Israel’s Latest (Possible) Strike in Syria Shows That It Won’t be Cowed by Russia

Early Saturday morning, it appears that Israeli jets destroyed an Iranian base located in Syria. Jerusalem, as a rule, does not take credit for such strikes, but to Ron Ben-Yishai there is little reason to doubt its responsibility. He explains the logic behind the attack:

Israel will not allow an Iranian military presence of any kind in Syria. The fact the Russians and the Iranians ignored that message in talks that Vladimir Putin held with the leaders of Iran and Turkey was likely what prompted Israel to reinforce its message [with action]. . . .

[The Iranian] base, which is near the town of al-Kiswah, fifteen kilometers southwest of Damascus, was supposed to house some 500 militia fighters operating in Syria on Iranian orders. The base is some 50 kilometers from the Golan Heights, and while it’s not close enough to pose a direct threat to Israel, it certainly constitutes an important and clear component in Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. . . . [W]hile the al-Kiswah base has yet to be populated, it is safe to assume there was already Iranian “representation” there at the time of the strike—a few Iranian military and Revolutionary Guards personnel, no more. It was apparently enough for Israel.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, recently said that Iranian (and Russian) military presence in Syria was “legitimate,” because the Assad regime, which is the legal government, invited them. But Jerusalem is not bound by Moscow’s declarations. For Israel, as recent events and declarations make clear, a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria is a red line that will not be accepted, even in its initial stages. The obvious conclusion is that it’s better to handle a problem when it is still small than to bomb this facility when it is fully manned, causing many casualties.

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More about: Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war

 

UN Troops in Lebanon Don’t Just Ignore Hizballah. They Protect It

Dec. 18 2018

Two weeks ago, IDF officers showed the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) the tunnels that Hizballah has dug into Israeli territory. UNIFIL, whose primary mission is to keep Iran-backed jihadist group from using southern Lebanon to attack Israel, responded with a statement that failed even to name Hizballah. Not only is UNIFIL useless at doing its job, writes Evelyn Gordon, but its very presence helps Hizballah, since countries that contribute troops are afraid to put them in harm’s way by aggravating the terrorists they’re meant to contain.

It’s no coincidence that the major contributors to UNIFIL . . . oppose listing Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. The only EU country that does blacklist the entire organization is Holland, which has exactly one soldier in UNIFIL.

The EU and its other member states blacklist only the [organization’s] military wing, not the political wing. And that’s fine with Hizballah because, as the organization itself admits, any distinction between its political and military wings is purely fictitious. Thus, so long as the political wing is legal, Hizballah can still fundraise and recruit freely in Europe.

A complete ban, however, would genuinely hurt Hizballah. According to a 2017 German intelligence report, Germany alone has [on its soil] some 950 Hizballah operatives actively fundraising and recruiting for the organization. Much of that money is raised through charitable donations, but another significant source is organized crime. An EU report published in August described “a large network of Lebanese nationals offering money-laundering services to organized crime groups in the EU and using a share of the profits to finance terrorism-related activities. . . . An EU ban on Hizballah would thus put a serious crimp in its operations.

UNIFIL, by contrast, hasn’t put the slightest crimp in them. . . . To be fair, expecting UNIFIL to stop Hizballah was never realistic. As a senior Israeli official acknowledged this week, few countries would be willing to contribute troops to a mission that actually involved fighting Hizballah. . . . [Yet] UNIFIL has no problem making accusations against Israel. [A] November report that couldn’t “substantiate” Hizballah’s [illegal] arms transfers declared that UNIFIL had recorded 550 Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace and demanded their “immediate cessation.”

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More about: European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Lebanon