This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gaza Underground

"All of Gaza is an underground city, and the amount of infrastructure Hamas built up over the years is immense."
"There are tunnels, extended bunkers, weapons storage facilities, even within urban areas."
Captain Eytan Buchman, Israeli military spokesman

"The school is situated between two other UNRWA schools that currently each accommodate 1,5000 internally displaced persons."
"UNRWA strongly and unequivocally condemns the group [Hamas?] or groups [go ahead, say it: H A M A S] responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law."
"Palestinian civilians in Gaza rely on UNRWA to provide humanitarian assistance and shelter. At all times, and especially during escalations of violence, the sanctity and integrity of UN installations must be respected."
"Immediately after discovery, the agency informed the relevant parties [Hamas] and successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the objects [rockets] in order to preserve the safety and security of the school."
UN refugee agency UNRWA  media statement
"I think even the [IDF and Israeli intelligence] didn't imagine how many tunnels Hamas had built during the years. They thought it was one, three, five tunnels -- but now we're talking about 'Underground Gaza'. It's amazing. They built Underground Gaza during the years."
"Instead, what they've done is they've stolen all the resources of the Gaza Strip and built something for their own safety and for violent action against Israel. It's very disturbing."
"The people of Gaza last voted for Hamas in 2006 ... because they wanted to punish [former leader Yasser Arafat's] Palestine Liberation Organization because of the corruption."
Shlomi Eldar, fellow, Wilson Centre, Washington
The smuggling tunnels area, also called Philadelphia corner, in Rafah at the border with Egypt. Gaza 2011
This tunnel, shown in 2011, is in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip at the border with Egypt.
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin, Magnum Photos

Mr. Eldar's familiarity as a journalist who covered the Gaza Strip for twenty years has acquainted  him with Hamas's methodology. He wrote of what he knew in a book he published: Getting to Know Hamas. The diversion of cement and other building materials whose purpose was to rebuild homes, hospitals and roads resulted in the building of the notorious tunnel, instead. A network of tunnels with diverse purposes.

Tunnels meant to enter Israel, for military use, and of relatively recent vintage. The tunnels and safe rooms built by Hamas's leadership to protect themselves and their families from attacks represent yet another more recent purpose for tunnels. And then the third type that predated the other two primarily used to smuggle consumer goods, medical supplies and fuel, as well as the transport of arms. Tunnels proliferated as tensions between Hamas and Israel and Egypt rose.

The underground economy depended hugely on the avails of tunnel smuggling with two-thirds of all consumer goods in Gaza eventually transiting the tunnels, from building supplies to people, livestock, arms and fuel. Those smuggling networks provided Hamas with a handsome source of revenue since it levied taxes on everything passing through the tunnels, each year gifting them with hundreds of millions in 'taxes'.

Until the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt which had supported its offshoot Hamas was removed from power and the new administration blocked the tunnels or flooded them, starving Hamas of the capital it required to operate, leaving it bankrupt, unable to pay its civil servants. And leading it to the resolution to provoke Israel into a confrontation over the incessant rocket barrages to create sympathy that would result from the deliberate exposure of Gaza's civilians by Hamas, to IDF return fire.

Israel began its defensive response to the rockets until it realized that the presence of all those tunnels were as much a threat as the rockets, and resolved to diminish their numbers in self-protection. The ground incursion was aimed directly at the destruction of the tunnels Hamas has used more latterly for attacks against Israelis, apart from the 2,000 rockets launched in the past several weeks.

The Israeli military released an image of a tunnel and an offshoot from Gaza to Israel that it said could have been used to stage attacks. /Israeli Defense Forces/EPA
The Israeli military released an image of a tunnel and an offshoot from Gaza to Israel that it said could have been used to stage attacks. /Israeli Defense Forces/EPA

Hamas now insists on the opening of the blockades by Egypt and Israel as a primary demand for a ceasefire. Which only demonstrates the delusional madness of the terrorist organization, insisting it be re-enabled to continue importing weapons and fighters and construction material to continue its underground economy and assaults on both Egypt and Israel. They have looted hundreds of millions that should have been used to put in place a civil society and advance prospects for Gazans.

Instead, they have delivered death and destruction for a people that still appears to believe that Hamas represents their best possible future, rather than a leadership that will take them to a civil future of security and prosperity.  The 20 rockets stored at one of UNRWA's schools were handed by them over to the 'relevant authorities', meaning back to Hamas. The resounding stupidity of these actions are impossible to fathom.

In October of 2013 the Israeli military uncovered one tunnel stretching for 1.7 kilometres beneath the Gaza border which exited near a kibbutz. The cost of the tunnel was reported to be $10-million in building expenses, tall enough for someone to stand upright, lined with concrete and lit by electricity, including a communications network. Prompting Israel to halt all shipments of cement and other building supplies into Gaza. And now Hamas demands such shipments continue.

On Thursday the IDF thwarted yet another attempt by a group of terrorist to infiltrate Israel through one of the tunnels. As for UNRWA, Israeli officials' constant address of Hamas's use of schools, mosques and hospitals as storage depots for their rockets, and their penchant for firing from those buildings, has always fallen on deliberately deaf ears. Yet a 'routine inspection' by UNRWA revealed the presence of rockets, the second school in a week where rockets were discovered.

No doubt on the first occasion, UNRWA officials disapprovingly returned the rockets they discovered in the first school to the 'relevant authorities' which just happen to be Hamas, as well.

Labels: , , , , ,

Hamas Spurns Human Rights

"This is a Muslim flag. What people don't understand is, the colour green is a traditional colour for Islam and the inscription is just the first pillar of Islam, which is 'There is no God but Allah, and the prophet is the messenger'."
Adam John, 27, Ottawa mechanic

"I find it very disturbing the flag of a terrorist organization (Hamas) that has been identified as such by our government was on our streets of the nation's capital today."
Andrea Freedman, president, Jewish Federation of Ottawa

In 2002, Canada formally designed Hamas -- the Islamist jihadist group whose covenant calls for the destruction of Israel to fulfill their obligations to Islam and the Palestinian people from whom they claim the land upon which Israel rests was wrested from its rightful owners, Arab Palestinians -- a terrorist organization. That supporters of Hamas are rife within the Muslim community in Canada is no secret. Mr. John's 'explanation' is not amusing.

Adam John stands with a Hamas flag, which he says he was holding as a Muslim flag. It caused a social media stir after Tuesday's Palestinian protest in downtown Ottawa.  Samantha Wright Allen / Ottawa Citizen
In this instance, an organized 'pro-Palestinian' march and protest that took place in Ottawa near Parliament Hill on Tuesday, where a Hamas flag was hoisted and prominently flown, held over the shoulder of a protest participant, Adam John. His spurious hypocrisy as an enabler for Hamas represents a matter of grave concern to those who recognize terrorists for what they represent; threats to civilization.

Ottawa police officers were hard put to separate pro-Palestinian protesters who marched past a small group of Israeli supporters close to Parliament Hill on Tuesday. The number of Israeli supporters was small, a mere handful of people because the man who had planned a counter-protest had been persuaded by Ottawa police in the interests of public safety and security to call it off.

"Members of the Jewish community were telling me 'I don't want to be downtown on Wellington Street while this rally is happening because I'm fearful for my safety", explained Rabbi Michael Goldstein, warning of anti-Semitic violence, recognizing its emergence through similar pro-Palestinian protests around the country.

Yarah Qasem who belongs to the Ottawa Palestinian group organizing the march, stated that like many Palestinians she feels the need to speak out: "It's part of my identity". She is 18, from a Palestinian family that migrated to Canada. Her life is largely dedicated to activism, a reason she is studying international law at university. "I want to dedicate my career to this case."

People take part in a protest and march in Ottawa on Tuesday July 22, 2014, calling for Canada to defend human rights in Palestine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
- See more at: http://www.squamishchief.com/protesters-denounce-israeli-offensive-in-gaza-call-on-harper-to-support-peace-1.1255723#sthash.542oeBv6.dpuf
Protesters marched through Ottawa on Tuesday calling for the Canadian government to defend human rights in Palestine. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

"It's not that we don't want (Israel) to exist, it's that we want to return to our homes. We want to be treated like human beings" she said. She appears not to have thought things through to a reasonable conclusion. Palestinians who remained where they were with the creation of the State of Israel live there still, as fully functioning, accredited members of Israeli society with their assured citizenship, able to send their own representations to the Israeli Knesset.

Her family, one of those that left, giving the assembled Arab States' militaries an opportunity to defeat the nascent state, leaving the Palestinians to return, can only now return in their inflated generational numbers with the result being precisely the non-existence of the State of Israel. This lack of clarity in a presumably healthy, functioning mind speaks of denial of reality

Labels: , , , , ,

Protesting Israel's Existence

"[Some German demonstrators demonstrated an] explosion of evil and violence-prone hatred of Jews."
"Never in our lives did we believe it possible that anti-Semitism of the most primitive kind would be heard on the streets of Germany."
Dieter Graumann, president, Central Council of Jews, Germany
(Surely the good man means 'heard again on the streets of Germany?)

"Maybe 100 of them decided to cross the street. They came around and swarmed around us saying rude stuff at us like 'Kill the Jews' and 'Hitler was right'."
Jake Birrell, anti-Israel-bashing pro-Palestinian protester, Calgary

Rally violence
Jake Birrell, is punched in the face as tempers flared between pro Palestinian and pro Israeli protesters during a Palestinian rally over conflicts in the Middle East on Friday, July 18, 2014. Photo courtesy Jewish Free Press

"I was trying to get men off my little brother and I was punched in the face by a man in my left cheek and my left [side], and then punched in the back of my head and then had my hair pulled."
Samantha Hamilton, Israel supporter, Calgary

"Not a single organizer was involved in any of the fights that happened and we absolutely denounce any sort of violence that happened."
Saima Jamal, Calgary pro-Palestinian demonstration organizer
The violence, said Ms. Jamal, was regrettable. She herself had no idea about what had happened, nor did she personally hear any anti-Semitic slurs. Being known by the company you keep, however, is a double-edged identity package. The 'pro-Palestinian' protests have a purpose; to demonize Israel as a brutal, racist state, inciting people to lay blame where it is simplistically easy to do so, and which appeals to the lowest common denominator of wrenched-hearts for the underdog.

Canadians protests against Israeli military action
Demonstrators in Toronto protest against Israeli military action in Gaza Saturday, July 19, 2014. CTV News

That lowest common denominator has another facet, one more directly sinister, but whose purpose is well hidden by the slandering affectation of compassionate lefties finding a 'side' they can line up behind, while the die-hard anti-Semites among them can express their vitriolic hatred without fear of accusation that they are racist mind-thugs, and often more than that, since like Hamas using civilians as shields, the left also represent a useful shield.

Over the past week thousands of protesters have taken their umbrage against Israel to the streets in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, along with other European cities that were once a charnel house for the Jews who had for centuries lived among them. Some of those demonstrations have been clear enough that they express a wholesale anti-Semitism that the conflict in Gaza with the IDF responding to countless rocket attacks in Israel provides a handy screen for.

What is called a "radical fringe" among pro-Palestinian protesters in Paris clashed violently with police, targeted Jewish shops to be destroyed and looted, threw smoke bombs and stones and bottles at riot police. Managing in the general melee that ensued to still cause considerable damage to eight synagogues in France, within one of which a ravaging crowd threatened the lives of the Jews gathered within. Young French Jews, part of the Jewish Defense League, came to the rescue.

Along with Europe's largest, long-established Jewish population who have for generations considered France their home, the country now also has Europe's largest Muslim population, and in the land of 'Equality, Fraternity and Liberty', fraternity has gone missing, threatening liberty, while equality has long since been dispensed with. Citing security concerns elevated by lusty declarations by anti-Israel demonstrators whose chants of "Death to Jews!" and "Hitler was Right!" some protests were banned.

And in Calgary which is distinguishing itself as a hotbed of pro-Palestinian activity equating with anti-Israel demonstrations organized and led by students and others connected to the University of Calgary, about 1,000 fervently compassionate Palestinian-rights activists came out for the second of their weekly organized marches. And there too, the same Jew-hating chants were heard, strangely coincidental.

This is not 'rude stuff'. This is the stuff that leads people to implicitly believe what they chant in a unison of shared contempt for human life when it is directed toward the world's most familiar subject of racial hatred.

Where are the human-rights protests passionately decrying the rocket blasts from Gaza into Israel, the cynical manipulation of Hamas in placing its citizens in the line of fire they incite by forcing Israel to protect its own civilians to respond to the assault sites deliberately placed by the Islamist fanatics in crowded civilian enclaves to produce maximum casualties and maximum propaganda value?


Labels: , , , , , ,

Oddly Familiar

Gen. Anatoly Kornukov, who gained command of the Russian Air Force in 1998, with President Vladimir V. Putin in 2001.  Credit Pool photo by Itar-Tas

In command of air defences on Sakhalin Island off the Siberian coast in 1983, General Kornukov commanded the pilot of a Soviet fighter jet to shoot down a commercial Korean 747 passenger liner bound for Seoul, South Korea from New York, on September 1, 1983. The airliner had accidently gone off course and briefly flew into Soviet airspace near Sakhalin. Believing it to be a U.S. spy plane, the pilot hit Flight 007 with two air-to-air missiles just seconds before it would have re-entered international airspace.

Born in Ukraine in 1942, General Kornukov was a career military man, serving as a fighter pilot in Russia's air defence forces. When that KAL 007 jet went down 269 passengers and crew were killed, their bodies never recovered. General Kornukov steadily rose in the ranks of the Russian military. He had boasted his actions demonstrated his fortitude, his capacity to make tough decisions, "to take responsibility". And he said, in a later interview, that he would do the very same thing again.

In a 1998 interview on Russian television, at that time elevated by then-president Boris Yeltsin to become the new chief of the Russian Air Force, General Kornukov admitted: "The recollections bring back some unpleasant feelings. Those events left scars and added some gray hairs to my head." On the other hand, "I will always be convinced that I gave the right order. Sometimes, in strategic operations, we had to sacrifice battalions to save the army."

And now there is Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 where 298 people from a multitude of countries met their instantly dreadful deaths, shot down by a Russian-supplied missile (surface-to-air-missile: SAM) by ethnic-Russian separatists from their base within Ukraine close to the Russian border. When the 1983 event occurred, then-President Reagan launched an all-out war of accusation at the Soviet Union, while the Soviets did everything in their bag of tricks to cover up their responsibility.

Not all that much has changed from then to now, it would seem. Russia still manipulating world affairs creating chaos, disruption, hostility, suspicion and conflict. One thing has changed, though, and that is, clearly enough, the manner in which America itself stands up to its own responsibilities as the world's superpower and allegedly moral guide. Where once President Reagan unequivocally referred to the "Korean airline massacre", naming it a crime against humanity, an "act of barbarism", President Obama is carefully cautionary.

Even while American intelligence is working alongside Ukraine in authenticating the validity of the intercepted communications between separatist ethnic Russians and a Russian intelligence operative respecting the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner with the loss of 298 lives, there have been no unequivocal statements of denunciation of the Russians tied directly to the atrocity. Instead caution prevails emanating from the White House.

Back then, it was Yuri Andropov, once head of Soviet intelligence who was President of the USSR. Now, it is another old KGB operative who heads the Russian Federation, in the person of Vladimir Putin, a man, like the communist elite of the old Soviet Union, who has a penchant for amassing for his personal pleasure, great wealth denied the ordinary citizens of Russia, many of whom live in dire, hopeless want; their drunken-stupored poverty, his reputed $40-billion personal wealth.

An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard as monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of a Malaysian air crash investigations team inspect the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 22, 2014. Almost 300 people were killed when the Malaysian airliner went down last Thursday. (REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev)
An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard as monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of a Malaysian air crash investigations team inspect the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 22, 2014. Almost 300 people were killed when the Malaysian airliner went down last Thursday. (REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev)

Where so many years ago the Kremlin claimed that a U.S. spy plane was present behind the MH 17 before it was shot down a similar 'rumour' has now surfaced. Current conspiracy theorists who go out of their way to explain the seemingly inexplicable by raising scenarios that fit right in with their self-exonerating ideas of sanctimonious righteousness in actions taken, claim that it was really Vladimir Putin's plane traversing the same air route that the Ukrainian air force had targeted, hitting the Malaysian plane instead.

Labels: , , , ,

Today: UN Emergency Debate on Gaza Creates New Goldstone Report, Condemns Israel for "Gross Human Right Violations"

UN Watch BriefingLatest from the United Nations  Vol. 499 |  July 23, 2014         
Today: UN Emergency Debate on Gaza Creates New Goldstone Report, Condemns Israel for "Gross Human Right Violations"
Must-See Video: Palestinians, Iran, Syria Fail to Silence UN Watch   
GENEVA, July 23, 2014 - The Palestinian ambassador to the UNHRC, together with Iran, Syria, Egypt, Cuba and Venezuela tried but failed to silence UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer during today's UN Emergency Session on Gaza, as he defended Israel's right to resist Hamas aggression, and called out the hypocrisy of those who initiated the biased proceeding.
As expected, the council voted 29 to 1 (USA), with 17 abstaining (EU & others), to condemn Israel for "gross violations of international human rights," and it created a new commission of inquiry to produce a second Goldstone Report. Click here to see the grossly one-sided resolution—and a list of the nations who ignominiously voted for it.
Testimony delivered today, 23 July 2014, by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, at the UN Human Rights Council Emergency Session on Gaza 
Mr. President, I have just returned here from visiting Israel to tell this assembly, and the world, about the grave situation that I witnessed and experienced.

An entire nation—towns, villages and cities, from the Negev Desert up to the Galilee, from the Judean hills of Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv seashore—has been under brutal and relentless attack, from more than two thousand mortars, rockets and long-range missiles, fired from Gaza toward civilians in every part of the Holy Land.

Never before, in the history of Israel’s seven decades of existence, has its men, women and children come under such a massive aerial assault, forcing them, at the sound of air raid sirens day and night, to run for shelter.

And never before, in the modern history of nations, has a free and democratic society come under such sustained bombardment from a terrorist organization, one that openly strives for and celebrates the murder of civilians, and that, as its general worldview, glorifies death.

Did the world ever imagine that the ancient city of Jerusalem—sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and replete with holy places that are recognized by the United Nations as protected world heritage sites—would be deliberately targeted by indiscriminate rockets?

And yet it is.

During one air raid in Jerusalem, I ran down to the basement of a building with little children crying and traumatized. During an air raid in Tel Aviv, the neighbors of an apartment building showed great strength of spirit in defiance of terrorism, by reaching out to strangers in the shelters, as we heard the booms of the rockets above.

And as  I was seated in my airplane, about to depart and return back here to Geneva, the air raid siren went off around the airport. We all had to rush off the plane and seek shelter. You’ve heard the news today: that international airlines are now ceasing to fly to Israel because of this danger.

I believe that the world should salute this terrorized, besieged and embattled nation, which has refused to surrender to demoralization, instead showing such courage, resolve and strength of spirit in surviving—and resisting—this massive aggression.

And people should consider: Is there any precedent in world history for a nation passively to suffer a three-week bombardment of its civilian population, by more than 2,000 deadly rockets?

The attempt by Hamas to shut down Israel’s sole international airport, in a country already besieged by land from hostile forces from north to south, would constitute the strangulation of an artery vital to the life of Israel’s people and economy.

These acts of aggression also target the sovereign rights of the nations under whose flags these airplanes fly.

I ask each ambassador in this chamber to take a moment and imagine terrorists deliberately firing deadly rockets at the airports of Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, or Frankfurt; Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, or Tokyo.

How would your government react?

How long would your nation wait before doing everything in its power to exercise its right, under international law and morality, to resist such aggression?

Mr. President,

I turn now to the resolution upon which this Council will soon vote. The text before us denounces Israel, denies its right to self-defence, and disregards Hamas war crimes.

We ask: why does this Council refuse to say that which was said only two weeks ago by the Palestinian ambassador himself?

In an extraordinary moment of candor, Palestinian Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi admitted, on Palestinian TV, that “each and every” Palestinian missile launched against Israeli civilians constitutes “a crime against humanity.”

And that, by contrast, Israel’s own response actions in Gaza “followed the legal procedures” because, as Hamas spokespersons admitted on TV, “the Israelis warned them to evacuate their homes before the bombardment; but, “as for the missiles launched from our side, we never warn anyone about where these missiles are about to fall or about the operations we carry out.”

Can any UN entity, or any individual, be truly for human rights when they refuse to say that which was said by the Palestinian ambassador himself?
Is it possible that the true purpose of this session is to silence the true victims and voices of human rights around the world by deflecting attention from the world’s worst abuses?
We ask all those who embrace hypocrisy and double standards: if in the past year you didn’t cry out whe thousands of protesters were killed and injured by Turkey, Egypt and Libya; when more victims than ever were hanged by Iran; women and children in Afghanistan were bombed; whole communities were massacred in South Sudan; hundreds in Pakistan were killed by jihadist terror attacks; 10,000 Iraqis were killed by terrorists—
[Egypt interrupts with an objection.]
President of UNHRC Session: We have a point of order. Egypt, you have the floor.
Egypt: Mr. President, I think we are meeting today for the special session to discuss the current crisis in Gaza and the violations committed within this crisis. So I don’t see why we have a reason to discuss other issues relating to human rights situations on other countries.
United States of America: We think it is relevant to the subject under debate, and therefore you should allow the NGO to continue to speak.
Iran: We fully support the point of order made by Egypt.
Canada: We urge you to allow the NGO to complete their intervention, which is relevant to the discussions at hand.
Israel: It is important that civil society participate in this debate, and we request that you allow this NGO to continue.
Venezuela: We support the point of order made by Egypt.
Palestine: This is not a point of order, but more a clarification. The speaker will continue along the same lines if the speaker is not stopped. I would ask you not to waste any time on this so we can conclude this meeting in good time.
Cuba: It is inconceivable that a NGO should be able to come to this Council to distract us with the little time we have to debate an issue which is of such crucial importance as the genocide being committed currently against the Palestinian people.
President: I give the floor back to UN Watch, with the request that he adhere to the subject matter under discussion today.

UN Watch: Thank you, Mr. President. I’ll just note that there had been some questions whether the videotape interview of the Palestinian ambassador on Palestinian TV was genuine or not, but we see that the Palestinian ambassador has just intervened—and has failed to deny those remarks. Let the record show that.

Finally, we ask: If those who refuse to speak out for Palestinians—1800 Palestinians, if not more—who were starved to death, murdered, by Assad in Syria, but you only cry out when Israel can be blamed, then you are not pro human rights, you are only anti-Israel.

Syria: We’re used to hearing this NGO creating divisions among the speakers, and speaking out of turn. It is strange to hear an NGO defending the killing of women and children, and the destruction of infrastructure in Palestine. I would hope that the speaker is no longer allowed to continue his statement.
President: I give the floor back to UN Watch.

Hillel: Thank you, Mr. President. Let the world note: that in a session purportedly on Palestinian human rights, the government of Syria objected to us mentioning the 1800 Palestinians that they starved and murdered.

Labels: , , ,

Syrian Fighting Pushed to the Sidelines

The Media Line A Multi-Media News Source

Wed. July 23, 2014

YouTube Twitter Facebook
Archives  |  Blogs
Lead Story in Context
Issue: Israel's Jewish Identity. What Does it Mean?
MidEast Week
PA: Made "Generous" Offer; Israel: "Bring it to the Table"
Palestinian Family Accepts Condolence Visit
Israeli Students Prepare for Cyber-War
No-Man's Land Between Jerusalem and Ramallah
  More Video
A Rabbi Responds to Killing of Palestinian Teenager
Pope Francis Arrives in Bethlehem
Army Spokesman on Threats to Israel
  More Audio

Syrian Fighting Pushed to the Sidelines
Written by Emma J. Beals
Published Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Islamic State Could Challenge Assad

The war in Syria is disappearing off the news agenda behind conflict in Ukraine, neighboring Iraq, and now the Gaza Strip. Syrian activists and opposition alike greet expressions of outrage over the civilian death toll in Gaza with their own disquiet that the killing in their own country has not been greeted with an equal amount of worldwide condemnation, despite their constant protestations. As the world looks elsewhere, the deaths of civilians in Syria continue with little sign of reprieve.

President Bashar Al-Assad has a renewed sense of legitimacy having won an election which was widely seen as illegitimate, though not so preposterous as to be called into question by the international community. Internally, he has been using this to continue to focus on his attempts to retake the city of Aleppo by besieging the rebel-held eastern part of the city. Joshua Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says this would be a major boost for Assad.

“Syria is really its four big cities. If he can retake Aleppo -- the last big city contested by rebels -- he will feel that he has destroyed the rebellion and retaken Syria,” he said. He explained to The Media Line that, “He will slowly take back Syria. Assad is winning. Most of the world will accept his win as the better of two evils. The Islamic State (ISIS) has so captivated the imagination of the Sunni world and the international community that Assad's claim that this battle is about the state versus terrorism is coming true.”

Rather than defeating the extremist threat in Syria, this siege would be a gift to the ISIS group that has been focusing its activities in the east of the country toward Iraq. Large gains in Deir Ezzour province have seen them consolidate power in the region between their power base through Raqqa, Al Bab and Manbij toward Mosul in Iraq where they took ground last month in a rapid and surprising offensive which has torn the already fragile country apart.

What has been seen as a partnership of sorts between the Syrian government and the Islamic State was overturned this week when the Assad regime’s air force bombed Al Bab, a town in the Aleppo countryside, for the first time since ISIS took over the area. The first sign that the government no longer intends to leave the extremist group untouched while focusing solely on their mutual enemy, the Syrian rebel and opposition-held areas of Aleppo and Idlib. Strategically, this may have more to do with appeasing their allies, such as Iran, who are now publicly and militarily at odds with the group in Iraq as the battle becomes increasingly sectarian. A complacent attitude toward the group as it spreads into neighboring country was not going to last long once the Shia militias began battles in earnest with the group.

While Iraq is tying up significant ISIS resources, it is also allowing the group to expand its financial and weaponry resources, much of which is being stored in Syria. The eastern city of Raqqa is forming the base for the 'caliphate' [state run according to Islamic law] it’s determined to create. Once they manage to consolidate their territory in Iraq -- and even more so if the regime besieges Aleppo -- they will be in a position to push back into rebel held areas of the north.

Syrian opposition forces are still courting western funders in the hopes meaningful support, which has yet to materialize in earnest, might still appear. This week a number of them released a statement outlining their intention to halt cooperation with Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Al-Qa’ida-linked group which has enjoyed broad based support in rebel-held areas, even fighting against the Islamic State forces.

Oubai Shahbandar, a spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition said, “There has never been a clearer distinction between the moderate Free Syrian Army and hard-line extremist groups in Syria. While the Assad regime continues to help ISIS expand by allowing them to move through regime-held territory, the FSA has made major gains against ISIS in the past few days, most notably in the Damascus countryside.”

As US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “Assad is the greatest magnet for terrorism in Syria.” This terrorism has now spread to Iraq where the sectarian response is further fuelling the problem. What is clear is that a lack of a clear policy on Syria from the international community, and a similar lack of direction on Iraq and now the ISIS and Gaza has led to further chaos which only seems to spread across the region, further fuelling extremism but providing no answers to the crisis in Syria or elsewhere.

Labels: , , , , ,

() Follow @rheytah Tweet