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Rick Richman, writing at Commentary magazine, reports on a back-and-forth at the State Department’s daily press conference between a reporter and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki and concludes that the only thing making things worse than the already awful situation in Syria – where picking winners and losers is almost impossible – is the lack of clarity in the policy of the United States:
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“There’s no change in our policy. I’m not going to read out what we think of the information we received from the French or the British or any other country. This is being analyzed, of course, and looked at seriously by a team internally, but I have no change in policy or approach to announce.”
Friday, June 14th, 2013 at 10:04 AM | Stand For Israel
Former Clinton Administration Middle East policy official Aaron David Miller writes that, as we have said before, there are no good options in Syria. Unlike other humanitarian disasters – both where America has intervened and where we have not – Syria has no clear good guy, no way in which American action could clearly do good, and no clear objective once intervention begins.
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The commentariat is looking for ways to press the administration to act. Their arguments are largely correct: Syria is indeed a moral, humanitarian, and strategic disaster. But their prescription for action is long on generalities and short on specifics, and even fuzzier on how the United States could stabilize the country and then extract itself from yet another entanglement in the Middle East. No analogy is all that relevant here — not Rwanda, not Libya, not Bosnia. The Syrian calamity is unique.
Thursday, June 13th, 2013 at 7:54 AM | Stand For Israel
“It’s a cancer that’s eating away at an already fragile region and exploits the religious civil war in heinous ways in order to help the criminal regime.”
This time, instead of the standard anti-Semitic Israel bashing, the Arab media is now associating Hezbollah with a deadly disease. You know Hezbollah – the Iranian-backed terror group that is now fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his current, and very bloody, civil war. (More on the Arab media’s comments here.)
Neither Assad’s regime nor Hezbollah operate with respect for human life, so the partnership seems fitting. Not only do they not mind killing the innocent, but both groups seem to pay no attention to their own members’ rising death toll.
The two-year war in Syria is not only being perpetuated by the terror group, but its also threatening to infect a somewhat stable Lebanon, whose government also wants Hezbollah out:
President Michel Sleiman implicitly called Tuesday on Hezbollah to end its military intervention in Syria by adhering to the government’s self-declared policy to disassociate Lebanon from the 2-year-old war in the neighboring country. During a meeting with MP Mohammad Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s bloc in Parliament, Sleiman also demanded the party’s assistance with the ongoing investigation into Sunday’s death of an anti-Hezbollah protester.
Hezbollah has exercised its poisonous influence in the Middle East for far too long. We’ve written about it here and here. We share President Sleiman’s hope, and pray for the day when Hezbollah not only vacates Syria, but the entire region.Comments (0) »
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 at 3:47 PM | Stand For Israel
Barry Rubin, writing at PJ Media, takes us on a tour of the bad options Western leaders face in choosing who to support among the rebels and terrorists fighting against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Rubin concludes that, while there might have been some good options a few years ago, there aren’t any now:
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Yet the policy is based on an illusion. Let’s say that weapons are given to the rebels. Will they win the war? Will that reduce civilian casualties? Which side will kill more people? Is a rebel victory going to make Syria a better place, more of a democracy? How many more refugees would a rebel victory generate? Say about 30 percent are Alawites, Christians, and Druze who would be oppressed by a rebel triumph, as would relatively secular Sunni urban middle class Muslims. They might flee the country. How many new wars will come out of the Syrian civil war?
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 at 8:19 AM | Stand For Israel
Bret Stephens, writing at the Wall Street Journal, points out the growing violence between subsets of the Islamic world and suggests that Syria has become the central battleground in that conflict. While we might be tempted to sit back and enjoy watching the enemies of the West duke it out, Stephens doesn’t think that’s the right approach:
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But here comes the whispered suggestion: If one branch of Islam wants to be at war with another branch for a few years—or decades—so much the better for the non-Islamic world. Mass civilian casualties in Aleppo or Homs is their tragedy, not ours. It does not implicate us morally. And it probably benefits us strategically, not least by redirecting jihadist energies away from the West. Wrong on every count.
Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 at 6:59 AM | Stand For Israel
Yesterday, the Syrian Foreign Minister (not to be confused with the Prime Minister who defected last summer) threatened “immediate retaliation” from his country should Israel attack them again. Dictator Bashar al-Assad told a television station that he is “under pressure” to open the “Golan front,” by which we can assume he means that some foolish adviser has suggested he actually attack Israel.
What should we make of such pronunciations and why are they being made? The word that most immediately comes to mind is “bluster.” The Syrian armed forces, already mired in a civil war with a poorly-armed militia it can’t beat, is in absolutely no position to take on the Israel Defense Forces. Let’s be more blunt about that: Syria would have to be stupid, insane, or utterly suicidal to either retaliate militarily thereby provoking a greater Israeli response or – even more ridiculous – to launch an attack on Israel. Unless the goal of such an attack would be to try to generate sympathy for Assad among the Syrian civilian population (which hates Jews even more than they hate their President), there’s no discernible upside to such an attack. So why threaten one?
Because Bashar al-Assad still hasn’t learned the lesson his father learned in 1967. During the Six Day War, as he was losing ground and vast amounts of expensive, Soviet-donated military assets, Hafez al-Assad continued to assure his benefactors in the Kremlin that all was well. The attempt at face-saving deception had two drawbacks: first, the Soviets eventually found out that their client in Syria was full of it; and, second, the delay cost (from Syria’s perspective) valuable days of Syrian losses that could have been avoided had the Soviets pushed earlier for a UN-imposed cease-fire.
The lesson is this: non-Arab countries simply don’t believe anything they hear from Arab dictators. Neither do other Arab leaders. The only people who believe that Bashar al-Assad might actually wage an offensive on the Golan Heights are the too-gullible denizens of the “Arab…Read More » Comments (18) »
Friday, May 31st, 2013 at 8:45 AM | Stand For Israel
Three days in a row, the Israeli side of the Israeli-Syrian border has been attacked by Syrian forces. Reports indicate that the attacks have been launched by regular Syrian troops – not by rebels or the terrorists who have attached themselves to the rebels (and, at this point, those two things may be indistinguishable from each other). The Syrians claimed earlier this week that they had destroyed an Israeli vehicle that crossed the border and had killed “everyone in it.” The Israelis explained that an IDF vehicle on the Israeli side of the Golan had been shot at and had returned fire. Chalk up another transparent, silly lie for the Syrian regime.
With his country in chaos and rebel/terrorist forces eating the organs of his soldiers, why would Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad pick a fight with the most powerful military in the region? The answer depends on whether or not he is doing anything of the sort.
Assad’s regime has been the victim of some high-profile defections and desertions. No one knows the extent of the control he has over his commanders. At every level of Syrian society, hatred of the Jewish state runs deep, so it’s entirely possible that a Syrian officer on the Israeli border has decided to fire at Israel without the knowledge or permission of the regime. (Or, at least, that that’s how it started a few days ago and now, loathe to be seen as less willing to attack Israel than one of his commanders, Assad is – to coin a phrase – leading from behind).
The other possibility is that Assad wants to pick a fight with Israel knowing that Israel isn’t the least bit interested in a prolonged conflict with Syria, that the U.N. and others will try to keep the muzzle on any Israeli response, and that attacking Israel is a sure way to get good press and street cred in the Arab and Muslim world. Even if Israel hits back, there’s a lot of upside for Assad and relatively little downside – assuming Israel’s…Read More » Comments (10) »
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 at 9:11 AM | Stand For Israel
Jonathan Spyer, Senior Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya, writes that the West is acting as though it is prepared to let the Assad regime die and that this strategy may not be thoroughly thought out. The question, of course, is: did the West make the choice not to act or did they default into inaction?
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The West’s change in policy also failed because of another crucial factor: The West hoped to aid “secular” rebel forces, but it was apparent to close observers that by the time the West finally chose to act, such forces simply did not exist.
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 at 8:53 AM | Stand For Israel
Well-respected Middle East expert Michael J. Totten, writing at World Affairs Journal, takes a look at how the Assad family has maintained power over the past four decades, how the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad began, and what that history suggests is the likely outcome of the continuing violence in Syria:
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We shouldn’t forget that Syria’s borders were drawn not by Syrians, but by French imperialists. The Alawites wanted a state of their own north of Lebanon and south of Turkey in the green part of Syria between the Mediterranean and the an-Nusayriyah Mountains. They actually had a semi-autonomous Free Alawite State, complete with their own flag, before the French forced them back into a merger with the inland Sunni Arab region. The Kurds in the north and northeast likewise never wanted to be part of Syria. They wanted, and still want, an independent Kurdistan of their own. If the people of Syria had drawn their own borders, the country would be smaller and more cohesive than it currently is. It has only been held together thus far because it has been ruled by a totalitarian terrorist state.
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 at 9:12 AM | Stand For Israel
Tony Badran of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies writes that the strategy of the Obama Administration on Syria is becoming clear: Take no direct action and put all our eggs in the Russian mediation basket. This stance, he argues, puts us in conflict with NATO allies and other countries in the region:
Before Erdogan arrived in Washington, the Turks made it known that the prime minister intended to urge the US to take more assertive action. Ankara also kept highlighting the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, conducting tests and gathering evidence to bring to Obama, in the hope that he would act on his professed ‘red line’. Unsurprisingly, Erdogan got nothing from the US president.
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Monday, May 20th, 2013 at 9:05 AM | Stand For Israel