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Birth of an Islamist State?

Birth of an Islamist State? Author: Jonathan Spyer Categories: Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Syria    

In a stunning and deeply significant development, the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) organisation captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in the second week of June. They then moved on to take Tikrit unopposed and according to reports, were headed toward the capital, Baghdad.

Five hundred thousand people fled Mosul in the wake of its conquest by the jihadis. The city, which has an Arab majority population along with large Kurdish and Turkmen minorities, is Iraq's second largest. Its capture was the latest and most significant success in an offensive launched by the ISIS jihadis a week ago.

Yaari: Coping Without a Peace Deal

Yaari: Coping Without a Peace Deal Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Syria    

The Palestinian leadership will never agree to a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines and an end to the conflict with Israel unless all of its demands are met, but that does not mean Israel should not take the initiative towards a two-state outcome. That was a core message of renowned Israeli journalist, commentator and author Ehud Yaari who recently visited Australia as a guest of AIJAC. 

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Video: Ehud Yaari on the Middle East

Video: Ehud Yaari on the Middle East Categories: Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Multimedia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Ehud Yaari is a renowned veteran Israeli journalist, arguably Israel's most authoritative and influential foreign affairs analyst. He is a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel 2 news, has written eight books on the Israeli-Arab conflict and has won top prizes for journalism in Israel.

He addressed AIJAC supporters in Melbourne on the regional turmoil surrounding Israel – including Syria, al-Qaeda, Egypt and the Palestinians – on February 23, 2014.

The Syrian Conundrum

The Syrian Conundrum Categories: International Security, Syria, Updates    

In the wake of the complete failure of the Geneva 2 talks in late February to make any progress toward an agreement that would end the Syrian civil war, journalists, columnists and academic experts have been exploring what foreign policy options now exist to try and change that ugly situation there. This Update incorporates some of their thoughts and advice. 

Syria chemical weapons deal in difficulties

Syria chemical weapons deal in difficulties Categories: Syria, Updates    

This Update is focussed on growing signs the Russia-brokered deal signed between Syria and the West last September may be faltering - after the Geneva conference on Syria last week failed to achieve any substantive progress. It also includes other material on the Syrian foreign policy problem.

We lead with a Washington Post editorial, complete with links, remonstrating with policymakers to do more about Syrian stalling on meeting its chemical weapons obligations.

Iran and the State of the Union

Iran and the State of the Union Categories: America, Iran, Syria, Updates    

Today’s Update looks at some initial reactions to US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, which he delivered before Congress earlier today. (The full text of the President’s remarks can be found here.)

Of particular interest to our readers would be two issues Obama touched on during his speech with regard to foreign policy. First, his succinct but important comments about the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – where he implicitly backed Israel’s demand to be recognised as a Jewish state. Secondly, Obama vigorously defended his interim agreement with Iran as a peaceful step towards defusing its rogue nuclear program, warning Congress that he would veto any legislation for new sanctions during the interim period.

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Yarmouk - A real case of Palestinians living "under siege"

Yarmouk - A real case of Palestinians living "under siege" Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

The civil war in Syria has created a humanitarian crisis on a huge scale. Yet some aspects of that catastrophe have received little media attention. For instance, the reported intentional, cruel and cynical blocking of the provision of urgently needed humanitarian aid is one such aspect. Now another issue deserving of international attention, but not receiving it, has become apparent - the starvation of Palestinian refugees in Syria, most notably in the Yarmouk camp on the edge of Damascus.

Want peace in Syria? Work on reconciliation from day one

Want peace in Syria? Work on reconciliation from day one Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Op-eds, Syria    

When outsiders survey the devastation in Syria, reconciliation is probably the last thing that comes to mind. Millions of refugees and internally displaced people are desperate for humanitarian aid. Millions more are caught in the lines of sectarian fire. Who has time to think about such fluffy “feel-good” concepts?

Yet with the Peace Conference for Syria scheduled to take place in Geneva this month, the thorny issue of post-conflict reconciliation must not be ignored.

The UN effectively gives up on Syria

The UN effectively gives up on Syria Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

Ever get the feeling that, after years of paralysis and stalemate, the international community have given up on resolving the crisis in Syria? The UN General Assembly (UNGA) 68th session has just wrapped up while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has announced that a Peace Conference for Syria will take place in Geneva in January, so this is an opportune time to assess the international community's role in promoting a return to peace in that troubled country.

Whispered Compassion

Whispered Compassion Author: Debra Kamin Categories: Israel, Jordan, Syria    

Sultana is 23 years old and very hungry. She grew up in the suburbs east of Damascus, but when her house was firebombed by an airplane belonging to the Syrian regime, she fled the city in the night along with her husband and their five children.

Together, the group trekked south toward safety across the Jordanian border, adding their numbers to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have swarmed this remote, impoverished corner of the Hashemite Kingdom while Syrian President Bashar Assad's reign of terror shows no signs of abating.

The Yom Kippur War: Australian controversies of 1973

The Yom Kippur War: Australian controversies of 1973 Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Egypt, Media/ Academia, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

This blog, the last instalment of a three-part series on the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, uses original Australian source material to obtain some insights into the Australian government's controversial response to the war at the time, as well as the persuasive but ultimately futile arguments used by Israel's supporters to convince Canberra to improve its response. Finally, the blog concludes with some observations about how the Australian coverage of the Yom Kippur War can tell us something about the way the Australian media views Israel today.

The Yom Kippur War in Australian editorials and analysis

The Yom Kippur War in Australian editorials and analysis Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Australasia, Egypt, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

In June, AIJAC took a look back at the coverage of the Six Day War of 1967 in two major Australian newspapers, the Age of Melbourne and the Sydney Morning Herald. Now, in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, we open the archives once again to look at the coverage of that war in Australia, this time expanding the scope of our research to include the Australian, as well as touching upon the coverage of the Canberra Times, and the Melbourne Herald.

As a much longer war, there is more to take in, so the retrospective will be split into two parts. This blog will discuss the editorials and some of the in-house analysis of the period, while the second will revisit some of the on-the-spot coverage by the newspapers' foreign correspondents covering the war. Finally, similar to our blog from June, we'll conclude by weighing some of the key contextual facts of the Israeli-Arab conflict that were widely understood by journalists at the time but are largely absent from the narrative in the news today.

Syria and the extremist rebels/ Hamas' latest terror tunnel

Syria and the extremist rebels/ Hamas' latest terror tunnel Categories: Islamic Extremism, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

This edition of Updates from AIJAC focuses on the reality of growing Islamist extremism among Syrian rebels, the reasons this happened and what can be done, if anything, to increase the role of more moderate groups. It also focuses on the implication of the discovery of a new tunnel from Gaza into Israel, apparently designed to facilitate kidnappings or other terror attacks inside Israel.

The Yom Kippur War - 40 years on

The Yom Kippur War - 40 years on Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Egypt, Israel, Syria, Updates    

On October 6, 1973, as Israelis observed Yom Kippur - the holiest day in the Jewish calendar - the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched simultaneous surprise offensives against Israel across the ceasefire lines from the 1967 war.

Four decades later, the consequences and lessons of the 19-day war are still being analysed and debated. Meanwhile, once-classified information about the war from the archives of some of the principle players in the war, as well as their superpower patrons, are slowly coming to the surface, adding to our understanding of the events.

Today, AIJAC begins a three-part blog to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Israel's last major multi-front conventional war.

The first entry will examine recent stories about the war that might interest to our readers, including commentary about how the lessons of the Yom Kippur War are being applied to Israel's current security outlook.

The UN Resolution on Syria’s Chemical Weapons

The UN Resolution on Syria’s Chemical Weapons Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

On 27 September the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2118 that demands the eradication of Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014.  While the Resolution is a welcome development because it has high potential to significantly reduce Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons, it is important to consider the costs of the Resolution.

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As Good as it Gets?

As Good as it Gets? Author: Chuck Freilich Categories: International Security, Russia, Syria    

On paper, the Russian proposal to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons looks like the optimal outcome. A military attack to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons was never the objective, but a means to an end, which was to firmly establish the principle that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. If - and this is a very big if - even part of the Syrian chemical arsenal is actually placed under international supervision and ultimately dismantled, the United States will have achieved far more than it set out to do. It is, however, far too early to predict success - indeed, the prospects are limited.

Israel anticipates some bad chemistry

Israel anticipates some bad chemistry Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel, Syria    

As the plot surrounding Syria's chemical weapons continued to thicken, Israelis of all walks crowded the narrow alleys leading to Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, where thousands were humming the season's ancient penitentiary prayers known as Selichot ("apologies").

News of the Russian-sponsored deal that would potentially end the international crisis non-violently broke three days ahead of the Day of Atonement, when Jews scrutinise their moral conduct over the past year, and vow to improve it in the next.

A chemical weapons "deal" on Syria?

A chemical weapons "deal" on Syria? Categories: International Security, Syria, Updates    

This Update deals with the latest surprise development in the Syria debate - with US President Obama delaying the Congressional vote to authorise the use of force against Syria as a punishment for chemical weapons use in the wake of a Russian proposal - based on a seemingly off-hand remark from US Secretary of State John Kerry - for a deal to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control. (The text of Obama's speech on Tuesday, both making a strong case for action against Syria and asking for a delay in voting to pursue the Russian proposal is here.)

New revelations about Israel's help for victims of Syrian civil war

New revelations about Israel's help for victims of Syrian civil war Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

As the US Congress debates authorising military strikes against Syria's Assad regime for allegedly using chemical weapons against its own people, a growing amount of media attention is now being paid to one of the encouraging stories coming out of the Syrian civil war - that is Israel's public and private contribution to relieving the humanitarian crisis.

This contribution has come in the form of aid shipments for refugees, as well as the treatment of Syrian war wounded in Israeli hospitals, including a field hospital on the Golan Heights that has been expressly built for the purpose.

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Syria: Israeli Views and Analysis

Syria: Israeli Views and Analysis Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

With intense debate still raging about Syria - especially in the wake of the decision by US President Obama to seek congressional approval on Sept. 9 before moving ahead with the possibility of US-led military strikes in response to the large-scale chemical weapons attack there - this Update brings together some Israeli expert perspectives on the situation.

A strike on Syria? And if so, what sort and with what consequences?

A strike on Syria? And if so, what sort and with what consequences? Categories: America, International Security, Syria, Updates    

This update deals with the apparent likelihood that the US will soon lead some form of military strikes against the Syrian regime in the wake of what appears to be a large-scale, confirmed chemical weapon attack at East Ghouta and other Damascus suburbs, and increasing reports that intelligence has confirmed that the Syrian regime was responsible (Good reports on the ugly details of that attack come from the New York Times and Der Speigel, while reports on the intelligence are here, here, here and here.) With US President Obama saying he still hasn't made up his mind what to do, it focuses on the form such an attack might or should take, and the consequences of the various options reportedly being considered.

Syria burns as the UN turns its gaze to Israel

Syria burns as the UN turns its gaze to Israel Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

As everyone digests the harrowing reports of nerve gas being used by the Syrian regime against its own people, and the US boosts its military posturing, one story that has seemingly been pushed to the side is the increasing irrelevance of the United Nations. ... After more than two years of dithering as Syria burns, the Security Council has patently failed in its mission to maintain international peace and security...

At the same time, UN activity has been continuing unabated over on Syria's south-western border. Earlier this month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed a model UN forum in Jerusalem. During his address, he reportedly made a rare admission of the unfair treatment which Israel receives...

Israel quietly treats wounded Syrians

Israel quietly treats wounded Syrians Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

It was recently revealed that Israel has been quietly providing medical assistance to around 100 victims of the Syrian civil war, who are in two hospitals in northern Israel as well as in a field hospital Israel established on the Golan Heights border. 

By the Numbers

By the Numbers Author: Paul Rivlin Categories: Syria    

Up to 100,000 people have been killed, 1.5 million have fled the country and over four million have been made homeless in Syria's war of self-destruction. The intensity of the fighting and the losses in life and property are even greater than in Iraq, largely because the Syrian Government is waging war on its own people.

Lifesaver and Model of Coexistence, yet still Condemned: The Israeli Health System

Lifesaver and Model of Coexistence, yet still Condemned: The Israeli Health System Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

It would be fair to say that the Israeli health system has been a unique success story - a model of humanitarian considerations trumping politics, as well as providing benefits both to neighbours such as the Palestinians living under their own health systems and Syrians, and offering unique medical innovations whose benefits are felt worldwide. It's just a pity that it is politics which largely prevents this success story being recognised - and where possible, emulated.

The Six Day War and the changing face of journalism: The view from Australia

The Six Day War and the changing face of journalism: The view from Australia Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, Palestinians, Reference, Syria, Updates    

The recent passing of the Associated Press' acclaimed journalist Hal McClure at the age of 92 coincides closely with the event that brought him his greatest fame - his coverage of the 1967 Six Day War, which began 46 years ago yesterday.

His passing is yet another reminder of a bygone era when a journalist took pride in reporting the news, rather than acting as a partisan advocate for or against the newsmakers themselves.

Before refecting on that, however, the anniversary of the Six Day War offers us an opportunity to review some of the coverage of the war at the time in two of Australia's leading newspapers - the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

Media Week - Birds of a feather; Trigger-happy headliners; Down the memory hole

Media Week - Birds of a feather; Trigger-happy headliners; Down the memory hole Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

SBS TV's "Dateline" program (May 21) travelled to Greece to look at the worrying rise in the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn movement which has used the economic crisis there to increase its Parliamentary representation through scapegoating Jews, foreigners, homosexuals and other rival political groupings.

Whilst it is clear that Golden Dawn mirrors its behaviour on the intimidatory tactics of fascism, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayotaros told Evan Williams that they take inspiration from Hezbollah, which has cannily attracted supporters over the years through the provision of social services.

As Panayotaros explained, "Golden Dawn wants to become and will become like the Hezbollah in Lebanon which in effect is a second government which helps even its poorest citizen and over time Golden Dawn will do more for our fellow citizens."

But that, of course, doesn't tell the full story. It's a pity that Williams did not follow up on the Hezbollah angle, and point out how it is not only a proscribed terrorist organisation in many countries but actually controls the Lebanese government.

Australian FM right to raise concerns about the plight of Mideast Christians

Australian FM right to raise concerns about the plight of Mideast Christians Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Egypt, Middle East, Syria, Updates    

Yesterday, Greg Sheridan noted in the Australian that Foreign Minister Bob Carr "expresses concern about the treatment of Christians and other minorities in the region", and said "The Foreign Minister is right to make this point and it is a sad commentary about political correctness in much of the West that almost no one raises a voice in defence of the increasingly beleaguered Christians of the Middle East."

Both Carr and Sheridan are correct. The sad reality is that Christians across the Middle East face an uncertain future, and their situation seems to be deteroriating rapidly.

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The increasing perils of peacekeeping for Australia and others

The increasing perils of peacekeeping for Australia and others Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

The unrest in the Arab world commonly mislabelled as the "Arab Spring" has put a strain on United Nations and other peacekeeping forces in the region.

Peacekeeping troops - in which Australia currently and historically has played a role - have limited options for defence available to them according to their mandate, are intended to observe, liaise and act as a buffer between armies.

However, regional non-state actors filling a vacuum created from the weakened national authority in countries affected by the unrest have been increasingly taking advantage of the limitations of the peacekeepers by opportunistically using them as soft targets, bargaining chips and even human shields.

Hezbollah and the Syrian Civil War

Hezbollah and the Syrian Civil War Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

This Update deals with the aftermath of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's very public announcement last week that Hezbollah was essentially completely dedicated to fighting "all out" on the side of the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war, following widespread reports that large numbers of Hezbollah fighters have been involved in the extended battle for the strategic Syrian town of Qusayr - plus what this means for Syria, Lebanon and the region.

Conflicted Loyalties

Conflicted Loyalties Author: Andrew Friedman Categories: Israel, Syria    

More recently, however, the town has gained notoriety in Israel - some would say the town has become infamous - because of its proximity to the international border with Syria, and to the civil war that has ravaged that country for more than two years. The fighting is clearly audible from Majdal Shams, with the sound of explosions filling the air from the east almost every day.

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Media Week - A sprinkle of BDS;  Minority report

Media Week - A sprinkle of BDS; Minority report Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

In a bizarre move, the hardcopy edition of the Daily Telegraph failed to run any coverage before or after a BDS protest on April 30 at the University of NSW against a planned Max Brenner outlet set to open on campus in June.

However, in the paper's "They Said It" section (May 1) which highlights quotes of the day, this appeared:

"‘These brigades have committed war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza and are involved in Israel's continual ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Students and staff of conscience demand that the Max Brenner be shut down! We don't want companies that endorse the apartheid state of Israel and it's apartheid practices.' A Facebook page set up by UNSW students opposes a campus chocolate shop."

Red lines and calculated risks for Israel in Syria

Red lines and calculated risks for Israel in Syria Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

A pair of apparent Israeli cruise missile strikes on Syrian military targets this month brought with it near-unanimous public criticism from the regime of Bashar Assad, Syrian rebels and opposition groups, and Arab and Islamist countries in the region (although scattered Syrian opposition voices were quietly observed supporting the move).

While both Israeli and Syrian officials were reluctant to discuss details, it appears that, like a previous strike on January 30, these strikes were intended to enforce a red line Israel had laid out to Syria against the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah - reportedly in this case the highly-accurate Fatah-110 missile, which could pinpoint targets over most of Israel.

Syria and Chemical Weapons/ Hezbollah in trouble?

Syria and Chemical Weapons/ Hezbollah in trouble? Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

With Israeli military intelligence concluding that Syria has been using chemical weapons against rebels - joining more equivocal claims by Britain and France - and now US intelligence sources largely agreeing, there are growing calls for the US to rethink its low-key policy on Syria - given that US President Obama last year said such use would be a "red line" which would change the American "calculus." This update contains discussion of the possibility and its implications.

The End of Syria?

The End of Syria? Author: Emanuele Ottolenghi Categories: Europe, Syria    

Could this tide be stemmed in Syria? Early on in the crisis, it could have been, at a high price, had we had a dog in the fight, or one that we wanted to claim as our own. But the West decided, as in the former Yugoslavia for three long years, to sit this one out. The new order will thus not be created by idealists intervening. Ethnic cleansing will eventually draw the new borders as Syria falls apart.

Lebanon - ready to explode?

Lebanon - ready to explode? Author: Michael Totten Categories: Lebanon, Syria    

Lebanon always looks and feels like it's ready to erupt into armed conflict, but today it's more ready than usual. The Syrian civil war next door weighs heavily on this place. Sunnis and Alawites are fighting round after round with no end in sight in the city of Tripoli, and now the northern Bekaa Valley, between Mount Lebanon and the Syrian border, is likewise gearing up to explode.

 Foxes guarding the Human Rights henhouses: A UN tradition continues

Foxes guarding the Human Rights henhouses: A UN tradition continues Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Africa, Iran, Sudan, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

UN agencies dedicated to the promotion of human rights, mandated with the protection of the world's most vulnerable and marginalised populations, have long been subject to widespread criticism for their politicization, hypocrisy, and anti-Israel bias. Over and over again, the UNHRC has proven to be plagued with the same problems which haunted its predecessor - most notably appointing egregious human rights violators to high-profile leadership positions.

Obama trip to focus on Iran/Syria

Obama trip to focus on Iran/Syria Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, Op-eds, Syria    

North Korea's latest nuclear test has again brought into focus the growing urgency of stopping the nuclear weapons program of another country on the road to nuclear weapons capability - Iran. The rapidly closing window of opportunity to either persuade Iran to change course or, if all else fails, disable its nuclear facilities by force, is the backdrop for US President Barack Obama's visit to Israel next month.

Israel refuses to participate in UN "human rights" farce

Israel refuses to participate in UN "human rights" farce Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Israel, Libya, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

Israel has been making headlines recently for its failure to show-up to its "Universal Periodic Review" ("UPR") session at the United Nations Human Rights Council ("HRC") and for refusing to cooperate with a recent "fact-finding mission" into settlements in the West Bank. ...

Sadly, it appears that the reforms to the UN Human Rights Commission and its re-branding as the "Human Rights Council" have had little effect...

ABC interviews offer informed perspectives on Syria weapons strike

ABC interviews offer informed perspectives on Syria weapons strike Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

In the aftermath of reports of an Israeli attack on a Syrian weapons convoy, ABC Radio carried two interviews on Friday worthy of special notice.

On Radio National's Breakfast program, Fran Kelly spoke with Israeli Channel 2's esteemed journalist and analyst Ehud Yaari, who of course recently visited Australia and spoke at an AIJAC function, video available here

Hours later, on The World Today, Simon Santow interviewed former CIA operative Robert Baer.

Video: Ehud Yaari on Israel and the Middle East

Video: Ehud Yaari on Israel and the Middle East Categories: Egypt, Iran, Israel, Multimedia, Palestinians, Syria    

Ehud Yaari addressed an AIJAC luncheon on Monday 14 January 2013 on the following topics:

  • Australia and Israel, including Woodside's successful bid for developing Israel's gas reserves
  • Israel's elections
  • Egypt and challenges for the region
  • Syria
  • Israel, the Palestinians and the Two-State outcome
  • Iran's march towards nuclear weapons capability and American and Israeli strategy

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Planning for the Next Phase of the Syrian Civil War/ After Abbas

Planning for the Next Phase of the Syrian Civil War/ After Abbas Categories: Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

This Update features two good pieces on the pitfalls in the upcoming phase of the Syrian civil war, especially in terms of US policy.

First up, repeat visitor to rebel-held regions of Syria Jonathan Spyer discusses the recent US decision to recognise the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), recently formed in Qatar, as the rightful Syrian government in waiting. Spyer argues that this decision appears to be a part of a larger strategy he feels is misguided, namely working with Muslim Brotherhood Islamists against the more extreme Salafists.

UN discusses Syrian conflict for an hour, spends five hours condemning Israel

UN discusses Syrian conflict for an hour, spends five hours condemning Israel Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

After the current conflict in Syria had commenced, observations quickly began piling-up that it was receiving noticeably less coverage than it would if it were taking place just over Syria's eastern border in Israeli territory ... Occasionally, something comes up that really illustrates the extent to which the international community treats the mass murder in Syria as completely insignificant in comparison to even the most marginal allegations against Israel.

A perfect example is the recent UN General Assembly ('GA') discussion on Syria -- the first since last August -- as depicted in...

A Turn of Battle in Syria

A Turn of Battle in Syria Author: Jeffrey White Categories: Syria    

After almost 20 months, Syria's internal war appears to be approaching a decisive stage. Since early October, rebel forces have been on the offensive in key theatres, while regime forces are stretched thin, increasingly on the defensive, and giving ground. The conflict is evolving from a war of attrition (with the two sides primarily exchanging casualties) to a war of positions, with rebel forces seizing checkpoints, reducing the regime presence in the provinces, interdicting roads, and pressuring key regime strongholds and facilities. Barring a major change in Bashar al-Assad's approach or massive intervention by Hezbollah and Iran, the regime's military situation will likely continue to deteriorate.

Remember Syria?

Remember Syria? Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

From the moment Israel's Operation Pillar of Defence began last week, news of Syrian President Bashar Assad's bloody suppression of the rebellion against his rule was pushed down the news page, and in some cases knocked out of the paper entirely.

This, in spite of the fact that more Syrians than Palestinians were killed over the same period and that the death toll in Assad's crackdown is approaching 40,000 - many times more than the total number of Palestinians killed during fighting with Israel in decades of conflict.

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UNRWA’s double standards in Syria

UNRWA’s double standards in Syria Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: NGOs, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Five UNRWA employees have been killed in the Syrian conflict and shells have hit and damaged both an UNRWA health centre and an UNRWA school. However, UNRWA has only issued weak statements deploring the deaths and calling for "all sides must refrain from conducting the conflict in civilian areas..." This significantly contrasts with the condemnations and calls for war-crimes investigations that occurred when an Israeli shell struck outside an UNRWA school during the 2009 Gaza conflict. Analysts Asaf Romirowsky and Alex Joffe explore UNRWA's obvious "double standards".

Palestinians killed in Syria receive little attention

Palestinians killed in Syria receive little attention Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad once painted himself and his father as the champion of the Palestinian cause. But now the situation appears to have changed, as Assad's army reportedly fired on the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk killing 20 on November 4, raided Hamas offices and there are fears of mass Palestinian deportations from Syria.

Over 400 Palestinians have been killed in the Syrian civil war, with little to no coverage by the Australian media. The self-proclaimed Palestinian advocates have also been all-but silent.

Turkey and the Syrian Civil War

Turkey and the Syrian Civil War Categories: Syria, Turkey, Updates    

This Update focuses on analysis of the growing tension between Turkey and Syria, in the wake of a series of confrontational incidents, including Turkish shelling of Syrian territory in response to a Syrian shell which struck Turkey, an earlier incident involving Syrian fire on a Turkish warplane, and most recently, Turkey forcing down a civilian  plane claimed to be illegally smuggling Russian arms to Syria.

The State of the Syrian Civil War/ The Plight of Mideast Christians

The State of the Syrian Civil War/ The Plight of Mideast Christians Categories: Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Syria, Updates    

This Update contains two pieces on the state of the civil war in Syria, where rebel efforts over recent weeks to gain footholds in Damascus and Aleppo, the two largest cities, appear to be being pushed back by the regime.

First up is a report from Aleppo courtesy of the Economist, which makes it clear that many, both inside and outside Syria, are now arguing that the rebel move into Aleppo was an over-reach by rebel forces - and was not well-received by residents of the city. The story also discusses at length the problems of lack of unity in rebel forces, with no overall command even of the brigade attacking Aleppo...

Iran's NAM Extravaganza/ Al-Qaeda in Syria Categories: Iran, Islamic Extremism, Syria, Updates    

Next week, Iran is set to become the president of the 118-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and host a six day Summit of the NAM in Teheran. As Golnaz Esfandiari of Radio Free Europe has reported, Teheran is going all out in an effort to use the Summit to attempt to " shed its image as a global pariah" and " gain much-needed support to counter Western pressure over its controversial nuclear program." Meanwhile, despite urgings from the US, Israel and others not to participate, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has announced he will attend the Summit. This Update looks at the implications of the Summit for the NAM, the UN, and especially efforts to maintain international pressure on Iran to halt its illegal nuclear weapons program.

Syria's Civil War after PM's Defection

Syria's Civil War after PM's Defection Categories: Syria, Updates    

The defection of Syria's Prime Minister, Riad Hijab, to Jordan and the rebel side earlier this week - the latest in a string of high profile defections from the regime - has raised speculation that the bloody civil war there has turned a corner. This Update focuses on analysis of where things now stand in Syria, and how the changing situation might affect Western policy calculations.

First up is an argument for changing policies in the wake of the latest developments in Syria in an editorial from the Washington Post. The paper notes the defection of Mr. Hijab and also an International Crisis Group report which makes it clear, correctly, that the regime is long past agreeing to compromise or agreeing to a "managed transition - while the longer the civil war goes on the less likely a democratic and pluralist government will follow.

If Assad falls...

If Assad falls... Author: Michael Totten Categories: Iran, Lebanon, Middle East, Syria    

Short of regime change in Teheran, the overthrow of Assad is the worst thing that can happen to the Iranian government and to Hezbollah. Iran will lose its only ally in the Arab world, and Hezbollah will lose one of only two patrons and its entire overground logistics network. Scud missiles and other enormous weapons can't exactly be mailed to Hezbollah from Iran through the Beirut international airport.

The Aftermath of a Rebel Victory

The Aftermath of a Rebel Victory Author: Barry Rubin Categories: Syria    

The tide seems to be turning in Syria. While the civil war is far from over, the regime is clearly weakening; the rebels are expanding their operations and effectiveness. There have also been more high-level defections.

Even though the fighting may go on for months, it is time to start assessing what outcomes might look like.

A new phase of the Syrian civil war?/ Countering Iran's "3D"s

A new phase of the Syrian civil war?/ Countering Iran's "3D"s Categories: Iran, Syria, Updates    

This Update features some additional material on the changing situation in Syria following the bomb blast there on Wednesday which killed and wounded several leading regime figures.

First up is noted Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami, who looks at the ethnic reality of the Syrian state behind the recent killings and the current stage of the civil war. Ajami stresses that the Assad regime remains rooted in the Alawite minority, and the latest killing of some key regime players - two important Alawite commanders, and the much-less important Christian defence minister -  illustrates how this regime has brought this minority both spoils and peril.

Libya, Post-Election/ Tide Turning in Syria?

Libya, Post-Election/ Tide Turning in Syria? Categories: Libya, Syria, Updates    

This Update focuses primarily on the aftermath of the election in Libya earlier this month, but also looks at the apparent turn of battle in Syria, with rebel forces now engaging in extended battles with the regime in Damascus and a suicide bombing overnight killing several key regime figures - including the Defence Minister and President Assad's brother-in-law - and wounding others, including the Intelligence Chief and Interior Minister.

Media Week - Delusional on Damascus; Major doubts; Holey claptrap

Media Week - Delusional on Damascus; Major doubts; Holey claptrap Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Joseph Wakim revealed on ABC "Unleashed" (27/6) the true cause of internecine violence that has roiled Syria since February 2011 and blackened the good name of the Assad dictatorship:

There is nothing civil about the war in Syria - it is a proxy war to protect Israel from a nuclear Iran. This was confirmed when Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak declared that toppling Assad 'will be a major blow to the radical axis [Iran] ... It's the only kind of outpost of the Iranian influence in the Arab world ... and it will weaken dramatically both Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza'.

But this hardly amounts to a smoking gun for proving Israel is fomenting civil war in which more than 13,000 people have been killed; more a desperation to blame shift onto the usual scapegoat.

AIR
Iran sanctions/ Strife in the Syrian opposition

Iran sanctions/ Strife in the Syrian opposition Categories: Iran, Syria, Updates    

On Wednesday, there was a "technical" meeting connected with the P5+1/Iran nuclear talks - the upshot of which seems to be that it looks likely high level talks will resume. Meanwhile, Iran has responded to the imposition of new European sanctions by threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz. This Update has some new entries concerning the sanctions regime on Iran. In addition, it includes new analysis of the struggle between Islamists and other forces in the Syrian opposition as the Syrian civil war continues to develop.

Putin's Israel visit showcases diplomacy's strengths and limitations

Putin's Israel visit showcases diplomacy's strengths and limitations Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Russia, Syria, Updates    

Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Israel last week, as part of a larger Middle East tour by the newly re-elected leader, is seen by analysts as a productive diplomatic exercise between the two countries.

At the same time, analysts agree, the visit demonstrated the limits of diplomacy in persuading Russia to change its policies regarding matters of key national interest to Jerusalem, especially regarding Iran and Syria.

Declassified documents from '67 show Israel's willingness to trade land for peace

Declassified documents from '67 show Israel's willingness to trade land for peace Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Egypt, Jordan, Palestinians, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

Did Israel's government covet the land it captured as part of the defensive war of June 1967, which ended with Israeli forces in control of the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza?

For the most part, not at all, according to 200 pages of newly declassified transcripts from cabinet and committee meetings in the days following the war, released by Israel's National Archive this month.

Updates
Iran nuclear talks go nowhere/ Iran and Syria

Iran nuclear talks go nowhere/ Iran and Syria Categories: International Security, Iran, Syria, Updates    

As readers are probably aware, the third round of "P5+1" talks with Iran over its nuclear program took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week in Moscow and ended not only with no sign of an agreement, but without any clear plans for further high-level talks. This Update deals with what happened in Moscow and the implications of the talks' failure.

First up, Barak Ravid of Haaretz receives some insights into the exact nature of  the discussions from an anonyomous participating diplomat. He says that the Western states attempted to correct an Iranian belief that they were interested in a deal at any cost, while the Iranians were vague and unhelpful in discussing plans to limit their enrichment of uranium to 20% - which is, in terms of technical difficulty, almost bomb grade - and refused to discuss the fate of the secretly-built underground Fordo enrichment complex at all.

Amnesty's response to atrocities in Syria: "International community must act"... with yet more empty words

Amnesty's response to atrocities in Syria: "International community must act"... with yet more empty words Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: NGOs, Syria, Updates    

After more than a year of brutal repression of anti-regime protest, the atrocities against civilians in Syria keep reaching new heights. Growing attention to the bloodshed and violence in that country by the international community and human rights organisations, even if tragically belated, could have been a hopeful sign that something might finally be done to put an end to the bloodshed. In reality, however, no such steps appear to be in sight.

Why worry about Syria when you can pick on Israel?

Why worry about Syria when you can pick on Israel? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians, Syria    

In a famous incident on an episode of ABC's QandA, almost exactly one year ago, comedian Sandy Gutman (aka Austen Tayshus) berated Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon for her defence of the NSW Greens’ decision to adopt a boycott of Israel.

The implementation of this boycott policy in Greens-controlled Marrickville Council had caused a huge PR disaster for the Greens and probably cost them the State seat of Marickville in the then-recent NSW elections. Referring to Rhiannon’s support for the 2010 "flotilla to Gaza", Gutman said to her:

Can I just ask you why you’re so obsessed with Israel? Why not, say, North Korea or China or Somalia or Cuba or any other country… In fact, why don’t you send a flotilla to Syria? Because Syria has now murdered 1100 people of its own citizens. Why aren’t you on – why aren’t you on that flotilla? That’s what I want to understand.

Shock Legal Judgement shakes Egypt/Syria and International Interests

Shock Legal Judgement shakes Egypt/Syria and International Interests Categories: Egypt, Syria, Updates    

The Egyptian political scene has been shaken up by a surprise court decision leading to the dissolution of parliament by the ruling military council - just days before the crucial second round of presidential elections were due to take place. Below, Washington Institute scholars David Schenker and Eric Trager look at the implications of this development, predicting instability and the likelihood of a military backdown on the dissolution if there is mass popular unrest. They stress that the key to what happens will be the attitude of the Muslim Brotherhood, and take a look at what Brotherhood leaders are saying so far.

Russian President to visit Israel in June

Russian President to visit Israel in June Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Iran, Israel, Russia, Syria, Updates    

Despite Israel and Russia holding strongly divergent views on key Middle East issues - the violence in Syria, Iran's nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - Israel and Russia have against the odds managed to retain good relations since the end of the Cold War.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted last year saying: "Israel is, in fact, a special state to us. It is practically a Russian-speaking country..."

Russia's ‘friendliness' has been made even clearer with Putin's decision to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories in late June. It will be Putin's first visit to Israel since 2005.

Important new observations from UN's Syria observer mission

Important new observations from UN's Syria observer mission Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

They have now observed that they are being ignored -- at least when theyaren't being shot at:

According to UN officials, UN vehicles are shot at almost every day in Syria.

Mr Ban [Ki-moon] told the 15-nation council that UN observers had seen Syrian military convoys approaching villages and tried to stop tank assaults against populated areas, but had been "ignored".

... Ban said shots were fired at the UN convoy which tried to get into the village of Al-Kubeir.

Fortunately, the observers were able to relay this information to the Secretary-General in time for him to take some incredibly tough action...

Israeli musicians transcend political divides to connect with Middle Eastern fans

Israeli musicians transcend political divides to connect with Middle Eastern fans Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Anti-Zionism, Iran, Israel, Libya, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

Boycotting and isolating Israel culturally, economically, and politically has long been one of the goals of many of Israel’s neighbours in the Middle East, and more recently, of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It is revealing, then, that growing numbers of people throughout the Middle East are themselves disobeying the call of the anti-normalisation and BDS movements by listening to music by Israeli artists.

The myth of Israeli backing for Assad

The myth of Israeli backing for Assad Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

A myth seems to have developed in some circles that Israel is either backing the Assad regime in Syria, or at the least, is somehow impeding international action against it, supposedly out of fear of what may follow.

AIR
Australia and the Massacre in Syria

Australia and the Massacre in Syria Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

Following the shocking reports and images of the massacre that occurred in the Syrian village of Haoula on May 25, there has been a chorus of international outrage. The UN reported that 108 people were killed among them 49 children and 34 women, by the Assad regime and pro-Assad militia ‘Shabiha'.

AIJAC welcomes Australia decision on May 29 to expel Syrian Chargé d'Affaires, Jawdat Ali, and another diplomat, from Australia.

The Syrian Civil War comes to Lebanon

The Syrian Civil War comes to Lebanon Author: Benedetta Berti Categories: Lebanon, Syria    

Recent weeks have seen violent clashes around Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city located in the north of the country, between Alawite supporters of the Syrian regime and Sunni backers of the anti-Assad opposition forces. To many observers, this violent escalation came as a surprise, in light of the widespread assumption that Lebanon had so far been immune to the "Arab Spring." In fact, the opposite is the case: the regional turmoil has been felt keenly within Lebanon. The events in Syria have had a major impact on Lebanon, primarily because of the tight economic, political, and geostrategic relations that historically have linked the two countries.

US clamping-down on terror supporters and war criminals

US clamping-down on terror supporters and war criminals Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

After frequent calls on this blog for some action against Sudanese President Omar Bashir, it is welcome news that the US Congress is committing to halt aid to any country that hosts the indicted war criminal.

A US House of Representatives press release reports that the House Appropriations Committee has adopted an amendment to the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for 2013 to this effect, proposed by Representative Frank Wolf...

Jewish refugees - Addressing historical injustice as a key to reconciliation

Jewish refugees - Addressing historical injustice as a key to reconciliation Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Palestinian refugees and the claims made of "right of return" for them have long been a major issue within the debate over a 'just solution' to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The claimed "right of return'" is still seen as a core obstacle to overcome in any future peace negotiations. Yet the refugees question is even more complex. Palestinian refugees actually represent the smaller of the two refugees groups created by the regional conflict between the Arab countries and Israel - the larger group being Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries.

The voices of these Jewish refugees, sadly, have hardly ever been heard or are generally too quickly dismissed. Listening to these voices could potentially shed light and new perspectives not only on the refugees question, but also on the nature and history of the regional context of the conflict. It might even promote reconciliation.

Updates
Syria after the Annan Plan

Syria after the Annan Plan Categories: Syria, Updates    

Today's Update looks at the options for dealing with the ongoing violence in Syria in the wake of the apparent failure of the ceasefire put forward by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as part of his plan to settle the conflict and halt the killing (with at least 23 people killed on Tuesday).

First up is a good report on the aftermath of the Annan plan, consisting of numerous quotes from knowledgeable on all sides , written by Neil McFarquhar of the New York Times. He finds there is general agreement that the plan has failed, but little sense of what might come next from various quarters, and still very little appetite for any serious intervention from Western policymakers - few of whom, it seems clear, ever expected the plan to succeed in the first place.

 Conviction of Charles Taylor - A warning for Assad and Bashir?

Conviction of Charles Taylor - A warning for Assad and Bashir? Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Africa, Syria, Updates    

The conviction of Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia and once powerful warlord, was a landmark ruling by an international tribunal - the Special Court for Sierra Leone. It was the first guilty verdict for a head of state in the history of UN war crimes courts.

Taylor's verdict could ostensibly be a warning for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir, who are both accused of committing atrocities.

US Sanctions Telecommunications Companies in Syria and Iran

US Sanctions Telecommunications Companies in Syria and Iran Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Syria, Updates    

US President Barack Obama has announced that the US will apply new sanctions to prevent companies from using technology that help repressive regimes in Syria and Iran target dissidents.

The new US sanctions will target Syrian and Iranian government agencies and officials who directed the surveillance operations, as well private companies.

Another failed peace plan for Syria?/ Negotiating with Iran

Another failed peace plan for Syria?/ Negotiating with Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Syria, Updates    

This Update deals primarily with the apparent failure of the peace plan for Syria negotiated by UN envoy Kofi Annan, which appears to have failed after a promised pullout of  Syrian forces from major towns by Tuesday appears to have largely not occurred (though relative quiet is reportedly currently in place across the country.)

First up is Syrian opposition figure and analyst Radwan Ziadeh who argues it was absurd to have expected Syrian President Assad to have complied with the Annan peace plan given his track record. He points particularly to repeated promises by Assad to both Turkey and the Arab League which were not kept, and seemed to be simply a diversion.

What about Syria's WMD?

What about Syria's WMD? Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Syria, Updates    

In my review of Israeli policy in regard to Syrian unrest which was published on Tuesday on ABC's The Drum.

I noted that "the one issue which might prompt Israel to come off the sidelines" in Syria's Civil War is the possibility that Syria's massive "arsenal of of some of the world's most deadly chemical weapons" might "find their way into the hands of terrorist groups." I also noted that this was not simply a problem for Israel, but a danger to the whole free world.

For those interested in more on this significant danger, I call your attention to a survey of Syria's WMD threat, by James P. Farwell published late last week in The National Interest.

Israel's silence on Syria isn't a conspiracy

Israel's silence on Syria isn't a conspiracy Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Syria    

The question has arisen over Israel's position on the appalling situation in Syria, where the lives of over 9,000 civilians have been claimed in a crackdown on protesters and an insurrection by opposition groups.

Some commentators have unfairly interpreted the Israeli government's comparative silence over the bloodshed compared to other regional and Western countries as cold indifference, others as calculated.

Bizarrely and contradictorily, Israel has been criticised by some commentators for wanting to keep the current government in place and by others for seeking to topple it.

Strange Australian commentary on the UN's controversial "peace plan" for Syria

Strange Australian commentary on the UN's controversial "peace plan" for Syria Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Australasia, Media/ Academia, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

The Syrian Government's decision to accept UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan has been met with a lot of scepticism to say the least. A number of experts have been predicting that the initiative would only paper-over the Assad regime's continued violence and that there would be negative consequences felt in Syria as a result.

Another by-product of the issue has been some rather strange commentary emerging from Australia. Anthony Billingsley, a lecturer at the University of New South Wales, has written his thoughts about the Annan plan on Australian academic blog site The Conversation. His reasoning is a little difficult to follow – in more than one instance, his assessment of the geopolitics seems either misinformed or contradictory, particularly in regards to the American and Israeli role in the Syrian uprisings (emphasis added)...

Essay: In Retrospect

Essay: In Retrospect Author: Amos Yadlin Categories: Egypt, Middle East, Syria, Tunisia    

Since the outbreak of the protests in Tahrir Square, which were led by liberal, secular youth and which led to the ouster of Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, a lot of water has flowed through the Nile. An ailing Mubarak is on trial, possibly for his life, and his declaration that only his regime could block the rise of the Islamists turns out to have been keen and precise. Islamist political parties - the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists - won 75% of the vote in free, fair elections, while the liberal secular youth have been sidelined in terms of political influence in Egypt. The army, which has not given up the reins of government for even a moment, has teamed up with the Islamists, makes concessions in every confrontation with "the street", and retreats further and further from what it declared was its first priority: to promulgate a constitution that would ensure basic rights and a stable democracy.

Assad's Email, Iran and the Palestinians

Assad's Email, Iran and the Palestinians Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Documents, Iran, Palestinians, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

As has been widely reported in the Australian press today, on Wednesday the Guardian went public with a trove of messages that they had obtained which purportedly had been mined out of Syrian President Bashar Assad's personal email account.

What was less widely reported was that, as a key strategy, in the emails the Iranians told the Alawite Assad to shore up his image among the country's majority Sunni Muslim population by fashioning himself as an uncompromising opponent of concessions to Israel and as a defender of Jerusalem.

 UN Commission on the Status of Women singles out Israel for condemnation

UN Commission on the Status of Women singles out Israel for condemnation Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Anti-Zionism, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

The United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has done it again - in its annual session it condemned only one country - Israel, while ignoring the human rights violations of women around the world, including especially the current crisis in Syria - where women are being raped and murdered...

Egypt to end Camp David?/ Syria Again

Egypt to end Camp David?/ Syria Again Categories: Egypt, Syria, Updates    

This Update deals with recent developments in Egypt, and especially the passage of a unanimous resolution by Egypt's Islamist-dominated parliament demanding a severing of all ties with Israel on Monday.

Israeli strategic analyst Jonathan D. Halevi looks at the implications of the resolution in more depth, including all of its provisions -  its statement that Israel will "never" be anything but an enemy, full support for Palestinian "armed resistance" against Israel, demands for a total boycott of Israel and a severing of all ties, an implied demand for an Egyptian nuclear capability and its rejection of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process...

Another child's death falsely blamed on Israel as leaked emails reveal Assad's scapegoating

Another child's death falsely blamed on Israel as leaked emails reveal Assad's scapegoating Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Just days after being exposed for fraudulently blaming the accidental death of a 15-year-old boy on an "Israeli airstrike", Hamas officials have again attempted to implicate Israel in the death of a Gaza youth -- this time, seven-year-old Baraka al-Mughrabi. Just after Mughrabi passed-away last night, reports started emerging that he had been killed by an Israeli strike.

Not long after, however, these remarks were retracted as the truth of his death emerged...

AIR
UNESCO half-heartedly condemns Syria, but leaves it on its Human Rights bodies

UNESCO half-heartedly condemns Syria, but leaves it on its Human Rights bodies Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

On March 8, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) published a condemnation of human rights violations perpetrated by Assad's regime in Syria. The resolution was passed with 35 votes in favour, and 8 opposed, making UNESCO the third UN agency (after the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council) to address the human rights situation in Syria. However this condemnation seems inconsistent with UNESCO's treatment of Syria, since Assad's representatives are still sitting in two UNESCO committees dealing with human rights issues: the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations and the Committee on International Non-Governmental Organisations...

Arab commentators: Syria far worse than Israel, but treated more softly

Arab commentators: Syria far worse than Israel, but treated more softly Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

As official estimates of Syrian civilians killed in the Assad regime's bloody crackdown climb steadily past the 7,500 mark, a couple of recent Op-Eds in the Arab media have compared the Arab world's strong outrage to Israeli military actions in the West Bank, Gaza and southern Lebanon to their muted response to Syrian slaughter of their own people.

Putting aside the moral inequality of such a comparison (the pieces make no effort to differentiate the defensive nature of Israeli military campaigns from the cold-blooded ruthlessness of the Syrian dictatorial regime suppressing dissent from its own citizens) the pieces nevertheless mark a significant break from the traditional narrative in Arab media that the Palestinians are the region's principal human rights victims...

Inside Free Syria

Inside Free Syria Author: Jonathan Spyer Categories: Syria    

Idlib Province, Syria - The mountains outside Antakya were wrapped in black clouds the day we crossed the border from Turkey into Syria. The smugglers said this was a good sign as the Syrian Army patrols don't care for rain and mud, and would tend to stay in their huts, making our crossing safer. That was how it turned out. We pushed up the border fence and crawled through at around 9 p.m. There were horses heavily laden with contraband waiting for us just inside. We rode them across the mountains in the rain and arrived in Syria without being seen.

The Syrian Civil War

The Syrian Civil War Author: Jeffrey White Categories: Syria    

What began in March 2011 as an attempt to suppress peaceful anti-government demonstrations has evolved into a war - one that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now waging against armed groups and the Syrian people with utter determination and extreme violence. Viewing the conflict as a life-or-death struggle, the regime is escalating its use of military force with near-total disregard for the opinions of the outside world. Since late January, it has used a combination of strategic, operational, and tactical measures to conduct a major offensive against the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the popular opposition, and the areas they control. In doing so, it has revealed its strengths and weaknesses, suggesting areas of focus for any potential international military intervention. Ultimately, without armed intervention, substantial military assistance to the FSA, or both, the best that can be hoped for is a bloody and protracted war of attrition with an uncertain outcome.

Updates
Fisking Four Corners: getting the facts straight on Syria, Israel and Iran

Fisking Four Corners: getting the facts straight on Syria, Israel and Iran Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Syria, Updates    

Last night, ABC's Four Corners program focussed on the uprising in Syria. The program mostly featured a British Channel Four documentary on the Assad regime's systematic torture of Syrian opposition-members, including children, which gave a shocking insight into the events besetting Syrians opposed to their government's policies. The program ended, however, with host Kerry O'Brien interviewing notorious Middle-East correspondent Robert Fisk for 15 minutes in which Fisk was essentially given a pedestal to promulgate his views unchallenged...

Intervention in Syria?/ Hamas' internal divisions

Intervention in Syria?/ Hamas' internal divisions Categories: Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

With the Syrian city of Homs dominating news from the Middle East as shelling there continues, (excellent reporting on the ground from Homs comes from Richard Spencer of the London Telegraph - see here and here.)  and international calls for action to put a stop to the bloodshed in Syria growing, this Update looks at some careful analysis of what could be done, and what could not be done, if a decision to intervene was made...

Russia is trying to convince us that there is nothing going wrong in Syria

Russia is trying to convince us that there is nothing going wrong in Syria Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Russia, Syria, Updates    

As the bloodshed continues in Syria, with no end in sight, there are increasing calls for something to be done. Joining the chorus today were both Angelina Jolie and Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, the head of Cairo's al-Azhar University, one of the most prestigious theological institutions in the Islamic world. As Reuters reported, Tayeb used strong language, deploring condemnations without action and seemingly calling for some form of intervention from the Arab League...

 Authoritarians of a feather flock together? - Russia and the Assad regime

Authoritarians of a feather flock together? - Russia and the Assad regime Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Russia, Syria, Updates    

Just a few days after the highly-criticised Russian veto at the UN Security Council, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Damascus and met with President Bashar Assad. At a time where countries, one by one, are recalling their ambassadors from Syria, this meeting was a rare sign of support for the crumbling regime. Lavrov was received with what has been described as "a hero's welcome" as thousands of Assad supporters gathered to express gratitude and greet him with both Russian and Syrian flags and blue, red and white balloons (the colors of the Russian flag). A banner with the portraits of Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin read "Thank you Russia and China".

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov came to Damascus to promote "the quick implementations of democratic reforms in Syria." Lavrov explained that it is Moscow's desire for the Arab peoples to live in "peace and agreement," he said, and while apparently turning to Assad he continued: "Every leader of every country must be aware of his share of responsibility. You are aware of yours".

In support of Assad, Hezbollah threatens war with Israel

In support of Assad, Hezbollah threatens war with Israel Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

While they come from opposing Muslim factions, Palestinian Sunni group Hamas and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah have much in common: they are both designated terror organisations in most Western countries, Australia included; they both hold extremist and violent ideologies; they both fought wars with Israel in the second half of the last decade; and they have both received significant backing from Iran and Syria. That said, they seem to be diverging on that last point. With the ongoing violence in Syria, the last Hamas operative from the Damascus-based political bureau seems to have fled for Gaza, however it seems that Hezbollah is unwilling to follow suit and remains resolutely behind the ruling Assad regime...

The Syrian Opposition/Russia and Syria

The Syrian Opposition/Russia and Syria Categories: Russia, Syria, Updates    

Today's Update focuses on the situation in Syria and especially on what is known about the varied opposition to the Assad regime.

The first piece up comes from Nic Robertson of CNN, who just returned from a visit to Syria which is something increasingly rare for Western journalists. He notes an increasing sectarian polarisation occurring within Syria and sees the regime as successfully exploiting it, while the opposition is not doing enough to calm the fears of the Alawite and Christian minorities...

"Observing" the massacres in Syria/ Understanding the Muslim Brotherhood

"Observing" the massacres in Syria/ Understanding the Muslim Brotherhood Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Syria, Updates    

Today's Update features two pieces on the situation in Syria, where 20 civilians were reportedly killed yesterday, bringing the death toll close to 6,000 according to rebel leaders, despite the presence of a team of Arab League observers in the country.

First up is David Kenner of Foreign Policy, detailing the fact that the head of the Arab League observers mission, Sudanese Gen. Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, is himself alleged to have been involved in genocide in Darfur. The allegations are that General al-Dabi was responsible for creating the Arab "Janjaweed" militias responsible for most of the massacres there. Kenner makes it clear that given this and other problems with the Arab League mission, which he discusses, "Syrians are still very much alone."

HRC resolution on Syria diagnoses problem, but offers no solutions

HRC resolution on Syria diagnoses problem, but offers no solutions Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

The Assad regime's brutal crackdown in Syria has resulted in the death of more than 4000 people including at least 300 children, according to the UN.

On December 2, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) passed a resolution condemning the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities.

The resolution was in response to findings of a new investigative report on human rights conditions in Syria prepared by the an independent Commission of Inquiry established by HRC which found that Assad regime's authorities and members of its military and security forces committed 'gross and systematic violations of human rights'.

The resolution while welcome clearly does not go far enough. It diagnosed the problem but proposed to do nothing at all useful to remedy it...

Anti-Semitism and the Arab Spring

Anti-Semitism and the Arab Spring Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Antisemitism, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Updates    

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, expressions of explicit anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish sentiments are beginning to surge. In Middle East politics, it has long beem traditional to point a finger at Israel, "the Zionists" and "the Jews", who were blamed for all the problems of the Muslim and Arab worlds. "The Jews" were used by the regimes as a convenient distraction from their own peoples' misery and hardship, and its causes. Many had hoped that the Arab spring indicated a turn for the better and an end to this racist and counter-productive tradition, since intitially, Israel was hardly even mentioned as a cause for the fate of Arab societies. For once, the finger of blame was rightly being pointing at their own dictatorial regimes. Sadly, as prominent American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg has noted,

Now in Cairo, and across the Arab Middle East, Israel and the Jews are serving once again as universal boogeymen. Once dictators used anti-Semitism to divert their citizens' attention away from their own problems. Now expressions of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories seem to rise up organically.

This truth doesn't conform to the generally accepted narrative of the Arab Spring, but ignoring it won't make it disappear.

AIR
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon should broaden its focus

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon should broaden its focus Author: Michael Immerman Categories: International Security, Iran, Lebanon, Middle East, Syria, Terrorism, United Nations, Updates    

In the latest development from the ongoing saga surrounding the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the UN will be holding off on the prosecution of the suspected assassins for the time being.

As reported, legal proceedings against Mustafa Badreddine, Salam Ayyash, Hussein Anaissi and Assad Sabra, Hezbollah members considered responsible for the assassination of Hariri, will not proceed in absentia.

Rather, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the UN-backed body tasked with prosecuting and resolving this matter, will wait for Lebanese authorities to arrest the four suspects.

Iran fighting to control the message

Iran fighting to control the message Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Syria, Updates    

New York Times journalist Rick Gladstone has reported on a rare act of defiance from Iran's internal media, stemming from an all-too-familiar crackdown on the messages that media officials disseminate.

Iran's main government-run newspaper was published Tuesday without a front-page headline, replaced by photographs of its headquarters during an assault the day earlier by forces working for the judiciary who briefly arrested its top official - the media adviser to the president - and more than 30 others.

The presentation of the front page appeared to be an act of protest by the newspaper over the unusual episode on Monday, which judiciary officials described as...

More UN DysfUNctionalism

More UN DysfUNctionalism Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Middle East, NGOs, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

In another example of UN dysfunctionality, Syria has been admitted as the Arab representative to UNESCO's human rights committee, just a day after a UN report criticised the country's massacre of 3,500 anti-government protesters.

The decision is even more bizarre in light of the Arab League suspension of Syria over the Assad regime's human rights' abuses.

Worsening Middle East instability

Worsening Middle East instability Categories: Egypt, Jordan, Middle East, Syria, Updates    

This Update provides analysis of the increasingly "Arab Spring" instability which seems to be developing across the Middle East - in Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

First up are Washington Institute experts David Schenker and Eric Trager on the background and implications to the re-ignition of significant violence between Egypt's military SCAF goverment, and protestors gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square over the weekend - which has led to the death of upwards of 24 people and hundreds of injuries.

Updates
Assad loses the Arab League/ Iran's Nukes again

Assad loses the Arab League/ Iran's Nukes again Categories: Iran, Syria, Updates    

Today's Update features two pieces on the worsening international position of Syria's Assad regime, in the wake of Syria's suspension by the Arab League, a call by Jordan's King Abdullah for Assad to step down, and new European sanctions. All this occurred as the killing went on in defiance of an Arab League peace plan (at least 40 people were reportedly killing on Monday, some disturbing video is here) and following attacks in Syria and Lebanon by pro-regime mobs on the Embassies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan.

The Shalit prisoner swap agreement - The Arab reaction

The Shalit prisoner swap agreement - The Arab reaction Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

Many reactions in the Palestinian street and media to the release of prisoners in exchange for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit reveal a worrying and disturbing narrative of glorification of the returning terrorists and support for their heinous crimes and violent ways. Calls for future abductions of Israeli soldiers as bargaining chips for future prisoner releases were also common.

AIJAC UPDATE - The political and moral costs of the failure to sanction Syria

AIJAC UPDATE - The political and moral costs of the failure to sanction Syria Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Europe, Iran, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

Today's Update looks at Syria, Iran and Turkey against the backdrop of the veto by China and Russia of sanctions by the UN Security Council against the Assad regime in Damascus for its ongoing violent crackdown against anti-government protesters. The resolution was supported by nine members but, significantly, Lebanon, which occupies a temporary seat on the Security Council, abstained from the vote, as did South Africa, India and Brazil. After the vote the EU indicated it intended passing its own sanctions against Syria. Meanwhile Turkey's PM Recep Erdogan continues to use the Syria issue and relentlessly attacks Israel for his own regional ambitions. We offer a number of articles that reveal the changing dynamics in the Middle East that are are not receiving sufficient attention in Australia and elsewhere.

Russia and China veto Syria sanctions

Russia and China veto Syria sanctions Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Asia, China, Russia, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

After weeks of controversy over a Palestinian statehood bid of little real consequence, some in the UN have been attempting to shift their focus onto one of the many situations in the world in which innocent people are being killed on a daily basis. To this end, the UN Security Council attempted to pass a motion to prevent Syria's ongoing crackdown on dissenting citizens. Initially, the European countries were attempting to sanction Syria through imposing an arms embargo. As Foreign Policy's UN correspondent Colum Lynch reports, even a watered-down version of this that merely condemned Syria and did not call for any tangible sanctions was vetoed by Russia and China...

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Flotilla Wanted

Flotilla Wanted Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Syria, Updates    

The Syrian situation continues to simmer along, although it seems to be slipping out of the headlines.....

A story that got almost no coverage but should have was the theme of the protests for last Friday - to call "for foreign protection" of Syrian civilians...

This followed an appeal from the leading opposition groups for "the international community to send in human rights groups to monitor and help deter military attacks on civilians" in the increasingly bloody crackdown.

So my question is where are the human shields and flotillas?

Is Iran abandoning Assad?

Is Iran abandoning Assad? Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Iran, Syria, Updates    

Is Iran starting to pull back from Syria's Assad regime, its closest ally, as the unrest and bloodshed in Syria continues?

Ostensibly, there are some signs that Teheran is, at least verbally, starting to create a bit of distance from Damascus.

Firstly, Iran's Foreign Minister publicly suggested Syria should meet the "legitimate demands" of the protestors. Then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on television that "the [Syrian] people should have the right to elect and get their freedoms"...

 

Editorial: The Road to Damascus Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Iran, Libya, Syria    

The Libyan regime is imploding, as rebels opposed to Muammar Gaddafi have now taken control of most of the Libyan capital. It is immensely inspiring to witness this triumph of the Libyan majority over a particularly ruthless, totalitarian and bloody dictator, achieved against great odds and at a terrible cost. As US President Barack Obama said in welcoming the news, "the future of Libya is in the hands of its people."

However, that future remains unclear. It will be important over the next few months and years that the international community not view the departure of Gaddafi as the end game and do what it can to continue to support Libya in its transition to democracy, while preventing extremists from hijacking the people's revolution.

 

Five Things to Do to Topple Assad

Five Things to Do to Topple Assad Author: David Schenker Categories: America, Middle East, Syria    

On Aug. 18, US President Barack Obama issued a long overdue statement calling for regime change in Syria, declaring that the "time has come for President Bashar Assad to step aside." But will that call to action amount to anything in practice? The gestures that Obama has made, including ending the US import of Syrian petroleum products - totalling some 6,000 barrels per day - are little more than symbolic changes of policy. On the other hand, though the use of military force hasn't been explicitly removed from the table, it's clear that the American Government - not to mention the American public - has little appetite for another war in the Middle East.

 Fears for Libya and Syria’s WMDs

Fears for Libya and Syria’s WMDs Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Libya, Syria, Updates    

Both Libya and Syria have large arsenals of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and with the demise of Gaddaffi's regime and possibily the Assad regime, there are concerns that the WMDs could get into the wrong hands - with catastrophic results.

According to Ynet, most of Libya's chemical weapons are held at a facility located in Rabta, south of Tripoli. Western analysts believe that the country's WMD arsenal alone contains some 10 tons of various chemical agents which can inflict grave damage. It is also believed that Gaddafi was in possession of Scud-B missiles, over 1,000 tons of uranium powder and mass quantities of conventional weapons.

Western intelligence officials are trying to track Libya's chemical weapons arsenal. On CNN, US Envoy to the UN Susan Rice said that the US was taking steps to prevent the weapons from falling into the wrong hands.

 

Hamas versus Iran - Strange bedfellows falling out over Syria?

Hamas versus Iran - Strange bedfellows falling out over Syria? Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Egypt, Iran, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

According to a potentially very significant news story, Hamas and its long-time key patron, Iran, have had a falling out over the unrest in Syria...

While it is much too early to predict that the Hamas-Iran split will be permanent, if this did happen, it would be a major re-alignment of the Middle Eastern map, with important implications...

Is the violence in Syria finally ending?

Is the violence in Syria finally ending? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Syria, Updates    

According to a breaking news report by Reuters, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has informed the UN Secretary-General that police and military operations have stopped in Syria, implying that the violence that has been rocking the country may be over.

In a phone call with Assad on Wednesday, Ban "expressed alarm at the latest reports of continued widespread violations of human rights and excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against civilians across Syria, including in the Al Ramel district of Lattakia, home to several thousands of Palestinian refugees," the United Nations said in a statement...

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AIR
Palestinian refugees chased out of homes by shelling

Palestinian refugees chased out of homes by shelling Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Israel has been accused of many deeds over the years. Removed from their context, the below paragraphs from a report in The Guardian could almost sound like an exaggerated report on an Israeli military operation in the 2008/09 Gaza conflict - the kind that would be released by Palestinian state-controlled media outlets.

UNRWA, the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, said the camp's residents fled after [the city] came under fire from gunboats and ground troops over the weekend. It was not immediately clear where the refugees were seeking shelter.

... The Local Coordination Committees, an activist group that helps organize protests... also confirmed troops fired at fleeing families. It said random gunfire erupted Monday in addition to a campaign of raids and house-to-house arrests...

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Syrian Dictator clutching at straws?

Syrian Dictator clutching at straws? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Syria, Turkey, Updates    

As a post on the blog Harry's Place notes, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad running out of things to blame his current predicament on, he appears to be ramping-up violence to compensate. This is characterised by yet another watershed moment in the ongoing turmoil - Assad shelled the city of Latakia from the sea over the weekend, reportedly killing 21 people..

This week has been marked by a turning point in the Syrian uprising.

After playing the terror card, the Palestine card, the resistance card and the sectarian card, and with no sign of the Syrian uprising slowing down, this week the Assad regime has gone for broke by using gun boats to shell the city of Latakia... What do you do after gunboats? Aerial bombing campaigns?

To illustrate the extent to which the Syrian authorities are clutching at straws...

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Assad’s survival plan explained Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Syria, Updates    

Over the weekend in Syria, the regime was reportedly shooting people as they exited mosques after prayers near Damascus, and even used the navy to shell the port of Latakia, killing 21 people ...
Explaining why Assad is continuing to escalate the violence against his own people, noted American foreign policy pundit Walter Russell Mead has an excellent post describing Assad's strategy for survival. He says it relies on systematically attacking the centres of protest one by one with overwhelming force while assuming what the rest of the world does, or thinks, doesn't matter...

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Arab States Increase Pressure on Syria, Syria Blames American Conspiracy

Arab States Increase Pressure on Syria, Syria Blames American Conspiracy Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Updates    

As yesterday's post noted, condemnation of Syria seems to have reached a tipping point - with more and more world leaders finally criticising the Assad regime, well into the fifth month of violence. Even "hacktivist" collective Anonymous have jumped on the bandwagon, hacking into the Syrian Ministry of Defence website and leaving photographs of mutilated protestors as long as a message of support in both English and Arabic...

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Syria Under Fire as Assad Slowly Loses Supporters

Syria Under Fire as Assad Slowly Loses Supporters Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Syria, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

Another stark reminder of the astounding brutality displayed by the Assad regime in Syria surfaced last week when the Guardian translated and published a harrowing account of Syrian woman Samar Yazbek's shocking torture at the hands of Syrian authorities.

Two huge men entered the room. They stood in readiness, in plainclothes. One of them stood to the right and the other to the left. With a signal from his eyes, each seized me by the shoulders, though not roughly. They seized me as if I were some object, easy for them to move. I did not resist when they started to lift me out of my chair. I even stood up, surprised at what was happening...

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Iran's economic management is the regime's weak spot

Iran's economic management is the regime's weak spot Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, Iran, Syria, Updates    

Iran's economy appears so inherently fragile, that concerted external financial pressure on its energy sector could bring the regime to its knees and Washington Institute for Near East Policy analyst Patrick Clawson shows how it can be done:

If oil prices decline -- or, more important, if the United States and its allies can dissuade countries and companies from paying for Iranian oil (Washington has no objections if they receive said oil, only if they pay for it) -- then the Islamic Republic could face serious problems paying for the checks to which the Iranian people are rapidly becoming accustomed.

 

What of Turkey if the Palestinians and Kurds get their way?

What of Turkey if the Palestinians and Kurds get their way? Author: Allon Lee Categories: Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

If two million Palestinians in the West Bank deserve a state, what of the 18 million Kurds in the region who have endured 100 years of persecution?

This is the tantalising question posed by Israeli analyst Dr. Guy Bechor who argues that Turkey should be careful what it advocates on behalf of Palestinians as it seeks regional popularity and leadership.

 

Iran arms Syria as UN shifts into low gear

Iran arms Syria as UN shifts into low gear Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Russia, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

The forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stepped-up their assault on the opposition stronghold of Hama yesterday. As reported by Nada Bakri for The New York Times:

Ignoring mounting condemnations, the Syrian military sent tanks, armored vehicles and snipers on Wednesday into the symbolic center of Hama, a rebellious city that has emerged as a linchpin of the nearly five-month uprising, in what appeared a decisive step by President Bashar al-Assad to crush opposition to his rule.

The military's assault on Assi Square, the scene of some of the biggest demonstrations against Mr. Assad's leadership, was an event that many activists and residents had thought impossible, evidence of the government's determination to retake by force a city that suffered one of the most brutal crackdowns in Syrian history in 1982.

This blog has been closely following the situation in Syria...

UN 'Statement’ on Syria and Western Policy Options

UN 'Statement’ on Syria and Western Policy Options Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

Following on from Daniel's blog post regarding the UN Security Council 'statement' condemning the violation of human rights in Syria, this blog post considers the weaknesses of the UN statement in that it did not call for regime change, support the Syrian demonstrators or contain provisions for punitive measures or sanctions.  In light of the UN's inability act, this blog looks at Western policy options that could put pressure on Assad to go.

 

Do Syrians need our Assistance to Halt Ongoing Massacres?

Do Syrians need our Assistance to Halt Ongoing Massacres? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

The Assad regime in Syria has been continuing its vicious assault on the city of Hama, which began on the weekend. As The Jerusalem Post reports:

AMMAN - Syrian tanks pounded residential neighborhoods across the city of Hama on Monday in the heaviest barrage of a two-day assault to crush street demonstrations against President Bashar Assad, witnesses said.

Earlier on Monday, residents said at least four civilians were killed by tank fire on the second day of attacks on the city, where memories are still vivid of the brutal suppression of an uprising in 1982....

If Assad Falls...

If Assad Falls... Author: Reuel Marc Gerecht Categories: America, Middle East, Syria, Turkey    

The US administration's policy toward Syria is shaping up to be potentially the greatest missed opportunity of Barack Obama's presidency. If Syria were to break the right way and the regime in Damascus were to fall, the most tenacious state-sponsor of terrorism in the Arab world - Teheran's strongest ally and the lifeline to the terrorism-loving Lebanese Hezbollah - would be taken out. Alas, an administration that came into office only a little less eager to engage Damascus than Teheran seems stuck in its stillborn Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the turmoil of the Great Arab Revolt.

Arab Spring yields a Murky Summer

Arab Spring yields a Murky Summer Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Egypt, Middle East, Syria, Turkey    

The acclaimed "Arab Spring" has given way to a murky summer, dominated by uncertainty, fog and danger as much as democratic hopes, according to academic experts. Some of the movements for reform which blossomed across the region earlier this year may take a long time to mature into democratic regimes resembling those in Eastern Europe which emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Others may simply wilt and decay.

Weakened Hezbollah Shifts Blame Towards Israel

Weakened Hezbollah Shifts Blame Towards Israel Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: International Security, Lebanon, NGOs, Syria, Updates    

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the Second Lebanon war, fought between Israel and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. Since the conflict concluded, Hezbollah has been systematically consolidating power in Lebanon and amassing arms for the next round of violence. However, there has not been a shot fired from Southern Lebanon into Israel for which Hezbollah has taken credit. This is in stark contrast to the situation before the incursion, when Hezbollah would periodically fire rockets and mortars into Israeli territory in order to raise tensions.

To mark the anniversary, Israeli academics Abraham Bell and Gerald Steinberg have written a piece in Ynet about a study that they are conducting on different NGO responses to the 2006 conflict, which has some rather disconcerting findings...

‘Multi-Party’ Reform: Too Little, Too Late for Assad?

‘Multi-Party’ Reform: Too Little, Too Late for Assad? Author: Geoffrey Levin Categories: Middle East, Syria, Updates    

In its biggest concession thus far to the protest movement that has swept the country, the Syrian cabinet on Sunday approved a bill permitting new political parties to exist alongside the Baath Party, which has ruled the country alone for over four decades. Yet the opposition understandably views the bill, which has yet to pass a vote before the parliament, with deep skepticism, as it comes after the government killed over 1,500 protestors. Al Jazeera reports:

Yasser Saadeldine, a Syrian opposition figure living in exile, said the new law "is designed to show on paper that the regime tolerates dissent while continuing killings and repression".

Reporting from Beirut, Al Jazeera's Rula Amin said that protesters are dismissing the draft law. The people are demanding "political freedoms, not just a law to organise how to form political parties".

 

AIR
Pressuring Syria/Syria and Iran

Pressuring Syria/Syria and Iran Categories: Iran, Syria, Updates    

This Update looks at policy options, as well as the potential benefits and costs, for Western governments seeking to pressure  Syria's Assad regime as the protests in Syria continue to spread and the death toll continues to mount.

The opening entry is an editorial from the New York Times, which urges that while a military invention is out of the question, Western nations "can bring a lot more pressure to bear" on the Assad regime. The paper notes that "awe" is the only possible response to the courage of Syrian protesters. It goes on to castigate US and European leaders for sending mixed message and various lifelines to the regime, urges the consumers of Syrian oil to stop buying it, and calls the Arab League's recent intervention on behalf of Assad a "disgrace".

Another anti-Israel rant by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Another anti-Israel rant by Randa Abdel-Fattah Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Australasia, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

On Wednesday, the Sydney Morning Herald featured a rant by Australian-born-Egyptian-Muslim-Palestinian pro-Palestinian activist Randa Abdel-Fattah arguing that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the latters' ongoing suffering stems from Israel supposedly seeking to safeguard the ''purity'' of a Jewish-only state.

The ostensible motivation for her article was a desire to share the numerous experiences of racism she claims to have witnessed when visiting Israel and the West Bank in May. Yet nowhere in the article is she able to recount a single example of the alleged racism because her real motive is to justify her support for a one-state solution.

Sectarian Explosion beginning in Syria?

Sectarian Explosion beginning in Syria? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

The situation in Syria took an even graver turn yesterday. As the ruling Assad regime continues to brutalise dissenting citizens, some Syrians appear to be lashing out at the regime's minority Alawite sect. In retaliation, several Allawites went on a rampage of their own. Nada Bakri reports in The New York Times:

On Sunday, residents of Homs, Syria's second-largest city, discovered the bodies of three Alawites mutilated and dumped in a deserted area, according to Omar Idlibi of the Local Coordination Committees, a group that helps organize and document protests. All three were armed government loyalists, he said...

"Flotilla to Syria" a reality, but not what you think

"Flotilla to Syria" a reality, but not what you think Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Sometimes, a news item comes along that seems far too convenient to actually be true. For a Middle East commentator, it's very rare to have clear-cut proof of something that you have been saying all-along. Today, however, is one of those occasions.

As noted in this post, the organisers of the (now mostly defunct) flotilla have worrying links to Hamas in Gaza. While there is undoubtedly suffering in Gaza, much of this can be attributed to its Hamas regime, which maintains control through torturing and murdering dissenters and censoring the press, while forcing Gazans to live in a perpetual state of war by refusing to negotiate with Israel or even recognise Israel's existence and renounce violence. It was, therefore, a no-brainer to point-out the hypocrisy of a group trying to make a political statement against Israel while cavorting with a far less savoury regime and ignoring much greater suffering elsewhere.

As a result many commentators - from Australian comedian Sandy Gutman to yours truly - have called for the flotilla activists to prove their self-proclaimed "humanitarian" intentions by going to Syria...

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Syria’s Iraqi refugees flee Syria, highlighting regional changes

Syria’s Iraqi refugees flee Syria, highlighting regional changes Author: Geoffrey Levin Categories: Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

While Turkey has attracted much media attention for its willingness to take in Syrian refugees in the camps it has set up near the border, many Syrians have fled to other neighbouring countries such as Iraq. Thousands of Iraqi refugees who fled Iraq for Syria due to the war are now fleeing Syria, heading back to their home country. Agence France-Presse reports:

Hayat Saad, legal officer at the Baghdad Refugee Centre, said "every day we deal with between 60 to 70 cases of families who have returned to the country...Daily, about 20 come from Syria -- the largest contingent -- followed by Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and Libya," she added.

 

AIJAC UPDATE - How the 2011 flotilla flopped/The controversial "anti-boycott" law

AIJAC UPDATE - How the 2011 flotilla flopped/The controversial "anti-boycott" law Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

AIJAC's latest email Update looks at why and how the 2011 Gaza flotilla gambit fizzled out. In contrast to 2010's headline-grabbing political stunt that acted as a Trojan Horse for the Turkish Islamist IHH charity resulting in needless deaths and injuries, this was no replay.

US belatedly condemns Syria as Assad flaunts Western concerns

US belatedly condemns Syria as Assad flaunts Western concerns Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Europe, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

This blog has been following the baffling hesitation that the West has been showing towards making criticisms of the Assad regime in Syria, despite intense crackdowns on civilian protestors, noting how Syria is interpreting this hesitation as a free pass to continue brutalising its civilians.

After months of ongoing strife within the country, the US and French ambassadors both made the decision on Friday to visit the besieged city of Hama, a rebel stronghold on which Syrian troops have been mounting a vicious assault over the last few days. As The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Saturday...

Will the failed flotilla participants change course?

Will the failed flotilla participants change course? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Iran, Syria, Turkey    

As Stephen Pollard's column in the Guardian explained last night, Israeli diplomacy has all but prevented a repeat of last year's flotilla debacle.

So successful has Israel been in stymieing the flotilla that what is actually setting sail amounts to one small boat with nine activists on board, leaving two weeks late. It is barely worth noting, and poses no threat to the Israeli naval commando unit, Flotilla 13, which played out a range of scenarios in expectation of a more substantial group, from a peaceful takeover of the boats to dealing with activist violence...

Assad's carte blanche is hurting Syrians

Assad's carte blanche is hurting Syrians Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Libya, Syria, Updates    

While ruminating yesterday on the US's decision to intervene in Libya, Middle East scholar Barry Rubin gave several insights as to why the West would choose Libya to attack rather than Syria. The assessement, unfortunately, is not particularly flattering for our leaders:

I would suggest that the actual main reasons revolve around ideology. The administration is now obsessed with...

Turkish-Israeli Talks - Do they signal a shift?

Turkish-Israeli Talks - Do they signal a shift? Author: Geoffrey Levin Categories: Israel, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

While AIJAC has covered news about this summer's attempted Gaza flotilla in several recent posts by Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz and Tzvi Fleischer, the story of last year's flotilla has still not come to an end. Haaretz reported that the release of the UN's report on last year's flotilla incident, due to be issued yesterday, has been postponed until July 27 pending current talks between the two governments.

While the delay itself does not come as a surprise, the fact that the talks are occurring may highlight a major shift in the priorities of the Turkish government and the future of Turkish-Israeli relations. Coming amidst the recent break in relations between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad due to the latter's violent crackdown on protesters, these talks may very well offer the possibility of a turning point that sees Turkish foreign policy somewhat realigning itself with Israel and America and moving further away from the rejectionist front led by Iran. 

Is Iran really not at war with the West?

Is Iran really not at war with the West? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

Since the bulk of US forces in Iraq have been withdrawn, the country has been seeing an increasingly worrying spike in violence. What is especially concerning is the alleged source of this renewed upsurge in the conflict. As reported in The Washington Post last week:

BAGHDAD - Three U.S. soldiers were killed this week in a rocket attack at a U.S. base near the Iranian border, the military said Thursday, bringing June's death toll to 15 and marking the bloodiest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years....

Déjà vu in Hama and Across Syria

Déjà vu in Hama and Across Syria Author: Geoffrey Levin Categories: Middle East, Syria, Updates    

In February 1982, over 29 years ago, Syria's President Hafez Assad sent his younger brother to ‘deal with' an uprising in a Sunni-majority city called Hama. Between 10,000 and 30,000 civilians died, killed for attempting to topple the Alawite dictator that reigned for over a decade.

Today history appears to be repeating itself, in the same city but with a different Assad. Reports today that 16 civilians in Hama were killed by President Bashar Assad's forces can be added to the already 1,300 dead since the current Syrian uprising began in March, 130 in Hama alone. These numbers are much smaller than the estimates from 1982, which numbered in the tens of thousands. Today, rather than President Hafez Assad, it is his son Bashar who presides over the current massacre in Hama, where his current victims are quite literally the children of those killed by Hafez.

The IAEA: countering proliferation at its convenience Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Syria, Updates    

An alleged Syrian nuclear reactor was bombed in 2007

Four long years after Syria's alleged nuclear program came to a sudden halt due to an [alleged] Israeli air strike, the international community is taking the Assad regime to task. As AP reports, the International Atomic Energy Agency has referred the program to the UN Security Council and it will be discussed next week. As for the delay, the report said that the IAEA had, in fact, been trying to gain access to the site since 2008...

AIR
Hezbollah and the Hariri Tribunal

Hezbollah and the Hariri Tribunal Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

This Update focuses on the impact of the unsealing of four indictments for Hezbollah members late last week by the UN's Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), investigating the 2005 murder for former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri.

We lead with an analysis and backgrounder by Prof. William Harris, a distinguished specialist on Syria and Lebanon based in New Zealand. Harris goes through the detailed history of the tribunal process and recent Lebanese politics up until the important turning point reached last week. Harris argues that the "STL is the only serious route to ridding Lebanon of a culture of impunity and paving the way for real pluralist politics free of terror and murder" but also elucidates some reasons for optimism that it can still be effective, despite Hezbollah's opposition and control over the Government.

UN-backed Tribunal indicts Hezbollah members for 2005 Hariri murder Author: Geoffrey Levin Categories: Lebanon, Middle East, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a United Nations-backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, has issued indictments against four members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Daily Star reports.

The indictments and arrest warrants have been delivered to the Lebanese cabinet - which has been Hezbollah-dominated since early this month. Some officials have tried to downplay the news. Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said that the announcement was not very important, as it is "just an indictment, and not a final verdict." Yet the results of this tribunal may have profound effects on Lebanon, as many have claimed the conviction of Hezbollah in the trial would be "explosive" for the small and politically unstable nation.

 

Scribblings: From Assad to Assad Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Middle East, Palestinians, Syria    

British journalist and author Malise Ruthven has written an article for the New York Review of Books, later re-published in the Australian Financial Review (June 17), examining the history of Syria in the wake of the recent unrest, and especially the domination of the country by the minority Alawite sect since around 1963. In that article, he featured a very revealing and important quote from the 1930s.

It occurs in a 1936 letter sent by six Syrian Alawite leaders to Leon Blum, the Prime Minister of France. At the time, France was overseeing Syria under a League of Nations mandate. The Alawite leaders were concerned that France was encouraging negotiations leading to a unified independent Syria dominated by the Sunni majority, which would leave the Alawites a powerless and persecuted minority.

Updates
Syria's Business

Syria's Business Author: Jacques Neriah Categories: Syria    

The world has gotten accustomed since mid-March to reports of wide unrest sweeping Syria. Unlike Egypt and Tunisia but very much like in Libya, the Syrian regime has chosen to confront the "Arab Spring" with armed repression, including tanks, helicopter gunships and missile boats - thus provoking, like in the Tunisian case, a steady flow of refugees fleeing the battleground to a safe haven in Turkey, and who are revealing day after day the atrocities committed by the Alawite regime against its own people.

All in the Family

All in the Family Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Syria    

In the absence of free speech and a free press (among other political mod-cons) in Syria, Hafez al-Assad and then his son, Bashar, have cultivated the convenient habit of transacting business in the shadows, advancing and protecting - brutally, when necessary - the interests of the family and their fellow Alawites.

Inside Syria's popular rebellion/ Egypt's problematic drift

Inside Syria's popular rebellion/ Egypt's problematic drift Categories: Egypt, Syria, Updates    

Today's Update features two pieces looking inside the increasingly important Syrian popular rebellion, now almost three months old. It also contains an interesting new look at recent developments in Egyptian politics in the run-up to the September elections.

The lead item is a fascinating account from inside Syria from unidentified journalists affiliated with the top German magazine, Der Spiegel. They find a country which "has disintegrated into a surreal patchwork of places where it is tense but quiet, and combat zones in which the regime's most loyal units are killing people indiscriminately." They tell many terrible stories of murder by forces of a regime whose policy is simply to "kill and hope" they can hold on to power, and speak to many ordinary Syrians, who seem overwhelmingly determined that it will not.

Countering the Assad regime's use of rape as a weapon Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Syria, Updates    

As numbers of Syrian casualties and refugees increase, the heart breaking individual traumas are often obscured or forgotten - personal stories like those of women who have been raped by pro-regime forces, and therefore, face possible death due to the local tradition of honour killing. But in a hopeful story appearing in the press, it is being reported that after four sisters were allegedly raped by Assad supporters, local men have decided to marry them and offer them protection.

UN Tribunal Judge - Bashar Al-Assad ordered murder of Rafiq Hariri

UN Tribunal Judge - Bashar Al-Assad ordered murder of Rafiq Hariri Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Lebanon, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

A new revelation has just added to the intense scrutiny already aimed at the repressive Assad regime in Syria in the wake of its bloody efforts to suppress a popular revolt over the past 3 months.

Detlev Mehlis, a German judge who previously headed a UN enquiry into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has gone farther than even before in fingering the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, as directly responsible for the murder.

Speaking on German radio:

Detlev Mehlis said Syrian President Bashar Assad "ordered Hariri killed" because he feared the premier was cooperating with France and the US in order to overturn the Syrian regime and disarm Hezbollah.

Iran involved in crushing demonstrations in Syria Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

Haaretz is reporting that they have information from a senior Israeli source that Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Al-Quds force troops are operating throughout Syria to suppress anti-regime demonstrations and that Iran's Revolutionary Guard also helped organise the violent demonstrations attempting to breach the Israeli border on "Nakba" and "Naksa" Day, that is, May 15 and June 6.

Info Sources on the Syrian Revolution

Info Sources on the Syrian Revolution Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Syria, Updates    

With the Syrian revolution still continuing, leading to much bloodshed, and potentially huge implications across the Middle East, it is very hard for outsiders to gauge what is actually happening on a day-to-day basis. The country is essentially closed to the media, so reporting is limited and the dramatic footage on the nightly news which featured in Tunisia and Egypt is simply not available, even though events are clearly much more bloody and horrifying. 

We therefore recommend the following two sources as daily clearing-houses for news about the Syrian revolution...

Palestinian Unity Agreement: Partisan Self-Interest? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Rather than making a move in the interest of their people, Hamas and Fatah may be uniting in order to ward-off the possible consequences of the recent upheaval in the Middle East and maintain their grip on power.

Robert Danin writes in foreignaffairs.com that the recent Hamas-Fatah unity agreement may be a self-preservation initiative by both parties. Hamas, he argues, has suffered a massive blow as a result of the unrest in Syria and therefore is facing an uncertain future.

Misunderstanding Assad

Misunderstanding Assad Author: Tony Badran Categories: Syria    

These starry-eyed, bewildered justifications of the regime's current response are due to the fact that the majority of observers hold the belief that Assad is indeed a "reformer". Seen through this lens, Assad's actions would indeed appear baffling. Why wouldn't this "reformist" President simply reform? This question drove the analysts to speculate feverishly about hypothetical centres of power that may have prevented him from acting on his repressed reformist impulse. In its more laughable forms, this line of thinking led some analysts to "advise" Assad to "split" with his own regime.

Syria's unrest, Egypt's political transition

Syria's unrest, Egypt's political transition Categories: Egypt, Syria, Updates    

This Update concentrates on both the increasingly widespread protests in Syria, and the state of the political transition in Egypt, looking especially at the role of the Muslim Brotherhood there.

First up is a BICOM (British-Israel Communications and Research Centre) briefing on the state of the significant unrest in Syria. The paper reviews the conditions in Syria and predicts that a protracted period of strife looks likely. It goes on to examine the possible implications of the unrest, as well as any regime change, for both Israel and any peace prospects.

AIR

Assad under Fire Author: Roee Nahmias Categories: Syria    

Nonetheless, the question in Syria now is whether the genie of losing one's fear of the regime is indeed out of the bottle. For the time being, there is no unequivocal answer.

Unrest Spreads to Syria/ Escalation Around Gaza Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

This Update concentrates on the possibly highly significant outbreak of widespread unrest in Syria, and the growing Israeli-Palestinian violence, especially around Gaza.

We begin with a report on the unrest in Syria from Roee Nahmias, an Israeli journalist specialising in Lebanon and Syria. He points out the current unrest is the most significant in Syria since the Hama massacre of 1982, and the first time Bashar al-Assad has had to use significant force to put down opposition, and thus a test of his willingness to shed blood.

From Pyongyang with love

From Pyongyang with love Author: Allon Lee Categories: Asia, International Security, Iran, Middle East, Syria    

North Korean cooperation is a linchpin in Iran's development of ballistic missiles, without which progress would be retarded a very great deal. On Iran's nuclear push, the evidence is less conclusive, but North Korean assistance seems likely to be very significant to Iran’s nuclear progress to date.

Updates
Essay: The Turning of Turkey

Essay: The Turning of Turkey Author: Abigail Chernick Categories: Iran, Israel, Middle East, Syria, Turkey    

Since its decisive re-election in 2007, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been re-aligning the country's foreign policy. Under Erdogan's governance, Turkey has been moving away from its 20th century Western orientation and towards an alliance with Iran, Syria and their proxies. But with the upcoming 2011 elections, hope remains for a retreat from these policies and re-alignment with the West, especially if the US and the EU move quickly to demonstrate to the Turkish people what the costs of such a permanent change of alignment would be.

IAEA: End of an era Author: Efraim Asculai Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Syria    

On December 1 Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the three-term International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general passed the keys to his office to his successor... He will probably be remembered as the director-general who politicised his position more than any of his predecessors.

Dealing with Syria Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Syria, Updates    

This Update contains three opinion pieces on Western, and especially US, policy toward Syria - commenting especially on the implications of a major blow-up between the Iraqis and Syrians last month, with the former withdrawing their Ambassador in protest over alleged Syrian involvement in terrorism in Iraq.

Essay: The Great Rift Author: Y. Carmon, Y. Yehoshua, A. Savyon and H. Migron Categories: Iran, Middle East, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Syria    

The Saudi-Iranian conflict, whose various aspects - geostrategic, religious, ethnic and economic - have been affecting the Middle East for the past 30 years, began with the Islamic Revolution in Iran, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

A Year of Turmoil Author: Allon Lee Categories: Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria    

Israeli analyst and journalist Ehud Ya'ari is known not only for his encyclopaedic knowledge of everything going on across the whole Middle East, but for his extraordinary personal contacts throughout the region extending even into the ranks of many of Israel's most bitter enemies.

Scribblings: A Trip to Poll-land Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria    

It is often asserted by pundits that both Israeli and Palestinian public opinion supports a two-state resolution. Therefore, it is claimed, it must be only the inability of the leaders of the two sides to overcome their own ambition, stubbornness and political limitations that is preventing Israeli-Palestinian peace.

AIR

Cast out terror TV Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Antisemitism, Australasia, Lebanon, Media/ Academia, Op-eds, Syria, Terrorism    

HEZBOLLAH'S terrorist television station is once again being beamed into Australia. Al-Manar, translated as "the beacon", has been called more accurately a beacon of hatred and violence. It is to be hoped that the Rudd Government and the Australian Communications and Media Authority are doing everything in their power to block the station.

Al-Qaeda Today/ Syria's Nuclear Secrets Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Lebanon, Middle East, Multimedia, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

Today's Update features two new pieces detailing expert debates about the current status and capabilities of al-Qaeda. First up, Peter Bergen discusses the controversy between analysts who argue that the organisation has become largely localised and leaderless and those who argue that the central organisation in northern Pakistan is getting stronger.

Updates

Hezbollah and Lebanon Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

Today's Update focuses on Lebanon, and the progress of growing Syrian and Hezbollah dominance of that country, especially in the wake of a recent government decision which effectively makes Hezbollah and its "resistance" against Israel an official arm of the Lebanese government.

Lessons and Learning Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Syria    

As thousands followed the coffins of IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, whose bodies arrived in Israel two years after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, a sense of sobriety, introspection and catharsis descended on the Jewish state.

Israel debates Hezbollah Prisoner Deal Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

Israelis are intensely debating at the moment the pros and cons of prisoner swap overnight with Hezbollah, which includes Israel trading five Lebanese prisoners, including the notorious child-killer Samir Kuntar, in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, abducted in the raid which sparked the 2006 war.

Future Tense in Beirut Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Terrorism    

The Doha Agreement restored a tense quiet to Lebanon, pulling its rival ethnic communities back from the brink of an unwanted civil war. But, in the longer term, it represented a major step forward in Hezbollah's creeping efforts to assert hegemony over the country.

Israel and Syria / Arab World reacts to Olmert's legal problems Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Multimedia, Syria, Updates    

Today's Update contains some more differing analysis and opinion on the new indirect Israeli-Syrian talks. First up, top Israeli journalist and author Yossi Klein Halevi explains the sceptical view that appears to be predominant in Israel about the talks and the prospects of an Israeli-Syrian agreement.

AIR

Nuclear Revelations about Syria/ Israel-Syria negotiations? Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Israel, Multimedia, Syria, Updates    

This Update focuses on two recent developments vis a vis Syria. Firstly, according to the US CIA Director, what Israel destroyed in a mysterious airstrike in Syria last September was a plutonium producing nuclear reactor, capable of producing enough plutonium for one to two nuclear bombs per year, built with North Korean assistance.

Live by the sword... Author: Eyal Zisser Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Terrorism    

On late Tuesday evening, February 12, 2008, Imad Mugniyah, the head of the military wing of the Lebanese Hezbollah organisation, was killed in a car-bomb attack in Damascus. Mugniyah's body was taken to Beirut, where he was buried two days later in an impressive ceremony organised by Hezbollah.

Updates

Political Crisis in Lebanon/ The case for "Jihadism" Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Islamic Extremism, Lebanon, Multimedia, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

As readers may be aware, Lebanon has had no president since last week. The term of the last president, pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud, ended on Nov. 23. However, no successor has been elected because of a stand-off between the pro-Syrian opposition, led by Hezbollah, and the anti-Syrian government, led by PM Fouad Sinora and Saad Hariri, son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Lebanon's Government by Murder Author: David Schenker Categories: Lebanon, Multimedia, Syria    

Forty Lebanese members of parliament belonging to the pro-Western, anti-Syrian March 14 majority bloc currently reside in Tower 3 at Beiruts Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel... But the lawmakers are not guests; they are prisoners.

Hezbollah and Lebanon Updates Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Terrorism    

This Update features three pieces on the state of Hezbollah efforts within Lebanon to prepare militarily for another round of conflict with Israel, and politically, to gain control of the Lebanese government.

AIR Updates

Editorial: Lessons Learned Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria, Terrorism    

The Winograd Committee's Interim Report, assessing Israel's performance in the first days of last year's Hezbollah-Israel conflict, has strongly criticised Israel's prime minister, defence minister and former military chief of staff for setting impossible-to-achieve objectives and for moving without adequate planning.

AIR

The barriers to peace in Middle East Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Iran, Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Op-eds, Palestinians, Syria    

The resurgence of internal Palestinian conflict in recent days sheds some light on the assertion advanced again by the report of the Iraq Study Group in Washington. This claim is that the Israeli/Palestinian question is the "core" of the problems radiating out of the Middle East. Everyone of goodwill wants Israeli-Palestinian peace as quickly as possible. However, the belief that it is the key to the region's problems is not only incorrect, it is counter productive.

Too high a price for peace Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Op-eds, Syria    

The bipartisan Iraq Survey Group report to US President George Bush makes some reasonable if unsurprising recommendations about military strategy in Iraq, but also two recommendations about wider Middle Eastern policy that are fundamentally flawed.

Updates

Editorial: A State of Flux Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria    

The always volatile politics of Israel have, in that curiously Israeli way, returned to their normal state - that is, a state of flux. The conduct and consequences of the war against Hezbollah have seen accusations hurled back and forth between the various political parties, pundits, and serving and retired military officers.

Hezbollah's new battle at home Author: Ted Lapkin Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Op-eds, Syria    

IF LOVE means never having to say you're sorry, that principle should apply with redoubled force when the emotion in question is hate. So when Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah publicly apologised for igniting the recent Lebanese conflict, his boasts of victory over Israel began to ring a tad hollow.

Yes, the Problem is "Islamic Fascism" Author: External author Categories: Iran, Islamic Extremism, Lebanon, Syria, Terrorism    

It took US President George W. Bush to tell the truth to Britain about the massive plot to blow US-bound airliners out of the sky. In his first comment on the apparently foiled attempt to explode airliners flying from Britain to the US, Bush put it simply: "This was a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists."

How to stop another war Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Op-eds, Syria    

WITH the smoke still clearing from Lebanon and northern Israel, the crucial question is whether the post-war resolution will remove the sources of the violence. Otherwise, the world will witness a similar round of conflict in another few months or years, with all the suffering that will entail.

Editorial: The Axis of Terror Acts Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Terrorism    

Israel has once again been dragged into a war it did not want and did not start. Just as was predicted in May's Australia/Israel Review editorial, Iran's rulers have apparently used their control over Hezbollah and influence over Hamas to create a crisis...

AIR

A good resolution, but can it be put into lasting effect? Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Op-eds, Syria    

THE principles enunciated in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 on Lebanon, passed on Friday, are a positive step towards a sustainable end to the bloody conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. The overarching problem, unfortunately, is that this resolution appears to lack adequate mechanisms to implement those principles.

Hezbollah stands in way of peace Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Iran, Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Op-eds, Syria    

When the Hezbollah-Israel war began in mid-July, many in the Arab world made some startling comments. "The operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community," wrote the editor of the Kuwaiti Arab Times. Milder statements in the same vein - blaming Hezbollah for the violence - came from across the Arab world, including the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 - 2006 Categories: Documents, Israel, Lebanon, Syria    

In the midst of a military confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah militia forces in Lebanon in July-August 2006 which brought about hundreds of deaths and injuries on both sides, the extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and massive internal displacement triggered by the 12 July abduction of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, the requirements for a ceasefire agreement were discussed by the UN General Assembly, which referred the issue to the Security Council. After lengthy discussion, a final draft for a Security Council resolution was adopted on August 11, 2006.

War as an extension of politics Author: Ted Lapkin Categories: Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Op-eds, Syria    

General Patton once observed that you don't win wars by dying for your country; you win them by making the other poor bastard die for his. But Hezbollah has turned that pearl of military wisdom on its head. These jihadists are trying to defeat Israel, not by killing Jews, but by engineering a slaughter of the Lebanese populace.

Updates

Want Mideast Peace? Get the right ceasefire in Lebanon Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Op-eds, Syria    

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "I genuinely believe the outcome of the present [conflict] and the emergence of a new order that will provide more stability, will help create the necessary environment that will allow me ... to create a new momentum between us and the Palestinians." He added, "We want to separate from the Palestinians. I'm ready to do it." The connection between the conflict in Lebanon and Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations may not seem obvious, but Olmert is right. So it is absolutely crucial that any ceasefire in Lebanon does more than simply halt the immediate bloodshed.

On the Border Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Syria    

As the IDF's counter-attacks against Hezbollah's outposts, personnel and materiel entered their third week, it was still difficult to predict how long the skirmishing would last and what its outcome would be.

Force-ful Action Author: External author Categories: International Security, Lebanon, Syria    

As diplomacy to halt the violence in Lebanon slowly gathers momentum, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has endorsed the idea of an international "stabilisation force" to keep the peace, seconding proposals previously put forward by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Bloodbath blurs war truths Author: Bren Carlill Categories: Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Multimedia, Op-eds, Palestinians, Syria    

Amidst the front-page photos of bleeding children, it?s difficult to find clarity regarding the conflict raging in Israel and Lebanon. We all know the spark that set the region alight ? an unprovoked Hizbollah kidnapping of Israeli soldiers under the cover of missiles fired at Israeli cities. This was preceded by a Hamas-led attack from Gaza, which also involved kidnapping and rockets fired. The depressing sight of dead and injured civilians has since helped blur the reasons behind the violence.

Autonomy key to peace in Lebanon Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Op-eds, Syria, Terrorism    

IN AN extraordinary statement, the editor of a Kuwaiti newspaper, the Arab Times, argued last week that ``the operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community''. Milder statements in the same vein, blaming Hezbollah for the violence, have come from across the Arab world, including the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

AIR

Party Games Author: External author Categories: Iran, Islamic Extremism, Lebanon, Multimedia, Syria, Terrorism    

Since the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah was created by Iran in 1982, it has metamorphosed from its early beginnings as a localised terrorist organisation into a significant armed presence in Lebanon that has demonstrated its ability to carry out terror attacks far beyond the borders of the Middle East. Today Hezbollah is the only armed force that controls a political party in Lebanon. For its supporters in Lebanon, Hezbollah is the sponsor of social welfare agencies that provide education, health care, employment, and other services. Hezbollah uses these institutions as a mechanism for indoctrination and a pool for recruiting new members.