Israel blasts Syrian convoy in Lebanon: was it carrying chemical weapons?

January 30, 2013

If PJM’s Barry Rubin is right, it’s the development many have feared: a desperate, vengeful Bashar Assad giving WMDs to the genocidal jihadists of Hizbullah:

It has been reported that a number of Israeli planes flew over Lebanon and attacked a convoy near the Syrian-Lebanese border. The fact that this comes shortly after Hizballah and Syrian forces had moved in growing numbers toward known chemical-weapons storage areas implies that the Syrian regime was in the act of shipping chemical weapons to the Lebanese Shia Islamist group (which also happens to dominate the Lebanese government and to be involved in a lot of anti-Israel terrorism) Hizballah. This story has not yet been confirmed by Israel.

During the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war, Israel frequently hit convoys delivering weapons to Lebanon the moment they crossed the Syria-Lebanon border, showing a very strong intelligence capacity on such events.

The Israeli position has been that it will not allow any transfer of advanced weapons by the Syrian regime to either Hizballah or radical Lebanese Sunni groups. Israel had previously made this point clear through public statements to the Syrian government. It has not been explicitly reported whether the weapons on the convoy were chemical ones.

While Israel isn’t commenting officially, a retired general gave what may be an oblique confirmation:

But Brigadier General Amnon Sofrin, a retired army intelligence officer and former head of intelligence for the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, gave a press conference in which he made the following points.

 “I think that if we have solid evidence shared by our own partners all over the world, that chemical warheads are being transferred from Syria to Lebanon, to Hezbollah, I think that no one will condemn Israel for trying to prevent it.”

This should be read as explaining that Israel notified the United States and others of its intelligence information prior to the attack.

Given relations between the Obama administration and the Israeli government, you can bet Jerusalem was not asking for permission, either.

Rubin speculates that these may also have been Russian surface-to-air missiles, meant to shoot down Israeli recon drones so they couldn’t spot later transfers of chemical weapons.  Regardless, this is ominous news. The common wisdom has been that the Assad regime is either doomed or will soon be reduced to a small rump state in the mountains. The question, then, is what becomes of the chemical weapons they’re known to have? (Including those that may have been smuggled from Saddam’s Iraq as it fell?)

The danger is not just that these would be given to Hizbullah in some last act of revenge, though that would be a potential nightmare for Israel. There is also the grave risk that these weapons could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-aligned Syrian rebels, who might then pass them along al Qaeda Central.

And you just know whom Zawahiri would love to unleash these on, if he could get his mitts on them.

This is a good moment to remember that we are still at war, that there are still very determined people on a religious mission to see us dead or subjugated.  They take this very seriously, and so should we.

And I hope, behind the empty brags of having al Qaeda “on the run,” so does President Obama.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


A strategic game-changer in the Near East? A recipe for war? Or both?

October 26, 2011

I wrote last June about major oil and natural gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean that would be a boon to Israel if they played out.

Today at (the renamed) PJMedia, Jonathan Spyer interviews Israeli journalist Amiram Barkat regarding other major natural gas (and maybe oil) finds under the nearby Mediterranean seabed — an area claimed by Israel and its new friend Cyprus, on the one hand, and increasingly Islamic-fascist Turkey and Lebanon (1) on the other. While discussing the enormous economic and strategic implications for Israel, Barkat talks reviews the geopolitical dangers:

PJM: What are the latest developments regarding the dispute between Turkey and Cyprus over exploratory drilling for offshore gas deposits off the coast of Cyprus? Are Turkish Navy ships still in the area?

In late September this year, Noble Energy, a Houston-based company, started drilling the Aphrodite prospect within a maritime area known as Block 12. Noble, the company that has made all the significant gas discoveries in Israel, received the drilling license in Block 12 from the Cypriot government in 2008.

Turkey had threatened to use military force should drilling commence, but refrained from action. Turkey has two major claims regarding Cyprus exploration plans: first, as the protector of the rights of the Turkish minority in Cyprus, it aims to guarantee that the Turkish Cypriots gain a share in the future revenues from any discovery. Second, Turkey doesn’t recognize the Cypriot EEZ and claims that parts of it are actually in Turkish waters.

PJM: Is there a realistic possibility that this could lead to conflict between Israel and Turkey? Or has Turkey, as a NATO member, been warned against escalating the situation?

The strengthening ties between Israel and Cyprus underpinned by mutual interests in the export of natural gas could make the possibility of regional conflict involving Turkey a realistic one, though not in the near future. Israel is aware of this and an internal debate has been going on regarding Cyprus.

Looking from Nicosia, the choices seem simpler. Recent developments in the area have clearly weakened Cyprus’s geopolitical position vis-à-vis Turkey. Greece, Cyprus’ patron, is practically bankrupt. Egypt and Libya, traditional allies within the Arab world, are both undergoing a revolutionary process.

Against this backdrop Cypriot government officials openly invited the Israeli military to play an active role defending Cypriot interests. In private talks Cypriot officials are supportive of letting the Israeli Air Force use Cypriot bases.

As you can imagine, the simultaneous occurrence of new valuable resources and political upheaval in the region is as recipe for military conflict at some point — and, in the Middle East, that could come at any time. While one naturally hopes that the parties involved would come to an amicable arrangement, factors besides those mentioned above line up against it:

  • Turkey is under an increasingly Islamist government, and their prime minister may well be an antisemitic nut.
  • Hizbullah-dominated Lebanon cut a deal with the hated Jews? Barack Obama will sooner embrace Thomas Sowell.
  • The natural broker for such a dispute is the United States, due to our history of alliance with both Israel and Turkey, but, thanks to incompetent diplomacy Smart Power, we’ve increasingly alienated Israel and played the fool for Turkey, which is actively working to advance the Islamist cause. Now one doesn’t trust us and the other thinks (rightly) it can use us.

This is not a recipe for the lion to lie with the lamb any time soon.

Footnote:
(1) And letting Hizbullah (and, by extension, its Iranian patrons) get any share of the revenues from these new fields is a Bad Idea(tm).

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


A Mideast crisis by September?

May 24, 2011

And it’s not the one you’re probably thinking of, a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Fatah-Hamas Palestinian administration. Rather, analyst Barry Rubin has in mind the Egyptian elections scheduled for that month, elections that will very likely bring to power an anti-American, anti-Israeli, Islamist government — a situation made much worse thanks to Obama administration ineptitude and a failure to recognize even now what the dangers are.

Rubin’s articles are worth reading “cover to cover,” but let me cite a portion in which he asks what our “leaders” will say when the near-inevitable happens and Obama’s Mideast policy collapses:

Imagine the day after that election. What will the mass media say? What will the American politicians say?

–That they were wrong about the Egyptian revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood?

–That by helping to bring down the old regime, U.S. policy foisted a disaster on the region and on its own interests?

–That by celebrating how great the “Arab Spring” is and refusing to acknowledge the real threats and problems, Obama made catastrophic errors.

–That his policy has led to many advances for America’s enemies?

–That Israel is in a far worse strategic situation and certainly can’t and shouldn’t make any more concessions?

–That the Islamists are emboldened and thus both Hamas and the radicals who run Fatah are taking an even harder line?

–That the loss of faith in America by its Arab allies is now undeniably clear and they are scrambling to make their own deals with Iran and other extremists?

–That there is a real possibility of a war in which Egypt either joins directly or backs Hamas? Imagine, Egypt stays “neutral” but nobody stops thousands of Egyptian volunteers from crossing into Gaza to fight or even across the Egypt-Israel border to launch terror attacks?

–What will the Obama Administration do if in practice Egypt tears up the Israel-Egypt peace treaty even if it pretends that it isn’t doing so?

–People are insisting that if Hamas in practice becomes part of the Palestinian Authority that the United States, and certainly Congress, will cut off aid. But what will happen when the Obama Administration does everything possible to prevent an aid cut-off and nothing possible to pressure the PA into changing its policy or behavior?

These are not speculations. These things WILL happen. Nobody in the United States or Europe is seriously discussing these scenarios and what should be done about them.

As I said, that’s not the half of it; Lebanon is increasingly under Hizbullah’s dominance (and thus becoming a satrapy of Syria and Iran), Assad is showing he will kill however many it takes to stay in power in Syria, and Iran marches on to nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. And all of this has been made worse by bumbling US policies since Obama took over.

Yet he and his administration (and his defenders in the media) show no sign that they understand what is happening, continuing instead to pretend that territorial concessions will solve anything.

The Hippocratic Oath is often paraphrased by “First do no harm.” Someone should whisper those words to President Obama before it’s too late.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Hizbullah takes over Lebanon

January 25, 2011

Or maybe that should read “Iran takes over Lebanon,” since the Shiite terror organization is a creation of and cats-paw for Tehran. Regardless, that possible war I wrote about a few days ago just took a big step closer to reality:

Saad Hariri, whose government was toppled after the Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies withdrew this month, declared the appointment of a new prime minister chosen by Hezbollah a “coup d’etat” on Tuesday, as angry protesters took to the streets, burning tires and attacking the office of one of Mr. Hariri’s foes.

The escalating demonstrations deepened one of the worst crises in years in Lebanon, a small Mediterranean country where confrontations often serve as an arena for regional and international disputes. It has pitted Hezbollah and its allies, backed by Iran and Syria, against Mr. Hariri and his supporters, backed by the United States and France.

After days of political wrangling, the candidate supported by Hezbollah and its allies, Najib Miqati, a billionaire and former prime minister, won 68 seats in Lebanon’s 128-member parliament, enough to name the next government in a country as divided as it is diverse. His elevation was a clear victory for Hezbollah, which has ruled out Mr. Hariri’s return to power, and marked the culmination of what was already accepted as a fact of life here: that Hezbollah is the country’s pre-eminent military and political force.

So far, the crisis has played out according to the rules of Lebanon’s parliamentary system, and both Mr. Miqati and Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, went to great lengths to offer a conciliatory message and portray Mr. Miqati as a consensus choice.

“My hand is extended to all Lebanese, Muslims and Christians, to build, not to destroy, to talk, not to quarrel,” Mr. Miqati said Tuesday after President Michel Suleiman named him as the prime minister-designate. “Let’s learn from the lessons of the past.”

Mr. Nasrallah promised that the government “is not led by Hezbollah.”

Bear in mind that Hariri’s father, then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was murdered by a car bomb a bomb his car drove over. A sealed indictment filed by UN investigators is expected, when unveiled, to name Hizbullah as the assassins. That was the motive for this move, regardless of what they say publicly. With Hariri’s son tossed out and control of the government in Nasrallah’s hands (If you believe Miqati and Nasrallah’s protestations otherwise, I have a bridge for sale, cheap.), what slim chance existed for an accounting just died.

And, now that Hizbullah controls the Lebanese state and its resources*, any actions they take against Israel will mean the entire country is fair game when Israel strikes back. Israel was actually quite restrained in their war with Hizbullah in 2006, generally avoiding areas not controlled by the organization in order not to harm the existing government, with whom they could work. There will be no such need for restraint next time, and, given that Hizbullah is dedicated to Israel’s destruction, I guarantee there will be a next time.

*Think about it. Iranian Revolutionary Guard operatives traveling under Lebanese passports with diplomatic immunity and avoiding sanctions. What could go wrong?

via Legal Insurrection

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The next war in Lebanon will be a big one

January 21, 2011

The Lebanese government collapsed last week when the ministers belonging to Hizbullah, the Shiite terrorist organization founded by Iran and patronized by Syria (itself an Iranian client), withdrew from the Cabinet of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in what amounts to a soft coup. Regardless of the publicly stated reasons given by Hizbullah, the real reason is to create a crisis to distract from looming indictments that will, when unsealed,  likely accuse the organization of assassinating PM Hariri’s father, then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Michael Totten reports today that the government crisis in Lebanon has taken a turn for the worse, as Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has endorsed Hizbullah and the Syrian regime, likely to protect himself and his people. This renders a Hizbullah takeover all but inevitable, which, Totten believes, makes a war that will devastate Lebanon much more likely:

Everybody in Lebanon needs to understand something: Israel is more likely than ever to target the entire country during the next round of conflict. Not since 1948 has Israel fought a war against the Lebanese government; its wars in Lebanon have always been waged against terrorist organizations that were beyond the control of the state.

But if Hezbollah leads the government, the government will be a legitimate target. That’s how it works. Regime-change in Lebanon would have been an insane policy with Hariri’s March 14 coalition in charge, but it won’t be if Hezbollah is calling the shots.

The next war will almost certainly be bloodier than the last.

And why is that war inevitable, in my estimation? Because Hizbullah has never, ever been just about “justice” for the Shiites of Lebanon, who were traditionally among the country’s lower classes. Since its foundation by Iran, Hizbullah has been dedicated fanatically to jihad and the destruction of Israel. If they showed almost no restraint before, what makes anyone think they will in the future, once they control the levers of government and the country becomes an Iranian satrapy in all but name? The entire Lebanese state will be bent towards jihad against Israel — and against us. (See also)

If I lived in Lebanon, I would seriously consider taking the next plane out and never coming back.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The return of the Axis of Evil

January 17, 2011

Michael Ledeen looks at events around the world and sees a coordinated message being sent to the US: we’re going to take you down:

Obama’s getting kicked around from Lebanon to China, but nobody seems to notice the pattern. Why shouldn’t we think that the near-simultaneous attacks — China’s humiliation of Defense Secretary Bob Gates, and Hezbollah’s (that is to say, Iran’s) takedown of the Lebanese government — were coordinated? Or do you believe that the remarkable simultaneity of the events is sheer happenstance?

The two key bad actors — Iran and the People’s Republic of China — are known to be in cahoots. And Syria is one of Iran’s closest allies (some might say it’s a virtual Iranian colony). All three have strong reasons to demonstrate that the United States has opted out of the geopolitical game, or has been effectively stymied by the three. That message is a lot stronger when it’s sent in two separate theaters at the same time than if it has to be inferred from events spread out over weeks and months. It’s like the terrorist strategy of blowing up two targets in separate countries at the same hour, as they did to American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 or on occasion during the fighting in Iraq.

There is every reason to believe that we’re looking at the return of the axis of evil. These are not random events; they’re part of a global pattern aimed at our domination and ultimate destruction. If you read the articles linked above, you’ll find the same “message to the world” in both cases.

But a more recent event, the revolution in Tunisia that’s scaring the pants off dictators across the region, points a way forward against this challenge — standing up again for the American idea, something President Obama seems incapable of doing:

On the other hand, we are the only truly revolutionary country in the world, and — as Obama once unfortunately put it — whether we like it or not, our very existence inspires a lot of the desire for democratic revolution. Many, perhaps even most, of the people in the streets of those countries, are our greatest weapon against the jihadis.

So we should support the revolutionaries. Obama has praised the bravery of the Tunisians, and although he has cravenly refused to do the same for the Iranian people (who, after all, have been fighting tyranny longer, and have paid a far greater price in blood and torture than the Tunisians), logic demands that he now do so.  There is no convenient way for him to praise freedom fighters in one Middle East dictatorship and waffle in baffling generalizations elsewhere. Democratic revolution is ours, and we had best embrace it.

This support doesn’t require military action, which might in fact be counterproductive. But, as the last stages of the Cold War showed under Reagan, America as an ideal can be an inspiration to those fighting oppression, simply by being openly, unashamedly, and loudly in their corner at every opportunity and in every forum. As Natan  Sharansky related in his The Case for Democracy, Reagan’s “evil empire” speech about the Soviet Union echoed through the gulags, inspiring political prisoners to persevere, emboldened by the knowledge they weren’t abandoned. In Poland, the moral support the United States provided was so instrumental to Solidarity’s survival and the fall of Communism there, that statues have been raised to President Reagan and public squares named for him.

The point, of course, is not that Obama should do this for the honors he might get, but that American moral leadership in the cause of human liberty truly has an effect and is a genuine weapon to be wielded against the tyrants in Beijing and Tehran who work against us. It’s about time he started.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Victor Davis Hanson: War and History, Ancient and Modern

June 14, 2010

Michael Totten, a journalist I highly recommend who specializes in the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Caucasus, conducts a wide-ranging interview of historian Victor Davis Hanson. It’s long, but read the whole thing; you’ll learn quite a bit.

One item that jumped out at me came at the end, when VDH discusses an exchange he had with a European admiral just prior to Obama’s election. It’s revelatory on several levels of European attitudes toward and dependency on the United States, and their fear of us becoming like them:

I had an interesting conversation two years ago just before Obama’s election with some military people in Versailles. They were at a garden party, and everybody was for Obama. But an admiral said to me, “We are Obama. You can’t be Obama.”

Everybody looked at him. And I said, “What do you mean?”

He said, “There’s only room for one Obama.”

I said, “So we’re supposed to do what? Take out Iran while you trash us?”

And he said, “Right out of my mouth. I couldn’t have said it better. Bush understood our relationship. We have to make accommodations with our public, which is lunatic. You don’t really believe there’s going to be an EU strike force, do you? Nobody here believes that. If you become neutral, what are we supposed to do?

That’s what he said. I was surprised at his candor. And it’s worrisome. On the one hand I like it because they’re getting just what they asked for, but on the other hand, it’s tragic. And it’s dangerous. We shouldn’t be doing this.

Emphasis added.


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