Goodbye Mugabe

The Army in Zimbabwe was probably the only organization that could separate Mugabe from his control of Zimbabwe after 37 years.  He clung to power at the age of 93 like a leech, clearly showing he had no concern for the people of Zimbabwe, like most dictators.  Once the Army told him he must resign, his party the ZANU-PF followed suit and finally he announced his resignation.

Zimbabwe has a 90% unemployment rate and  is worse off than when he took power in 1980.  After promising the white farmers that he would not take their farms he did so,  and divided their land among unskilled peasants.  The consequences for the country were disastrous.  From a prosperous Rhodesia it became a poverty stricken Zimbabwe without enough food to feed its people.

Whether or not that situation will change under his former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa remains to be seen.  This whole situation started when Mugabe removed  Mnanagagwa from office and the rumor was he was going to replace him with his wife, who is universally disliked, making another hereditary dictatorship.  But, if Zimbabwe wants the kind of help they desperately need, then hopefully Mnangagwa who came back from S. African exile will re-institute democracy and reform every aspect of life there.

There aren’t too many absolute dictators left in the world, but there are enough to cause great suffering.  North Korea and Iran come to mind.  The removal of Mugabe is a least a step in the right direction.

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Fake News in Israel

There is all kinds of fake news, that which the Republicans don’t like and that which the Democrats don’t like.  But, the best fake news comes from the far left, who lie and fabricate for the good of their cause.

A case in point is a legal case that was being prosecuted in Israel against a leader of the Breaking the Silence group.  This consists of a group of left-wing former members of the IDF who have taken it upon themselves to spread rumors and lies to undermine the credibility of the IDF.   This particular person claimed that he had been guilty of beating a Palestinian youth while he was an officer in the IDF.  The problem was that when the case came before the court, both the Palestinian youth in question and the fellow IDF officers of the self-accused stated under oath that no such event had taken place.  It was simply a case of fraud and lying in order to besmirch the IDF.

As a result of this the Judge dismissed the case.  Isn’t it a wonderful concept that the member of Breaking the Silence was upset that he was not found guilty of a crime that in fact did not take place.  The Palestinians and their supporters are experts at media manipulation .  I have detailed several of these case before (see “Media Distortion of Palestinian Crimes, IsBlog Oct. 19, 2015), and I find it amazing that the media still reports their stories at face value without the usual objective confirmation.  Obviously the media is generally left-wing and anti-Israel and will print anything that puts Israel in a bad light out of sheer bias, objective reporting be damned.

There was a similar case some years ago when a graduate student at Haifa University published in his PhD thesis that there had been a massacre of Palestinians at a certain village perpetrated by a Division of the IDF.  Members of that group of the IDF went to court and sued him and his PhD adviser for defamation, and they won.  It turned out that the adviser was Ilan Pappe a well-known leftist anti-Israel Israeli, who was subsequently forced to resign from his faculty position at Haifa University.  It seems that Pappe encouraged his student to include this lie in his Thesis because although it didn’t take place, it could have done.  Pappe is now living in exile in London and still spewing out anti-Israel propaganda. So don’t believe everything  you read, especially if it comes from left-wing anti-Israel propagandists.

New Horizons in the Middle East?

Two news items in the media that may be harbingers of a new order in the Middle East have attracted my attention.  First, Lieut. Gen. Gaby Eisenkot, CinC of the IDF, gave an unprecedented interview with a Saudi newspaper and in it he stated that Israel would be prepared to share intelligence on Iran.  He expressed his view that Israel and Saudi Arabia have identical policies with regard to Iran’s attempts to take over control of the Middle East and that they could work together to prevent this.

The other report was an anonymous statement that Saudi Arabia is prepared to spend billions of dollars to facilitate a military alliance with Israel.   This would probably mean building airbases and other facilities that would enable the IAF to use Saudi air space and to have landing and refueling facilities that are compatible with their aircraft.  Initially the Saudis will expect Israel to destroy Hizbollah in Lebanon.  This is a lot more than the previously presumed agreement that Saudi Arabia would allow Israeli aircraft to over-fly their territory en route to attack Iran.

If these reports come to fruition, then the Middle East will be transformed, with an Israel-moderate Sunni coalition that could match and defeat Iran in its Shia expansion plans.  Iran has already taken three steps that have greatly concerned Saudi Arabia and destabilized the Middle East: 1. They have trained Iraqi Shia militias and in fact these militias are a proxy for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG); 2. They have negotiated a sweet deal with the Western powers that enables them to openly obtain a nuclear weapon in some 8 years from now; 3. They have opened up two areas of attack, in the north through Syria and Lebanon with Hizbollah and in the south with the Houthi rebels in Yemen.  No wonder Saudi Arabia feels insecure being surrounded by pro-Iranian forces.  Israel is also feeling insecure with potential IRG and Hizbollah forces set to try to establish a forward base on the Syrian side of the Golan heights.

The one issue that is always brought up to preclude such an Israeli-Saudi  coalition is the Palestinian problem.  But, Saudi Arabia is facing a huge challenge to its continued existence as the leader of the Sunni world, and frankly it does not have the military capability to confront Iran, nor after Pres. Obama does it feel it can rely on the USA to protect it.  Faced with such a challenge to its very existence, the Saudis would be very foolish to allow the Palestinian issue to prevent them doing what they need to do, that is make an open alliance with Israel to defeat Iranian aggression.

Therefore, it was no coincidence that Pres Abbas of the PA visited Riyadh last week and presumably asked the future King of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, not to make such an alliance with Israel, at the expense of the Palestinians.  But, a threat to your existence focuses the mind, and the Saudis have always only given lip-service to the Palestinian Arab cause, but never really forcefully adopted it.  They sometimes give donations, but rarely the full amount they committed, and they have always been hostile to the Palestinians themselves, not allowing them to enter the Kingdom except under special circumstances.  They must soon make their choice, either continue to support the Palestinians and forgo a military alliance with Israel and risk the overthrow of their regime, or downgrade their support for the Palestinians and enter into an peace agreement with Israel and hence be able to survive the Iran menace.  I predict that they will take the latter path.

The Agreement on Southern Syria

Russia, the US and Jordan have made an agreement about southern Syria.  As far as I know Syria and Iran were not consulted, so this is not exactly a peace agreement.  But, it concerns the need to avoid conflict in the area, especially between the US and Russia, which are on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict.  Israel was also not consulted formally, but Israel made its interest known.

The Israel Government has made it very clear that it will not tolerate a permanent military presence of Iranian or Hizbollah forces on the Golan Heights.  Although the US and Russia at first seemed to acknowledge this vital Israeli interest, it now seems that Russia has said it did not take Israel’s concerns into account when making the agreement.  Russian FM Segei Lavrov has gone on record as saying that they never promised to keep Iran out of Southern Syria, and that Iran is a natural ally of Syria.  This could be potentially very worrying for Israel, because if Russia and the US allow Iran and Hizbollah to station permanent military forces in southern Syria, this could put them in direct confrontation with Israel.

Because Iran has ICBMs and is working to develop nuclear warheads, Israel cannot allow Iran to entrench itself within a short distance from its borders.  This would be an immediate threat since Iran’s leaders have repeated many times their intentions of destroying Israel, wiping it off the map and killing all its Jewish inhabitants. These are not idle threats, although the international community doesn’t seem to be concerned about them.  But, Israel, especially given it history, must be concerned about serious repeated threats issued by a large and aggressive fundamentalist Government.   If the threats of N. Korea are taken seriously so should those equally of Iran.  If Russia and the US allow Iran to insert its forces so close to Israel they must be prepared to accept the consequences.

Israeli Sovereignty

Recently The Jerusalem Post included an issue of “Sovereignty” in its Friday edition, published by an independent right-wing group.  They propose that Israel should extend its sovereignty to “The West Bank” (Judea and Samaria or Judah and Shomron).  They also proposed to transfer the Palestinian Arab population to Sinai.   Here is my response to their positions.
I have for long advocated the annexation of Judah and Shomron to the State of Israel.  But, for me the emphasis must be where it belongs, not on political or economic aspects, but on security.
Israel cannot allow the Palestinians to form their supposed State on the heights overlooking the coastal plain of Israel where millions of Israelis live.  One disaffected Palestinian terrorist could hold the State to ransom by lobbing mortars into Ben Gurion Airport or into the Knesset.  If Hamas or a like-minded terrorist organization should take over the supposed State then it would mean another costly war. The mini-State would be a magnet for all the anti-Israel and anti-Western terrorists left over from the various conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere in the failed Arab world.  Israel cannot be allowed to commit suicide by trusting to the intentions of a similar failed Palestinian State.
But, the idea of transferring the population of the so-called “West Bank” to the Sinai is a non-starter.  They simply won’t go and Israel cannot transfer then forcibly.  Also, Egypt will never agree to give up its sovereignty or allow the troublesome Palestinians to settle within its borders.
I agree with my friend Robert Wolfe, the former Jerusalem approach (adopted after the 1967 War) is a model for accepting the Palestinians as residents in Israel, but not conferring on them citizenship or voting rights.  As we increased our population in the current State of Israel, so we shall increase our population in Judah and Shomron.  There will be incentives for Olim and Israelis to move there.  Let the Jewish people of the Diaspora face the challenge of aliyah to the new territories of the growing State.

Israel’s stake in Lebanon and Syria

Apparently some of Israel’s friends and enemies in the West are concerned that Israel might become involved in the conflicts in Syria and Lebanon  The situation in Lebanon has not yet become an open war like the civil war of the 1980’s, but it has become another part of the overall Muslim Shia-Sunni split.  One must take note of the fact that Shia Iran has been pushing to take more control in Lebanon thru its proxy Hizbollah, and it has of course been supporting Pres. Assad in his war against his opponents in Syria.  One of Iran’s war aims is to extend their control to the Golan Heights and develop a military platform there from which to mount a significant attack on Israel.  So before anyone condemns Israel for taking action in this theater of war, they should acknowledge that it is Iran that is the aggressor and Israel might be forced to take defensive action.

This situation has become more dangerous with the virtual defection of the PM of Lebanon Sa’ad Hariri to Saudi Arabia, fearing assassination by Iran, as his father was assassinated by the Syrians.  This move is interpreted as the Saudi Arabian future King Mohammed bin Salman flexing his muscles and preparing the security situation for his ascension and his intention of taking on the Iranians.  As the leader of the Sunni camp Saudi Arabia has been active in counter-attacking the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen and is now turning his attention to the deteriorating situation vis-a-vis Lebanon and Syria.  He has also arrested dozens of Saudi leaders in an attempt to solidify his support.

But, the Saudi military is not really capable of facing off against the Iranians, Hizbollah and the Syrian Army.  They will need strong allies committed to their side, and the only ones that are available are the US, Israel and possibly the Kurds.  Were Israel to make a joint coalition with the Saudis and other Sunni States (Egypt, Kuwait, the UAE) against Shia Iran, then it must expect a significant reward.  This might be in the form of Arab recognition of Israel as a legitimate sovereign State in their midst.  However, this is projecting to a point we haven’t yet reached.  But the signs are there that this is the way things are going.  Iran is not going to back down and neither Israel nor Saudi Arabia can continue to exist and allow this situation to fester.

 

 

Saudi Arabia Flexes its Muscles

The sudden resignation by PM Sa’ad Hariri of Lebanon, which he blamed on Iranian interference in Lebanese politics and which he announced in Saudi Arabia, came as a shock.  Lebanon had gone for months without a leader and now a year after his appointment, which resulted from a careful balancing of Sunni and Shia interests, he has gone.  Further, he gave as the reason for the abruptness of his decision that there had been an assassination attempt planned against him by Iran.  We should note that his father, former PM Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005 by a massive explosion that killed 22 people, that was blamed on Syria, a proxy of Iran.

Now Hizbollah, another proxy of Iran, practically controls Lebanon, and nothing can be done there without their approval or that of Iran.  In the Shia-Sunni clash, Saudi Arabia is considered the leader of the Sunnis, so it was logical that Hariri would escape to there to save his life and announce his resignation.  But why now?

King Salman of Saudi Arabia is old and has announced that he is going to abdicate in favor of his son Mohammed.  Yesterday it was announced that some 40 princes and leaders of Saudi society have been arrested in a huge anti-corruption drive.  This is considered by commentators as Mohammed bin Salman preparing the way for his ascension and removing those he considers are not his allies.

Saudi Arabia is a big influential country, with massive oil reserves, but is not considered to be militarily significant.  As such it needs strong allies in its clash with the leader of the Shia cause, Iran.  It has the US, but past acts by US administrations, especially that of Pres. Obama, have caused the Saudis to lose faith in US support.  That is why they have been holding secret talks with Israel.

Maybe when the new vigorous King of Saudi Arabia ascends the throne he will change their positions completely and make an open relationship with Israel.  But, that may be wishful thinking.  Nevertheless it is good that the Saudis are standing up to the Iranians and this makes a common cause between the so-called moderate Sunnis and Israel.