The Future of Eastern Syria

In another excellent article, Jonathan Spyer analyses the current status of the situation in eastern Syria (https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/The-future-of-eastern-Syria-and-the-Israeli-interest-564973?utm_source=middle+east+forum&utm_term=).  To summarize, he contends that the civil war between the regime of Pres. Assad, supported by Iran and Russia, is almost over and the mainly Sunni insurgency has been defeated.  This leaves Assad in control of ca. 60% of Syria, with the Kurdish fighters with US support in control of ca. 30% in eastern Syria, what was formerly IS territory, and another 10% in the north being the former Kurdish enclave of Afrin, now controlled by the Turkish Army.

This leaves Syria in a perilous state, with its future dependent not on its government or people, but rather on the policies and actions of 4 international actors, Russia, Turkey, Iran and the USA.  The Kurdish-controlled region known as the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria” controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is able to survive only because of US-support and the presence of a US air base at Al-Tanf and several hundred US special forces.  What is most significant is that this region stands right in the path of Iran controlling a Shia crescent from the Iranian border thru Shia-controlled Iraq and pro-Shia Assad-controlled Syria thru Shia Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, which has always been the aim of the Khomeini Shia revolution since 1979.

This actually puts the US in a strong position, since it controls this significant piece of real estate, 30% of Syria, that blocks Iranian ambitions of expansion.  Further, it gives the US a say in the outcome and fate of Syria, which will have to be reached by negotiation between the parties, or it will lead to another war.  Pres. Trump has gone on record as saying he wants to withdraw US forces from Syria, but that would be a mistake of historic proportions, akin to Pres. Obama’s colossal error in allowing Russia into Syria in the first place (with his so-called red-line).  Such a US withdrawal would create a power vacuum in eastern Syria that would be filled by Iran and would enable them to directly supply weapons to Syria and Hezbollah and would exclude the US from any say in the fate of Syria.  It is in Israel’s interest to have the US in eastern Syria, more even than its attempt to control the Golan Heights adjacent to Israel, since this would be a major factor in blocking Iran’s path to achieve its aim of attacking Israel.

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The Politics of Hate

A majority of the world is ruled by regimes that are based on hatred. Hatred of the other.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the defeat of the Islamic State, one might hope that the world would be on a path to a better future, but with the turn towards authoritarian rule in many countries, including Russia, Iran and Turkey, this prospect is dimmed.

A group of cyclists on a “kindness tour” were run down and then stabbed to death by a group of ISIS terrorists in Tajikistan.  Before embarking on their round the world tour one of them wrote: “Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own… By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”  So much for the naivete of the self-deluded, unfortunately evil is real, very real and deadly.

I have been watching two series at the same time, “Fauda,” is very violent and deals with Palestinian terrorism and Israeli counter-terrorism, and as an antidote I have been watching the comedy series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”  You might notice that these have one theme in common, namely they both have Jewish subjects.  In “Fauda” the Arab terrorists scheme to “kill the Jews,” they hardly mention Israel, in “Mrs Maisel” the theme is Jewish humor, how Jewish family life becomes a source of laughter that transcends boundaries.  It is indeed remarkable that so many American comedians were Jewish, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Danny Kaye, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers,  Rodney Dangerfield, Jerry Seinfeld, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Andy Kaufman, Billy Crystal, well beyond the statistical proportion of Jews in the American population (similar to that of the Nobel Prizes).

I also happened to watch a 2011 movie entitled “Oranges and Sunshine” that deals with the exposure by a British social worker, Margaret Humphreys, of the forced deportation of British children to Australia between 1947-1970.  These children were either orphaned or born to single mothers and were taken away from them and shipped out without their consent or knowledge.  About 130,000 children were transported this way by a secret agreement between the British and Australian Governments, with the connivance of Orphanages, Hospitals and Church organizations that were entrusted with the welfare of these children.  In Australia, these children were exploited, many by Church organizations, particularly the Catholic Christian Brothers, as slave labor and many were sexually and physically abused.  It took 30 years and legal action before the British and Australian Governments apologized for this gross abuse of human rights.

There are of course many other examples of children being abused.  In the US, Canada and Australia there were schemes in the 19th century that justified taking indigenous (Indian and Aboriginal) children away from their parents and bringing them up as “white Christians” in order to destroy their own culture, language and religion. Many of these children were also abused and even murdered.  So evil does certainly exist, and if they do this to children they can do it to anyone who is in their clutches.  So sometimes humans can be generous and kind, but don’t take any chances.

Quiet on the Southern Front?

An eerie calm has descended on the southern front between Israel and Gaza, after months of provocations by Hamas.  These included mass demonstrations at the border that turned into violent assaults, the firing of volleys of hundreds of rockets and hundreds of incendiary devices on balloons and kites.  A quiet has been reached, not exactly a ceasefire, but it has been negotiated by Egypt and the UN to avoid another war.  Israel reacted with characteristic accuracy, destroying one Hamas hq and many other buildings and facilities.  In the end the cost was too much for Hamas and they stopped the attacks.  Overall some 60 Palestinians were killed and maybe 100’s injured, while some two dozen Israelis were injured, but crops and houses were destroyed.

The casualties are always greater on the Gazan side because Hamas uses civilians, women and children, to “protect” their launching pads, but Israel cannot simply allow the firing of missiles into Israel and cannot ignore such provocations.  The IDF will nor allow the border to be breached.  Civilians are warned of this, but nevertheless are still driven to attack the border fence.

Because there was quiet for 4 days, Defense Minister Lieberman opened the Kerem Shalom crossing to essential supplies of food, medicine and gas to Gaza and 700 trucks delivered goods.  So much to those who say that Israel is blockading Gaza.  Israel is even supplying its enemy with food and energy, mainly so that the innocent civilians will not suffer from the war-like aggression of the Islamist Hamas movement.  \meanwhile Egypt keeps a complete blockade of Gaza, not allowing any supplies through its border gate with Gaza.

Certainly quiet is better than conflict and violence, but many Israelis think this is a false equation, because it allows Hamas to prepare for the next round, and each time they try new tactics and make it worse.  This time the violence lasted from March to August.  What next time?  This is why many in Israel think that the government should use the full force of the IDF to actually finish and wipe out Hamas once and for all.  There is an attempt by the Egyptians to actually have a ceasefire agreement signed between Hamas and Israel, but that is still in the wishful thinking stage.

The UNRWA Scam Exposed

The organization known as UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency, is really a cover name for what should be called The Palestinian Conflict Perpetuation Agency (UNPCPA), since this agency was started by the pro-Arab majority of the UN to ensure that the Palestinian refugee problem would not only never end, but would get worse with time.  Because according to international law a refugee is one who leaves his/her country under duress, while UNRWA defines a refugee to include the descendants of those who left their country (the Palestine Mandate) until the nth generation.  And what is worse, the Arab countries have paid only a minor part of its funding, while the sympathetic Europeans and the US have paid most of the costs of keeping the Palestinian so-called refugees in a permanent welfare state for 70 years.  This is unique in history.

Jared Kushner, Pres. Trump’s son-in-law and the head of his Team to solve the Israel-Arab conflict has just said essentially the same thing.  That UNRWA perpetuates the conflict by maintaining the so-called refugee problem.  So that 70 years after the initial war for Israeli Independence in 1948, instead of the actual number of Palestinian refugees decreasing sharply with time, as all other refugee problems have done, to now about 30,000 people, it is supposed to have increased to over 5 million people.  This is purely a result of the Arab countries policies of never wanting to accept the Palestinian refugees into their own countries as citizens and to keep political pressure on Israel to “solve” the problem.

Actually only the Kingdom of Jordan gave the Palestinians citizenship, so the former “Palestinian Arabs” living in Jordan are in fact Jordanian citizens and should not be supported by UNRWA.  Also, all those so-called Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank and Gaza should not be counted as refugees because they remain inside the borders of “their own country” and so are not in fact refugees at all, but displaced persons. Added to which is the fact that UNRWA runs schools and summer camps that are controlled by Hamas and Fatah in which Palestinian children are indoctrinated with hatred for Israel and Jews and taught that the only solution to the problem is through violence.

The US has already halved its financial support for UNRWA causing a significant reduction in UNRWA services (free food, free medication, free education forever).  If in fact the US withdraws its support entirely for UNRWA, it would probably collapse, because the Arabs States are not going to foot the bill for the Palestinians, whose cause they espouse, but who they actually detest and want to have nothing to do with them.  Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf States do not allow Palestinian Arabs to enter their countries.  Only the Western liberal elite consider the Palestinians as a special case for unique sympathy, while their movements are in fact virulently anti-Western and anti-American.  If that isn’t an example of anti-Semitism, what is, when there are many more urgent and deserving refugee problems (Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Rohingya, as well as all the Black Africans trying to reach Europe)?  So Jared Kushner is correct, in order to resolve the Middle East problem peacefully it is first necessary to remove the UN Palestinian Conflict Perpetuation Agency (UNPCPA).

“Israel attacks Gaza and kills civilians”

That is the headline in most western and European media.  They neglect to mention that the Hamas terrorist organization that controls Gaza fired 200 missiles and mortar shells into Israel before Israel retaliated.  About 12 Israeli civilians were injured, no mention of this.  And in destroying a Hamas terrorist HQ in Gaza city, several people were killed, they always emphasize women and children casualties.  Although given their propensity to lie one cannot trust their reports.

As I have pointed out before, in Israel it is mandatory that all public buildings have shelters and all new private homes.  For the first time I used the protected room (mamad) in my house, when on Friday at 3 pm I was awakened by the shrill sound of the siren indicating a missile attack.  I sat in there for about 10 mins, but hearing no further sounds and needing a cup of tea I went into the kitchen and said a silent “screw you” to the terrorists and indulged.

By contrast in Gaza they not only don’t make civilian’s shelters, they actually use the population, especially women and children, as shields for the launching pads of the missiles and the inflammatory balloons and kites that they have been sending over to Israel to destroy crops and houses. That is why there are always women and children killed, they are willing to sacrifice them as pawns, and anyway they are considered property under Islamic Sharia Law.   This is something that the good western liberals don’t get, there is no humanitarian problem in the Arab world, since the people being sacrificed are not considered human anyway.   They are little more than animals, in fact in Islamic Law donkeys are more valuable than second or third wives.

Short Trips Around Small Countries: Jordan III Crossing the Adam Bridge

On my second trip to Jordan in 1995, instead of meeting the rest of the group in Jerusalem, I arranged to meet them at the crossing point into Jordan, that was to be an unusual place.  Most people cross into Jordan at the Allenby Bridge near Jericho.  But, this time we were crossing at the Adam Bridge, in the center of the country that was a military base and was reserved for military and diplomatic missions.  I was visiting my in-laws in Netanya on the coast, so it made no sense to me to go all the way to Jerusalem in order to go back to the center again.  On the map it looked like a straight run from Netanya to the Adam Bridge.  This may have been a mistake.

In Netanya I looked for a taxi that could take me to the Adam (also known as the Damia) Bridge.  But, I discovered that no-one wanted to go. First, they never went there because no-one crossed there and second it was dangerous, going most of the way through the West Bank, that was part of the Palestine Authority.  Eventually I found a taxi company that arranged with an Arab taxi service to pick me up and take me there, for a fee (that was refundable).  I was told to be there at 2 pm.

The taxi headed inland and passed through the new Israeli city of Ariel (now with some 30,000 inhabitants) and then descended slowly through winding roads with Arab villages on both side and past the Israeli settlement of  Ma’ale Efraim (Heights of Efraim, this was the region of the biblical tribe Efraim) through Masua (Torch) to the isolated Bridge.  When we got there it was a closed military base, and before I could ask him to wait the taxi driver made a quick U-turn and was away.

Before me was a large locked gate, with a sentry post up the hill.  An IDF guard sauntered down the road to me and asked in Hebrew “what do you want?”  I told him in Hebrish that I was supposed to meet some people there, he said “no people here” and was about  to turn around and leave me.  I said with as much authority as I could muster “I want to see your commanding officer.”  He looked at me as if I were crazy, then tramped back up the road.  I waited in the heat.

Eventually a smart young officer came down the road and asked me in perfect English, “what’s the problem?”  I explained the situation to him.  He said, “we don’t have any information about a group passing thru the bridge today.”  I showed him my official US passport and various papers proving my story, and told him the name of the Israeli diplomat who would be accompanying the group and asked him to contact him.  He seemed amenable to do this, so he opened the gate and said follow me, and we trudged up the hill.  At the top was a large hut.  There he put me in an air conditioned room (like a prisoner), gave me water, and said wait, I’ll try to contact him.

Some time later he returned and said we contacted his office in the Foreign Ministry (FM) but they said he’s busy today.  I told him, of course he’s busy, he’s coming here with a group of Americans and Israelis to go to Jordan.  He was skeptical.  I showed him the letter from the official telling me where to meet them.  He said he would try to confirm my story.  Some time later he returned and said “yes,” his office in the FM had confirmed that he was taking a group including Americans to Jordan thru the Bridge, but he had received no prior notice of this.  I said well that’s not my fault that’s just incompetence.  So then he asked me about myself and his attitude warmed, he offered me tea and cake and a female soldier served me.

Then the officer came back and said the office in the FM had managed to contact him en route, he was picking people up in Tel Aviv (so why couldn’t he have picked me up there?), and they would be delayed. Meanwhile he had the FM inform the IDF that sent orders to the officer to allow us through the Bridge.  Now he became friendly and offered to show me around, and we sat and chatted and waited until the group arrived in a mini-van, only a few hours late.

Then I joined them and we followed a military jeep towards the Bridge, thru machine gun emplacements, and across the rickety bridge itself and up the other sided past Jordanian Army emplacements, and finally we were waved down by an officer. The Jordanian Officer was very friendly, he spoke English and looked just like Clark Gable, I wondered if anyone had ever told him that.  We exited the van and climbed into a military vehicle and then we were driven in a small military convoy to Amman.

 

 

The Oil Reversion

Ten years ago the US was a net importer of oil, importing about 70% of its needs, mostly from the Middle East.  Today the US is a net exporter of oil and natural gas, and imports only 30% of its needs.  The reasons for this are, the cost of shale oil extraction in North Dakota has gone down by ca. 50% and the use of fracking has provided huge amounts of oil and natural gas.  The US is poised to become the second largest producer of oil in the world after Russia, and is about to out-produce Saudi Arabia.  What a reversal of fortunes.

So I think we can safely say that the “oil weapon” that was used by the Arabs in the 1970’s to blackmail the West, will never happen again.  The US exports natural gas to Canada and Mexico and by tanker as liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe.  Pres. Trump wants to double those exports in order to wean Europe away from dependence on Russia’s oil/gas supplies.  Also, the fact that the US is a net exporter of oil/gas means that the price of a gallon of oil has gone down from its historic highs,and will probably never rise again.  At present there ise more than enough gas/oil in the world to satisfy current needs.  But, everyone is aware that these needs and demands for energy in the form of electricity is always increasing, hence the need to develop efficient clean energy production.

There are six major forms of clean energy being developed and used: 1. Biomass, especially burning trash and agricultural byproducts; 2. Solar, several types including solar batteries (direct energy) and solar mirror farms (indirect); 3. Waves, both coastal waves and deep-sea water movements; 4. Wind, mainly in the form of huge propeller farms; 5. Hydro; from dams and waterfalls; 6. Thermal, mainly from underground heating.  Each of these forms have their niche, such as underground thermal heating is used in Iceland to supply most of their energy needs.  In Holland, there is a lot of offshore wind energy being exploited.  In desert areas, solar is being rapidly expanded, in Spain, Israel and California.  All of these methods are being developed, thus gradually lowering the dependence on oil.  And then there is of course nuclear energy, and in the long-term fusion energy.

All of these alternative energy sources, as well as the current glut of oil on the world’s market, have reduced the financial power of such countries as Saudi Arabia and Iran. And if that is their only money-earning resource, then they have in the long-term to change and plan for a different form of economy.  In Saudia that is one reason why the King-in-waiting Mohammed bin Salman, is already starting to transform and liberalize their society.  They will need to have women in their work force, which means allowing them to drive and to travel unimpeded by the old ways of needing to obtain written permission from their male relatives (and you thought they were making these changes because they have become humanitarians).  The increased involvement of women in society and their increased economic power will hopefully make Islamic societies more humane in the long run.

The US now has the largest amount of oil as a strategic reserve than at any time in the past, and its oil/gas production is increasing all the time.  The price of oil is bound to go down, thus hitting the Middle East oil producers financially and reducing their political bargaining power.  The world is changing, and we should not be afraid to grasp the advantage.