The SW Syria Ceasefire Agreement

At the G8 Summit Meeting in Krakow, Poland, where Presidents Trump and Putin met for the first time, there was a surprising announcement, a ceasefire in SW Syria.  How did this come about?  An easy guess is that both Russia and the US were anxious to avoid any direct clashes between their forces.

The possibility that Russian and US planes might find themselves in combat may be quite remote, but the possibility that Israeli and Syrian planes might in fact be in combat is not unlikely.  This might bring the US and Russia into a difficult situation, on opposite sides, so to avoid further problems, the two leaders agreed, and their allies of course went along.  This includes the anti-Assad, American-supported democratic opposition that is strong in Dera’a, but was expecting a major attack by the Syrian regime forces.

Perhaps more significantly, this includes Israel, that has warned both Russia and the US that should Hezbollah or Iran try to establish a military foothold in SW Syria near the Golan Heights border with Israel, this would be considered a reason for Israel to become engaged in a military intervention.  In fact yesterday Israel warned that any attempt by the Syrian or Iranian armed forces to establish a military position in southern Lebanon would likewise be viewed by Israel as a provocation and would result in a military response.

While this ceasefire in SW Syria seems to be holding and while it may be the first step in a peace agreement for the whole of Syria, don’t hold your breath.  Serious clashes are still occurring around Raqqa, and until the Islamic State forces in Syria are fully defeated there can be no extension of the ceasefire.  Then there will be the problem that the Kurdish forces, that are supported by the US, are unlikely to withdraw readily from Raqqa and other area that they have captured.  This will anger both Syria and Turkey and the future consequences cannot readily be foreseen.

Israeli Soldiers Killed in Jerusalem

Two Israeli border policemen were murdered by gunfire from three Arab Muslims in Jerusalem last Friday while they were guarding the Temple Mount .  The two policemen were Druse. Their fellow soldiers followed the terrorists into the Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount and killed them.  This was clearly intended to be a provocation so that the Muslim community would react angrily to the killings in the Mosque and would attack the Temple Mount (that they call Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary).

Although there was some continuing violence, such a major confrontation did not take place.  The Israeli authorities at first closed the Mosque and then searched it for weapons that have been smuggled in there (note that Muslims believe it is appropriate to store weapons in and attack from Mosques since they see Mosques as centers of Islamic power for example in the Islamic State and in Gaza; this is quite different from the Judeo-Christian view of places of worship).

After they had cleansed the Mosque the Border police erected metal detectors in front of the entrance to the Mosques on the Temple Mount to check all Muslim worshipers entering.  This brought a strong denunciation from PA President Abbas (he did not protest the shooting of the Israeli policemen).  In northern Israel there were some protests from the Northern Islamic League and the usual cry of “Al-Aksa is in danger” was heard.  But, the Israeli authorities announced quickly that they had no intention of changing the situation of the Mosques on the Temple Mount and indeed the Mosques were open to visitors starting this Sunday.

Some readers might be confused by the fact that the Israeli border policemen killed were Druse and not Jews.  In fact, the small Druse community in Israel, even though they are Arabs, is very pro-Israel and supportive of the State.  Their men usually volunteer for the Border Guards, and indeed they have a fearsome reputation for the Palestinian Arabs. The Druse religion started in Egypt hundreds of years ago and is considered heretical by Muslims.  They were severely persecuted and eventually found refuge in the mountainous region that straddles the border between Israel. Syria and Lebanon.   The Druse religion is secret and they are a very close-knit community, living in Israel mainly in the Carmel mountain region.  They tend to be very loyal to whatever Government they live under and are renowned for their fighting ability.

Hell on Earth

Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS” is the title of a documentary film made by Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested in 2017.  From many media sources it shows the start of the Syrian Civil War, the development of ISIS, the extension of the war to Iraq and then the gradual defeat of IS.  Here is some analysis:

  1. The initial demonstrations against the Assad regime were met with such brutal suppression that there was bound to be an organized reaction.  Young people were being systematically shot down in the streets.  One man said that he personally witnessed 80 people tortured to death and murdered in a prison. This prompted many Syrian soldiers to defect and join the burgeoning resistance, that cohered to some extent into the Free Syrian Army.  They captured some Army barracks and distributed arms to many local militias.
  2. At the same time the Assad regime released some high level Al Qaeda operatives, the tactic being that they could then label all the resistance as terrorists.  No-one foresaw that Al Qaeda would start to control territory and that this would then metastasize into the so-called Islamic State.
  3. At first the Islamists took over bakeries and food depots and then banks and gas stations and then they attacked and took over villages and towns.  They were more intent on killing the secular anti-Assad forces than the pro-Assad forces, and in effect they took over eastern Syria while leaving Assad in control of the west.  It was only when the Kurds with US support counter-attacked after IS took over Sinjar that IS started to spread into Iraq.
  4. The weakness and indecisiveness of Pres. Obama was intimately connected to the expansion of the fighting in Syria and Iraq.  Not only did he take no effective action against Assad, but he failed to support the FSA (in case guns fell into the hands of the Islamists) and he declared a “red-line” against the use of chemical weapons, then failed to act on it.  Not only that, later,when IS was making significant gains, he declared that the US would not stand for it, and he called in Senators to brief them and arranged with allies to start military action and then at the last moment went on TV and declared that he would take no action because he didn’t want to get the US involved.  At the same time he withdrew all US forces from Iraq, and this was seen by IS as a signal for them to go ahead.
  5. The film documents the lives of a family that fled Aleppo after the Assad regime bombed it indiscriminately and went into the countryside.  But, then IS came and took over the area and started murdering people and extorting money, just like a gang of criminals, and so they fled again, this time to Turkey.  They tried to cross the straits to Greece, but were intercepted and returned to Turkey.
  6. The downfall of IS was presaged when they started to threaten Baghdad.  Then the Iraqi Army with US support counter-attacked and drove them back and this process has been continuing.  The loss of Mosul and other cities and oil facilities means a loss of revenue for IS and so their finances and influence are waning.
  7. Meanwhile under the Trump Administration, more support has been given to the Kurdish forces allied with several Sunni Arab forces in the north and they are currently besieging Raqqa.
  8. The downfall of the so-called Caliphate will lead to more “lone-wolf” attacks as a means of bringing the war home to the countries that IS see as their enemies, including Britain, France and the US.
  9. Note that Israel is not mentioned in this documentary, thus adding to the contention that the Israel-Arab conflict is not basic to the issues of war and peace in the Middle East, as many so-called pundits proclaim.

There is no doubt that Syria has become a “hell on earth,” with terrible human suffering. Around 500,000 Syrians have been killed and about half the country (ca. 10 million people) have been displaced and/or have become refugees.  Attempts to compare this suffering with other situations are futile.

Delusional politics

PM Netanyahu said very appropriately that the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO’s designation of Hebron as a “Palestinian city” as “delusional.” The UN is full of delusional politics, wishful thinking allied to a strong dose of fantasy.  Not only is Hebron historically a Jewish City, mentioned in the Bible many times and one of the so-called Holy cities in Judaism, but it is where the Tombs of the Jewish Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and their wives are buried. Over the tombs Herod built a magnificent structure over 2000 years ago, that survives to this day.

The Arabs conquered the area in 639 ce and converted the Tomb into a Mosque, calling it the Ibrahimi (Abraham) Mosque and then Jews were not allowed beyond the third step into the building for 700 years.  This discriminatory nonsense was ended only when Israel defeated the Arab States and recaptured the area of Judea in 1967.  Not only did the Heritage Committee label the city as Palestinian but declared that it is in “danger” presumably from Israel!  This accepts completely the Palestinian lying narrative of the situation without any consideration for the Israeli truth.  The resolution was passed 12 to 3, with 6 abstentions.  Note that now they want to erect a plaque on the edifice with this ridiculous statement.  All anyone has to do is Google “the Tombs of the Patriarchs” and see that in fact this decision by UNESCO is absolutely incorrect.

Just because there are now a majority of Arabs in the city does not mean that the tombs and the building are “Palestinian,” they are not and never have been.  In fact the population of Hebron is known for its fierce hatred of Jews, which culminated in a massacre of Jews there is 1929 which murdered 67 Jews and many injured.  The British authorities then expelled the Jews from Hebron.   Jews only returned after 1967.  The irony is that most of the so-called Arabs of Hebron are probably descended from indigenous Jews, many of whom were first converted to Christianity and then forcibly to Islam. Their fierce anti-Jewish attitude may stem from this origin.

PM Netanyahu immediately cut Israel’s payment to UNESCO by m$1 and said that the money will be spent to improve the Jewish settlement in Hebron.

The Palestinians are Losers

We in Israel need to foster the recognition of the fact that the Palestinians are losers. They have lost out to the realities of history.  They tried many times to prevent the return of the Jews to our historic homeland.  We were the remnants of a once great people escaping from the ravages of WWII Europe, the pitiful vestige of a once great presence throughout the Middle East in what is now known as the Arab World and exiles from throughout the world.  They tried in 1929 with massacres of Jews in the Holy Land and in 1936 they staged an uprising that was suppressed by the British forces.

After WWII, in 1948 the Arab armies of 6 states as well as the local Arabs (not yet known as Palestinians) tried to extinguish the nascent Jewish State at birth.  But they failed, just as the Arab States failed time and time again, in wars in 1956 (the Sinai Campaign), 1967 (the Six-Day War), 1973 (the Yom Kippur War) and 1982 (the First Lebanon War).  At that point these States realized the futility of banging their heads against a brick wall and gave up. First Egypt, then Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel.  But the Palestinians couldn’t stop, they tried the first intifada (1987-93), the second intifada (2000-05), the suicide bombings, the recent “knife intifada” (that seems to have petered out) and they still believe their own propaganda, that the Jews are scared, that the Jews can’t fight, that the Jews will run away, if only they can kill enough of us.  Such fools!

And what is their strategy, their only strategy is to destroy Israel, not to establish a state, not to improve their own people’s lives, but to destroy those of others, a typical Muslim strategy.  And they are split on how to do this, should they depend on Allah and terrorism as Hamas does, or on the support of the UN, as Fatah attempts to do.  But, neither of these tactics will succeed.  They are split, they are depraved, they are self-destructive.  In a word, they are losers.

Israel-India Relations

PM Narendra Modi of India is visiting Israel now, the first Indian PM to do so.  His interaction with PM Netanyahu has been extremely friendly.  The reasons for his visit are perhaps obvious, Modi is a Hindu nationalist, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  His opinions and policies are far away from those of the Congress Party leaders of the 1960’s-70’s.  India is no longer a leader of the so-called Third World, and is an enemy of Muslim Pakistan and has serious military problems in Kashmir as well as from Muslim terrorist attacks in India.  Most notably the terrible attack on the Taj Hotel and elsewhere in Bombay (Mumbai) in 2008 that killed 166 people.  Modi met with the surviving son of the Chabad House Rabbi and his wife who were killed in the Mumbai attack. So Israel and India have a great deal of common interests.

When I worked in the USA I had several Indian post-doctoral fellows, and I also made friends with two visiting Indian Professors from the Tata Institute in Mumbai.  They all were very pro-Israel.  When I visited India (twice) these friends made it clear that they did not support the very pro-Palestinian stance of the Indian Government then.  In fact, educated Hindus are strongly pro-Israel and wish to make a mutually beneficial alliance with Israel.

Although Israel and India have common interests and enemies, and have signed multi-million dollar deals (mostly for Israeli military technology), the two countries are in fact very different.  Israel is small and India is very large and has a huge population.  India is only now becoming a technologically developed country, although it continues to have a huge poor underclass.  Apart from the military area and the common strategic interests, Israel can certainly help India in its period of development, with such improved technology as milk production, farming and water use.  The future of Israel-India relations looks very bright.

 

Tale of Three Cities

The cities of Aleppo, Raqqa and Mosul are in total ruin.  They have been destroyed not by foreign occupation or intervention, but by the local Arab inhabitants themselves.  Over half a million people have been killed, and millions have been displaced and are surviving in camps or are on the move to Turkey and the West.  These ruined cities describe an arc of destruction across what was formerly Syria and Iraq, and represent the total breakdown of Arab Muslim society.   They would be loath to admit it, but this is a crisis in Arab culture.

Aleppo in northern Syria was a center of the opposition to Pres. Assad of Syria.  With the help of Iran and Russia the Syrian Army of the Assad regime has destroyed Aleppo and razed it to the ground with barrel bombs.  There is no undamaged building left in Aleppo, it can never be what it was before.

Raqqa in eastern Syria has been the capital of the so-called Islamic State that was announced about 5 years ago.  The IS initiated female slave markets and torture and grotesque murder for anyone who disagreed with their supposed version of Islam, including mostly Muslims. Such fanatical movements do not have a plan for the future of their citizens, and following other such organizations are doomed from the start.  Raqqa is now under siege from the combined Kurdish and Free Syrian Arab forces with US support and IS is finally being defeated.

Mosul in Iraq was the largest city captured by the IS.  The combined Iraqi Army forces, including many Shia militias, are gradually expelling the IS forces from Mosul.  Eastern Mosul was recaptured last month, and now the western half of the city is almost freed.  Under great pressure the IS forces themselves destroyed the 12th century al-Nuri Mosque and will soon be totally defeated.

The defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq will not mean the end of this terrible movement, its fighters will continue to migrate (back) to the West where they will carry out attacks on innocent civilians.  Except that according to IS no westerner is innocent, because we are all infidels and all infidels must die for the eventual victory of their extreme version of Islam.  But, it is at least the beginning of the end of the much vaunted Caliphate.

I could have included other ruined Arab cities, such as Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya and Sana’a in Yemen.  But, these three represent the central core of the Arab Muslim world. When will all the Muslim Arabs recognize that the destruction of these cities are a terrible message to them that their culture has failed and that instead of fighting to exclude Western culture, they should be aspiring to assimilate it.