Posted tagged ‘Sunni’

Aleppo’s Fall Signals Rise of Emboldened Radical Shi’ite Axis

December 16, 2016

Aleppo’s Fall Signals Rise of Emboldened Radical Shi’ite Axis, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, December 16, 2016


Recent sweeping gains by the pro-Assad alliance in Aleppo signal the rise of an emboldened Iranian-led radical Shi’ite axis. The more this axis gains strength, territory, weapons, and influence, the more likely it is to threaten regional and global security.

Ideologues in Iran have formulated a Shi’ite jihadist vision which holds that the Iranian Islamic revolution must take control of the entire Muslim world. Losing the Assad regime to Sunni rebels, many of them backed by Tehran’s Gulf Arab state archenemies, would have represented a major setback to Iran’s agenda.

This same ideological agenda also calls for the eventual annihilation of Israel, the toppling of Sunni governments, and intimidating the West into complying with Iran’s schemes.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Tehran’s military elites, in the form of the Islamic Republican Guards Corps (IRGC), use the current regional chaos to promote these goals.

In Syria, Iran has mobilized tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia fighters from all over the Middle East, as well as those from Hizballah in Lebanon, and sent them to do battle with Sunni rebel organizations to help save the Assad regime.

As the Shi’ite axis wages a sectarian war against Sunnis moderate groups and jihadists, it mobilizes and arms its proxies, and moves military assets into Syria, gaining a growing influence that can be used for bellicose purposes in the not too distant future.

The conquest of east Aleppo is a victory for the wider, transnational Iranian-led alliance, of which the Damascus regime is but one component. The Assad regime is composed and led by Syria’s minority Alawite population, which makes up just 11 percent of Syrians (Alawites are seen as an offshoot of Shia Islam).

A look at the order of battle assembled in Aleppo reveals that the war in Syria is not a civil conflict by any measure. In addition to Assad regime forces sent to fight Sunni rebels, such as the Fourth Division, Syrian army special forces, and paramilitary units, there is also the Iranian-backed Hizballah, which has transformed itself into a regional Shi’ite ground army, deployed across Syria and Lebanon.

These are joined by Shi’ite Iraqi Kataib Hizballah militia, Afghan Shi’ite militia groups, and Iranian military personnel on the ground in Syria, all of whom receive the assistance of massive Russian air power.

The large scale, indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling in places like Aleppo resulted in mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing of many Sunni civilians, producing the largest humanitarian catastrophe and refugee crisis in the 21st century. Such extreme war crimes will be sure to produce a new generation of radical recruits for ISIS and al-Qaida.

The IRGC’s Quds Force, under the command of Qassem Suleimani, orchestrates the entire ground war effort. Suleimani is very close to the Iranian supreme leader.

The Quds Force uses Syria as a transit zone to traffic advanced weapons from Iranian and Syrian arms factories to the Hizballah storehouses that pepper neighboring Lebanon.

Hizballah has amassed one of the largest surface to surface rocket and missile arsenal in the world, composed of over 100,000 projectiles, all of which are pointed at Israeli cities.

According to international media reports, Israel recently launched two strikes in the one week, targeting attempts to smuggle game-changing weapons to Lebanon.

Syrian dictator Basher Assad owes his survival to Iran and Hizballah, and their military presence in Syria should continue and expand further.

Assad regime and Hizballah representatives boast of this fact in recent statements highlighted by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

“The power-balances will change not only in Syria but in the entire region,” said Hizballah Executive Council Chairman Hashem Safi Al-Din.

“Syria’s steadfastness, and the support from its allies, have shifted the regional and international balance [of power], said Assad political adviser Bouthaina Sha’aban. “The recent developments in the international arena are bringing the countries of the region face to face with a new world.

If it takes western Syria with Russian air support, the Shi’ite axis victors will likely turn their sights on seizing southern Syria, near the Israeli border. To accomplish that, they will need to do battle with an array of Sunni rebels that now control that area (groups that include ISIS-affiliates). If successful, the axis could be tempted to build bases of attack throughout Syria against Israel, a development that would certainly trigger Israeli defensive action, as has reportedly occurred in the past.

The same pattern repeats itself in Iraq, where Iran-backed militias are moving in on Mosul, and could later be used to threaten Iraq’s Sunnis, and in Yemen, where Iranian-armed Houthi rebels control large swaths of the country, and are currently at war with a Saudi-led military coalition. The Houthis also threaten international oil shipping lanes and have fired on the U.S. Navy using Iranian-smuggled missiles.

In this way, the fundamentalist Iranian coalition gains a growing foothold.

Iran’s ballistic missile program, which is developing long-range strike capabilities that could place Europe in range, and its temporarily dormant nuclear program, represents investments that would make the Shi’ite axis more powerful than any Sunni Islamist camp.

Defense officials in Israel and in pragmatic Sunni states will watch for the danger that Iran will use its presence, proxies, and bases in Syria and Iraq to wage a Shi’ite jihad that extends well beyond the battlegrounds there.

The Iranian coalition can also lure armed Sunni groups into its orbit as well, as it has done in the past with the Palestinian Hamas terrorist regime in Gaza.

While the Israeli defense establishment has no desire to be dragged into Syria’s conflict, Jerusalem has indicated that it would act to remove any Iranian-Hizballah base it detects in Syria that is designed to launch attacks on Israel, and would not tolerate the trafficking of advanced weapons to Hizballah.

Few events illustrate more clearly how an ascendant Shi’ite jihadist axis is redrawing the map of the region than a recent military parade held by Hizballah in the western Syrian town of Al-Qusayr, which it conquered from the rebels in 2013.

According to an assessment by the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, that parade featured Soviet-made tanks, American armored personnel carriers, artillery guns, anti-aircraft guns, and powerful truck-mounted rocket launchers with an estimated range of between 90 to 180 kilometers. “It is clear that state-owned capabilities, some of them advanced, were delivered to Hizballah, which is a terrorist organization,” the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said in its report.

Hizballah, like the Assad regime and armed groups in Iraq and Yemen, is a component of an international axis whose battles against ISIS have managed to dupe some decision makers into believing that they are stabilizing forces. In actuality, the Shi’ite jihadists are as radical as their Sunni jihadist counterparts – albeit more tactically prudent – and are far better armed and better organized.

Global Assembly of Islamic Awakening aims at rooting out Takfiri thought

October 22, 2016

Global Assembly of Islamic Awakening aims at rooting out Takfiri thought, AhlulBayt News, October 21, 2016

(The split between Shiite – Sunni Muslims began centuries ago due to disputes about who was Mohamud’s legitimate successor . A Takfiri 

is a Muslim who accuses another Muslim (or an adherent of another Abrahamic faith) of apostasy.[1] The accusation itself is called takfir, derived from the word kafir (unbeliever), and is described as when “one who is, or claims to be, a Muslim is declared impure.”[2]Accusing other Muslims of being takfiris has become a sectarian slur, particularly since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011

Significant healing of the rift between Shiites and Sunnis seems unlikely anytime soon, but were it to happen it probably would not be advantageous for non-Muslims. — DM)

Velayati, also a top advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on international affairs, made the remarks during a joint press conference held in Baghdad on Thursday after he met with Head of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq Ammar Hakim.

Velayati travelled to Iraq on Wednesday to participate in the 9th meeting of the supreme council of the Global Assembly of Islamic Awakening.

He told reporters at the conference that the fact that most of the participants in the meeting are from some 22 Sunni Muslim countries and a few of them are from Shia countries has indicated the unity and solidarity among all Muslim nations.

He also stressed that Iran would continue its support for Iraq as the latter is an ‘oppressed country which was occupied by the US and liberated later with the help of God and is now being ruled completely based on democracy.’

Meanwhile, Hakim told reporters that the Assembly meeting is being held in Baghdad while Mosul liberation operation is underway in north of the country.

He noted that the Daesh (ISIS) terrorists are not only considered a threat for Iraq but for the entire world.

Hakim noted that the Assembly meeting aims at briefing the Shiite and Sunni Muslims and scholars on the latest developments in the Islamic world.

Iran May Execute 30 Sunni Clerics for ‘Endangering Security’

May 1, 2016

Iran May Execute 30 Sunni Clerics for ‘Endangering Security’, Clarion Project, May 1, 2016

Shahram-Ahmadi-IPOne of the most prominent preachers, Shahram Ahmadi, was arrested seven years ago. (Photo: Facebook)

A campaign called Defense of Political Prisoners in Iran has published a list that includes the name of 30 Sunni preachers that Iran has threatened to execute.

As reported by Al Arabiya, the preachers are part of a larger group of 200 Sunni political prisoners including other preachers and students of religious science that have been accused of endangered national security and preaching against the regime. Most of the prisoners are Iranian Kurds.

The 30 who have been threatened with execution are being held in the Rajai Shahrprison in Karaj, the fourth largest city in Iran.

One of the most prominent preachers, Shahram Ahmadi, was arrested seven years ago for the crimes of taking part in political and religious classes and selling books with religious content. He was arrested with his brother Chamid who was executed in March 2015 at the age of 17.

Chamid, together with five other inmates who were also executed, was accused of taking part in the assassination of a Sunni cleric who was close the regime. Amnesty International as well as other human rights groups say that the five were involved in peaceful, religious activities that included organizing classes of religious studies in the Sunni mosques in the Kurdish regions of Iran.

Relatives of those executed say that no charges were brought against the five for the first four years after their arrests. The group was also never brought to a court during that time.

Some of the preachers said they had been severely tortured during an entire year of interrogations and kept in solitary confinement in an Iranian intelligence facility in the city of Sanandaj in the center of the Kurdish province.

According to the report, prisoners spoke of brutal methods of torture inflicted upon them through letters sent to international human rights organizations and the UN representative for human rights in Iran.

The torture included electric shocks to the genitals, being hanged upside down and beatings with red-hot wires. They were also not allowed to drink for a number of days, forced to shave their beards and taunted by claims that their families would be tortured as well.

Sunni activists said that most of the arrests were made because of the demands by the preachers that the regime stop oppressing and discriminating against Sunnis. Activists say that the regime prevents Sunnis from practicing their religion and rituals freely. For example, last July, after the municipality of Iran, supported by the security forces, destroyed the only place of Sunni worship in Tehran, Sunnis have been prevented from building a mosque in the capital city.

The destruction set off angry responses by the country’s Sunni population.

Iraq Parliament Collapses, Lawmakers Flee Baghdad

May 1, 2016

Iraq Parliament Collapses, Lawmakers Flee Baghdad, Voice of AmericaSharon Behn, May 1, 2016

Baghdad parliament flees

Baghdad teeters on the edge of political chaos Sunday.

The city is in a state of emergency, protesters are occupying parts of the once-secure International Zone (IZ), lawmakers have run away and the military is on high alert.

By Sunday morning, protesters led by Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr continued to crowd the streets in front of the country’s now-empty parliament and gather in what is known as the zone’s “Celebration Square.”

Lawmakers fled Saturday after protestors stormed into the parliament.

About 60 lawmakers, mostly from the minority Kurdish and Sunni parties, flew out of the capital for Irbil and Suleymania, in the northern autonomous Kurdish region.

“It was dangerous for all of us,” one parliament official told VOA, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. Some lawmakers were beaten, he said.

Baghdad 1A handout image released by the press office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on May 1, 2016, shows him (L) looking at the damage after protesters stormed the Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone area.

The official said thousands of protesters were still in the so-called International Zone Sunday, parked outside the major government buildings.

WATCH: Related video of protesters in the International Zone (Video at the link — DM)

Normally only those with special badges are allowed into the secured area, which is also home to many foreign embassies and the United Nations.

“It is dangerous,” the parliament official said. “At any time, the protesters could attack any embassy, any institution they want, or abuse anybody passing by.

“It seems al-Sadr wants to keep them inside the IZ so he can force the government to do what he wants,” the official said.

Political unrest

The parliament takeover was the culmination of weeks of political wrangling and increasing instability, and came just days after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the visit was a good indication of U.S. continued support for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s efforts to unify Iraq and confront the Islamic State (IS) group.

Baghdad 2Supporters of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr walk over the blast walls surrounding Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone, April 30, 2016. Dozens of protesters climbed over the blast walls and could be seen storming the parliament building.

But the visit was not enough to stave off the deepening political crisis.

Sadr has been demanding a new government of technocrats.

Abadi, who had also promised reform, had been unable to deliver any real change as political parties, unwilling to let go of their political power, blocked the majority of his list of candidates.

The prime minister on Sunday walked through the ransacked parliament building, and called on Interior Minister Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban to bring the attackers “to justice.”

Unrest growing

But even as political blocs have fought to maintain their positions and all the trappings of power, the anger in the Iraqi street has been growing for the past year over the lack of basic services, security, and the vast government corruption and political patronage.

Sadr, a firebrand cleric sometimes described as a Shi’ite nationalist, has managed to capitalize on that anger and frustration.

“Al-Sadr has the power of the people. One speech and he can deliver thousands of people to do what he wants. It is the power of the populace,” the parliament official said. “Al-Sadr is capable of running and leading the anger within each Iraqi person.”

Baghdad 3Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr raise the Iraqi flag outside parliament in Baghdad’s Green Zone, April 30, 2016.

One high-ranking Iraqi military official, also speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, said that Sadr had many young Iraqis, including Sunnis and Christians, on his side.

The Institute for the Study of War describes Sadr’s power grab as a de facto political coup.

But the military official said Prime Minister Abadi was still in control of the Iraqi military and running the country.

Rival Shi’ite powers

Yet, the military official warned that powerful rival Shi’ite powers in Baghdad were not comfortable with Sadr’s attempted power grab. He said members of the notorious Badr Brigade militia, which is strongly allied with Iran, were beginning to converge on the capital’s center.

The possibility for intra-Shi’ite violence in Baghdad is high, and Baghdad residents said they are unsure of what will happen next.

There is also concern that IS could take advantage of the turmoil to ramp up its attacks. Iraqi security forces closed off all entrances to the city Saturday.

Resident Mahdi Makhmour, who lives outside the IZ, said the city streets were empty Sunday morning and many roads were still blocked, partly because of the start of a three-day Shi’ite religious celebration in the capital.

Obama’s Fake Syrian Peace Talks Falling Apart

January 29, 2016

Obama’s Fake Syrian Peace Talks Falling Apart, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, January 29, 2016


The peace talks strategy for Syria comes out of Iran and Russia, two countries determined to keep Assad in power. Obama wanted the peace talks in order to rig a fake settlement that would come apart once he was out of office. But the only people fooled by this were stupid enough to get their news from CNN and their talking points from Think Progress. The Sunni side only participated to the extent that they could wreck the talks and extract some demands. They have no intention in signing on to Assad staying in power or to letting Obama get away with a fake solution that does just that.

And, oh yes, no one actually thinks Obama has any credibility.

As the Obama administration pushes for peace in Syria, its credibility is crumbling among Syrian opposition leaders, many of whom increasingly doubt the U.S. is serious about ending the rule of dictator Bashar Assad.

Because he isn’t.

If the talks peter out or collapse, that will further undermine President Barack Obama’s foreign policy legacy, which already has been tarnished by the endless bloodshed in Syria

It’s okay. Obama will blame Tom Cotton or Bush or Israel. Or someone. And the media will go along with it.

“A number of the opposition has expressed the feeling that the U.S. is not acting as an honest broker and that they’ve lost both trust and faith in the ability of the United States to deliver on a political settlement in Syria,” said Andrew Bowen, a senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest who has contacts among Syrian opposition groups.

Obama signed on with Iran. So he’s about as much of an honest broker as any other foreign agent.

“Kerry did not make any promises, nor did he put forward any initiatives,” said Khaled Khoja, president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, in onestatement questioning U.S. intentions. “He has long been delivering messages similar to those drafted by Iran and Russia, which call for the establishment of a ‘national government’ and allowing Bashar al-Assad to stay in power and stand for re-election.”

Well yes. What else do you expect Kerry to do? This is the only thing he’s been doing since he got to the Senate and even beforehand with the Viet Cong. Traitors gotta traitor.

Among the numerous reports floating around — some of them highly speculative — are those that allege Kerry warned opposition leaders they could lose international support if they didn’t attend Friday’s talks. The reports come as the U.S. has appeared to be backing away from its demand that Assad must leave office by signaling its support for the notion of a transitional period.

And that period will come to an end once Obama is out of office.

But all this is theater anyway as the groups with the most fighters on the ground, including Al Qaeda and ISIS, are not represented. Most of the Islamists aren’t either. So this is just the Muslim Brotherhood, whose actual strength is weak, throwing a tantrum. Even if the Sunni groups signed some sort of deal it would be as worthless as the fake elections Hillary still talks up in Libya

Iran-Saudi crisis spurs Hizballah strike on Israel

January 4, 2016

Iran-Saudi crisis spurs Hizballah strike on Israel, DEBKAfile, January 3, 2016


The heated verbal battle between Tehran and Riyadh over Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shiite cleric escalated Sunday night, Jan 3, with the severance of diplomatic relations. On the broader front, the repercussions from the quarrel between the two leaders of the Muslim world’s Shia-Sunni split are widely seen in Middle East military and intelligence circles as spurring a fast-track Hizballah attack on Israel.

Among the 47 people executed by Saudi Arabia Saturday on terrorism charges was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Saudi Shiite leader and a prominent Shiite cleric in the region. Put to death with him were several Saudi Shiite and Sunni activists, which enraged Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the point of threatening the Saudi royal family with “divine revenge.”

From Iran’s perspective, the Saudis committed the unpardonable act of executing Shiites together with Sunni Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists. This made the House of Saud the first ruling power ever to treat Shiite and Sunni terrorists alike. This, more than anything, incensed Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hizballah, who are deep in a bloody war against the Sunni Islamic State and the Nusra Front terrorists in Syria. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are additionally locked in a bitter conflict with ISIS in Iraq.

The Iranian war effort is backed by the US in Iraq and by Russia in Syria.

By the mass executions of both classes of terrorist at the same time, Riyadh issued four messages:

1. Washington and Moscow are wrong. The Iranians and the forces they back in the Persian Gulf, Syria and Iraq are just as much terrorists as ISIS and Al Qaeda.

2. The House of Saud is determined to fight both with equal resolve and severity

3. Riyadh has already taken Tehran on in Yemen, and indirectly in Syria, and is now ready to take the fight against Tehran all the way to the war on terror.

4. Taking off the diplomatic gloves, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir Monday night severed relations with Iran and ordered all Iranian diplomats to leave the kingdom within 48 hours. The foreign ministry said that by condemning the Nimr execution, Iran was supporting terrorism.

Saudi diplomats were already gone after protesters in Tehran torched and ransacked the Saudi embassy Saturday.

Amid all the sound and fury, Tehran’s attention was drawn to comments made by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the light of a major terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. He pointed out that, in addition to the Palestinians, Israel is threatened by two streams of radical Islam, the Shiites and the Sunnis.

He was clearly referring to Iran and its terrorist arm, Hizballah, on the one hand, and ISIS and Al Qaeda, on the other, inspired less by the Tel Aviv outrage than by the gathering clouds of terror darkening the region, which place the Saudi royal family and Israel on the same side, sharing a similar perception of the two foes facing both countries.

Policymakers in Jerusalem noted the odd statement by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to reporters on Saturday, January 1 on the way home from a visit to Riyadh. After years of reviling the Jewish state, he said, “Israel is in need of a country like Turkey in the region. We have to admit that we also need Israel.”

He sounded as though he was urging the resumption of the old political and military alliance binding the two countries years ago.

DEBKAfile’s Middle Eastern sources point out that, since his comment came directly after his talks with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, it appeared to open a path toward the possible creation of a new Middle East bloc consisting of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, perhaps Egypt, and Israel, bound by the same enemies. This grouping could serve as a counterweight against the Sunni-Shiite bloc of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hizballah, which has the backing of the US and Russia on one hand, and fights ISIS on the other.

Iran’s leaders may curse the House of Saud without restraint, but they are canny enough not to go from words to deeds, knowing they would be on their own if they attacked the oil kingdom and earn no backing from either Washington or Moscow.

However, it might be easier for Tehran to take advantage of Netanyahu’s tough predicament in his war on terror, by sending Hizballah to strike Israel and, meanwhile, pre-empt the formation of a new anti-Tehran alliance. Speeding up Hassan Nasrallah’s promised revenge for the assassination of its master terrorist Samir Quntar would serve this purpose.

This possibility has prompted the IDF to keep artillery units pounding areas bordering on Israel during the past few days. The IDF says this action is necessary to stop Hizballah exploiting the stormy, snowy winter weather to attack Israel. Its military chiefs appear to be acting on information received of an approaching Hizballah operation as its leader has threatened.

No, the Islamic State Will Not Be Defeated — and if It Is, We Still Lose

November 25, 2015

No, the Islamic State Will Not Be Defeated — and if It Is, We Still Lose, BreitbartBen Shapiro, November 24, 2015


Barack Obama has now created an unwinnable war.

While all of the 2016 candidates declare their strategies for victory against ISIS, President Obama’s leading from behind has now entered the Middle East and the West into a free-for-all that cannot end any way but poorly.

The best way to understand the situation in Syria is to look at the situation and motivation of the various players. All of them have varying agendas; all of them have different preferred outcomes. Few of them are on anything approaching the same page. And Barack Obama’s failure of leadership means that there is no global power around which to center.

ISIS. ISIS has gained tremendous strength since Barack Obama’s entry to power and pullout from Iraq. They currently control northern Syria, bordering Turkey, as well as large portions of northern Iraq. Their goal: to consolidate their territorial stranglehold, and to demonstrate to their followers that they, and not other competing terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, represent the new Islamic wave. They have little interest in toppling Syrian dictator Bashar Assad for the moment. They do serve as a regional counterweight to the increasingly powerful Iranians – increasingly powerful because of President Obama’s big nuclear deal, as well as his complete abdication of responsibility in Iraq.

Iran. Iran wants to maximize its regional power. The rise of ISIS has allowed it to masquerade as a benevolent force in Iraq and Syria, even as it supports Assad’s now-routine use of chemical weapons against his adversaries, including the remnants of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Iran has already expanded its horizons beyond Iraq and Syria and Lebanon; now it wants to make moves into heretofore non-friendly regions like Afghanistan. Their goal in Syria: keep Bashar Assad in power. Their goal in Iraq: pushing ISIS out of any resource-rich territories, but not finishing ISIS off, because that would then get rid of the global villain against which they fight.

Assad. The growth of ISIS has allowed Assad to play the wronged victim. While the FSA could provide a possible replacement for him, ISIS can’t credibly do so on the international stage. Assad knows that, and thus has little interest in completely ousting them. His main interest is in continuing to devastate the remaining FSA while pretending to fight ISIS.

Egypt/Saudi Arabia/Jordan. As you can see, ISIS, Iran, and Assad all have one shared interest: the continued existence of ISIS. The same is not true with regard to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, all of whom fear the rise of radical Sunni terrorist groups in their home countries. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place, however, because openly destroying ISIS on behalf of Alaouite Assad, they embolden the Shia, their enemies. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan would all join an anti-ISIS coalition in the same way they did against Saddam Hussein in 1991, but just like Hussein in 1991, they won’t do it if there are no Sunni alternatives available. Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are the top three sources of foreign fighters for ISIS.

Turkey. The Turks have several goals: to stop the Syrian exodus across their borders, to prevent the rise of the Iranians, and to stop the rise of the Kurds. None of these goals involves the destruction of ISIS. Turkey is Sunni; so is ISIS. ISIS provides a regional counterweight against Iran, so long as it remains viable. It also keeps the Kurds occupied in northern Iraq, preventing any threat of Kurdish consolidation across the Iraq-Turkey border. They will accept Syrian refugees so long as those other two goals remain primary – and they’ll certainly do it if they can ship a hefty portion of those refugees into Europe and off their hands.

Russia. Russia wants to consolidate its power in the Middle East. It has done so by wooing all the players to fight against one another. Russia’s involvement in the Middle East now looks a good deal like American involvement circa the Iran-Iraq War: they’re playing both sides. Russia is building nuclear reactors in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Iran. They’re Bashar Assad’s air force against both the FSA and ISIS. Russia’s Vladimir Putin doesn’t have a problem with destroying ISIS so long as doing so achieves his other goal: putting everyone else in his debt. He has a secondary goal he thought he could chiefly pursue in Eastern Europe, and attempted with Ukraine: he wants to split apart the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which he rightly sees as a counterbalance to check Russian aggression. Thanks to today’s Turkish attack on a Russian plane, and thanks to the West’s hands-off policy with regard to the conflict, Putin could theoretically use his war against ISIS as cover to bombard Turkish military targets, daring the West to get involved against him. Were he to do so, he’d set the precedent that NATO is no longer functional. Two birds, one war.

Israel. Israel’s position is the same it has always been: Israel is surrounded by radical Islamic enemies on every side. Whether Iranian-backed Hezbollah or Sunni Hamas and ISIS, Israel is the focus of hate for all of these groups. Ironically, the rise of Iran has unified Israel with its neighbors in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. All three of those countries, however, can’t stand firmly against ISIS.

All of which means that the only country capable of filling the vacuum would be the United States. Just as in 1991, a major Sunni power is on the move against American interests – but unlike in 1991, no viable option existed for leaving the current regime in power. And the US’ insistence upon the help of ground allies is far too vague. Who should those allies be, occupying ISIS-free ISISland?

The Kurds have no interest in a Syrian incursion. Turkish troops movements into ISIS-land will prompt Iranian intervention. Iranian intervention into ISIS-land would prompt higher levels of support for Sunni resistance. ISIS-land without ISIS is like Iraq without Saddam Hussein: in the absence of solidifying force, chaos breaks out. From that chaos, the most organized force takes power. Russia hopes that should it destroy ISIS, Assad will simply retain power; that may be the simplest solution, although it certainly will not end the war within the country. There are no good answers.

Barack Obama’s dithering for years led to this. Had he lent his support in any strong way to one side, a solution might be possible. Now, it’s not.

The Islamic State (ISIS) And Palestine – Rhetoric vs. Reality

November 17, 2015

The Islamic State (ISIS) And Palestine – Rhetoric vs. Reality, MEMRI, R. Green, November 17, 2015

(Please see also, ISIS THREAT’S ISRAEL IN HEBREW 22 OCTOBER 2015. — DM)

The Islamic State’s (ISIS) extensive information campaign, titled “Slaughter the Jews,”[1] that it recently launched in the wake of the recent wave of violent events in Israel and the Palestinian territories has had numerous reverberations. The campaign includes all the elements familiar from previous ISIS campaigns, including copious use of social media to encourage terror attacks, and videos featuring armed activists making threats and urging intensification and escalation of attacks. This ISIS campaign and the threats it has included have been covered extensively by media in the West and Israel, with excessive focus on threats to Israel and the Jews and on the campaign’s colorful details, such as the fact that two of the activists in the videos issued their threats in Hebrew. This campaign, and the events of the past few months in general, have again raised the question of ISIS’s view of the Palestinian issue and the war on Israel.

Despite the Slaughter the Jews campaign, which has been aimed primarily at the Palestinians, and its impact, it should be stressed that the Palestinian cause is not a major issue to ISIS. Unlike many Arab and Islamic movements and organizations for whom the liberation of Palestine, Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa mosque, and the fight against Israel head their priorities, or who at least claim this to be the case, ISIS perceives them as long term goals. ISIS’s top priority is fighting what it considers to be Islam’s internal enemies – the Shi’ites and the secular regimes. It sees conquering Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, and Mecca as taking precedence over liberating Jerusalem.

Additionally, the idea of a Palestinian state goes completely against ISIS’s religious and ideological idea; its vision is based on the establishment of a caliphate that is not subject to the modern geopolitical limitations, and under which there is no place for separate states. It also rejects outright democratic principles and any adherence to the international community’s rules that the Palestinian movements, including the Islamic ones, have accepted.

ISIS is highly capable of quickly launching an information campaign comprising videos produced by its official media wings, videos and informational material created by its unofficial media bodies, and very extensive discourse via social media, and this is what it has done in this case as well.[2] Therefore, despite the scope of this particular campaign, it should not be viewed as indicative of a significant shift in ISIS’s focus or priorities.

To clarify: ISIS is not disregarding the Palestinian cause; it recognizes its importance for the Arab and Islamic world, and exploits it, as do other regimes, organizations, and movements, as an element in its arsenal of informational tools and as a means of recruiting supporters. Furthermore, it is riding the wave of media attention it gained with its threats of attacks against Israel in order to strike at its main rival in the Palestinian arena – that is, Hamas.

ISIS has no real organized presence among the Palestinians in either the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. Most of its manpower is directed to the Sinai, and to the combat arenas in Syria and Iraq, where training and fighting take place. The ISIS activists in the Gaza Strip are tasked with promoting ISIS’s information enterprise and helping spread its ideology among the population there.

ISIS’s Leadership Devotes No Special Attention To Palestine

A look at statements by ISIS’s leadership shows the organization’s relatively low ranking of the Palestinian cause. In their speeches, ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and its spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-‘Adnani, the only top leaders who speak for the organization, barely mention it in their speeches. In his first address as caliph, in July 2014, Al-Baghdadi included Palestine in a long list of locations where Muslims are suffering and oppressed, but made no special reference to it.[3] In his most recent speech, released in May 2015, he mentioned Palestine not as an issue per se but only as a taunt to the Saudis; the speech itself rebuked the Saudi royal family and stated that Saudi Arabia had done nothing for the Palestinians. In that speech, he refers to the “Jews” as allies of the Christian “Crusaders,” that is, the Western forces, and even as the instigators of the Western aggression against the Islamic world – a standard element of jihadi rhetoric, the most well-known example being Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of “jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders.” Referring to his men in the Sinai, he takes care to praise them for threatening the “Jews,” that is, Israel.[4]

ISIS spokesman Al-‘Adnani also has not specifically referred to the Palestinians in his speeches, aside from a mention of Palestine in a long list of countries where Muslims are under attack. Furthermore, in an address released in early October 2015, following the outbreak of the current violence and the headlines about the Palestinians that it garnered, he mentioned the Palestinians not at all.[5] This omission was harshly criticized by ISIS’s Islamist opponents.[6]

25734ISIS activists in Syria: “We will only defeat the Jews by purging the country of its Arab rulers”

ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi Is Absent From The Videos In “Slaughter The Jews” Campaign

One feature of ISIS videos is the underlining of points and honing of messages by the use of audio segments from past speeches by leaders of ISIS and its precursor groups, as well as from speeches by deceased jihadi leaders, including from Al-Qaeda, who never criticized ISIS. However, the video series of the “Slaughter the Jews” campaign includes barely any audio statements by actual ISIS leaders, and none by Al-Baghdadi himself – though statements by Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda commander Abu Laith Al-Libi are featured. Statements by ISIS spokesman Al-‘Adnani are included, but these are merely are non-specific calls for terror attacks in general, not for war on Israel.

Two videos in the “Slaughter the Jews” series, one produced by ISIS’s Al-Furat province (which covers the cities of Albu Kammal and Al-Qa’im) and one by its Al-Raqqa province, present audio statements from 2008 and 2009 speeches, respectively, by the head of the ISIS precursor group Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi.

Another video in the series includes audio of Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi, founder of the ISIS precursor Tawhid and Jihad, saying: “We fight in Iraq and our eyes are set on Bait Al-Maqdis [Jerusalem], which will be resored only by means of the guiding Koran and the victorious sword.”[7] This particular statement has become a slogan for jihadis everywhere and sums up their view, i.e., while at this time we are not fighting Israel and are not actively working to liberate Jerusalem and its holy sites, we are still focused on that goal, and will liberate it according to our faith and principles – that is, we will act in accordance with the pure Salafi Islam and by means of a jihad war.[8] Many ISIS activists appearing in the videos also reiterated this, passionately promising the Palestinians, while pointing at their eyes to indicate sincerity, that ISIS has not abandoned them.

25735ISIS fighter delivers threatening message in Hebrew and brandishes a knife in a video produced by the Damascus Province as part of the “Slaughter the Jews” campaign

The Main Thrust Of The Videos In The “Slaughter The Jews” Campaign: Anti-Hamas Rhetoric

Along with the calls and the encouragement to continue and step up the attacks, a large number, perhaps even a majority, of the videos in the “Slaughter the Jews” campaign are devoted to ISIS’s ideological dispute with Hamas, and, to a lesser extent, with the PLO; these two movements control the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority, respectively, and vie with each other for support among the Palestinians. In the videos, ISIS repeatedly attacks both movements; this reflects its need to counter accusations about its inaction on the Palestinian issue and in the fight against Israel.

A video produced by the ISIS province of Al-Barakah in Syria (Al-Hasaka) featured one Abu Osama Al-Falistini directly addressing the criticism of ISIS for its noninvolvement in the Palestinian issue. He hinted that the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, which he said is preventing attacks against Israel from being launched from there, was to blame for this: “Why don’t the caliphate soldiers come to liberate Palestine? Why are the mujahideen leaving Palestine, the land of jihad, to begin with? We say to them [i.e. the critics]: We have only left [Palestine] because of the barrier between us and jihad there, and because of the barrier between us and the Jews. Those who are in Palestine know this.”[9]

A video by ISIS’s Al-Raqqa province featured an ISIS member from Gaza, Abu Annas Al-Ghazawi, saying: “This nationalist belief that inspires some fighters in Bait Al-Maqdis [i.e. Jerusalem, that is, all of Palestine] is part of the occupation carried out by the Jews. They have conquered the people’s minds and inserted into them this failed and false belief – the nationalist belief in which loyalty is based on nationalism and on borders set by Sykes and Picot. This belief is part of the Jewish invasion of our people in Bait Al-Maqdis.

“We [declare] before Allah that we are innocent of this failed nationalist belief. We believe that these nationalist organizations, that champion nationalist loyalty, that die for the nation, and that call themselves national liberation movements, are infidel cults, and their belief is unconnected to Islam, because a Muslim’s faith is based on tawhid [the Islamic concept of monotheism]… Our men in Bait Al-Maqdis would do better to fight a jihad war based on this belief [i.e. tawhid].”[10]

ISIS member Abu Al-Bara’ Al-Shami stressed that jihad must be pure, and harshly attacked Hamas for turning to democracy and for failing to implement shari’a law: “The real thing is this religion, which can only be established by means of pure jihad for the sake of Allah, in order to make His word supreme, and to institute His laws rather than the laws of treacherous arrogant parties that have strayed from the path… Do you not see how Hamas, which speaks of nothing but liberation and resistance, ran for election on these slogans to attract your hearts and to fill the ballot boxes with your votes [for it]? Its wish came true, and then the mask came off; it attained its desire and seized power and ruled the Muslims not according to their shari’a; it hobbled them, and it fought anyone who called for implementing the shari’a [i.e. Salafi-jihadis], and called for [restoring] the glory of the caliphate [a reference to ISIS supporters].

“At the same time, [Hamas] shamelessly embraced the Zoroastrians [pejorative for Iranian Shi’ites] who invaded the land. They fought the shari’a, but welcomed the spread of the Shi’a [in the Gaza Strip], and, as is their custom, claim that this is all for the sake of the [Palestinian] cause. Their self-righteousness is like the chastity of a whore with nine bastard sons.”[11]

25736Palestinian ISIS activists in Syria with a sign reading: “Oh our men in Gaza – by Allah, there is an enemy preventing us from coming to your aid.” (Source:, June 7, 2015)

ISIS In Sinai To Palestinians: “We Have Not Forgotten You”

One final note about ISIS’s Sinai Province: Situated at Israel’s border, it is one of ISIS’s most formidable extensions. In ISIS’s view, the Sinai Province is its spearhead in the war against Israel, as conveyed by Al-Baghdadi himself in his May 2015 speech: “We ask Allah the Glorified to allow us to see you in Bait Al-Maqdis [Jerusalem] very soon.”[12]

However, since July 2013, the jihadis in the Sinai are completely dedicated to their jihad against the government of Egypt,[13] to the point that in the Sinai Province’s video for the “Slaughter the Jews” campaign, its spokesman, Abu Osama Al-Masri, felt compelled to promise the Palestinians: “Oh Muslims in Bait Al-Maqdis, we in Sinai have not forgotten you… The banners of the caliphate shall reach you.” He too accused Hamas of preventing ISIS from fighting Israel: “You are standing between us and them [the Israelis]! You have dug trenches between us and them. You are protecting your allies, the Jews.”[14]

Another recent video[15] by ISIS’s Sinai Province specifically threatened the Egyptian military; the ISIS fighter appearing in it also stressed that his organization has not abandoned the fight against Israel and threatened: “As for you Jews, you people of the gharqad tree, know that the time has drawn near. Do not think for a second that our war with your apostate lackeys will keep us away from you for much longer. We shall renew our punishment operations, like the one at Umm Al-Rashrash [Eilat, in August 2011], very soon. You will regret everything that you did to the Muslims.

“We have a meeting with the rocks and the trees. The time has drawn near for them to call to us and say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.’ The [Jews] think that this day is far away, but we know that it will come soon. When the day comes, you will be surprised to see that the nation that you have tried for decades to make disappear has arisen to fight you, in order to eradicate you.”

To be sure, such threats should be taken with all seriousness. Yet the context of the threat is noteworthy: It came at the very end of a video in which ISIS lashed out at the Egyptian military and vowed revenge for its operations against it; it promises vengeance against the Egyptian military in the near future, whereas with regard to “the Jews,” the speaker invokes the hadith about Jews hiding behind trees and stones, which will take place on Judgment Day.

25737Abu Osama Al-Masri, prominent figure in ISIS’s Sinai Province


[1] See MEMRI JTTM report ISIS Campaign: Encouraging Palestinians To Carry Out Lone Wolf Attacks, October 20, 2015.

[2] Other examples of recent coordinated campaigns by ISIS’s propaganda machine include a campaign against Muslim emigration to Europe in light of the refugee crisis, and a campaign calling on Somali jihadi members of Al-Shaba Al-Mujahideen to join ISIS.

[3] See MEMRI JTTM report In New Message Following Being Declared A ‘Caliph,’ Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Promises Support To Oppressed Muslims Everywhere, Tells His Soldiers: ‘You Will Conquer Rome’, July 1, 2014.

[4] See MEMRI JTTM report In New Audio Speech, Islamic State (ISIS) Leader Al-Baghdadi Issues Call To Arms To All Muslims, May 14, 2015.

[5] See MEMRI JTTM report ISIS Spokesman Reiterates Islamic State’s Steadfastness Against Coalition Campaign, Calls For Jihad Against Russia, Confirms Death Of Top ISIS Figure, October 13, 2015.

[6] See, for example, tweet by Salafi cleric Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi., October 15, 2015.

[7] The comments were featured in a video posted on jihadi message boards. Al-Jazeera, April 26, 2006.

[8] The expression “the guiding Koran and the victorious sword” that Zarqawi cited is taken from the writings of 14th century Islamic thinker Ibn Taymiyyah. By quoting him in this context, Al-Zarqawi means that Jerusalem will be liberated by a jihadi organization that operates on the basis of a pure Salafi-jihadi ideology, thereby rejecting the attitude of Arab nation states, secular nationalist movements such as the PLO, and the Muslim Brotherhood and particularly its Palestinian branch Hamas.

[9], October 19, 2015.

[10], October 20, 2015.

[11], October 20, 2015.

[12] For an in-depth look at how ISIS views its Sinai Province, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1201, ISIS In Sinai Increases Military, Propaganda Pressure On Egypt, November 8, 2015. For Al-Baghdadi’s speech, see MEMRI JTTM, In New Audio Speech, Islamic State (ISIS) Leader Al-Baghdadi Issues Call To Arms To All Muslims, May 14, 2015.

[13] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 999, Salafi-Jihadis In Sinai Call For Jihad Against Egyptian Military,  July 24, 2013.

[14] See MEMRI JTTM ISIS Sinai Province Promises To Bring Battle To Palestine, Calls Upon Muslims Everywhere To Kill Jews, November 1, 2015.

[15] See MEMRI JTTMISIS Sinai Threatens To Punish Egyptian Military For Operation Martyr’s Right, November 11, 2015.

Russia and Iran Moving to Corner the Mideast Oil Supply

October 15, 2015

Russia and Iran Moving to Corner the Mideast Oil Supply, American ThinkerSteve Chambers, October 15, 2015

It looks like Vladimir Putin and the ayatollahs are preparing to corner the world’s oil supply – literally.

Last May I wrote on this site that Iran was in the process of surrounding the Saudi/Wahhabi oil reserves, along with those of the other Sunni Gulf petro-states.  I added that, “Iran’s strategy to strangle Saudi/Wahhabi oil production also dovetails with Putin’s interests.  As the ruler of the second largest exporter of oil, he would be delighted to see the Kingdom’s production eliminated or severely curtailed and global prices soar to unseen levels.  No wonder he is so overtly supporting Iran.”

We’ve now seen Putin take a major, menacing step in support of the Iranians by introducing combat forces into Syria.  Many analysts argue that he’s doing this both to protect his own naval base at Tartus and as some sort of favor to the Iranians.  Are those really sufficient inducement for him to spend scarce resources and risk Russian lives, or does he have bigger ambitions in mind?  Given the parlous state of Russia’s economy, thanks in very large part to the recent halving of oil prices, he must relish the opportunity now presented to him, in an axis with Iran, to drive those prices back to prior levels.

The Iranians, for their part, must welcome this opportunity as well, for two huge reasons: first, when sanctions are finally lifted, thanks to their friend in the White House, Iran’s oil production will only aggravate the current global excess oil supply, reducing their cash flow (although they will still repatriate the $150 billion released by the nuclear deal).  They and the Russians must both be desperate to find a way to prevent further oil price declines.  And second, Iran’s mortal sectarian enemies and rivals for leadership of all of Islam are the Saudi/Wahhabi clan, so the prospect of simultaneously hurting them while strengthening themselves must seem tremendously tantalizing.

To achieve this, the Russian-Iranian axis can pursue the encirclement strategy of the Arabian Peninsula that Iran has already been overtly conducting, as I described in May, and is evident by referring to the map below.


Iran and its allies already control the border across the Saudi/Wahhabi Kingdom’s northern frontier, although the Iranian grip on the Syrian portion is tenuous – hence the Russian intervention.  Now Iran is also fighting a bitter proxy war with the Kingdom in Yemen, where Iran is backing coreligionist Shi’ites.  From Yemen, Iran can also threaten the Bab-al-Mandeb that provides access to the Red Sea, multiplying the pressure it already exerts on the Kingdom by threatening the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf from its own territory.

Moreover, Iran is widely believed to be supporting the Shi’a who live on top of the Saudi/Wahhabi oil reserves in the Eastern Province.  The natural affinity between the Shi’a of Arabia and Iran has long worried the royal family and led them to discriminate against their Shi’ite subjects, fostering resentment among them.  Attacks on the Shi’a community early this year have increased tensions.  On top of all that, Iran is reportedly behind the recent Shi’a unrest in Bahrain, which Iran considers it lost “14th province” – much as Saddam viewed Kuwait in the late 1980s.

With this being the current state of the Mideast chessboard, consider how the game can unfold.  With Russian assistance, Iran can save its Syrian puppet and reinforce its defensive enclave in the Allawite homeland in the northwest of its putative boundaries.  Then the combined forces of the axis can turn on ISIS, all the while boasting of doing the world a favor, and reduce its territorial control if not extirpate it entirely.  Of course, the Saudi/Wahhabis will probably do whatever they can to assist their vicious ideological offspring, but it would be hard to bet against the axis.

As the axis pacifies Syria, it can then begin pressure the Saudi/Wahhabis and other Sunni petro-states to curtail their oil production enough both to accommodate the increased Iranian flow and to lift prices back to acceptable levels.  $100 a barrel must sound like a nice target.

The axis’s initial pressure will probably be diplomatic, applied by both principal powers.  However, with Iran’s foothold-by-proxy in Yemen and their influence in the Eastern Province and Bahrain, it could easily foment more general violence against the Saudi/Wahhabis, even within the Kingdom itself.  Iran could likewise twist Bahrain’s arm and thereby rattle the cages of the lesser Sunni petro-states.  Then, by trading a reduction in oil for a reduction in violence, the axis could achieve its objective.

If not, the Iranians could escalate the violence further.  Perhaps ideally from the Iranian perspective, the Saudi/Wahhabis would overreact and provide Iran with an excuse to strike directly at the geographically highly concentrated Arabian oil fields and support facilities.  Iran might not be willing to risk royal retaliation by attacking on its own, but it could be emboldened with Russian backing by air and sea, and perhaps even a nuclear umbrella.  In that scenario, the proud Arabs would be forced to bow to the will of their ancient Persian foes – particularly since it is obvious that the US under its current president could not be relied upon for support.

An attack on the Kingdom’s fields would cause a severe and lengthy disruption of Mideast oil supply, which would dreadful for the rest of the world – but certainly not the worst-case scenario.  Such a disruption would precipitate another nasty global recession and could severely weaken the US, Europe, and China, all of whose economies are fragile and probably brittle.  Thus the damage inflicted could far outlast the disruption itself.  This could be yet another highly attractive incentive for Putin and his ayatollah allies.

So, Putin and the ayatollahs have powerful motives to corner the world’s oil market and therefore the US and the rest of the world are facing an enormous risk.  The horrible pity of this is that the US could easily demonstrate the futility of the Russian-Iranian axis trying to take the world hostage with Mideast oil, simply by opening up our surface deposits of oil shales in the Rockies.  As I showed in this analysis last March, these resources could make Mideast oil irrelevant.

The US’ surface oil shales are completely different from the deep shales that are accessed through directional drilling and fracking and that grab all the headlines; the deep shales are a mere side show in terms of reserves.  The surface shales hold up to 3 trillion barrels of oil versus about 50 billion barrels of tight oil accessed by fracking.  The total global proven reserves of oil are 1.6 trillion barrels, and the Canadian tar sands have 1.6 to 2.5 trillion barrels (although they’re officially listed at 175 billion barrels, which are incorporated in the global total).  So, the US and Canada together essentially can triple the global supply of oil, and at prices in the $60-75/barrel range.  Meanwhile, Mideast reserves are about 800 billion barrels – half of Canada’s oil sands, perhaps less than a third of the US surface shales.  The world no longer needs the Muslim oil.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Rockies surface shales sit on Federal land, and while George W. Bush opened up those lands for development, Obama rescinded that policy.  These reserves now sit almost entirely idle.

As with any petroleum deposit, these surface shale reserves can’t be turned on with the wave of a wand.  But they can be opened for development with just a pen, and not even a phone.  For the protection of this country, and the good of the world, our current president should immediately open these reserves for development, with great fanfare.  If he will not use our military to protect our interests, he should at least use our economic weapons.

There is no time to lose.  Russia is on the march, in unison with the emboldened and enriched Iranians, thanks again to our president.  Putin and the ayatollahs know they will enjoy only another 464 days with this president and that none of his likely replacements will be so complacent and flexible, to use his own term.  We should therefore expect that they will want to make as much hay as they can while the sun reflects off of Obama’s insouciant grin.


Israel’s Risk Aversion Problem

October 2, 2015

Israel’s Risk Aversion Problem, Town Hall, Caroline Glick, October 2, 2015

Netanyahu and glasses

Because his strategy is based on ideological beliefs rather than power calculations rooted in reality, Obama’s position cannot be swayed by evidence, even when evidence shows that his administration’s policies endanger US national security.

The more Israel allows other actors to determine the nature of the emerging regional order, the less secure Israel will be. The more willing we are to take calculated risks today the greater our ability will be to influence the future architecture of regional power relations and so minimize threats to our survival in the decades to come.


On Wednesday the Obama administration was caught off guard by Russia’s rapid rise in Syria. As the Russians began bombing a US-supported militia along the Damascus-Homs highway, Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, at the UN. Just hours before their meeting Kerry was insisting that Russia’s presence in Syria would likely be a positive development.

Reacting to the administration’s humiliation, Republican Sen. John McCain said, “This administration has confused our friends, encouraged our enemies, mistaken an excess of caution for prudence and replaced the risks of action with the perils of inaction.”

McCain added that Russian President Vladimir Putin had stepped “into the wreckage of this administration’s Middle East policy.”

While directed at the administration, McCain’s general point is universally applicable. Today is no time for an overabundance of caution.

The system of centralized regimes that held sway in the Arab world since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago has unraveled. The shape of the new order has yet to be determined.

The war in Syria and the chaos and instability engulfing the region are part and parcel of the birth pangs of a new regional governing architecture now taking form. Actions taken by regional and global actors today will likely will influence power relations for generations.

Putin understands the opportunity of the moment.

He views the decomposition of Syria as an opportunity to rebuild Russia’s power and influence in the Middle East – at America’s expense.

Russia isn’t the only strategic player seeking to exploit the war in Syria and the regional chaos. Turkey and Iran are also working assiduously to take advantage of the current absence of order to advance their long term interests.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is exploiting the rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq to fight the Kurds in both countries. Erdogan’s goal is twofold: to prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdistan and to disenfranchise the Kurds in Turkey.

As for Iran, Syria is Iran’s bulwark against Sunni power in the Arab world and the logistical base for Tehran’s Shi’ite foreign legion Hezbollah. Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei is willing to fight to the bitter end to hold as much of Syrian territory as possible.

Broadly speaking, Iran views the breakup of the Arab state system as both a threat and an opportunity.

The chaos threatens Iran, because it has radicalized the Sunni world. If Sunni forces unite, their numeric advantage against Shi’ite Iran will imperil it.

The power of Sunni numbers is the reason Bashar Assad now controls a mere sixth of Syrian territory. To prevent his fate from befalling them, the Iranians seek to destabilize neighboring regimes and where possible install proxy governments in their stead.

Iran’s cultivation of alliances and proxy relationships with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida, and its phony war against Islamic State all point to an overarching goal of keeping Sunni forces separated and dependent on Tehran.

The Iranian regime also fears the prospect of being overthrown by its domestic opponents. To counter this threat the regime engages in large-scale and ever escalating repression of its perceived foes.

Iran’s nuclear program also plays a key role in the regime’s survival strategy. As Khamenei and his underlings see things, nuclear weapons protect the regime in three ways. They deter Iran’s external foes. They increase domestic support for the regime by enriching Iran which, no longer under international sanctions, sees its diplomatic and economic prestige massively enhanced due to its nuclear program.

Finally, there is Iran’s war with Israel and the US. A nuclear-armed Iran is a direct threat to both countries.

And this, too, is a boon for the mullacracy. From the regime’s perspective, fighting Israel and the US serves to neutralize the Sunni threat to the regime. The more Iran is seen as fighting Israel and the US the more legitimate it appears to Sunni jihadists.

This then brings us to the Americans. Like the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians, President Barack Obama and his associates are strategic players. Unlike those powers however, the administration is moved not by raw power calculations but by ideological dictates.

Obama and his advisers are convinced that the instability and radicalization of states and actors throughout the region is the consequence of the actions of past US administrations and those of America’s regional allies – first and foremost, Israel and Egypt. The basis for this conviction is the administration’s post-colonial ideological underpinnings.

Because his strategy is based on ideological beliefs rather than power calculations rooted in reality, Obama’s position cannot be swayed by evidence, even when evidence shows that his administration’s policies endanger US national security.

This brings us to Israel.

Israel has limited power to influence regional events.

It cannot change its neighbors’ values or cultures. Israel can however limit its neighbors’ ability to harm it and expand its ability to deter would be aggressors by among other things, using its power judiciously to influence now forming power balances between various regional and world actors.

Israel has followed this model in Syria with notable success.

At an early stage of the war our leaders recognized that aside from the Kurds, who have no shared border with us, there are no viable actors in Syria that are not dangerous to Israel. As a result, Israel has no interest in the victory of one group against others.

The only actor in Syria that Israel has felt it necessary to actively rein in is Hezbollah. So it has acted repeatedly to prevent Hezbollah from using its operational presence in Syria as a means for augmenting its offensive capabilities in Lebanon.

The problem with this strategy is that it has ignored the fact that from Hezbollah’s perspective, there is no operational difference between Lebanon and Syria.

The war in Syria spread to Lebanon years ago.

Now, with Iranian and Russian assistance, Hezbollah is beginning to develop the industrial capacity to bypass Israel and independently produce advanced weapons inside Lebanon. This rapid industrialization of Hezbollah’s military capabilities requires Israel to end its respect for the all-but-destroyed international border and take direct action against Hezbollah’s capabilities in Lebanon.

This brings us to Hezbollah’s boss, Iran. For the past several years, the same caution that has led Israel to grant de facto immunity to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon has led to Israel’s passivity and deference to the Obama administration in relation to Iran’s nuclear program.

With regard to Iran’s nuclear installations, the strategy of passivity has largely been forced onto an unwilling political leadership by Israel’s military leaders.

For the past several years, the IDF’s General Staff has refused to support the government’s position on Iran’s nuclear program.

Our military leaders have justified their insubordination by arguing that if Israel takes independent action against Iran’s nuclear program it will undermine its bilateral relations with the US, which they consider more important than preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Although under the best of circumstances, the IDF’s position would be unacceptable from the perspective of democratic norms of governance, since the ideologically driven Obama administration took power seven years ago, the military’s position has imperiled the country.

So long as Obama – or the ideology that informs his actions – remains in power in Washington, US security guarantees towards Israel will have no credibility.

The IDF’s assessment that ties to the US are more important than preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power will remain incorrect, and dangerously so.

Today is Israel’s opportunity to shape the future of the Middle East by not only preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, but by preventing a regional nuclear arms race.

The closer Iran comes to emerging as a nuclear power, the more Sunni regimes, including Islamic State, will seek their own nuclear capabilities. It goes without saying that the more regional actors have nuclear weapons, the more dangerous the region becomes for Israel, and indeed for the world as a whole.

For many Israelis, the story of the week wasn’t Russia’s air strikes against US-allied forces in Syria. It was PLO chief and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the UN General Assembly.

Leftists expressed horror in the face of Abbas’s threat to end the PLO’s adherence to the agreements it signed with Israel in the 1990s (and has stood in material breach of ever since). The government insisted, for its part that the reason the peace process has not brought peace is because Abbas and his PLO refuse to negotiate with Israel.

Unfortunately, both sides’ responses to Abbas’s speech indicate that Israel has lost all semblance of strategic purpose in regard to the Palestinians.

Fifteen years ago this week, on September 28, 2000, the Palestinians opened their terrorist war against Israel. Ever since it has been clear that no Palestinian faction is interested in living at peace with Israel.

Despite this, for the past 15 years, Israel has refused to reconsider its strategic allegiance to the false notion that it has the ability to influence the hearts and minds of the Palestinians and bend them in the direction of peace.

This delusional thinking is what caused the IDF’s General Staff to convene immediately after Operation Protective Edge ended and try to figure out how to rebuild Gaza.

Ever since the cease-fire came into force, Hamas has diverted all the assistance it has received from Israel and the international community not to rebuild Gaza, but to rebuild its military capacity to harm Israel. And yet, from the IDF’s perspective, ever since the war ended our most urgent task has been to save Hamas and the Palestinians alike from reckoning with the price of their aggression.

Likewise, Israel continues to insist that we have a strategic interest in peace with the PLO. Even if this is true in theory, chances are greater that unicorns will fall from the sky and prance through Jerusalem’s Old City than that the PLO will agree to make peace with Israel.

Our continued defense of the PLO as a legitimate actor harms our ability to secure other strategic interests that are achievable and can improve Israel’s regional position. These interests include securing transportation arteries in Judea and Samaria and strengthening Israel’s military and political control over the areas. These interests have only grown more acute in recent years with the rise of jihadist forces throughout the region and among the Palestinians themselves.

This brings us back to McCain and his strategic wisdom.

Israel must not allow the risks of action to lure us into strategic paralysis that imperils our future.

The more Israel allows other actors to determine the nature of the emerging regional order, the less secure Israel will be. The more willing we are to take calculated risks today the greater our ability will be to influence the future architecture of regional power relations and so minimize threats to our survival in the decades to come.