Friday, May 11, 2018

Let's Go Fly a Kite: Palestinians Champion Terror R&D (Research and Development)

Israel Weighs Responses to Palestinian Arson Kites

With the number of Palestinian arson kite attacks now reaching as many as 15 per day, the IDF is considering dramatically escalating its response after Israeli towns near Gaza experienced a large number of blazes. The army is determined to end the phenomenon before it sparks a fire that turns deadly in a populated area within Israel. Weather conditions in the area are dry, windy, and hot - ideal for fires to spread. 
(Times of Israel)

IDF Arabic spokesman Avichay Adraee tweeted to his 171,000 followers in Arabic that the Israel Defense Forces would not tolerate the burning kites which have destroyed acres of fields and crops in Israel. "The arson phenomenon is not hidden from our eyes, and we are taking it very seriously. Attack kites are not a kids game and we don't see it that way....I advise you to stop working for Hamas and start working for yourselves to solve your own problems."  

Incendiary helium balloons released from Gaza caused fires in seven locations in Israel. One balloon set a wheat field ablaze near Kibbutz Mefalsim. Another caused a fire in the Be'eri Forest. Farmers estimate the damage to their fields that caught fire near harvest time at hundreds of thousands of shekels. 
(Ynet News)

EXTRA: for those with more time: 

A short documentary "Behind The Smoke Screen" exposes Hamas' strategy

VideoBite: New Film by Clarion

A new film is to be released shortly by Clarion Project.  Judging by their prior releases, this is bound to be a gem.  

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Israeli Mossad's Home Run

Exposing Iran's Nuclear Archive: A Fantastic Intelligence Feat 
- Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror

The Israeli intelligence community has once again proved it has extraordinary capabilities.

Reaching the secret Iranian nuclear archives, stored in an ordinary building so as not to attract attention, entering the facility and transferring the contents to Israel are all abilities that will remain important in future efforts to identify any Iranian attempt to deviate from the framework of the nuclear accord

The Iranians should internalize that they have been penetrated, that Israel has the ability to reach the most sensitive places in Tehran and that they should think twice before they act.
The writer is former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel and former Head of Israel's National Security Council.

(Israel Hayom)

Iranian Regime "Humiliated" by Daring Mossad Operation
- Yonah Jeremy Bob 

Dr. Harold Rhode, who served for 28 years as an advisor on the Islamic world in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, said Israel "humiliated the Iranian government by capturing all of this material," and many Iranians were laughing at the Islamic regime on social media.
(Jerusalem Post)


Mossad Snuck Nuclear Files Out of Iran with Authorities "on Their Tails"      

Agents of Israel's spy agency Mossad smuggled hundreds of kilograms of files on Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons program out of Iran with Iranian agents "on their tails," Israel's Hadashot TV reported Tuesday.

The operation required an expansive operational infrastructure within Iranian territory.

The secret archives had been moved by Iranian authorities several times in a bid to keep them secret.

In January, Mossad agents received information pointing them to certain safes in a specific container inside a warehouse maintained by the Revolutionary Guard's Intelligence Organization in an industrial area of southern Tehran.

The team then broke in, removed the files and transferred them to a secondary location.

Iranian officials realized that information had been taken before the files were out of the country.
(Times of Israel)

Monday, April 30, 2018

Reflection on Israel's 70th Birthday

As Westerners Grow Unsure of Their Identities, Israelis Are Confident of Theirs 
- Evelyn Gordon

90% of Israelis define themselves as Zionist. Zionism is simply the belief that the Jewish people has a right to its own state, and that a Jewish state therefore ought to exist.
This has enabled Israel to escape one of the modern West's besetting ills. In a world where elite opinion scorns both religion and the nation-state as anachronistic but has failed to provide any compelling source of identity to replace them, many Westerners have grown increasingly unsure of their identities.
Israelis, in contrast, are very confident of their identity: They are Jews living in the world's only Jewish state. This is the state created precisely so that all Jews, anywhere, will always have a home.
While a January 2017 poll headlined "Six in ten around the world think their society is 'broken,'" it's difficult for most Israelis to feel that way when, against all odds, Israel has not only successfully maintained the first Jewish state in two millennia, but also turned it, in 70 short years, into one of the world's most thriving countries.
Thus, despite arguing bitterly over what policies their country should pursue and complaining endlessly about its many shortcomings, Israelis are overwhelmingly glad that a Jewish state exists, and committed to both preserving and improving it. And that's why most will be celebrating on Israeli Independence Day. 

Saudi Crown Prince to Palestinians: Make Peace or Shut Up

Palestinians Must Make Peace or Shut Up 

At a meeting with Jewish leaders in New York last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [pictured] castigated the Palestinian leadership for rejecting opportunities for peace with Israel for decades, and said they should either start accepting peace proposals or “shut up.”

Citing what it said were multiple sources, Israel’s Channel 10 News on Sunday night quoted what it said were remarks made by the crown prince at the meeting that left those who were present “staggered” by the ferocity of his criticism of the Palestinians.

“For the past 40 years, the Palestinian leadership has missed opportunities again and again, and rejected all the offers it was given,” the Saudi leader reportedly said.

“It’s about time that the Palestinians accept the offers, and agree to come to the negotiating table — or they should shut up and stop complaining,” he reportedly went on. 

Prince Salman also told the US Jewish leaders that “the Palestinian issue is not at the top of the Saudi government’s agenda” and elaborated, “There are much more urgent and more important issues to deal with — such as Iran,” according to the TV report.
[Times of Israel] 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Israel - Iran War Continues

The Implications of the Syrian Base Bombing 
- Brig.-Gen. Dr. Shimon Shapira

The bombing of the Syrian T-4 air force base struck an Iranian drone section of the base under exclusive Iranian command. The commander of the drone unit was killed. On Tuesday, Ali Akbar Velayati, the top advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, called the bombing raid on T-4 "Israel's crime" and warned during a visit to Damascus that it "will not remain without response."

The damage to the Iranian target raises the likelihood of a deterioration in the military situation between Iran and Israel. Iran may increase its attempts to strike at Israel via the Golan Heights using Hizbullah and Shiite proxies in Syria. 
The writer served as military secretary to the prime minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry chief of staff. 
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Israeli Airstrike Stopped New Iranian Threat - Yaakov Lappin

The recent missile strike on a military airbase in central Syria looks like the latest installment in a long-standing Israeli campaign to police its red lines. Usually, such strikes are driven by incoming intelligence of threatening activity.
If left unchecked, Iran would flood Syria with Shi'a militia groups and terrorist organizations, arm them with missiles, and set up terrorist cells. It would convert southern Syria into a new launch pad for attacks against Israel.
Israel seeks no conflict with Russia but is unwilling to ignore the activities of Moscow's allies - something Israel has communicated to Russia repeatedly. Statements released by Moscow on Monday indicate Russian displeasure at Israel's alleged actions. Yet Israel has responded that it will not blink when it comes to defending its security. 

Israel Is Resolved to Prevent Iran's Entrenchment in Syria 
- Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin 
  • The reported airstrike on Monday at the T-4 airbase in Syria is a result of two colliding vectors: Iranian determination to entrench itself in Syria and Israeli resolve to prevent it.
  • The strike's timing drove Syria to first attribute it to the U.S. as a response to Assad's use of chemical weapons (CW) against civilians in Douma. However, the target hit is connected to Iran and not to CW.
  • It is not from T-4 that the CW-dropping aircraft came, while reports of Iranian casualties are a strong testament.
  • That being said, a strike may well serve two purposes, promoting two objectives in a single step: Preventing Iranian entrenchment in Syria with advanced weaponry and sending a moral message that using CW to commit mass murder is not acceptable.
  • To that end, even if Israel does not take responsibility for the strike, it is important that Israel make its voice heard denouncing the use of CW.
  • Assad's chemical weapons and their use in Syria awaits a U.S. and Western response, and one cannot rule out the possibility of a U.S. strike on regime targets.
  • Relevant targets in this context may include Syrian regime helicopters and airplanes enabling CW delivery, as well as Syrian air defenses, whose destruction will remind Assad of his vulnerability.

    The writer, former head of IDF Military Intelligence, is director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Pinch Me: Saudi's Recognize Jewish Rights

Saudi Prince Recognizes Jewish Right to "Their Own Land" 
- Jeffrey Goldberg

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [pictured] told me he recognizes the right of the Jewish people to have a nation-state of their own next to a Palestinian state. "I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land." No Arab leader has ever acknowledged such a right.
"Our country doesn't have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend - he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia, coming from America, coming from Europe."
"Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it's a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel." If Prince Mohammed actually achieves what he says he wants to achieve, the Middle East will be a changed place. 

Hamas bussed thousands of Gaza residents to the border with Israel to begin a six-week protest campaign ahead of the 70th anniversary of Israel's independence. This protest would mark "the beginning of the Palestinians' return to all of Palestine," according to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. It didn't.
Tectonic plates are shifting in the Middle East as the Sunni Arab world counts the cost of the failed Arab Spring and the defeat of Sunni Arabs by Iranian-backed forces in Syria. Today, Arab states seek protection from Israel and the U.S. against an ascendant Iran and a restless, neo-Ottoman Turkey.
It is against this backdrop that the old Palestinian alliance with the Arab nations has frayed. Most Arab rulers now see Palestinian demands as an inconvenient obstacle to a necessary strategic alliance with Israel. Prioritizing Palestine is a luxury many Arabs feel they can no longer afford. 
The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College. 
(Wall Street Journal)


An Emerging Arab-Israeli Thaw - James S. Robbins

We may be on the verge of seeing a historic normalization of relations between Israel and several major Arab states - all thanks to Iran. On March 13, representatives from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, among other countries, gathered at the White House for a meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. An Israeli delegation also attended, marking the first ever publicly acknowledged diplomatic meeting involving these countries and Israel.
A new diplomatic paradigm is rapidly emerging. The Palestinian issue is no longer the marquee concern it once was. Iranian expansionism, nuclear and missile proliferation, and radical extremism are the critical issues pushing Israel and the Arab states together. Palestinian leaders have shown no great willingness to adapt to the new circumstances. And to the extent the Hamas faction draws closer to Iran, it puts itself on the wrong side of the peace equation. 
The writer is senior fellow for national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council. 
(National Interest)

Happy 70th Birthday Israel!

Israel will celebrate its 70th birthday later this month

Koolulam's popularity has soared since it kicked off in Tel Aviv in 2017, with Israelis jumping at the opportunity to come together with thousands of strangers - to sing. In under an hour, participants learn a three-part arrangement of a Hebrew or English song, and then perform it for a video to be shared on social media. Views have reached millions. 

On March 13, 2018 there were simultaneous Koolulam gatherings in five different cities: Jerusalem, Dimona, Ashkelon, Rishon Lezion, and Kiryat Motzkin, with 7,500 people singing.
Co-founder Michal Shahaf Shneiderman said, "The impetus was to bring Israelis of all backgrounds together, regardless of their political views or affiliations." She chalks up Koolulam's breakout success to a desire by people to feel part of an inclusive group or community - even if only for a couple of hours. 
(Times of Israel)
Note: Israel celebrates its 70th birthday at the end of April

Monday, April 02, 2018

John Bolton's MidEast: Three State Solution

The Subdivision of the West Bank & Gaza - David Singer 

President Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as National Security Adviser flags the possibility that the centrepiece of Trump’s eagerly-awaited "ultimate deal" could involve the subdivision of Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) and Gaza between Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

Such tripartite negotiations would replace the stale-mated Israeli-Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiations - suspended in 2014 following a PLO walk-out.  

Now Abbas and the PLO have:

1. Rejected considering any future Trump proposals following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December.

2. Declared the Oslo Accords “dead” in January.

Enter Trump-appointee John Bolton into this Israel-PLO standoff – as President Trump ponders how to fill this negotiating void.

Bolton has an answer - provided with amazing prescience on 5 January 2009 in his Washington Post article headlined “The Three-State Solution”:

“Let's start by recognizing that trying to create a Palestinian Authority from the old PLO has failed and that any two-state solution based on the PA is stillborn. Hamas has killed the idea, and even the Holy Land is good for only one resurrection. Instead, we should look to a "three-state" approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. Among many anomalies, today's conflict lies within the boundaries of three states nominally at peace. Having the two Arab states re-extend their prior political authority is an authentic way to extend the zone of peace and, more important, build on governments that are providing peace and stability; we need real states with real security forces.”

Bolton still retains these views – telling Eric Shawn on 21 January 2018:

“I hope at some point the Administration recognizes and perhaps it is already quietly – that the two-state solution isn’t going anywhere. If anything I would say to King Abdullah of Jordan – “Be prepared to reassert Jordanian sovereignty over part of the West Bank – negotiate with Israel”. I think that’s a far better outcome than the continued pursuit of a mythical – I believe – unattainable viable Palestinian state”

Bolton’s appointment is shaping up as yet another Trump-inspired circuit breaker. Ambassador David Friedman has already said Abbas' be‎havior may make him irrelevant in negotiations.

Trump’s decision to accept Bolton’s advice would spell curtains for Abbas and the PLO and give Trump the momentum he needs to get meaningful Israel-Arab negotiations started.
[Israel National News]

Friday, March 16, 2018

Americans Love Israel...Really

American Support for Israel at Record High - Yair Rosenberg 

This week, Gallup released its annual poll on American attitudes towards Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As it has for decades, the survey showed overwhelming American support for Israel.

What is remarkable about the polling on Israel is how consistent it has been. Notably, despite endless talk about the Democratic party "turning against Israel" under Obama, Democratic support for Israel is essentially the same in 2018 (49%) as it was when Obama took office in 2008 (48%).

Israel is viewed even more positively than head-to-head polling about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would indicate. When asked simply whether they viewed Israel favorably (rather than to choose a side in the conflict), "83% of Republicans, 72% of independents and 64% of Democrats view Israel favorably."

Support for Israel is higher among older brackets, but still robust among the young. As Gallup puts it, "Israel also receives higher favorable ratings from adults 55 and older (80% favorable) than from those 35 to 54 (72%) or 18 to 34 (65%)."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cutting Edge Video Technology May Unravel Trust In What We See

Above is a completly bogus-fake video of President Obama giving a speech he never gave.  The implications of this technology are far reaching.  

Terrorists Will Soon Be Able to Fake Videos - Elliot Friedland 

“The idea that someone could put another person’s face on an individual’s body, that would be like a homerun for anyone who wants to interfere in a political process. This is now going to be the new reality, surely by 2020, but potentially even as early as this year.” 

— Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)
New technology with the ability to create hyper-realistic fake videos has the potential to wreak havoc on the political landscape, lawmakers and technology experts say.
The tech allows people’s faces to be superimposed onto different bodies in other videos. Different technology can also allow allow facial expressions to be altered. Adobe even has a program to create new audio from text.
Currently, fake video technology requires manipulation of existing video footage of a person, and cannot create fake video from scratch with just a picture.
Right now, the technology is not that widespread and can still be detected by experts. But it is improving rapidly.
Such videos have already caused controversy. Fake pornographic videos have been made by face-swapping celebrities into pornographic movies. In February 2018, the popular content sharing website Reddit banned the r/deepfakes subreddit, which had been used to share fake pornographic content featuring celebrities. Reddit updated its rules prohibiting sharing pornographic content of someone without that person’s consent to include faked images. In February 2018, the pornographic website Pornhub banned deepfake videos from its platform.
The combination of the different emerging technologies means it is highly likely we will soon see videos of public figures saying and doing things which never happened, that are all but indistinguishable from the real thing.
In July 2017, a team of researchers created a fake video of former president Barack Obama giving a speech he never gave, as an experiment.

The national security implications for terrorist groups using this technology are very worrying.

They will be able to create images of politicians announcing strikes that never happened, announcing anti-Muslim policies that don’t exist, making racist and bigoted remarks they never said or even footage of war crimes that never took place.
As Lawfare blog writes “The spread of deep fakes will threaten to erode the trust necessary for democracy to function effectively, for two reasons. First, and most obviously, the marketplace of ideas will be injected with a particularly-dangerous form of falsehood. Second, and more subtly, the public may become more willing to disbelieve true but uncomfortable facts.”
The deepfakes trend takes existing problems with fake news to the next level. As fake news spreads, the public will be less and less inclined to believe what they see, hear and read, and more inclined to rely on tribal in-groups and partisan sources they trust to support their specific narratives and interests.
Terrorists can and probably will manipulate these passions in three main ways:
  1. Faking anti-Muslim hate crime and anti-Muslim bigotry in order to sow distrust between communities. It achieves this goal by making Muslims more afraid of non-Muslims, and by making non-Muslims less likely to trust stories of anti-Muslim bigotry.
  2. Faking terrorist attacks and making sophisticated threats to spread fear and reduce our ability to respond appropriately to genuine danger.
  3. Faking news reports or other information about genuine terrorist attacks, in order to increase confusion and put more lives at risk (ie falsely giving information that a suspect has been subdued when in fact there are more gunmen at large).
Deep fake videos are “like a weapon of mass destruction in the world of fake news and extremist propaganda, especially for hostile intelligence agencies engaging in political influence operations,” Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro said.
Yet despite the risks, the technology is ploughing ahead with no signs of slowing. The website offers tutorials to anyone with an internet connection on how to create fake videos.
Nor are government attempts to develop reliable ways of authenticating content likely to be effective.
We all will need some form of authenticating our identity through biometrics. This way people will know whether the voice or image is real or from an impersonator,” Congressman Ro Hanna (D-CA) told The Hill. He called on the military’s research and development wing, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to create secure authentication techniques.
Yet the lighting-quick development of digital technologies suggests any such process would become liable to manipulation. It even opens up the possibility of a fake video being stamped with a real mark of authentication.
“Any technology that will allow you to fingerprint, the adversary is going to figure out how to take it out, manipulate the content, and then put that fingerprint back in,” Dr. Hany Farid, a computer science professor at Dartmouth College, who specialises in digital forensics told ABC News“That is almost guaranteed.”
Cybersecurity experts are working on possible solutions to the coming threat, but so far have not agreed on a viable path forward.
[Clarion Project]

Friday, March 02, 2018

Treating the BDS Cancer

Addressing the Root of the BDS Problem 
- Baruch Landa [guest blogger]

The rise of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, otherwise infamously referred to as the BDS, perhaps may be a bit over-sensationalized. At least this is the thinking among many pro-Israel groups worldwide. This is primarily due to statistics showing that the global BDS movement has had zero economic impact on Israel. This line of thought further extends into the statement that the BDS is no more than an annoying gnat. But, is this really all there is to it?
Bringing down a nation by focusing on its economy, even under the harshest of sanctions, isn’t easy. We see this with North Korea, Iran and Syria. It could take decades and even then, nothing may ever materialize. However, every situation is unique in its own way.
As of today, the BDS movement may in fact be “over-sensationalized” and hyped beyond what its true capabilities are. But, that doesn’t make it a non-issue. The BDS, even in its current state, is a threat to Israel. There is arguably no other collective group working harder to bring down a sovereign state than the BDS.

A BDS demonstration in France in 2016
Politicians across the political spectrum realize this. Businesses realize this. The world realizes this. That’s why we are seeing states within the US and even the federal governmentsponsoring bills that legally outlaw the BDS. While these laws are a big win for Israel, it is unlikely to eradicate the problem in its entirety. Throwing money, passing bills, and other counter-measures are helpful, but the BDS won’t die out from these acts. We all need to be using the most effective option in fighting the BDS, which should lead to its ultimate demise.
Let’s take poverty for example. As a human race on a whole and looking at the world from a macro standpoint, we have never been in such a better financial position than we are today. Yet, poverty continues to get worse with each passing year. Money is thrown at the problem – to the tune of over $370 billion in charitable donations in 2015 – a record at the time. And yet, the problem still grew. That’s because most of the global charitable foundations that are meant to eliminate poverty don’t actually address the root of the problem. We need to look at the core issue. For poverty, it would be helping the impoverished get education and ultimately jobs, thus ending the cycle of poverty once and for all.
The same goes for everything in life, and certainly regarding the BDS. If we are to defeat the BDS for good, it starts with focusing our efforts on the core problem: education.
Anti-Israel Activity on College Campuses at its Worst
If you’ve been following the news recently about Israel, it seems like every other story is about the overwhelming anti-Israel rhetoric on US college campuses. From California all the way to New York, there are almost no exceptions. Adding insult to injury, the media further dramatizes it, putting the Israel-BDS fight front and center (hey, the ratings are great, right?). Thereafter, we see millions of user comments taking sides, as the internet has enabled everyone to have a personal opinion.
Hateful anti-Israel BDS posters used on campuses worldwide
Now, we’ve all heard that you’re not going to change anyone’s mind arguing with them online. That’s fine. People retreat to their homes or other extracurricular activities, and oftentimes forget about their 15 minutes of internet fame. The real issue occurs on college campuses, where “thought provoking discussions” are the supposed foundations of these institutions.
The problem is that these are anything but thought-provoking conversations. Sometimes, the “dialogue” is outrageous and full of hate speech as seen in this video about BDS on American campuses (Here is the link to watch a similar video about antisemitism on British campuses).  It’s flat out anti-Semitism, masking itself as anti-Israel action.
Here is an abridged version of the two videos above:
You may think that most people understand this, and perhaps they do. But then why do we not see many Israel advocates on US campuses? And the students and parents that are currently engaging with these anti-Israel bigots, how are they unable to properly address anti-Israel activity on these campuses? Why aren’t they armed with the proper tools and education? The lack of preparation is at the very least shocking and at worst harmful.
It’s comical because we live in a digital age. Information is right at our fingertips and there are some organizations like Jerusalem U who help prepare students and parents to educate anti-Israel activists. Organizations such as Jerusalem U have online libraries full of resources, such as “Step Up On Campus”, which provide a wealth of useful information about how to engage with these anti-Israel protesters.
Let’s stop trying the ineffective decades old methods of dealing with anti-Israel activism on US campuses. By addressing the root of the problem combined with the proper resources, the BDS is quite literally no match. We have tools to defeat this so let’s use them!
This is a guest post by Baruch Landa, an activist with Jerusalem U.

[Jerusalem U]

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trump's MidEast Realism

America & Israel in the Trump Era - John Podhoretz

With Israel’s 70th anniversary coming hard upon us, the question one needs to ask is this: What if the realists were nothing but fantasists? What if their approach to the Middle East from the time of Israel’s founding was based in wildly unrealistic ideas and emotions? 

Central to their gullibility was the wild and irrational idea that peace was or ever could be the result of a process. No, peace is a condition of soul, an exhaustion from the impact of conflict, born of a desire to end hostilities.  Only after this state is achieved can there be a workable process, because both parties would already have crossed the Rubicon dividing them and would only then need to work out the details of coexistence.

There was no peace to be had. The Arab states didn’t want it. The Palestinians didn’t want it. The Israelis did and do, but not at the expense of their existence. The Arabs demanded concessions, and the Israelis have made many over the years, but they could not concede the security of the millions of Israel’s citizens who had made this miracle of a country an enduring reality. The realists fetishized “process” because it seemed the only way to compel change from the outside. And so Israel has borne the brunt of the anger that follows whenever a fantasist is forced to confront a reality he would rather close his eyes to.

That is why I think what Trump and his people have done over the past 14 months represents a new and genuine realism. They are dealing with Israel and its relationships in the region as they are, not as they would wish them to be. They are seeing how the government of Egypt under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is making common cause with Israel against the Hamas entity in Gaza and against ISIS forces in the Suez. They are witness to the effort at radical reformation in Saudi Arabia under Muhammad bin-Salman—and how that seems to be going hand in hand with an astonishing new concord between Israel and the Desert Kingdom over the common threat from Iran. This is a harmonizing of interests that would have seemed positively science-fictional in living memory.

[F]or now, the replacement of the false realism of [Obama] with a new realism for the 21st century seems like a revolutionary development that needs to be taken very, very seriously.
Note: The author did not support Trump's election.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Called "Revolutionary Leader"

"Revolutionary leader" Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

- Dennis Ross

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to transform Saudi society amount to a revolution from above. MBS is not trying to secularize Saudi Arabia. In his words, he is trying to "restore" Islam to its true nature and turn it away from those who sought to spread an intolerant, austere faith that created a justification for violence against all non-believers.
The drive for change in Saudi Arabia is more credible because it is homegrown, not a response to outside pressure. It is being driven by an understanding that Saudi Arabia cannot sustain governance based on the lowest common denominator among all the factions of the royal family, the approval of the Wahhabi clerics, an economy dependent almost exclusively on oil for revenue, and 80% of Saudi households dependent on the government.
We in the U.S. have a tremendous stake in MBS' success. He is a Saudi revolutionary, and the success of his policies will be felt not just in Saudi Arabia. So would their failure. 
The writer, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served in senior national security positions for four U.S. presidents. 
(Washington Post)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Israel - Iran War Has Begun

Flames rise from part of a missile in Hasbani village in southwest Lebanon on Saturday. According to Lebanon's national news agency, the fragment appears to be part of a Syrian air defense missile that was targeting an Israeli warplane. (Associated Press)

Iran & Israel Engage Each Other Militarily - Noga Tarnopolsky and Nabih Bulos

An Iranian drone incursion into Israel early Saturday spiraled into a major confrontation that included the downing of an Israeli fighter jet and an extensive attack on Iranian military assets in Syria. 
(Los Angeles Times)

Open War with Iran Has Begun - Ronen Zvulun

What happened in northern Israel on Saturday is the beginning of the overt and direct war between Israel and Iran. The infiltration and interception of an Iranian drone over Israel, the downing of an Israeli F-16 and Israel’s retaliatory strikes against Syrian and Iranian targets that followed, are apparently just the opening scenes of a potentially wider conflict that could erupt if Iran continues trying to fortify its presence in the new Syria.

This was long in the making. Years ago, the Iranians came to the rescue of Bashar Assad in Syria and, together with Russia, ensured his survival. The problem is that they haven’t left. On the contrary – even though Assad is today in control of the majority of Syria, Iran is staying put and trying to establish an even greater presence within the country. On Saturday, we saw how determined it is to do just that.

It is too early to tell what lesson Iran has learned from the clash on Saturday. On the one hand, it succeeded in infiltrating a drone into Israel, even though it was ultimately intercepted. Its ally Syria succeeded in shooting down an Israeli fighter jet. On the other hand, Israel carried out its most widespread bombings in Syria since it destroyed almost all of Syria’s air defenses in 1982.
Israel’s retaliation was important for two reasons – it needed to neutralize the Syrian batteries that were used to down the F-16, but also to exact a price from Iran by bombing the control center used to operate the drone as well as other Iranian targets in Syria – the nature of which we will likely learn over the coming days.

The question will be whether Israel succeeded in boosting its deterrence. That depends on what Iran decides to do next. Will it keep on building its presence in Syria? Will it attempt another violation of Israel’s sovereignty down the road?

While the downing of a fighter jet is a heavy blow to Israeli morale, it was not totally unexpected and needs to be viewed through the wider context of what has been going on for the last five years. Israel has carried out more than 100 strikes in Syria, and in war there are always wins and losses. The fact that a plane hasn’t been shot down until now is the real story and speaks volumes of the IAF’s superior capabilities.

[Jerusalem Post]

Israel Destroyed a Significant Portion of Assad's Air Defense

Oubai Shahbandar, a fellow at the New America Foundation [said] "the Assad regime's military suffered a major blow as a result of Iran's military incursion. The Israeli airforce counterattack destroyed a significant portion of Assad's long-range SA-5 integrated air defense network outside Damascus."
(Arab News-Saudi Arabia)

Iran Setting Up Air Base outside Syrian City of Palmyra - Judah Ari Gross 

An Israeli military official said the T-4 base is being used by Iran to transport advanced weaponry to Syria, Hizbullah, and Shiite militias in the region. "It is part of a process of a force build-up against Israel," he said. 
(Times of Israel)

Iranians Pushing for New Status Quo in Syria - Ron Ben Yishai 

The Iranian drone was launched from Tiyas military airbase (T-4), one of Syria's largest airfields, which is routinely used by the Russian Air Force as well as by Iranian agents.
The attack on the base needed to be carried out with surgical precision to avoid hitting any Russian military aircraft or personnel.
(Ynet News)

White House: Israel Has Right to Defend Itself

The White House said Sunday: "Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria." It urged "Iran and its allies to cease provocative actions and work toward regional peace."  
(VOA News)

The balance sheet on the day of fighting with Iran and Syria was clear: Israel demonstrated its ability to defend its skies. It struck Iranian forces in Syria directly and exacted a price from Iran. It destroyed many Syrian SAM sites and left Damascus exposed to future attacks.
The writer, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, heads the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. 

This is part of a wider Iranian plan not just to besiege Israel but also to achieve ascendancy over the Sunnis.

For years Israel has warned of the consequences of Tehran's aggression, but its warnings have been largely ignored by the West and the UN. Britain and the EU could play an effective role in containing Iranian aggression but their answer is appeasement. Instead of sanctioning Iran and supporting Israel, they mouth platitudes about restraint by both sides, which further emboldens Tehran. 
The writer is former head of the international terrorism team at the Cabinet Office. 
(The Times-UK)

"There is no doubt that an event like this [sending an Iranian drone into Israel] was not coordinated in advance with the Russians and occurred without their knowledge, and this was very serious for the Russians. Putin is counting on there being quiet in Syria and that Russia can manage events there to advance its own interests. 

Now Russia has received proof of Israel's warnings that Iran is dangerous, and that granting Iran freedom of action in Syria is not helpful to Russia. Rather, it will just upset the area and disturb the quiet."


Nuclear Deal Linked to Iranian Gains in Syria - Jonathan S. Tobin

The conflict heating up on Israel's northern border is a direct consequence of the Iran nuclear deal

By choosing to normalize relations with Tehran - and signing a deal that legalized their nuclear program and ignored everything else it was doing - the U.S. set in motion a series of events that led directly to the presence of significant Iranian forces in Syria.
Far from encouraging Iran to be a responsible member of the world community, ending sanctions encouraged its leaders to treat the deal as a green light for their quest for regional hegemony. The only solution is going to have to involve rolling back the gains Iran has made since the U.S. signed a deal that set them on their current path. 

Must Israel Do America's Dirty Work? - Jonathan Tobin

Netanyahu waves a drone remnant in a recent speech
Though Trump deserves credit for helping to achieve a victory over ISIS in Iraq and Eastern Syria, which eluded the Obama administration, he also appears content to continue his predecessor’s policy of letting Russia control what is happening elsewhere in that country. Which means that for all of his bluster about Iran, its power is growing on his watch as much as it did under Obama.
While no one expects or wants U.S. forces to directly engage the Iranians in Syria, Trump can do Tehran more damage by announcing a firm date for more sanctions on Iran, in addition to a commitment to punish anyone who does business with the regime unless it renegotiates the nuclear deal. That would give the Europeans a stark choice between doing business with Iran or with the United States.

[Netanyahu w]aving the drone debris was a warning to America that if it doesn’t act, then Israel will. the Israelis aren’t likely to tolerate Iran consolidating its hold on parts of Syria. 
All of which means that a Trump administration that has been asleep at the wheel on Syria and Iran had better wake up soon before the situation deteriorates.


Senators : We Must "Stop Iran-Assad Machine" - Joe Gould

War between Israel and Iranian proxy forces is imminent, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators warned after a trip to the Middle East last week

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said of talks with Israeli officials, "When they tell you we want help to deal with the blowback that might come from attacks on civilian targets where Hizbullah has integrated military capability, that was pretty striking."
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, "The tempo in terms of potential for conflict in Syria has gone up; the technologies Iran is projecting into Syria and southern Lebanon has gone up; Iran's willingness to be provocative, to push the edges of the envelope, to challenge Israel, has gone up."
"Israel's worst nightmare is to have Assad forces with Hizbullah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard elements on their border," Graham said. "It's in our interest to stop the Iran-Assad machine." Coons and Graham called on the administration to present Congress with a plan to counter Iran and Russia. 
(Defense News)