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Has Donald Trump Lost Syria to Iran?

Nov. 13 2017

Three weeks ago, the White House released an official strategy for checking the Islamic Republic’s growing influence in the Middle East. A key aspect of any such plan is to prevent Iran and its allies, after Islamic State (IS) has been driven out, from seizing control of the area of Syria east of the Euphrates. Thus far, forces backed by both Russia and Iran itself seem poised to do just that. John Hannah urges the president to act before it is too late:

Iran and its allies are . . . convinced that, while full of tough talk and bluster, the Trump administration does not have the stomach for an extended military faceoff in Syria. Already, Iran, the Assad regime, and Russia are signaling to the [American-backed and Kurdish-led] Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that they cannot rely on the United States to stand by them once Islamic State is defeated. Instead, the SDF should cut its own deal with the Assad regime and its backers now rather than wait to confront them alone after the United States abandons the battlefield—as, they insist, it inevitably will. . . .

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in tandem with the Syrian regime, Russian air power, and multiple Iranian-controlled Shiite militias (including Lebanese Hizballah), is determined to seize control of the entire area that IS vacates. With that terrain secured, the Islamic Republic’s strategic objective of a contiguous ground corridor stretching across Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon would be largely complete—underwritten by powerful pro-Iranian proxies in Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut. Iran’s ability to project power across the Levant would be dangerously enhanced, dramatically escalating its long-term ability to threaten critical U.S. allies in Israel, Jordan, and beyond.

Someone needs to tell President Trump sooner rather than later: sir, you cannot declare war on the IRGC in October only to turn around and cede the Middle East’s northern tier to the IRGC in November. Sir, without a serious ground game that consciously works to block Iranian hegemony in Iraq and Syria, you do not have a serious strategy to counter the Iranian threat to U.S. interests. The new get-tough approach that you announced toward Iran last month would be reduced to nothing but empty talk and bluster—paper-tiger territory. And when it comes to the hard men commanding the IRGC, that would be a very dangerous place to be—for America, the Middle East, and the world.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Donald Trump, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security