Politic?

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.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Canada-Ukraine Link

"The Canadian military contribution being announced today will help Ukrainian forces personnel to better defend their country's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper

"Let there be no doubt that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's aggression in Ukraine is not an isolated concern."
"This is why we believe, with our allies, that a message of resolve and deterrence is the best way to prevent a miscalculation with Mr. Putin."
Jason Kenney, Canadian Minister of Defence
Ukrainian servicemen take part in a military drill in the Zhytomyr region, some 150 kms from Kiev, on April 9, 2015 (AFP Photo/Anatolii Stepanov)

The Government of Canada has committed newly to a two-year placement of 200 Canadian military personnel in Ukraine to help train Ukrainian military in ways to head off any future conflict with Russia. The defence of Ukraine's borders is an issue that Canada recognizes as vital to east European stability, particularly in view of Moscow's treatment of those borders as porous, and parts of eastern Ukraine ripe for the plucking for the Russian federation.

The support in equipment and military personnel that Russia has provided to the separatist ethnic-Russian Ukrainian forces, while denied by Moscow, are a verifiable fact. The annexation of Crimea is yet another fact; taken by force of arms and a triumphant entitlement, undenied by Moscow since it too is verifiable as a fait accompli, one that is unlikely to be reversed, despite Kyiv's statements to the contrary.

The issue now is to ensure that no additional parts of Ukraine's geography migrate to Russian possession, that the border remain immovable at this juncture.

Canada's Minister of Defence has emphasized that Canadian soldiers will be present in Ukraine in a non-combat role. Their task is to be strictly confined to tutelage, and they are to be based on the border with Poland, 1,300 kilometres from the front lines. Should the situation in Ukraine deteriorate and revert back to outright combat the Canadian soldiers can be readily evacuated to safety.

The deployment breaks down as:
  • 150 Canadian troops at main training centre in western Ukraine;
  • 25-30 Canadian soldiers involved in counter-explosive training in southwest Ukraine;
  • 5 Canadians assisting in medical training;
  • 15 Canadian military police trainers;
  • 5 - 10 Flight safety personnel for training;
  • 5 Canadian personnel involved in logistical training.
In August, Vladimir Putin made a point of reminding the West that Russia possesses nuclear weapons. "This is a reality, not just words", he said to a Russian audience. In a recent television documentary Mr. Putin stated he had been prepared to place Russian nuclear forces on alert while his troops took possession of Crimea from Ukraine.

The Canadian training is set to take place at a NATO centre in Yavoriv, western Ukraine, close to the border with Poland. Some training will take place at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Demining Centre, Kamyanets-Podilsky, in western Ukraine. The Canadian Forces members to be deployed "on both a sustained and periodic basis", depending on the type of training undertaken.

Activities are to include: explosive ordnance disposal and improvised-explosive-device disposal training; military police training; medical training; flight safety training; and logistics system modernization training. The Canadian troops will work alongside American military personnel providing "individual and unit tactics training" to the Ukrainian National Guard.

"We perfectly understand that western countries are not ready to provide us lethal assistance. "We perfectly understand that it's our war, that it's the war for our independence, not the war of western countries", said Marko Shevchenko, charge d'affaires at the Embassy of Ukraine in Canada, stating the deep gratitude of his government to Canada.

And emphasizing that the ceasefire is not working as well as his government might wish it to. A good an indication of further conflict on the very near horizon as any.

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Polarized Conflicts

"In the incident, no abuse has happened, and the two policemen who attempted abuse were identified and detained by Saudi police."
Fars news agency
Mecca Great Mosque
The Great Mosque, Mecca

A half-million Iranians trek to Saudi Arabia annually to take part in the umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites in Islam. Saudi Arabia prides itself on being the custodian of those sacred places. To the Saudis fall the responsibility of the logistics of hosting millions of pious Muslims for whom the pilgrimage represents a vital lifetime obligation to their religious devotion of Islam. Every Muslim hopes at least once in their lifetime to make the journey.

Another 100,000 Iranian pilgrims travel yearly to Saudi Arabia for the main Muslim pilgrimage, the hajj, after the holy month of Ramadan. This too is a ritual required of every able-bodied Muslim in their lifetime, as proof of their submission to Islam and in veneration of Islam's values of substance in the faith, leading the faithful to a more refined internal aura of worthiness and worship.

But now, Iran has suspended all umrah pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia. The two countries are at obvious odds with one another over sectarian-political issues with the Islamic Republic of Iran interfering in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and now Yemen and possibly Bahrain, to the extent that they have become satellites of Iranian hegemony. The issue is one of sectarian divisions, suspicion, hatred and power.

That underlying tension has led to Iran in essence slapping Saudi Arabia with accusations of lack of neutrality in their administration of the two holy sites. Iran's Culture Ministry determined to suspend pilgrimages on the basis of alleged abuse that two male Iranian pilgrims travelling through Jeddah airport were exposed to. Hossein Nooshabadi representing the Iranian culture ministry informed state TV that until the Saudi government "applies a strong attitude" to the case the pilgrimage will remain suspended.

Calling into question Saudi Arabia's capabilities and devotion to its duties as custodian of the site represents a severe rebuke as far as the Saudis are concerned. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered an investigation, and a Saudi diplomat was summoned before Iran's foreign ministry to proffer an explanation for the alleged treatment of the two men. Even though a representative of Iran's top leader on hajj affairs downplayed the incident, claiming Iranian pilgrims did not suffer abuse.

Clearly, the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen which have targeted Shiite Houthi rebels are behind the implied slight, just as Saudi rage over Iran's backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime's brutality against Sunni Syrian civilians and Saudi fears over Iran's nuclear agenda are behind Saudi Arabia's decision-making on the political-military front.

Janatul Maala - Makkah Saudi Arabia

Iranian students have staged several demonstrations before the Saudi embassy in Tehran in protest of those Yemen air strikes. The strict Wahhabi interpretation of Sunni Islam typical of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has met its match in the severe Shiite practise of Islam in the Islamic Republic of Iran; each a state position on the only authentic and acceptable mode of Islamic devotion; the other representing a contorted, unacceptable worship of Islam.

Shiites consider Sunnis to be infidels, and the reverse returns the compliment. Iran has demanded that its pilgrims be permitted to hold "disavowal of infidels" ceremonies on the hajj, essentially rallies denouncing Israel and the United States, an ally of Saudi Arabia, while Saudi Arabia has banned those demonstrations at hajj. One such unauthorized rally in 1987 resulted in clashes with Saudi security where over 400 mostly Iranian pilgrims were killed.

Islam is clearly unwell within itself.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Palestinian Lives? Not Their Problem

"We refused to drag our people and their camps into the hellish conflict which is happening in Syria and we categorically refuse to become one of the parties involved in the armed conflict that is taking place in Yarmouk."
"We refuse to be drawn into military actions, whatever or wherever they are, and we call for other means to ensure the safety of lives in Yarmouk and to prevent more destruction and forced displacement."
Palestine Liberation Organization statement

"The Palestinian situation is at its worst phase. The PLO has lost the ability to move and defend the Palestinians in all places. The various Palestinian factions are incapable of forming a Palestinian force to protect the refugees. The Palestinian leadership is also incapable of ending the division between Fatah and Hamas. All that is left for us to do is to howl, slap and cry."
Ashraf al-Ajrami, (former) Palestinian Authority minister
Residents queue up to receive humanitarian aid at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk
Residents queue up to receive humanitarian aid at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, in Damascus, March 11, 2015. Photo by Reuters

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), has become unusually sanctimonious. It was formed under Yasser Arafat for the express purpose of exterminating Israel by any means possible, and became a menace to international flight through its hijacking of passenger planes, and ships on the high seas to deliver their message of hatred of Israel, killing as many Jews as possible in global bombing events, and a horrific attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, but it will not extend any effort to protect its own, leaving that to others.

When Saudi Arabia raised support at a meeting of the Arab League for a joint force comprised of Sunni Middle East nations to counter the success of Iran's destabilization of the Middle East's Sunni command of the region, the response from other countries was spontaneous and supportive. Many signed on to declare themselves prepared to join a military coalition to respond to Shiite Iran's ambitions that had led to its suborning the sovereignty of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen and hoping to succeed in Bahrain.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had his own agenda to place front and centre and he agitated at every opportunity to remind those assembled that they had another enemy they must make note of, and never set aside the presence of; the State of Israel. Sunni Arab states must never get so carried away by the fact that one Muslim country is fomenting destabilization in other Muslim countries, resulting in massive death counts and great hordes of refugees that they overlook the presence of Israel in their midst, heartlessly preying on the Palestinians.

According to Ahmed Majdalani, a senior PLO official currently in Damascus for talks, 14 Palestinian factions supported the theory of a joint military operation with the Syrian military to expel the ISIS jihadists from the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk where over 15,000 people, mostly of Palestinian origin are trapped. But the PLO referring to its 'traditional position of non-involvement', would not itself become involved in any of that conflict. The Islamic State jihadis, brutish as they are, are not, after all, the Israeli military or the Israeli public.

However said Mr. Majdalani, Palestinian Arab forces are prepared to work in an 'integrated' manner 'with the Syrian state to clear the camp of terrorists'. Presumably as a cheering section. Islamic State jihadists, on entering Yarmouk last week, swiftly captured large swaths of the Syrian capital's suburb, creating international concern for the inhabitants, mostly Palestinians. But the international concern clearly is of no concern to the PLO; there are plenty of Palestinians left, if those in Yarmouk are slaughtered.


Israel now, that's a problem, its existence represents a slur on the region, and an offence to Islam itself. There lies the problem that the Arab League should become preoccupied with.

It hasn't been that long since the Syrian regime of President al-Assad was refusing medical aid, food, potable water and exit to the Yarmouk Palestinians, come to think of it. They're well accustomed to the horrible abuse they've been suffering. All is forgiven and forgotten however; when one Muslim group abuses another, it's all in the family when it becomes useful to overlook such inconvenient circumstances.



But the fact is, Yarmouk Palestinians have been under regime siege for quite a long time. They know privation and fear for the future. "Yarmouk was already a place where women had died in childbirth for lack of medicine, where children had reportedly died of malnutrition. So things were already appalling. Yarmouk was a hell hole frankly. And with the eruption of this intense fighting, things got dramatically worse", assured Chris Gunnes of UNRWA.

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An Old Story Renewed

"Modern Jewish history, then, begins with the Jews impatiently knocking on the portals of the eighteenth century, seeking admittance to full citizenship. The French revolution left Jewish emancipation as a residue on the bottom of the revolutionary crucible. As Napoleon's armies advanced, the walls of the ghetto crumbled.
But, mercifully, the emancipated Jews were unaware of the assault to be made upon them by a new degeneracy of man -- racism. 
Most people think of anti-Semitism as having existed for four thousand years, ever since Jewish history began, mainly because the term has been conferred retroactively by so many historians on past events which outwardly resembled anti-Semitism. 
Anti-Semitism is illogical, irrational, and stems from unconscious forces. First comes the prejudice; then follows the rationalized justification for that feeling. Anti-Jewish violence, on the other hand, stems from logical, rational, and conscious motivation."
An antisemitic poster published in Poland in March 1941. The caption reads, "Jews are lice; They cause typhus."  This German-published poster was intended to instill fear of Jews among Christian Poles.
An antisemitic poster published in Poland in March 1941. The caption reads, "Jews are lice; They cause typhus." This German-published poster was intended to instill fear of Jews among Christian Poles.
— Muzeum Okregowe w Rzeszowie / Historical Museum of Rzeszow
"Karl Jacobi founded modern mathematical physics; Georg Cantor introduced the concept of transfinite numbers; Hermann Minkowski fathered the geometry of numbers, formulated the concept of relativity of time and space; Sir William Herschel was first to measure the distances of stars from the sun; David Ricardo is regarded as the father of capitalism; A Jew founded the German potash industry; Jewish chemists devised methods to estimate vapor density; Richard Willstatter determined the composition of chlorophyll; Jewish physicists discovered the Hertzian wave, isolated isotopes, worked in electron kinetics; Albert Einstein, Lise Meitner, Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard, Niels Bohr all brilliant in physics were driven out of Europe by fascism."
"In Germany more than anywhere else in Europe, Jewish pre-eminence in every field helped to create the German Zeitgeist -- the German "spirit of the times".
Max I. Dimont -- Jews, God and History

Little wonder Jews thought of themselves as indispensable to Germany, and that Germany needed them, valued them, honoured them, and they would always be seen as Germans first, Jews last, and in this would lie their pride and security, for were they not more German than the Aryans? Little need would they have of the concept of Zionism; it was not they who would campaign to return to Zion, for their place was in Europe.

Until Europe became the charnel house of bloodletting, that crucible of death, destroying six million Jews because they were Jews. The Final Solution came as close to destroying Europe's Jews as its planners had intended. And 70 years after the ending of the Second World War and the liberation of the pathetic remnants of Jewry from Hitler's infamous death camps, world Jewry has never recovered, and never will recover from that massive assault on their presence on Earth.

Many of those who survived the Final Solution, however, did end up in a country of their own, one that would be dedicated to preserving the presence of Jews, not destroying them. As that systemic program of extermination proceeded however, rumours swept the international community, but the scope and improbability of such a campaign went so against the grain of understanding and the capacity to conceive of such a monstrosity that no one believed it.

And when first-hand accounts and evidence surfaced, then no one wanted to believe it. And how to respond? During a global war, all attention is riveted on the warring parties, on the attacked attempting to cope with their attackers, on defense against offense. Even while the Axis powers fought to achieve success in world domination they managed to contrive time, energy and resources to minute details involved in genocidal atrocities.

Death camps were constructed in eastern Europe and elsewhere on the continent where Germany occupied other nations, knowing that there was a living history in those nations of pogroms, that Jews would have few defenders who would care to stir themselves in compassion and responsibility for that most basic of human rights: the right to life. As the first organized industrial genocide, the Holocaust was a resounding success; ridding the world of the pestilential existence of those arrogant Chosen People.

The bureaucracy involved, the fine attention to details, left an indelible trail, and proof positive that the Holocaust did occur, and six million Jews did perish. The German adoration of the Aryan ideal found support in an Aryan nation, Iran. When racial-religious hatred combusts there is a spontaneous freedom of shared values; Germany then and Iran now represent state-executed constructs of genocide; one in the past, the other for the future.
Mahmod Mohammad Tabrizi's anti-Semitic cartoon that won Iranian Prize. Photo: www.irancartoon.ir. Jews praying before the New York Stock Exchange
Both used denigration and the pathology of revulsion for a people held to be less than human. Germany had its turn, and now the Islamic Republic of Iran is working toward fulfillment of its opportunity to mount a second Holocaust, while denying that the first ever occurred. Nazi Germany produced films which showed Jews living healthy, free lives in Germany, screening its massive extermination pogrom.

Iran sees no need for such delicacy and tact, freely promising to destroy Israel, as do its proxy terrorist Islamists.

With a little bit of help from its friends.




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Gatestone Institute




For Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders, the desire to punish Israel is stronger than the will to save the lives of thousands of Palestinians being killed in Syria by the Islamic State and starved by the Syrian army, which has been besieging Yarmouk for 700 days.
Instead of devoting their energies and efforts to stop the massacres in Yarmouk, PA officials were busy preparing a new draft resolution to be submitted to the UN Security Council, establishing a timeline for ending Israeli "occupation."
The Arab foreign ministers who met in Cairo earlier this week to discuss ways of backing the new Palestinian bid, deliberately ignored that, as they were chatting and sipping coffee, Palestinians were being slaughtered and forced to flee their homes in Yarmouk.
For the PA, Jews participating in a marathon seems to be more serious and life-threatening than Islamic State terrorists beheading Palestinians and destroying Palestinian homes in Yarmouk.
"All that is left for us to do is howl, slap and cry." — Ashraf al-Ajrami, former Palestinian Authority minister.
As Palestinians were being killed and beheaded by Islamic State terrorists in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus over the past week, Palestinian leaders once again proved that delegitimizing and isolating Israel is more important than caring about their people.

After seven days of fighting, Islamic State is now in control of nearly 90% of the camp, which once used to be home to more than 150,000 Palestinians. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) estimates that since the beginning of the civil war in Syria four years ago, the population of Yarmouk has dropped to 18,000.

Part of Yarmouk, near Damascus, after being damaged by fighting. (Image source: RT video screenshot)

Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas leaders have expressed deep concern over the Islamic State takeover of Yarmouk. Over the past week, these leaders issued daily statements strongly condemning the "massacres" in Yarmouk and calling for an end to the fighting. But they have stopped short of calling for an emergency meeting of Arab leaders to stop the attack on the camp.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas decided earlier this week to dispatch senior PLO representative Ahmed Majdalani to Syria for talks aimed at ending the crisis and saving the lives of the camp residents.

In some parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian activists held sit-in strikes and small rallies in protest against the "heinous crimes" perpetrated by Islamic State against Palestinians in Yarmouk.

But the decision to dispatch the PLO official to Syria and the limited protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are unlikely to help the Palestinians in Yarmouk. Nor will they deter Islamic State terrorists from proceeding with their crimes.

The Palestinians in Yarmouk are unlucky, mainly because they are being attacked and killed by Muslims, and not by Israel. An Israeli attack on the camp would have drawn worldwide condemnation and protests, with Palestinian and Arab leaders rushing to seek the intervention of the UN Security Council and the international community.

The Palestinians in Yarmouk are unlucky because their leaders in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are still busy fighting each other over power and money. This is a power struggle that has been going on since Hamas drove the PA out of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

They are also unfortunate because Palestinian leaders seem to have other things on their minds, such as proceeding with the campaign to isolate and delegitimize Israel in every possible international forum. For PA leaders, the desire to punish Israel is stronger than the will to save the lives of thousands of Palestinians being killed by the Islamic State and starved by the Syrian army, which has been besieging Yarmouk for more than 700 days.

Instead of devoting their energies and efforts to stop the massacres in Yarmouk, Palestinian Authority officials were busy during the past week preparing a new draft resolution to be submitted to the UN Security Council, establishing a timeline for ending Israeli "occupation."
The proposed resolution, of course, does not make any reference to the Yarmouk tragedy. The Arab foreign ministers who met in Cairo earlier this week to discuss ways of backing the new Palestinian bid deliberately ignored that, as they were chatting and sipping coffee, Palestinians were being slaughtered and forced to flee their homes in Yarmouk.

Instead, PA officials were traveling from one country to the other to advance their campaign to punish and isolate Israel.

Jibril Rajoub, Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, was in Cairo to demand that the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) suspend Israel's membership. Rajoub did not see any need to travel to Syria to try to help his people in Yarmouk.

It is worth noting that FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he was opposed to the Palestinian bid. "[S]uspension of a federation for any reason is always something which harms the whole organization," he said. It is hard to see how suspending Israel's membership in FIFA would help any Palestinian, especially those who are being starved to death and slaughtered by the Syrian army and the Islamic State.

While the fighting in Yarmouk continued, PA President Mahmoud Abbas flew to Doha for talks with the emir of Qatar. The PLO's official news agency reported that Abbas and the emir discussed "bilateral relations and the latest developments concerning the Palestinian cause." Again, there was no reference to the plight of the Yarmouk residents. It later transpired that Abbas went to Qatar to ask for a $100 million loan.

Although Abbas's ruling Fatah faction did express concern over the Yarmouk tragedy in a series of laconic statements published in the past few days in Ramallah, Fatah proved once again that Palestinians being butchered, starved to death and forced out of their homes is not more important than the campaign to punish and isolate Israel.

Instead of talking about that the Islamic State's and Syria's war crimes against Palestinians, Fatah continues to boast that it is spearheading the campaign against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

Here is what Fatah spokesman Osama Qawassmeh had to say while the fighting in Yarmouk was underway: "The Palestinian leadership is determined to pursue its efforts to prosecute Israel for war crimes. We will present to the International Criminal Court all the necessary documents that implicate Israeli war criminals."

The Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Information also seemed to be more concerned with a "settler marathon" than with the lives of Palestinians in Yarmouk.

In a statement issued in Ramallah, the ministry condemned a planned marathon by settlers as an "aggression against Palestinian territories and continuation of Israeli arrogance." The ministry called on all international institutions and human rights groups to "focus on the terror of settlers, which is this time disguised in sports clothing."

For the Palestinian Authority, Jews participating in a marathon seems to be more serious and life-threatening than Islamic State terrorists beheading Palestinians and destroying Palestinian homes in Yarmouk.

Were the Palestinian leaders to invest 10% of their anti-Israel efforts to help their people in Yarmouk and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians would be in a much better situation today. However, these leaders are obviously determined to remain obsessed with Israel at the same time as they continue to bury their heads in the sand about ISIS's slaughter of their people.
Summing up the state on apathy toward the suffering of the Palestinians in Syria, Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former PA minister, remarked: "The Palestinian situation is at its worst phase. The PLO has lost the ability to move and defend the Palestinians in all places. The various Palestinian factions are incapable of forming a Palestinian force to protect the refugees. The Palestinian leadership is also incapable of ending the division between Fatah and Hamas. All that is left for us to do is to howl, slap and cry."
  • Follow Khaled Abu Toameh on Twitter

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Debkafile Logo
Exclusive: Moscow has no S-300 air defense missiles available for Iran. Replacements under discussion
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 15, 2015, 11:38 AM (IDT)
Russian S-300 air defense system
Russian S-300 air defense system
Although Tehran celebrated President Vladimir Putin’s decision to release the S-300 missiles withheld from Iran for five years by an arms embargo, debkafile reports exclusively that Iran can’t hope to take delivery of the advanced air defense systems in the foreseeable future. The Russian military industry is already way behind meeting demands for more S-300 missiles and their radar systems for the Russian army, which has none to spare for Iran. Its own needs have soared since Russia fell out with US and Europe over the Ukraine conflict. 
 
The Russian army lately moved S-300 batteries, which are capable of downing fighter jets and missiles, to the country’s southern border with Ukraine, as air cover for the pro-Russian separatists against Ukrainian air bombardment, which has since petered out.

Additional batteries are deployed at Russian sea and air bases on the Black Sea and Crimean Peninsula.

A further batch of S-300 missiles, as well as the S-400 from the same family, has been positioned in the Russian strategic enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, Moscow’s forward military position against Europe.

In response to US plans to install a missile shield network in East and West European countries belonging to  NATO, the Russians advanced into Kaliningrad a number of short-range ballistic K720 Iskander (NATO-named SS-26 Stone9) missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The S-300 missile batteries are in place to defend them.

debkafile’s military sources also disclose that, after five years of training one Iranian team after another in the operation of the S-300 systems, the Russians have given up on their acquiring the necessary skills.

Tehran and Moscow have still to decide, after eight years of debating, which particular missile system best suits Iran’s needs out of the S-300 family of weapons, each of whose basic six categories is designed for a particular task. Those categories employ seven types of missile, which too break down into 16-sub-types, including the S-400.

In an attempt to reach a decision, our intelligence sources in Moscow report that Iran’s National Security chief Ali Shankhani, who is currently visiting Moscow, has settled on an Iranian military delegation making an early trip to Russia, viewing the various S-300 models and returning home with recommendations. Tehran will then make its choice.

This process too could stretch out over many months. Moscow may not see eye to eye with Tehran on the type of missile to be supplied, a difficulty that would entail a fresh round of negotiations.
Given all these circumstances, it is hard to see Iran taking delivery of the first S-300 missiles any time this year, as it had hoped.

All the same, although the entire transaction is in the air, the US and Israel made big play of protesting the Kremlin’s decision to end its embargo on the S-300s for Iran. When Secretary of State John Kerry talked about it to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Monday, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu  phoned President Putin Tuesday, both were perfectly aware that the batteries would not be making their way to Tehran any time in the near future.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Exploiting/Betraying Naivete

"Another hour or so, a couple of hours, they would have been gone because the fixer was already there (at Istanbul airport) to meet them."
"Really, there are many that would say that we probably saved the lives of these three young women."
"Now after careful consideration by Crown, it's been decided that we will not proceed with criminal charges against them."
RCMP Superintendent Doug Best, head, Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, Ontario

"Female migrants are not just rejecting the culture and foreign policy of the West; they are also embracing a new vision for society. They hope to contribute to this society, governed by a strict interpretation of Shariah law."
Institute for Strategic Dialogue report

An RCMP officer convinced his Egyptian police contacts to track down and intercept three young Canadian women at Cairo airport before they could catch a connecting flight to Istanbul and cross into Syria.
Scott Nelson/The New York Times   An RCMP officer convinced his Egyptian police contacts to track down and intercept three young Canadian women at Cairo airport before they could catch a connecting flight to Istanbul and cross into Syria.

"It would have been a tough legal argument [to accuse three teens of terrorism]. These girls, they're so young."
"Clearly we don't want to destroy their lives, that's not going to do society any good."
Hussein Hamdani, lawyer for ISIS wannabe-wives' families
They were two sisters, 18 and 19, and a 15-year-old friend. All three girls had decided that their futures should involve becoming a part of the brave new world of the Islamic State caliphate. They had been in touch online with ISIS recruiters who specialize in convincing young Muslim girls that there is no aspiration more noble, courageous and spiritually beautiful than to become a jihadist wife, and a mother in the new universe unfolding to the glory of Islam.

When they were apprehended, and then questioned about why they had decided to say nothing to their parents, and to quietly plan to head off to foreign parts leaving their Canadian lives behind, spurned as unbecoming to the values and concerns of dedicated Muslim women, they responded that they were on a humanitarian mission. And that certainly figures if they believed, as the recruiters must have convinced them, that it was their duty to commit to jihad, to defend Islam against the iniquitous, corrupt West out to destroy their faith.

According to Joana Cook at the Department of War Studies, King's College London, "It has been confirmed that a number of women from Canada are among these [18 percent of foreigners travelling to Syria and Iraq are female]." As a PhD candidate, she is engaged in studying the extremism role of women, for the production of an independent report commissioned by Public Safety Canada.

"It may be more challenging to address women through criminal prosecution in the case of ISIS as they are not the ones taking active fighting roles, and it may also be difficult to prove other types of support they are providing the group. These are not as clear cut as may be the case with men going abroad with the specific intention to carry out terrorist activities", she pointed out. The women, in other words, are enablers, supporters of the men's actions.

The 15-year-old was taking summer classes in July of 2014 and she was dropped off at school, while the older two sisters told their parents they were going to the library. None of the three returned home. Their parents discovered that the 15-year-old had bought airline tickets for three to Istanbul, with a stopover in Cairo. Busy girl, she had obtained a Turkish travel visa, and taken $5,000 from her bank account.

The concerned parents filed missing persons reports with Peel Regional Police in Ontario, whereupon the Peel police contacted the Ontario Provincial Police anti-terrorism section, which then got in touch with the RCMP INSET in Toronto. The INSET investigator tasked with the case spoke with the RCMP liaison officer in Cairo, urging him to canvass his contacts in the Egyptian police.

The Egyptian police tracked the girls before the Istanbul flight departed, holding the girls, and returning them three days after they had left Canada. Examining the young women's social media profiles online, exchanges with ISIS outreach operatives were discovered. Uncertainty remains in official circles how best to respond to these incidents when young girls are retrieved as they set out on a life of sexual-political-religious bondage they likely will later regret having committed to as a romantic impulse.

If they were to be considered terrorism supporters and found accountable under criminal law would that benefit anyone? Might that fear of their children being found criminally responsible deter parents in future from contacting investigating authorities? What, really, represents the most useful course of action, other than to rescue young women from unfortunate impulses born of an imagined future in an imagined perfect state?

Covered: Members of the all-female Al-Khansa Brigade are seen walking in ISIS' de facto capital Raqqa
Covered: Members of the all-female Al-Khansa Brigade are seen walking in ISIS' de facto capital Raqqa

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Russia's Power Plays

"[Russia is involved in the] penetration of the Ukrainian state intelligence apparatus, through the SBU or Security Service of Ukraine by Russian intelligence agencies including GRU (Russian military Intelligence), the FSB (Federal Security Service) and the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service)."
Roger McDermott: Brothers Disunited: Russia's Use of Military Power in Ukraine

S-300 missile system (Photo: AFP)
Russian S-300 missile system (Photo: AFP)


Ukrainians sympathetic to Moscow are also believed to be intimately involved in espionage inside or close to almost all Ukrainian military units, alongside formal intelligence operatives. All areas relating to the conflict -- inclusive of war training -- have been compromised by this broad infiltration, resulting in far more difficulties impacting those dedicated to aiding the Ukrainian perspective.

The sheer extent and depth of the pervasiveness of Russian intelligence operations within Ukraine has alerted Canada, which has been supplying satellite imagery to the Kyiv-loyal military, leading to the suspicion that that imagery data could be filtered directly through to Moscow. Validating, some believe, Washington's reluctance to share its satellite imagery with the Ukrainians; its unwillingness to have Russia discover the full capabilities of American satellite function.

Russian espionage has become a titanic headache for the Ukrainian military and its government, apart from and above the threat in its totality of Russia's malignant undermining of Ukrainian sovereignty and its encouragement and practical assistance through arms provision, training, and troops presence stealthily working to destroy Ukraine's economy, political system and plans to distance itself as far as possible from Russian influence.

Russians have been training the ethnic Russian Ukrainian rebel forces for a year, teaching them tactics and strategy, how to use advanced weapons systems inside eastern Ukraine and in southern Russia. It was one of those lessons in the use of a lethal aerial weapons system that went awry last year, taking down a Malaysian passenger jet, to the horror of the world community. An incident that both Russia and the rebels deny having had any part in, evidence to the contrary.

The separatists can be fairly certain that they don't face anywhere close to to a similar level of penetration by Ukrainian intelligence, let alone eastern Ukrainians loyal to Kyiv, for they have long since fled the scene of skirmishes and deadly conflict. Russia has been responsible for triggering many key battles while supplying and equipping the rebels; above all they had committed to training the Ukrainian Russian-speakers long before NATO decided to do the same in reverse.

Ukraine has been begging its supporters and sympathizing nations to supply it with advanced weaponry to match those the rebels are using supplied by Russia. The response from those same Western nations has been disappointing to Ukraine despite what it sees as its existential urgency. For decades Ukraine itself has placed few resources into the training or equipping of their forces with new, advanced gear.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 placed its former satellites, along with its former adversaries in a blissful fog of release from Cold War tensions. No one, it seems, fully realized that the Cold War was heating up again when Vladimir Putin waxed nostalgic about the past, and sought to reinvigorate Russian pride in that vast near-abroad collective known as the United Soviet Socialist Republic. His longing for a return to world power status has driven him to spurn the blandishments of western Europe to be satisfied with being a global member-country.

He has his agenda, and nothing much appears capable of diverting him from it. And slowly, Russia has been rearming itself with the latest advances in powerful technological armaments. And nor has it been loathe to sell those advanced weapons to other rogue nations like itself. So while the nations belonging to NATO sign on to aiding Ukraine as best they can through training efforts while withholding serious weapons, their obvious support of Ukraine against the belligerence of Russia is moving the world on an uncomfortable and extremely dangerous trajectory.

Russia has warned through Mr. Putin's statements, casual as they appeared at the time, but loaded with menace, that he was prepared to use nuclear weapons at the time that Crimea was annexed. An intervention to halt that international crime of territorial looting might have seen Russia raising the red flag of doom. That would have been a departure from the mutually assured destruction that underpinned the understanding between Russia and the U.S. during the Cold War.

This present era represents a frigid war in frozen suspension not leading, we can still hope, to a melt-down.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Misunderstood Iran

"The claim that the only alternative to the [P5+1/Iran-Nuclear] framework is war is false. It both obscures the failure to attain better terms from Iran and stifles honest and open debate by suggesting that if you don't agree, you must be a warmonger. It also feeds and reflects the calumny that Israel in particular is agitating for war."
"As Israel's minister of defence, as a former Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff and as a combat veteran forced to bury some of my closest friends, I know too well the costs of war. I also know that Israelis are likely to pay the highest price if force is used -- by anyone -- against Iran's nuclear program. No country, therefore, has a greater interest in seeing the Iranian nuclear question resolved peacefully than Israel. Our opposition to a deal based on the framework is not because we seek war, but because the terms of the framework -- which will leave an unreformed Iran stronger, richer and with a clear path to a bomb -- make war more likely."
Moshe Ya'alon, Israeli Defence Minister


So much goodwill was evident on all the smiling faces, leading up to the concluding 'agreement' finalized between Iran and the six group of world powers one might have assumed the exuded sweetness and light reflected a meeting of minds. And nothing could be further from the truth. The 'agreement' meant to represent a framework for a final deal worked out and signed by June 30 was never really agreed to in detail, firmly, in language that both sides agreed to.

The result was that as soon as the news was out of the success of the 'agreement', the perceptions of what had been agreed to were broadcast from the point of view of Iran and of the P5+1, and each bore little resemblance to the other, although each side crowed victory for their hard-worn positions. Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, felt his oats sufficiently to berate the opposite side, informing them that cooperation and pressure do not lead to good results.

Iran, on the other hand, had demonstrated a great degree of trust and cooperation. It was high time that the opposite side demonstrated the same. The April 2 overdue announcement that a positive outcome had been reached was glorified through speeches by President Obama and John Kerry; celebrating a historical achievement, presenting a fact sheet with great alacrity; the agreement not having been signed by the parties (Iran refused to sign) an insignificant detail.

The parameters of the resulting deal would, they crowed, prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The verification and inspections regime to check for weaponization activities would be in place; Iran's ongoing work on its advanced centrifuges and its vast nuclear infrastructure will be mothballed rather than dismantled. Except for another inconvenient detail; Ayatollah Khamenei's unequivocal denial that military bases will be open to inspection where hints of nuclear tests were previously discerned by the IAEA.
Iran's Fancy New Long-Range Missile Can Strike Israel
A Kh-55 missile, the basis for the Soumar design.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / George Chernilevsky

As for 'trust' by the West for Iran's honourable word, intelligent beings usually base trust on past incidents and in the exchanges between the West and the Islamic Republic of Iran there has been one confirmation after another of egregious incidents of the Republic working in secret to attain its ends to the point where two nuclear installations were built covertly, their presence uncovered only when Iranian dissidents rendered proof of Iran's iniquity.

And then there is Iran's tendency to look for loopholes where others don't see them. And to take immediate advantage of any ambiguities that might exist enabling it to proceed with its plans, while assuring its interlocutors that it would do no such thing. The reality of the situation is that the country's vast nuclear infrastructure is to be left intact, and as such ensure a short breakout time to building a bomb.

The Republic's long-range ballistic missile program represents a threat to the Middle East and beyond, to Europe and North America, but this issue was left untouched. And nor was its bellicose threats of annihilation of Israel addressed. Let alone its well-known concentration on inciting violence between Shiites and Sunnis, along with its funding and arming of proxy terrorist militias, as well as aiding Syria's Alawite regime in its brutal conflict with Sunni Syrian civilians.

The deliberate destabilization of Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain; arming, funding, training and dispatching Islamist jihadis into the international community speak of a country comfortable with state-inflicted violence against other states. And while the framework agreement is based on the prevention and detection of Iranian deceptions relating to their nuclear program through inspections and intelligence, both have failed in the past.

Is there any reason to suppose that this time will be different? That a new, meek and submissive Iran will be happy to accede to any and all guarantees of good future behaviour? Lifting of the sanctions as Iran demands, instantly, holding nothing back will give Iran all the freedom it anticipates to fund ongoing terrorism, widen its hegemonic path, and finalize its nuclear plans.

A deal that sanctions would support, to roll back the country's nuclear infrastructure to the point where it would have to abandon its weaponization aspirations would be the only solution to defanging this serpent. It isn't happening.

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Virulently Pathological Iran, As Paragon Of Virtue

The existing laws in my country do not allow me as a woman to walk in public without wearing the veil; I, as a woman, do not even have the freedom to choose my own dress. The laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran do not allow me to travel or get an education without the permission of my husband. I cannot even get married without the permission of my father."
"The laws in my country do not allow women to sing solo as our voice allegedly runs the risk of provoking men. Under laws of the Islamic Republic, my share of inheritance is half of that of my male relatives. Under the laws of the Islamic Republic, just last year more than 18,000 women ended up in court for being ‘badly veiled.’ UN Women was created by the United Nations as a body for gender equality and for the empowerment of women. If so, isn’t it an insult to women to give the leadership role to those governments that oppress their own women?"
Masih Alinejad, Iranian journalist
masih-award

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an agency whose purpose is to alert the world community of occurrences that run counter to the purpose of the United Nations, but which become an integral part of UN activities which render the organization a mouthpiece of human rights abusers has issued another alert. He has most recently issued a condemnation of the UN for the election of Iran to the top post of a UN arm in support of women's rights, UN Women.

As Mr. Neuer put it in writing letters of protest to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, it is their moral responsibility to at the very least speak with sincere regret that yet another occasion has arisen where a UN arm has been hijacked by a corrupt organizational operation enabling Iran, one of the world's most abusive countries, one that sponsors terrorism, promotes instability internationally, foments hatred, and aspires to nuclear weapons, to take up an important post for women's rights.

It is a despicable act of ultimate cynicism that members of a UN body would see fit to elevate the Islamic Republic of Iran to such a body "which sends absolutely the worst message to Iran's women's rights defenders, and to the world, concerning Iran's dismal record on child marriages, forced head-coverings, domestic violence and gender inequality", wrote Mr. Neuer. Yet the reality now is that the UN agency tasked with supporting female equality and empowerment has been made a mockery of.

"By elevating Iran to a global leadership post on women’s equality, the UN is legitimizing a regime that systematically treats women as second-class citizens. Iran is considered one of the worst countries in the world on women’s rights, ranking 137th out of 142 countries in the latest Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum", he pointed out. This kind of outright moral fraud is common enough within the United Nations and its various human rights arms.

Countries known for the dismal level of their human rights abuses, their corruption, their commitment to inequality find themselves elevated to posts whose purpose is to single out member states whose performance on all these vital human rights indices is hopelessly backward. Yet these countries and their dreadful human rights records proliferate in the UN, which has a habit of tippy-toeing around the most egregious abuses, and certainly avoiding 'naming-and-shaming', so the result is the abusing countries nominate and elevate those most like them to these sensitive positions.

"Time and again, Iran shows contempt to the founding purpose of UN Women, and should never have been elected to its board. The UN’s election of Iran by an overwhelming two-thirds majority is a moral outrage that threatens to undermine the UN Secretary-General’s own report on Iran’s pervasive discrimination against women", wrote Mr. Neuer. Iran won 36 out of a possible 54 votes from the UN Economic and Social Council.

The countries with the absolute most afflicted and afflicting records in all the positive areas of human development, interaction, equality and basic human rights, like many other human-rights-abusing countries that are members of the United Nations are able to thumb their noses at veracity and honour, courage and human rights as they flagrantly conduct themselves in violation of all those virtues, while sanctimoniously claim to be upholding the very values that make us decent human beings.

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  UN Watch

Rights Group: EU & US Allowed Iran to Win Seat On UN Women’s Rights Board

morality police iran
Ban Ki-moon and EU’s Mogherini must condemn election of Iran to UN women’s rights board
UNITED NATIONS, April 13, 2015 – Out of possible deference to the nuclear talks with Iran, the EU and the US failed to stop the fundamentalist regime from winning a top post on UN Women, the world agency for women’s equality and empowerment, in sharp contrast to the West’s easy defeat of Iran’s 2010 bid by backing an alternative candidate, said UN Watch, the Geneva-based rights group, in a statement today.

“Electing the Iranian regime to the UN women’s rights board is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “The UN’s decision is an insult to all Iranian women and to all women’s rights advocates around the world,” he added.


In letters sent today (see PDFs above), UN Watch urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini to at least condemn the decision, “which sends absolutely the worst message to Iran’s women’s rights defenders, and to the world, concerning Iran’s dismal record on child marriages, forced head-coverings, domestic violence, and gender inequality,” said Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch.

“By elevating Iran to a global leadership post on women’s equality, the UN is legitimizing a regime that systematically treats women as second-class citizens.”

“The UN’s election of Iran by an overwhelming two-thirds majority is a moral outrage that threatens to undermine the UN Secretary-General’s own report on Iran’s pervasive discrimination against women,” said Neuer. Iran won 36 out of a possible 54 votes from the UN Economic and Social Council.

“Iran is considered one of the worst countries in the world on women’s rights, ranking 137th out of 142 countries in the latest Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum,” said Neuer.


UN Watch pointed out that in 2010, the US and the EU strongly backed an alternative candidate, the otherwise weak East Timor, causing Iran to lose its bid that year for a seat the Executive Board of UN Women.

“This time, possibly in deference to the Iran nuclear talks, the West failed to back any alternative candidates. Although the U.S. admirably called a vote in protest, this came at the last minute and with no other candidates on the ballot, meaning Iran’s victory was guaranteed,” said Neuer.

“Did the U.S. and EU deliberately give Iran a free pass? This is something that that US and EU lawmakers should demand to know,” said Neuer.

“What makes Iran such an offensive choice is not only its abysmal record on women’s rights but also the fact that it’s aggressively going after women’s rights defenders who courageously speak out against misogynistic laws in the country,” he added.

“Time and again, Iran shows contempt to the founding purpose of UN Women, and should never have been elected to its board.”

Election of Iran Undermines UN Chief’s Own Report
In February, Mr. Ban reported to the UN Human Rights Council on Iran’s abysmal record on child marriages, forced head-covering enforced by morality police, acid attacks, domestic violence, spousal rape, state-enforced control of women by their husbands, and gross inequality in the workplace, education and public sphere.

Although UN officials sometimes claim their inability to criticize elections by member states, UN Watch’s letter to Ban recalled that UNESCO chief Irina Bokova rightly criticized the 2011 election of Syria to two human rights committees.

“Accordingly, we urge you to speak out forcefully against this cynical attempt by Iran to undermine the global struggle for women’s equality and empowerment,” wrote Neuer in the UN Watch letter to Secretary-General Ban.

Iranian Journalist Masih Alinejad Condemns Election of Regime
masih-award
Writing to 700,000 followers of her Facebook page for Iranian women’s rights, journalist Masih Alinejad, winner of the 2015 Geneva Summit Women’s Rights Awardcalled the election “an insult to many Iranian women who are suffering from the lack of equal rights.”

“The existing laws in my country do not allow me as a woman to walk in public without wearing the veil; I, as a woman, do not even have the freedom to choose my own dress. The laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran do not allow me to travel or get an education without the permission of my husband. I cannot even get married without the permission of my father.”

“The laws in my country do not allow women to sing solo as our voice allegedly runs the risk of provoking men. Under laws of the Islamic Republic, my share of inheritance is half of that of my male relatives. Under the laws of the Islamic Republic, just last year more than 18,000 women ended up in court for being ‘badly veiled.’ UN Women was created by the United Nations as a body for gender equality and for the empowerment of women. If so, isn’t it an insult to women to give the leadership role to those governments that oppress their own women?”

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The Middle East is in great turmoil. The statist order that underpinned the region for a century has collapsed. Several states have lost their monopoly over the use of force and are no longer able to provide law and order. This is especially true of Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Syria. Even Egypt, the only historic Arab state, has had difficulties effectively enforcing its sovereignty over its territory.

Many of the militias challenging these state entities have a radical Islamist ideology, reflecting the rise in appeal of political Islam in the Arab world. In contrast to the leaders of these states, who are inefficient and corrupt, the Islamists actually deliver services to the people and have a reputation for being brutal but honest. However, the likes of Al Qaida in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or the so called Islamic State (IS) are hardly the proper agents for modernizing their environments and their popularity dooms the Arab world to continuous ignorance and poverty.

For this and other reasons, Israel will need to remain vigilant in the years ahead.

Outside Looking In

The statist order that underpinned the region for a century has collapsed.
The decline of the Arab world has been paralleled by the rise of non-Arab Muslim powers – Turkey and Iran. Both countries fare better on development indices and display nowadays an ambitious foreign policy fueled by imperial and Islamist impulses. Under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his 'zero problems' approach to foreign policy, Turkey has gradually distanced itself from the West. In 2003, for example, Ankara rejected the United States' request to open a "northern front" against Iraqi forces. More recently, Turkey has opposed sanctions levied by the United Nations and the West against Russia and Iran.

For its part, Iran has successfully advanced its nuclear program despite the displeasure of the international community. Comparatively, recent developments in the Middle East and beyond have also allowed Tehran to establish a 'Shiite Crescent' stretching from Tehran to the eastern Mediterranean. This has provided Iran with countless opportunities to project power into the Middle East and Balkans, much to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia and others. Indeed, the successes of Iranian Shiite proxies in Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa underscore the Tehran quest for hegemony in the Middle East.

Arab decline has been paralleled by the rise of non-Arab Muslim powers – Turkey and Iran.
By contrast, US influence around the Middle East appears to be in decline, primarily as a result of the Obama administration's foreign policy outlook. Correcting Washington's overextension in the Islamic world is indeed necessary, but insensitivity to the concerns of its allies such as Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia is destructive to the regional balance of power.

In this respect, Washington's efforts to strike a deal with Iran that basically legitimizes its nuclear breakout status and awards Tehran the role of the regional policeman will be viewed by Cairo, Riyadh and Jerusalem as a colossal strategic mistake. The inevitable result will be further nuclear proliferation as none of these countries are likely to want to stay behind in uranium enrichment capabilities. Moreover, the regional instability could lead to more bloodshed. Relying on a radical and revisionist regime in Tehran to provide stability is the height of strategic folly.

The View from Jerusalem

The implications of the Middle East's ongoing turmoil for Israel's security are mixed. Like Iran and Turkey, a democratic and politically stable Israel is also a rising non-Arab power and a player in the regional balance of power. The power differential between Israel's national might and its neighbors has further increased, given that it has managed to prosper economically and develop a high-tech powerful military.

Pro-Western Sunni Arab states see Israel as an ally against a rising Iran.
In addition, the strong armies of Iraq and Syria have disappeared, decreasing the chances for a large-scale conventional encounter with Israel. Moreover, the pro-Western Sunni states such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia see Israel as an ally against a rising Iran, as well as against radical Islamist movements. This also comes at a time when the United States is viewed in many quarters as a less dependable ally.

By contrast, low intensity challenges might intensify. The domestic problems plaguing weakened Arab states make them increasingly susceptible to radical Islam and more prone to terrorist violence. As their leaders lose their grip over state territory and borders become more porous, armed groups and terrorists gain greater freedom of action. Moreover, as weakened states lose control over their security apparatus, national arsenals of conventional (and non-conventional) arms become increasingly vulnerable, which may result in the emergence of increasingly well-armed, politically dissatisfied groups that seek to harm Israel. For example, following the fall of Gaddafi, Libyan SA-7 anti-air missiles and anti-tank RPGs have reached Hamas in Gaza. The IS even fights with American weapons captured from the Iraqi army.

As Arab leaders lose their grip on power, armed groups and terrorists gain greater freedom of action.
Similarly, in the event of the Assad regime collapsing, Syria's advanced arsenal of conventional weapons could easily end up in the hands of Hizballah or other radical elements. This, in turn, raises the prospect of an emboldened Hizballah and Hamas – both of whom are Iranian proxies located along Israel's borders – renewing their campaigns of violence. In recent years, the fallout from the Arab Spring has helped to detract attention away from the Palestinian issue. In addition, the Palestinian Authority's (PA) ability to harm Israel in order to reignite international interest is also very limited. As a result, a weak PA has come under increasing pressure from the popular Hamas. A Palestinian strategic miscalculation, leading to the eruption of another round of violence, is a possibility that Israel cannot ignore. Nevertheless, so far Israel has been successful in containing the threats from sub-state groups and in limiting their potential damage.

The emergence of an uncertain and unstable strategic environment is conducive to strategic surprises. Israeli intelligence is challenged by a plethora of new actors and leaders whose modus operandi is far from clear. Israel has a large and sophisticated intelligence apparatus. Yet it is not immune to surprises. Therefore, it would be wise to prepare for worst-case scenarios, rather than succumb to rosy assessments.

Looking West (in more ways than one)

The turmoil in the Arab world is also changing the strategic landscape in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, where elements of radical Islam are gaining control. Tunisia, Libya, Sinai in Egypt, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey all play host to groups with Islamist tendencies, thereby threatening the currently unrestricted access to this area by Israel and the West.

For Jerusalem, the key factor in the developing regional balance of power is Iran's nuclearization.
Approximately 90 percent of Israel's foreign trade is carried out via the Mediterranean, making freedom of navigation in this area critical for Israel's economic well-being. Moreover, its chances of becoming energy independent and a significant exporter of gas is linked to Israel's ability to secure free passage for its maritime trade and to defend its newly discovered hydrocarbon fields, Leviathan and Tamar. These developments require greater Israeli efforts in the naval arena. Indeed, Israel is engaged in building a robust security system for the gas fields and has procurement plans for additional vessels.

As with other parts of the Middle East, the assessment in Jerusalem is that the key factor in the developing regional balance of power is Iran's nuclearization. This would be a "game changer" that only Israel has the capability to prevent. Netanyahu's recent electoral victory left in power the only leader that might have the political courage to order a military strike to obstruct the Iranian progress towards acquiring nuclear weapons. Indeed, his victory was quietly welcomed in the capitals of the moderate Arab states that are terrified of Iran and have little time for Obama. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are good examples.

Accordingly, Israel is watching with growing bewilderment the endeavor of the Obama administration to implement a "grand bargain" with Iran. This puts Jerusalem on an inevitable collision course with its most important ally. Israel continues to benefit from a large reservoir of sympathy among the populace of the United States, and most notably within the Republican controlled Congress.
Middle 
Yet, while Obama is not popular, as president he can extract heavy costs in the military, diplomatic and strategic arenas. The remaining 22 months until he leaves office must be weathered with minimum damage to the American-Israeli strategic partnership, particularly if Israel chooses to make good on its threat not to allow Iran to become a nuclear power. With this in mind, the American-Iranian nexus is the most dangerous challenge for Israel's national security in the near future.
Efraim Inbar is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Related Topics:  Iran, Israel & Zionism, Middle East patterns, Strategic alliances, US policy  |  Efraim Inbar

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Algemeiner.com

Israeli Officials: Iran Massively Ramping Up Arming of Hezbollah in Preparation for Major Assault on Israel

April 13, 2015 
Hezbollah fighters. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Senior Israeli officials warned on Monday evening that, over the last few weeks, Iran has considerably stepped up its operations to arm Hezbollah in order to prepare its terrorist proxy for a large-scale conflict with Israel.

According to the officials, cited by Israel’s Channel 2, new intelligence has revealed that Tehran has accelerated its proxy war with Israel on all fronts. Iranian delegations have been arriving in the Gaza Strip, and in recent months, the commander of Iran’s Basij paramilitary volunteer militia spoke of arming the residents of the West Bank to rise up against Israel. Iran has reportedly already begun arming members of Hamas in the West Bank.

Iran has also been attempting to establish a new front for Hezbollah with Israel on the Golan Heights, linking it to the existing one in southern Lebanon, according to the report.

Israeli officials have said that the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran, now under discussion in talks between world powers and the Islamic Republic, will release billions of dollars that Tehran will use to finance the arming of its terrorist proxies.

The officials expressed their concerns on the heels of the announcement that Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to lift the ban on selling advanced anti-aircraft S-300 systems to Iran. The S-300 is said to be the best defense Iran could possess against Israel’s current arsenal of fighter jets, making the task of carrying out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations far more difficult, if the Israelis make the decision that a military strike is necessary.

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, tried to calm concerns over the lift of the ban, saying that the S-300 system was designed exclusively for defensive purposes, “and is not intended in any way for offensive purposes, and therefore does not endanger any of the countries in the region, including Israel.”

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (left) greets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran, April 7, 2015.
Time passes quickly; but most scripts at the political musicals of the Middle Eastern theaters remain stubbornly unchanged. The (neo-) Ottoman-Persian theater looks exceptional at deception, self-deception, counter-deception, attempted deception and failed deception: At least the Saudis and Iranians do not embrace and kiss each other while fighting several proxy wars in different theaters of the Middle East.

The complication on the Turkish-Iranian axis has several reasons, none of which is easily comprehensible to the Western mind: Turkey's Sunni Islamists believe that they can always fool their Shiite Iranian "brothers" by smiling to their faces, by standing by them against the Christendom, and by championing the Palestinian cause -- while playing games behind their backs. In return, the Iranians privately smile and think that the not-so-smart Turks are just trying to play backgammon while they, meanwhile, calculate gambit after gambit on a chessboard.
But at least there is an amazing consistency in the way Turkey and Iran have kept playing their parts in modern history, both in "Muslim brotherly" rhetoric and not-so-hidden rivalry and sectarian (cold) warfare.

During an October 2009 visit to Tehran, then Turkish Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "We need to establish peace in the region, and its solution is in the hands of regional countries." In return, his host, the Iranian parliament's speaker, Ali Larijani, said that cooperation between Iran and Turkey could strengthen regional security.

A week before smiling hand-in-hand with Rouhani, Erdogan said that he would not tolerate Iran dominating the Middle East.
Five-and-a-half years, and more than a million coffins, civil, sectarian and proxy wars, and almost daily terrorist attacks later, the Turks and Iranians went back to their wardrobes, grabbed their party costumes and started to dance to the same tunes: Turkish belly dancing to the Persian santour.

Erdogan, on a fresh visit to Tehran on April 7, said that Turkey and Iran "should play the mediation role" in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. "I don't look at the sect. It does not concern me whether those killed are Shiite or Sunni; what concerns me is Muslims," Erdogan said in Tehran. He also said that Turkey and Iran should mediate between the battling parties (in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq). "We have to put an end to this bloodshed, this death," said Erdogan, perfectly performing the Turkish role.

Playing his part in the drama, Erdogan's host, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, said: "We agreed that there will be no tolerance for instability or distrust in the two countries' relations."

Both leaders, as their drama roles dictate, put on generous smiles in front of the cameras. Lovely! In half a decade, the two brotherly countries have progressed spectacularly from "We need to establish peace in the region" to "We have to put an end to this bloodshed."

Just a week earlier, in a more real world, Turkey and Iran exhibited serious doses of tension over the crisis in Yemen, where airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni countries targeted the Shiite Houthi rebels, who have taken over much of the country. Iran condemned the offensive; Turkey said Iran and "terrorist groups" must leave Yemen.

Erdogan, who hand-in-hand with Rouhani smiled to the cameras in Tehran, only the week before had said that Turkey would not tolerate Iran dominating the Middle East (read: Only the Sunnis can dominate the Middle East, preferably the Turks).

In response, at least 65 Iranian MPs, in a letter, asked Rouhani to caution Erdogan "regarding his anti-Iranian remarks." That was a couple of days before Erdogan's visit to Tehran.

Against that backdrop, Rouhani put the final line into this Act (who knows what number) of the Turkish-Iranian drama: "We both believed that it is necessary for us to witness the end of war and bloodletting in Yemen as soon as possible."

Thundering applause. Curtain down. Until the next Act, which promises full and boring scenes of fanciful playacting.

The truth about the Ankara-Tehran axis is not always as complex as the Middle East itself: Friendship and cooperation against the West and Israel; for trafficking money across the border in official and unofficial trade and for the money pouring into the pockets of both regimes' business cronies; and deep enmity along sectarian lines with historic regional rivalry on top.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Related Topics:  Iran, Turkey and Turks  |  Burak Bekdil

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