July 4, 2017 · 9:02 am
BLOG 355 July 3, 2017
With all the furor over President Trump’s tweets and adolescent responses to criticism, an important shift has gone unreported. Trump has actually made an impact in the Middle East that the Western media has not particularly picked up. Behind the scenes a shift is taking place that could have a major impact on the future.
One of the deficits of the Obama era was his reluctance to get involved and to push for creative change in the region. Obama basically walked away from the Syrian civil war, leaving it to Russia who in turn took Crimea and invaded Ukrainia. Obama’s warnings to Syria about chemical warfare used on their own people went unfulfilled and unheeded.
Whether Trump’s new overtures in the Middle East are only as impulse or are part of a larger policy (hard to tell at this time), his efforts are producing a new alliance of pro-US Sunni Arab states that could radically affect the Middle East. On June 4, The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain officially cut ties with Qatar. The Iranians and ISIS are being isolated by these efforts that signal Russia no longer owns the playing field.
Qatari money and the Muslim Brotherhood pushed for dominance, but their efforts are now dead. The Arab world has ruptured ties with Qatar which further isolates Iran. The Jerusalem Post reporter Seth Frantzman notes there are five reasons you should be aware of the current changes going on in the backrooms of the Middle-East. You are not likely to read this anywhere else.
- The shift hurts Hamas because Qatar supported the terrorist group. Hamas and their leader can no longer depend on unqualified support. Hamas will lose out in this new emerging allegiance.
- Israel is being brought closer to Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well as other Gulf states.
Israel can become a partner with the states that oppose terrorism coming from Iran and Qatar.
- The emerging alliance signals that the US is back in the region and will assert influence. Under Obama, Israel felt isolated and questioned whether he was truly a friend. Today, Netanyahu sees America as a friend they can count on.
- The new status helps de-legitimize terrorism. When Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other states work in concert to halt the kind of terrorism that has grown out of Iran, the winds of stability are blowing in Israel’s direction. New soundness is added to the region.
- Israel’s position in the Middle East is bolstered by this new alliance. When Qatar and Iran are the center of attention rather than the Palestinians, this is a good step for Israel. Harmony in the region is good for everyone, but Israel in particular.
The biggest loser in this new scenario may well be Hamas. The Arab states have come to see Hamas as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood which they now label as a terrorist group. If Hamas is no longer bailed out by Qatar, they indeed have a serious problem.
February 10, 2015 · 5:24 pm
BLOG 239 February 9, 2015
You may have picked up from the media that Israel made an air strike on Hezbollah in Syria that killed senior Hezbollah officials, six Iranians, and an Iranian general. What was a general from Iran doing in Syria with this terrorist group? You got it! If we didin’t know before, that’s a clear picture of how Iran is financing and directing Hezbollah as well as other terrorists groups.
General Muhammad Allahdadi was from the Revolutionary guard, the right wing military force inside Iran. It is believed that Allahdadi was planning deadly cross the border assaults against Israel. Jihad Mughniyeh, who was also killed, was known as a ruthless terrorist who had the direct backing of Iran. The head of Hezbollah’s operations in Syria and Iraq was also killed.
Currently, Northern Israel is on high alert. Revolutionary Guard chief General Muhammad Ali Jafri warned they will fight to the end until “this epitome of vice” (Israel) is destroyed –meaning Hezbollah will strike back –sometime. The military promised “ruinous thunderbolts” would fall on Israel. Of course, Israel is also blamed for all terrorism in the Middle East. No surprise there.
The question remains where and when Hezbollah will strike. The current situation signals that adherence to the 2006 Second Lebanon War agreement is wearing thin. If the terrorist group make a minor attack, Israel will respond tit-for-tat and that would probably conclude the current situation. A much larger assault and Israel would undoubtedly attack inside Lebanon. In that circumstance, all bets are off.
Can Hezbollah stand such an assault after the serious defeat Hamas suffered in the recent Gaza war. Even though the Hamas leaders are wealthy from the money flowing into their pockets that was meant for Hamas, the organization is in serious trouble and losing ground in Gaza. Does Hezbollah want to risk the same defeat?
Hard to say.
Hezbollah is much larger, better equipped, and now better financed than Hamas was, but they are also strung out over Syria. Should Israel hit them full force, it might wreck their war machine in Syria. In such case, Israel would be hurting the Assad regime. Would they do that? It is known that Israel prefers the devil they know to one unknown and many of the rebels fighting Assad are worse than he is. What a tangled mess the Middle East has become!
Again, Hezbollah could be taking a significant risk if they attempt to reach across the border as Israel would not hesitate to respond. The situation remains highly explosive and could ignite more regional conflict.
More is definitely to come.
November 5, 2014 · 6:39 pm
BLOG 224 November 3, 2014
The Palestinian struggle for independence has not gone well. The debacle in Gaza with Hamas getting smashed only added to the lingering frustrations. The 50 days of fighting with Israel was the third Gaza war in six years and by far the deadliest, exacting the heaviest toll so far on Gaza strip that was already in economic struggles. Entire neighborhoods were reduced to rabble. While the citizens of Gaza had voted Hamas into power, it was almost as if the Israelis were punishing them for supporting the terrorists. Being in step with Hamas proved to a terrible price to pay for their plebiscite.
The ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt called for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to replace Hamas as the civil authority. Israel wanted to make certain that funds for rebuilding did not go into rearmament and the rebuilding of invasion tunnels into Israel. Of course, attempts to create a lasting truce between Israel and Hamas will prove fruitless. On the other hand, divisions within the Palestinian camp with the PA and Hamas fighting each other may prove to be equally difficult to settle. PA state ministers entered Gaza on October 9, for the first meeting of a unity government. However, the reconciliatory rhetoric did not conceal the fact that Hamas and Fatah are locked in serious disputes.
One of the irresolvable issues has to do with money. Hamas has 40,000 unpaid employees and wants the PA to foot the bill. Unfortunately, the PA has been in an economic crisis for years. Sorry. They can’t resolve that problem.
Then, there is the rebuilding of the destroyed Gaza Strip area. Unless there is a legitimate government to oversee distribution of funds, donor countries will back away. The feud between the PA and Hamas currently makes a functioning government impossible. The result is not only that nothing happens, but the everyday Palestinian citizens are increasingly critical of the schism separating both groups.
Of course, Hamas is in a bad way. An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ouster of Mohammad Morsi and the fall of the Brotherhood in Egypt radically cut off funding. The incessant firing of rockets at Israel did not sit well across the world. In addition, their refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist has isolated them further from international powers. The destruction of their tunnels created another crippling economic blow.
Israel killed the two Hamas operatives that kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers. Their deaths set off the assault on the Gaza Strip last spring. Surrounded by Israeli forces in, the two assailants hiding in a carpentry workshop in Hebron were gunned down trying to emerge from the building. Once again, the Palestinians lost the struggle.
Following the ceasefire, Palestinian citizens came out to walk the streets in Ramallah, but they expressed increasing frustration with failed negotiations, inept UN ventures, and the divided leadership between Hamas and the PA. It would seem that settling their conflicts with Israel or accepting Egypt’s offer of land in the Sinai would be an immediate solution to all of these problems.
Unfortunately, such available solutions seem to be too easy.
August 5, 2014 · 9:41 pm
Everyone is sickened by the death of women and children in Gaza’s death toll of over 1,830 Palestinians in the military skirmish. The 64 Israeli casualties were all soldiers. Hamas fired 3,200 rockets at Israel during the battle and the rockets were destroyed or hit virtually nothing. The Iron Dome defense held. Gaza had no such defense.
Because Hamas used civilians as human shields, blame will be placed on Israel by those who already are negative. In America, 53% of citizens 65 or older blame Hamas. On the other hand, only 29% of citizens aged 18 to 29 support Israel. Growing numbers of Europeans believe that not to be angry at Israel is tantamount to not having a conscience. Of course, part of the growth of European anti-Semitism is in the expanding large Muslim communities.
So, where are we today? Probably the depressing reality is that the Gaza conflict is heading toward a familiar conclusion. People get killed; nothing changes. Some groups will probably attempt to create a U.N. condemnation of alleged war crimes committed by Israel. The Palestinian Authority (PA) may make another attempt to gain recognition as a state. Probably neither of those approaches will produce any significant result. Mahmoud Abbas will go hobbling along affecting little, but making extreme accusations. Benjamin Netanyahu will continue building settlements to put the squeeze on the PA. A weak PA and a defeated Hamas will create a void that well may attempt to be filled by jihadists like ISIS or al-Qaida. The struggle continues.
A new shift may follow as Israel demands not only recognition of their right to exist, but may demand a long-term military presence in the West Bank. Increasing numbers of Israelis already question whether a two-state solution is possible. Many Arabs have already become Israeli citizens because they believe this is the only possible alternative for a productive life. Unless some significant action is taken, Hamas will again be trying to smuggle weapons into Gaza while manufacturing there own rockets in people’s homes. Israel wants to see the international community halt arms shipments from Iran and Sudan. But will they?
Many Arabs are already opposed to Hamas. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates view Hamas as frightening extremists that pose a threat to peace and tranquility in the entire region. By its own actions, Hamas has isolated itself. Now is the time for Israel to stop their warring capacities if Isrealis are to be secure.
Thoughtful citizens in Gaza must recognize that Hamas has only made their lives worse. Will they? At the least, they won’t say so out loud, but they will be thinking. The Hamas strategy of using humans as shields with schools, hospitals, mosques as rocket launching sites has cost the average citizen dearly. At the same time, the hatred of Israel only deepens. The problem is that with over 1,800 deaths, a new generation of young people will rise up bent on revenge even at the cost of their own lives. And the war starts over again.
Sorry. That’s all I can see.