Archive for the ‘Iranian proxies’ category

‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: We Must Form ‘Arab NATO’ To Confront Iran

February 22, 2017

‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: We Must Form ‘Arab NATO’ To Confront Iran, MEMRI, February 22, 2017

In February 2017, prominent Saudi journalist ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the former editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and former director of Alarabiya TV, published two articles calling to take a firm position vis-à-vis Iran and even form an “Arab NATO” to confront the alliance Iran has formed with Iraq and Syria.

The following are excerpts from the articles, as published in English by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and Alarabiya, respectively:

alrashed‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (image: alarabiya.net)

In one article,[1] Al-Rashed criticized the claim that U.S. President Donald Trump’s declarations against the Iran agreement strengthen the radicals there. He argued that Iran’s belligerence since the signing of the agreement proves that openness and flexibility towards it, like the policy pursued by Obama, only encourage it to escalate its aggression. He added that the radical camp in Iran has controlled the country since the Islamic Revolution, while the moderate camp is merely a front used to encourage the West to be lenient with Iran. Hence, policy towards Iran should be firm:

“Nothing happened during three decades to prove that there’s real competition between radicals and moderates inside the [Iranian] ruling command. Major events rather confirmed that the authority was in fact under the control of the radicals, while moderates were just front men. President Hassan Rouhani and his FM Zarif both represented the moderates and they succeeded [in] winning over the administration of former president Barack Obama. They also managed to convince the administration that lifting sanctions and encouraging Iran’s openness were [in] the interest of moderate figures, the region and the whole world.

“Once again, evidence suggested this assumption was wrong. [The] Iranian leadership became more aggressive than ever and for the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the regime dared to expand its military activity outside its borders. It is currently participating in and funding four wars outside of Iran. All of this was possible due to the nuclear deal that paved the way for better relations, trade and activity and kept silent over Iran’s threats to the region.

“Trump’s extremist rhetoric is a natural outcome of the disappointment [that] prevailed [in] Washington due to Iran’s behavior after signing the deal. Things will keep on getting worse unless a strict international position against Iran’s adventures is taken and unless Iran is forced to end the chaos it is funding in the region and the world.

“Those familiar with the Iranian regime’s [actions] cannot believe the excuses being made by Iran’s allies which stipulate that being lenient with Iran [may cause it to have a] positive [attitude to] the rest of the world. The nature of the regime in Tehran is religious with a revolutionary ideology. It has a political agenda that has not changed much since it attacked the American embassy in Tehran and held diplomats hostage [in 1979]. The same logic leads us to conclude that Iran will dominate [by] using power via its proxies and militias across the region and [by] encouraging and supporting the rebellious behavior of certain local parties in neighboring countries.

“Iran has not changed much since it announced it plans to export revolutions to the world. The only change that happened is that its financial and military situations improved a lot thanks to the nuclear deal it signed with the West.”

In another article,[2] Al-Rashed wrote that Iran has exploited the political vacuum that formed in the region in recent years, as well as the Obama administration’s policy, including the nuclear agreement with it, to expand its influence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. In light of this, he advised: “Military cooperation, under any umbrella, is a good idea and a necessary step, especially if expanded beyond [military cooperation]. Establishing an alliance to confront Iran is an essential balance to respond to its military alliance that includes Iraq and Syria.

“Iran also cooperates with Russia and the latter has a military base in Iran. The Russians strongly participate in the war in Syria alongside this Iranian alliance. Tehran has strengthened its alliance by bringing armed militias from Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon and other countries into Syria and they are fighting there under its banner. Iranian forces, in the guise of ‘experts,’ are fighting in Iraq and to some extent manage the conflict there. Therefore, establishing an Arab NATO… remains a natural reaction to Iran’s ‘Warsaw Pact.'”

 

 

[1] For the Arabic version of this article see: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 12, 2017; for the English version see: english.aawsat.com, February 13, 2017. The English text has been lightly edited for clarity.

[2] For the Arabic version of the article see: -Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 20, 2017; for the English version see: alarabiya.net, February 21, 2017. The English text has been lightly edited for clarity.

Iran’s Leader Urges Palestinians to Launch Violent Uprising

February 21, 2017

Iran’s Leader Urges Palestinians to Launch Violent Uprising, Investigative Project on Terrorism, February 21, 2017

Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked

February 20, 2017

Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked, Dan Miller’s Blog, February 20, 2017

(The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Warsclerotic or its other editors. — DM)

Evidence of political corruption should be.

It has been obvious since the early Republican primaries that most media coverage of a Trump presidency would be adverse and presented out of context. Perhaps a recent editorial at The Week Magazine explains why, albeit inadvertently. Or maybe this cartoon better explains the media view:

Trump and Putin as seen by the lamebrain media

Trump and Putin as seen by the lamebrain media

According to The Week Magazineall leaks are equal. However, we approve of those which fit our politics and disapprove of those which don’t.

Live by the leak, die by the leak. When WikiLeaks was releasing a steady stream of embarrassing emails hacked from Democratic officials during the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and her supporters cried foul, and urged the press not to report their contents. Donald Trump applauded every new revelation, saying the leaks provided voters with important information, and gleefully invited the Russians to find and publish emails she had deleted. “Boy, that WikiLeaks has done a job on her, hasn’t it?” Trump exulted. Now that it’s Trump who is being tortured by leaks, he’s complaining they’re illegal and “un-American.” Democrats, meanwhile, are welcoming the torrent like a rainstorm after a long drought. (See Main Stories.) When it comes to leaks, everyone is a hypocrite. “Good” leaks are ones that damage our opponents. “Bad” leaks are those that hurt Our Side. [Emphasis added.]

But let’s set partisanship aside for a moment. Is it always in the public interest for government officials to leak, and for the media to publish leaked material? Crusading journalist Glenn Greenwald—who angered the Obama administration by publishing Edward Snowden’s trove of stolen NSA documents—argues in TheIntercept.com this week that all leaks exposing “wrong-doing” are good ones, regardless of the leaker’s motives. “Leaks are illegal and hated by those in power (and their followers),” Greenwald says, “precisely because political officials want to be able to lie to the public with impunity and without detection.” The implication of this argument, of course, is that governments, politicians, and organizations should not keep any secrets—that when people in power conceal documents, emails, or information that could embarrass them, they are by definition deceiving the public. Radical transparency certainly sounds noble—but I suspect it’s a standard no public official, or indeed most of us, could survive. It’s so much more convenient to have a double standard: Transparency for thee, but not for me.

I disagree. Leaks of unclassified materials demonstrating corruption of the political process by either party are necessary for an effectively functioning democracy. Leaks of highly classified national security information — particularly in the area of foreign policy — endanger our democracy, are crimes and the perpetrators should be dealt with accordingly. When the media sensationalize leaks of the latter type, they are complicit and must be criticized vigorously.

The press has long served as an objective fail-safe to protect the public from the powers-that-be. That objectivity is now absent and the media’s role in our democratic society is in jeopardy. Rather than self-reflect as to how they got off course, the press have opted to label the man who exposed this derailment as un-American.

What’s un-American is the belief that the press should be unaccountable for its actions. What’s un-American is the belief that any attempt to criticize the press should be viewed as heresy. What’s un-American is the belief that the press is akin to a golden calf that compels Americans, presidents included, to worship the press.

Two very different types of leaks

a. DNC and Podesta e-mails:

The DNC and Podesta e-mails were released as written and posted by DNC officials and Podesta for transmission on unsecured servers easily hacked by modestly competent teenage hackers. I have seen no suggestion that the e-mails were classified. The intelligence community opined that Russian agents had done the hacking, but offered no significant proof beyond that the methods used by the hacker(s) were comparable to those used by Russian hackers in the past.

They found no discrepancies between the original e-mails and those posted by WikiLeaks (which denied that Russia had been the source). The e-mail leaks damaged the Clinton campaign because they portrayed, accurately — and in their own words —  dishonest efforts of high-level DNC and Clinton campaign personnel to skew the Democrat primary process in Ms. Clinton’s favor. They did not involve American foreign policy until Obama — who had previously done nothing of significance to halt Russia’s hacking of highly classified information from our intelligence establishment beyond asking, “pretty please, stop” — decided that Russia must be punished for Hillary’s loss of the general election through sanctions and by the expulsion of thirty-five of its diplomats.

Russian president Vladimir Putin had been expected to respond in kind, with the expulsion of US diplomats from its territory.

However, he later said he would not “stoop” to “irresponsible diplomacy”, but rather attempt to repair relations once Donald Trump takes office.

Mr Trump praised the decision as “very smart.”

b. Flynn telephone conversations:

Neither transcripts nor audio recordings of the Flynn telephone conversations were released. Instead, conclusions of the leakers were released. According to House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes,

“I think there is a lot of innuendo out there that the intelligence agencies have a problem with Donald Trump. The rank and file people that are out doing jobs across the world — very difficult places — they don’t pay attention to what is going on in Washington,” the California representative told CBS “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson.

“What we have is we do have people in the last administration, people who are burrowed in, perhaps all throughout the government, who clearly are leaking to the press,” Nunes added. “And it is against the law. Major laws have been broken. If you believe the Washington Post story that said there were nine people who said this, these are nine people who broke the law.” [Emphasis added.]

Nunes said the FBI and other intelligence agencies ought to investigate who has leaked information to the press because so few people in the administration knew these secrets, that it would have had to have been someone at the “highest levels of the Obama administration” who is an acting official until Trump replaces him or her.

Did the leaker(s) try to present the conversations honestly, or to damage President Trump’s efforts to deal with Russia in matters of foreign policy where American and Russian interests coincide? To disrupt America’s badly needed “reset” with Russia which seemed likely to succeed under President Trump after Clinton’s and Obama’s efforts had failed?

resetbutton

Remember the Obama – Romney debate when Romney characterized Russia as America’s greatest geopolitical threat and Obama responded that the cold war was over and that “the 1980’s are calling and want their foreign policy back”?

The position now asserted by the Democrats and the media seems rather like the position that Obama rejected. If the position(s) of the Democrats and the media are now correct and Russia is again our enemy, might it be due to actions which Obama took or failed to take over the past eight years?

It is unfortunate that there has been a resurgence of Democrat (and some Republican) Russophobia when Russia is reassessing her relationship with Iran and America.

On January 22, 2017, the Russian media outlet Pravda.ru published an analysis on Russia-Iran relations. According to the article’s author, Dmitri Nersesov, Iran is becoming a problem for Russian interests. Nersesov also added that Iran wants Russia to choose between Iran and Washington. “Iran wants Russia to recognize that Teheran holds the key to the regulation of the Syrian crisis. Should Russia decide that the real strategy is built on the cooperation between Moscow and Washington, rather than Moscow and Teheran; the Islamic Republic will be extremely disappointed,” Nersesov wrote. [Emphasis added.]

An American – Russian realignment in areas of mutual concern — which as suggested below had seemed to be progressing well until General Flynn ceased to be involved — would be good, not bad. We have many areas of mutual concern, and Iran is one of them. The war in Syria is another. When were Russians last directed to yell Death to America? Or to refer to America as the “Great Satan?”

c. General Flynn, Russia and Iran

General Flynn had, at President Trump’s request, been dealing with Russia concerning the future roles of Iran, Russia and America in the Syria debacle:

Overlaying US President Donald Trump’s extraordinary, hour-long skirmish with reporters Thursday, Feb. 16, was bitter frustration over the domestic obstacles locking him out from his top security and foreign policy goals. [Emphasis added.]

Even before his inauguration four weeks ago, he had arranged to reach those goals by means of an understanding with President Vladimir Putin for military and intelligence cooperation in Syria, both for the war on the Islamic State and for the removal of Iran and its Lebanese surrogate Hizballah from that country. [Emphasis added.]

But his antagonists, including elements of the US intelligence community, were turning his strategy into a blunderbuss for hitting him on the head, with the help of hostile media.

Thursday, in a highly unconventional meeting with the world media, he tried to hit back, and possibly save his strategy.

That won’t be easy. The exit of National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, the prime mover in the US-Russian détente, sent the Kremlin a negative signal. The Russians began unsheathing their claws when they began to suspect that the US president was being forced back from their understanding. The SSV 175 Viktor Leonov spy ship was ordered to move into position opposite Delaware on the East Coast of America; Su-24 warplanes buzzed the USS Porter destroyer in the Black Sea.

Before these events, Washington and Moscow wre moving briskly towards an understandingdebkafile’s intelligence sources disclose that the Kremlin had sent positive messages to the White House on their joint strategy in Syria, clarifying that Moscow was not locked in on Bashar Assad staying on as president. [Emphasis added.]

They also promised to table at the Geneva conference on Syria taking place later this month a demand for the all “foreign forces” to leave Syria. This would apply first and foremost to the pro-Iranian Iraqi, Pakistani and Afghan militias brought in by Tehran to fight for Assad under the command of Revolutionary Guards officers, as well as Hizballah. [Emphasis added.]

Deeply troubled by this prospect, Tehran sent Iran’s supreme commander in the Middle East, the Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, to Moscow this week to find out what was going on.

Flynn’s departure put the lid on this progress. Then came the damaging leak to the Wall Street Journal, that quoted an “intelligence official” as saying that his agencies hesitated to reveal to the president the “sources and methods” they use to collect information, due to “possible links between Trump associates and Russia.. Those links, he said “could potentially compromise the security of such classified information.”

A first-year student knows that this claim is nonsense, since no agency ever share its sources and methods with any outsider, however high-placed.

What the leak did reveal was that some Washington insiders were determined at all costs to torpedo the evolving understanding between the American and Russian presidents. The first scapegoat was the strategy the two were developing for working together in Syria. [Emphasis added.]

Defending his policy of warming relations with Moscow, Trump protested that “getting along with Russia is not a bad thing.” He even warned there would be a “nuclear holocaust like no other” if relations between the two superpowers were allowed to deteriorate further.

It is too soon to say whether his Russian policy is finally in shreds or can still be repaired. Trump indicated more than once in his press briefing that he would try and get the relations back on track.

Asked how he would react to Russia’s latest provocative moves, he said: “I’m not going to tell you anything about what responses I do. I don’t talk about military responses. I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea,” he stressed.

At all events, his administration seems to be at a crossroads between whether to try and salvage the partnership with Russia for Syria, or treat it as a write-off. If the latter, then Trump must decide whether to send American troops to the war-torn country to achieve his goals, or revert to Barack Obama’s policy of military non-intervention in the conflict. [Emphasis added.]

Substantially more is generally involved in matters of foreign policy than is facially apparent or than government officials should discuss publicly, particularly while negotiations with foreign powers are underway. Leaks by held-over members of the intelligence community did much to reveal the opinions of the leakers but little to reveal what General Flynn had been doing, while upsetting the chances of better American – Russian relations in areas of mutual concern.

Conclusions — The Administrative State

The Federal Government has grown far too big for its britches, giving the unelected “administrative state” substantially more authority, and hence power, than is consistent with a properly functioning democracy. As they have been demonstrating in recent months, holdovers from one administration can succeed, at least partially, in paralyzing a new and democratically elected president. Holdovers with political appointee status can generally be fired. Few others who should be can be.

Getting rid of the obstructionist “civil servants” who have become our masters should rank very high on President Trump’s “to do” list and should be accomplished before it’s too late. The task may be difficult but is not impossible. Perhaps some particularly obnoxious Federal agencies (or departments within those agencies) can be relocated to places less congenial than Washington. Inner City Chicago comes to mind. So do otherwise pleasant cities in California, where housing prices are much higher than in the Washington, D.C. area. How many Federal employees faced with the choice of relocating or resigning would choose the latter option?

There are likely other and probably better ways to get rid of the fatheads. President Trump’s administration should devise them.

EXCLUSIVE – Arab Intel Official Warns Israel, Jordan, Syria Borders at Risk of Becoming an Iranian Stronghold

February 18, 2017

EXCLUSIVE – Arab Intel Official Warns Israel, Jordan, Syria Borders at Risk of Becoming an Iranian Stronghold, BreitbartAaron Klein and Ali Waked, February 18, 2017

(Please see also, Can Trump rescue his Syria deal with Putin?. — DM)

jordan-border-640x480AP Raad Adayleh

TEL AVIV — There is fear that further advances by the Syrian army, assisted by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and elite Iranian troops, may turn the Israel-Jordan-Syria border area into an Iranian proxy base, an Arab intelligence officer said.

“It’s not so much the possibility that it happens, but the prospects of an Israeli retaliation if Iranian forces come near its border,” he said. “Israel made it clear, publicly and behind the scenes, that it would not tolerate Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guards’ presence along its border.”

“Iran has exploited the campaign against Nusra Front and the Islamic State to take root in the border area,” he said. “Jordan and Israel too would like to see these organizations out, but not to the point that Hezbollah and Iran fill the void.”

Lately, Israel and Jordan have cooperated closely on the matter, he stated. “Israel knows that Jordan needs to act against extremist elements but both want to prevent Iran from taking advantage of it.”

“It is also in [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s best interest to keep the Iranians out,” the official contended. “True, he has stated that the Golan Heights would be liberated by force, and he relies heavily on Hezbollah and Iran. But at some point he’d wish to rule over his own border areas, which is something Jordan can live with. But not Iran.”

He added that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards tried several times in the past to gain a foothold in Jordan. “But these cells were unveiled and dismantled before they became operational.”

He added that the joint operation room of the Syrian opposition groups has become almost completely inactive.

“Its activity has been dramatically reduced,” he said of the operation room. “There are no more operational and tactical plans and directives. The world wants first and foremost to remove the jihadist threat, but the elements in the region believe that the jihadi threat will be replaced by an Iranian one.”

He said that Jordan has rebuffed Iranian proposals to increase economic cooperation despite the financial dire straits in which the Kingdom finds itself. “They want to prevent Iran from having any kind of foothold in the kingdom.”

Venezuela: State Sponsor of Terrorism?

February 18, 2017

Venezuela: State Sponsor of Terrorism? Investigative Project on Terrorism, February 17, 2017

1977

U.S. intelligence has long considered Tareck El Aissami as a key figure in the global narcotics trade with ties to Iran. He oversaw massive shipments of drugs from Venezuela to other countries, including the United States, and issued identification documents to Hizballah operatives. But El Aissami isn’t an affiliate of Hizballah or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC). El Aissami is the vice president of Venezuela.

After an extensive Treasury Department investigation spanning several years, the Trump administration levied sanctions against El Aissami on Monday, freezing his assets in the United States and prohibiting business relationships with him. American officials have previously identified and sanctioned other senior Venezuelan officials involved in drug trafficking operations with Colombian FARC and close cooperation with Iran’s terrorist activities.

U.S. officials previously have criticized Venezuela’s failure to cooperate on global counterterrorism issues. Yet these latest allegations – surrounding the upper echelons of Venezuela’s government – suggest that the South American country has devolved into a full-blown state sponsor of terrorism.

Earlier this month, CNN received a 2013 secret intelligence document from several Latin American countries highlighting ties between El Aissami and 173 Venezuelan identification cards and passports issued to people from the Middle East, including Hizballah affiliated personnel. El Aissami “took charge of issuing, granting visas and nationalizing citizens from different countries, especially Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians, and Iraqis,” the report shows.

Previous U.S. reports detailed blatant corruption and vulnerabilities on Venezuela’s borders, failing to even conduct basic biographic screening at various ports of entry. However, the allegations surrounding El Aissami’s operations take these security concerns to a whole new level. One of the most powerful leaders of a large Western country stands accused of facilitating terrorist infiltration into other states, including the United States.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also suggests that El Aissami served as an interlocutor between Iran and Argentina in an effort to hide the Islamic Republic’s role in coordinating the 1994 Jewish Center bombing in Buenos Aires. Hizballah operatives are widely believed to be responsible for that attack, which killed 85 people and wounded 300. Moreover, a Wiesenthal Center representative in South America fears that El Aissami may encourage the Venezuelan government to adopt formal state policies based on anti-Semitism.

Under the reign of former President Hugo Chavez, Iran exploited friendly ties with Venezuela to establish terrorist networks throughout region. Iranian and Hizballah operatives have cultivated and consolidated operating bases in South America, especially in the tri-border area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hizballah sympathizers, the terrorist organization uses this area for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking, and logistics planning for terrorist operations.

Hizballah also relies on legitimate businesses and front organizations in the region, diversifying its terrorist financing profile to generate a significant portion of its revenues from its Latin American operations. With Venezuelan help, the terrorist group continues to expand its presence and consolidate support in other Latin American countries. Hizballah has even registered as a political party in a Peruvian region characterized as having that nation’s largest Muslim population.

Yet Venezuelan ties to drug trafficking and terrorists are not limited to South America. The Treasury Department also revealed that El Aissami helped coordinate narcotics shipments to drug cartels operating on the U.S. border, including Mexico’s infamous Los Zetas. In 2011, Virginia prosecutors said that a Lebanese man helped the Mexican Los Zetas drug cartel smuggle of more than 100 tons of Colombian cocaine. The U.S. Treasury Department claimed that Hizballah benefitted financially from the criminal network.

Later that year, the United States disrupted an IRGC-led plot in cooperation with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington.

The problematic nexus between Iranian-backed operatives – including Hizballah – and Mexican drug cartels allows terrorists to earn big money to fuel their violent operations. These connections also enable Hizballah to make inroads into the United States through its porous border with Mexico.

In a 2011 testimony before a House Homeland Security subcommittee, Roger F. Noriega, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, highlighted the danger posed to U.S. homeland security from the growing Hizballah presence in Latin America:

“The more broad implication for U.S. homeland security is that Hizballah—via Iran and Venezuela—has engaged the United States in an offensive strategy of asymmetric warfare on our doorstep. It is aiming to win the mental battle of attrition and the moral battle of legitimacy—particularly with the youth in Latin America. Unless our government recognizes and responds to their efforts, our ability to protect our interests and our homeland will be gradually and dangerously diminished.”

That testimony is as relevant today as it was years ago, foreshadowing continued cooperation between Iran, its terrorist proxies, and the government of Venezuela. Now with a vice president who maintains intimate ties to a variety of violent organizations, Venezuela has transitioned from a safe haven for nefarious activities to a global state sponsor of terrorism.

New Hamas Leader, a Vicious Killer, Portends New Rounds of Violence

February 16, 2017

New Hamas Leader, a Vicious Killer, Portends New Rounds of Violence, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, February 16, 2017

1978

The election of Yehya Sinwar to lead Hamas in Gaza represents the completion of a lengthy takeover by the terror movement’s military wing at the expense of the political wing, and it could signal a more imminent confrontational path with Israel than previously thought.

The Izzadin Al-Kassam Brigades gradually have been pushing aside Hamas’s political wing, seeing it as an impediment to its jihadist war efforts against Israel.

Sinwar and his military wing comrades want to reestablish their alliance with Iran and boost a tactical partnership with ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula.

His rise likely means that Hamas and Iran will grow close once again, after years of turmoil over their opposing stances on the Syrian war.

In fact, Sinwar’s rise to power is being described by veteran analyst Pinhas Inbari as Iran’s taking back the reigns to Gaza, which stemmed from Iranian concerns over a more hardline policy from the United States after President Donald Trump’s election.

Inbari does not believe Sinwar’s appointment was even based on elections, saying the results came from pressure by Hamas’s military wing on the political wing, and that the development is “Iran’s way of conveying a message before the Trump-Netanyahu talks” that took place Wednesday.

Sinwar, who served 22 years in an Israeli prison for murdering Palestinians he accused of being Israeli collaborators, is a trigger-happy senior Hamas member who does not hesitate to shoot dead Gazans he perceives as being disloyal.

He was released from prison during the 2011 Schalit prisoner swap with Israel, and quickly rejoined his comrades in the military wing, under the command of Muhammad Def, who were feverishly preparing rocket attacks, and tunneling into Israel.

Sinwar ordered the execution a year ago of a Gaza City Hamas battalion commander, Mahmoud Eshtwi, who was seen as being too open and critical towards his superiors.

According to a recent report by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Sinwar and his brutal track record are associated with an end to the “ijma” (consensus) manner in which Hamas once made strategic decisions, and the beginning of an internal Hamas dictatorship.

That could spell trouble for the Palestinian Authority, which Sinwar views as a foe, and which Hamas continuously seeks to topple in the West Bank. It could spell problems for Hamas’s other neighbors as well, like Egypt and Jordan, both of which have their own domestic Islamist and jihadist problems.

Brutal murders of any who fail to toe the party line under Sinwar could turn into a violent routine throughout the Gaza Strip, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories report said.

Traditionally, Hamas’s Shura Council included the military and political wings as well as the Hamas overseas politburo. Ismael Haniyeh – Sinwar’s predecessor – moves into this position formerly held by Khaled Mashaal.

But Sinwar, a charismatic and dominant figure, has been working to undermine this system. Backed by Hamas’s “chief of staff,” Muhammed Def, and high ranking leader Marwan Issa, who acted as a ‘bridge’ between the two wings, Sinwar and his wing took over tasks such as Hamas police appointments, according to Israeli assessments. Sinwar headed a kind of Hamas defense ministry before being ‘elected.’

One of his key goals is to apply the idea that the military wing spent too much time listening to the political wing, leading to a failure in achievements against Israel.

Sinwar did not consult with the political wing before having the Gaza City battalion commander murdered and he will likely not consult with it when he moves to establish closer bonds with Tehran.

And yet, even an extreme a figure as Sinwar will have to take reality into account when it comes to his options against Israel.

Since the end of the 2014 conflict with Israel, it seems reasonable to assume that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) may be working on a new combat doctrine together with the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency against the terrorist regime in Gaza.

If such a change has occurred in the Israeli defense establishment, in the event of a new conflict, Israel could seek to destroy the military wing. That would be a dramatic shift from the older goals of containment and deterrence.

This potential change in doctrine may have been hinted at in comments made on occasion by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who said, for example, last year, that Israel would destroy Hamas “completely” in the next war, though Jerusalem would not be the one to initiate hostilities.

The old rules, by which Hamas could initiate controlled escalations, and was free to deescalate when it accomplished its goals, appear to be gone, and it’s reasonable to assume Sinwar is aware of the risks to his regime.

Israel’s recent breakthroughs in tunnel detection capabilities, precision air power, and revamping of the Armored Corps, together with enhanced ground forces combat training, all mean that a mistake by Sinwar could prove to be the most costly to date for Hamas in Gaza.

Israel’s inaction in Syria may open Golan to Iran

February 7, 2017

Israel’s inaction in Syria may open Golan to Iran, DEBKAfile, February 6, 2017

jordanisraelsyria480en

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has given “diplomatic priority” to stressing the perils posed by Iranian-sponsored terrorism and its nuclear-capable ballistic weapons, and placed them at the top of his talks with British premier Theresa May in London Monday, Feb. 6, and with President Donald Trump in Washington on Feb. 15.

But it stands to reason that their national security and intelligence experts have advised the US president and the British premier that Netanyahu has been firmly advised up to the present day to stay clear of military involvement in the Syrian conflict by the IDF high command and his past and present defense ministers, Avigdor Lieberman and Moshe Ya’alon.

Israel therefore stands to be excluded from the practical deliberations ongoing for Syria’s future. Jordan in contrast has stepped forward as the key Middle East player in the pacts and military understandings shaping up between the US, Russia and Turkey for throwing Iran out of Syria.

Jordan’s King Abdullah swallowed his pride and took the initiative of flying to Washington last Thursday, Feb. 2, to buttonhole President Trump. From their brief conversation, he became the first Middle East ruler to win a green light from the US for an air strike against the ISIS ally, the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army, which occupies the triangle formed by the Syrian, Jordanian and Israeli borders. Israel has never attacked this force in the five years since it moved into that part of southern Syria.

DEBKAfile”s military and intelligence sources disclose that Abdullah informed Trump that the air strike would take place under the supervision of the US, Russian and Syrian commands, making it the first instance of US-Russian support for a Middle East army’s action against ISIS in Syria.

And so, on Saturday, Feb. 4, six Royal Jordanian Air Force F-15 fighters and five drones bombed seven Khalid Ibn al-Walid positions. This air strike most probably heralded more bombardments to come. Jordanian commando units are also likely to mount raids, in concert with the Syrian rebel militias they have trained, to seize the ground occupied by ISIS’ offshoot.

And on the diplomatic front, the US President authorized Jordan’s attendance at the Syrian peace talks that are ongoing under Russian sponsorship at the Kazakh capital of Astana. The Jordanian delegation was deputized to act on America’s behalf to monitor the process for determining the future of Syria.

This move came a week after the British prime minister was urged by Trump to fly straight to Ankara after their talks in Washington in search of a military collaboration deal for Syria between the UK and Turkey.

The onset of Jordan’s military action in Syria has pumped up to seven the number of foreign armies involved in that country’s conflict: Russia, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, pro-Iranian Shiite militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Lebanese Hizballah, US forces, the Turkish Army and now Jordan.

Synchronously with the Jordanian air strike in southern Syria, President Bashar Assad announced that its launch makes it possible for Syrian civilians who fled from the Islamists to start returning to their homes, starting with the Quneitra region of the Syrian Golan. He was talking about 30,000 refugees.

It is obvious to anyone familiar with the Syrian scene that this population shift is an open invitation for thousands of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps members and Hizballah terrorists to take the opportunity of stealing into the Golan, in the guise of returning refugees.

Israel, aside from providing an intelligence service on Syria to coalition forces, finds itself left out of any say in the currently evolving peace process. While ISIS may be rooted out of this border area at some point, the Netanyahu government’s military inaction risks exposing the Golan to another attempted incursion by Iranian and Hizballah forces by covert means.

The diplomatic prioritization of the Iranian threat, coupled with talks with US president Trump and deals with Russian President Putin, amount to a policy that has gone bankrupt for Netanyahu and his security chiefs. The powers who will determine what happens next in Syria are bound by military cooperation and action. Because Netanyahu’s rhetoric about the perils posed by Iran is not backed by military action, Israel has no influence on coming events, and faces the very real risk of being faced with an Iranian presence on its northern doorstep.