Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Second Lebanon War: Moshe Yaalon
Part 4
The Spread of Iranian and Syrian Regional Control

Iran's regional strategy is to project its power and assert control across the entire Middle East via proxies – including Muktada al-Sadr's Shiite Mahdi army in Iraq, Hamas in Jordan, the Alawite regime in Syria, Hizbullah in Lebanon and Gaza, and Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups in the West Bank and Gaza. Iran avoids getting its hands dirty by working through proxies, thereby creating maximum instability with minimum responsibility. Aside from Iran's operational support and financial sponsorship of Hizbullah and Hamas, Iran's financial backing and training of Shiite insurgency groups in Iraq has been well documented by U.S. defense and intelligence officials. Gen. Michael Hayden, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in November 2006 that "the Iranian hand is stoking violence in Iraq and supporting even competing Shia factions." This assessment was shared by Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in congressional testimony. Iran has also supplied direct support to Shiite militias in Iraq including explosives and trigger devices for roadside bombs, in addition to terror militia training in Iran conducted by the IRGC and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
Senior U.S. intelligence official shave also said that Iran's Hizbullah proxy had used bases in Lebanon to train up to 2,000 members of the Iraqi Shiite Mahdi army. Iran reportedly facilitated the link between Hizbullah and the Shiite militias in Iraq.

Iran's Syrian ally hosts terror proxies, too, who live in, and operate with impunity from, Damascus. Syria's long arm of terror has been extended via Palestinian groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, without bloodying Syrian hands, thanks to deniability. Aside from hosting Palestinian terror groups, Syria has allowed its border with neighboring Iraq to remain porous, serving as a pipeline for financing Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups, a fact noted by the Baker-Hamilton Report. Since 2003, Bashar al-Assad has sanctioned the smuggling of weapons and ammunition, and has ignored the infiltration of terror operatives from Syria to Iraq. Beginning in March 2003, eye-witnesses in Aleppo, Syria, reported seeing busloads of Mujahideen heading into neighboring Iraq as Syrian border police waved them through. Since 2003, U.S. forces have reported killing and capturing Syrian nationals and Syrian-sponsored Jihadis involved in insurgency terror actions.
Iran's use of Syria as a bridgehead to the Arab world, together with Tehran's sponsorship of terror proxies to assert regional control, is a powerful model that has succeeded in destabilizing the region without the UN or any other major international organization stopping it. As a result, Iran and Syria, as well as North Korea, are able to defy the international community without paying a steep price.

Iran's ultimate objective is to leverage its recalibrated, more muscular, regional control and, under the umbrella of a rapidly advancing nuclear program, destabilize and ultimately subvert the international state system. From a historical perspective, Ahmadinejad and his allies have reason to believe that their objective to destroy Israel and defeat the West is on track. Islamists take credit for pushing the United States out of Lebanon in 1984, the Soviets out of Afghanistan in 1989, the Israelis out of Lebanon in 2000, the Spanish out of Iraq in 2004, and the Israelis out of Gaza in 2005. Now they believe they are close to pushing the Americans out of Iraq as well. Iran has paid no price for its transgressions: the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina; the torture and imprisonment of thousands of dissidents; the continuous violation of international understandings related to its nuclear program. These "successes" have only emboldened Islamists worldwide, fueling a perception among radicals that the West is simply afraid to confront them.

Like Iran's mullahs and its apocalyptic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syria's Bashar Assad has paid no penalty for his sins, from the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Lebanon, involvement in the November 2006 assassination of Lebanese Christian Cabinet Minister Pierre Gemayel, the ruthless suppression of Syrian dissidents, the use of Syrian soil as a safe haven for terrorist operations against coalition forces in Iraq, and the sheltering of leaders of terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Despite President Bush's veiled threats against Syria and Iran following the Gemayal and Hariri murders to destabilize Lebanon, Assad's regime has been so confident of its immunity from American or Israeli attack that it allowed Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to hold a press conference in Damascus celebrating the June 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, even as local Hamas leaders in the Palestinian Authority distanced themselves from the abduction. On July 12, 2006, the day of the Hizbullah kidnapping of two more IDF soldiers in northern Israel, Ali Larijani, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), was in Damascus to discuss strategic issues with Mashaal and officials of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist groups. According to reports, Larijani was also to have met with senior Hizbullah officials, who were unable to crossover from Lebanon that day.
Second Lebanon War: Moshe Yaalon
Part 3
New Jihadi Threats to the Regional Order and International State System

The Second Lebanon War also represents the development of several new types of strategic threats to the regional state system. First, rogue states such as Iran and Syria have become architects of what can be called the "terror state within a state" model. Hizbullah and Hamas, both leading Iranian proxies, are examples of sub-state and quasi-state organizations, respectively, that have essentially "kidnapped" their weak host governments – Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, respectively – from which they have operated with impunity. The same kind of terror blackmail relationship between al-Qaeda and its Saudi Arabian hosts has existed since the late 1980s. This model has also taken root in such weak states as Yemen and Afghanistan. The Taliban Mujahideen regime had simply cannibalized the Afghan government, until the U.S. invasion that followed the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.

In Lebanon, Hizbullah has become a "state within a state" due to massive political and military backing from Syria and Iran. Prior to the summer 2006 war the Lebanese government had allowed Hizbullah to operate from its sovereign soil as a quid pro quo for Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah's agreement not to attack targets in Lebanon. This blackmail relationship resulted in Hizbullah's "protection" of the Lebanese central government. However, this unstable relationship unraveled in November 2006 when Hizbullah's two government ministers resigned as part of an Iranian- and Syrian-backed efforttotopple the Seniora government, dissolve the parliament, and assert Hizbullah control over all of Lebanon.

Aside from its broad political influence in Lebanon, Hizbullah's fighting capabilities have raised its stature well beyond that of a terror organization. It should be more accurately characterized as a heavily armed and highly disciplined military force that operates with sophisticated Syrian and Iranian weaponry, and high quality command and control assistance and training by the IRGC.

Hizbullah, therefore, via its political and military infrastructures, benefits from a de facto status as a full state actor, without the commensurate responsibility and accountability to the international state system. That fact was well
reflected in its decisionon July12, 2006, to attack Israel without the permission of, or notice to, its democratically elected Lebanese host government. In short, Hizbullah exploits the international state system by agreeing to cease-fire negotiations opposite Israel, but does not bear any of the legal, political and diplomatic accountability as does its sovereign Lebanese host.

Another type of threat to the regional state system has arisen in the Palestinian Authority, a weak quasi-state actor. Since January 2006, Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hamas has taken control. Ironically, however, Hamas' official policy of refusing to recognize Israel and its engaging in terror against the Jewish state has strengthened Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' case for international sympathy and support. His claims that he is too weak to enforce law and order and turn back Hamas' terror policy without external support may or may not be true. Various PA security forces have a combined strength of nearly 50,000 men. However, Abbas was described recently by a senior Fatah PA security official as someone who "could not move a tea cup from one side of a table to the other without expressing the fear that the cup might tip over."

Whether Abbas lacks the required power or simply the political will to neutralize local Islamic terror groups and stabilize the Palestinian areas, his professed weakness opposite Hamas and other Jihadi militias, particularly in Gaza, has helped him maintain broad international support. For example, Abbas has parlayed his policy of weakness into a source of political strength with the Bush administration. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lavished praise on Abbas on October 11, 2006, before a leading Palestinian-American group, reiterating her "personal commitment" to his leadership and his efforts to establish a Palestinian state.

Abbas is not alone in his using this strategic option. Former PA leader Yasser Arafat also employed this strategy effectively during the Oslo years from 1993 to 2000. Arafat had consistently argued that he lacked the ability to rein in Hamas. Abbas also discovered that it pays for him to avoid risking all out confrontation and possible civil war with Hamas. Abbas' declared weakness also protects him in the international community, which continues to concede to Jihadi groups by demonstrating patience, tolerance and understanding for weak states such as Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. These states do not prevent terror activity from being planned and executed from within their borders, and then reject the basic standards of international accountability to which they must be held, but from which they continue to be excused.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Seniora also won the same type of international sympathy for his inability to disarm Hizbullah. Instead of holding Seniora accountable for allowing an Iranian proxy group to operate from within sovereign Lebanon, the international community actively engaged Lebanon and Hizbullah in frantic UN-sponsored diplomacy to end hostilities, broker a cease-fire and deploy 15,000 UN forces in southern Lebanon. This was a strategic error by the West. The international community should have established collective "red lines" and demonstrated Unified political determination with respect to Hizbullah, as it did when it lent its full backing and international legal force to the Seniora government to expel the Syrian army from Lebanon in 2005. Had it succeeded this time around, the international community could have impressed upon Seniora and the Lebanese government that it would have no alternative but to summon the same political and military will to disarm Hizbullah as it did in evicting Syrian troops from Lebanon.

The same lesson applies to the PA's Abbas. International aid to the Palestinians should have been conditioned on Hamas disarming before the Palestinian elections in January 2006. If the international community establishes an international code of conduct and mobilizes to enforce it, weak host countries could well discover previously unrealized political and military strength in the interest of national self-preservation.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Response to the Boycott

Dear Ambassador Jones,

It is with more than disappointment that I have learned that the American government and the Embassy here in Israel are boycotting Jerusalem Day. It is obvious to all that it is fear of offending Muslim 'sensitivities' that this is taking place.

Need anyone who knows history be reminded that Jerusalem has been the capital city of Jews for 2,000 years until 1948 - long before Islam was born? That same history shows that even during those years when this land was under various foreign rulers there was always a Jewish presence here? That Jews were the first Palestinians since the Romans gave Judea that name in order to break Jewish ties to the Land? The Arabs did not even call themselves 'Palestinians' until long after the Jewish State was reborn - and that for political expediency!

Who does not know that the League of Nations and the Balfour Declaration gave the British Mandated Government the responsibility of creating a Jewish Homeland in what is today Jordan and Palestine - yet 78% of that promise was awarded to the creation of an 'Arabs-only' state of Jordan - known as 'eastern Palestine' with the remaining 22% to be a Jewish state? Instead, there were even pogroms against Jews in Palestine prior to 1948 by those who supported Hitler and contributed to the decimation of European Jewry as well as pressuring the British not to open the gates to the Jewish homeland .

Israel has faced war after war and nineteen years of estrangement from the heart of her history and religion. From 1948 -1967 - during which time the Jordanians illegally controlled the eastern part of Jerusalem, Jews were prevented from praying at the Western Wall, 56 synagogues were destroyed with just one remaining. The ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was laid waste and headstones were appropriated for Jordanian stables and latrines!! .Since then that same enemy has continued to destroy proof of the Jewish Temples on the Mount as well as other holy places. They have demonized the Jewish State and are carrying on a worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel - denying the Holocaust - when even the Nazis kept meticulous records of their own evil. We know only too well that the only reliable guardians of Jerusalem are the Jews who respect the presence of all faiths.

The unbridled violence that engulfed the Jewish community both prior to 1948 and after was the precursor to the terrorism confronting the entire free world today; its goals are the annihilation of Israel and the United States as well - for a start. The international network of terrorism is thriving and we are not even standing up and saying 'Enough' !!!

Now is that time. The Middle East conflict is part and parcel of the whole picture. Israel is at the forefront of the same battle facing the rest of the world. If democratic Israel is not supported fully against a barbaric enemy it weakens our fight to turn back the fanatic Islamicist world which is emboldened by every concession.

Not recognizing and celebrating the legitimate unification of Jerusalem - a city that became free for all religions in 1967 - is nothing less than appeasement of those destructive forces that wish to control all of the land and, eventually, all of the world.

Finally, when President Bush was campaigning for the Presidency, one of his first promises was to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, the Eternal Capital of Israel. Had that been carried out immediately, upon his ascendancy to that office, it would have sent a clear message to friend and foe alike, that the United States of America recognizes its loyal friends and honors its obligations.

As a proud American - no matter where I am - I regret that the Bush administration does not recognize that celebrating Jerusalem Day with Israel would be a show of solidarity with a small country that shares many of its own dreams - a haven for those who seek freedom and are willing to contribute to the betterment of life for all through peaceful participation. Not joining in the festivity is a statement in the other direction; there is no neutrality.

Justice demands that Jerusalem remain united . Celebrating Jerusalem Day would show the world that
Israel's rebuilding and restoration in this ancient-modern city for the past 40 years is a symbol of her deep love and respect for a universal city that has been in her heart for centuries and will remain so till the end of time.

Chana Givon
in beloved Jerusalem