Is Iran Trying to Start Another War?
The next questions should be "who is pulling Israel into the quagmire that Lebanon and Syria have become, and why?"
Israeli jets struck something Tuesday night; Wednesday's guessing game has been, "what was it?"
First reports from Western news services said the Israeli Air Force hit a convoy of weapons moving west from Syria toward, or even in Lebanon. A Lebanese army source said nothing was hit there and a sometimes-but-not-always-reliable source said it wasn't a convoy at all, but an arms depot near the Jamaraya institute, which some people think works on non-conventional weapons. A Syrian military statement said Israel had hit Jamaraya. U.S. officials said it was a convoy. At least one Western report said there was uranium involved.
In any event, Israel quickly dispatched high-level government and military officials to Russia and the United States to provide additional information and, perhaps, to alert those governments to additional threats.
The next questions should be, "who is pulling Israel into the quagmire that Syria and Lebanon have become, and why?"
It is unlikely that Bashar Assad is interested in acquiring another military adversary at the moment. The myriad rebel factions plus Turkey are making life hard enough for the regime. So the instigator might well have been Iran -- the only other party with the authority to undertake such a move. Why? One possibility is that Iran wants Hezbollah to tie down the Israelis and prevent a Western intervention to help the rebels. Another is that Iran really believes Assad won't survive and wants to move his assets to a "safer location," Lebanon.
If either is the Iranian strategy, it is a huge blunder. Israel has been known to cross borders when a security situation becomes untenable – Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007 for example. If this security situation rises to that level, the next movement that the IDF finds intolerable would likely produce a similar or stronger response. The Iranians must be worried.
Iran and its client, Hezbollah, have both been supporting Assad's military and its assorted thug groups -- Hezbollah by lending Assad fighters, and Iran by supplying weapons, troops and officers. Atrocities inside Syria continue to mount, including the discovery of more than 100 bodies -- mostly executed with a bullet to the head -- in a canal in Aleppo this week. The rebels and the government exchanged accusations, but no one appears sure who did it. The final outcome of the war is far from certain.
Meanwhile Syria's periphery continues to roil, with reports that Turkey is fighting the Kurds through proxies, sending tanks and other equipment across the border and encouraging Syrian jihadist rebels to fight Kurds as well as the regime. Since the United States has been backing Turkey strongly, it is seen to be aligned with Turkey's attacks on the Kurds.
The risk in Syria is that in the increasing chaos and shifting alliances, the government will either use chemical weapons against its enemies; or lose control of the stockpiles. In some areas, rebel forces are reported to be a stone's throw away from taking control of some of these weapons. By threatening action if the rebels succeed, Israel appears to have announced its preference for Assad's control, rather than control by Hezbollah or the rebels.
If Israel believed the convoy was carrying poison gas (and perhaps missiles) to Hezbollah, or that the chemicals at the Jamaraya Institute were about to be moved or acquired by the rebels, it would consider those moves to be highly provocative. If, in fact, Israel's "red lines" have been crossed, we may be seeing the start of a rapidly developing "Ho Chi Minh trail" problem -- the complex corridor by which North Vietnam supplied its forces operating against South Vietnam and the United States. The U.S. spent years, thousands of man-hours, and millions of bombs trying stop the supply. When it finally became clear that no amount of bombing, defoliation, and counter-attacks could do it, the U.S. began bombing the source of supply: North Vietnam.
The same is true for Syria -- but Israel does not have years to spend on the problem. The location of Syria's chemical weapons depots, manufacturing facilities, missile bases and supply depots is well known. It is not unreasonable to assume that Israel can take them all out, and liquidate the Syrian Air Force as well. If the Iranian strategy is to move its assets to Lebanon and the control of Hezbollah, it is inviting Israel to eliminate Syria's war-fighting capability and hasten the demise of both Assad and Hezbollah.
It appears that Israel responded to a rapidly evolving threat in a measured way. But will Iran stop?
Stephen Bryen is President of SDB Partners, LLC. Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.
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|Anti-Iranian speculation [34 words]||Matthew Slater||Jan 31, 2013 16:29|
|Another Consideration [177 words]||Ethan P.||Jan 31, 2013 15:10|
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by Burak Bekdil
The Turkish government "frankly worked" with the al-Nusrah Front, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, along with other terrorist groups.
The Financial Task Force, an international body setting the standards for combating terrorist financing, ruled that Turkey should remain in its "gray list."
While NATO wishes to reinforce its outreach to democracies such as Australia and Japan, Turkey is trying to forge wider partnerships with the Arab world, Russia, China, Central Asia, China, Africa and -- and with a bunch of terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Nusrah Front.
Being NATO's only Muslim member was fine. Being NATO's only Islamist member ideologically attached to the Muslim Brotherhood is quite another thing.
by Samuel Westrop
British politicians seem to be trapped in an endless debate over how to curb both violent and non-violent extremism within the Muslim community.
A truly useful measure might be to end the provision of state funding and legitimacy to terror-linked extremist charities.
by Soeren Kern
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Mujahidah Bint Usama published pictures of herself on Twitter holding a severed head while wearing a white doctor's jacket; alongside it, the message: "Dream job, a terrorist doc."
British female jihadists are now in charge of guarding as many as 3,000 non-Muslim Iraqi women and girls held captive as sex slaves.
"The British women are some of the most zealous in imposing the IS laws in the region. I believe that's why at least four of them have been chosen to join the women police force." — British terrorism analyst Melanie Smith.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
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Fatah accused Hamas of "squandering" $700 million of financial aid earmarked for the Palestinian victims of war. Fatah wants to ensure that the millions of dollars intended for the Gaza Strip will pass through its hands and not end up in Hamas's bank accounts. Relying on Fatah in this regard is like asking a cat to guard the milk.
The head of the Palestinian Authority's Anti-Corruption Commission revealed that his group has retrieved $70 million of public funds fund embezzled by Palestinian officials. Arab and Western donors need to make sure that their money does not end up (once again) in the wrong hands. Without a proper mechanism of accountability and transparency, hundreds of millions of dollars are likely to find their way into the bank accounts of both Hamas and Fatah leaders.
by Mudar Zahran
"If Hamas does not like you for any reason all they have to do now is say you are a Mossad agent and kill you." — A., a Fatah member in Gaza.
"Hamas wanted us butchered so it could win the media war against Israel showing our dead children on TV and then get money from Qatar." — T., former Hamas Ministry officer.
"They would fire rockets and then run away quickly, leaving us to face Israeli bombs for what they did." — D., Gazan journalist.
"Hamas imposed a curfew: anyone walking out in the street was shot. That way people had to stay in their homes, even if they were about to get bombed. Hamas held the whole Gazan population as a human shield." — K., graduate student
"The Israeli army allows supplies to come in and Hamas steals them. It seems even the Israelis care for us more than Hamas." — E., first-aid volunteer.
"We are under Hamas occupation, and if you ask most of us, we would rather be under Israeli occupation… We miss the days when we were able to work inside Israel and make good money. We miss the security and calm Israel provided when it was here." — S., graduate of an American university, former Hamas sympathizer.