The burial of former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah next to assassinated ex-premier Rafic al-Hariri in Beirut’s Muhammad al-Amin mosque was as striking and deliberate in symbolism as the towering structure itself.
Last Friday’s assassination of the Hariri family’s senior advisor and one-time U.S. ambassador was by similar method: a massive car bomb detonated under his convoy as it drove through the heart of Beirut’s upscale downtown district. As if to purposefully underscore the parallels and frame the post-assassination narrative, it also occurred just a few hundred yards from the site where the billionaire Hariri was murdered in February 2005.
Just as after Hariri’s killing, the calculated recriminations of the March 14 coalition, led by the Future Movement, came fast and furious. Blame was laid squarely at the feet of Hezbollah. March 14 supporters were quick to point out that the crime took place less than three weeks before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL; the U.N.-established court tasked with investigating the Hariri assassination) was set to open proceedings against four accused Hezbollah members.
The shoddy STL investigation, relying heavily on telecommunications data wholly compromised by Israeli intelligence and their captured agents, has been previously discussed.
Did the masterminds of the Shatah assassination hope the Lebanese population would turn against Hezbollah, already facing strong rebuke for its intervention in Syria by March 14 politicians (despite that the latter have implicitly lent support to radical takfiri elements involved in the Syrian conflict since its earliest days)?
As with all political upheavals in Lebanon, the question that must be asked is, “who benefits?” Does Hezbollah? Although Shatah was a stalwart March 14 operative who decried Hezbollah’s role in Syria, he was nevertheless regarded as a relative moderate. But the increasingly virulent sectarian discourse of those on the fringes of this political alliance (and many at its center) and the cover they have extended to extremists like fugitive Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, cannot be ignored. Beirut after all, is still reeling from recent twin suicide car bombings at the Iranian embassy followed shortly thereafter by the assassination of Hezbollah senior commander Hassan al-Lakkis. On Thursday, innocent Lebanese civilians were again victims of a car bomb detonated in the Haret Hreik neighborhood of Beirut’s Shia-majority southern suburbs, known as the dahiyeh.
“Moderate” Sunni politicians like Shatah are viewed as expendable, for their killing only serves to polarize the wider Sunni community by inciting sectarian hatred and thereby marginalize more reasoned voices. Even Lebanon’s Grand Mufti was not spared as he was accosted after mourners’ passions were stoked by Sheikh Ahmad al-Omari, the cleric who delivered the sermon at the funeral of a young man also killed in the assassination. As Al-Akhbar reports, “Omari attacked Hezbollah, describing it as the ‘party of the devil.’ He called on the Shia to ‘disown’ Hezbollah ‘if they are true believers,’ and stressed the ‘patience of the persecuted Sunni sect is running out.’”
Again, does Hezbollah achieve any gain, political or otherwise, with Shatah’s demise?
The irony is that the inflammatory rhetoric and policies of March 14 parliamentary bloc members have led to the exponential growth of radical forces in the country. One only has to recall how former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Bahia Hariri and others insinuated the Lebanese Army was responsible for provoking Salafist cleric al-Assir’s armed forces to launch an attack against them this past summer in Sidon, killing 18.
Son of the late prime minister and Future Movement head Saad Hariri also did not waste any time in essentially blaming the victims themselves for Thursday’s attack: “They are at the same time victims of [Hezbollah’s] involvement in foreign wars, particularly in the Syrian war.”
The northern city of Tripoli and the Ain al-Hilwah Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon have provided extremist groups with safe refuge. Details have now emerged pointing to a possible link between those in the camp and recent events.
Just as in Iraq, moderate Sunni politicians have been singled out for assassination by takfiris who seek to exploit their spilled blood, provoke co-religionists into committing crimes against civilians and stir a simmering sectarian pot.
Who are the likely perpetrators behind Mohammed Shatah’s assassination and the dahiyeh bombing?
The very same ones the U.S. and Saudi-backed March 14 coalition have emboldened.
Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.
Twelve Editorial Staff Rules for the Great International Media When the News is from the Middle East
January 8, 2009
1) In the Middle East it is always the Arabs who attack first and always Israel that is defending themselves. This defense is called a reprisal.
2) The Arabs, Palestinian or Lebanese have no right to kill civilians. That is called “terrorism.”
3) Israel has the right to kill civilians. That is called “legitimate defense.”
4) When Israel kills civilians en masse, the western powers claim that it is more measured. This is called “reaction of the international community.”
5) The Palestinians and the Lebanese have no right to capture soldiers of Israel inside military installations with sentries and combat posts. This is called, “Kidnapping of defenseless people.”
6) Israel has the right to kidnap anytime and anywhere as many Lebanese and Palestinians as they want. Currently there are more than 10 thousand, 300 of whom are children and a thousand are women. No proof of guilt is needed. Israel has the right to keep kidnapped prisoners indefinitely, even if they are authorities democratically elected by the Palestinians. This is called “terrorist prisoners.”
7) When the word Hezbollah is mentioned, it is compulsory in the same sentence to contain the words “supported and financed by Syria and by Iran.”
8) When you mention “Israel” it is forbidden to make any mention of the words “supported and financed by the U.S.” This may give the impression that the conflict is uneven and that Israel’s existence is not in danger.
9) When referring to Israel, expressions that are prohibited: “Occupied Territories,” “UN resolutions,” “Violations of human rights” or “Geneva Convention.”
10) Both the Palestinians and the Lebanese are always “cowardly,” they are hidden among the civilian population, which does not want them. If they sleep in their homes, with their families, that gives them the name of “cowards.“ Israel has a right to destroy with bombs and missiles the neighborhoods where they are sleeping. This is called a “precision surgical action.”
11) The Israelis speak better English, French, Spanish or Portuguese than the Arabs. Therefore they and those who support them must be interviewed more and have more opportunities than the Arabs to explain the present Rules of the Editorial Staff (from 1 to 10) to the general public. That is called “journalistic neutrality.”
12) All those who are not in accordance with the Rules of Writing above are “highly dangerous anti-Semitic terrorists.”
(Text French, anonymous, from a reader of the Carta Maior blog)
The assassination of former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah will open a dangerous chapter in Lebanon, a bit similar to the one that followed the assassination of late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Shatah was no ordinary man in the region, and the attack occurred at a crucial moment in Lebanon and its neighborhood’s history. Here, escalated tensions and sedition will never let such a crime pass by without major repercussions. The killer knew it!
Hariri’s assassination in 2005 was a turning point for Hezbollah’s image in the Arab and Islamic world, and contributed to the Syrian army’s withdrawal from Lebanon. These events weren’t just a result of local demands. Former US President George W. Bush and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac were also involved.
The Sunni-Shia strife that ripped Iraq apart after the American-British invasion was further consolidated when Hezbollah, with its large Shia base, was accused of murdering the new symbol of modern Sunnism in the region: Rafik Hariri. Back then, political accusation preceded all real investigations on the ground.
Now, what to expect after Shatah’s assassination?
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was brief, while Future bloc leader Fouad Siniora elaborated, hinting that the Syrian regime planned the crime, and its Lebanese allies, mainly Hezbollah, carried it out. In the March 14 statement, Siniora echoed the calls that followed Hariri’s murder, urging to take Shatah’s assassination to the international level, something we expect to hear quite often in the coming weeks amid international pressure on Hezbollah and Lebanon.
Head of the National Struggle Bloc MP Walid Jumblatt was alone in his call for reason and moderation. He knows quite well that some are seeking to exploit the assassination to achieve bigger political gains. He also understands that this assassination is apt to take the country from sectarian sedition to the battlefield.
The Shatah assassination occurred while Lebanon was at a crossroads. The future government and the current presidency are now up for grabs amid political bickering between Hezbollah and March 14. But behind both parties is a larger and deeper conflict taking place in Syria.
The assassination ought to increase pressure on the formation of a Lebanese government and a formula for a presidential agreement. Previously hesitant, the international community is now expected to support these solutions as the death of Shatah and the other martyrs raised the alarm about a bloody year awaiting Lebanon.
Shatah’s murder also paves the way for further assassinations, clashes, and blasts. Obviously there is a plan to transform Lebanon into an arena for a regional and international conflict that has not been settled in Syria.
What if a Hezbollah leader or ally is killed in the coming days? Will we hear that it is a retaliation for the Shatah murder? Who will break this vicious cycle?
Israel may also find an opportunity to conduct a military operation. It is reported that Hezbollah’s incursion in Syria and the widening rift with its former Sunni base offers Israel the right opportunity to strike. In Lebanon, Israel may redeem what it couldn’t achieve in Iran. At least that’s what the Israelis believe.
The assassination put the Syrian regime and Hezbollah in a raging storm of accusations at a critical time. The world is heading toward the Geneva II conference and an historic understanding with Iran. The international tribunal investigating Hariri’s murder will soon begin its sessions.
Martyr Mohammed Shatah was no ordinary man. Neither was martyr Wissam al-Hassan. Shatah, a man with hefty economic and political baggage, was, just like security man Hassan, standing on a pivotal local, regional, and international intersection. With such assassinations, it is easy to point figures, but it is hard to support accusations with evidence as political exploitation comes in smoothly.
A dark period of major transformation is awaiting Lebanon, but unfortunately the fierce battle ahead won’t yield any winners. What if a fait accompli government was imposed on Hezbollah and its allies? How will Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah put his words “don’t mess with us” into action? Those messing with him this time will have an international cover far larger than the one they had before the assassination.
The latest deadly attack in Lebanon’s capital Beirut is yet another desperate attempt to destabilize not only that country, but the entire Middle East to precipitate all-out sectarian war.
The murder of senior Lebanese Sunni political figure, Mohamad Shatah, on Friday in a massive bomb blast that hit his motorcade as it drove through downtown Beirut was aimed at implicating the Shia Hezbollah and closely allied Syrian and Iranian governments.
Syria’s government of President Bashar al-Assad, along with Hezbollah and Iran, swiftly condemned the assassination of Shatah, who was formerly Lebanon’s finance minister between 2008 and 2011.
But the condemnations didn’t stop anti-Syria politicians within Lebanon and various Western media outlets from pointing the finger.
“Anti-Assad ex-minister killed in Beirut bomb,” was the headline carried by Reuters and Britain’s Daily Telegraph, among others.
This contrived innuendo betrays who the real perpetrators are.
Mohamad Shatah, a senior political adviser to Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri, was indeed a strident critic of Hezbollah and Syria’s Assad, accusing them of fuelling bloodshed in Syria and also sectarian tensions inside Lebanon. His political views were consistent with the narrative of the pro-Zionist Western media, as well as Saudi Arabia.
Shatah could therefore be considered an ally of the West, Saudi Arabia and the Zionist Israeli regime. But that very profile may have been what made him a prime target, not for Hezbollah or Syria, but for his so-called allies.
The day before his killing, Shatah had reiterated criticism of Hezbollah, claiming that the group was using Syria to consolidate its military strength in Lebanon.
Within minutes of Shatah’s murder, the Saudi-backed Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri implicated Hezbollah for the attack. “Shatah’s murderers are the same ones who assassinated former premier Rafik Hariri.” This was a reference to the bomb-blast killing of his father, Rafik, also a former prime minister, in 2005.
A United Nations-backed Lebanese tribunal has indicted five members of Hezbollah for that 2005 murder. The trial is set to open in the coming weeks in a Hague court. For the past eight years Hariri’s group have accused Hezbollah as well as Syrian intelligence over that assassination, without the accusations gaining much credibility.
Both Hezbollah and Syria have strenuously denied any involvement, saying that there is no evidence, and that the tribunal is politically driven. Hence, they have refused to cooperate with the forthcoming trial.
That is why Saad Hariri said of the latest killing: “The accused… are the same ones who are running away from international justice.”
Shatah’s assassination this week comes at a sensitive time, which strongly suggests who the real perpetrators might be.
First, the atrocity serves to re-ignite the accusations against Hezbollah, and its regional allies, in the murder of Rafik Hariri just when the case is being re-opened in an international court.
Secondly, there is the forthcoming Geneva II political talks organized to find a peaceful solution to the nearly three-year Syrian crisis. If Hezbollah, and by extension Syria and Iran, can be linked by sensational media claims of involvement in the murder of high-profile Lebanese politicians, then that would have a damaging impact on the Assad government during the Geneva negotiations.
Thirdly, and this is more to the point of who are the likely perpetrators, the murder of Mohamad Shatah comes at a time of mounting sectarian tensions and violence across the region. Lebanon has witnessed a wave of deadly bomb attacks and assassinations in recent months, which have mainly targeted Shia areas of Beirut.
Earlier this month, a senior Hezbollah commander was shot dead. And at the end of last month, a twin suicide bomb attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut killed 29, including Iran’s cultural attaché, Ebrahim Ansari. Back in August, a bomb outside a Sunni mosque in Sidon reportedly butchered 40 people.
This violence replicates the pattern of sectarian bloodshed unleashed in neighboring Syria and Iraq. There is ample evidence to show that that violence is being systematically fuelled by Saudi Arabia, working in collusion with Israeli and Western intelligence.
Israel in particular has a long track record of sabotaging Lebanon from within, having invaded that country in 1978, 2000 and 2006. There is also evidence that its agents were the real authors of the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Lebanon is particularly vulnerable to sectarian strife. The country’s communal wounds are still raw from the 15-year-old civil war between its Sunni, Shia, Christian and Druze communities, which ended in 1990. There have been renewed sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shia/Alawite groups in Sidon, Tripoli and several other towns over the past year. Saudi-backed Sunni clerics have been prominent in agitating sharper tensions in Lebanon.
This pattern of sectarian destabilization within Lebanon and across the Middle East by external forces is consistent with the latest murder of Mohamad Shatah in Beirut. The massive blast is believed to have come from a 50-60 kg bomb wired in a booby-trapped car. Wreckage was scattered 100 meters away and some 40 other cars were damaged, some of them upended. This was a professional hit with a devastating message.
In the grand nefarious scheme of geopolitics it matters little that Shatah was a prominent Sunni figure who was an ardent critic of Hezbollah and Syria. Indeed, from the viewpoint of the agents of subversion and destabilization, Shatah’s political and religious affiliation would have made him a prime target for their purpose of trying to explode sectarian war.
The heinous role played by Saudi, Israeli and Western intelligence in inflicting untold suffering on civilians across the Middle East, whether Shia, Sunni or Christian, means that their capability of using the dirtiest tricks knows no limits. The murder of Mohamad Shatah would be viewed by these dark forces as merely an expendable sacrifice if that means achieving the bigger aim of inciting all-out sectarian war in Lebanon; and engulfing the entire region in internecine flames.
The powers that gain from this atrocity are those that sow division and thrive on conflict in order to shore up their illegitimate hegemony over the region and over the mass of its ordinary, decent people.
By Bob Finch | January 26, 2009
Insanely disproportionate use of violence against unarmed civilians
“The stated aim was, as always, to stop the launching of the rockets. The means: killing a maximum of Palestinians, in order to teach them a lesson. The decision was based on the traditional Israeli concept: hit the civilian population again and again, until it overthrows its leaders. This has been tried hundreds of times and has failed hundreds of times.” (Uri Avnery “Kill a Hundred Turks and Rest”: The Five-Day War in Gaza March 2008).
Operation Grapes of Wrath ~ Lebanon, in 1996
“Ehud Barak will be remembered in Israel’s history as the one who introduced the abuse of innocent civilians as political cards. Barak was probably not the first Israeli warrior to abuse civilians on a tactical level, but he was the one who turned it into a central Israeli strategy. Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon, in 1996, with Barak as an influential cabinet member, openly targeted civilians, turning them into refugees to make them put pressure on Beirut’s government. The recent siege on Gaza follows a similar logic: put pressure on civilians to achieve political goals. (A clear war crime, it goes without saying.)” (Ran HaCohen ‘Israel Says ‘No’’ Feb. 2008).
Israelis fire 1,300,000 bullets during first few days of Intifada
“Malka, in an interview with the Israeli paper Ha’aretz on 14 June, revealed that during the first few days of the intifada, Israeli occupation soldiers fired 1,300,000 bullets on Palestinian population centres and other targets. This massive firepower, which had no operational justification given the Palestinians’ inherently inferior firepower (they possessed only light firearms and in limited numbers), showed that the Israeli army was interested more in decimating and harming the Palestinians and less in ending the violence. According to Israeli sources, then-Chief of Staff and now Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz didn’t plan to bring about the end of the conflict. Instead, he thought he had finally seized the opportunity to “beat and vanquish” the Palestinians in order to “burn into their consciousness” and make them “internalise their weakness and inferiority vis-a-vis Israel’s strength”. Mofaz’s ultimate aim, of which he later convinced Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was to hector Palestinians into negotiations in a weakened and exhausted state whereby they would have no choice but to accept Israel’s dictates and demands. The new revelations, Palestinian officials argue, prove that the escalation of violence during the first few months of the intifada was, first and foremost, Israel’s responsibility. “This is what we have been saying all along that this is not about Israeli security but rather about Israel’s terrorising the Palestinian people for the purpose of arrogating their land and rights. Israel is now admitting that,” said Michael Tarazi, adviser to Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat.” (Khalid Amayreh ‘The second intifada, an Israeli strategy’ July 2004).
“This intentional and coldly calculated Israeli policy of targeting innocent Lebanese civilians and civilian infrastructure stems from a time-honoured, but hardly ever successful, Israeli doctrine of applying intense “pressure” against a civilian population in order to compel them, in-turn, to pressure the resistance into submitting to Israeli dictates, thereby doing Israel’s bidding by proxy. It has been consistently used against the Palestinians ever since the Nakba of 1948, and is still applied now in the ongoing barbaric offensive and hermetic siege against Gaza. Israel may have plagiarized this doctrine from the legacies of previous oppressors, but it has refined it to a degree that it no longer raises any moral qualms in most of Israeli society, where it is widely accepted by the public as a right, even a duty in the fight for Israel’s “security.” (Omar Barghouti ‘The Massacre at Qana’ August 01 2006); “As Limor and Shelah reveal, in spite of the fact that the conflict on the ground took place on a very narrow strip of land (the Israeli border on the south and Litani River on the north), the Israeli artillery had managed to shoot over 170,000 shells. In comparison, in the 1973 war while fighting against two strong state armies over two very large fronts, the Israelis had launched only 53,000 shells. The figures relating to the Air Force are even more striking. Though less than a few concrete targets were available for the IDF intelligence, the IAF (Israeli Air Force) had launched as many as 17,550 combat missions, this translates into 520 missions a day, almost as many as in the 1973 war (605 a day). Yet, in 1973 the IAF was fighting two well-equipped air forces, it was engaged in a fair amount of air-to-air combat and a relentless struggle against the latest Soviet ground-to-air missiles. None of that happened in the Second Lebanon War. The IAF was engaged solely in hammering the Lebanese soil. It literally threw and launched everything it had in its disposal, presenting a merciless method that in places (southern Beirut for instance), had a similar effect to the infamous 1940s Anglo-American carpet bombardment.” (Gilad Atzmon ‘Saying NO to the Hunters of Goliath’ August 13, 2007); “That was on Aug. 30, by which time U.N. teams had identified 359 separate cluster-bomb sites. Since then, the true dimensions of the problem have become even clearer: 770 cluster-bomb sites have now been identified. And the current U.N. estimate is that Israel dropped between 2 million and 3 million bomblets on Lebanon, of which up to a million have yet to explode.” (Saree Makdisi ‘Israel’s Cluster Bomb War’ Oct. 2006).
Israeli political and military leaders of all levels have been issuing almost daily threats against Hezbollah while claiming that the Israeli army stands fully ready to confront – and even crush – Hezbollah. So, why don’t they destroy Hezbollah now?
Recently, Israel began to step up its verbal threats, “flexing the muscles” of its military. Hardly a day passes without a statement, report, or interview coming from the Jewish state raising alarm about Hezbollah’s military capabilities but affirming at the same time the “might” of the Israeli armed forces and their preparedness for any future conflict involving Hezbollah.
Israeli military commanders have all put their two cents in. The Israeli top brass seem to suffer from a curious case of overconfidence, prompting observers to wonder why Tel Aviv has not already proceeded to wage war and end Hezbollah once and for all, with victory so close at hand given Israel’s allegedly full readiness and unmitigated superiority.
The most recent statement on Hezbollah came from Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister. Steinitz was keen to affirm that Hezbollah does not have chemical weapons, and that it had not obtained any, prior to the deal to dismantle Syria’s arsenal being reached.
Steinitz may have been clarifying remarks made earlier by a senior Israeli officer, who said that it could be neither confirmed nor denied whether Hezbollah had acquired part of Syria’s chemical weapons – an issue that aggravates the concerns Israelis have regarding the losses to be expected in the event of a confrontation with Hezbollah.
In recent days, Tel Aviv resumed its campaign against Hezbollah, raising many questions about its aims with regard to timing. Usually, these Israeli campaigns, often instigated by the Israeli army spokesperson, seek to ramp up the perception of Israel’s deterrence vis-à-vis Hezbollah to dissuade it from carrying out any operations, or to warn it against responding if Tel Aviv decides to launch an attack.
The question is: Does this weeks-long campaign seek to achieve one of these goals, or both?
Colonel Asher Ben-Lulu, commander of the Israeli army’s Kfir infantry brigade, stressed the army was ready to face the worst and most complex scenarios involving Hezbollah, though he acknowledged, “The smartest and most formidable enemy we face is Hezbollah, whether at the level of intelligence, combat techniques, or military doctrine.” In an interview with Maariv, Ben-Lulu said, “Hezbollah is a smart enemy. It possesses a network of underground tunnels and has professional fighters and state-of-the-art combat techniques.”
Regarding scenarios for a future conflict with Hezbollah, Ben-Lulu warned, “The conflict will not involve convoys of armored vehicles or legions of soldiers, but [will involve] guerilla warfare and hostilities originating from civilian areas.” The Israeli colonel then stressed the need for additional troops on the ground, and said that the Kfir brigade would be suitable for the job.
Ben-Lulu continued, “The next war will see forces brought in to control the areas where rockets are launched. We at the Kfir brigade train on combat behind enemy lines to inflict heavy losses on the enemy.”
The commander then remarked that Israel’s enemies, especially Hezbollah, are fully aware of Israel’s air superiority, intelligence capabilities, and precise firepower, and said, “Hezbollah will operate underground, will not rely on communications, and will try to invalidate our superiority as a conventional army.”
In the same vein, Raafat Halabi, commander of the Israeli army’s Herev (Sword) battalion, said that his unit was prepared to move from “zero to one hundred” in a matter of seconds. In an interview with the website Israel Defense, the officer in charge of the Druze battalion specialized in combat in Lebanon revealed that preparations had been stepped up recently, with the build-up focusing on training and increased readiness for contingencies along the northern front. He said, “We must be ready in a matter of seconds.”
“Hezbollah members patrol the border in four-wheel drives or disguised as shepherds, who are sometimes seen carrying scopes,” he added.
Concerning whether Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria serves the interests of the Israeli army, Halabi said, “On the one hand, this hurts Hezbollah. But nevertheless, it allows its fighters to accumulate operational experience on how to carry out attacks.” Halabi reckoned that “offensive combat is new to Hezbollah, which has so far played on the defensive.”
Herev’s commander then pointed out that the members of his unit are frequently posted along different border positions with Lebanon to maintain their readiness, saying that in the next war, they will spend a long time inside Lebanese territory and reach the areas where Hezbollah’s rocket-launching platforms are deployed.
According to Israel Defense, a specialized military affairs website, the Herev battalion has developed new techniques to fight Hezbollah. Israel Defense indicated that the Northern Command in the Israeli army is currently considering transferring Herev’s techniques to other units that must also be ready for war.
The website also stated that the soldiers in the battalion were training to fight inside Lebanon in a third Lebanon war and to defend settlements in the Galilee, as Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah had promised “surprises” in any future conflict, for example, in the form of a Hezbollah incursion into northern Israel.
It is widely known that Israel and its allies spend millions of dollars to promote Zionism on college and university campuses across the US. Zionist organisations fund student groups like Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organisation in the world, as well as sponsor American Jewish students to travel or study abroad in Israel through programmes like Bithright Israel and MASA Israel Journey.
Israel and its allies also spend vast resources organising pro-Zionist speaking tours, both on and off college and university campuses. The Jewish National Fund works with an extensive list of Zionist scholars and professionals to, as it proudly states, “Bring the Israel experience to your next meeting, community event or conference.” Furthermore, while a doctoral student at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in Central New York, I was told that the Israeli embassy regularly contacted the administration, as well as the directors of selected programmes, to pressure them to schedule an event featuring the Israeli Ambassador to the US.
However, perhaps less is known about how Israeli universities are actively involved in institutionalising Zionism in the American academy, mainly in the form of collaborative research programmes that legitimise the right of powerful states to illegally invade and occupy Muslim and Arab lands by equating the resulting struggle for liberation with terrorism.
My own university is complicit in this project to normalise invasion and occupation through collaborative programmes with Israeli universities. In Fall 2007, our graduate magazine featured an article entitled “Trying to Change the Rules” that focused on several collaborative projects related to a partnership between the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT) at Syracuse University’s respected College of Law and the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) located at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel.
The IDC is one of Israel’s most influential security institutes and is thought to have extremely close connections to the Israeli government and military. Indeed the chairman of the ICT Board of Directors, Shabtai Shavit, is the former head of the Mossad.
The collaboration between the IDC and Syracuse University started in 2005 and expanded after Israel’s 2006 War against Lebanon. The heads of INSCT and the ITC, along with the former dean of the Maxwell School, who had previously worked for the US Department of Defence, all agreed that the existing rules of war no longer applied to the dominant forms of warfare in the 21st century, which they described as “asymmetric” because most conflicts today are conducted between state and nonstate actors that have vastly different military capabilities. The three decided that “someone should attempt to update” the rules of war and that INSCT, in partnership with the Israelis, was “well-positioned to take that on”. This resulted in a five-year collaborative research project called “New Battlefields/Old Laws” that included a two-way student exchange programme.
While most wars today are indeed “asymmetric”, it is because many of them are also illegal and should never have been allowed to happen in the first place. According to international human rights law, the case can be made that the recent wars waged by the US and Israel are all illegal, not only for being disproportionate responses to real or perceived threats, especially those that were manufactured, but also for intentionally blurring the distinction between combatants and civilians.
Israel’s 2006 war against Lebanon was waged after Hizbullah launched an ambush against Israeli soldiers, capturing two of them in the hopes of negotiating a prisoner exchange, and killing three. During the subsequent aggression, Agence France Presse reports that 1,287 Lebanese died, nearly all civilians, and 4,054 were wounded. Israeli forces intentionally inflicted severe damage to civilian infrastructure including: the Rafik Hariri International Airport; various ports; a lighthouse in Ras Beirut; bridges, roads and factories throughout the country; ambulances and relief trucks; schools, orphanages and hospitals; mosques and community centres; mobile telephone and television stations; as well as fuel containers and service stations. During the final three days of fighting, and despite the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 calling for an immediate cessation of the hostilities, Israel dropped up to four million cluster bomblets in southern Lebanon, and over one million remained unexploded, prompting charges from the UN’s humanitarian chief that Israel employed a “completely immoral” use of cluster bombs during the conflict. According to Lebanon’s Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour, more than 400 Lebanese have been victims of these unexploded cluster munitions since the cease-fire, 115 of them under the age of 18.
On the other side, 116 Israeli soldiers were killed as well as 43 civilians, and Israel suffered severe damage to civilian infrastructure including a post office and two hospitals.
The disproportionality here is nothing less than shocking, and all the more so since it was intentional. During the war, the Israeli military employed what it called “the Dahiyah Doctrine”, named after the residential areas in southern Beirut that Israeli forces indiscriminately destroyed on the basis that “they were also used as Hizbullah command-and-control centres, and were built over Hizbullah bunkers.” In October 2008, Israeli Major General Gadi Eizenkot threatened that: “What happened in the Dahiyah quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.”
One Israeli journalist writing for Yedioth Ahronoth summed up this strategy as follows: “In practical terms, the Palestinians in Gaza are all Khaled Mashaal [the exiled leader of Hamas]; the Lebanese are all Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah [the secretary general of Hizbullah]; and the Iranians are all Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [the former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran].”
This strategy, which resulted in mass death and destruction, clearly violates the principles of war in regards to proportionality and distinction, and thus is illegal.
Nevertheless, Israeli occupation forces used the same strategy during Israel’s 2008-2009 assault against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of 1,389 Palestinians, more than half of whom were civilians and 318 of whom were minors under the age of 18. In addition, more than 5,300 Palestinians were wounded. According to the Israeli rights group B’tselem, “Israel also caused enormous damage to residential dwellings, industrial buildings, agriculture and infrastructure for electricity, sanitation, water, and health, which was already on the verge of collapse prior to the operation” due to the Israeli siege. The aggression targeted 18 schools, including eight kindergartens, with at least 262 others damaged. Israel also destroyed more than 3,500 residential dwellings, leaving more than 20,000 Palestinians homeless.
Inside Israel, Hamas rockets killed three Israeli civilians during the offensive and one member of the security forces. According to the UN, 518 Israelis were injured. Newspapers reported that 28 Israelis were made homeless, and over 1,000 claims were filed relating to damaged property.
Again, the disproportionate results of the aggression clearly indicate that Israel violated the principles of war in regards to proportionality and distinction. And when wars are illegal, they constitute crimes.
Nevertheless, Syracuse University still decided that Israel, an occupying power, was legally and ethically qualified to help devise new rules of war. Of course, this should not be surprising in the context of US empire. When accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama described the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan as a just war, even though none of the hijackers on 11 September 2001 were of Afghan origin. Thus despite not being responsible for perpetrating the 11/9 attacks, around 15,000 Afghans have died as a result. That is some twisted conception of justice.
All of this is actually connected. According to the IDC web site, Syracuse University has developed “a joint study and research programme in counterterrorism policy, homeland security and American domestic and foreign policy,” drawing parallels between the experiences of confronting Palestinian resistance to occupation and Al-Qaeda acts of terrorism.
It is not incidental that professors from Syracuse University also regularly participate in the annual counterterrorism conference at Herzliya. According to the New York writer Ira Glunts, “One of the conference days always falls on 11 September. This, of course, is timed perfectly to make the case that Israel’s battle against terrorism became America’s battle as a result of the World Trade Centre attack.”
However it is important to note that Syracuse University is not alone in partnering with Israeli universities to normalise the occupation. Earlier this month, the Electronic Intifada reported that Palestine solidarity activists in the US “are campaigning against plans by Texas A&M University to take over a college in Nazareth, the city in present-day Israel with the highest number of Palestinian citizens.” According to journalist Patrick Strickland, “Texas A&M, the sixth largest university in the US, intends to raise $70 million to assume control of the Nazareth Academic Institute.”
In October, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and is likely to campaign again, announced the new programme alongside the chancellor of Texas A&M while the two were meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. As Strickland points out, “John Hagee, a right-wing Christian Zionist pastor leading the lobby group Christians United for Israel, is also involved in the project.”
Haaretz notes that while the college in Nazareth was established in 2010 specifically to serve the Arab population, it has suffered from a lack of state funds, thus college officials “welcomed the prestigious American university’s entry into the picture.” After all, although Arabs comprise 20 per cent of the Israeli population, they are only 11 per cent of its student body. However the Jerusalem Post indicates that, “The new institution, to be called the Peace Campus, will promote coexistence for the sake of education with a student population combining Arab, Jewish and foreign students.”
Indeed, as the Daily Beast reports, Manuel Trajtenberg, the chair of Israel’s Planning and Budgeting Committee for the Council for Higher Education, explained that he anticipates significant student interest: “Of course, we would appeal to potential students in the area, but also Jewish Israelis of all sorts.” If the goal here is not yet clear, Emily L. Hauser also draws attention to the involvement of Hagee, who once described Adolf Hitler as a hunter sent by God to “chase the Jewish people back to the land”. Additionally, Hagee has raised tens of millions of dollars “for projects in Israel and for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.” Peace Campus suddenly looks a lot like Oslo.
As Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, remarked, this is “another colonial project by Israel-to further colonize our space, whatever space is left of the Palestinian space within the state of Israel.”
Of course it is not always necessary to send American students, professors and investment to Israel in order to benefit Zionism. In September, the Electronic Intifada reported that the New York City Council has “approved a lease for Cornell University to build a major applied science engineering campus in partnership with the Haifa-based Israel Institute of Technology (better known as Technion). The 2.1 million square foot, taxpayer-funded project is to be located on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, a strip of largely residential land between Manhattan and Queens.”
As scholar Terri Ginsberg points out: “A closer look at the corporations affiliated with Technion, some of which have expressed interest in this entrepreneurial venture, indicates that the project’s aims may be more sinister. These corporations have developed weapons and surveillance technology used by Israel to deny Palestinians their fundamental human rights.” She adds that Technion “has a history of cooperating with Israel’s arms industry and of helping to develop a bulldozer designed specifically for use in demolishing Palestinian homes.”
It is important to note that UK universities are not immune to this trend either. For example, the Electronic Intifada reported in September that the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King’s College London “was established as a partnership between the IDC in Herzliya” and other Israeli universities. Unsurprisingly, the majority of ICSR’s projects focus on the various expressions of “Islamic radicalism” without any mention of Zionist extremism. Even its project on North America and Europe only focuses on radicalism in Muslim communities.
All of these examples illustrate how the Zionist occupation uses the Western academy in a variety of ways to reproduce itself not only in Palestine, but also beyond.
Speaking at the 2013 Annual Arab Banking Conference, Daniel Glaser, the US assistant secretary for terrorist financing in the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, warned local banks against any kind of dealing with Hezbollah and its allies.
In a talk titled “Protecting the Lebanese Financial Sector from Illicit Finance,” Glaser first noted the importance of Lebanon’s financial sector to the region’s economic well-being, remarking, “Lebanon’s ability to retain its position as an important regional and international financial center requires constant vigilance, leaving no stone unturned in our collective efforts to uproot money laundering, terrorist financing, and other forms of illicit finance from the Lebanese financial system.”
“Failing to do so,” he continued in a threatening tone, “would not only represent a missed opportunity to contribute to global efforts to uphold the rule of law and disrupt criminal and illicit groups, but might also allow regulators and financial institutions around the world to draw the conclusion that business with Lebanon comes at too high a risk.”
In particular, Glaser designated finances related to “organized criminal groups, narcotraffickers, terrorist organizations, WMD proliferators, and regimes such as Iran and Syria” as illegal activity that must be closely watched by regulators of the banking system.
The American official explained that the Lebanese banking sector’s “studied neutrality and the guarantee of bank secrecy for all” in the past “is no longer tenable. Moving forward, that professionalism and stability, which have been the hallmark of the Lebanese financial system, can be maintained only through the efforts of both the public and private sectors to ensure a hostile environment for terrorists, criminals, narcotraffickers, and sanctioned regimes such as Iran and Syria. Working together, we can stop the illicit financial activities of groups that seek to destabilize the region such as al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.”
The target here became abundantly clear as Iran, Syria, and the Lebanese Resistance were placed alongside drug traffickers in order to prevent them from accessing Lebanon’s banks…or else!
In an attempt to link Washington’s political opponents to criminal activities, Glaser noted, “It is important at the outset to identify the illicit finance threats that Lebanese financial institutions face. Some of the threats, such as narcotics-related money laundering, are universal challenges confronting financial centers around the world. Others, such as terrorist financing and sanctions evasion, while certainly not unique to Lebanon, are amplified by Lebanon’s geographic, historic, and political circumstances.”
In a more direct wink in the direction of Hezbollah, he referred to the case of the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB), maintaining that the “scheme involved the laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds through the Lebanese financial system using bulk cash shipments and trade-based money laundering involving used car sales and consumer goods.”
Glaser, however, forgot to mention that his administration neglected to pursue the LCB in the courts and instead struck a back-room deal, in which the bank paid $102 million in exchange for the case against them being dropped, after it was accused of laundering money on behalf of Hezbollah.
So after closing the LCB file in Washington, the US Treasury official nevertheless insisted that “this should not be surprising given Hezbollah’s involvement in a wide range of illicit activities. These illicit activities, combined with its ties to sanctioned regimes such as Iran and Syria, should call into question all financial relationships with Hezbollah or its agents.”
Glazer took his threats against any financial dealings with the Resistance one step further, saying, “The risks of engaging in such relationships will only increase as more countries apply sanctions on Hezbollah, which continues to engage in destabilizing military activity in Syria and attacks in Europe.”
He also did not fail to warn Lebanon’s banks against the danger of conducting business with Syria and Iran: “Lebanese financial institutions must also be alert to the threat of sanctions evasion. As a nearby regional banking hub, regimes such as Syria and Iran will continue to look to Lebanon as a potential financial access point into the global system. Lebanese financial institutions are therefore an important component of international efforts to isolate these regimes, and Lebanon’s resistance to any attempts to use Lebanese banks as a gateway to the international financial system is essential.”
In his concluding statement, Glaser got to the heart of his message by warning the bank officials present that “the United States is prepared and will continue to take action to protect our financial system from threats when we deem it necessary.”
Israel’s online economic magazine Globes is reporting that Israel has refused an American offer to solve the dispute with Lebanon over the maritime borders in the Mediterranean.
According to the magazine, the continuing dispute over the borders could undermine the development of Lebanese area Block Nine, where excavation work for oil and gas is currently being carried out.
Block Nine is located to the north of the Israeli oil field Alon, which is thought to contain large amounts of natural gas.
In 2010, Lebanon filed a complaint with the UN against Israel’s incursion in the Lebanese area of the sea, which is called EEZ.
The area is about 850km2 and is disputed between Lebanon and Israel.
While the US offered to mediate to solve the dispute, Israel refused and responded directly to the UN in regards to the Lebanese complaint.
According to Globes, Lebanon’s recent bids for oil excavation in the area include its claim of ownership, calling the area the “southern Lebanese borders”.
- 11 Israeli jets breach Lebanese airspace: Army (dailystar.com.lb)
- Mansour accuses Israel of stealing Lebanon gas, oil (yalibnan.com)
Actually, it’s not so much that the U.S. and Israel are seemingly ‘obsessed’ with Iran, but more that the neoconservative’s of the U.S. and Israel’s right-wing Zionists are. However, this apparent obsession is only a deliberately created illusion. Israel’s real obsession is the creation of a Greater Israel and the destruction of those that prevent Israel’s expansionist dreams; Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of whom are supported by Iran.
The stated casus belli for any Israeli/US attack on Iran will be that Iran is building a nuclear weapon with which it intends to ‘wipe Israel off the map’. The ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program’ and the ‘wipe Israel off the map’ are two memes that have gone hand in hand in the propaganda and rhetoric of Israel’s Zionists and their neoconservative allies in the US and, indeed, around the world for years.
There are, however, a range of problems with these allegations. Firstly, there is, despite the constant barrage of assertions to the contrary, no actual physical evidence whatsoever that Iran actually has a ‘nuclear weapons program’. Time and time again, Israel and their allies have made the accusations but have never been able to support their allegations with any hard irrefutable evidence. All of the ‘evidence’ so far has been either vaguely circumstantial, hearsay based on statements from dissidents and defectors, straight out lies or simply conclusions based on wishful thinking and vivid imaginations.
Secondly, the ‘wipe Israel of the map’ meme is a deliberate mistranslation of a statement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who said nothing of the sort. It was the neoconservative organisation MEMRI that was responsible for the deliberate mistranslation of the ‘wipe Israel of the map’ line which has been used extensively by neoconservatives and Israelis ever since to invoke hatred of Iran and to infer an existential threat against Israel from Iran. Still, though, Israel and the US insist that Iran is intent on producing a nuclear weapon that it plans to use against Israel and possibly even against America.
Which brings us to the third problem with the allegations ranged against Iran and that is; why would Iran, even if it did have a nuclear weapon, risk utter and swift destruction by US and Israeli retaliatory nuclear strikes if it were to ever attack Israel with a nuclear weapon? The answer, of course is; it wouldn’t – and the Israelis and the US are well aware of it. They are also well aware that in reality Iran has no nuclear weapons program.
So why then all the fuss? The hope is that with the aid of a compliant Western mainstream media, the propaganda memes of ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program’ and wants to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ repeated over and over endlessly will eventually so influence public opinion that it will support an attack against Iran.
The ‘Iranian problem’ is presented to the world via the mainstream media in its most simplistic form. It runs thus: ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program with which it wishes to wipe Israel off the map so the answer is to destroy its weapons making capabilities using military action’.
That’s the rhetoric and the propaganda.
The reality is this: Israel and the US have no real interest in Iran’s nuclear program; their real aim as far as Iran is concerned is to destroy the Islamic regime and replace it with one that is US and Israel friendly.
Attacking Iran and affecting regime change kills a number of birds with one stone. It puts an end to what Israel and the US regard as Iran’s influence in the region, but, most important as far as the Israelis and their supporters are concerned, is that an attack against Iran provides, so they hope the world will believe, a legitimate pretext for attacking Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon on the basis that the Israelis are pre-empting a strike by Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel in retaliation of Israel’s attack against Iran.
Since the only way the US and Israel will be able to affect ‘regime change’ in Iran without the use of an invasion and occupation – unthinkable considering that Iran is more than three and a half times the size of Iraq and has about two and a half times the population – is by bombing it into capitulation and surrender, one can expect a campaign that will be far more than a load of bunker-buster bombs aimed at Iran’s nuclear facilities. Much more likely is a campaign of significant attacks against Iran’s defence and governmental institutions as well as its nuclear facilities; attacks that will deliberately inflict significant ‘colateral damage’ on civilians as the Iranian authorities get accused of using their civilians as ‘human shields’. The hope always with this strategy is that the civilian population will then press their government to end the war by capitulating to their enemies demands.
The only problem with this strategy is that it rarely ever works. Usually when such all-out bombing campaigns are carried out with the view to getting the enemy to sue for peace, rather than suing for peace, a phenomenon known as ‘Kriegssozialismus’ sets in whereby people from all walks of civilian life spontaneously ignore their ordinary class affiliations and come together to help each other out in circumstances where all are suffering equally due to war, and, importantly, collectively stiffen their resolve to resist the enemies actions rather than cave into them. Short of using nuclear weapons to defeat Iran, the US and Israel stand no hope of defeating the people of Iran.
There is also a problem of logistics in attacking Iran. Over the years that the threat of attack has prevailed, there have been reports that have suggested that Israel will ‘go it alone’ if they feel threatened enough by Iran’s ‘nuclear weapon program’. One report recently even suggested that the US is “concerned that Israel will not warn them before taking action against Iran’s nuclear facilities”. This is all rhetorical nonsense dished up for public consumption. The reality is that it would be absolutely impossible for Israel to launch an entirely unilateral attack against Iran without US connivance.
In any attack they mount, Israel will use American aircraft which constantly require spare parts mostly from the US. They will also require ordnance which also mostly comes from the US; they will require vast quantities of military jet fuel, and, if Israel plans to attack Hamas and Hezbollah at the same time, it will also require massive amounts of diesel fuel to power up its ground forces. All of this comes from the US and, as was recorded in August 2010, Israel has already ordered that fuel which would by now have been delivered and stockpiled.
The other major logistic hurdle Israel needs to overcome is the one of getting to and from its target. Israel is separated from Iran by at least two other countries; Syria and Iraq or Jordan and Iraq. Either way, this amounts to a round rip of around 3000kms to bomb Bushehr and/or Qom, Iran’s two main nuclear facilities. The most likely route would be via Syria who would be unlikely to offer any resistance to Israeli overflights – especially if it came under attack itself. Then there is the question of overflying Iraq. The Iraqi government on its own is unlikely to allow Israeli aircraft to overfly their territory. Israel would need to be in cohorts with the US if it wished to get the US to convince the Iraqi government to allow Israeli aircraft into its airspace. And not only would Israel need to have Iraqi permission to pass through its airspace, it would also need to use Iraqi airspace for in-flight refuelling operations which the Israelis would need to utilise since their strike aircraft do not have the range to do the job in one round trip without refuelling.
The question then is; what exactly is Israel’s intended endgame in the event of an attack against Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah?
Such a massive attack against all of its enemies at once is a huge commitment on Israeli resources and one of very high risk. It will, therefore, need to be decisive in terms of meeting all of its war aims.
Israel will have learnt the lessons of its past failures. After years of attacks against Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, Israel has not been able to destroy Hezbollah or Hamas despite its efforts against Hezbollah in 2006 and against Hamas in 2008/2009. In the event of an attack against Iran, Israel is likely to simultaneously mount hitherto unprecedented attacks against both Hamas and Hezbollah. Such a strike will likely be opened up with a massive aerial and artillery barrage and then, since Israel does not have to commit ground forces to attacking Iran, it will be able to invade and occupy the Gaza Strip and south Lebanon up to the Latani River. At the same time, Israel is likely to fully occupy all of the West Bank in order to prevent any uprising by Palestinian resistance there and remilitarise the Golan Heights to prevent any backlash there.
In short, for Israel an attack against Iran and Israel’s other enemies on the pretext of pre-empting an immediate threat to its own existence will be the do or die action it will take in order to realise Zionism’s ultimate endgame; the creation of a Greater Israel.
The coming confrontation is not about Iran being a threat; it is about Israel ridding itself of all of its enemies in the places that it would like to annex as part of its realisation of creating a permanent Greater Israel nation abundant with fertile lands, its own water resources, and living space. War is its pretext.
The Lebanese army successfully defused a 50-kilogram bomb discovered Monday in a southern Beirut suburb, a military official said on Tuesday.
A Jeep Grand Cherokee packed with explosives was discovered in the Maamoura neighborhood of Dahiyeh, which has been swarming with security forces since two car bombs exploded in July and August.
The July 9 attack on the Dahiyeh neighborhood of Bir al-Abed injured 53 people. On August 15, a massive explosion killed 27 people in the nearby Roueiss neighborhood.
In remarks carried by Lebanon’s National News Agency, an army spokesperson said the booby-trapped vehicle discovered Monday contained a 50-kilogram bomb, three anti-tank mines and six cluster bombs wired to 20 kilograms of an explosive chemical compound and “multiple detonators.”
Investigators are looking for those responsible for planting the car bomb, the spokesperson added.
Attacks have increased on Beirut’s southern suburbs, where Hezbollah draws strong support, since the powerful Shia movement publicly announced earlier this year that its troops had joined the war against Syria’s anti-government rebels.
Hezbollah erected dozens of checkpoints in Dahiyeh following the August 15 car bomb in attempt to stem further attacks.
Lebanese army and Internal Security Forces took over those checkpoints last month.
More than two and a half years on, Israel’s purported neutrality in the Syrian conflict and the United State’s fanfare rhetoric urging a “regime change” in Damascus were abruptly cut short to unveil that the Israeli factor has been all throughout the conflict the main concern of both countries.
All their media and political focus on “democracy versus dictatorship” and on the intervention of the international community on the basis of a “responsibility to protect” to avert the exacerbating “humanitarian crisis” in Syria was merely a focus intended to divert the attention of the world public opinion away from their real goal, i.e. to safeguard the security of Israel.
Their “Plan A” was to enforce a change in the Syrian regime as their “big prize” and replace it by another less threatening and more willing to strike a “peace deal” with Israel and in case of failure, which is the case as developed now, their “Plan B” was to pursue a “lesser prize” by disarming Syria of its chemical weapons to deprive it of its strategic defensive deterrence against the Israeli overwhelming arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Their “Plan A” proved a failure, but their “Plan B” was a success.
However, the fact that the Syrian humanitarian crisis continues unabated with the raging non-stop fighting while the United States is gradually coming to terms with Syria’s major allies in Russia and Iran as a prelude to recognizing the “legitimacy” of the status quo in Syria is a fact that shutters whatever remains of U.S. credibility in the conflict.
President Barak Obama, addressing the UN General Assembly on last September 24, had this justification: “Let us remember that this is not a zero-sum endeavor. We are no longer in a Cold War. There’s no Great Game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well-being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring it does not become a safe-haven for terrorists. I welcome the influence of all nations that can help bring about a peaceful resolution.”
This U-turn shift by the U.S. dispels any remaining doubts that the U.S. ever cared about the Syrian people and what Obama called their “well being.”
The U.S. pronounced commitment to a “political solution” through co-sponsoring with Russia the convening of a “Geneva – 2” conference is compromised by its purported inability to unite even the “opposition” that was created and sponsored by the U.S. itself and the “friends of Syria” it leads and to rein in the continued fueling of the armed conflict with arms, money and logistics by its regional Turkish and Gulf Arabs allies, which undermines any political solution and render the very convening of a “Geneva – 2” conference a guess of anybody.
Meanwhile, Israel’s neutrality was shuttered by none other than its President Shimon Peres.
Speaking at the 40th commemoration of some three thousand Israeli soldiers who were killed in the 1973 war with Syria and Egypt, Peres revealed unarguably that his state has been the major beneficiary of the Syrian conflict.
Peres said: “Today” the Syrian President Basher al-Assad “is punished for his refusal to compromise” with Israel and “the Syrian people pay for it.”
When it became stark clear by the latest developments that there will be no “regime change” in Syria nor there will be a post- Assad “Day After” and that the U.S. major guarantor of Israel’s survival has made, or is about to make, a “U-turn” in its policy vis-à-vis the Syrian conflict to exclude the military solution as “unacceptable,” in the words of Secretary of State John Kerry on this October 6, Israel got impatient and could not hide anymore the Israeli factor in the conflict.
On last September 17, major news wires headlined their reports, “In public shift, Israel calls for Assad’s fall,” citing a report published by the Israeli daily the Jerusalem Post, which quoted Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, as saying: “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren added.
And that’s really the crux of the Syrian conflict: Dismantling this “arc” has been all throughout the conflict the pronounced strategy of the U.S.-led so-called “Friends of Syria,” who are themselves the friends of Israel.
The goal of this strategy has been all throughout the conflict to change the regime of what Oren called the Syrian “keystone in that arc,” which is supported by a pro-Iran government in Iraq as well as by the Palestinian liberation movements resisting the more than sixty decades of Israeli military occupation, or otherwise to deplete Syria’s resources, infrastructure and power until it has no choice other than the option of yielding unconditionally to the Israeli terms and conditions of what Peres called a “compromise” with Israel as a precondition for the return of the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
Syria the Odd Number
This strategic goal was smoke-screened by portraying the conflict first as one of a popular uprising turned into an armed rebellion against a dictatorship, then as a sectarian “civil war,” third as a proxy war in an Arab-Iranian and a Sunni-Shiite historical divide, fourth as a battle ground of conflicting regional and international geopolitics, but the Israeli factor has been all throughout the core of the conflict.
Otherwise why should the U.S.-led “Friends of Syria & Israel” care about the ruling regime in a country that is not abundant in oil and gas, the “free” flow of which was repeatedly pronounced a “vital” interest of the United States, or one of what Obama in his UN speech called his country’s “core interests;” the security of Israel is another “vital” or “core” interest, which, in his words, “The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure.”
The end of the Cold War opened a “window of opportunities” to build on the Egyptian – Israel peace treaty, according to a study by the University of Oslo in 1997. A peace agreement was signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Hebrew state in 1993 followed by an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty the year after. During its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 Israel tried unsuccessfully to impose on the country a similar treaty had it not been for the Syrian “influence,” which aborted and prevented any such development ever since.
Syria remains the odd number in the Arab peace — making belt around Israel; no comprehensive peace is possible without Syria; Damascus holds the key even to the survival of the Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian peace accords with Israel. Syria will not hand over this key without the withdrawal of the Israeli Occupation Forces from Syrian and other Arab lands and a “just” solution of the “Palestinian question.”
This has been a Syrian national strategy long before the Pan-Arab Baath party and the al-Assad dynasty came to power.
Therefore, the U.S. and Israeli “Plan A” will remain on both countries’ agendas, pending more forthcoming geopolitical environment.
Nicola Nasser can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.