Archive for April 18, 2018

70 years Israel Air Force

April 18, 2018



Iran’s Real Enemy in Syria

April 18, 2018

At a time of economic hardship, Tehran has provided billions of dollars to help Assad crush Islamist rebels. The question is why.

Karim Sadjadpour Apr 16, 2018 Via The Atlantic

Source Link: Iran’s Real Enemy in Syria

{Never forget, it is Assad who is to blame for Iran’s military expansion in Syria. – LS}

“What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?” President Trump asked Russia and Iran Friday night after launching air strikes against the Syrian regime. “The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep.”

Despite his speechwriters’ best efforts, if there is one thing Donald Trump and Iran share it is an inability to be shamed. {The media cannot resist taking a stab at Trump, no matter what. – LS} Over the last seven years no country has done more, financially and militarily, to back the Bashar al-Assad regime’s mass murder of Syrians than the Islamic Republic of Iran, a theocracy that claims to rule from a moral high ground. Within hours of joint American, French, and British targeted military strikes in Syria, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani called Assad to pledge his solidarity.

At a time of great economic hardship in Iran, Tehran has provided billions of dollars to arm, train, and pay tens of thousands of Arab, Afghan, and Pakistani Shia militants help Assad crush Sunni Islamist rebels. Tehran, the victim of heinous chemical weapons attacks by Saddam Hussein three decades ago, has provided Assad the means to deliver these same weapons, while simultaneously denying that he uses them. The question is why?

Distilled to its essence, Tehran’s steadfast support for Assad is not driven by the geopolitical or financial interests of the Iranian nation, nor the religious convictions of the Islamic Republic, but by a visceral and seemingly inextinguishable hatred for the state of Israel. As senior Iranian officials like Ali Akbar Velayati, a close adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have commonly said, “The chain of Resistance against Israel by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, the new Iraqi government and Hamas passes through the Syrian highway. … Syria is the golden ring of the chain of resistance against Israel.” So long as the 78-year-old Khamenei remains in power, this hatred will justify Tehran’s continued commitment of blood and treasure to support Assad’s use of all means necessary—including chemical weapons—to preserve his rule.

Though Israel has virtually no direct impact on the daily lives of Iranians, opposition to the Jewish state has been the most enduring pillar of Iranian revolutionary ideology. Whether Khamenei is giving a speech about agriculture or education, he invariably returns to the evils of Zionism. “The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off,” Khamenei said in a 2012 speech. “We will support and help any nations, any groups fighting against the Zionist regime across the world.” Given Israel’s military superiority, Khamenei’s stated strategy is not Israel’s short-term annihilation, but its long-term political dissolution. “If Muslims and Palestinians unite and all fight,” he commonly says, “the Zionist regime will not be in existence in 25 years.”

In ostensibly trying to avenge what he portrays as one injustice, however, Tehran has helped Assad perpetrate a far greater one. The number of Syrian deaths since 2011 (an estimated 500,000, though the UN has stopped counting) is more than five times greater than the approximately 90,000 Arabs (roughly 20-30 percent of them Palestinian) killed in the last 70 years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, while more than twice as many Syrians (12 million) as Palestinians have been displaced.* Indeed since 2011 far more Palestinians have been killed by Assad (nearly 3,700) than by Israel, including by chemical weapons.  “If their way to return Palestinians back home is displacing millions of Syrians,” said my friend Kassem Eid, one of around half a million Palestinian refugees who grew up in Syria, and a victim of one of Assad’s chemical weapons attack, “I don’t want to go back to Palestine.”

* * *

The Iran-Assad alliance is a study in contradictions. While Iranian advocates for secularism are viciously repressed, Assad routinely says, “The most important thing is that Syria should be secular.” Iranian women who defy the mandatory hijab are subject to violence and imprisonment, while Hezbollah fighters celebrate military victories in Damascus nightclubs alongside scantily-clad escorts. While nude Renaissance art is censored in Europe so as not to offend the religious sensibilities of visiting Iranian officials, Assad’s forces have deliberately used rape as a tool of repression against opponents. Khamenei implores his subjects to buy Iranian products to boost economic self-sufficiency, while Tehran’s largesse has helped subsidize Assad’s wife Asmaa—an unveiled fashionista—sustain what looks like her primary passion: shopping in London.

From the outset of the Syrian uprising in 2011, Assad and Iran assiduously sought to crush moderate opposition and indulge radical Islamists in order to engineer a no-win proposition for the West: Assad or jihadists. Yet Tehran has tried to portray its role in Syria as an existential battle for Iran, against the forces of Sunni radicalism. “Syria is Iran’s 35th province,” said Mehdi Taeb, a head of the Revolutionary Guards intelligence wing and a close advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “If we lose Syria we won’t be able to hold Tehran.” While Assad’s collapse would undoubtedly be a strategic blow to the Islamic Republic, Iran has been a nation-state for virtually 2,500 years before now without the benefit of a Syrian vassal state. Just as Russia outlived the USSR, so will Iran outlive the Islamic Republic.

Today the Tehran-Damascus axis has come to resemble a mutually exploitative love affair: Iran likes Syria for its body (which borders Israel and serves as Tehran’s waystation to Hezbollah), and Syria likes Iran for its money. In exchange for Iranian largesse, Assad has forsaken his sovereignty. “Syria is occupied by the Iranian regime,” said former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab. “The person who runs the country is not Bashar al-Assad but [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander] Qassem Suleimani.” As for the other half of the couple, Tehran’s staggering expenditures in Syria—estimated to be several billion annually—have become a growing cause of popular resentment amidst deteriorating economic conditions in Iran. During anti-government protests last January in Iran, residents of Mashhad—a large Shiite Shrine town—chanted “Leave Syria alone, think about us.”

Though Iranians feel the financial costs of the Syria war, Tehran has outsourced the human costs. Iran’s 40,000-strong Shia foreign legion—composed of Lebanese, Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis—have endured five times more casualties in Syria than Iranians. Afghan militias—known as the Fatemiyoun Division—have paid the highest price. Most are not enthusiastic holy warriors but undocumented manual laborers, some underage, whom the Iranian Revolutionary Guards present with an offer they can’t refuse: 10-year residency permits in Iran—mitigating the risk of forced deportation—and $800 per month to go to Syria, purportedly to protect the Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zainab, a granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, outside Damascus. Lacking basic training and often illiterate, these Afghan troops are instead used as initial assault cannon fodder. “Sometimes we had no supplies,” said one former Afghan fighter, “no water, no bread—hungry and thirsty in the middle of the desert.” For Palestine.

* * *

The burden of defending Iran’s role in Syria to Western audiences has fallen on the shoulders of Tehran’s U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Among Zarif’s considerable talents is an ability, and willingness, to tell brazen untruths with tremendous conviction. Shortly after Zarif insisted Iran had “no boots on the ground” in Syria, for example, the Revolutionary Guards announced their 1,000th casualty. In the aftermath of each chemical weapons attack by Assad, Zarif has systematically absolved Assad of responsibility by following the same playbook:

First, remind everyone that Saddam Hussein—backed by Western powers—used chemical weapons against Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. In other words, Syrian children are not the victims; Iran is still the victim. Second, ambiguously condemn chemical weapons use “by anyone.” This allows Zarif’s Western allies to acknowledge his humanity. When pressed, however, Zarif has always claimed that it was the Syrian opposition—backed by American and Israel—that has used chemical weapons, not Assad. Zarif has paid little reputational cost for this whitewashing; the Nobel Peace Prize committee continues to mention him as an annual nominee.

After seven years, and with billions of dollars of sunk costs, an assertive Russian partner, and a U.S. president that aspires to withdraw from the region, Tehran feels vindicated in Syria. It is alleged to be building permanent military bases outside Damascus, with armed drones capable of reaching Israel. Periodic, limited U.S. military strikes against Assad’s weapons depots are not likely to change this calculus. Hopes that Assad’s mass repression or use of chemical weapons would compel Tehran to reassess its support have been proven wrong. Just as Iranians today frequently evoke how Saddam used chemical weapons against Iran over three decades ago, Syrians will have similarly long memories of Iranian complicity.

While Friday night’s missile shower illustrated the clear power asymmetry between Washington and Tehran, the last seven years have also illustrated the two countries’ asymmetry of commitment in Syria. In contrast to Donald Trump—who did not care about Syria last week and will likely not care about Syria next week {Again, the media cannot resist taking a stab at Trump, no matter what. – LS}—Ayatollah Khamenei’s opposition to Israel, and his commitment to Syria, has not wavered for four decades. Like Captain Ahab chasing Moby Dick, the 78-year-old Khamenei will take this pursuit to the grave with him.

In the 1998 movie American History X, a vivid portrait of America’s neo-Nazi movement—America’s Islamist equivalent—Edward Norton’s character is a young radical sent to prison for committing a hate crime. When a sympathetic former teacher visits him in prison to try to talk sense, he remains intransigent. The teacher’s simple parting comment, however, was powerful enough to cause Norton to reflect. “Just ask yourself one thing,” said the teacher.  “Has anything you’ve done made your life better?

Amidst all the carnage and destruction in Syria, a similar question could be posed to Khamenei. Has anything that Iran has done in Syria, or elsewhere for that matter, advanced its goal of destroying Israel and liberating Palestine? Khamenei appeared to contemplate this question recently. “Today the body of Muslim world is severely wounded,” he said. “Enemies of Islam have managed to baffle the Muslim world by staging war and discord, giving the enemy more security in the region. In Western Asia, the Zionist regime thrives in a safe haven, while Muslims are posed against one another.” Long live Palestine.   {LLP??? – LS}




Russian supply of S-300 systems to Syria major threat to IAF

April 18, 2018

Since the Russians entered the bloody conflict in 2015, the Syrian regime has become more brazen in its responses to Israeli strikes.

By Anna Ahronheim April 15, 2018 06:35 The Jerusalem Post

Source Link: Russian supply of S-300 systems to Syria major threat to IAF

{If Assad’s upgraded air defense system is successful in shooting down an Israeli pilot, I suspect all hell will break loose. -LS}

With Russia considering supplying the S-300 surface-to- air missile systems to Syria, Israel’s air superiority is at risk of being challenged in one of its most difficult arenas.

With a de-confliction mechanism in place with Russia over Syria in order to avoid any unwanted conflict with the superpower, Israel has largely had free reign over Syrian skies to carry out strikes on targets deemed a threat to the Jewish state.

Over the course of Syria’s seven-year-long civil war, Israel has publicly admitted to having struck over 100 Hezbollah convoys and other targets in Syria, while keeping mum on hundreds of other strikes that have been attributed to the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that strikes will continue when “we have information and operational feasibility.”

Syrian air defenses are largely Soviet-era systems, comprised of SA-2s, SA-5s and SA-6s, as well as more sophisticated tactical surface-to-air missiles such as the SA-17 and SA-22 systems. The most up-to-date system that Moscow has supplied to the Syrian regime is the short range Pantsir S-1, which has shot down drones and missiles that have flown over Syria.

Russian chief of main operational directorate Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy said Saturday evening that “In the past year and a half, Russia has fully restored Syria’s air defense system and continues to further upgrade it.”

Moscow had “refused” to supply the surface-to-air missile system to Syria a few years ago after “taking into account the pressing request of some of our Western partners.”

But following US-led air strikes on the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons infrastructure, Russia considers “it possible to return to an examination of this issue, not only in regard to Syria but to other countries as well,” he said.

The advanced S-300 would be a major upgrade to Syrian air defenses and pose a threat to Israeli jets as the long-range missile defense system can track objects like aircraft and ballistic missiles over a range of 300 kilometers.

A full battalion includes six launcher vehicles, with each vehicle carrying four missile containers for a total of 24 missiles, as well as command- and-control and long-range radar detection vehicles.

The system’s engagement radar, which can guide up to 12 missiles simultaneously, helps guide the missiles toward the target. With two missiles per target, each launcher vehicle can engage up to six targets at once.

Since the Russians entered the bloody conflict in 2015, the Syrian regime has become more brazen in its responses to Israeli strikes.

Last March, Israeli jets carrying out air strikes against several targets in Syria were targeted with three anti-aircraft missiles with a 200-kilogram warhead. The missiles were shot down by the Arrow advanced missile-defense system in the first usage of the system in a combat situation.

In February, Syria succeeded – after launching a salvo of between 15-20 anti-aircraft missiles – in bringing down an Israeli F-16 (which crashed inside Israeli territory) that was carrying out a strike. Both pilots ejected from the jet and have since returned to duty.

If the Russians supply the advanced S-300 to Syria, Israeli jets may face these scenarios more often. And it could be just a matter of time before an Israeli pilot is killed.



Europe to Hamas: Disarm and we’ll rebuild Gaza

April 18, 2018

If accepted, the European offer would mean Hamas would refrain from any violence against Israel for at least five years.

April 16, 2018 15:36

European groups recently passed on to Hamas a wide-reaching proposition to solve the humanitarian crises in Gaza, The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv reported on Monday.

If accepted, Hamas would relinquish armed struggle against Israel for at least five years. In exchange, an EU-created institution would pay the salaries of the Gaza strip civic administration and run all humanitarian affairs there.

While the concept of connecting wide-scale humanitarian and financial aid to Gaza with Hamas rejecting terrorism and violence is not new, this offer is unique in including an assumption of comprehensive authorities by a European body that would operate in the Gaza strip.

For Hamas, it may be tempting that the financial aid for health, education and developing public administration would come directly from a European body and not via the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, currently controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, as is currently the practice.

Another important aspect of the European proposal is that it marks a different direction from that of the Palestinian effort of national reconciliation. The report says that the offer is meant to provide a possible scenario should Abbas make good on his threat to withdraw all support to the Gaza strip under Hamas. The Hamas negotiation team is reportedly still studying the European offer before responding to it.

It is also possible that the European offer is useful for Hamas as it provides them with one more bargaining chip as negotiations with Abbas, conducted with the help of Egypt, continue with the eventual goal of national Palestinian reconciliation.

In a round of talks held in the Gaza strip on Saturday, Hamas refused the demands made by Abbas and passed on by the Egyptian negotiation team. The demands were that the security, legal and tax collecting powers in the Gaza strip be handed over to the PA as a condition for national reconciliation.

Hamas also insisted that their delegation set to meet in Cairo next week to continue the negotiations will be composed of Hamas Political Bureau members residing in Lebanon and Qatar and not those based in the Gaza strip. It would seem this is Hamas making a statement that matters on the ground, such as the weekly protests along the Israel-Gaza border, are too pressing to send Gaza-based staff abroad for negotiations. Hamas has refused to comply with Egyptian requests to halt these protest marches.

Assad’s land grab: Refugees face losing the homes they fled under new law

April 18, 2018

A displaced Syrian family at a government checkpoint in Idlib province in April 2018 (AFP)

Property owners in Syria and abroad must present deeds to offices inside the country by early May or the state could seize their holdings.

By Bahira al-Zarier, Barrett Limoges Wednesday 18 April 2018 09:53 UTC

Source Link: Assad’s land grab: Refugees face losing the homes they fled under new law

{First he takes his citizens’ lives, then he takes their property. What next, Mr. Assad? – LS}

AMMAN – Scrolling through his Facebook feed at his home in Jordan last week, Syrian refugee Salim Muhammad’s eyes fell upon a news headline that made his heart sink.

Under a new property law issued by the Syrian government in early April, Muhammad has one month to prove ownership of his house and land in a village near Homs that he fled under government shelling in 2012, or risk losing it.

“I always held out hope that we could go back,” Muhammad told Syria Direct. “This decree has destroyed all chance of that.”

Introduced on 2 April, Law 10 sets in motion a massive overhaul of the government land registry across Syria, state news agency SANA reported.

Law 10 gives property owners both in Syria and abroad just 30 days – starting 11 April – to present their deeds to local council offices in the country. Otherwise, the state can liquidate their titles and seize their holdings. Once the registration window closes, “the remaining plots will be sold at auction,” reads Article 31 of the law.

For citizens living abroad like Muhammad, family members as distant as a second cousin may present the documents in their stead.

However, the millions of Syrians impacted by Law 10 include refugees and internally displaced people without family back home to assist with registration, as well as people whose deeds were lost or destroyed during the war.

Security sign off

Perhaps most ominously for opposition supporters, all property owners wishing to register their lands must first obtain approval from state security officials, a lawyer in Damascus familiar with the law told Syria Direct. The lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions.

“Without this approval, they will not be able to prove ownership of the property,” said the lawyer. “Therefore, it would be sold at auction or claimed by another person.”

“Herein lies the seriousness of this decree,” she added.

The Daraya Executive Council discusses the return of displaced residents earlier this month (Daraya Executive Council)

The need for security clearance could exclude large swathes of the Syrian population inside and outside the country with outstanding arrest warrants or known anti-government sympathies from registering their property.

Muhammad is one of them. Although he still has the deed for his house and land in the south Homs village of al-Buwaidah a-Sharqiyah, he said the Syrian government has issued an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

“I am wanted by the regime on charges of incitement and attending demonstrations,” said Muhammad. “I understand that the regime means to take our property with a legal text, creating new laws to suit their interests.”

Law 10 comes in the immediate wake of the Syrian government’s recapture of East Ghouta, one of the last major rebel-held areas near Damascus, in early April. The subsequent displacement of more than 60,000 residents to opposition territory leaves the fate of thousands of properties near Damascus uncertain.

Under the new law, former residents of the enclave would now need family members to register property on their behalf, or go to government territory themselves and risk arrest.

The Damascus lawyer who Syria Direct contacted this month said that, although Syria has long needed to update the property registry, she believes the timing of Law 10 makes its motives suspect.

“The timing of the decree, in light of the war which has seen millions displaced and the creation of refugees who cannot return to their homes because of the security situation, certainly raises doubts,” she said.

Bureaucratic mess

Even before the latest property law, international aid agencies warned of legal ramifications surrounding the issue of lost or damaged property in Syria. A Norwegian Refugee Council report this past February estimated that the state could face more than 2 million lawsuits from Syrians seeking restitution for lost or damaged property in the wake of the civil war.

The subject of property titles and deeds in Syria is greatly complicated by the existence of parallel administrative systems that sprang up across a patchwork of opposition areas during the conflict. When government forces recapture these areas, documentation produced by opposition authorities is of little use.

Furthermore, many property documents have been lost or destroyed in recent years as residents fled shelling and ground fighting in regions across Syria.

According to the same NRC report, only nine percent of Syrians who fled their country during the war have access to their property deeds today. An estimated 5.6 million people have fled the country as refugees, and a further 6.1 million people are displaced inside Syria.

Abdel Hameed a-Shami, a 28-year-old media activist from the formerly rebel-held south Damascus city of Darayya, currently lives in opposition-held northern Syria with his family. He left Darayya in August 2016 when all of the city’s fighters and residents were evacuated in a surrender agreement with the Syrian government.

A-Shami’s family owned a home in Darayya, but the activist said that he, too, is wanted by the government and cannot register his property. Many other former Darayya residents are in a similar position, he said.

A map of a property to be registered in Daraya (Daraya Executive Council)

“There are thousands of families from Daraya that are living outside now, entire families that are wanted by the regime,” a-Shami told Syria Direct. He fears the Syrian government is using the law to seize the homes of opposition supporters and give them to its own support base.

In Jordan, Muhammad and his family have few options, he said. With no family left in Syria to register their property and no way for Muhammad to receive security approval due to his arrest warrant, he believes it is only a matter of time until he officially loses his property in Homs.

“The [government] decision has made me lose all hope of returning to Syria,” Muhammad said. “The regime has abandoned us, bombed us, destroyed us, and now they want to take away our homes and lands.”


Hamas “Press Office”: Truth Finishes Last

April 18, 2018

Israel – 70 Years Of Achievements

April 18, 2018