Archive for the ‘Israeli security’ category

Iran Looks to Seize Opportunity as Rivals Fall

December 13, 2017

Iran Looks to Seize Opportunity as Rivals Fall, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, December 13, 2017

(Please see also, Congress ignores Trump’s deadline on Iran nuclear deal. — DM)

Today, the Shi’ite axis is on the move. Iran is the mother ship, and its most prominent agent is Hizballah, which has more firepower at its disposal than most NATO members. The axis has tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia members active across Iraq and Syria. And it is preparing to expand.

The threat to international security posed by Iran far outweighs the one ever posed by ISIS.

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As it approaches victory in Syria with the help of Russian air power, Iran and its terrorist axis members are turning their attention to Israel, and trying to ignite fresh Palestinian violence.

Israel’s Channel 10 News reported on Monday evening that Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force foreign operations unit, called the leaders Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, urging them to escalate attacks on Israel.

“There is huge Iranian pressure on the Palestinian factions to begin a maneuver,” the Channel 10 report said. “And [Hizballah chief Hassan] Nasrallah is calling for a third intifada.”

It is a clear sign that, as the ISIS caliphate is erased from the map, another radical Islamist force is gaining strength, this one many times more powerful. Radical Shi’ite forces backed by Iran are moving into the vacuum left behind by ISIS.

With confidence growing due to battlefield victories in Syria and Iraq, Iran and its radical proxies are seeking to take over the Palestinian arena as well, increasing terrorism against Israel.

In a speech delivered from Hizballah’s south Beirut stronghold of Dahiya on Monday, Hassan Nasrallah said his organization – which has evolved into a hybrid guerilla-terrorist army – and its allies would renew their focus on the Palestinians, following “victories elsewhere in the region,” Reuters reported.

Thousands of followers chanted “death to Israel,” as Nasrallah promised assistance to armed Palestinian factions and called on them to keep up their conflict with Israel.

These developments are the latest signs of a regional shift, which has left the Iranian axis as the dominant radical Islamist force in the region.

Only a few years ago, the Middle East was the battleground involving four rival blocs:

1. The Iranian-Shi’ite axis

2. The Salafi-jihadist ISIS camp

3. The Muslim Brotherhood bloc, and

4. The pragmatic Sunni coalition.

Today, only the pragmatic Sunnis and the Iranian-Shi’ite axis remain as major regional forces.

ISIS is reverting back to a decentralized terror network, while the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is decimated.

Saudi Arabia leads the moderate Sunni coalition of states, which are allies of the United States. This bloc views Israel as an ally too, out of a recognition that Iran is its real enemy, not the Jewish State.

Today, the Shi’ite axis is on the move. Iran is the mother ship, and its most prominent agent is Hizballah, which has more firepower at its disposal than most NATO members. The axis has tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia members active across Iraq and Syria. And it is preparing to expand.

In recent days, a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi militia member visited southern Lebanon, where Hizballah provided him with a tour of the Israeli border. The visit signals Iran’s intention to direct its regional assets against Israel.

Missiles, a nuclear program, and a growing terrorist influence

The core of the Shi’ite axis is the Islamic Republic of Iran itself, whose regime is guided by Shi’ite Islamist doctrine.

“The Islamic regime in Iran wants to fully implement the Islamic Shari’a. It will be the instrument that triumphs over the enemies of Islam,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei said last month.

Iran’s military industries are flush with cash, and they are mass producing powerful weapons. These arms don’t just stay in Iran – many are exported to Iran’s dangerous clients across the Middle East. . These are the forces moving into the vacuum left by Islamic State’s demise.

“I welcome the recent and great victories of the Islamic Revolution front against the front of lies and the destruction of the accursed regime of ISIS,” IRGC commander Mohammed Al Jafari said recently.

Iran wants to establish a continuous land corridor linking it to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Such a corridor would enable Iran to move fighters and weapons from its border all the way to the Mediterranean coast. It would run parallel to the air corridor used by Iran to traffic weapons and fighters from Iran to Syria and Lebanon.

The Shi’ite axis monopolizes political and military power in Lebanon, via Hizballah, and uses its proxy forces to heavily influence Syria and Iraq.

In addition, it wields heavy influence in Yemen, where the IRGC supports the Ansar Allah radical Houthi group, which recently said it fired a cruise missile at a nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The repeated use of surface-to-surface firepower by the Houthis against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia mimics tactics used by Hamas and Hizballah against Israel.

Terrorism under an Iranian nuclear umbrella?

The idea that the threat posed by the Iranian axis can be limited to the Middle East was recently disproven by Iran itself.

After European criticism of Iran’s ballistic missile program, officials threatened to increase Tehran’s ballistic missile ranges in order to reach Europe.

Israel, for its part, has vowed to stop the Iranian axis from taking over next-door Syria. A recent surge, according to media reports, of Israeli strikes on Iranian axis targets in Syria would seem to be evidence of Israel’s determination to challenge Iranian plans. Earlier this month, the strikes reportedly targeted an Iranian military base under construction south of Damascus, and the CERS weapons development and production site on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.

Yet the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, dormant for now, remains the elephant in the room.

A powerful Shi’ite axis operating under an Iranian nuclear umbrella would pose a new level of threat to global security. Iranian-run terrorist networks and armed forces could operate with impunity if the Iranians reactivate their nuclear sites in the future, which they intend to do.

The threat to international security posed by Iran far outweighs the one ever posed by ISIS.

Europe would not last a week if it had to face what Israel does

December 13, 2017

Europe would not last a week if it had to face what Israel does, Israel National News, Giulio Meotti, December 13, 2017

[T]he attacks, the wars, the threats, the tension and the death drawings that the world prepares for the small Jewish state with whose disappearance it is obsessed. And I thought, looking and looking at those images, that no European country, not one, would survive a week of this instead of Israel.

The very existence of Israel goes against all the rules. It is a classical example of nonsense. Because Israel is a miracle, the conscience of the world, the Western frontier located on the Eastern front. 

It is a symbol of our civilization as it was in its highest moments. 

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I was watching the videos from Ramallah and elsewhere of the Palestinian riots against the blessed American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. All those Israeli policemen and soldiers engaged in dispelling the riots and violence without inflicting losses but managing to contain the damage.

They are not shaheeds, they care about human life, their own and the ones of the people they must confront in the streets.

These young Israelis doing such a tragic job are the same age as I am, at night they return to their wives and children, mothers and fathers. They are not shaheeds, they care about human life, their own and the ones of the people they must confront in the streets. They are the face of a state dealing with this drama for the last 70 years.

Then I thought of all the blackmail, the attacks, the wars, the threats, the tension and the death drawings that the world prepares for the small Jewish state with whose disappearance it is obsessed. And I thought, looking and looking at those images, that no European country, not one, would survive a week of this instead of Israel.

Most of commentators today worry about the “consequences” of the just and historical American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But if the fear of violence had dictated its actions, Israel would not have been born in 1948 and the Jews after Auschwitz would have been found in a deli of Brooklyn rather than on the beaches of Tel Aviv.

In its 70 years of existence, Israel has lost 23,447 soldiers and 2,495 civilians, it survived 12 wars and thousands of missiles, while coexisting with the specter of a chemical and nuclear war.

The very existence of Israel goes against all the rules. It is a classical example of nonsense. Because Israel is a miracle, the conscience of the world, the Western frontier located on the Eastern front.

It is a symbol of our civilization as it was in its highest moments.

 

Qassem Soleimani sends minion on odyssey from Iraq to the Lebanese-Israeli border

December 12, 2017

Qassem Soleimani sends minion on odyssey from Iraq to the Lebanese-Israeli border, DEBKAfile, December 12, 2017

It took Soleimani’s Iraqi minion and his heavily armed convoy a couple of days to cover 300km from Iraq to Beirut. This is exactly the distance Iranian and Hizballah forces cover on their way from Iraq to the Mediterranean. The tour that wound up Khazali’s trip took place on the south Lebanese road parallel to Israel’s northern border. That road is just 65km long. At several points on his itinerary from Iraq, he must have been sighted. It is hard to understand why no American force in Syria and no eyes along the Israeli-Lebanese border missed sighting his armored convoy and failed to take him out – and so cut short Tehran’s deadly, well-advanced conspiracy to unleash thousands of ferocious Iraqi Shiite militiamen against Israel.

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By reaching the Lebanese-Israeli border on Dec. 2, Iraqi Shiite militia chief Qais al-Khazali embodied the consummation of Iran’s open land bridge to the Mediterranean.

The mission that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods chief, Gen. Qassem Soleini entrusted to  Khazali and his militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (the League of Believers), embodies Iran’s success in gaining its great ambition of an overland corridor under its control through Iraq up to the Mediterranean coast. In line with that mission, the militia chief was guided along the Lebanese-Israeli border on Dec. 2, for a sight at close hand Israel’s border towns from Admit in the west to Metullah in the east. He needed this information in order to mark out the military positions he would assign to his Khalazi network at Tehran’s behest.

This event most of all highlighted American and Israeli inertia in letting Iran consummate its prime strategic goal of opening up new fronts against Israel from Lebanon and the Syrian Golan. They are to be manned not just by Hizballah, but by many thousands of battle-hardened Iraqi militiamen devoted to Tehran, as the Khazali odyssey has revealed.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources tracked his itinerary from the crossing into Syria from Iraq on Thursday, Nov. 30. His first stop was at Soleimani’s headquarters east of Abu Kamal. There, he conferred with the Al Qods chief and his operational staff, as well as with officers of his own militia who were fighting in Syria. They discussed ways and means of transferring 15,000 militiamen from Iraq to Lebanon via Syria for taking up deployment in southern Lebanon along the Israeli border.

On Dec. 1, when these matters were settled, Khazali set out for Damascus, escorted now by Hizballah in a heavily-armored convoy. There, he reported to the new headquarters set up by his militia in partnership with the Iraqi Kata’ib Hezbollah, the backbone of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU). It is commanded by Soleimani’s deputy, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Our sources report that this headquarters was recently established in Damascus to coordinate the Syrian- based Shiite militias, including those imported from Pakistan and Afghanistan, for a concerted campaign against Israel.

Khazali’s convoy then drove west, crossed the Syrian border into Lebanon and drove on to Beirut for a meeting with Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah. The two terror chiefs ironed out all the details pertaining to the disposition of the Assaib Ahl al-Haq militia in southern Lebanon across from northern Israel’s Galilee. Our military sources report that that the militia chief was then taken on his tour by Hizballah for surveillance of Israeli military formations on the other side of the border, so as to arrange the positioning of his forces accordingly when they arrived in Lebanon.

The tour began at the Hizballah position facing Israel’s Admit, continued to Houla, west of which Hizballah has planted a position opposite Israel’s Manara ridge and the IDF post located there. His next stop was Kafr Kela, just one and a half kilometers from the northernmost Israeli town of Metula. From a nearby Hizballah position, he was able to view the Golan and Hermon slopes. The voice of a Hizballah officer could be heard on a video clip released in Iraq on the militia chief’s tour. He was saying: “This is Golan. It is nearly 10 kilometers from here.” Khazali then proceeded on foot with his escorts to the Fatima Gate on the Lebanese-Israeli border outside Metula.

It took Soleimani’s Iraqi minion and his heavily armed convoy a couple of days to cover 300km from Iraq to Beirut. This is exactly the distance Iranian and Hizballah forces cover on their way from Iraq to the Mediterranean. The tour that wound up Khazali’s trip took place on the south Lebanese road parallel to Israel’s northern border. That road is just 65km long. At several points on his itinerary from Iraq, he must have been sighted. It is hard to understand why no American force in Syria and no eyes along the Israeli-Lebanese border missed sighting his armored convoy and failed to take him out – and so cut short Tehran’s deadly, well-advanced conspiracy to unleash thousands of ferocious Iraqi Shiite militiamen against Israel.

Palestinian protests won’t swell into mass resistance so long as Arab rulers and Iran see no gain

December 9, 2017

Palestinian protests won’t swell into mass resistance so long as Arab rulers and Iran see no gain, DEBKAfile, December 9, 2017

All the same, it would be premature to completely rule out a major escalation being sparked by some unforeseen event. For instance, a cell of Tanzim, the armed wing of Abbas’ Fatah party, may decide to join Hamas, the Iranian-backed Jihad Islami and the extremist Popular Front – all of them with a long record of terrorism – for a spectacular terrorist attack on an Israeli or American target.  For the time being, there is no sign of this building up. The ordinary Palestinian man in the street has a job to go to on Sunday and appears to have settled on a moderate demonstration of protest for Trump’s Jerusalem strategy.

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The Palestinian Hamas finds itself shouting alone for a massive armed uprising, raising only muted echoes in the Arab world and the Palestinian street in protest at the US president’s Jerusalem decision. Most adult Palestinians, when asked, admit they see no point in sending their sons in harm’s way. Yet Israel’s mainstream media astonishingly report with great bombast every Hamas threat as though a world power is threatening World War III.

The Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip have it in their power to unleash a barrage of rockets against their Israeli neighbors that would be damaging and lethal enough to trigger a major confrontation with Israel’s Defense Forces. They have done this before, but not so far now. In the exchange of blows Friday night, Dec. 8, Hamas clearly pulled its punches, showing that its rhetoric was just that. Smaller factions were allowed to fire off a few short-range rockets of low accuracy in the direction of Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Israeli locations next door to the Gaza Strip. Most exploded on open ground or fell short while still in Gazan air space; one exploded harmlessly on a Sderot street and one was intercepted by an Iron Dome battery. Two Hamas activists were killed in Israeli retaliatory air strikes against three Hamas military facilities in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leaders understand that their leeway for extreme action is narrower than ever before. They are a lone voice, are woefully short of funds, have no real backers in the Arab world and their popularity in the wider Palestinian community is waning.

By the time the anti-US, anti-Israel Palestinian protests reached their third day, Saturday, the following picture was taking shape:

The Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) decided against taking up Hamas’ call to arms when together they could have ignited a major conflagration. After all, President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital left in ruins the diplomatic campaign he led for years as his signature for unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood.

In the phone conversation he held with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday, shortly after Trump announced his decision on Jerusalem, Abu Mazen briefly considered joining the Hamas call for an extreme response. He pulled back when he realized that Haniyeh’s plan was to use the Jerusalem crisis as his pretext for hanging onto rule in the Gaza Strip. This would have wrecked the “reconciliation” deal in which Egypt invested long months as broker, in the hope of unifying the two Palestinian factions and bringing the Gaza Strip under Palestinian Authority rule. When Abu Mazen saw Haniyeh’s game, he backed away. The anti-Trump rallies in West Bank towns Thursday and Friday were consequently modest, compared with so many convulsions in the past.

Iran too pulled back from putting in its oar for inflaming Palestinian ire, because it has bigger fish to fry – even through Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah pushed hard for Tehran to instruct Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip to escalate the anti-Trump protest. Tehran’s attention is fixed on the turning-point in the Yemen civil war at Saudi Arabia’s back door, generated by the Revolutionary Guards success, in conjunction with Hizballah, to assassinate former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, after he switched sides from the Houthi insurgents to the Saudi-led coalition fighting them. The Houthis were then directed to wipe out the opposition by executing hundreds of officers and commanders loyal to Saleh.

The Palestinians are also small beer in the calculations of most members of the Arab League. Arab foreign ministers convened in Cairo Saturday, Dec. 9, for an “emergency session on Jerusalem.”  But it was summoned by the Palestinian Authority and one other Arab leader, Jordan’s King Abdullah, who has fallen out with most of his colleagues, badly enough for Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, for instance, to cut of financial assistance to Amman.

Abu Mazen found Saudi Arabia and other senior Arab League members otherwise engaged. Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman was busy replacing Adel Al-Jubeir as foreign minister with his brother, Prince Khaled bin Salman, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi showed no interest in the session. Abbas quickly saw which way the wind was blowing in the Palestinians Arab hinterland.

In New York too, the emergency UN Secretary Council session on Jerusalem, after hearing the PA’s complaint against President Trump, ended with a joint expression of “disappointment” by the ambassadors of France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK. “We disagree with the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” they said. “The status of Jerusalem must be determined through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians leading to a final status agreement.” After that, the “disappointed” powers returned home.

All the same, it would be premature to completely rule out a major escalation being sparked by some unforeseen event. For instance, a cell of Tanzim, the armed wing of Abbas’ Fatah party, may decide to join Hamas, the Iranian-backed Jihad Islami and the extremist Popular Front – all of them with a long record of terrorism – for a spectacular terrorist attack on an Israeli or American target.  For the time being, there is no sign of this building up. The ordinary Palestinian man in the street has a job to go to on Sunday and appears to have settled on a moderate demonstration of protest for Trump’s Jerusalem strategy.

Abbas lacks important Arab support against Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem

December 7, 2017

Abbas lacks important Arab support against Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, DEBKAfile, December 7, 2017

Israeli soldiers clash with Palestinians during a protest in the West Bank city of Hebron, following US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, on December 7, 2017. Photo by Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90

It is no secret in Ramallah or Nablus that King Abdullah of Jordan has fallen out of favor with the majority of Arab rulers, especially the Saudi crown prince and strongman, the UAE emir and the Egyptian president.  DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources reveal that Riyadh has gone so far as to cut off financial assistance to Amman.

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The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas only found Jordan’s King Abdullah and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan to back him up Thursday, Dec. 7, in the first 24 hours after US President Donald Trump’s announced recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Arab street’s first response was also minor in scale and pitch – less than 100 protesters at most of the rallies. Prepared for an outbreak of “the third Palestinian intifada (uprising)”, foreign correspondents arrived on the scene kitted up in helmets and vests, only to find a fairly low-key event to cover rather than a violent backlash. The Palestinian sources reported 140 injured so far, most of them from inhaling gas and three from rubber bullets.

The Palestinians were called out by their leaders to stage massive protest marches in East Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm, as well as at the Gaza border fence.  Stones were hurled at Israeli troops and tires set on fire for the cameras, but nothing more lethal at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, for instance, than bottles of water. Only in Hebron did real clashes occur between security forces and protesters. They were broken up with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.

Extra Israeli security and military forces have been mobilized for the weekly Muslim Friday prayers at the mosques and Saturday. Will Palestinian protesters then turn out in force, as they have so many times before?

It must be said that, while most Arab and Muslim rulers have gone through the motions of condemning Trump’s pro-Israeli act, few are actively opposing it, which the Palestinian street has not been slow to notice. Their zeal for a violent confrontation with Israeli security forces is therefore less than expected – especially after their leader Abu Mazen had to fall back on the Jordanian king and Turkish president for support, instead of finding a rousing condemnation from the entire Arab leadership.

It is no secret in Ramallah or Nablus that King Abdullah of Jordan has fallen out of favor with the majority of Arab rulers, especially the Saudi crown prince and strongman, the UAE emir and the Egyptian president.  DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources reveal that Riyadh has gone so far as to cut off financial assistance to Amman.

Jordan has always been good friends with Turkey and so Abdullah flew to Ankara Wednesday to find a backer ahead of the Trump announcement. However, the ordinary Palestinian has a low opinion of President Erdogan and his efforts to set up an anti-American, Anti-Israel Islamic Front never found much response in Palestinian towns.

And so Abu Mazen’s panicky visit to Amman to talk with Abdullah is not expected to change the mood on the Palestinian street. At the same time, the situation is inflammable enough to catch fire in a trice. A large-scale Palestinian terrorist attack against Israel is always on the cards, and the potential for Israeli security forces facing a raging mob  to inflict a large number of casualties cannot be ruled out for triggering a major outbreak.

Palestinians: More Missed Opportunities

December 4, 2017

Palestinians: More Missed Opportunities, Gatestone InstituteBassam Tawil, December 4, 2017

Abbas is a failed leader who has missed opportunity after opportunity to shepherd his people toward a better and dignified life. While his words may sound good to some Israelis and many in the international community, we are left with the burning question: Exactly who does he represent and on behalf of whom is he exactly talking? The answer is that Abbas is a single-strategy demagogue whose one goal is to hold onto the power to sell mirages to the world until his last breath.

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The PFLP, like Hamas and other Palestinian groups, makes no secret of its goal to “liberate Palestine, from the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea.” All should be commended for their honesty. If anyone has any doubts, their plan means the total destruction of Israel. Thus, as chairman of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas cannot say that he represents the entire organization. He has no leverage with the PFLP, DFLP and the remaining terror groups operating under the umbrella of his PLO.

And now we come to the million dollar question: Does Abbas really represent all of Fatah? The answer is simple and clear: No. Over the past few decades, Fatah has witnessed sharp divisions and disputes, resulting in a number of splinter groups that broke away and are now openly challenging Abbas’s leadership and policies.

While Abbas is making noises about a peace process, his own Fatah faction is inciting violence and calling for the destruction of Israel. While Abbas is talking about his interest in achieving a two-state solution, his partners in the PLO, including the PFLP and DFLP, are openly calling for the destruction of Israel and advocating an armed struggle. While Abbas is claiming that he is the legitimate president of the Palestinians, many Palestinians, including senior officials in his Fatah faction, are legitimately stating he has no mandate from his people to sign any agreement with Israel.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas continues to mouth his “desire” to achieve peace with Israel on the basis of a two-state solution. Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction and PLO partners, however, evidently have a different agenda: to wage war on Israel until the “liberation of all of Palestine.”

In a speech delivered on his behalf by Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, on November 30, Abbas repeated his commitment to a two-state solution based on international law and the 1967 “borders.”

Abbas called on the UN “to force Israel to recognize the State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders as the basis for a two-state solution, and to agree on a demarcation of borders in line with the resolutions of the international community.”

Abbas’s claim to a commitment to the “two-state solution” is a staple of his talks to the international community. It is just not clear who Abbas represents when he talks about the Palestinians’ commitment to a “two-state solution.”

In addition to his title as president of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas also holds the jobs of chairman of the PLO and Fatah, his ruling faction in the West Bank. Do Abbas’s statements regarding peace with Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel represent any of three these bodies? Hardly.

Abbas’s four-year term in office (as president of the Palestinian Authority) expired in January 2009. Since then, he is widely considered by Palestinians as an illegitimate president who does not have the authority to sign any peace agreement with Israel on behalf of a majority of his people. Many Palestinians will legitimately reject any agreement he signs with Israel on the grounds that the 82-year-old Abbas, who is now in his 12th year of his four-year term in office, is not a lawful leader.

Against this backdrop of zero confidence, any agreement Abbas signs with Israel would not be worth the paper it is written on.

Besides, the Palestinian Authority that he heads has no jurisdiction over the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or millions of Palestinians residing in Arab countries and elsewhere around the world. At the very most, the PA would be able to implement such an agreement only on those parts it controls in the West Bank.

That is concerning to the PA, a self-ruled body that was established in accordance with the 1993 Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PLO.

As for the PLO, of which Abbas is chairman, it is worth noting that it is an umbrella organization made up of various Palestinian factions. With the exception of Fatah, the largest faction (also headed by Abbas), the remaining groups are emphatically opposed to a peace process with Israel. Even worse, the other PLO groups continue to advocate an armed struggle against Israel.

Take, for example, the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a famous PLO terror group that does not believe in Israel’s right to exist and continues to engage in terrorism. The PFLP never misses an opportunity to state its support for violence and rejection of any peace agreement with Israel.

Here is what the PFLP thinks about efforts to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israel:

“The PFLP confirms its categorical rejection of all international and Arab projects and ‘solutions’ that attempt to undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and principally, their right of return, in the interest of proposals consistent with the Zionist vision if this fundamental issue.”

The PFLP, like Hamas and other Palestinian groups, makes no secret of its goal to “liberate Palestine, from the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea.” All should be commended for their honesty. If anyone has any doubts, their plan means the total destruction of Israel.

Another PLO terror group, the Leninist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), for example, is equally dangerous and rejects any peaceful settlement with Israel. This is what the group had to say in a recent statementmarking the 69th anniversary of the “Nakba” (the “catastrophe,” a reference to the establishment of Israel in 1948):

“Let’s make the 69th anniversary of the Nakba a year to liberate our cause from the Oslo compromising ties, a year of national salvation and mobilization of our national forces against the Zionist project on every single inch of Palestine land.”

Some may argue that both the PFLP and DFLP are relatively small groups within the PLO, and that their words are insignificant. However, it is the actions of the terror groups, not only the rhetoric, that matters. With a long history of terrorism against Israel, the PFLP and DFLP will never accept any peace agreement with Israel. How can they accept any agreement when they are already calling for the abrogation of the Oslo Accords?

The PFLP and DFLP are not the only PLO terror groups opposed to any peaceful settlement with Israel. Among the other PLO terror groups are: The Palestinian People’s Party, the Palestine Liberation Front, the Arab Liberation Front and the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front. Their shared ideology: rejection of Israel’s right to exist and commitment to terrorism as a way of “liberating all of Palestine.”

Thus, as chairman of the PLO, Abbas cannot say that he represents the entire organization. He has no leverage with the PFLP, DFLP and the remaining terror groups operating under the umbrella of his PLO. These terror groups would never — ever — sign on to a peace agreement between Abbas and Israel.

That leaves us with Abbas’s dominant Fatah faction. And now we come to the million dollar question: Does Abbas really represent all of Fatah? The answer is simple and clear: No.

Over the past few decades, Fatah has witnessed sharp divisions and disputes, resulting in a number of splinter groups that broke away and are now openly challenging Abbas’s leadership and policies.

Does Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas really represent all of his Fatah faction? No. Over the past few decades, Fatah has witnessed sharp divisions and disputes, resulting in a number of splinter groups that broke away and are now openly challenging Abbas’s leadership and policies. Pictured: Abbas (center) meets with the Central Committee of the Fatah movement July 13, 2014 in Ramallah. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)

Tensions within Fatah have intensified markedly in recent years, especially with the revolt spearheaded by Abbas’s arch-rival, Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan, a former Fatah official and security commander ousted by Abbas, is currently based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and enjoys the backing of many Palestinian cadres, especially in the Gaza Strip. Dahlan and his supporters are working hard to remove Abbas from power with the help of the UAE and some Arab countries.

Moreover, Abbas’s two-state solution remarks and his avowals of opposition to terrorism also fail to reflect the views of some of Fatah’s top officials and media. A report presented by Palestinian Media Watch to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East details Fatah’s ongoing incitement and glorification of terror against Israel.

The divisions within Fatah are not limited to the political echelon only; they also extend to the faction’s various armed groups. This means that Abbas also does not represent all the armed groups of the faction that he is supposed to be heading under Fatah.

Here, for example, is what one of Fatah’s armed groups, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades — Battalion of Martyr Nidal Al-Amoudi thinks about Abbas’s two-state solution and peace with Israel: “We promise our people to pursue the path of armed struggle and the pure rifle until the liberation of all Palestine and its holy sites.” That statement by Abbas’s terror group was issued in the Gaza Strip on December 2. The occasion: Launching a “training” camp for Fatah terrorists named after Yasser Arafat.

Let us get things clear: While Abbas is making noises about a peace process, his own Fatah faction is inciting violence and calling for the destruction of Israel. While Abbas is talking about his interest in achieving a two-state solution, his partners in the PLO, including the PFLP and DFLP, are openly calling for the destruction of Israel and advocating an armed struggle. While Abbas is claiming that he is the legitimate president of the Palestinians, many Palestinians, including senior officials in his Fatah faction, are legitimately stating he has no mandate from his people to sign any agreement with Israel.

Abbas is a failed leader who has missed opportunity after opportunity to shepherd his people toward a better and dignified life. While his words may sound good to some Israelis and many in the international community, we are left with the burning question: Exactly who does he represent and on behalf of whom is he exactly talking? The answer is that Abbas is a single-strategy demagogue whose one goal is to hold onto the power to sell mirages to the world until his last breath.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.

Trump’s strategic vision

December 3, 2017

Trump’s strategic vision, Israel National News, Ted Belman, December 2, 2017

Former Minister of Defense for Israel, Moshe Yaalon, just wrote a major opinion piece titled United States Policy in the Middle East: The Need for a Grand Strategy, which was published by the Institute for National Security Studies. In it, he claimed:

“The first year of the Trump administration has been characterized by the lack of clear policy guidelines vis-à-vis the Middle East. The great hopes that many countries in the region hung on the change of administration and a new proactive president in the White House have slowly been eclipsed by a sense of confusion, given United States behavior that shows little consistency and no clear strategic objectives.”

Yaalon, who has been out of office now for two years doesn’t know what is going on. On the contrary, the Trump administration does have a grand strategy, grander than imagined.

Many countries in the region, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have never been more hopeful about what they understand to be his strategic objectives and his plans for achieving them.

Remember Trump has consistently refused to telegraph his foreign policy moves while at the same time has consistently repeated that he intends to push back against Iran expansionism.

Saudi Arabia

When President Trump was campaigning, he kept saying that he wanted to defeat ISIS and its ideology. He was ridiculed for thinking he could eradicate the ideology.  It didn’t take him long to make good on his word.

His administration got to work immediately with the Sunni states, but principally with Mohamed ben Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia.  Al Sisi of Egypt was already on board as evidenced by a speech he made two years ago in which he said:

“I am addressing the religious scholars and clerics. We must take a long, hard look at the situation we are in. It is inconceivable that the ideology we sanctify should make our entire nation a source of concern, danger, killing, and destruction all over the world. It is inconceivable that this ideology… I am referring not to ‘religion,’ but to ‘ideology’– the body of ideas and texts that we have sanctified in the course of centuries, to the point that challenging them has become very difficult.

“It has reached the point that [this ideology] is hostile to the entire world. Is it conceivable that 1.6 billion [Muslims] would kill the world’s population of seven billion, so that they could live [on their own]  [..]. You cannot see things clearly when you are locked [in this ideology]. You must emerge from it and look from outside, in order to get closer to a truly enlightened ideology. You must oppose it with resolve. Let me say it again: We need to revolutionize our religion.”

Four months after his inauguration, Pres Trump made his historic trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in which he addressed 50 Arab and Muslim leaders:
“Later today, we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology – located right here, in this central part of the Islamic world. This groundbreaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combatting radicalization”

“But above all we must be united in pursuing the one goal that transcends every other consideration. That goal is to meet history’s great test — to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.

“Young Muslim boys and girls should be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence, and innocent of hatred.”

His message was clear and had already been agreed upon.

“Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.“This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase – and we will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies. This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.”

The last sentence suggests that the fighting will be done by the Sunnis with American backing rather than the other way around.

“But this (prosperous) future can only be achieved through defeating terrorism and the ideology that drives it.”

The Arab world understands this and is all for it. With the price of oil being what it is and likely to stay low, the Saudis will be bankrupt in a 5 years as they are eating into their surplus of $750 billion at an alarming rate. By jointly agreeing to spend $400 billion to achieve prosperity, they are putting their money where their mouth is. They are committed and so is the US.

As further evidence of their commitment, MBS announced the Vision 2030.

Essentially this is an economic vision that requires Saudi Arabia to open up to the world to create an environment conducive to foreign investment. Thus, it must westernize.

“Our Vision is a strong, thriving, and stable Saudi Arabia that provides opportunity for all. Our Vision is a tolerant country with Islam as its constitution and moderation as its method. We will welcome qualified individuals from all over the world and will respect those who have come to join our journey and our success.”

They also can’t take on Iran without Israel.

Egypt is in a worse position. She needs Israel’s help in building her economy and in defeating the terrorists in Sinai and Libya.

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017. The severing of relations included withdrawing ambassadors, and imposing trade and travel bans.

The crisis is an escalation of the Qatar–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict. The Saudi-led coalition cited Qatar’s support for terrorism and open alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as the main reasons for their actions. Saudi Arabia and other countries have criticized Al Jazeeraand Qatar’s relations with Iran.
Qatar is a big supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Hamas, whereas Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the others have banned the MB as a terrorist organization and are coming down hard on Hamas.

In October 2017, Saudi Arabia announced plans to build a $500 Billion city to be called Neom in the north west corner of Saudi Arabia. It will reach into Jordan and Egypt.

Bloomberg reported:

“It would be a microcosm of Saudi Arabia 2.0 while its new 32-year-old leader reconfigures the rest of the economy to make it fit for the modern world in a way that past rulers have failed to do. Other massive cities in the desert have been announced with much fanfare, then have floundered short of expectations, like the $10 billion office park on the outskirts of Riyadh sitting largely unoccupied and unfinished.

“The city “constitutes an attempt to create an economic zone that is more efficient and streamlined than the overall economy that will take time to reform,” said James Dorsey, a Middle East specialist at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. “The question is whether one can isolate a megacity from the inefficiencies of the country’s economy.””

As you can see, it is a huge gamble, born no doubt out of the huge need to to transform Saudi Arabia.

Jordan

Jordan too is a supporter of the MB, who have their headquarters in the country. While King Abdullah has enjoyed a good reputation among Congressmen and Members of Knesset, his reputation has been greatly tarnished in the last two years, so much so that the White House and the Netanyahu government are ready to ditch him.

What may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for them is the fact that Jordan’s king very own security agencies, which he controls with an iron-fist, have been caught red-handed stealing US and British weapons and selling them to ISIS.

Here are some recent articles which tell the tale.

Another Jordanian-made knife in the back of Israel.

Israel-Jordan peace agreement: The emperor has no clothes 

They see King Abdullah as an obstacle to peace rather than a guarantor of peace. They also believe that civil war is coming to Jordan unless they make a move to prevent it. While they may not say so publicly, some Israeli journalists do.

The US made their first move this week by announcing:

“Now, according to Stars and Stripes, Congress has added $143 million to the Pentagon budget, to upgrade the strategic Muwaffaq Salti Air Base, close to Jordan’s border with Syria and Iraq. The base has played a key role in the US military in its war with ISIS, and requires urgent upgrades, according to the Air Force, being overwhelmed as it is by the increased numbers and scope of operations.”

This is just the first step in moving the base in Qatar with its 11,000 US airmen to the base in Jordan.

General Charles Wald, USAIR, told Fox News US doesn’t need Qatar air base if Qatar won’t support our fight against terrorism .

This has been done to forestall a civil war in Jordan. The King has lost control of Jordan and the US is calling the shots. Watch for the drama to unfold.

The Arab/Israeli Conflict.

The right in Israel are very unhappy that Trump won’t move the Embassy to Jerusalem, won’t let Israel build though out Judea and Samaria, won’t let her expand the boundaries of Jerusalem and won’t let her demolish illegally build Arab structures. They are also unhappy that Trump keeps working on a plan, a process, for achieving “peace”.

But as the Economist pointed out in a recent article, Whatever the administration produces, Saudi Arabia is likely to support it.

“For Prince Muhammad, it seems, Palestinian aspirations to statehood are less important than countering Iran.”

“Prince Muhammad may calculate that a viable peace process would give him political cover to make the alliance more overt.”

And one might conclude that that is what the purpose of the process is.

Lebanon

Prime Minister Saad Harari resigned his post in Lebanon and then travelled to Saudi Arabia where he made a speech denouncing Hezbollah. On returning to Lebanon, he withdrew his resignation. But all is not lost.

BESA reports, “Hariri is believed to be demanding that Hezbollah halt its support to Houthi rebels in Yemen and withdraw from Syria, where its fighters supported the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. “ and argues that this goal may yet be achieved.

Iraq Kurdistan

The US reprimanded them for holding the referendum against its wishes and allowed Iraq to take back Kirkuk. Do not fear for the independence of Kurdistan. Their day will come. America has a strategic plan which mandates dealing with Jordan first.

The US wants to cement the alliance of Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt before pushing back on Iran.

Syria Kurdistan

According to the Washington Post, no friend of Pres Trump, The U.S. must prepare for Iran’s next move in Syria

“A task force of senior former U.S. diplomatic and military officials has come up with suggestions for how Trump could prevent Iran from taking over what’s left of liberated Syria and fulfill his own promise to contain Iranian influence in the region”.

“First, the United States needs to declare a clear Syria policy that removes suspicions that the United States is going to pull up stakes now that the Islamic State caliphate has fallen. The policy should make clear that a U.S. military presence will remain on the ground and in the air, to ensure that the Islamic State doesn’t reemerge and Assad doesn’t retake the entire country, and to provide security for reconstruction.

“Second, the Trump administration must increase its assistance to Sunni communities lucky enough to live outside Assad’s rule and help U.S.-supported local groups hold valuable territory in Syria’s southeast. This territory can provide local communities economic benefits now and political leverage down the line.

“Third, the United States should work with regional allies to stop Iran from moving weapons and troops into Syria. That would require interdicting shipments by sea and ensuring that U.S.-supported forces control key border towns in Syria and Iraq. Such moves could check Iranian aggression without triggering armed conflict with Tehran.”

“Accordingly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pledged last week that U.S. forces would remain to prevent the emergence of “ISIS 2.0” and until the political process gets off the ground, but he stopped short of saying America would keep Iran’s aggression at bay.”

As Caroline Glick rightly points out, in Portents of Quagmires in Syria, recently published:

“If Trump keeps US forces in Syrian Kurdistan, and if he refuses to help pay for Syrian reconstruction so long as Assad remains in power and Iranian and Hezbollah forces remain on the ground and if the US ends its civilian and military assistance to Lebanon, the US and its allies will be strengthened, and Russia and its allies will be weakened.

“If the Americans do not interfere as Syrian “freedom fighters” defend against Iranian or Russian “aggression,” it won’t matter what terms the Iranians give Putin for gas, or oil or nuclear deals. He will seek a way out of Syria.“

And she concludes:

“If the Americans do not save them, the situation on the ground augers quagmire, not triumph, for their axis and for their separate regimes.”

So rather than United States behavior showing “little consistency and no clear strategic objectives” as Yaalon writes, I would argue that Trump, does indeed, have a strategic vision. That vision involves the US fostering an open alliance of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel so that they can do the heavy lifting in pushing back Iran and its allies and ultimately to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.