publishedmedium:southern syria

  • Israel just admitted arming anti-Assad Syrian rebels. Big mistake - Middle East News
    Haaretz.com - Daniel J. Levy Jan 30, 2019 5:03 PM
    https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-israel-just-admitted-arming-anti-assad-syrian-rebels-big-mistake-1

    In his final days as the Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot confirmed, on the record, that Israel had directly supported anti-Assad Syrian rebel factions in the Golan Heights by arming them.

    This revelation marks a direct break from Israel’s previous media policy on such matters. Until now, Israel has insisted it has only provided humanitarian aid to civilians (through field hospitals on the Golan Heights and in permanent healthcare facilities in northern Israel), and has consistently denied or refused to comment on any other assistance.

    In short, none other than Israel’s most (until recently) senior serving soldier has admitted that up until his statement, his country’s officially stated position on the Syrian civil war was built on the lie of non-intervention.

    As uncomfortable as this may initially seem, though, it is unsurprising. Israel has a long history of conducting unconventional warfare. That form of combat is defined by the U.S. government’s National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 as “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow an occupying power or government by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary or guerrilla force in a denied area” in the pursuit of various security-related strategic objectives.

    While the United States and Iran are both practitioners of unconventional warfare par excellence, they primarily tend to do so with obvious and longer-term strategic allies, i.e. the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance fighters in Afghanistan, and various Shia militias in post-2003 Iraq.

    In contrast, Israel has always shown a remarkable willingness to form short-term tactical partnerships with forces and entities explicitly hostile to its very existence, as long as that alliance is able to offer some kind of security-related benefits.

    The best example of this is Israel’s decision to arm Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War, despite the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strong anti-Zionist rhetoric and foreign policy. During the 1980s, Iraq remained Jerusalem’s primary conventional (and arguably existential) military threat. Aiding Tehran to continue fighting an attritional war against Baghdad reduced the risk the latter posed against Israel.

    Similarly, throughout the civil war in Yemen in the 1960s, Israel covertly supported the royalist Houthi forces fighting Egyptian-backed republicans. Given Egypt’s very heavy military footprint in Yemen at the time (as many as a third of all Egyptian troops were deployed to the country during this period), Israelis reasoned that this military attrition would undermine their fighting capacity closer to home, which was arguably proven by Egypt’s lacklustre performance in the Six Day War.

    Although technically not unconventional warfare, Israel long and openly backed the South Lebanon Army, giving it years of experience in arming, training, and mentoring a partner indigenous force.

    More recently, though, Israel’s policy of supporting certain anti-Assad rebel groups remains consistent with past precedents of with whom and why it engages in unconventional warfare. Israel’s most pressing strategic concern and potential threat in Syria is an Iranian encroachment onto its northern border, either directly, or through an experienced and dangerous proxy such as Hezbollah, key to the Assad regime’s survival.

    For a number of reasons, Israel committing troops to overt large-scale operations in Syria to prevent this is simply unfeasible. To this end, identifying and subsequently supporting a local partner capable of helping Israel achieve this strategic goal is far more sensible, and realistic.

    Open source details of Israel’s project to support anti-Assad rebel groups are sparse, and have been since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.

    Reports of this first arose towards the end of 2014, and one described how United Nations officials had witnessed Syrian rebels transferring injured patients to Israel, as well as “IDF soldiers on the Israeli side handing over two boxes to armed Syrian opposition members on the Syrian side.” The same report also stated that UN observers said they saw “two IDF soldiers on the eastern side of the border fence opening the gate and letting two people enter Israel.”

    Since then, a steady stream of similar reports continued to detail Israeli contacts with the Syrian rebels, with the best being written and researched by Elizabeth Tsurkov. In February, 2014 she wrote an outstanding feature for War On The Rocks, where she identified Liwaa’ Fursan al-Jolan and Firqat Ahrar Nawa as two groups benefiting from Israeli support, named Iyad Moro as “Israel’s contact person in Beit Jann,” and stated that weaponry, munitions, and cash were Israel’s main form of military aid.

    She also describes how Israel has supported its allied groups in fighting local affiliates of Islamic State with drone strikes and high-precision missile attacks, strongly suggesting, in my view, the presence of embedded Israeli liaison officers of some kind.

    A 2017 report published by the United Nations describes how IDF personnel were observed passing supplies over the Syrian border to unidentified armed individuals approaching them with convoys of mules, and although Israel claims that these engagements were humanitarian in nature, this fails to explain the presence of weaponry amongst the unidentified individuals receiving supplies from them.

    Writing for Foreign Policy in September 2018, Tsurkov again detailed how Israel was supporting the Syrian rebel factions, stating that material support came in the form of “assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers and transport vehicles,” which were delivered “through three gates connecting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria - the same crossings Israel used to deliver humanitarian aid to residents of southern Syria suffering from years of civil war.” She also dates this support to have begun way back in 2013.

    The one part of Israel’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War which has been enthusiastically publicised, though, has been its ongoing humanitarian operations in the Golan. Dubbed “Operation Good Neighbor,” this was established in June 2016, and its stated aim is to “provide humanitarian aid to as many people as possible while maintaining Israel’s policy of non-involvement in the conflict.”

    Quite clearly, this is - at least in parts - a lie, as even since before its official commencement, Israel was seemingly engaging with and supporting various anti-Assad factions.

    Although Operation Good Neighbor patently did undertake significant humanitarian efforts in southern Syria for desperate Syrian civilians (including providing free medical treatment, infrastructure support, and civilian aid such as food and fuel), it has long been my personal belief that it was primarily a smokescreen for Israel’s covert unconventional warfare efforts in the country.

    Although it may be argued that deniability was initially necessary to protect Israel’s Syrian beneficiaries who could not be seen to be working with Jerusalem for any number of reasons (such as the likely detrimental impact this would have on their local reputation if not lives), this does not justify Israel’s outright lying on the subject. Instead, it could have mimicked the altogether more sensible approach of the British government towards United Kingdom Special Forces, which is simply to restate their position of not commenting, confirming, or denying any potentially relevant information or assertions.

    Israel is generous in its provision of humanitarian aid to the less fortunate, but I find it impossible to believe that its efforts in Syria were primarily guided by altruism when a strategic objective as important as preventing Iran and its proxies gaining a toehold on its northern border was at stake.

    Its timing is interesting and telling as well. Operation Good Neighbor was formally put in place just months after the Assad regime began its Russian-backed counter-offensive against the rebel factions, and ceased when the rebels were pushed out of southern Syria in September 2018.

    But it’s not as if that September there were no longer civilians who could benefit from Israeli humanitarian aid, but an absence of partners to whom Israel could feasibly directly dispatch arms and other supplies. Although Israel did participate in the rescue of a number of White Helmets, this was done in a relatively passive manner (allowing their convoy to drive to Jordan through Israeli territory), and also artfully avoided escalating any kind of conflict with the Assad’s forces and associated foreign allies.

    Popular opinion - both in Israel and amongst Diaspora Jews - was loud and clear about the ethical necessity of protecting Syrian civilians (especially from historically-resonant gas attacks). But it’s unlikely this pressure swung Israel to intervene in Syria. Israel already had a strong interest in keeping Iran and its proxies out southern Syria, and that would have remained the case, irrespective of gas attacks against civilians.

    Although Israel has gone to great lengths to conceal its efforts at unconventional warfare within the Syrian civil war, it need not have. Its activities are consistent with its previous efforts at promoting strategic objectives through sometimes unlikely, if not counter-intuitive, regional partners.

    Perhaps the reason why Eisenkot admitted that this support was taking place was because he knew that it could not be concealed forever, not least since the fall of the smokescreen provided by Operation Good Neighbor. But the manner in which Israel operated may have longer-term consequences.

    Israel is unlikely to change how it operates in the future, but may very well find future potential tactical partners less than willing to cooperate with it. In both southern Lebanon and now Syria, Israel’s former partners have found themselves exposed to dangers borne out of collaboration, and seemingly abandoned.

    With that kind of history and record, it is likely that unless they find themselves in desperate straits, future potential partners will think twice before accepting support from, and working with, Israel.

    For years, Israel has religiously adhered to the official party line that the country’s policy was non-intervention, and this has now been exposed as a lie. Such a loss of public credibility may significantly inhibit its abilities to conduct influence operations in the future.

    Daniel J. Levy is a graduate of the Universities of Leeds and Oxford, where his academic research focused on Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. He lives in the UK and is the Founding Director of The Ortakoy Security Group. Twitter: @danielhalevy

    #IsraelSyrie

  • Inside Israel’s Secret Program to Back Syrian Rebels
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/09/06/in-secret-program-israel-armed-and-funded-rebel-groups-in-southern-sy

    Israel secretly armed and funded at least 12 rebel groups in southern Syria that helped prevent Iran-backed fighters and militants of the Islamic State from taking up positions near the Israeli border in recent years, according to more than two dozen commanders and rank-and-file members of these groups.

    The military transfers, which ended in July of this year, included assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers and transport vehicles. Israeli security agencies delivered the weapons through three gates connecting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria—the same crossings Israel used to deliver humanitarian aid to residents of southern Syria suffering from years of civil war.

  • US-Led Coalition May Withdraw From Al-Tanaf Base Under Deal With Russia – Reports
    https://southfront.org/us-led-coalition-may-withdraw-from-al-tanaf-base-under-deal-with-russia-

    The US is considering to abandon the al-Tanaf base near the Syrian-Iraqi border under a deal with Russia, that will also force Iranian-backed forces and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah to withdraw away from the border with Jordan and from the contact line with Israel, the Newsweek magazine reported on May 30.

    Earlier this week, the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat released a similar report, in which it claimed that Russia, the US and Jordan are negotiating a deal that will enable the SAA to capture the opposition-held areas in the governorates of Daraa and al-Quneitra in exchange for pushing Iranian and Iran-backed forces more than 25km away from the border with Jordan. According to Asharq Al-Awsat, the militants who will reject this deal will be evacuated to the northern governorate of Idlib.

    Several Israeli news outlets, including Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, also reported that Israel and Russia are currently finalizing a deal that will force Iranian forces and Hezbollah to withdraw more than 60km away from the contact line between Syria and Israel.

    While these reports remain unconfirmed by any official source, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier that all non-Syrian forces must withdraw from the de-escalation zone in southern Syria. This could be a proof that Russia, Jordan, Israel and the US are indeed preparing an agreement.

    #syrie #al-tanaf

  • Russia says only Syrian army should be on country’s southern border with Israel

    Israel believes Russia may agree to withdrawing Iranian forces and allied Shi’ite militias from Israel-Syria border

    Noa Landau and Reuters May 28, 2018

    https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/russia-says-only-syrian-army-should-be-on-country-s-southern-border-1.61198

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that only Syrian government troops should have a presence on the country’s southern border which is close to Jordan and Israel, the RIA news agency reported.
    Lavrov was cited as making the comments at a joint news conference in Moscow with Jose Condungua Pacheco, his counterpart from Mozambique.
    Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will leave on Wednesday for a short visit to Russia. He is scheduled to meet with his counterpart, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shvigo, the ministry said in a statement on Monday. Lieberman is expected to discuss with his hosts the recent events in the Middle East, primarily the tension between Israel and Iran over the Iranian military presence in Syria.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the Knesset Monday, saying that “there is no room for any Iranian military presence in any part of Syria.”
    Lieberman said that “these things, of course, reflect not only our position, I can safely say that they reflect the positions of others in the Middle East and beyond the Middle East.”
    Keep updated: Sign up to our newsletter
    Email* Sign up

    On Sunday, Haaretz reported that Israeli political and military officials believe Russia is willing to discuss a significant distancing of Iranian forces and allied Shi’ite militias from the Israel-Syria border, according to Israeli officials.
    The change in Russia’s position has become clearer since Israel’s May 10 military clash with Iran in Syria and amid Moscow’s concerns that further Israeli moves would threaten the stability of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
    Russia recently renewed efforts to try to get the United States involved in agreements that would stabilize Syria. The Russians might be willing to remove the Iranians from the Israeli border, though not necessarily remove the forces linked to them from the whole country.
    Last November, Russia and the United States, in coordination with Jordan, forged an agreement to decrease the possibility of friction in southern Syria, after the Assad regime defeated rebel groups in the center of the country. Israel sought to keep the Iranians and Shi’ite militias at least 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Israeli border in the Golan Heights, east of the Damascus-Daraa road (or, according to another version, east of the Damascus-Suwayda road, about 70 kilometers from the border).

    FILE – Iran’s Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, left, in Aleppo, Syria, in photo provided October 20, 2017/AP
    According to Israeli intelligence, in Syria there are now around 2,000 Iranian officers and advisers, members of the Revolutionary Guards, around 9,000 Shi’ite militiamen from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, and around 7,000 Hezbollah fighters. Israel believes that the Americans are now in a good position to reach a more effective arrangement in Syria in coordination with the Russians under the slogan “Without Iran and without ISIS.”
    The United States warned Syria on Friday it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to ceasefire violations, saying it was concerned about reports of an impending military operation in a de-escalation zone in the country’s southwest.
    Washington also cautioned Assad against broadening the conflict.
    “As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement late on Friday.
    A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported on Wednesday that Syrian government forces fresh from their victory this week against an Islamic State pocket in south Damascus were moving into the southern province of Deraa.
    Syrian state-run media have reported that government aircraft have dropped leaflets on rebel-held areas in Deraa urging fighters to disarm.
    The U.S. warning comes weeks after a similar attack on a de-escalation zone in northeastern Syria held by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. U.S. ground and air forces repelled the more than four-hour attack, killing perhaps as many as 300 pro-Assad militia members, many of them Russian mercenaries.
    Backed by Russian warplanes, ground forces from Iran and allied militia, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have helped Assad drive rebels from Syria’s biggest cities, putting him in an unassailable military position.

  • Israel in major raids on ’Iran’ targets in Syria after rocket fire | AFP.com
    https://www.afp.com/en/news/205/israel-major-raids-iran-targets-syria-after-rocket-fire-doc-14q3b14

    Elle est pas belle la vie ? Ça fait une bonne semaine que l’armée israélienne est en alerte maximale dans le Golan occupé. C’est donc le moment idéal pour lui envoyer une bordée de roquettes dont aucune n’a atteint le territoire israélien…
    Israël est forcément obligé de riposter.

    Israel carried out widespread deadly raids against what it said were Iranian targets in Syria on Thursday after rocket fire towards its forces which it blamed on Iran, marking a sharp escalation between the two enemies.

    The incident came after weeks of rising tensions and followed US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a key 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, a move Israel had long advocated.

    It led to immediate calls for restraint from Russia, France and Germany. “The escalation of the last hours shows us that it’s really about war and peace,” warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    The raids that a monitor said killed 23 fighters were one of the largest Israeli military operations in recent years and the biggest such assault on Iranian targets, the military said.

    We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told a security conference.

    I hope we’ve finished this episode and everyone understood.

    Israel carried out the raids after it said 20 rockets, either Fajr or Grad type, were fired from Syria at its forces in the occupied Golan Heights at around midnight.

    It blamed the rocket fire on Iran’s Al-Quds force, adding that Israel’s anti-missile system intercepted four while the rest did not land in its territory.

    No Israelis were wounded.

  • La « non-intervention américaine en Syrie » : (au moins) 10.000 à 20.000 mercenaires payés par les États-Unis depuis (au moins) 4 ans pour le « Front du Sud » : Southern Syria faces more uncertainty as US pulls funding for anti-Assad militias
    http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/Southern%20Syria%20faces%20more%20uncertainty%20as%20US%20pulls%20fun

    In the coming weeks, between 10,000 and 20,000 men in southern Syria will get their last month’s pay from the US government.

    The men are part of the Southern Front, a loose collaboration of dozens of anti-Assad, Western-vetted militias operating in Daraa and Quneitra provinces. For close to four years, they have been paid, armed and directed by the Military Operations Command, or MOC – a US-led support mechanism and weapons bridge operating out of Amman.

    But before the month is out, that support and oversight will end as the US government, under a directive from President Donald Trump, ceases support for Syria’s anti-Assad rebels.

  • Israel’s Deepening Involvement with Syria’s Rebels
    https://warontherocks.com/2018/02/israels-deepening-involvement-syrias-rebels

    The current balance of power, coupled with Assad’s drive to regain control of southern Syria, will likely result in the regime retaking the area. It remains to be seen whether Israel will manage to secure a deal [with the regime] that prevents Iranian proxies from entering the border region or acquiesces to their presence.

    #Syrie #Israel

  • How De-Escalation Zones in Syria Became a War Management Strategy.
    https://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/2018/02/06/how-de-escalation-zones-in-syria-became-a-war-management-strategy

    BEIRUT – Hundreds of civilians have been killed in attacks on so-called de-escalation zones in Syria in January, undermining a Russian-led agreement that world powers have touted as a step toward a comprehensive cease-fire in the country.

    While the de-escalation zones may have failed to reduce violence and protect civilians, analysts and experts argue that these were not the agreement’s main impetus. Recent developments have shown that the deal was instead designed as a war management strategy aimed at weakening the opposition, they say.

    “In the beginning, there was an illusion that this initiative to introduce de-escalation zones would help establish a comprehensive cease-fire,” said Anton Mardasov, a nonresident expert at the Russian International Affairs Council and columnist for Al-Monitor. “But after a few months it has become clear – this is all just a ploy to intensify military operations in [other parts] of Syria and imitate the desire for a political settlement.”

    The agreement, signed by Turkey, Russia and Iran in the Kazakh capital of Astana in May, was supposedly meant to reduce violence, protect civilians and ensure humanitarian access to besieged communities. Under the terms of the deal, the guarantors would refrain from carrying out attacks in protected areas, unless they were targeting the so-called Islamic State or the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which is dominated by al-Qaida’s former affiliate in Syria.

    The exact borders of the de-escalation zones remain unclear. However, they cover parts of Idlib, northern Hama, Eastern Ghouta and southern Syria. Those include some of the last remaining opposition enclaves, which led to skepticism early on that the deal was designed to help President Bashar al-Assad widen his control over the country.

    Despite early criticism, the four de-escalation areas witnessed a relative reduction in fighting in the months after the deal was signed, contributing to a narrative that the conflict was now winding down ahead of a political settlement.

  • ISRAEL’S “SAFE ZONE” IS CREEPING FARTHER INTO SYRIA

    https://theintercept.com/2018/01/23/israel-syria-safe-buffer-zone-golan-heights

    ISRAEL IS EXPANDING its influence and control deeper into opposition-held southern Syria, according to multiple sources in the area. After failed attempts to ensure its interests were safeguarded by the major players in the war next door, Israel is pushing to implement the second phase of its “safe-zone” project — an attempt to expand a buffer ranging out from the occupied Golan Heights deeper into the southern Syrian provinces of Quneitra and Daraa. The safe zone expansion marks a move toward deeper Israeli involvement in Syria’s civil war.

    The Intercept learned the outlines of the safe-zone expansion plan through a monthslong investigation relying on information from a variety of sources, including Syrian opposition activists on the ground in the south, Syrian opposition figures based in Jordan, Syrian government sources, and an Israeli-American NGO directly involved in the safe-zone project.

    The safe zone appears intended to keep the Syrian army and its Iranian and Lebanese allies as far away from Israel’s border as possible, as well as solidify Israel’s control over the occupied Golan Heights. Israel seized the Golan from Syria in 1967’s Six-Day War. Expanding a buffer zone would likely make any negotiations over the return of the Syrian territory more difficult in the future, because the Golan Heights will be surrounded on both sides by areas with significant Israeli influence.

    Over the last two years, Israel started building out the first phase of a safe zone in southern Syria. The project enabled the Israeli army, through humanitarian organizations and military personnel, to gain access to opposition-held areas in return for supplying aid, medical treatment inside Israel, and basic goods.

    According to sources, the second phase, which is currently underway, includes, among other things, the establishment of a 40-kilometer, Israeli-monitored buffer beyond the Golan Heights, a Syrian border police force armed and trained by Israel, and greater involvement in civil

  • Rania Masri - #Nasrallah's speech on 10-Nov, on the ’day... | Facebook
    https://www.facebook.com/rania.masri/posts/10159471113935363

    #Nasrallah's speech on 10-Nov, on the ’day of the martyr’.
    Note: I don’t translate religious terminology.
    Very quick translation.
    –—

    [...]

    Since last Saturday, Lebanon was entered into a political crisis and a new and important situation. Whether or not the situation is dangerous depends on the Lebanese ability. We hear threats. What is the situation?

    In one year, Lebanon entered a political stability - with a President, a Prime Minister, and a national-unity government. A budget was decreed, for the first time in 12 years. A voting law was passed for elections. Dialogue and conversations amongst political spectrum after years of isolation. Security and stability in Lebanon that has no comparison. (We are safer than the US.) We have a calmness among Lebanese, in general.

    This does not mean that there are no problems.

    Even official polls show this, such as within the Beirut airport the number of travelers in the airport is 9 million. 2 million in just July and August. This is a reflection of security and calm.

    This does not mean that there are no problems. there are livelihood problems and corruption and political. These should be resolved, yes, but shoudl not cover the positive side of Lebanon in general. All are responsible for this security. The compromises made by everyone brought us to this stage of security. And the liberation of Lebanon in Arsal and others also brought us here.

    Within this situation, and within the positive vibes of all political spectrum to reach elections and to resolve issues - suddenly, and in one blow, Saudi Arabia summons the PM quickly and orders him, without his consultants, to issue his resignation and to read their letter. Before that, and escalating since, we have had Saudi threats ...

    So what have the Saudis done until now?
    (1) Direct and exceptional intervention to force the PM to resign and to read a letter that they (Saudi) had read, to place the PM under involuntary detention and not allowed to return. It is clear today that all Lebanese know that the PM was forced to resign, and all the world knows, even the US Foreign Office claim they had no knowledge. The PM is held captive in Saudi and is not allowed, until now, to return to Lebanon.
    (2) A Saudi attempt to remove Hariri from his leadership of the Future movement, and to impose a new leadership upon the Future movement.
    (3) A Saudi attempt to impose a new PM on Lebanon - under threat and with their vision.
    (4) Attempts to inflame Lebanese against each other, to drive Lebanese to insult and protest against each other, and to fight each other. ANd when Saudi Arabia doesn’t find a response, then it accuses Lebanese of cowardice.
    (5) Pushing Gulf states and other countries to pressure Lebanon
    (6) Removing their citizens from Lebanon
    (7) More dangerous - although it does not scare us - encouraging Israel to attack Lebanon. This is not analysis, but clear facts and information. Saudi has asked Israel to attack Lebanon and is ready to support it with millions of dollars! Today there is a discussion within the Zionist entity on this issue, and today and yesterday within the Israeli press, there is lots of discussion that the 2006 was upon a Saudi request and that Saudi encouraged Israel to continue with the war until the Resistance was vanquished. Of course, Israel has its own calculations.

    Clearly, Saudi leadership has declared war on Lebanon, and not just on Hezbollah in Lebanon. Clearly, they have declared war on all of Lebanon.
    I say to all Lebanese, with all love and honesty, to propose to them ... Until the evening of the resignation, we were living a very important stage - of stability and security; we need to realize that this was/is very important. We need to understand the importance and value that we are living in Lebanon and to protect it. On the other hand, Saudi calls upon you to destroy it the stability and security in Lebanon, to destroy your own homes with your own hands. Will you do that?

    Is it true that Saudi, through all these actions, want to save Lebanon? We understand that there is a problem between Saudi and Hezbollah, but are these actions by Saudi a war against Hezbollah or a war against Lebanon?
    Lebanese need to learn from all that has happened around them in the region. In Syria, the facts - from documents and interviews and clear statements - leaders from Saudi were on the battlefield and what happened? Those Saudi who were running the battlefield from Amman, where are they now?

    I call on Lebanese to think very carefully before taking a position: to where are we taking the country?

    Lebanese today are facing a critical path..
    I assert
    (1) In clear language, we condemn this Saudi intervention in Lebanese internal politics. We condemn this insulting behavior against PM Hariri, from the time he arrived at the airport ... The facts are clear. We consider, in Hezbollah, that an insult against Lebanon’s PM is an insult against every Lebanese. He is Lebanon’s PM!
    (2) We join our voices with all Lebanese in calling for the return of Saad Hariri to Lebanon! Let him resign from the Presidential Palace, and say and do what he wishes. He may come and declare war on Hezbollah - but let him come, let him return to Lebanon, and declare his own thoughts. But for Lebanon’s PM to remain in involuntary detention is not acceptable. NO Lebanese or Arab or free person should accept this. Yes, we say, in all clarity, Lebanon’s PM is held hostage in Saudi! and we call for his release.
    (3) Currently, we consider the declared resignation to be unconstitutional, and illegal, and illegitimate, and of no value - because it was not voluntary. No value to any statement made involuntarily! This applies to individuals, of course it applies to the fate of nations. The current government is still viable and legitimate and constitutional. If Hariri returns to Lebanon and submits his resignation, even if under pressure but if he offered it here in Lebanon, then we would be under a different legal and constitutional situation.
    (4) The wise and rational leadership of President Aoun, with the Speaker of the House Berri, has to be one of consensus and all Lebanese should stand behind this wise leadership. So far, this leadership has managed to keep the country safe and secure
    (5) The call for greater wisdom and to reject calls for political escalation. ... This current declared war on Lebanon is one of hate and anger, and the greater the anger, the greater the mistakes. ...
    As I stated on Sunday, do not worry and do not fear. Our collective desire to keep our country safe is the insurance.
    Today, in the face of this insult and the clear and declared threats, we need to feel responsibility to our nation and to each other, and to stand together and protect each other and defend each other, and to overcome our fears and sensitives of each others.
    (6) I need to pause, as I did Sunday, in the face of the Arabiyah’s words about an assassination attempt against Hariri. Different security agencies in Lebanon refuted this - yet Arabiya Channel continues with this claim. This is Saudi news. Also the letter read by Hariri is Saudi statement. Their claim that certain Iranian elements worked for and spoke of an assassination attempt. These words and insistence are dangerous; why this insistence on this accusation? What are they planning?
    (7) W/ regards to Israel, we have to be careful and pay attention. If Saudi calls for a war, no one can refute this possibility. We can say, that it is unlikely, based on our readings . furthermore, Israel has an opportunity now to attack Lebanon and Hezbollah without calling for a war since a war has high costs for Israel. .. yes, Israel can join under other headlines. Israeli FM declared to all Israeli embassies to support - diplomatically and media wise - Saudi in its war against Hezbollah! Of course, Israel will work internationally shoulder to shoulder with Saudi. Also, Israel will work to create internal division in Lebanon. A week ago, there was a dangerous event in southern Syria. The armed elements, some of whom were in Nusra Front, entered - via Israeli assistance and from areas occupied by Israel - to a Syrian village (Haddath), that is predominately Druze. Were it not for the popular defense and the Syrian Army and the pressure from occupied Golan Heights - the situation would have become much worse. For who? For Nusra Front? For what - for sectarian division between Sunni and Druze in the region? ... As for a war, we are following the situation carefully, along w/ the Lebanese Army. .. ON this day, of Ahmad Qasser who imposed a 3 day mourning on them in 1982, I say to them - that today we are stronger! Let them not think that we are scared; not at all! We are stronger! ... Israel will not lead a war for others, as their press declares will Saudi fight until the last Israeli soldier?; Israel will have a war based on their own calculations.
    (8) What is between us and Saudi? Let no one claim that we are hiding from the problem. Yes, we do not deny that there is a problem. There is large Saudi anger directed against us, though primarily against Iran. I understand their anger, but we cannot understand their reaction and their insult! In Syria they had plans and hopes to change the region’s borders and maps; their hopes are vanquished. ISIS that they created is being vanquished. In Iraq, we know who brought ISIS also. We also know that they were supporting the separation of Iraqi Kurdistan and this plan also failed. In Yemen, the war has gone on for more than 1000 days! Only more massacres and now a blockade! The UN declares that if the blockade continues, then millions in Yemen would face famine! This is the current situation by Saudi. The UN - not Hezbollah - placed Saudi on the blacklist for their killing of children. But when we condemn their actions we are accused of committing a historical crime. We cannot be quiet if others are quiet. They commit these massacres but they get infuriated if their massacres are condemned. Yesterday you heard [the claim] that the missile - from Yemen to the airport in Riyadh - was smuggled from Iran, and Hezbollah was the one who sent the missile from Yemen! There is a problem with this logic. In the Saudi leadership mind they underestimate and insult Yemenis. They cannot believe that Yemenis can build missiles. Yes, Yemenis within these years can build their own missiles! Yemenis build their own drones. It is because the Saudis insult the mind of the Yemenis and underestimate them, that is when they lose. And so the Saudi blame Iran and Hezbollah for their failure in Yemen. This is the Yemeni people! They have fought and sacrificed and surprised the world. the claim that the Saudi plan in Yemen is a failure because of Hezbollah .. then wow, we are something great really! This is an exaggeration. ... What about the failure between Saudi Arabia and Qatar? We have not taken a position on this issue. Saudi wanted Qatar to kneel, and it didn’t. Also a failure. And Bahrain, yes, Saudi prohibited public protests, and threw thousands in the jails, and yet this didn’t break the will of the people but pushed the monarch to near bankruptcy! The Bahraini king regularly gets money from Saudi to pay the salaries in the Army. This is what Saudi has done to Bahrain. Another failure.
    In all events, when Saudi sees in all this region failure - they come to Lebanon and think they can do something here. It is not true that Lebanon is totally under either Iranian or Saudi patronage. Big difference between Saudi and Iran in Lebanon: Iran does not interfere in internal Lebanese politics! I say this one my responsibility. Iran does not impose which PM or which leader or which electoral law... Iran does not interfere in any internal Lebanese politics. ...
    Let me simplify things to you. Saudi is coming to vent its anger at us in Lebanon. It cannot respond to Iran.
    To Saudi: if you think that you can defeat Lebanon or to defeat the Lebanese resistance or to defeat the Lebanese political leadership, then you are wrong and you have nothing but failure as you have failed elsewhere.
    More detail... If you think your objective can be the obliteration of Hezbollah, no matter what Saudi does, they cannot defeat Hezbollah. Don’t let that be your objective. Let your objective be realistic.
    Punish Hezbollah or pressure Hezbollah so it can change its actions. To leave Syria? Well, the battle is ending in Syria. Okay, pressuring and sanctioning Hezbollah to change its actions... Our position with Yemen will not be changed, because it is right! God will ask us about our position and our position there is outside of any political calculations.
    As Saudi Jubair said yesterday, the Lebanese people are innocent and they are under the control of Hezbollah and we need to find a way to help Lebanese to get out of Hezbollah’s control. Great. Is this a way to rescue the Lebanese people? Are your actions in line with that objective? OR do you want to rescue Lebanese as you are trying to rescue the Yemeni people, since isn’t the war on Yemen also under the headline of rescuing the Yemeni people? Millions threatened with famine! Not one place has been left unbombed, the souks, the mosques... Is this how you rescue the Yemeni people? by killing and besieging them?! that is your way. this is how you want to rescue the Lebanese people?
    Want to rescue the Lebanese people by insulting Lebanon’s PM?! Rescue Lebanese by fear-mongering?
    Is Lebanon to be punished because we did not obey Saudi dictates? Even the declaration by the Future Movement calling the return of Hariri was criticized! It is not allowed to even breath.
    You can sanction Hezbollah without punishing Lebanese and the government. think about it - and you will think of something. But if only hatred is thinking, then “I am blind and don’t see but i will wave my sword.”
    On this day, on this great day of great martyrdom, we are here, together, holding on to our achievements, to our country and our army, to our national unity. We should not worry or be scared from all these threats.
    With our unity, we shall be stronger

  • Trump and Putin are the real targets of Israel’s alleged strike in Syria -

    Exceptional strike, attributed to Israel, signals Netanyahu can disrupt a ceasefire in Syria if Israel’s security interests are ignored ■ Incident comes amid anti-Hezbollah war game

    Amos Harel Sep 08, 2017
    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.811078

    The weapons manufacturing plant that occurred early Thursday morning in western Syria is a site clearly identified with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The exceptional attack, which foreign media are attributing to the Israel Air Force, appears to be a message to the world powers that maintain a prominent aerial presence in the area. Over the past two years, Russia has invested huge efforts in saving and rehabilitating the Syrian president.
    The bombing is not routine, either in its target or its timing. In an interview with Haaretz last month, outgoing air force chief Amir Eshel said that over the past five years, the air force had launched attacks on the northern military theater and on other fronts.
    But most of these forays were designed to quell efforts to strengthen Hezbollah and other terrorist and guerrilla groups. This time, according to Syrian reports, the target was a government one – a missile production facility run by the Assad regime – rather than another Hezbollah weapons convoy destined for Lebanon. 
    >> Analysis: Israel Just Shot Itself in the Foot
    skip - fb
    Get the best of Haaretz: Follow us on Facebook
    Over the past year, senior Israelis have highlighted their concerns following the wide steps taken by the Iranians to try and enlarge and upgrade the supply of precision missiles in Hezbollah’s possession. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi have all made reference to this in public appearances. 
    For several years now, Hezbollah has maintained a huge weapons arsenal, containing between 100,000 and 130,000 missiles and rockets (according to various estimates). If the proportion of precision missiles is increased and their precision improved, that could enable the organization to inflict more devastating damage to the Israeli home front in a war.
    Israel and Syria: Get all updates
    Email* Sign up

    In accordance with its declared policy, Israel is acting to prevent Hezbollah improving the quality of its weapons. The chaos the Syrian civil war has caused, during which serious damage has been inflicted on the capabilities of Assad’s army, has seemingly made this easier for Israel. Syria has for years been a no-man’s-land that no one has controlled. That changed with the arrival of the Russians two years ago. 
    According to foreign media, the deployment of Russian squadrons in northwest Syria since September 2015 hasn’t entirely halted the Israeli attacks. But the strategic reality has become more complicated. The prime Russian interest is the survival of the Assad regime. For Moscow, it is important to show that the regime is stable and that Russia is the party dictating what takes place in Syria. The attack on the facility – the Syrian Scientific Researchers Center – undermines that image, and could concern the Russians.
    skip - Shehab News Agency tweet

    The timing of the action attributed to Israel is sensitive. At the end of July, in a Russia-led effort, the Assad regime reached a partial cease-fire with Syrian rebel groups. Although the fighting has continued in various regions, its intensity has declined in many places. The United States, whose interest in Syria has been on the decline, acceded to the Russian initiative. 
    Washington and Moscow also failed to heed Israeli protests that the agreement to reduce friction in southern Syria failed to require Iran and allied militias to steer clear of the Golan Heights.
    Consequently, the attack attributed to Israel – the first to be reported since the agreement was reached – may be interpreted as an Israeli signal of sorts to the world powers: You still need to take our security interests into account; we’re capable of disrupting the process of a future settlement in Syria if you insist on leaving us out of the picture. 
    Since the attacks attributed to Israel began in January 2012, the Assad regime has shown restraint in the vast majority of cases, other than in one incident in March this year when missiles were fired at Israeli planes after an attack near the town of Palmyra in eastern Syria. One missile was intercepted by an Arrow missile over Israel.
    At first, the Syrian regime totally ignored most of the attacks. At later stages, it would accuse Israel and sometimes even threaten a response, but it didn’t follow through. The reason is clear: The damage sustained by the regime from the responses was marginal compared to the harm to civilians in the civil war, and the last thing President Bashar Assad wanted was to drag Israel into the war and tip the balance in the rebels’ favor.
    Israel will have to see how recent developments are received in Moscow, Washington and Tehran. The response won’t necessarily come immediately.

    Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting in Moscow, October 2015.AP
    Russia is not hostile to Israel but, above all, it looks after itself and Assad. The Russians will also take the consequences on countries in other areas into account, as well as its tangled relations with the United States – which has been acting as a present-absent party in the Middle East for a long time now.
    This comes against the backdrop, beginning Tuesday this week, of a large Israeli military exercise based on a war scenario with Hezbollah. In fact, Israel is taking pains to declare that the exercise was planned nearly a year in advance and that it has no warlike intentions. But the fact that the exercise was carried out has raised the anxiety threshold among Hezbollah’s leaders.
    Al-Manar, the Hezbollah television station, declared Wednesday that Hezbollah isn’t worried about a war. That’s very inaccurate. To a great extent, Hezbollah, like Israel, is worried about a war and would prefer to avoid one – but in the Middle East things sometimes happen when you don’t exactly intend them.
    The early morning attack came exactly 10 years and a day after the bombing of the North Korean nuclear facility in eastern Syria, which U.S. President George W. Bush and others attributed to Israel. Last time (and then too, by the way, an attack came during a major exercise by the air force) a war was averted. That’s the hope this time too.

  • Panique : Netanyahou, l’Iran et le Hezbollah
    http://www.dedefensa.org/article/panique-netanyahou-liran-et-le-hezbollah

    Panique : Netanyahou, l’Iran et le Hezbollah

    A la lumière de la confirmation avec les effets psychologiques et politiques à mesure de la victoire syrienne de Deir ez-Zour, le long commentaire ci-dessous d’Alastair Crooke sur la “panique Netanyahou” prend une singulière importance. Les Syriens d’Assad ont, avec l’aide des Iraniens et surtout du Hezbollah, et le soutien aérien massif de la Russie, emporté une victoire stratégique qui marque évidemment un tournant dans le conflit syrien, et sans doute un tournant décisif. Le concours du Hezbollah dans cette bataille, comme dans la majeure partie du conflit, constitue un élément majeur de ce conflit, et l’une des préoccupations fondamentales de Netanyahou.

    Crooke analyse dans toute son ampleur la très difficile situation du Premier ministre israélien qui (...)

    • Une attaque aérienne israélienne la nuit dernière, contre une position syrienne proche de la frontière libanaise avec des missiles air-sol tirés d’avions israéliens ayant pénétré prudemment l’espace aérien libanais (et pas syrien), signale cette extrême nervosité israélienne, mais sans convaincre de l’efficacité de la chose. Les Israéliens ne sont pas en position de force. Selon plusieurs sources, les Russes tiennent complètement l’espace aérien de la région, notamment avec l’arrivée de cinq avions d’alerte et de contrôle de l’espace aérien à très grandes capacités Beriev A-50 désormais basés en Syrie. D’autre part, DEBKAFiles signale que le Hezbollah devrait être conduit à changer complètement ses tactiques et sa stratégie suite aux victoires remportées en Syrie, ce qui rend complètement caduc le scénario utilisé par les forces armées israéliennes dans des manœuvres en cours pour ttester ses capacités de l’emporter sur le Hezbollah : « In the remaining seven days of the exercise, the IDF still has a chance to update its scenario », écrit ironiquement DEBKAFiles.

    • L’article d’Alaistair Crooke pointé par dedefensa

      The Reasons for Netanyahu’s Panic – Consortiumnews
      https://consortiumnews.com/2017/09/01/the-reasons-for-netanyahus-panic

      The increasingly “not to be” constituency of the Middle East has a simpler word for Netanyahu’s “#ethnic_nationalism.” They call it simply #Western_colonialism. Round one of Chas Freeman’s making the Middle East “be with Israel” consisted of the shock-and-awe assault on Iraq. Iraq is now allied with Iran, and the Hashad militia (PMU) are becoming a widely mobilized fighting force. The second stage was 2006. Today, Hizbullah is a regional force, and not a just Lebanese one.

      The third strike was at Syria. Today, Syria is allied with Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and Iraq. What will comprise the next round in the “to be, or not to be” war?

    • @simplicissimus : Pour aller dans ton sens, le timing israélien est intéressant, juste après le désencerclement de Deir-Ezzor, commepour dire on est là. Et il vient appuyer, si l’on peut dire, le rapport de l’ONU accusant - same player shoots again - la Syrie d’attaque chimique.

    • “Just to be clear: if 2006 marked a key point of inflection, Syria’s “standing its ground” represents a historic turning of much greater magnitude. It should be understood that Saudi Arabia’s (and Britain’s and America’s) tool of fired-up, radical Sunnism has been routed. And with it, the Gulf States, but particularly Saudi Arabia are damaged. The latter has relied on the force of Wahabbism since the first foundation of the kingdom: but Wahabbism in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq has been roundly defeated and discredited (even for most Sunni Muslims). It may well be defeated in Yemen too. This defeat will change the face of Sunni Islam.
      Already, we see the Gulf Cooperation Council, which originally was founded in 1981 by six Gulf tribal leaders for the sole purpose of preserving their hereditary tribal rule in the Peninsula, now warring with each other, in what is likely to be a protracted and bitter internal fight. The “Arab system,” the prolongation of the old Ottoman structures by the complaisant post-World War I victors, Britain and France, seems to be out of its 2013 “remission” (bolstered by the coup in Egypt), and to have resumed its long-term decline.”

    • If Israel did strike Syrian arms facility, it may have shot itself in the foot

      www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.811226

      While Thursday’s alleged attack may have seen Israel widen its definition of what it deems a threat, it may give Iran an excuse to increase its military presence and lead Russia to declare Syrian airspace a no-fly zone

      By Zvi Bar’el | Sep. 7, 2017 | 10:20 PM

      The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center is the code name for part of the Syrian unconventional weapons industry. The center, better known by its French acronym CERS, is commanded by a Syrian general. It is also responsible for Syria’s chemical weapons manufacturing plants, which are reportedly located in three separate sites: Two near Damascus and the third close to the city of Masyaf, northwest Syria, only about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the Khmeimim Russian Air Force base near Latakia.

      According to official Syrian reports, Israeli planes attacked CERS from within Lebanese territory early Thursday morning. The reports do not provide details of the damage to the facility and what it made. But an official statement said the attack was meant to raise the morale of Islamic State fighters after they suffered serious casualties in the fighting around Deir ez-Zor. According to President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Israel not only founded ISIS, it also aided in its recent operations.

      It is not completely clear whether this facility, where they manufacture long-range missiles and artillery shells, also continues to assemble chemical weapons shells. But if Israel knows about such production at the plant, then there is no doubt the United States and Russia know about it too.

      We can assume Israel informed Washington before the attack and received the necessary nod of approval. As far as Russia is concerned, meanwhile, it seems Israel decided to attack from within Lebanese territory to avoid the need to coordinate its operation with the Russians – as is required from the understandings between the two air forces whenever Israel sends fighter jets into Syrian territory – and to prevent the information from leaking out.

      This was not the first alleged Israeli aerial attack in Syrian territory, of course. But the timing is quite interesting. It comes after Russia threatened to veto any UN Security Council resolution that describes Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and a short time after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi – a meeting Netanyahu returned from without any Russian commitment to bring about an Iranian pullback from Syrian lands.

      As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said, Russia has made a commitment that Israel’s security interests will not be harmed as a result of the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria.

      But the Russian interpretation of the meaning of harming Israel’s security interests is not necessarily the same as Israel’s definition. Given that the presence of Hezbollah forces in Syria is seen as a threat to Israel, how much more so is the presence of pro-Iranian forces deployed near Israel’s eastern border on the Golan Heights, as well as in the area near Daraa in southern Syria?

      At the same time, Russia – which itself does not define Hezbollah as a terrorist organization – would find it difficult to force the group’s forces out of Lebanon. That’s mainly because of Iran’s position that sees Hezbollah as an essential foundation for preserving its influence in Lebanon and as an important tactical force in the Syrian war. Unlike in Lebanon, where Iran needs Hezbollah to force the hand of the Lebanese government when necessary, Iran’s influence on the Assad regime is direct and in no need of intermediaries.

      Russia, which has acted to limit Iran’s freedom of operation in Syria, recognizes that it must coordinate its actions with Iran if it wishes to fulfill its aspirations to stabilize Assad’s rule.

      The Aleppo lesson

      Russia has already learned its lessons from Aleppo, when it thought it could implement the cease-fire agreement that was reached at the end of last year without coordinating with Iran – and then realized that the Shi’ite militias and Hezbollah were preventing rebel soldiers from boarding the buses that were meant to take them out of the city, on Iran’s orders.

      The Iranian explanation was that because Tehran was not a partner to the agreement, it was not obligated by it. Russia has avoided Syrian negotiations since then, whether local or international, without Iranian participation.

      The attack on the weapons facility, especially one suspected of producing chemical weapons, is seemingly an act that should not cause an aggressive Russian response. Four years ago, Russia convinced then-President Barack Obama at the last minute not to attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons in Aleppo, and in return co-signed a tripartite agreement in which Syria agreed to destroy or send to Russia its entire chemical weapons inventory. Now, Russia may attempt to prove that the facility did not produce such weapons, but it is doubtful it will strain itself too much in doing so.

      By the way, that 2013 agreement included chlorine gas too, which the Syrian army still continues to use.

      Russia also understands that Israel’s alleged attack on the suspected chemical weapons plant, similar to the U.S. cruise missile strikes on Syria after the chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun in April, is considered to be a legitimate action by the international community.

      Even Russia made it clear back in 2013 that it would not object to an attack on chemical weapons stores if the UN decided on such a step, and if it is proved Syria did use such weapons.

      The new element in the latest attack – if Israel did indeed carry out such an attack – is that Israel now defines what it sees as a threat in a much broader sense.

      The question is whether Russia will accept this definition as part of Israel’s strategic worldview – which sees Syria as a threatening enemy state. Russian agreement to expanding that definition could grant Israel approval for other attacks – such as against Syrian Air Force bases, or even against Syrian ground forces, with the argument that they are considered a threat.

      And so, if until now there was a red line between the Russian and Israeli air forces, this time the attack could lead at the very least to Russia imposing stricter “aerial discipline” on Israel. If this happens, Russia could declare that any foreign planes entering Syrian airspace would be considered a legitimate target for the Russian Air Force, except for coalition planes fighting against the Islamic State.

      Saving the United States

      From Washington’s perspective, Israel has pulled its chestnuts out of the fire. Following numerous reports on the renewed use of chlorine gas by the Syrian army, the Americans would have been forced to act. And this could have caused its relations with Russia to deteriorate even further.

      But the “service” Israel has provided to Washington just sinks it even deeper into the Syrian arena. This time, not only as an interested observer knocking on the doors of the superpowers in order to promote its own security interests, but as an active partner whose military presence adds yet another component to the array of forces (which already includes Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syria).

      But the Israeli element could threaten to spoil Russia’s plans. For example, Iran, Turkey and Russia are about to establish a security zone in the Idlib province, where most of the militia forces of the Al-Shams Front (formerly Nusra Front), which is affiliated with Al-Qaida, are concentrated. This is a region where Iran and Turkey have opposing interests, even though both are interested in a cease-fire.

      Turkey wants to use this region as a strategic base for military operations against the Syrian Kurdish regions that border Turkey. Iran sees Idlib province as a strategic outpost to serve as a base for its control of Syria. All three countries are planning a combined attack against the rebel centers, if Russia is unable to enforce a cease-fire according to the model that was built in the southern provinces.

      It would seem Israel has no real interest in the Idlib province, except for the concern about Iran’s expansion and settling in there. But the takeover of Idlib – like the military campaign in Deir ez-Zor in southeastern Syria, where ISIS continues to rack up losses – is preparing the diplomatic channels for a permanent agreement.

      Russia is striving to demonstrate control of Idlib and Deir ez-Zor by the end of next week, when the representatives of the various parties in the Syrian civil war are set to meet in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The Russians want to present such a takeover as proof of a total victory by the Syrian regime, a victory that would destroy the opposition groups’ tools for applying pressure.

      Syrian-Russian control of these two provinces would strengthen the diplomatic working assumption that Assad will continue to be Syrian president, especially since opponents of his regime in Europe, the United States and Turkey – and even Saudi Arabia – have nearly completely withdrawn their demands to remove him as a precondition to any negotiations.

      Such a result would obligate Israel to be a partner, even if only indirectly, in the process of establishing a new Syrian government; in the debate over the status of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria; and the guarantees that Russia, and not the United States, can provide in response to the possible threats resulting from such an agreement.

      Double-edged sword

      Israel may very well conclude that the greater its military involvement in Syria, whether through sporadic attacks or by tightening its military ties to rebel groups, it more it will strengthen its position when the time comes to formulate a political settlement.

      But such a view can be a double-edged sword. It will grant Iran a wonderful excuse to increase its military presence in Syria; Russia may reduce or even eliminate its aerial coordination with Israel and declare Syrian airspace a no-fly zone; and Hezbollah could turn the Golan Heights into a legitimate front against Israel as part of its balance of deterrence with it.

      There is a big difference between the ability to attack specific targets and a permanent situation of two hostile fronts, one facing Syria and the second Lebanon – especially when Israel’s most important backer, the United States, is sunk deep inside itself and does not want to intervene at all.

  • Les “surprises” de la guerre : assez étonnante histoire de l’action de Moti Kahana, riche israélo-étasunien, qui se pssionne pour l’humanitaire en Syrie. Il finance une école à Idleb...

    مدرسة إسرائيلية في إدلب... واثنتان على الطريق جنوباً | الأخبار
    http://al-akhbar.com/node/282655

    Des choses en anglais ici : http://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/the-syrians-are-my-next-door-neighbors

    You’ve spent six years and millions of your own dollars to save the lives of Arab citizens from their Syrian government. You have worked with opposition groups within Syria; lobbied the Israeli and U.S. governments for the establishment of a safe zone in southern Syria on the Israeli border; asked the Israeli government to admit Syrian refugees for treatment at Israeli hospitals; provided Syrians with SIM cards to document atrocities on their cellphones; sent a ton of kosher food for Syrians’ celebration of an Islamic holiday; collected medical equipment for a field hospital in Syria; and helped deliver nerve gas antidote to doctors in Idlib, a city in northwest Syria. Why do you do all this?
    Because I’m a Jew. As a Jew, we swear “Never again” — not to Jews, and not to others as well. The Syrians are my next-door neighbors.

    https://www.amaliah.org/media

  • In blow to Iran, Egypt becomes surprise new player in Syria - Syria - Haaretz.com
    http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/.premium-1.808039

    A new and surprising player has recently entered the Syrian arena and has already contributed to establishing local cease-fires: Egypt received Saudi and Russian “permission” to conduct negotiations between the rebel militias and the regime, both in Ghouta al-Sharqiya (east of Damascus) and the northern neighborhoods in the city of Homs. In both cases, it managed to get a cease-fire deal signed – in the former on July 22, in the latter in early August.
    Both areas are part of the de-escalation zones on which Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed in May, in consultation with the United States. But this is the first time Egypt has played an active role in diplomatic negotiations between the warring parties that produced positive results.
    From Israel’s standpoint, Egypt’s involvement is important. Any country engaged in blocking Iran’s influence in Syria serves Israel’s interests. But that’s especially true when said country is Egypt, which is Israel’s partner in the war on terror in Sinai and an ally (together with Saudi Arabia and Jordan) with whom it sees eye to eye about both the Iranian threat and the danger of Syria disintegrating into cantons.
    Israel is also involved in discussions about the de-escalation zone in southern Syria that runs along Syria’s borders with both Israel and Jordan. Over the weekend, an Israeli delegation headed by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen began talks on the issue with senior U.S. officials in Washington, and a meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    During these discussions, Israel will presumably push the superpowers to encourage Egypt’s involvement in Syria, thereby ensuring another Arab partner (alongside Jordan) that will be sympathetic to its interests.

    #Egypte #Syrie

  • Next Israel-Hezbollah confrontation could be in Syria
    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/syria-south-ceasefire-israel-hezbollah-confrontation.html

    Yet the Russian and Iranian agendas are on opposite sides of the spectrum. In March, an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militia, the Al-Nujaba’a Brigade, announced it had formed a military force to “free the occupied Golan Heights.” In addition, Israeli officials have also criticized the deal, telling the Israeli Haaretz newspaper that the Americans and Russians had ignored Israel’s position almost completely. One official explained that the agreement was bad and “doesn’t take [into account] almost any of Israel’s security interests," and it creates a disturbing reality in southern Syria because it doesn’t include a “single explicit word about Iran, Hezbollah or the Shiite militias in Syria.”

    Such a volatile context increases the chances of war in southern Syrian unless Russia is capable of reasoning with its two eternally at-odds allies, namely Iran and Israel. While many experts have been predicting a war between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon, the danger of a conflict may loom farther to the east in southern Syria.

    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/syria-south-ceasefire-israel-hezbollah-confrontation.html#ixzz4nXlXVsLM

  • White House Officials Push for Widening War in Syria Over Pentagon Objections | Foreign Policy
    http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/16/white-house-officials-push-for-widening-war-in-syria-over-pentagon-ob

    A pair of top White House officials is pushing to broaden the war in Syria, viewing it as an opportunity to confront Iran and its proxy forces on the ground there, according to two sources familiar with the debate inside the Donald Trump administration.

    Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, and Derek Harvey, the NSC’s top Middle East advisor, want the United States to start going on the offensive in southern Syria, where, in recent weeks, the U.S. military has taken a handful of defensive actions against Iranian-backed forces fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Their plans are making even traditional Iran hawks nervous, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has personally shot down their proposals more than once, the two sources said.

  • Israel’s Quiet Campaign to Gain a Foothold in Southern Syria
    https://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/2017/06/15/long-read-israels-quiet-campaign-to-gain-a-foothold-in-southern-syria

    “UNEITRA, SYRIA – Over the past five years, Israel has been quietly working to establish a foothold in southern Syria to prevent Syrian government-backed forces from controlling the area and to bolster its claim over the Golan Heights.

    What began as tentative contacts with opposition factions and residents across the fence in 2012 has turned into a full-fledged, multifaceted operation that has military, logistical, political and humanitarian dimensions, according to an investigation by Syria Deeply, which interviewed residents, Syrian intelligence officials and opposition members for this story.

    Israel’s “safe zone” now unofficially runs roughly 6 miles (10km) deep and 12 miles (20km) long beyond the demarcation line of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The effort is intended to prevent the Syrian government and its allies, specifically Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, from maintaining a foothold along the Israeli fence. Israel used a similar tactic to establish a zone of control in the south of Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.”

  • After US Bombs Syrian Government for Third Time in 8 Months, Media Ask Few Questions | FAIR
    http://fair.org/home/after-us-bombs-syrian-government-for-third-time-in-8-months-media-ask-few-ques

    On May 18, the US military launched an air raid against forces allied with the Syrian government, killing several soldiers. The Trump administration claimed Syrian- and Iranian-backed militias had entered a 55-kilometer (34-mile) “deconfliction zone” around a base in southern Syria, near the borders of Iraq and Jordan, where the US trains opposition fighters.

    Yet US officials also later admitted that they do not themselves recognize the legitimacy of these de-escalation zones—even while using them to justify carrying out such attacks.

    No major media outlets questioned the government narrative, or the notion that the Syrian-allied forces were a “threat.” (For context, 34 miles is the distance between Aleppo and Idlib, considered two separate theaters in the Syrian civil war. It is also roughly the distance between Baghdad and Fallujah, or between Washington, DC, and Baltimore.)

  • The Syrian war shakeout is changing the Mideast’s balance of power - Middle East News

    Turkey’s intervention has created a rift with Iran, Jordan-Syria ties are tightening and America’s absence could weaken the Saudis. The alliances emerging in Syria will determine the fate the region.

    Zvi Bar’el Feb 27, 2017 1
    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.773974

    Secondary relationships born of the Syrian civil war could have a greater impact on the future of the country and the region than the war itself. While the warring parties are busy holding onto and expanding territorial gains, finding funds and arms and jockeying for position in future negotiations, the smaller players are crafting long-range strategies that will divide the region à la the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement.
    The secondary relationships are alliances and rivalries that developed between global powers such as Russia and the United States, and between local powers such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. But the term is inaccurate in a sense because the Syrian war has long become a proxy war in which the payer of the bills dictates the military movements while changing proxies based on battlefield success.
    More importantly, the alliances between the sponsors and “their” militias create the balance of political forces between the powers. For example, Russia uses the Kurds in Syria as a bargaining chip against Turkey, whose cooperation with the Free Syrian Army creates a rift between Ankara and Tehran. Meanwhile, Jordan’s strikes on the Islamic State in southern Syria boost the Russian-Jordanian coalition and Jordan’s ties with the Assad regime − and everyone is looking ahead to "the day after.”
    The latest development puts Turkish-Iranian relations to the test. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference a week ago Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Iran to stop threatening the region’s stability and security. The remark wasn’t only unusually blunt but also seemed to come from an American talking-points page. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi responded the next day, warning that while Turkey was an important neighbor, “there is a certain cap to our patience.”
    Tehran and Ankara are deeply divided over the Assad regime, and particularly over whether the Syrian president should stay on after a negotiated settlement. But these disagreements didn’t affect the two countries’ bilateral trade of some $10 billion a year.
    Iran was the first country to denounce the failed coup attempt in Turkey last July, and President Hassan Rohani is on track for a fourth visit to Ankara in April. Tehran and Ankara share an interest in preventing the establishment of an independent Kurdish region in Syria that could inspire the Kurds in Iran and Turkey.
    But Ankara and Tehran are each deeply suspicious of the other’s strategic ambitions. Turkey believes that Iran seeks to turn Iraq and Syria into Shi’ite states, while Iran is sure that Turkish President Recet Tayyip Erdogan dreams of reestablishing the Ottoman Empire.
    The Iranians were apprehensive about the liberation, by Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army, of al-Bab, a city around 30 kilometers from Aleppo, even though the defeated party was the Islamic State. The Iranians were worried because control over al-Bab, whose liberation the Free Syrian Army announced Friday, opens up the route critical to retaking Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria. Control over al-Bab is also key for taking control of the Iraq-Syria border, which Tehran views as critical.

    #syria #russia #iran

  • US arms Syrian Islamists with surface-to-air missiles - World Socialist Web Site
    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/11/23/syri-n23.html

    US arms Syrian Islamists with surface-to-air missiles
    By Bill Van Auken
    23 November 2016

    A US-backed Islamist militia in southern Syria has been armed with portable surface-to-air missiles, so-called manpads. These weapons are capable of shooting down Syrian government aircraft as well as Russian warplanes, which have played a prominent role in providing air support to the Syrian army against the Al Qaeda-linked “rebels.”

    The group, the Ansar al-Islam Front, exhibited the weapons, SA-7 Strela-2 missiles, in a video it posted on Sunday, claiming that it had “a good number” of them in its possession. The video, produced by a Dubai-based Syrian opposition propaganda network, shows the Islamists un-crating, assembling and testing the manpads.

    #syrie #états-unis #armement

  • Will Israel create safe zone in southern Syria?
    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/07/southern-syria-opposition-israel-safe-zone.html

    According to Labwani, “When Israel helps the Syrian people in the south with aid and medication, they stop looking at Israel as the enemy and a threat. Today the atmosphere is very appropriate to do this.” He added that Israel operates a comprehensive intelligence-gathering and communication network across the south.

    “People are poor now and hungry, so would work for anyone for a little money,” he said. “[Israel] has access everywhere and to a lot of information.”

    Moti Kahana is the Israeli-American founder of the US-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) Amaliah advocating for the safe zone. Kahana, who works closely with Labwani, said the Israeli government has given him the green light to operate within the designated safe zone.

    “We started working already,” Kahana told Al-Monitor from his office in New York. “So in the next few weeks, we will be bringing supplies into the safe zone of Syria.” He went on, “The Israeli government will allow us to bring humanitarian supplies to the Syrian people,” adding that Israel is “willing to allow an American NGO — which is us — to expand and bring in supplies.”

    Kahana explained that the first stage is to bring in medicine and equipment, the second stage is to open schools and focus on education, and the third stage is to help create and equip a local police force. “We have identified which towns and villages we will be working in, but I cannot yet share their exact locations,” he said. He also declined to identify the opposition groups the organization is coordinating with.

    And sure enough, following the establishment of the liaison unit, Israeli aid suddenly appeared in opposition-held areas. Abu Omar al-Joulani, spokesman for the Revolutionary Command Council for Quneitra and Golan, told Al-Monitor, “A network of collaborators working with the Israelis enabled this aid to come through from the occupied Golan Heights.”

    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/07/southern-syria-opposition-israel-safe-zone.html#ixzz4FYKUcGgT

  • « En Syrie, l’anormal est devenu normal et l’inacceptable accepté »
    http://lacite.website/2016/02/18/en-syrie-lanormal-est-devenu-normal-et-linacceptable-accepte

    Invitée par l’Association des correspondants accrédités auprès des Nations Unies (ACANU), la présidente internationale de Médecins sans frontières (MSF), Joanne Liu tape du poing sur la table : « Les attaques contre les civils et les hôpitaux doivent s’arrêter car la normalisation de tels actes est intolérable. »

    http://lacite.website/main/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/MSF-18-02-2016-CFB.mp3

    • As War Dangers Multiply, Doctors Without Borders Struggles To Adapt
      http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/05/10/477529276/as-war-dangers-multiply-doctors-without-borders-struggles-to-adapt

      there has also been a recent demonstration in a neighborhood in southern Syria against MSF reopening a facility destroyed by airstrikes.

      “The population didn’t want a hospital to be reopened because they were afraid their town would be targeted if there was a hospital in that location,” he says.

      Airstrikes aren’t the only threat that has increased. Hofman says in almost every ongoing conflict in the world, abduction has become a routine strategy of warring parties. Security measures that didn’t exist before are now actually related to mitigating or preventing the risk of abduction.

      As MSF has expanded its operations, it’s become better known worldwide, says Hofman. Kidnappers looking for money or headlines target the group’s medical workers from the international community.

  • Origins of the Syrian Democratic Forces: A Primer | Syria Deeply, Covering the Crisis
    http://www.syriadeeply.org/articles/2016/01/9346/origins-syrian-democratic-forces-primer

    The Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, is a coalition of Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Syriac Christian fighters, but is completely dominated by its Kurdish element, which is a powerful and well organized militia known as the Popular Defense Units, YPG, with an all-female branch called the Women’s Defense Units, or YPJ. These organizations, in turn, are Syrian front groups for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. The other militias involved in the Syrian Democratic Forces are either long-standing PKK allies or proxies, such as the armed wing of the Syriac Union Party, or more recent allies drawn from the Sunni Arab tribal landscape in this part of Syria and from the remains of small Sunni Arab rebel groups crushed by the so-called Islamic State.

    The coalition as a whole receives American air support for operations against Islamic State, as did the YPG/J before it. That started in the Battle of Kobane that began in autumn 2014, which was enormously successful—really the first major battlefield defeat inflicted on Islamic State. It has provided the template for US-PKK cooperation. In addition, the Pentagon has picked out a number of these little Arab groups that work under the SDF umbrella as favored recipients of arms and support. It terms them, collectively, the Syrian Arab Coalition, though no one else seems to use that name.

    • The coalition is equally useful for the YPG/J and the PKK more generally, not only because they get arms and other kinds of support. It also helps rehabilitate them politically and provides a great platform to engage in public diplomacy. Since the creation of the Syrian Democratic Forces, they’ve set up a political branch called the Democratic Syrian Assembly, DSA. This is made up of two main components. [...]

      The other main element of the SDF is a loose network of Syrian leftists and other secular activists, most of them connected in one way or another to Haytham Manna, a Europe-based human rights activist from the Deraa Governorate in southern Syria. These groups—particularly Manna himself—are well versed in regional Syria diplomacy, with useful links to all sides, including the opposition, European states, U.N. diplomats, parts of the Arab League, Egypt, Russia and so on. On the other hand, they are not popular in the broader Sunni Arab and more Islamist-dominated Turkey- and Gulf-backed opposition that forms the mainstay of the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad.[...]

      Manna has now been elected one of two co-presidents of the DSA, operating in exile. llham Ahmed from TEV-DEM holds the other seat, although the longstanding PYD leader Saleh Muslim Mohammed is far more visible as a representative of this segment of Syrian Kurdish politics. The fact that Ahmed and Muslim are more or less interchangeable in diplomatic talks, despite belonging to two different organizations, is of course because both actually represent the “hidden” PKK structure that underpins the whole political order in northern Syria’s Kurdish areas. Though the interests of Manna’s people and the Kurdish bloc might not correspond perfectly, they are closely allied and have been so even before the creation of the SDF and the DSA. They have fundamentally shared interests in a secular and multisectarian Syria, with minimal Turkish and Gulf state influence, but with some role for Russia to balance out American or Saudi hegemony.

      #SDF #Syrian_Democratic_Forces #Syrie #YPG #PYD #al-Manna

  • A lire cet article sur le site du WINEP, ce genre de think tank où quand dans une phrase pour évoquer le gouvernement israélien on utilise la métonymie « Jérusalem » plutôt que « Tel Aviv ». Reste que l’article évoque la question épineuse de la coordination russo-israélienne en Syrie et l’ambiguïté de l’accord dont la forme (tacite ou plus formalisé) ou le contenu ne sont pas encore bien connus. Pour l’instant la Russie tolère des opérations israéliennes en Syrie et Israël n’a pas réagi au viol de son espace aérien par la chasse russe, la confrontation n’étant dans l’intérêt d’aucun des deux mais cela pourrait changer sous la pression des évènements, s’alarme l’auteur qui imagine des scénarios pouvant amener à des incidents dangereux :
    Israeli-Russian Coordination in Syria : So Far So Good ?
    http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/israeli-russian-coordination-in-syria-so-far-so-good
    Extrait :

    In the longer term, two main trends will challenge Israeli-Russian coordination. The first is Iran and Hezbollah’s objective to expand their presence in the Golan Heights. In mid-October, Hezbollah and Syrian forces pushed back rebels in Quneitra and regained control over a number of important military posts. Since then, the Assad regime and its partners have intensified their operations in the south, taking more ground with the help of Russian airstrikes. Although the scope of these airstrikes is still small compared to operations in northern and central Syria, any expansion of Hezbollah and Iranian proxies in Quneitra or western Deraa province would be considered a threat to Israel. And if Russia facilitates such advancement with its airpower, Jerusalem’s ability to react will be more limited (see Policy Watch 2514, “Russia in Southern Syria: Israeli and Jordanian Concerns”).

    Another trend often belittled by Israeli policymakers is Russia’s deepening relations with Hezbollah and Iran. The intervention’s unremarkable results thus far have shown Moscow that the air campaign has its limits without a capable ground force. In that regard, Hezbollah and Iranian forces have proven to be instrumental on some fronts, with both reportedly helping to recover one of the downed pilots after the Su-24 shootdown. Such operations will bring the Russian coalition members closer together, and as the fighting continues, Moscow might discover that its relations with Hezbollah and Iran outweigh its silent agreement to allow Israeli airstrikes against them. In that scenario, Israeli pilots would quite suddenly find themselves under threat from sophisticated Russian air defenses.

    • Les frappes israéliennes récentes (depuis l’implication militaire directe des Russes) en Syrie contre le Hezbollah et l’armée syrienne sont par ailleurs considérées comme établies par l’auteur :

      Last month saw numerous reports about Israeli airstrikes in Syria targeting Hezbollah arms transfers to Lebanon. These included an alleged October 30 attack on a ballistic missile facility near al-Qutayfah run by the Syrian army’s 155th Brigade (the so-called “Scud brigade”), as well as a November 11 strike against a target close to Damascus International Airport. Similarly, opposition and pro-regime sources reported Israeli strikes on the night of November 23 that killed eight Hezbollah fighters and five Syrian soldiers in the Qalamoun area.

      Although Syrian media reports of Israeli strikes should generally be taken with a grain of salt, several factors indicate that they could be accurate in this case. In addition to the exceptionally large number of such reports in recent weeks, other sources have noted a recent increase in arms shipments from Iran to Hezbollah. Moreover, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has confirmed twice in the past month that Israel is operating across the border. On December 1 he stated, “We operate in Syria from time to time to prevent it turning into another front against us. We act, of course, to prevent the transfer of deadly weaponry from Syria to Lebanon.”

    • La conclusion est une série de recommandations aux autorités israéliennes qui consistent à tenter de maintenir et d’accentuer la coopération avec la Russie tout en balançant cela par une communication militaire plus intense avec les USA si jamais des tensions avec la Russie risquaient de limiter la liberté de manœuvre militaire israélienne en Syrie :

      Planning for the long term, Israel should maintain close contact with its American partner on these issues. If Moscow eventually decides to stop looking the other way when Israel operates in Syria, Jerusalem may face some tough choices. Accordingly, it is crucial to keep updating Washington in case of any change in relations with Russia, since Israel would need the United States to convey to Moscow the same redlines that Israel has laid out — namely, preventing Iran and Hezbollah from opening a new front in the Golan, and preventing the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. U.S. support on these issues might convince the Russians to keep tolerating Israeli strikes on Hezbollah.

      Finally, it is worth noting that Israel’s communication with the Kremlin since the intervention began is only a tactical coordination, not a strategic realignment. Although Russia seems to be respecting Israel’s redlines in Syria, this is not because Moscow sees Jerusalem as an indispensable ally, but rather because Israel’s actions in Syria have not interfered with Moscow’s plans as of yet. Many Israeli officials no doubt hope that the situation will remain as it is, but they also realize that Russia and Israel are not equal partners. The minute that Israel’s actions interfere with Russian interests, its relative freedom of operation will diminish significantly.