Archive for November 2, 2019

Al-Baghdadi and Trump’s Syrian chess board 

November 2, 2019

Source: Al-Baghdadi and Trump’s Syrian chess board – www.israelhayom.com

Trump is not flying blind in Syria. He is implementing a multifaceted set of policies that are based on the strengths, weaknesses and priorities of the various actors.

US President Donald Trump’s many critics insist he has no idea what he is doing in Syria. The assassination of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi over the weekend by US special forces showed this criticism is misplaced. Trump has a very good idea of what he is doing in Syria, not only regarding ISIS, but regarding the diverse competing actors on the ground.

Regarding ISIS, the obvious lesson of the al-Baghdadi raid is that Trump’s critics’ claim that his withdrawal of US forces from Syria’s border with Turkey meant that he was going to allow ISIS to regenerate was utterly baseless.

The raid did more than that. Al-Baghdadi’s assassination, and Trump’s discussion of the mass murderer’s death, showed that Trump has not merely maintained faith with the fight against ISIS and its allied jihadist groups. He has fundamentally changed the US’s counterterror fighting doctrine, particularly as it relates to psychological warfare against jihadists.

Following the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration initiated a public diplomacy campaign in the Arab-Islamic world. Rather than attack and undermine the jihadist doctrine that insists that it is the religious duty of Muslims to fight with the aim of conquering the non-Muslim world and to establish a global Islamic empire or caliphate, the Bush strategy was to ignore the jihad in the hopes of appeasing its adherents. The basic line of the Bush administration’s public diplomacy campaign was to embrace the mantra that Islam is peace, and assert that the US loves Islam because the US seeks peace.

Along these lines, in 2005, then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice prohibited the State Department, FBI and US intelligence agencies from using “controversial” terms like “radical Islam,” and “jihad” in official documents.

The Obama administration took the Bush administration’s obsequious approach to strategic communications several steps further. President Barack Obama and his advisers went out of their way to express sympathy for the “Islamic world.”

The Obama administration supported the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood against Egypt’s long-serving president and US ally Hosni Mubarak and backed Mubarak’s overthrow with the full knowledge that the only force powerful enough to replace him was the Muslim Brotherhood.

As for the Shiite jihadists, Obama’s refusal to support the pro-democracy protesters in Iran’s attempted Green Revolution in 2009 placed the US firmly on the side of the jihadist, imperialist regime of the ayatollahs and against the Iranian people.

In short, Obama took Bush’s rhetoric of appeasement and turned it into America’s actual policy.

The Bush-Obama sycophancy won the US no goodwill. Al Qaida, which led the insurgency against US forces in Iraq with Iranian and Syrian support was not moved to diminish its aggression and hatred of the US due to the administration’s efforts.

It was during the Obama years that ISIS built its caliphate on a third of the Iraqi-Syrian landmass, opened slave markets and launched a mass campaign of filmed beheadings in the name of Islam.

In his announcement of al-Baghdadi’s death on Sunday, Trump unceremoniously abandoned his predecessors’ strategy of sucking up to jihadists. Unlike Obama, who went to great lengths to talk about the respect US forces who killed Osama bin Laden accorded the terrorist mass-murderer’s body, “in accordance with Islamic practice,” Trump mocked al-Baghdadi, the murdering, raping, slaving “caliph.”

Al-Baghdadi, Trump said, died “like a dog, like a coward.”

Al-Baghdadi died, Trump said, “whimpering and crying.”

Trump posted a picture on his Twitter page of the Delta Force combat dog who brought about al-Baghdadi’s death by chasing him into a tunnel under his compound and provoking him to set off the explosive belt he was wearing, and kill himself and the two children who were with him.

Trump later described the animal who killed Allah’s self-appointed representative on earth as “our ‘K-9,’ as they call it. I call it a dog. A beautiful dog – a talented dog.”

Obama administration officials angrily condemned Trump’s remarks. For instance, former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell said he was “bothered” by Trump’s “locker room talk,” which he said, “inspire[s] other people” to conduct revenge attacks.

His colleague, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Admiral James Winnefeld said that Trump’s “piling on” describing al-Baghdadi as a “dog” sent a signal to his followers “that could cause them to lash out possibly more harshly in the wake.”

These criticisms are ridiculous. ISIS terrorists have richly proven they require no provocation to commit mass murder. They only need the opportunity.

Moreover, Trump’s constant use of the term “dog” and employment of canine imagery is highly significant. Dogs are considered “unclean” in Islam. In Islamic societies, “dog” is the worst name you can call a person.

It is hard to imagine that al-Baghdadi’s death at the paws of a dog is likely to rally many Muslims to his side. To the contrary, it is likely instead to demoralize his followers. What’s the point of joining a group of losers who believe in a fake prophet who died like a coward while chased by “a beautiful dog – a talented dog?”

Then there is Russia.

Trump’s critics insist that his decision to abandon the US position along the Syrian border with Turkey effectively surrendered total control over Syria to Russia. But that is far from the case. The American presence along the border didn’t harm Russia. It helped Russia. It freed Russian President Vladimir Putin from having to deal with Turkey. Now that the Americans have left the border zone, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is Putin’s problem.

And he is not the main problem that Trump has made for Putin in Syria.

Putin’s biggest problem in Syria is financial. The Russian economy is sunk in a deep recession due to the drop in global oil prices. Putin had planned to finance his Syrian operation with Syrian oil revenues. To this end, in January 2018, he signed an agreement with Syrian President Bashar Assad that effectively transferred the rights to the Syrian oil to Russia.

But Putin hadn’t taken Trump into consideration.

US forces did not withdraw from all of their positions in Syria last month. They maintained their control over al-Tanf airbase which controls the Syrian border with Jordan and Iraq.

More importantly, from Russia’s perspective, the US has not relinquished its military presence adjacent to Syria’s oil facilities in the Deir ez-Zor province on the eastern side of the Euphrates River. Indeed, according to media reports, the US is reinforcing its troop strength in Deir ez-Zor to ensure continued US-Kurdish control over Syria’s oil fields.

To understand how high a priority control over Syria’s oil installations is for Putin, it is worth recalling what happened in February 2018.

On February 7, 2018, a month after Putin and Assad signed their oil agreement, a massive joint force comprising Russian mercenaries, Syrian commandos and Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces crossed the Euphrates River with the aim of seizing the town of Khusham adjacent to the Conoco oil fields. Facing them were forty US Special Forces deployed with Kurdish and Arab SDF forces. The US forces directed a massive air assault against the attacking forces which killed some 500 soldiers and ended the assault. Accounts regarding the number of Russian mercenaries killed start at 80 and rise to several hundred.

The American counterattack caused grievous harm to the Russian force in Syria. Putin has kept the number of Russian military forces in Syria low by outsourcing much of the fighting to Russian military contractors. The aim of the failed operation was to enable those mercenary forces to seize the means to finance their own operations, and get them off the Kremlin payroll.

Since then, Putin has tried to dislodge the US forces from Khusham at least one more time, only to be met with a massive demonstration of force.

The continued US-Kurdish control over Syria’s oil fields and installations requires Putin to continue directly funding his war in Syria. So long as this remains the case, given Russia’s financial constraints, Putin is likely to go to great lengths to restrain his Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah partners and their aggressive designs against Israel in order to prevent a costly war.

In other words, by preventing Russia from seizing Syria’s oil fields, Trump is forcing Russia to behave in a manner that protects American interests in Syria.

The focus of most of the criticism against Trump’s Syria policies has been his alleged abandonment of the Syrian Kurds to the mercies of their Turkish enemies. But over the past week we learned that this is not the case. As Trump explained, continued US-Kurdish control over Syria’s oil fields provides the Kurdish-controlled SDF with the financial and military wherewithal to support and defend its people and their operations.

Moreover, details of al-Baghdadi’s assassination point to continued close cooperation between US and Kurdish forces. According to accounts of the raid, the Kurds provided the Americans with key intelligence that enabled US forces to pinpoint al-Baghdadi’s location.

As to Turkey, both al-Baghdadi and ISIS spokesman Abu Hassan al-Mujahir, who was killed by US forces on Tuesday, were located in areas of eastern Syria controlled by Turkey. The Americans didn’t try to hide this fact.

The Turkish operation in eastern Syria is reportedly raising Erdogan’s popularity at home. But it far from clear that the benefit he receives from his actions will be long-lasting. Turkey’s Syrian operation is exposing the NATO member’s close ties to ISIS and its allied terror groups. This exposure in and of itself is making the case for downgrading US strategic ties with its erstwhile ally.

Even worse for Turkey, due to Trump’s public embrace of Erdogan, the Democrats are targeting the Turkish autocrat as Enemy Number 1. On Tuesday, with the support of Republican lawmakers who have long recognized Erdogan’s animosity to US interests and allies, the Democratic-led House overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive sanctions resolution against Turkey.

The al-Baghdadi assassination and related events demonstrate that Trump is not flying blind in Syria. He is implementing a multifaceted set of policies that are based on the strengths, weaknesses and priorities of the various actors on the ground in ways that advance US interests at the expense of its foes and to the benefit of its allies.

 

Israeli aircraft retaliate after terrorists launch 10 rockets on southern communities 

November 2, 2019

Source: Israeli aircraft retaliate after terrorists launch 10 rockets on southern communities – www.israelhayom.com

Friday night attack on Israel saw eight rockets intercepted by the Iron Dome system. One projectile hit a house in Sderot, a town near the border, causing damage but no casualties, police said.

Following a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip on Friday, the Israel Defense Forces responded with a wave of pre-dawn airstrikes on the Hamas-ruled enclave.

The Israeli army said it targeted sites belonging to Hamas after Palestinians fired 10 rockets into Israel late on Friday.

Eight of them were reportedly intercepted by the Iron Dome system. One projectile hit a house in Sderot, a town near the border, causing damage but no casualties, police said.

In southern Gaza, medical officials and locals said a small cabin was hit, killing a 27-year-old civilian and wounding two others.

None of the terrorist groups in Gaza claimed responsibility for firing the rockets. The Israeli military said Hamas was ultimately responsible for the attack.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars over the past decade and tensions are high.

 

Syria, a global effort in war on terror- Jerusalem Studio 461 

November 2, 2019

 

 

Rocket fired from Gaza hits home in Sderot as Iron Dome intercepts 8 others

November 2, 2019

Source: Rocket fired from Gaza hits home in Sderot as Iron Dome intercepts 8 others | The Times of Israel

Two barrages send residents of south running for cover during Shabbat dinner; one woman hurt by fall; IDF strikes terror targets in response

A man checks a car damaged by shrapnel from a missile fired from Gaza into Sderot, Israel, November 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

A man checks a car damaged by shrapnel from a missile fired from Gaza into Sderot, Israel, November 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip fired 10 rockets into Israel in two separate barrages on Friday night, the army said. One projectile slammed into a house in the town of Sderot, while the Iron Dome system intercepted eight and the tenth fell in open ground.

The army responded several hours later with strikes on several terror targets in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Palestinian media reported that several airstrikes targeted training sites and outposts affiliated with Hamas and other groups.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said three men sustained moderate or serious shrapnel wounds from one of the airstrikes.

In the early hours of Saturday, sirens again sounded in Sderot and the village of Ibim. The IDF later attributed the sirens to “non-rocket fire” from Gaza into Israel.

During the earlier barrage, a 65-year-old woman was lightly hurt when she fell while running toward a shelter, medics said. Five people were treated for anxiety.

The attack was one of the largest in recent months and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, was in contact with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and coordinating a response, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility from Gaza, but Israel routinely holds Gaza’s Hamas rulers responsible for any violence emanating from the Strip.

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Warning sirens had gone off in the town of Sderot and in other Israeli communities along the Gaza border as many families were eating Friday night Shabbat dinner.

The IDF said 7 rockets were fired in that barrage, all of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

About an hour later another three rockets were fired into Israel and Iron Dome intercepted one. One of the rockets hit the home, causing serious damage but no injuries.

“There was a huge explosion,” one of the residents of the house told the Walla news site. “Luckily we were in the shelter; there is a lot of damage.”

The last rocket apparently fell in an open area.

Immediately after the first salvo was fired, an IDF tank shelled a Hamas observation post in Gaza, Palestinian and Hebrew-language media reported.

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Yaron Sasson, a spokesman for the Sderot municipality, said there had been no warnings ahead of time.

“This was a complete surprise after a few months of quiet,” he told Israel Radio. “But again we have residents running for bomb shelters during the Friday night Shabbat meal,” he said.

Sasson recommended residents remain close to bomb shelters and said emergency workers were carrying out searches to make sure there were no casualties.

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A large rocket barrage was fired from the Gaza Strip towards Southern Israel. Multiple Iron dome interceptors were fired

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The rocket barrages came a day after a rocket fired from Gaza landed in an open field. There were no reports of injuries or damage in Thursday’s attack.

The Iron Dome air defense system was activated and an interceptor projectile was launched, the army said in a statement, but it apparently missed its target.

The IDF said a tank and fighter jets subsequently launched retaliatory strikes on two Hamas posts in the northern Strip.

The Gaza-based Shehab news agency reported that Israeli security forces fired at a jeep belonging to operatives in the border area, near Beit Lahia.

On Tuesday, Israeli fighter jets shot down a drone that was flying at an “irregular altitude” over Gaza, the IDF said.