The United States Defense chief James Mattis arrived in Israel on Thursday where he will hold talks on the Syrian civil war, US policy on Iran, and the two countries’ close strategic relations.
He met with the Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Reuven Rivlin.
Netanyahu said “Israel has no better friend than America. America has no better friend than Israel. And this is a partnership based on common values in the deepest sense of the word”
Mattis has already been to Saudi Arabia, which was his first stop on a sweeping tour across the Middle East and the Horn of Africa to discuss America’s role in regional security.
He said the United States has seen “Iranian supplied missiles being fired by the Houthis into Saudi Arabia” and vowed to work with U.S. allies to help the conflict. No word of the US supplied weapons which has helped kill thousands of Yemeni civilians.
Press TV reports:
Mattis hopes to hear directly from Israeli leaders their concerns about regional issues, with Iran’s influence topping the list.
‘No doubt Syria has chemical weapons’
The conflict in Syria, where the US and Israel seek to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power, is also on the agenda, according to the prime minister’s office.
Israel was one of the first US allies to salute President Donald Trump for a recent missile strike on a Syrian airbase, where they alleged a suspected chemical attack originated.
Speaking during a press conference with Lieberman on Friday, Mattis said there can be “no doubt” that Syria has retained some chemical weapons and warned President Assad not to use them.
“There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all. There is no longer any doubt,” he said.
The US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been pushing to overthrow the Syrian government through the use of proxy militant forces in the country.
Iran has been lending advisory support to Syria in its battle against the foreign-backed militants, but has avoided direct military involvement in the conflict.
Known as the “Mad Dog,” Mattis has famously said the three gravest threats to US national security were “Iran, Iran, Iran.”
While in Riyadh on Wednesday, the Pentagon chief reiterated the Trump administration’s position that Iran seeks to “destabilize” the region.
He told reporters after meeting with senior Saudi officials that “everywhere you look if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran.”
Washington, DC is dealing with a lot of problems these days. Drama over the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives is pretty much all that people seem to care about these days. Talks over keeping the government open after April 28 are proceeding apace. And the aftermath of the Obamacare repeal is still hovering above the capital city like a dark storm cloud. Outside of the first U.S. missile strikes on the Assad regime since the Syrian civil war began, it’s almost as if everything else in the world is unimportant.
And yet there are things going on in the world today that are even more consequential to America’s national security than how much money Paul Manafort may have made in Ukraine or whether the federal government runs out of money by the end of next month. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, to name one major issue.
Trump’s envoy for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, has been flying in and out of the Middle East like so many peace negotiators before him. Greenblatt perhaps has the most thankless job in the foreign-policy community: trying to find just the right combination of honey and vinegar to convince Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to come back to the table. The fact that he needs to do this at the same time as he must reassure Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington has Israel’s core interests in mind is the proverbial circling of the square. As former State Department negotiator Aaron David Miller has written for CNN, “The chances of the Trump administration waking the patient up, let alone facilitating a real road to recovery, are well . . . pretty close to zero.” This is coming from a man who spent most of his career trying to strike the ultimate bargain in the Holy Land, so he knows something about getting two intransigent parties in the same room.
It’s not going to be easy for Jason Greenblatt.
But for those who continue believe that the two-state solution is ultimately the only formula that will provide Israelis and Palestinians with the right mix of self-determination, security and peace, Greenblatt’s meetings with Israeli and Palestinian diplomats over the last two weeks are an encouraging sign that the Trump administration seems serious about putting out feelers.
The only thing predictable about Mideast peace negotiations is that Netanyahu and Abbas don’t particularly like or trust one another. Rightly or wrongly, Abbas sees Netanyahu as a right-wing extremist who views placating his domestic political base as more important to his personal legacy than risking his political future by providing the Palestinians with the concessions they seek. Netanyahu, in turn, sees in Abbas a weak politician who is past his prime, doesn’t have the power to get the Palestinian people behind him, and a figure who can’t guarantee that a Palestinian state wouldn’t deteriorate into another Gaza Strip. Rushing into talks, even if the Palestinians agreed to talks, is bound to fail and set back the peace process even further.
Greenblatt has chosen to take a more deliberative approach. He’s made the rounds in Israel, Ramallah, Washington and on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit this week, poking and prodding about what the stakeholders would like to see in any deal and whether there’s enough common ground that a more formal process can be launched. That’s the way to do it.
Again, we haven’t a clue as to whether the Trump administration will be anymore successful than the Clinton, Bush or Obama administrations before it. Mideast peace talks tend to have the effect of causing migraines, heart palpitations, ulcers and a general sense of psychologic daze (just as President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State John Kerry). Greenblatt and his superiors in the White House may get to that point as well.
But at least they are starting this painful but necessary endeavor with eyes wide open.
Daniel DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities.
Image: Old City of Jerusalem through barbed wire. Pixabay/Public domain
The Israeli strike on Syria was probably with conventional fighters and missiles. There had been reports and speculation that Israel used new F35 stealth fighters for the attack.
Israeli jets have been able to operate almost freely in or close to Syria, hitting targets across the country with guided weapons without the Syrian Arab Air Force posing any real threat to the Israeli attackers. It’s likely Israel employed powerful electronic warfare during the strikes.
The last time Syrian air defenses shot down a foreign aircraft was back in 2012, when a Turkish air force RF-4E violated Syrian airspace over the Mediterranean Sea and was hit by anti-aircraft artillery fire.
Israel likely used the Popeye missile. The Popeye has 750 pounds of explosives and a range of about 48 miles.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said in brazen remarks that his regime will continue to conduct military attacks against Hezbollah targets inside Syria, a day after Tel Aviv had to admit airstrikes inside Syrian territory.
Israeli warplanes intruded Syrian airspace on Friday, striking several targets near the ancient city of Palmyra in the central part of the Arab country. The Syrian government said it had fired anti-aircraft missiles at the intruding Israeli jets. It said one warplane had been shot down and another damaged.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the incursion on Saturday, claiming that the strikes targeted weapons shipments to Hezbollah.
“When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it,” he alleged. “That’s how it was yesterday and that’s how we shall continue to act.”
Hezbollah defended Lebanon against Israeli wars in 2000 and 2006. It has helped both prevent and contain the spillover into Lebanon of a terrorist campaign going on in Syria. The resistance movement has also been aiding the Syrian government in its own battle against extremist militants inside Syria.
The Syrian army has called the latest Israeli airstrikes “a desperate attempt” to help the Takfiri terrorist group of Daesh.
Israel, on the other hand, has been contributing to the terrorist campaign in Syria with the strikes against Hezbollah and the Syrian military and by offering medical treatment for the anti-Damascus militants in the Israeli-occupied Syrian territory of Golan Heights.
Last September, an Israeli lawmaker said Tel Aviv was directly aiding the terrorist group formerly known as al-Nusra Front in the Golan Heights.
In a message posted on his Facebook page and quoted by the daily Haaretz, Knesset member Akram Hasoon said Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, as the group is currently known, was bombing the Druze village of Khadr in non-occupied Golan with Israeli Minister for Military Affairs Avigdor Lieberman’s support and protection.
The Israeli regime every now and then hits targets inside Syrian territory in strikes that typically go unclaimed. While Netanyahu admitted for the first time in April 2016 that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons for Hezbollah in Syria, the Tel Aviv regime refuses to claim individual attacks.
It was forced to admit the Friday airstrikes, though, because its jets had been attacked by the Syrian military in that incursion.
Aiming for a state on the resistance front
Speaking to Press TV, Richard Becker, an expert with the ANSWER Coalition anti-war group, and London-based journalist and political commentator Richard Millet offered their takes on the Israeli attacks in Syria.
Millet claimed that the air raids had been “an act of self-defense” stopping Hezbollah from using those weapons against Israel. He also alleged that the strikes were “against… the takeover of Syria by Iran.”
Becker, however, said that Tel Aviv sought “to destroy Syria,” which has served as “a frontline state against the practices and policies of Israel, [i.e.] suppressing the Palestinian people and waging war on the Arab people and other people throughout the region.”
“Israel has long wanted to bring about regime change in Syria; and, if they can break up the Syrian state, that’s… seen by them [as being] in their interest,” he said.
A rare skirmish between Israeli and Syrian forces erupted early Friday morning. Damascus launched anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli warplanes. The attack was supposedly retaliation after Israel led a series of airstrikes in the war-torn country.
Syria’s rhetoric has become increasingly belligerent as Bashir al Assad struggles to retain control. Following the incident, Damascus issued a statement loaded with inaccuracies and threats. Assad’s government insists that Israeli warplanes attacked Syrian territory with the intention of aiding ISIS and destabilizing the military.
According to reports, “Israel is widely believed to have carried out a number of airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles, as well as Hezbollah positions — but it rarely confirms them.”
Despite the differences, both governments confirmed Friday’s scuffle. Israel maintains that their aircraft were in Israeli-controlled airspace when Syria launched their attack. The Israeli aerial defense system destroyed one of the missiles mid-air.
“A Syrian military statement said four Israeli airplanes violated Syrian airspace — flying into Syria through Lebanese territory — and targeted a military position in central Syria,” TIME reports.
The attack in Syria is the only event that both parties agree on however. Israel maintains that neither its citizens nor its aircraft were harmed by Syria’s missiles, while Syria released a blustering statement claiming that at least one Israeli jet was shot down.
Syria’s long, protracted civil war is finally lurching towards a conclusion. The country has been wracked by dissent for over seven years. Russia and Iran’s combined support now bolster Syria’s military so well that Assad has a won a string of critical victories.
The mayhem that crippled Syria’s government allowed the Islamic State’s rapid surge to power. The resulting strife has had devastating effects across the world. Foreign military jets now appear in Syria’s skies. Even if Assad manages to destroy his enemies, he’ll be left with a ruined country.
Until recently, Israel remained largely unaffected by the chaos. But complex forces are now at work. Hezbollah, one of Israel’s most bitter enemies, is also a devoted ally to Assad.
“I’m going to say this with all due caution, but there has never been an army that knows as much about its enemy as we know about Hezbollah,” said Major General Herzl Halevi, the chief of the IDF’s military intelligence directorate. “But still, the next war will not be simple, it will not be easy.”
Many Israelis fear a possible war with Hezbollah, or with the terrorist’s backers, Iran. Syria’s bloodshed is likely with the empowerment of both groups.
“Israeli Channel 10 TV first reported that Israel deployed its Arrow defense system for the first time against a real threat and hit an incoming missile, intercepting it before it exploded in Israel,” writes TIME.
The Arrow is advanced technology designed to intercept missiles. The military refuses to comment on whether or not the system was used, although a few news outlets aired footage of the supposed remnants of the destroyed missile.
Analysts expect Israel to continue to increase its military presence in Syria.
“Iran has gained (in the Israeli perspective, undeserved) international legitimacy from the nuclear agreement, while not mitigating one jot of Iran’s hostility towards Israel. In sum, for the IDF, events in Syria will not lead to the political outcome the U.S. and Russia are hoping for; instead, it expects to see the Shiite crescent stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean become more awash in weapons,” writes Alastair Crooke for the Huffington Post.
From Israel’s point of view, there’s almost no way for the Syrian conflict to end that won’t be devastating. The entire region is at risk if ISIS triumphs. If Assad claims victory, he’ll do so with Iran and Hezbollah at his side.
Almost none of the bloodshed in Syria seeped into Israel in recent years. The Israelis mostly suffered from random bouts of spillover fire and such events were usually ignored. Friday’s scuffle proves that the relatively peaceful relations between Damascus and Israel are unlikely to continue.
“The question is not how we would like this story to end, but how would we not like it to end,” Halevi said. “Let’s say Da’esh [an Arabic acronym for the so-called Islamic State] has been contained. The superpowers have left the area, and we are stuck here with the Iranian axis with caches of advanced weaponry.”
ISIS isn’t Israel’s biggest threat, Hezbollah is. The IDF views terrorism as a mostly a domestic threat and appear to be unconcerned about the possible consequences if jihadis continue to gain power.
An Iranian hegemony in the Middle East is a bigger threat to the world than ISIS. The Islamic State is almost cartoonish in their brutality and they’ve ignited the ire of most of the world’s superpowers. Iran is far more dangerous because their government is sophisticated and conniving enough to retain a position of global power.
The United Nations has come under fire for their recent anti-Israeli stance. It started when former President Barack Obama was still the Commander-in-Chief, and it has only escalated since then. Considering that the United States and Israel are allies, this stance isn’t sitting well with the American people.
It all started with the United Nation’s order against Israel from settling on its own property. Once that order came out, several Republican lawmakers were calling for funding to be cut off from the U.N. Unfortunately, this type of anti-Israeli stance has only continued since then.
Now, a new United Nations report came out that accused Israel of being “guilty of the crime of apartheid.” It should be noted that the report was co-authored by anti-Israel scholar Richard Falk. Nevertheless, the Trump administration was livid. They demanded that the U.N. “withdraw” the study.
Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the U.N., slammed the report. She categorized it as “anti-Israel propaganda” in a statement that was made late Wednesday night. Unfortunately, this is how the U.N. has been treating Israel for too long now.
Haley said, “The United States stands with our ally Israel and will continue to oppose biased and anti-Israel actions across the UN system and around the world.”
The report itself was appointed by the U.N Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. Apartheid was originally associated with South Africa. However the report said Israel’s policies are consistent with the definition of it. Apartheid is described as “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination” by one racial group over another.
The report said, “Aware of the seriousness of this allegation, the authors of the report conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law.”
The commission appointed by the U.N. is supposed to promote economic development in the Arab region. However, they employed an extremely controversial person to co-author the report in Falk. According to Fox News sources, the report was sent out while he was speaking at a ceremony in Beirut.
A little history on Falk shows that he has not been kind to either Israel or the United States. In fact, he is known for being harsh and eccentric critiques of both countries. These come out specifically when talking about Islamist terrorism.
Soon after the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings, Falk made a disturbing remark. “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world.” Wow, how surprising that someone who makes these types of remarks would be against Israel and the United States.
This is also a person who has repeatedly questioned “the official version of 9/11.” Back in 2013, he was on a radio show talking about “gaps” in the standard 9/11 narrative. This was the person they chose to author a report? No wonder it’s incredibly biased!
“Questioning that deeply the official version of 9/11 does touch the third rail of American political sensitivities, and there is an attempt to discredit and destroy anyone that makes such a bold statement,” Falk said.
Although there are some theories on why the U.N chose to get Falk to co-author the report. It could be seen as a slap in the face to the Trump administration. They have expressed concerns about the anti-Israel bias in the U.N., which the U.N isn’t taking too kindly. This theory gains traction as Falk has been an outspoken critic of Trump.
In fact, Falk said that Trump’s inauguration led him to “muse about what it might mean to live in a pre-fascist state.”
Naturally, a spokeswoman for the U.N said that the report doesn’t reflect Falk’s views. “It was published by the Economic Commission for Western Asia, a regional U.N. economic commission, without prior consultation with U.N. headquarters.”
Still, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. also slammed the report, calling it “biased and deceitful.”
Ambassador Danny Danon didn’t hold back either. “The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie. It comes as no surprise that an organization headed by an individual who has called for boycotts against Israel, and compared our democracy to the most terrible regimes of the twentieth century, would publish such a report.”
This has also made tensions worse between the U.N. and the Trump administration. Haley herself slammed Falk while telling the secretary-general to go further.
“That it was drafted by Richard Falk, a man who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories, including about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is equally unsurprising,” she said. “The United Nations Secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”
The report points to what it says is specific engineering of demographics made by policies designed to keep Israel as a Jewish state. It said there was a “policy of domination” in “inferior services, restrictive zoning laws and limited budget allocations made to Palestinian communities … and in the mostly segregated landscape in which Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel live.”
The report also called on member states to act against the nation. “This report accordingly recommends that the international community act immediately, without waiting for a more formal pronouncement regarding the culpability of the State of Israel, its Government and its officials for the commission of the crime of apartheid.”
This is not going to sit well with the Trump administration. They have already been eyeing 50 percent cuts in funding for U.N. programs. The administration also confirmed that it is reviewing U.S. membership on the Human Rights Council. This is because they have concerns the body unfairly targets Israel, while they overlook crimes done by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
When Haley was confirmed in January, she specifically pointed out the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias as something that the Trump administration would put a lot of focus on. “Nowhere has the U.N.’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel.” Haley told the Senators.
The United Nations has a history of saying things that they shouldn’t say. Back in January, they released a report saying that refugees do not pose a security threat to Americans. Despite the fact that there have been several high-profile terrorist attacks that have come from refugees, the U.N. wanted to release this report.
The former administration always spoke highly about the United Nations. That was because Obama wanted the United States to actually give sovereignty to the United Nations. It was a globalist’s dream situation. Thankfully, it never came true.
Share this article to show that Nikki Haley and the Trump administration are not happy with the United Nations. Once again, they have shown that they are going to be anti-Israel. Now they are saying that Israel is guilty of apartheid. If they keep this up, then the United States will not stay there much longer.