The entire region around us is in utter chaos, and if we are not careful (and even if we are) there is a great danger that Israel might (G-d forbid) be drawn into the same violence. The danger emanates almost completely from terrorist groups rather than from state actors, particularly Hezbollah and al-Qaeda related Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, known by its acronym ISIS.
The IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz addressed the “instability in every region” at the Herzlia Conference earlier this week:
Threats from the North
“The situation in Syria is like a house of cards that is about to collapse, and we can see that democracy there is falling apart,” the military chief said of the continuing turmoil on Israel’s northern border. “The radical axis is growing stronger in the area, as is Jihad.”
Lt. Gen. Gantz explained that a range of outcomes in Syria could jeopardize Israel’s security. He stressed that Jihadi organizations and a strong Iranian-led axis pose particular concerns, warning that tens of thousands of Jihadis affiliated with terrorist organizations are dispersed in the north.
A New Reality in the South
Lt. Gen. Gantz also addressed recent changes in Egypt, where a new regime has taken power under the leadership of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. “El-Sisi’s regime is moderate and realistic,” the Chief of Staff said. “Although it may not be ideal, it is better than the regime two years ago.”
In Gaza, he said, terrorists are dramatically increasing their stockpile of mid- to long- range rockets,” adding that “what most characterizes the region is instability.” He reminded the audience that just last night, a rocket fired from Gaza fell about 400 meters south of the Gaza border.
Since Gen. Ganz mentioned Hezbollah, we can start with the dangers from Israel’s northern neighbour and work clockwise round the map:
Besides Hezbollah’s missile threat, there is further danger from a Hezbollah unit that is training thousands of terrorists across the Middle East:
The Lebanon-based, Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah has assembled a new group named Unit 3800” which is tasked with arming and training Shiite militants in Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere in the region, according to a new report.
Hezbollah, emboldened and battle-hardened by it’s experience fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria’s bloody four-year-old civil war, has set it’s sights on other local conflict zones, the Israel Defense Magazine reported on Tuesday.
The report tallies with statements by Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz on Monday …
There is “a radical axis developing, led by Iran and Hezbollah,” in Syria, Gantz warned, stressing that “The Lebanese terror organization is up to its neck in everything that is going on in Syria. The global jihad is also gaining strength in that arena.”
The unit, previously known under the designations “1800″ and “2800,” in the past trained Palestinian terrorists in tactics including kidnappings, targeted killings, and intelligence gathering. It’s leadership, however, has revised and upgraded it’s brief and range of operations in the wake of the so-called “Arab Spring” of popular insurrections across the Mideast.
[…]Gantz noted that only “four or five states” have “more firepower than Hezbollah: the U.S., China, Russia, Israel, France, the UK.”
The civil war has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Assad looks like he is regaining power, albeit in a truncated state, and the rest of the country has been sundered into statelets of terror. What’s relevant for the Israel is that the escalating violence is threatening Israel:
Earlier this week at the Herzliya Conference, Brig. Gen Itay Brun, Chief of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division, spoke about the dramatic developments in the Golan Heights.
“The rebels have managed to create territorial contiguity,” he explained. “This has created a tension in the Golan Heights, which is generally a quiet area. The region has recently suffered from three rocket attacks and three explosive device attacks.”
In March alone, two Hezbollah-affiliated terrorists were identified attempting to plant an explosive device near the Israel-Syria border in the northern Golan Heights. Later that month, a concealed explosive device was activated against IDF soldiers patrolling the Israel-Lebanon border. Additionally, four IDF soldiers were injured when an explosive device detonated under their patrol jeep near the Israel-Syria border.
“Israel is not part of this struggle, but the parties involved impose on Israel at all times, and the consequences of their actions spill into Israel’s territory,” said Brig. Gen. Baron. “Sometimes, they force Israel to act in order to eliminate advanced threats.”
Jordan, Israel’s second main Arab peace partner after Egypt, is under threat from Jihadi terrorists. The Sunni terrorist group the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”, ISIS has threatened to invade Jordan and slaughter King Abdullah:
According to the sources, ISIS leader Abu Baker al-Baghdadi recently discussed with his lieutenants the possibility of extending the group’s control beyond Syria and Iraq.
One of the ideas discussed envisages focusing ISIS’s efforts on Jordan, where Islamist movements already have a significant presence. Jordan was also chosen because it has shared borders with Iraq and Syria, making it easier for the terrorists to infiltrate the kingdom.
Jordanian political analyst Oraib al-Rantawi sounded alarm bells by noting that the ISIS threat to move its fight to the kingdom was real and imminent.
The ISIS terrorists see Jordan’s Western-backed King Abdullah as an enemy of Islam and an infidel, and have publicly called for his execution. ISIS terrorists recently posted a video on YouTube in which they threatened to “slaughter” Abdullah, whom they denounced as a “tyrant.” Some of the terrorists who appeared in the video were Jordanian citizens who tore up their passports in front of the camera and vowed to launch suicide attacks inside the kingdom.
This is all happening under the watching eyes of the U.S. Administration and Western countries, who seem to be uncertain as to what needs to be done to stop the Islamist terrorists from invading neighboring countries.
ISIS is a threat not only to moderate Arabs and Muslims, but also to Israel, which the terrorists say is their ultimate destination. The U.S. and its Western allies need to wake up quickly and take the necessary measures to prevent the Islamist terrorists from achieving their goal.
Failure to act will result in the establishment in the Middle East of a dangerous extremist Islamist empire that will pose a threat to American and Western interests.
The situation there has deteriorated beyond all measure. ISIS has captured the city of Mosul and around half a million Iraqis are fleeing the area. The scene is ripe for a humanitarian disaster and a civil war all wrapped up into one:
The speed with which the security forces lost control of one of Iraq’s biggest cities was striking, and it was a major humiliation for the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The city of Fallujah was captured in January by ISIS and other insurgents, but Mosul is a bigger and more important prize, located at a strategically vital intersection on routes linking Iraq to Turkey and Syria.
In Baghdad, Maliki announced a “general mobilization” of the country’s security forces and asked parliament to declare a state of emergency, saying that the government would not allow Mosul to fall “under the shadow of terror and terrorists.”
But the Iraqi security forces have not succeeded in winning back Fallujah, suggesting that it may be even tougher to reclaim Mosul, a city of 1.5 million that was once held out as a success story for the U.S. counterinsurgency effort in Iraq.
Compounding the challenge, ISIS fighters seized large quantities of weaponry from the security forces when they overran their bases, including vehicles, arms and ammunition that will help the group to press further offensives. Much of the equipment was probably supplied by the United States, Iraq’s biggest provider of weapons.
ISIS later said its forces were continuing to advance south and east from Mosul, overrunning several smaller towns that would enable its fighters to link up with their counterparts across the border in Syria. There, the organization controls what amounts to an unofficial state across swaths of the north and east from which government forces have been ejected.
The Iraqi site Niqash has a detailed analysis of why and how Mosul fell so quickly. They also give a horrifying view of the appaling humanitarian crisis already developing:
Eyewitnesses inside Mosul report that there are long queues of those fleeing the province at checkpoints to Dohuk, which is controlled by Iraqi Kurdish forces, as well as Shikhan, Badriya and roads into places like Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Many of the people fleeing potential violence in Mosul have actually been turned back at checkpoints and they’ve had no option but to return to their homes in Ninawa; they now say they are afraid that the Iraqi government might use barrel bombs or bomb indiscriminately, in order to fight the extremists. They are also very worried about supplies to the city of between 1.5 and 1.8 million inhabitants running out.
At the time of writing, the scene in Mosul could be summarised as follows: In some areas, there are many corpses on the streets, especially in the western part of the city. The local morgue says it is unable to accept any more dead bodies because it is full. It seems probable that locals in the city will begin burying bodies themselves in local parks and gardens, something they did before during bad times in the city.
The city streets also have plenty of evidence of how easily the city fell to ISIS: Burned out military vehicles and discarded uniforms lay strewn on the ground. In the distance there are columns of smoke coming from security headquarters that formerly belonged to army and police, but which are now controlled by ISIS.
And the extremists appear to be busy fortifying these buildings – which seems to indicate that these confrontations are highly unlikely to be over as quickly as they began; this may go on for months.
This is one of the few countries where stability might return.
General Abdul al-Sisi was elected as President last week and Middle East Forum tells us 3 interesting about the new “Pharaoh”:.
On Sunday June 8, Egypt’s former defense minister, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, was inaugurated as the sixth president–a de facto pharaoh, though chosen by the people–of the oldest nation-state on earth.
From the moment he ousted Morsi–who had turned a narrow electoral mandate in June 2012 into a brutal Islamist dictatorship almost overnight, alienating the vast majority of the country–the hugely popular El-Sissi has been ceaselessly attacked by a wide array of forces both at home and abroad.
These attacks have come not only from the Al Qaeda-allied MB and its Salafi allies in an increasingly violent insurgency that has so far claimed nearly 2,000 lives, but also from many Western journalists, Middle East experts, government officials and even key members of Congress, who have accused him of being just another military strong man who has usurped an elected leader.
1. Despite claims to the contrary, El-Sissi does have an electoral mandate.
… In the end, participation officially reached 47.5%–and a delegation of monitors from the European Parliament declared the election was run in a “democratic and free” manner, though it was “not necessarily fair,” due to self-censorship among some in the media.
This compares well with the 46% who turned out for the first round of presidential voting in May 2012, and the 52% in the second round that June—when there were no major boycotts, amid considerable suspense about who would win, while in this case, El-Sissi was a shoo-in. …
2. Despite excesses, El-Sissi’s war against the Islamists is ours as well.
Some have argued that Morsi’s removal and El-Sissi’s election prove the validity of Al Qaeda’s objection to the MB’s strategy of gaining power through democratic means.
… the MB — wrongly considered “moderate” — and its Salafi allies are in fact radical groups committed to the overthrow of less militant regimes and the destruction of America and the West, even while gladly accepting our assistance in the meantime.
Yet instead of cutting aid to the Muslim Brotherhood government, Obama increased it, while his then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, overrode human rights objections from Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who tried to put it on hold pending review.
3. El-Sissi is pious, but probably not–as some have claimed–a “secret Islamist.”
In August 2012, Morsi appointed then-General al-El-Sissi as defense minister, based on his seemingly pro-MB views—and was no doubt shocked when his protégé turned on him for behaving like a president from the MB.
However, though born into a conservative, not militant, religious family in the Gamaliyah district in the heart of the Islamic Cairo, the native district of the late Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature, Naguib Mahfouz, El-Sissi, like Mahfouz, was also raised as a fervent nationalist.
Al-Sisi is not exactly your average liberal humanist, but if he can quell Jihadi terrorists and bring back a measure of calm to Egypt, the Sinai and Israel’s southern border, all the better for the region.
At least Israel has the ability to keep a lid on the worst of the violence by targeted killings and tight border controls. Just yesterday a senior jihadi was killed by the IAF.
Mahmed Awwar, 33 years old, a resident of Beit Lahia, has been involved in many rocket attacks against Israel over the past few years and during the past month especially. While taking part in these attacks, Awwar was employed by Hamas as a policeman.
The infrastructure Awwar was a part of carried out the rocket attack against the city of Sderot and the communities in southern Israel during the Passover holiday on April 21, 2014.
Unfortunately that hasn’t stopped the terrorists from launching rockets into southern Israel.
The Palestinian Authority
The unity government is a disaster for Israel and a disaster for the Palestinians too, if they would only use their sense and think about the outcome. Hamas is aiming to build an alternative civilian infrastructure to replace the PA. This new authority will have an extremist Islamic ideology as opposed to the secular Fatah, with all the attached implications:
Gaza-based terror group Hamas is planning to encourage attacks against Israel as well as sap support in the West Bank from the Palestinian Authority (PA) by exploiting the Islamist “Dawa” social and cultural movement, a security source told the Ma’ariv daily on Sunday.
“In the long run, Hamas intends to create an alternative civilian infrastructure that will enable the replacement of the PA’s secular government with an Islamic government whose ideology will be similar to that of Hamas,” according to the Israel Security Agency (ISA) – aka the Shabak.
Hamas is aided by supporters who use their “civilian” career as an innocent cover for their nefarious activities. Next time you hear protests at Israel barring Palestinian soccer players from attending the World Cup, bear this story in mind:
The Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet Security Service) announced Wednesday that a Palestinian soccer player recently attempted to transfer funds to the Hamas terrorist organization in Qalqilya. During an ISA interrogation, the Palestinian athlete, Samah Bars Mahmad Maraaba, admitted that he had met Hamas terrorists on several occasions and accepted money to be transferred into Judea and Samaria.
Maraaba, a member of the Palestinian national soccer team, left Israel in April with his teammates to compete abroad. In Qatar, he met Talal Ibrahim Abd Alrahman Sharim, a Hamas terrorist Israel released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in October 2011. Since leaving prison, Sharim has continued his involvement with Hamas and in its terror-related activities.
As a result of the interrogation, the ISA on May 21 arrested Muid Sharim, who otherwise would have received the illegal funds from Maraaba. Officials found a cell phone and messages connected to the illegal transfer in Muid Sharim’s possession.
All these dismal reports are bad enough but we have been skirting around the biggest elephant in the room: Iran. The Americans are absolutely determined, almost desperate, to close a deal with Iran to limit their nuclear program – a deal which will hardly be worth the paper it’s written on.
This week Iran announced it has missiles with a 5,000 km range – long enough to hit American Indian Ocean bases:
Tehran has ballistic missiles able to pound targets over twice as distant as previously thought, and can reach the American mid-ocean strategic base at Diego Garcia, a senior Iranian official has explicitly warned.
“In the event of a mistake on the part of the United States, their bases in Bahrain and (Diego) Garcia will not be safe from Iranian missiles,” said an Iranian Revolutionary Guard adviser to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Majatba Dhualnuri.
The revelation suggests the validity of statements by Israeli leaders in recent years cautioning that the goal of Iran’s missile program and “ballistic umbrella” was to threaten a far wider circle of countries than Israel alone.
“Iran’s ballistic missile program is a major threat to the Middle East and beyond,” according to a just released report by the Tel Aviv University-based Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
“Iran already has operational missiles with ranges of 1,500 to 2,500 km that can reach targets in the Middle East, Turkey, and southeast Europe,” the report charged.
“In addition, it has been working on an extended range version of the Shahab-3 and a 2000 km medium range ballistic missile, the Sejil-2, and may soon be able to produce missiles with a range of 3000 km,” the report said.
“Iran continues to develop long range ballistic missiles that reach beyond its regional adversaries, and may be technically capable of flight testing an ICBM by 2015,” according to a 2012 US Department of Defense report.
“US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2014 that Iran was expected to test ‘a missile system that could potentially have ICBM-class range.’
“Tehran has also enhanced the lethality and the effectiveness of its existing missile systems with improvements of accuracy and new sub-munition payloads,” the INSS report said.
All of which makes the US urgency to sign a deal with Iran as soon as possible verge on the criminally insane. However there is a method to the madness – US politics:
If there will be a deal with Iran over its nuclear program, it will be signed in the winter, just after US congressional elections and just before the new Congress is sworn in in January.
The reason derives from the fact that President Obama doesn’t want his policy on Iran to be the focal point of elections and he will try to push through a deal before the swearing in of Congress when the Democrats are likely to lose their majority on Capitol Hill.
This is all according to Robert Einhorn, one of Obama’s former senior nuclear specialists, who spoke to Ynet in an exclusive interview.
Despite the US assuring Israel that it can take its own measures to protect itself, Israel is alarmed at the developing deal, and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz pleaded with the world not to a sign a bad deal.
And if such a deal is signed, what is to stop the Iranians running amok the day after? The JPost reports that his question was analysed at the Herzliya Conference without any final consensus:
In other words, without taking a stance on if the deal is good or bad, the session discussed the implications of any deal. Would it free up Iran to act more aggressively? And would a deal allow Iran to use the status of a threshold nuclear- weapons state as a shield from resistance? Also, if Iran did act more aggressively, would the US or Israel be afraid to confront it for fear of the impact on the deal? And how would the deal impact other major powers’ perspectives – such as Russia and China – on Iranian assertiveness? Gary Samore, a former top White House official on nuclear- weapons issues, said that even if the Obama administration signed a deal, there would be significant push-back from the US Congress.
Luckily (if sadly) Israel is used to hunkering down and battening its hatches (to mix some metaphors) in order to withstand threats from outside. What has changed from the past is that besides Iran, in most of the cases quoted above, the dangers from Jihadi terrorists are pointed at other Arab nations, with Israel for the moment being “only” collateral damage. But if ISIS and Hezbollah score more successes you can be sure they will turn their sights onto Israel too.
We must constantly keep up our guard.