Tag Archive | Syria

Absolute Truth

 By Daymond Duck

On a daily basis, the news continues to show that God’s Word, including Bible prophecy, is absolutely true.

Here are several examples:

First, it was recently reported that Pope Francis told the king of Morocco that Jerusalem is the “common patrimony (inheritance) of humanity and especially the followers of the three monotheistic religions.”

I interpret this to mean that Pope Francis believes that Jerusalem belongs to the world and especially to the three religions that trace their roots back to Abraham.

If I am right, Pope Francis is either totally in the dark about what the Bible teaches or he is a false teacher that doesn’t believe the Bible.

God does not contradict His written Word.

Second, I was recently honored to speak at the Mid-America Prophecy Conference in Tulsa, Ok.

Dr. Mike Gendron, a former Roman Catholic and an expert on Bible prophecy, was one of the speakers.

Dr. Gendron is a former corporate executive and the founder of Proclaiming the Gospel ministry.

He has devoted his life to exposing false doctrines in the Roman Catholic Church.

I said to Mike, “I am not ready to say that Pope Francis is the False Prophet, but I admit that he has me wondering about it. What is your opinion?”

Mike’s reply went something like this, “If we are as close to the return of the Lord as it seems, we have to admit that he is the only candidate on the scene.”

I got the impression that Mike believes that the Roman Catholic Church and Islam will come together to form the one-world religion, and Pope Francis is the most likely person to head it up.

Considering the Pope’s age (82) and that he would have to be alive and active until the end of the seven-year Tribulation Period, a one-world religion would have to be close.

Third, the Bible is clear that God is against the division of the Promised Land.

Three days before the April 9, 2019, Israeli elections, the polls showed that Prime Min. Netanyahu would lose.

In a TV interview on Apr. 6, 2019, Prime Min. Netanyahu promised to extend Israeli sovereignty over all of the Jewish settlements on the West Bank, if he was re-elected.

He said he will not allow the Palestinian Authority (PA) to rule over the Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

He may let the PA rule over some Arab communities on the West Bank, but he will not allow them to have a separate army, air force, etc.

Mr. Netanyahu’s strongest opponent called these promises irresponsible, and the election suddenly flipped.

Mr. Netanyahu took a Biblical stand against dividing the Promised Land, and he came from behind over the next three days to win re-election.

Fourth, the disciples asked Jesus about the sign of His coming, and of the end of the age” (Matt. 24:3).

Among other things, He said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (Matt. 24:32-35).

Notice two things: 1) Jesus said when Israel is young and growing you will know that His return is near, and 2) Near means the generation of Jews that sees a convergence of all of the prophecies won’t pass away until everything is fulfilled.

In 1948, Israel became a nation again.

In 1967, Israel retook East Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Golan Heights.

In 2018, the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem.

In 2019, the U.S. recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

In 2019, Prime Min. Netanyahu said he intends to annex the Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Israel is literally a young and growing nation that will soon be 71 years old.

Fifth, in late March, the city of San Antonio, TX, banned Chick-Fil-A from doing business (buying and selling) at the city airport because of the company’s religious beliefs.

This is a good example of the Mark of the Beast that will be used to force people that want to buy and sell to support world government dogma.

San Antonio has been asked to reconsider its decision to keep Chick-Fil-A from buying and selling its products because of the owner’s religious beliefs, and we should pray that they do.

In the meantime, please support Chick-Fil-A for standing on the Word of God.

Sixth, on Apr. 13, 2019, Israel struck Iranian targets near a Russian base in Syria.

Israel has taken responsibility; it has been reported that several Syrian, Iranian and pro-Iranian troops were killed, 17 others were wounded, and satellite photos show that the destruction was extensive.

The Iranians are furious because Russia didn’t try to shoot down the Israeli jets.

It turns out that Pres. Trump had sent a back-door message to Vladimir Putin to leave Israel’s jets alone.

Mr. Putin understands that Pres. Trump might protect Israel if Russia starts trying to shoot down Israel’s jets.

Please pray for the U.S. to continue to support Israel.

Seventh, this week it was reported that another new gas field has been discovered off the coast of Israel.

This solidifies Israel’s position as a global energy superpower.

It also adds to the proof that God’s Word, including Bible prophecy, is absolutely true.

Prophecy Plus Ministries, Inc.
Daymond & Rachel Duck
duck_daymond@yahoo.com

PAST US MIDEAST BLUNDERS – REPEATED OR AVOIDED?

By retired Ambassador Yoram Etteringer

 

Western policy in the Middle East – from Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, through Jordan, Egypt and North Africa – has largely failed due to a multitude of erroneous assessments made by well-intentioned policy-makers, researchers, academicians and journalists.

 

For example, the State Department “wise men” opposed the 1948 establishment of the Jewish State – which they viewed as a potential ally of the Soviet Bloc – contending that it was doomed militarily, demographically and economically.

 

In 1977-79, the US foreign policy establishment courted Ayatollah Khomeini and deserted a critical strategic ally, the Shah of Iran, assuming that Khomeini was seeking human rights and peaceful-coexistence. In 1981, the US punished Israel – militarily, economically and diplomatically – for destroying Iraq’s nuclear reactor, which spared the US a potential nuclear confrontation in the 1991 Gulf War.

 

Until Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the US showered the ruthless Iraqi dictator with intelligence-sharing and commercial agreements. In 1993 and 2005 the US embraced the Israel-PLO Oslo Accord and Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, maintaining that they would advance peace, while in fact they fueled Palestinian hate-education and terrorism.

 

The 2010-11 eruption of the still-raging Arab Tsunami was greeted as an “Arab Spring,” “Facebook Revolution” and “Youth Revolution;” supposedly, leading Arab societies closer to democracy. During 2009-11, the US sacrificed pro-US Egyptian President Mubarak on the altar of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Sunni-Muslim terrorist conglomerate.

 

In 2011, the US led the NATO toppling of Libya’s Qaddafi – who previously surrendered his infrastructure of weapons-of-mass-destruction to the US and systematically fought Islamic terrorism – contending that a post-Qaddafi Libya would be more democratic and pro-Western. In 2018, Libya is one of the largest platforms of Islamic terrorism.

 

In 2015, the US led the JCPOA accord with Iran’s Ayatollahs, which provided the inherently anti-US rogue regime with an unprecedented tailwind to topple all pro-US Arab regimes, intensify terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, and try to push the US out of the Persian Gulf.

 

Notwithstanding the failure of all well-intentioned US initiatives to advance Israel-Arab peaceful-coexistence, the US may introduce another peace initiative, overlooking the face that the only successful peace initiatives were directly negotiated between Israel-Egypt and Israel-Jordan. And the list goes on….

 

Such a track record provoked systematic criticism by “The Gang of Four,” who were the leading experts/authors on the Middle East: Prof. Elie Kedourie (London School of Economics & Political Science), Professor P.J. Vatikiotis (London School of Oriental and African Studies), Prof. Bernard Lewis (Princeton University) and Prof. J.B. Kelly (University of Wisconsin). Their criticism, which has been in publication since the 1960s, has been resoundingly vindicated by the Arab Tsunami, which has traumatized the Middle East, and threatened the West, since 2010.

 

The four luminaries highlighted the Western tendency to oversimplify the highly-complex, fragmented, unpredictable, unstable, intolerant, violent, frenzied and tenuous inter-Arab reality of the Middle East – irrespective of the Arab-Israeli conflict – which is dominated by ruthless minority-regimes, and is yet to experience inter-Arab peaceful coexistence.

 

For example, Prof. Elie Kedourie exposed the fumbled US policy which energized Iran’s Ayatollahs, stabbed the back of the Shah of Iran – the US Policeman in the Persian Gulf – dealt the US a game-changing setback, and placed a machete at the throat of each pro-US Arab regime in the Middle East: “An emergency was in the making, which involved the regime in Iran, a pillar of US and Western interests.

 

This emergency was the most serious foreign policy test… which President Carter and his leading officials failed…. The Carter Administration was willing to see [the Shah] go because it had persuaded itself that the alternative would institute democracy and human rights…. From Teheran, Ambassador Sullivan argued that Khomeini was anti-Communist, that the young officers were generally pro-Western, that economic ties with the West would subsist, that Khomeini would play a ‘grandpa like role’, and that election would be likely to produce a pro-Western Islamic republic. In Washington, there was a chorus of academic and official voices singing the praises of Khomeini and the National Front….”

 

According to Prof. P.J. Vatikiotis: “For the foreseeable future, inter-Arab differences and conflicts will continue…. Inter-Arab relations cannot be placed on a spectrum of linear development… Rather, their course is partly cyclical, partly jerkily spiral and always resting occasionally at some ‘grey’ area…. What the Arabs want is not always – if ever – what Americans desire; in fact, the two desires may be diametrically opposed…. Even without the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Arab Middle East would have been a conflict-ridden and conflict-generating area…. Arrangements or alliances made by foreign powers with [Arab] regimes are problematic, dangerous, transient and even meaningless….”

 

Moreover, “a political challenge to any of these [Arab] regimes can come only in the form of a violent confrontation. Opposition is subversion; political disagreement is treason. The tolerance of opposition is scarce – in fact, nonexistent…. Power changes are therefore possible only via rebellion or revolution….”  

 

The litany of books and essays on the Middle East by Prof. Bernard Lewis have exposed a self-defeating Western policy, sacrificing realism on the altar of wishful-thinking and oversimplification. Many of them were authored before the 1979 toppling of the Shah, the bombing of the US Embassy and Marine Headquarters in Beirut in 1983, the 1998 bombing of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, the 2001 Twin Towers devastation and the current proliferation of Islamic terrorism in Europe.

 

Prof. Lewis highlighted features of Islam, which have not been fully-comprehended by Western policy-makers, who tend to sacrifice reality on the altar of rapprochement with Islam: “[Non-Muslims] may receive the tolerance, even the benevolence, of the Muslim state, provided that they clearly recognize Muslim supremacy…. That Muslims should rule over non-Muslims is right and normal…. That non-Muslims should rule over Muslims is an offense against the laws of God and nature…. Islam was associated with power from the very beginning…. The world is divided basically into two. One is the community of the Muslims, the other that of the ‘unbelievers.'”

 

Western policy in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf was severely criticized by Prof. J.B. Kelly: “While the Russians may have miscalculated at times, they have attempted to ground their policy upon reality, not upon wishful-thinking.
Western policy, on the other hand, has been based upon illusions, self-deception and calculations of short-term advantage. Nowhere is this more evident than in the formulation and execution of American policy towards Arabia and the Gulf…. In Arabia and the Gulf, the US government allowed itself to be seduced into adoption and implementing ARAMCO’s plans and those of its Saudi Arabian clients…. The State Department lent its unobtrusive support…. Just how great a part-illusion, self-deception and willful-obtuseness have played in fostering [this policy] is clearly revealed in the transcripts of hearings on the subject of American relations with the Gulf states held by the Senate Foreign Relations and the House International Relations Committees from 1972 onward…. None of this [former Secretary of State Joseph Sisco’s Congressional testimony] bore the remotest resemblance to reality…. It was then, and remains still, a mirage….”

 

Prof. Fouad Ajami, who was the Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University, wrote: “Arabs and Israeli are ready for peace, it is said by many in the US and in the Middle East. The missing ingredient, they argue, is the American role and American peace plan. The other side of this promise is a threat: dire consequences are predicted, for the region and for American interests, if the [US] Administration fails to embark on an activist policy.
In reality, the promise is a mirage, the dire consequences an empty threat…. The notion of [the US’] indispensability is a trap. We should not walk into that trap when others set it for us. Certainly, at least, we should be able to avoid entrapping ourselves.”

 

Have Western policy-makers learned from precedents by avoiding – or repeating – costly mistakes? Are they aware that unrealistic policies tend to be self-defeating, yielding more injustice and casualties than that which they intend to cure?!

Israel’s Darkening Horizon

By Matt Ward

Relations between Israel and Russia are on a knife edge. Events in the Middle East are moving at a very fast pace. With the downing of a Russian IL-20 reconnaissance plane on September 17th, it would seem that Russia, sensing an opportunity, is trying to both reset relations with Israel as well as redraw the operational limits of their own involvement in Syria and the Middle Eastern theatre. They are doing this whilst at the same time drastically curtailing Israel’s ability to act against her ever-more-entrenched regional enemies in Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.

Events began on September 17th with an Israeli Defense Force attack on a Syrian military facility located in Latakia. It was believed by Israel to be housing a lethal, high precision weapons systems bound for use by Hezbollah in Lebanon, something that has always been a very clear red line for the Jewish State.

After the successful airstrikes, the Israeli F-16 warplanes were engaged by Syrian air defenses. As a direct consequence of Syria’s wide-ranging and highly imprecise anti-air fire, a Russian IL-20 military plane with 15 Russian servicemen on board was shot down over the Mediterranean. All Russian servicemen died. This has created a firestorm for Israel, one which has the potential to severely impede her operational capabilities, not only in Syria but also in her ability to successfully defend her own homeland.

Immediately following the downing of the Russian IL-20 plane, Israel dispatched senior IDF commanders to Russia with the aim of clarifying that the responsibility for this unforeseen tragedy lay squarely at the door of the Syrian government. To that end, Major General Amikam Nurkin travelled to Moscow to brief senior Russia officers personally, presenting them with the data and findings from the IDF’s own investigation.

To be blunt, the IDF’s conclusions were rebuffed. That is an understatement. After concluding its own investigation, the Russian military came to the conclusion that it was in fact Israel that was solely to blame for the downing of the Russian IL-20, not Syria, and that Israel was exclusively to blame for the loss of the 15 Russian servicemen.

This accusation has rocked the IDF, and the shock felt within the Israeli military has been exacerbated by the increasingly bellicose accusations and charges laid against the IDF from the Russian military and its Defense Ministry.

On Sunday, 23rd September, the Russian Defense Ministry publically gave its own account of what happened on September 17th. The Russian Defence Ministry lays the entire blame for the incident squarely with the IDF. Worse still, Russian Major General Igor Konashenkov has openly claimed that the IDF has actively misled Russia about the location of its planned airstrikes in Syria, and that because of this the Russian IL-20 was prevented from being moved to a safe zone. Russia is declaring this as a direct breach of the 2015 Russian-Israeli agreements made to try to prevent clashes in Syria between Russian armed forces and Israel’s.

But Major General Igor Konashenkov wasn’t finished there. He went further. General Konashenkov continued by asserting that Israeli F-16 fighter jets had used the IL-20 as a “shield” against Syrian air defense systems, thereby purposely endangering the aircraft and all the Russian personnel on board. In so declaring, he has directly contradicted the IDF’s claim that the Israeli F-16’s were already home in Israeli airspace when the IL-20 was hit and shot down. He is publically asserting that Israel lied to them.

The Russian briefing concluded ominously by claiming that Israeli military personnel have acted with “criminal negligence,” and that they are exclusively to blame for the loss of Russian life.

The Russians, as a consequence, have now declared electronic war on Israel over the skies of both Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean. In quick time, the Russian military has armed Syria with the S-300 air defense system and will also immediately start jamming all “enemy” navigation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Syrian electronic air defense capabilities will now be increased to the same levels as the Russian forces currently operating within Syria.

Shoigu continued, “Russia will jam satellite navigation, on-board radars and communications systems of combat aircraft which attack targets in the Syrian territory, in the regions over the Mediterranean Sea bordering with Syria.”

Shoigu then concluded with a thinly veiled threat to Israel, stating that if these new measures “fail to cool hotheads, we will have to respond in line with the current situation.”

This is certainly a huge blow to Israel and will severely impede Israel’s ability to act within the Syrian theatre. The temperature in the Middle East has just shot up a number of notches. This is the first time in history that one nation has openly declared electronic warfare against another nation-state.

To this end, the first deliveries of Russian Krasukha-4 electronic warfare units have now been delivered to Syria. As well as neutralizing ground and airborne radars, these units can also jam and severely disrupt spy satellites. This system can jam all forms of communications systems, disable guided missiles, aircraft and radars, and be used as a platform to attack enemy electronic warfare capable units. These combined Russian measures will have the result of significantly hampering Israel’s ability to operate successfully within Syria, or even to monitor at least to the same degree, what is actually going on there “on the ground.”

Netanyahu has declared that, irrelevant of these new measures, Israel will continue to take the action necessary to prevent the embedding of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria. Such grand statements are meaningless though as even Netanyahu himself, speaking on the sidelines of the recent UN summit, openly acknowledged that this “accident with the IL-20 may have serious consequences” – many of which may be as yet unforeseen. Netanyahu’s comments are an explicit acknowledgement that the dynamic in Syria may have changed significantly.

The delivery of these new S-300 missiles, whilst not the most cutting edge weaponry available, will certainly complicate Israel’s ability to act unimpeded in Syria. As Israeli journalist Barak Ravid observed, the move “could limit the Israeli air force’s freedom of operation in Syria.” (1).

The delivery of these missiles and Russia’s declaration that they will interfere electronically with Israeli electronic warfare capabilities matter. They matter because, short of the obvious military impediment Israel now faces, the move also threatens to unravel a military and political alliance between Israel and Russia that has thus far kept them, and more importantly the other major world powers, backing up both sides from coming into direct conflict in Syria.

Israel will now have to be exceptionally careful and will need to calculate each and every potential intervention against Iran and Hezbollah in Syria in a way it has not had to before. Given that Israel has already conducted hundreds of operations in Syria and will likely continue to do so in the future, the likelihood of an Israeli jet being shot down by enhanced Syrian air defense systems has now significantly risen. If such an eventuality does arise and Israeli planes are shot down, or pilots injured or captured, then the likelihood that this may in turn provoke a wider regional flare-up increases dramatically. Israel, Iran, Syria, Russia and the United States could all be dragged into open and direct confrontation.

The bottom line for how this crisis concludes rests with Putin, although at this stage it appears that the outcome will be a severe restriction of Israel’s freedom of action over Syria. Amongst all the uncertainty though, one thing does however remain unchanged; Iran is still, without question, absolutely determined to continue transferring arms to Hezbollah.

The real test will be when Israeli intelligence, at some point in the near future, suggests that Iran is once again attempting to smuggle sophisticated arms and weaponry into Lebanon. What happens then, when Israel feels absolutely obliged to act? Will they? And if they do, what will Russia do? And will this be containable?

Only time will tell.

HAMAS LEADER THREATENS TO ATTACK “SETTLEMENTS”

Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar: If Israel attacks Gaza, we’ll attack the settlements inside Israel.
Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar on Sunday warned the IDF against operating in Gaza in response to the “March of the Return”, in which Gazans are marching en masse toward the border with Israel.
In an interview with the Hamas-affiliated newspaper Felesteen, Zahar said that “Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman wants to send a message of intimidation, but he knows that we are not afraid.”
Asked about the possibility of an Israeli attack in Gaza, Zahar replied, “The message is clear, an eye for an eye. If it attacks inside Gaza, we will attack the settlements that are deep inside Israel.”
“The Palestinian people are the guide today, because the Palestinian people are stronger than any organization and the roots of the people are stronger than the 1967 borders and stronger than the 1948 borders,” Zahar continued.
“Among the Palestinian, Arab and Israeli leadership there are those who believe that the (Palestinian) people have forgotten their land. The Palestinian people today emphasize that they have not forgotten a single inch of Palestine and will not give up any holy place in it, and we will not stop the resistance until we realize this goal,” he threatened.
Tensions along the Israel-Gaza border have worsened in recent weeks, following the beginning of six weeks of violent demonstrations and attempted infiltrations into Israel along the Gaza security fence.
On March 30, rioters kicked off the “March of the Return” demonstrations, which drew tens of thousands in clashes with IDF forces along the border.
According to Gaza health officials, 29 rioters have been killed during the clashes with the IDF, with close to 3,000 more wounded.
The IDF has reported that at least 12 of the rioters killed in the disturbances are terrorists with known ties to the Hamas organization, while others approached the security fence and attempted to cross into Israel, despite warnings by the IDF prior to the riots.
On Sunday, several terrorists from Gaza infiltrated Israel through the security fence near northern Gaza, resulting in the IDF launching an artillery barrage on terrorist positions in the region.
ISRAEL ON HIGHEST ALERT AS IRAN THREATENS TO ATTACK!

Israel Today Staff
Israel’s military forces have been put on high alert after Iran threatened to retaliate over the bombing early Monday of an air base in central Syria.
The T-4 Air Base had reportedly been a headquarters for Iranian drones being used in support of the Syrian regime. Israel viewed that and all other Iranian military forces in Syria as an unacceptable threat to the security fo the Jewish state.
While Israel maintained its policy of ambiguity regarding the T-4 base bombing, Russia, Syria, Iran and the United States all said that Israeli aircraft had been responsible.
“The crimes will not remain unanswered,” insisted Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
While still not explicitly admitting to the T-4 base strike, Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the Jewish state would not back down in confronting creeping Iranian hegemony.
“Israel will not allow Iranian entrenchment in Syria. Whatever the cost,” Liberman told reporters. “Accepting Iranian entrenchment in Syria would be to accept Iranians putting a chokehold on us. We cannot allow that.”

Notes On Our Next War

BY VIC ROSENTHAL/ABU YEHUDA

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There is a feeling of calm before the storm here in Israel. Everyone thinks war is unavoidable, and most people understand, at least on an intellectual level, that this war is going to be one of the toughest in Israel’s history.
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I’ll say at the outset that I’m convinced that we will survive this one too, and even achieve a measure of victory. But the cost will be very high in soldiers, civilians and property, and the price we will have to exact from our enemies will be even higher.
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As in the past, they have worked themselves into a frenzy, listening to their own propaganda. And as in the past, they will be sorry. But there’s no stopping them, particularly since the Iranian regime thinks it will be able to destroy us by proxy, without getting its own hands dirty.
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Our government and military will do their best to deter the various actors. Don’t join in, and nothing will happen to you, they will say, as they said to King Hussein of Jordan in 1967. But our enemies’ lack of understanding of our capabilities, their misconceptions about the nature of the Jewish people in Israel, and their incandescent hatred for us will continue to dazzle them.
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We are facing some 130,000 rockets in Lebanon which can hit almost all of Israel, and some of which can be accurately guided to their targets. There is also an unknown number of missiles in Syria, which can carry chemical weapons. And Iran herself has missiles that can strike Israel from her territory.
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There are battle-hardened Hezbollah fighters and Shiite militias in Lebanon and Syria, prepared to bring the war to our territory. And unlike the IDF, they will not spare civilians that they encounter.
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Hamas has also built up its missile forces since the last war, and have hardened their launchers and buried them underground. There is a threat from ISIS in the northern Sinai. Once the war begins we can expect an upsurge in terrorism from Arabs in Judea and Samaria, and possibly even from terrorist cells based in the Triangle area. How many fronts does that make?
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The IDF expects incursions in the North and has made plans for evacuation of areas threatened by fighting or heavy rocket barrages. Possibly there may also be evacuations in the area around Gaza.
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The enemy’s first act will probably be massive rocket attacks from Lebanon, perhaps with precision-guided missiles aimed at military targets and sensitive infrastructure. Only some of the incoming rockets will be intercepted by our anti-missile systems, which can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of projectiles.
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I expect that there will be incursions by elite enemy forces at the same time, in order to create panic and jam the roads with people moving south. Thousands of rockets a day will be fired at first, until our forces can destroy the launchers and stockpiles.
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The IAF and artillery will hit the launch areas in southern Lebanon, causing massive damage and probably great loss of life to civilians among whom the rocket launchers are placed. IDF ground troops will enter Lebanon to root out the launchers that can’t be destroyed from the air.
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Heavy fighting is expected in an area that is honeycombed with tunnels and bunkers. Casualties to both the home front and the IDF in this phase may be quite high.
 

I can’t estimate how long it will take for the rocket fire from Lebanon to be stopped, but in 2006 it continued for an entire month until a cease-fire was signed. The IDF says that it has learned its lessons from that war, but then so has Hezbollah. I think it is true that this time we have far better intelligence and will know how to hit more targets in less time. We may even succeed in decapitating Hezbollah by killing its top leadership early on.
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But it is impossible to predict what will happen in a four- or five- front war. There are credible estimates of thousands of civilian and military casualties on our side. The war will probably be the most painful of any of Israel’s previous wars (at least in the sheer number of casualties).
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I think that the Israel of massive construction projects and burgeoning economy will suffer a severe setback from this war, because of the human and financial costs. The “golden age” that we are experiencing today will not continue, or at least will be suspended for some years.
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The worldwide hate machine will go into overdrive, holding us responsible for the deaths of thousands or even tens of thousands of human shields in Lebanon and Gaza. There will be demonstrations against Israel and Jews everywhere.
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What can we do to reduce the impact of the war? It seems to me that there are several possible strategies:
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One is to wait for the enemy to attack and then hit them as hard as possible. This has one main advantage – at least, its proponents claim that it does – which is that world opinion and the diplomatic climate would be more favorable, since we would not be viewed as the aggressor. Our enemies would have violated international law by attacking us, and theoretically a  negotiated settlement would favor us.
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The main disadvantage of this strategy is that a huge amount of damage can be done before we respond. Especially if critical infrastructure is destroyed, our response could be delayed, and the difference could be measured in thousands of deaths.
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Since ground troops would be required to deal with incursions and hardened rocket launchers, we would be in a difficult spot until the reserves could be called up, especially if we have been attacked on multiple fronts.
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But the truth is that our diplomatic isolation stems from other nations’ perceptions of their national interest and by their prejudices, and not on the true moral or legal nature of our actions. World opinion is manipulated by governments and media and is also not reality-based. Therefore I doubt that any such abstract advantages would justify the price we would pay for it. And the price would be high.

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The second strategy is to preempt and attack first. Martin Sherman has done a good job in arguing for preemption:
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Given the assumption that, bolstered by its patron’s pervasive physical presence, Hezbollah will in all likelihood, eventually, use the vast arsenal at its disposal, the inevitable question is: Will Israel allow its deadly adversary to choose the time, place and circumstances for a major attack against it? Indeed, more to the point, can Israel afford to allow Hezbollah such a choice?
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Sherman goes on to show that Israel cannot, particularly because the small size of the country and her technological sophistication make her especially vulnerable to destruction of critical infrastructure, such as power plants, desalination facilities, refineries, natural gas platforms, and similar facilities.
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A preemptive strike might not be quite as effective as it was in 1967, but it would certainly reduce the damage that Israel would need to absorb. If done properly it might result in a quick end to the war. I’ve argued the same thing here and here.
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Sherman argues correctly that the idea that Israel has been successful in deterring its enemies is wrong. Rather, our restraint has been exploited to allow our enemies to build up and harden their capabilities. The choice, says Sherman, is “between incapacitating the enemy while you can; or continuing to deter the enemy–until you can’t!”
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A third strategy is to continue as we have been doing, preventing Iran from establishing bases in Syria and arming Hezbollah by means of limited strikes. But this is a delaying tactic that is only partially effective, and, Sherman notes, “it is liable to lead not only to the hardening of targets– for example by converting them from surface to underground sites–but to familiarizing the enemy with Israel’s methods and capabilities.”
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There is always the question “what will the great powers do?” That means, of course, the US and Russia. The rest of the world will talk, but does not have the power to act (the Sunni Arabs will condemn us in public but smile in private). It is hard to predict what the Trump Administration will do, but it is certain that a Democratic administration would be worse, which argues for taking action sooner rather than later.
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Will the Americans insist on prior knowledge of the operation? Can we take the risk of telling them? What will happen if we don’t?
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As far as Russia is concerned, part of our plan will have to include guaranteeing Russia’s interests in the region. What this would mean in detail would have to be worked out, but I don’t think our interests and Russia’s have to contradict each other.
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The problem is that time is not on our side. The longer we wait, the more expensive in lives and money the inevitable war becomes. The comforting argument that because of our strength our enemies will continue to be deterred falls apart with every new report that Iran has built this or that facility, or introduced this or that militia into Syria.
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Sherman asks: do we want a triumph like 1967 or a trauma like 1973? I don’t know if we can achieve a victory as total as 1967, but only preemption will save us from an outcome that could be much worse than 1973.

 

Israel Is Fighting A Five-Front War

By Yochanan Visser/Arutz Sheva
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Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western Journalism.com in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authored a book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva

Israelis used to talk about the “next war” and are familiar with warnings about imminent threats to the existence of the Jewish state or, alternately, theories which offer a “solution” to our hundred-year-old conflict with the Arabs. Often, the various theories are based on wishful thinking or on Einstein”s definition of insanity.
If Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was to hold a “State of the Nation” address in the Knesset today, he would most likely say Israel is strong, thriving and flourishing. He would add that he has managed to keep Israel out of the Middle Eastern quagmire once called “The Arab Spring” which has devastated countries and contributed to the rise of ISIS and Iran in the region.
In short, Israel appears enjoying a “quiet” period, that”s the general line of thinking.
There”s more than meets the eye, however, and an assessment of the reality on the ground shows a very different picture and makes clear that Israel is already engaged in a war, a covert one.
One could call it a “low-intensity conflict” but the fact is no day passes by without news which supports the conclusion that the IDF is fighting an asymmetrical war against implacable foes on five fronts.
Over the last year we have witnessed the heating up of the northern border in both Syria and Lebanon, an uptick in Palestinian terror attacks, a renewal of rocket fire from Gaza, continuing attempts to infiltrate Israel via so-called terror tunnels and most recently a sharp increase in attempts to attack the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
For example, in Gush Etzion, the largest bloc of Jewish communities in Judea, there were three attempts by Arabs to infiltrate the city of Efrat and Carmei Tzur, a small Jewish village along Road 60 to Hevron, this over the past month alone.
In all cases, local security and emergency teams managed to foil the terror attacks, but it is an indication that terrorists are heeding Fatah”s recent call to attack “settlers”, meaning Jews living in Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland of Israel.

Then there is Gaza, where Hamas again allows rocket fire against villages and towns in southern Israel and continues to organize infiltration attempts via tunnels and the security fence surrounding the enclave.
The worsening of the humanitarian situation in Gaza could easily spark a new conflict with Israel according to Israeli security experts, and Hamas is reportedly again preparing for war as a way-out of its self-created Gazan swamp.
Over the past few days, Hamas-leader Yahya Sinwar has raised the level of alert among the various Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip and has moved the command echelon to underground facilities. He thinks Israel intends to launch a pre-emptive assault on Gaza within the next few days.
Sinwar ordered the measures after the IDF stepped up its retaliatory attacks against Hamas targets in the Gaza strip and because he mistook a joint American-Israeli drill and an exercise by the IDF”s Paratroopers Brigade as preparation for imminent war.
In reality, the joint American-Israeli drill, dubbed Juniper Cobra, is a biennial exercise which will this year focus on missile defense in a two-front scenario, while the Paratrooper drill could be a preparation for military action against Iran and its proxies.
Another front where Israel is fighting a covert war is the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt where Wilayat Sinai, the local ISIS branch, continues to pose a serious threat not only to the regime of President el-Sisi but also to the Jewish State.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that Israel has carried out airstrikes on positions of Wilayat Sinai a hundred times.
The Israeli intervention in Sinai was coordinated with the el-Sisi regime, according to the NYT, and started after the ISIS affiliate downed a Russian civilian plane in northern Sinai in 2015, killing all aboard.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) uses drones and unmarked helicopters and warplanes in the campaign against Wilayat Sinai, which formerly operated under the name Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

The NYT report, which was based on intelligence obtained from unnamed American officials, formed the first concrete evidence of the changing relationship between moderate Arab countries and Israel. This relationship is now based on the idea of the “enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
Most attention in Israel, however, went to developments along the two northern fronts last week.
On the Syrian Golan Heights, the Iranian-Russian-backed pro-Assad coalition launched an offensive against the ISIS-affiliated Jaysh Khaled bin al-Walid militia, which still controls a pocket of territory near the Yarmouk river.
According to citizen-reporters in the area and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the IDF was also involved in the battle and launched rockets at the ISIS affiliate. SOHR later erased the report about Israel”s intervention.
The Syrian army offensive against the Jihadists on the southern Golan comes after Assad”s forces re-conquered an area adjacent to the Druse town of Khader and the demilitarized zone near Mount Hermon in northwest Israel.
The fifth front were Israel is facing huge challenges is Lebanon, as became apparent last week when Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that Lebanese residents of Beirut would spend a lot of time in bomb shelters whenever Hezbollah and its allies dared to launch rockets at Tel Aviv and other Israeli population centers.
Liberman made his remarks after Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow to discuss the growing Iranian threat via Hezbollah in Lebanon with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Netanyahu reportedly shared intelligence with Putin which proved Iran is building missile production facilities in Lebanon, and works on the production of advanced missile guidance systems which can convert crude rockets into precision weapons.
These guided missiles form a strategic threat to Israel, and this is the reason the government in Jerusalem embarked on yet another diplomatic offensive to draw attention to the growing Iranian threat against the Jewish state from Lebanon and Syria.

The urgency of the matter was further underlined by a rather unusual action by IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis who wrote an open letter to the Lebanese people. In the letter, he warned of danger to the entire future of Lebanon because of “the takeover of those who take their orders from Tehran.”

The latest diplomatic offensive by the Netanyahu government to draw international attention to Iran”s encroachment on Israel”s northern border via Hezbollah and Shiite militias in Syria which operate under the command of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), is doomed to fail.
While the Americans recently targeted Hezbollah by imposing new sanctions on the terror organization, they still support the Lebanese army despite evidence it has become another Iranian division controlled by Hezbollah.
The European countries are even worse and in the main, still view Hezbollah as an umbrella organization with a banned military arm and a legitimate political division. As a result, Hezbollah is able to operate freely in most European countries, recruiting new members and raising funds.
Israeli experts such as Dr. Ely Karmon of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya now advocate another approach, in which Israel takes Iran directly to task about its belligerent activities in Syria and Lebanon.
Karmon says Israel”s deterrence policy in Lebanon is not working because Iran and Hezbollah are not impressed by threats to destroy Lebanon”s infrastructure or the prospect Lebanese citizens will have to spend time in shelters in a possible future conflict.
Karmon recalled how Iran finally gave in during the eight years it was at war with Iraq.
“It should be remembered that the decision of Ayatollah Khomeini to accept the end of the eight-year Iraq-Iran war in 1988 came only after a wave of deadly missile bombings of Iran”s capital,” Karmon said.
“Israel should threaten Tehran directly,” he asserted.

Portents of a quagmire in Syria

by Caroline Glick

 

Is the war in Syria won?

The images broadcast this week from Sochi, the Russian vacation town on the Black Sea coast, were pictures of victory – for the bad guys.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin stood beside his Syrian client, President Bashar Assad, who licked Putin’s boots, as well he should have.

Assad owes his regime and his life to Putin.

The next day, Putin was joined by his allies – the presidents of Iran and Turkey.

Hassan Rouhani and Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the pilgrimage to Sochi to stand at Putin’s side and declare victory in the war and dedicate themselves to the cause of “peace and reconciliation” in post-war Syria.

To achieve their lofty goals of peace and reconciliation, Putin and his partners declared that, in the near future, Sochi will be the sight of a peace conference where all the relevant factions in Syria will be represented. The parley they described is set to take place parallel to – and one assumes at the expense of – the sixth round of Syrian reconciliation talks scheduled to take place under UN auspices next week in Geneva.

Several Israeli commentators viewed Putin’s Sochi talks precisely as he wished them to.

Ehud Yaari, Reshet/Keshet’s veteran Arab affairs commentator declared: The US is finished in the Middle East! The capital of the Middle East is now located in Sochi, he proclaimed in back-to-back newscasts.

In certain respects, Yaari is right. Things are looking good these days for the axis of evil.

Wednesday was a particularly good day for Iran. Not only did Rouhani do his victory dance with Putin and Erdogan, but as they were showering themselves in triumph in Sochi, Iran’s Lebanese puppet, Saad Hariri, was returning to Beirut after his misadventures in Saudi Arabia.

As expected, Hariri canceled the resignation he announced dramatically a week-and-a-half earlier in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after accusing Iran and its Hezbollah army of controlling Lebanon.

On the surface, Hariri’s return is a boon for Iran. If he had remained in Saudi Arabia, Iran would have lost its fig leaf.

Hariri’s duty as prime minister is to snow the West into believing that his government and the Lebanese Armed Forces are a counterweight to Iran and Hezbollah, even though they are controlled by Iran and Hezbollah.

Until his trip to Riyadh, Hariri had been doing a good job.

Hariri’s lobbying efforts won Lebanon billions of dollars in US military and civilian aid. Congress would never have agreed to appropriate the assistance if Hariri hadn’t been so persuasive.

But it is far from clear that Hariri will be much of a fig leaf after he let the Iranian/Hezbollah cat out of the bag in Riyadh.

A rising chorus of US lawmakers are demanding an immediate end to US assistance to the LAF. And Hariri’s return to Beirut didn’t dim those voices.

In August, Hariri visited President Donald Trump at the White House. Trump praised Lebanon as “an ally” in the war on terrorism. He increased US aid to the LAF and deployed US special forces to Lebanon where they fought at the side of the LAF under effective Hezbollah command.

It’s hard to imagine Trump welcoming Hariri back to the White House anytime soon.

As for Erdogan, he arrived in Sochi a spent force.

Erdogan is perhaps the biggest loser of the war in Syria. He was the principal sponsor of the anti-Assad opposition that morphed into Islamic State. Erdogan’s cooperation owes mainly to his lack of better options. The US stopped supporting his campaign in Syria two years ago.

Since the failed military coup against him in July 2016, Erdogan has become ever more hostile to the US. This hostility informed his recently concluded deal with Putin to purchase Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system. The S-400 threatens every fighter craft in the US arsenal. US officials have responded to his move by seriously considering the possibility of canceling the sale of 100 F-35s to Turkey.

Turkish expulsion from NATO – once a taboo subject – is now regularly discussed in Washington policy circles.

The main reason Erdogan has sided with Putin in Syria is because the US has sided with Syria’s Kurds. Erdogan views the Syrian Kurds as a threat to the stability of his regime. He expects Putin to support his determination to destroy Kurdish autonomy in Syria.

If Putin fails to meet his expectations, Erdogan may abandon his new friends. Or he may stick with them and just become ever more dependent on Putin.

Whatever the case, he won’t be empowered by his membership in Pax Putin.

And this brings us to Putin and Russia.

Certainly it is true that the Sochi summitry has cemented Putin’s position as savior of Mother Russia.

A mere generation ago, Russia was a washed up, fifth-rate power. At the end of the Cold War, the world belonged to America. Today, world leaders beat a path to Putin’s door.

But not everything is roses and sunshine.

Russia’s alliance with Iran and Turkey is predicated on Russia remaining in Syria – come what may.

And what is coming is not likely to be pretty.

While Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani were congratulating themselves in Sochi, another conference was happening in Riyadh. There, leaders of the anti-Assad militia were meeting to discuss their next moves ahead of the UN-sponsored talks next week in Geneva.

True, the forces represented in Saudi Arabia aren’t as powerful as the Iranians, Hezbollah and Russia. But they have guns. And they are disgruntled. And if any number of governments want to give them more guns, they will have more guns and bullets. And they will shoot them at the people keeping Assad in power.

Commentators declaring the dawn of a Russian-controlled Middle East where the US is dead to rites ignore another basic fact. There are a lot of US forces in Syria.

In late October, US Major General James Jarrard, commander of the US’s anti-ISIS task force in Iraq and Syria, “accidentally” told reporters that there are 4,000 US troops in Syria. When reporters pounced on his statement, Jarrard quickly backtracked and said he made a mistake.

There are only 500 US forces in Syria.

Whoopsie daisy.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the administration does not intend to withdraw US forces from Syria now that the mission against ISIS is largely complete.

US forces in Syria are concentrated in Syrian Kurdistan. If the US protects the Kurdish autonomous areas along the border with Iraq, Erdogan will again lose a big bet in Syria. His alliance with Putin will have brought him nothing but a deterioration of his ties with the US and instability at home as Turkish Kurds expand their ties to the autonomous Syrian brethren.

Angry, unreconciled, well-armed rebel forces and autonomous Kurds are far from the biggest threat to Putin’s victory in Syria. The biggest threat to his triumph is Syria itself.

Thanks in large part to Putin and his allies, Syria, today, is one vast ruin.

According to UN assessments, reconstruction costs for the country will run anywhere from $200 billion-$350b.

Does Putin intend to finance Syrian reconstruction? How about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or Erdogan or China? Of course not.

And, if Syria remains a ruin, Syria will not be pacified; and, if Syria isn’t pacified, it will continue to bleed.

The media made a big deal about Putin’s phone call to Trump after his meeting with Assad. Some commentators viewed the call as proof Putin is calling the shots in the Middle East. Others saw the opposite – that Putin doesn’t dare move too far ahead of the Americans.

But those views are likely both wrong.

Putin’s record indicates that he cares about two things: reasserting Russia’s great power status and money. For his victory in Syria to avoid becoming a Pyrrhic one, he needs lots of American money to finance Syrian reconstruction.

This brings us to the US, and what Washington wants to do in Syria and the wider Middle East.

So far, the Americans have made every possible mistake in Syria and Iraq.

Then president Barack Obama allowed Assad to commit a genocide of Syria’s Sunnis and foment the refugee crisis in Europe. He allowed Iran and Hezbollah to take over Syria and Iraq. He allowed Erdogan to organize an anti-Assad rebel force dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, which over time morphed into ISIS. He allowed the Russians to use the war as a means to reassert their position in the Middle East 33 years after the Soviets were humiliated and expelled from the Levant.

For his part, Trump has maintained Obama’s Syria policies in relation to Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Assad. He expanded US military assistance to the LAF. He permitted Iranian militias controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to cooperate with US-trained Iraqi forces in seizing Kirkuk from Kurdish forces. In so doing, Trump betrayed the Kurds, the US’s only reliable allies in Iraq.

If the Americans wish to maintain their record of failure, they have many options for doing so. They can abandon the Syrian Kurds. They can help Putin by underwriting Syrian reconstruction.

They can continue to arm the Hezbollah-controlled LAF. But the Americans do have an option to succeed, as well.

If Trump keeps US forces in Syrian Kurdistan, and if he refuses to help pay for Syrian reconstruction so long as Assad remains in power and Iranian and Hezbollah forces remain on the ground and if the US ends its civilian and military assistance to Lebanon, the US and its allies will be strengthened, and Russia and its allies will be weakened.

If the Americans do not interfere as Syrian “freedom fighters” defend against Iranian or Russian “aggression,” it won’t matter what terms the Iranians give Putin for gas, or oil or nuclear deals. He will seek a way out of Syria.

On May 1, 2003, then president George W. Bush landed a S-3 Viking fighter craft on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln dressed in a flight suit. Before an audience of cheering troops and against the backdrop of a banner that read “Mission Accomplished,” Bush declared: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

A month later, the real Iraq war started.

In the years that followed, probably not a day went by when Bush didn’t regret his victory dance on the USS Lincoln.

Putin, Rouhani and (to a much smaller degree) Erdogan are right that, as of now, they are the victors in Syria. But let us not empower them by believing them invincible. Their victory against ISIS – achieved with massive US assistance – is certainly an achievement. But it isn’t the end of the story. If the Americans do not save them, the situation on the ground augers quagmire, not triumph, for their axis and for their separate regimes.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.