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Why Israel Should Be Worried About Russia's Role in Syria

Photo credit: Israel Defense Forces

On September 21, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a meeting that focused on staying out of each other’s way in Syria. According to statements by both leaders, it seems the meeting went well. Netanyahu emphasized Israel’s main concerns in Syria, namely arms shipments to Hezbollah and Iran opening a new front against Israel in southern Syria. Putin gave his own analysis of the situation, stressing that the Assad regime is weak. Both sides agreed on forming a joint committee to coordinate their military activities in Syria.

Watching from the sidelines, some analysts in Israel posited that this meeting — and Russia’s increased involvement in Syria — is a net positive for Israel. Giora Eiland, who was the national security advisor under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told me in a conversation that the new alliance between Russia, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah can deescalate tensions between this axis and Israel. For example, Eiland claimed that Hezbollah will need to take into account the Russian interest of maintaining peace with Israel and might therefore avoid provoking the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Curtailing the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s advance toward western Syria will be another benefit, according to former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. While these statements might make Israelis optimistic about Russia stepping up, they do not tell the full story. Overall, it appears that Russia’s involvement will be a net negative for Israel.

In recent years, Israel has worked very hard to prevent any advanced weapons systems from falling into the hands of Hezbollah, which is currently Israel’s most potent adversary. As early as January 2013, Israel drew a redline: It would not allow Syria and Iran to exploit the chaos in Syria to boost deliveries of sophisticated weaponry — advanced anti-ship missiles such as the Yakhont, or advanced surface-to-air missiles such as the SA-17 and SA-22 — to Hezbollah. On multiple occasions, the Israeli air force targeted these shipments and destroyed the weapons systems. This, it was hoped, would change the risk calculations of the parties involved….

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Europe's refugee crisis driven by Iran deal

Why is a wave of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe on a daily basis? Why is there suddenly a huge jump in this wave, which the continent is facing astounded, confused and lost? The civil wars in the Middle East didn't start today, but are about to enter their sixth year. So why now?
The amazing answer is the nuclear deal with Iran. The millions of refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan had some vague hope that Syrian President Bashar Assad would fall one day, that the Islamic State would disappear one day, that one day all this might end. As soon as they saw that the nuclear deal had been signed, and that Iran would receive $150 billion and an end to the sanctions, they realized that what is happening in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon is not going to end in our lifetime.

Iran is now coming in to save Assad, to bolster the Shi'ite government in Baghdad and to save Hezbollah in Lebanon, and so the fire of ethnic flames eventually reach the sky. It was clear that the Sunni-Shi'ite war would only intensify following “the deal,” but no one imagined that it would all spill over now and flow into Europe….

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Gulf states increase arms to Syrian rebels in counter to Russia airstrikes

A Saudi government source revealed on Thursday that Gulf Arab countries have ramped up their supply of weapons to Syrian rebel groups in response to Russia’s escalating military support of President Bashar al-Assad, adding yet another layer of complexity to the four-year old war.

The unnamed official told the BBC that the groups receiving aid were not affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but included Western-backed groups such as the Free Syrian Army, as well as Jaysh al-Fatah, which has ties to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.

Russia launched its airstrike campaign last week with the declared purpose of combating ISIL, which has wrestled control of large swathes of Syria from the Assad regime. However, Russia’s military has since targeted a broad range of anti-Assad Syrian rebel groups, including those now reportedly being sent increased military aid from the Gulf.

While Gulf states and Russia are both opposed to ISIL, they are at odds over the future role of Assad and non-ISIL Syrian rebel groups in any post-civil war Syria. Saudi Arabia and its allies have long supported those groups trying to overthrow Assad, while Russia sees little differentiation with most of the Syrian rebel groups who want to unseat Moscow’s longtime ally….

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Putin and the Shiite 'Axis of Resistance'

Getty Images

In the summer of 2006, the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah went toe to toe with Israel for 34 days. When the smoke cleared, Hezbollah declared “divine victory,” and soon after, Middle Eastern capitals were plastered with posters featuring militia leader Hassan Nasrallah alongside his benefactors Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. This Shiite so-called “Axis of Resistance” achieved widespread regional popularity, including unprecedented support among Sunni Muslims, which lasted until 2011, when Assad, backed by Hezbollah and Iran, began his campaign to eradicate Sunni regime opponents.

In the aftermath of Russia's deployment of an expeditionary force in Syria, a new slew of posters have appeared. The current iteration features images of Nasrallah, Assad, Khamenei, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, with an Arabic caption that roughly translates “Men who bow to no one but God.” The poster, reportedly displayed in central Damascus, suggests another emerging regional “Axis of Resistance.” Unlike 2006, however, this new axis — which targets Syrian Sunnis instead of Israel — is deeply polarizing. Worse, the Obama administration, through acts of omission and commission, risks implicating the U.S. in the new alliance.

According to Putin, Russia has deployed to Syria to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). But the public diplomacy belies a more limited Russian objective focused on protecting an increasingly vulnerable Assad regime. Indeed, Moscow holds that all of Assad's opponents are “terrorists” and has no compunction targeting Islamic and secular militias alike. Confirming Russia's unofficial agenda, the first week of airstrikes were directly almost exclusively at Idlib, Homs and Dera', regions of Syria absent significant ISIS presence. The administration says that Moscow is “intentionally” hitting CIA-backed rebels….

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PM Netanyahu's Press Conference Statement

Photo by Amos Ben Gershom, GPO       

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Thursday, 8 October 2015), issued the following statement at a press conference with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Israel Police Acting Commissioner Bentzi Sau:
“This has been another difficult day for all of us, citizens of Israel. We are in the midst of a wave of terrorism. Terrorists that have been incited and who are riven with hate are trying to attack our people – babies, children, men and women, civilians and soldiers.

Our hearts – the hearts of the entire nation – are with the families of the victims whose lives were cut short by reprehensible murderers. In recent days and hours I have seen displays of heroism by soldiers, police and – no less – by civilians. I see this in Jerusalem, Kiryat Gat, Hebron, Petah Tikva, Tel Aviv and now in Afula.
Israelis are acting with bravery, composure and determination to neutralize and eliminate the terrorists. This requires extraordinary courage and resourcefulness and we are proud to be part of a country that has such citizens.
This vicious terrorism did not start today. It has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its beginning. We have always known how to defeat the rioters and build up our country and so it will be now. The terrorists and the extremists behind them will achieve nothing. We will rebuff them and we will defeat them….

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Abbas' UN Speech and the Unrest in Jerusalem

…On September 30, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in which he outlined the unilateral steps he intends to take to achieve Palestinian sovereignty in the territories and east Jerusalem without reaching a peace agreement with Israel.

Abbas’s speech revealed his basic stance, which includes unequivocal support for terror, a racist attitude toward the Jewish people, an entrenched hatred for Israel, and a will to destroy it. The following are the main points of the speech.

Denying the Jewish people’s historical and religious bond with the Land of Israel and Jews’ right to worship on the Temple Mount

“Palestine is the land of holiness and peace, the birthplace of Jesus the emissary of love and the place of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven,” Abbas said. He pointedly refrained, as in his previous addresses, from mentioning that the land is also holy to the Jewish people whose history has been entwined with it for millennia.

Abbas also averred that Israel seeks —

“…to create a new reality [including allowing Jews to worship on the Temple Mount]…. The Israeli government is acting to implement this program in violation of the situation before and since 1967, and it is therefore committing a major error because we will not agree to this, and our Palestinian people will not accept the implementation of this plan, which inflames the feelings of the Palestinians and the Muslims everywhere…. It will transform the conflict from a political conflict to a religious one and wreak havoc in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian land.”

Thus, Abbas declared that the Palestinians will not tolerate Jewish religious activity on the Temple Mount….

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Australia: Jihad murderer got his gun at mosque

When was the last time you recall a Christian murderer killing a non-Christian and then screaming “Jesus is Lord!”? And then it coming to light that the murderer was given his gun at a local church that had other ties to violent Christians? Happens all the time, right?

Parramatta shooting

“Parramatta shooting: Farhad Jabar’s gun allegedly came from Middle Eastern crime gang,” by Mark Morri, The Daily Telegraph, October 7, 2015
(thanks to Kenneth):

THE weapon used by teen terrorist Farhad Jabar was believed to be sourced from a Middle Eastern crime gang and police suspect it was handed to the schoolboy at the Parramatta mosque….

The terror teen had been a regular member of an Islamic schoolyard prayer meeting being audited by the state government….

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Shariah Incompatible With the Constitution

…Libya remains a bitterly divided failed state with one group supporting jurisprudence under the model created by Mohammad and another fighting for more democratic reforms while still pledging allegiance to Islamic law.

In Egypt, the government led by the Muslim Brotherhood focused on consolidating power rather than quickly imposing expanded facets of Shariah. However, the Muslim populace quickly rejected the actions and declarations of leaders dedicated to implementing stricter adherence to the fundamental teachings of the Koran.

Egyptians already dissatisfied with the economic performance under the stewardship of President Mohammed Morsi turned on him before he could impose what many believed was an agenda to introduce it gradually.

The sad irony is that in both Libya and Egypt, the Obama administration — a supposed champion of liberty and human rights — supported groups that wanted to ultimately enforce the code of law championed by Mohammed once they gained power.

Another irony is that while people in both countries are fighting and dying for political freedom and against more radical Shariah interpretations, that debate can't even take place in the United States. Those who raise the issue are immediately labeled as Islamophobic.

Finally, the third example of Shariah is that inflicted by ISIS which allows for genocide of religious minorities in the so-called caliphate, an area comprised of large swaths of Syria and Iraq. Their practices are so barbaric that it's difficult to imagine anyone in the U.S. defending them….

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The Russian-Iranian Gambit in Syria

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Russian-Iranian gambit in Syria will only inflame the volatile situation in the war-torn country. Sunni-Alawite animosity runs too deep to foster any hope for compromise. Israel must remain vigilant, and prevent terrorists from getting advanced weapons.

The Russian airstrikes in Syria, the recent Iranian-Russian arms deal, and the coordination between Tehran, Moscow, Damascus, and Baghdad in the war against the Islamic State group all herald a change in the Middle East. The age of the Arab Spring, the disintegration of several regimes in the region, and the introduction of various organizations into the subsequent vacuum has come to its end, and this is the dawn of a new era, the nature of which is still uncertain.

Russia and Iran are taking advantage of the weakness displayed by world leaders and are both trying, through their joint efforts, to expand their global influence and dominance, at least across as much as they can of the Fertile Crescent, which spans Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Cyprus, and Egypt.

Russia brings its considerable international political clout and advanced military capabilities, mainly air defense systems, intelligence, and a modern air force to this equation, while Iran brings funds, imperative knowledge about the lay of the land, and Hezbollah — a large, trained, and well-armed fighting force, dedicated to doing its patron’s bidding….

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