebanon (the Bekaa Valley and other areas along their common border). Bashar Assad agreed for the first time in history to a Lebanese ambassador in Damascus. His successors will have to reassess this strategic concession.

Will a change of regime also affect Syria’s harboring of Hamas and the headquarters of extreme Palestinian organizations? Initially, those organizations may be expected to keep a low profile until the new rulers are known and their policies analyzed. From the signals received during the protests, one could draw the conclusion that much will not change in this field.

What would become of the relations with neighboring, Shiite-ruled Iraq? Here again, one can only rely on the historical feud between the two countries.

As for the West and the U.S., Syria will still be a key player in the Middle East, with great resources of oil and gas to be exploited. It is in the national interest of the U.S. and the West to cultivate relations with the emerging Syria in order to provide a safe rear to Iraq and, most importantly, to contain Iran. Another focal issue will be the future of the relations between Syria and Turkey, with whom Bashar Assad had reached an understanding relating to an area claimed by Syria that is under Turkish rule (Iskenderun [Alexandretta]).

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

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