Archive for September 8, 2018

What is the Jew?

September 8, 2018

Leo Tolstoy, What is the Jew? printed in Jewish World periodical, 1908:

“What is the Jew?…

What kind of unique creature is this whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled and destroyed; persecuted, burned and drowned, and who, despite their anger and their fury, continues to live and to flourish.

What is this Jew whom they have never succeeded in enticing with all the enticements in the world, whose oppressors and persecutors only suggested that he deny (and disown) his religion and cast aside the faithfulness of his ancestors?!

“The Jew – is the symbol of eternity. … He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear.

“The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.”

H/T Linda Rivera


Erdogan and Putin clash over Idlib ceasefire

September 8, 2018

Source: Erdogan and Putin clash over Idlib ceasefire | The Times of Israel

Open disagreement highlights differences between leaders as they meet in Iran to discuss the fate of Syria’s last major rebel bastion

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Turkey’s counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in Tehran on September 7, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)

TEHRAN — Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan Friday openly disagreed about a “ceasefire” in Syria’s Idlib province, highlighting their differences despite a close cooperation.

The rare scenes captured on camera came as Putin, Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in Tehran for a three-way summit to discuss the fate of the country’s last major rebel bastion of Idlib.

Russia and Iran are key allies of President Bashar Assad’s regime. Turkey however backs opposition fighters seeking the ouster of the Syrian leader, and has argued against a large-scale offensive against the rebels fearing it could trigger a mass exodus towards its borders.

An unusual public exchange of words between Erdogan and Putin during the summit in the Iranian capital was carried live, as the Turkish leader pushed for a mention of a ceasefire in a joint statement.

“In the third point of the joint statement it’s clearly stated – we have considered the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone and have decided to seek a path to regulate the situation there,” Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) attend a press conference after meeting in Tehran on September 7, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV)

Idlib is one of the so-called “de-escalation” zones set up as a result of talks by Russia, Turkey and Iran last year as Damascus regained control of more of the country.

But Erdogan retorted: “Yes, the third point is wonderful, we take the diplomatic point. But there is no mention of ‘truce’. It would be good if we could have this phrase. It would strengthen the point… it would strengthen and calm this process.”

To which Putin replied: “The fact is there are no representatives of the armed opposition at our table,” citing the al-Nusra front and the so-called Islamic State extremist group. He also noted that the Syrian army was absent from the talks.

Idlib is dominated by jihadists of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance, but in the past years has taken in tens of thousands of rebels and civilians evacuated from other areas recaptured by the regime.

Syrian rebel fighters from the Quneitra province walk with their rifles as they wait at the Morek crossing point to be transfered in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo on July 21, 2018. (AFP Photo/Aaref Watad)

“I believe the Turkish president is right overall. It would be good. But we cannot say for them — any more than we can say for the al-Nusra front or IS — that they will stop shooting or stop using armed drones,” Putin noted.

But as Russian airplanes pounded rebel positions in the Syrian province, Erdogan insisted: “If we can ensure a ceasefire here, this will be one of the most important steps of the summit, it will seriously put civilians at ease.”

“Any attack launched or to be launched on Idlib will result in a disaster, massacre and a very big humanitarian tragedy.”

He said it must be possible to find a reasonable way to ensure everyone’s concerns are dealt with.

“We can try to pull the elements which Russia finds disturbing to areas where they will be unable to attack the Aleppo and the Hmeimim regions,” he suggested.

Hmeimim is home to Russia’s main military base in northwestern province of Latakia.

On Friday morning, Russian air raids pounded rebel positions in the southwest of Idlib killing five people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Among them were positions of the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance, as well as of the hardline Ahrar al-Sham group, the Britain-based monitor said.

Hundreds of civilians have already begun to flee Idlib ahead of what could be the last — and bloodiest — major battle of the devastating conflict.


US drawing up plans should Syrian regime carry out chemical attack on Idlib

September 8, 2018

Source: US drawing up plans should Syrian regime carry out chemical attack on Idlib | The Times of Israel

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford says he and President Donald Trump have ‘routine dialogue’ about possible consequences if Assad uses chemical weapons

Members of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the 'White Helmets,' carrying a victim after airstrikes in Kafr Ain in the Idlib province, September 7, 2018. (AFP/Anas al-Dyab)

Members of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the ‘White Helmets,’ carrying a victim after airstrikes in Kafr Ain in the Idlib province, September 7, 2018. (AFP/Anas al-Dyab)

The United States’ top military official said Saturday that he and President Donald Trump have “routine dialogue” about possible military consequences if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons during its upcoming assault on Idlib.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told reporters in New Delhi that no final decision had been made as yet, Reuters reported.

“But we are in a dialogue, a routine dialogue, with the president to make sure he knows where we are with regard to planning in the event that chemical weapons are used,” said Dunford.

Reuters reports he later added: “He expects us to have military options and we have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (2nd right) speaks as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford (to his left) listens during a bilateral meeting with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, April 26, 2018. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

The United States warned Syria Tuesday it will respond “swiftly and appropriately” if it uses chemical weapons against its people.

“Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its allies will respond swiftly and appropriately,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

The White House was “closely monitoring the situation in Idlib province, Syria, where millions of innocent civilians are under threat of an imminent Assad regime attack, backed by Russia and Iran,” Sanders said.

“President Donald J. Trump has warned that such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” she added.

Earlier Tuesday, the Kremlin criticized Trump for warning against an expected Syrian government offensive on the opposition’s last stronghold.

Syrian protesters wave the flag of the opposition as they demonstrate against the regime and its ally Russia, in the rebel-held city of Idlib on September 7, 2018 (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)

Trump on Monday sent a tweet warning the Syrian government and its allies against a “reckless attack” on the rebel-held Idlib province.

Russia says jihadists in Idlib target its own facilities in Syria and pose a terrorist threat.

Some three million people live in the northwest region, which came under renewed air strikes and bombings earlier this week.

The United Nations has said the assault poses the threat of a humanitarian disaster. The Syrian peace envoy Staffan de Mistura on Friday proposed a plan for al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Idlib to pull back from civilian areas to avert a bloodbath in the rebel-held province.


Iran using Beirut airport to smuggle arms! 

September 8, 2018

Source: Iran using Beirut airport to smuggle arms! – Blitz

Yaakov Lappin

A recent report by Fox News stated that Iran has begun using civilian flights to Beirut international airport for the trafficking of weapons to Hezbollah. This report, which may well have been leaked to Fox by an intelligence service, points to a highly dangerous development. It is one that, if continued, holds the potential of placing the 12-year-old period of calm place between Israel and Hezbollahin jeopardy.

While Iranian arms-smuggling across the region is nothing new, Tehran’s efforts have traditionally focused on moving the arms by land vehicles into Lebanon from Syria.

Iranian weapons factories churn out powerful missiles and rockets before the Islamic Republican Guards Corps (IRGC) usually flies them to Syria.

From Syrian airports, it disperses the weapons by ground transport to Hezbollah depots and launch sites across Lebanese villages, towns and cities. This is how Hezbollah’s arsenal of projectiles—estimated at around 150,000—has grown to be larger than that of most NATO armies. This arsenal is deliberately planted in the midst of civilian areas and pointed at Israel.

Many of the projectiles are hidden in civilian buildings that house Lebanese families.

Other times, the weapons are produced in Assad regime factories in Syria and smuggled to Lebanon along the Iranian-run trafficking network.

On many such occasions, Israel, which monitors these activities very closely—and has developed an entire doctrine to interrupting the enemy’s force build-up process—has chosen to intervene.

Israel reportedly disrupted these weapons-smuggling runs in many instances through airstrikes across Syria.

Nevertheless, some of the weapons got through.

Once again, Iran is playing with fire

Hezbollah’s arsenal is currently made up mostly of short-range rockets, which have a range of 45 kilometers, but it also includes thousands of medium-range rockets that can go well past that distance, and several hundred long-range projectiles that place almost the whole of Israel in Hezbollah’s sights.

It also probably has dozens of ballistic missiles and hundreds of drones.

To be sure, Israel has been busy building up its own force. Israel’s airstrike capabilities have grown to unprecedented levels, and the ground forces today are better prepared than ever before to seize Hezbollah’s turf and destroy its fighting force, if called upon to do so.

Yet allowing an enemy as powerful as Hezbollah to build up its force even more, without placing limitations, would mean sitting back and watching an intolerable threat develop to Israeli cities and critical strategic sites.

This would boost Hezbollah’s confidence—emboldening it to take risks and thereby increasing the chances of war.

An active Israeli defense campaign, by contrast, not only placed limitations on this arms race, but also indicated to the Iranian-Hezbollah axis how penetrated they had become by Israeli intelligence.

This, in turn, strengthened Jerusalem’s deterrence and decreased the chances of conflict. An enemy that feels it is being watched constantly feels less confident to attack.

Thus, over the past six years, Israel has relied on the highest quality intelligence and precision airpower to consistently disrupt the Iranian-Hezbollah force build-up.

This campaign grew sizably in 2017, when Iran began trying to install its own military bases and arms factories in Syria.

The IDF confirmed in recent days that it struck some 200 targets in Syriaover the past year-and-a-half alone, in response to the Iranian takeover program. This confrontation came to a head in May this year, when Iranian forces fired a volley of rockets at the Golan Heights from truck-mounted launchers. Israel’s crushing response saw more than 50 Iranian targets in Syria destroyed.

It represented the first direct exchange of fire between Israeli and Iranian forces in Syria.

The Iranians, sustaining a painful blow, then decided to step back and look for a new strategy. They remained committed to keeping the arms flow to Lebanon and Syria going, but looked for new ways to go about it.

The Fox News report on the use of Beirut airport appears to be part of a new Iranian effort to move weapons around.

The Iranians might be banking on the assumption that Israel would not act to intercept arms inside Lebanon itself for fear of setting off a war with Hezbollah. This is a dangerous assumption to make.

The Iranian assumption could be based on an informal understanding that seems to have been in place between Israel and Hezbollah, according to which, Israeli airstrikes in Syria are one thing, something Hezbollah has learned to “live with.” Strikes in Lebanon, however, are quite another thing; they are a violation of Hezbollah’s own red line.

This arrangement seems to have come into place since April 2014, when Israel reportedly struck a Hezbollah weapons convoy on the Syrian-Lebanese border and the Lebanese terror organization responded by setting off bombs near an IDF convoy in Har Dov. Hezbollah’s response was essentially a message to Israel, saying, think twice before hitting targets in Lebanon.

As long as Israel was able to enforce its red lines in Syria, the arrangement seemed to have held up. But if Iran is now indeed trafficking rockets and missiles into Beirut’s airport through civilian flights, the calm that has been in place in Lebanon could be facing new risks.

If the Iranian-Hezbollah axis ignores the warnings, Israel may decide to act—and Hezbollah’s response remains unknown.

Once again, Iran is playing with fire

Despite its fundamentalist rhetoric, it seems unlikely that Hezbollah, for its part, would be interested in a new war with Israel now. It’s just beginning to think about the end of the Syrian conflict—a war in which it lost 1,800 armed members and suffered thousands of injuries.

Hezbollah is just beginning to consider bringing its forces home to Lebanon and beefing up its southern Lebanese front with Israel.

Southern Lebanon is already filled to the brim with Hezbollah units that spend day and night keeping up war readiness, maintaining equipment and arms, and thinking about ways to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers.

But Hezbollah’s leadership is well aware of Israel’s overwhelming firepower, and its ability to seize Lebanon militarily and deal an unprecedented blow to it.

It is this knowledge that helps keep the Lebanese-Israeli border quiet—at least, for the moment. Iran’s risky new moves place a new shadow over that calm.

Iraqi protesters set fire to Iran consulate

September 8, 2018

Source: Iraqi protesters set fire to Iran consulate

Angry protesters storm the Iranian consulate in southern Iraq, setting a fire inside amid a wave of demonstrations that have turned deadly in the past few days; demonstrators held two Iraqi employees hostage at a nearby oilfield; 12 protesters have died in clashes with security forces since Monday.

Demonstrators stormed the Iranian consulate in Iraq on Friday, in protest of corruption and misrule by Iraq’s political elite. The angry protesters damaged the consulate’s offices and shouted anti-Iranian slogans while others briefly took workers hostage at a nearby oilfield.

After five days of deadly demonstrations in the southern city of Basra, in which government buildings have been ransacked and set alight, protesters broke in and damaged the consulate’s offices, shouting condemnation of what many perceive as Iran’s sway over Iraq’s political affairs.

Demonstrators storm the Iranian consulate in Iraq (Photo: AFP)

Demonstrators storm the Iranian consulate in Iraq (Photo: AFP)

The protesters shouted anti-Iranian slogans outside the Iranian consulate, including “Iran, out, out!” before they stormed it and set a fire inside. Smoke could be seen rising from the building. Protesters also burned an Iranian flag.

Security sources said the consulate was empty when the crowd burst in. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said the storming of the consulate, which it deeply regretted, had nothing to do with protesters’ demands.”The targeting of diplomatic missions is unacceptable and detrimental to the interests of Iraq,” said ministry spokesman Ahmed Mahjoub.

Iran, however, blamed Iraq for failing to protect its embassy and said it expected Baghdad to “identify and punish the attackers quickly,” Bahram Qassemi, the spokesman for the ministry, told journalists, according to state media.

The Iraqi ambassador to Tehran was later summoned to the foreign ministry over the complaints.

Several foreign governments have consulates in the city, including the United States and Russia. In a statement, the US State Department condemned the violence against diplomats and called on “all parties, including security forces and protesters, to uphold the right of peaceful protest and to protect diplomats and their facilities.”

Late in the day some 65 kilometers north-west of Iraq’s second biggest city, another group of protesters entered a water treatment facility linked to the West Qurna 2 oilfield, managed by Russia’s Lukoil.

The protesters held two Iraqi employees hostage for about an hour before leaving the facility peacefully, according to a Lukoil source and a source with Basra’s energy police. Production was not disrupted, a manager at the oilfield said.

The unrest in Basra could have deeper implications for a country that imports most of its food.

Protesters shouting anti-Iranian slogans  (Photo: EPA)

Protesters shouting anti-Iranian slogans (Photo: EPA)

Since Thursday, protesters have shut Iraq’s only major sea port at Umm Qasr, 60 km (40 miles) south of Basra. It remained shut on Friday, local officials and security sources said, although oil exports, carried out from offshore platforms, have not been affected.

Sweep clean

Residents say they have been driven to the streets by corruption that allowed infrastructure to collapse, leaving no power or safe drinking water in the heat of summer, with protests intensifying on Monday.

Since then at least 12 demonstrators have died in the city of 2 million, mostly in clashes with security forces, as demonstrators torched government buildings and the offices of political parties, whose leaders are all vying to form Iraq’s ruling coalition.

On Friday, two protesters died from gunshot wounds and 39 were wounded, local health and security sources said. A curfew was imposed shortly before 9pm local time, but residents still targeted a building belonging to Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, the grouping of mostly Iran-backed Shi’ite militias.

Iraqi protesters set fire to Iran consulate  (Photo: Reuters)

Iraqi protesters set fire to Iran consulate (Photo: Reuters)

The national security council of the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, met on Friday and said it was investigating casualties at the protests.

The storming of the consulate came hours after Iraq’s most revered Shi’ite cleric called for a political shakeup in Baghdad and a halt to violence against the protesters.

Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the ultimate authority for devout members of Iraq’s Shi’ite majority who normally holds himself above day-to-day politics, placed blame for the unrest with political leaders and said a new government should be formed, “different from its predecessors.”

Smaller protests also took place on Friday in other cities in Iraq, including Karbala and Baghdad.

New crisis

The unrest has thrust Iraq into a major new crisis at a time when politicians have yet to agree on a new government after an inconclusive election in May. The new parliament finally met on Monday for the first time, but broke up after a day having failed to elect a speaker, much less name the next prime minister.

Parliament’s interim leader summoned lawmakers to an emergency session on Saturday to discuss the unrest.

Leading political figures, embroiled in government formation negotiations in Baghdad, have scrambled to respond to the crisis, condemning rivals for inaction.

Demonstrations in the southern Iraqi city, Basra (Photo: AP)

Demonstrations in the southern Iraqi city, Basra (Photo: AP)

Iraq’s political factions mainly came together in the past four years during a war against Islamic State. Baghdad’s two most influential allies, Washington and Tehran, also backed the government despite their deep hostility to each other.

But since Islamic State was largely defeated last year, divisions have resurfaced. Shi’ites in the south, where most of Iraq’s oil wealth is produced, say Baghdad politicians have squandered state funds while leaving them desperate.

Moqtada al-Sadr, a populist Shi’ite cleric whose electoral bloc came first in May’s election, said on Twitter that Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi must release more funds for Basra.

Sadr, the former leader of an anti-American Shi’ite sectarian militia who has reinvented himself as an anti-corruption campaigner, has allied himself with prime minister Abadi.

Their alliance is competing to form a government against a rival bloc backed by Abadi’s predecessor Nuri al-Maliki and the leader of an Iran-backed Shi’ite armed group, Hadi al-Amiri. Amiri called on Abadi to resign over the crisis on Friday.


The Trump Doctrine and the end of the ‘new world order’

September 8, 2018

Source: The Trump Doctrine and the end of the ‘new world order’ – International news – Jerusalem Post

Washington has called the ‘instability’ bluff, and it worked, but it has ushered in a multipolar world in its place.

 SEPTEMBER 7, 2018 19:01
U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he disembarks Air Force One after arriving in Singapore June 10

“Setting fire to the ground,” a “major catastrophe,” bringing “new instability” are the headlines that have greeted Donald Trump’s unorthodox decisions over the past year. Withdrawing from UNESCO, moving the US Embassy, leaving the Iran deal and cutting funding to UNRWA and funding for Pakistan were seen as extreme decisions in the Middle East and around the world. Insofar as there is a “Trump Doctrine,” it has been to call this bluff.

In the mind-set of Trump and his team, the time has come for the United States to move quickly to reverse decades of foreign policy norms, ending the status quo, and ripping up what the previous administrations did.

This is unprecedented. It could be foolhardy, say the many critics of the administration. But so far none of the threatened “chaos” and “instability” has been unleashed. Previous administrations that played it safe and sought to make minor adjustments or shift the needle a few degrees here and there found instability was unleashed regardless of what they did.

On a vast number of foreign policy files that sat awaiting Trump’s team in January 2017, the administration has sought major changes. Most of these major changes have come since December 2017, when the embassy move was announced. That is at least in part because Rex Tillerson was the secretary of state and H.R. McMaster was the national security adviser. Once they got the boot in the spring of 2018, Mike Pompeo took the helm and John Bolton came on as national security adviser.

Is the US now embarked on a radical break with the past and a rapid change in foreign policy? The American school of foreign policy is not inherently incremental and conservative. What is characterized by Trump supporters as a kind of “deep state” of foreign policy experts and the rotating door of the Washington security establishment was not always stagnant. US policy in the republic’s early years alternated widely between lovers of England and lovers of revolutionary France. America sought to challenge European imperialism in the Western hemisphere and moved relatively rapidly into empire building of its own at the end of the 19th century. It famously retreated into isolationism only to emerge in 1945 in the role of anti-Soviet Cold Warrior.

And even in the Cold War the US reversed itself radically from time to time, with Nixon’s trip to China and Reagan’s decision to ramp up the Cold War in the 1980s. George H.W. Bush promised a “new world order” in 1991. He called it the “big idea” in which “diverse nations are drawn together in common course to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind – peace, security, freedom and the rule of law.” He was as much a revolutionary in foreign policy as Trump, where Trump plays the role of the anti-Bush Senior. Trump has likely never studied Carl von Clausewitz, the historic Prussian general whose thinking The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach once said “haunted the Pentagon, the White House and Capitol Hill.” Neither does Trump seem to have much time for Henry Kissinger’s “world order,” whose views seem to have underpinned 50 years of US policy in one form or another.

THIS LEAVES us, particularly in the Middle East, wondering if the Trump Doctrine is just anti-doctrine, davka for davka’s sake. It appears to be more than that. The team of Bolton, Pompeo and Brian Hook, who handle Iran, and the team of Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, who pioneer Israel-Palestinian policy, have a goal. The goal is to reverse decades of what they see as appeasement.

On Iran the appeasement has taken the form of constantly being enslaved to a paradigm that says the following: Iran is a rational actor (it’s not run by crazy far-right ayatollahs). The Tehran regime dislikes America because of a 1953 coup. We must cultivate moderates and not empower hard-liners. If you don’t give the regime things, then it will empower hard-liners. So give it things and keep it quiet. In this Catch-22 cycle, the more the regime terrorizes the region, the more you have to be nice to it so it won’t be worse.

On the Palestinian file the concept is the following: Palestinians and Israelis need to be brought to the peace table. Until Israel comes to the table, the US must fund the Palestinians’ institutions and make them believe they will get Jerusalem as their capital. America has a responsibility to them because the US supported Israel’s creation and is therefore partly responsible for the chaos that unfolded in the 1948 war when 800,000 Palestinians became refugees. If Palestinians don’t see hope for the future, they will destabilize the region and Israel as well, thus hurting America’s ally. It is in Israel’s best interest to aid the Palestinians and enable their hope.

The Trump Doctrine says this model is nonsense. Step away from the deal, and the other side will come back with a new offer. What Trump’s team either instinctively understands, or plodded into, is that there is a third side to the deal. The third side is Europe. When Trump walked away from the Iran deal, the Iranians wanted to play the bogeyman card and say “Well, now we have a right to nuclear weapons.” But they hesitated because this would force Europe’s hand, and Europe doesn’t want Iran going totally crazy in the region. The bogeyman threat works only when you do it to everyone. But Iran can’t play bogeyman with America and moderate with Europe at the same time. So it’s confused, for the first time in four decades of bogeymanning the region.

Similarly the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah must keep playing the moderate card. The Ramallah leadership is graying and worried about its own future. It can’t unleash the instability that doomsayers predict because instability will result in its overthrow. No Palestinian Spring, Ramallah says. So Ramallah has to get Europe to pick up the tab that Trump walked away from. On cue, Sweden, Germany and other countries are coming to the table.

THE TRUMP administration has forced Europe to do what the EU largely failed to do for 30 years, which is to take a seat at the table. For many years after Bush Sr. brought his new world order, the European powers accepted US leadership and preferred to let the US make mistakes and then critique the US, but not to take the baton and run with it themselves. It is hard to find one major case where the EU led the way on a foreign policy decision since 1990. That is partly Washington’s fault for wanting to muscle in. Europe plays the wise skeptic to Washington’s flailing, from George W. Bush’s “war on terror” to Obama’s promise to “secure the peace” in Berlin in 2008. Europe was rightly skeptical of neoconservatism, WMD and preemption. But it generally went along and got dragged into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then joined the Global Coalition against Daesh.

Since the 1990s the brief period of American global hegemony has withered. Former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul met a mild-mannered man in 1991. “If you had asked me to list 5,000 Russians that might be the next president of Russia, he would not have made this list.” That man was Vladimir Putin. Putin was thinking about a mutlipolar world in the 1990s. I was studying in Russia when he was about to be appointed prime minister by Boris Yeltsin. We thought Russia was Dickensian and cool. But he knew the country could do better and command respect on the global stage. Now he holds court with Turkey and Iran’s president.
For all the anti-Russian rhetoric in the US now, none of those who complain about Putin today did much to stop Russia marching into the Caucuses and into Ukraine, or Syria. Clausewitzians failed. Clausewitz himself probably would have sensed the Russian rising power. The new world order failed. It didn’t restrain Russia or China or Iran or Turkey.

Trump’s policy has made Turkey and Iran think twice. Turkey didn’t expect US sanctions over a jailed pastor. It expected a quiet deal. Iran expected the US to leave Syria and hand over Iraq.

The Trump Doctrine is the end of the new world order. It is its graveyard. It is America’s decision to accept a multipolar world. It has to accept that Turkey, Iran and Russia have run into each other’s arms. It accepts Chinese sovereignty over the islands China built on under Bush and Obama. Trump has birthed a new European policy. The Trump Doctrine tore up decades of foreign policy. What will replace it, relatively quickly, is a new multipolar world.

In the Middle East that may not be a bad thing. For years US hegemony didn’t provide security in the region, because the US was balancing too many interests to confront the multiplicity of threats. A more narrow American policy, tailored to deal with certain types of threats, such as Iran and Islamist extremism, can bolster US allies, rather than balancing all the allies against each other.


IDF to Hizballah: Don’t try and surprise us after withdrawing from Syria – DEBKAfile

September 8, 2018

Source: IDF to Hizballah: Don’t try and surprise us after withdrawing from Syria – DEBKAfile

Intelligence monitors report deepening Hizballah control of Lebanese army forces near the Israeli frontier, raising concerns that the Iranian-backed group is refocusing on Israel as its troops return from the Syrian war. In a briefing to reporters, an Israeli official stressed that in the month-long conflict in 2006, the IDF differentiated between Lebanon state forces and the Hizballah militia. This mistake would not be repeated in another round of fighting, he said. Lebanon the state would be targeted together with any national facilities supporting the war – even if this means “smashing Lebanon.”

Another senior military officer, in a briefing before the New Year festival, noted that Hizballah can now augment the stocks of tens of thousands of rockets and missiles capable of reaching any part of Israel, with its Raduan commando unit, now returned from the battlefields of Syria. Its strategists have charted a plan to seize an Israeli village or IDF post in Galilee. The IDF officer explained that such an action would be more for shock effect than military gain, and the special unit would be quickly destroyed. Hizballah won’t surprise Israel again, the officer said, the IDF is fully prepared for every eventuality.

This week, Israel conducted a large-scale, multiple-unit exercise in the north simulating several Hizballah war scenarios.

The officer then stated: Hizballah has been “deterred for 12 years” and will go to war “only when it has no other option.”  He added: “I don’t see the Iranians kickstarting a Hizballah assault.”

DEBKAfile sums up the doctrine articulated of late by Israel’s generals: Hamas shies against escalation in the Gaza Strip; Hizballah is against war; and Iran is not about to send its proxy into action against Israel. If full deterrence has been achieved on both sides of the two borders, what is the point of Israel’s hectic preparations for the next conflict and the IDF threat to “smash Lebanon?”  Could it be that Israel’s generals are singing in the dark?

After all, there is no guarantee that Tehran will not decide at any moment to send Hizballah into battle against Israel, in reprisal for ramped-up IDF attacks on Iranian military targets in Syria and the Syrian-Iraqi border. In recent weeks, Hizballah has been pulling its troops out of Syria after five years of supporting Bashar Assad’s war against a nationwide insurgency. Hizballah’s vast missile arsenal is supported by troops that are no longer a Shiite militia, but a trained, professional army which has won its spurs in real war combat.
For now, Israel is investing heavily in a defensive wall on its northern frontier with Lebanon twin to the barriers under construction on the Gaza Strip’s land and sea borders.

Brig. Gen. Eran Ofir, Director of IDF border wall projects, reported this week that the first 13km, 9m high section of the 130-km wall guarding the Lebanese border should be finished by the end of the year. This section abuts the small Israeli towns of Rosh Hanikra, Shlomi and Maalot near the Mediterranean coast. The entire $450m project should be completed in two years. The wall is mostly made of concrete with steel mesh sensors and surveillance cameras. Last month, the Lebanese army complained to UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force, saying Israeli bulldozers working on the barrier had crossed into Lebanon. UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti confirmed that since it began in February, all construction had kept to the Israeli side of the Blue Line which marks the frontier.

The small border communities of Rosh Hanikra, Shlomi and Maalot, whose total population is around 50,000, are considered high risk for a Hizballah surprise attack. Even a partial incursion would be hailed as a major strategic feat and confer high kudos on the Shiite terrorist group. Therefore, say DEBKAfile’s military analysts, while the IDF envisions a war that would quickly move onto Lebanese soil, Hizballah sees a future conflict as a another surprise thrust across the border into Israel.