The Bulletin's Link on the
News Bulletin Achieves Since
"We Are Bigger than Your Jesus!"/Extremist Persecution
of Christians, March 2018
ريموند إبراهيم: جدول إضطهاد المسيحيين لشهر آذار الفين وثمانية
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/September 23/18
If any measure of peace between Muslims and Christians is to prevail, no church can exist in the village, local Muslims said. "The only houses of worship that can ever be built in this village are Muslim places of worship for Allah." — Watan International, Egypt.
"The Al Shabaab are now hunting down the children in Mogadishu, and we have moved the care center to a bit safer location.... The children look devastated and malnourished, so we as a secret church do appeal to our brothers and sisters in the free world to consider extending a hand to these persecuted children." — Pastor of an underground church, Somalia.
"[I]t seems that the Muslims intentionally wanted to pick a fight with us." — Pastor of King Jesus Church, Pakistan.
On March 26, medical staff and security guards at Services Hospital in Lahore, Pakistan beat to death a Christian father of four and injured five members of his family, including the pregnant sister he had brought because she was in labor. Pictured: The Department of Surgery at Services Hospital, in 2014. (Image Source: Baitaal/Wikimedia Commons)
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan: In a Lahore hospital, a throng of Muslim doctors, security guards, and medical staff beat Christian family members — one to death — because they tried to prevent another doctor from beating their pregnant sister. According to Anil Saleem, the pregnant woman's brother, once they took her to the emergency labor ward at Services Hospital:
"Kiran [the pregnant woman] went to the doctor on duty, Dr. Saira, who was playing with her cell phone while sipping on tea. Dr. Saira told Kiran to wait outside until she finished her tea. We waited for some time, but since Kiran was experiencing severe pain, she again went inside the ward to request for immediate attention."
The doctor instantly began cursing the pregnant woman for bothering her. "When my sister protested against the rude behavior, the doctor started slapping her, throwing her on the floor. She asked my sister how dare a Chuhri [a derogatory term for Christians] question her order?" On hearing the commotion, Anil, his brother, brother-in-law and a cousin entered the ward. Once she saw them, Dr. Saira shouted to the other doctors and security guards to lock the ward's doors from the inside and "teach these Christians a lesson," continued Anil: "Around 15 to 20 paramedical staff and security guards and eight to 10 young doctors ... lunged at us with iron rods, chairs, leather belts and other things and started beating us." The men were severely injured.
Anil's brother, Sunil, died for lack of medical attention: "Most of the doctors fled after the incident, while those who were present paid no attention to our cries to help our dying brother." Sunil leaves behind a wife and four children, the eldest ten, the youngest barely three months old. Although the assaulted Christian family filed charges with police, no one was arrested. Instead, the police "wanted to take us to the same hospital where we had been subjected to torture and also lost our brother," Anil said. "Moreover, we have registered a murder case against the doctors and other staff members, so how could the police even think that the hospital staff will treat us fairly?"
Speaking of this incident, a human rights lawmaker said, "It's shocking that even doctors, who are supposedly educated and have taken an oath to save lives regardless of caste, color or faith, have resorted to such acts of religious intolerance and violence." "I am still trying to digest the fact that doctors took the life of an innocent man," said another rights activist. "What hope can one have for justice to the family if police have been unable to arrest even one of the accused?"
In a separate incident, in a move criticized by Christian activist groups, after "giving them the benefit of doubt," a court freed 20 Muslims suspected of immolating a Christian couple, says a report, adding:
"Shahzad and Shama were burned alive in a brick kiln by a frenzied lynch mob ─ incited by announcements made from mosques in the area ─ ranging between 400-1,000 people for their alleged role in the desecration of the Holy Quran in Nov 2014.... [T]he woman, a mother of three, was pregnant at the time."
Nigeria: After a group of Christians tried to rescue two girls who were earlier kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam, Muslims, some armed with assault rifles, rampaged through the Christian town of the would-be rescuers. The Muslims murdered 12 Christians, wounded another 20, and torched Christian property. Many of the slain were members of Pentecostal, Baptist, Assemblies of God and Seventh-day Adventist churches. "The case was reported to the police, and the girls were not rescued, so some Christians decided to rescue the girls, but the Muslims in the town attacked them," explained a local. "The Muslims did not just attack the Christians that went to rescue the girls, but also went around town attacking Christians they sighted and burned houses belonging to Christians." Another local said, "This is the practice by Muslims in Kaduna state. They abduct small Christian girls and force them to become Muslims, and when Christians reject this, they attack them ...."
Separately, armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen murdered 20 Christians, including a pastor. According to the report:
"The killings reportedly came in retaliation for an unspecified attack on Fulani families by young men from the predominantly Christian Bachama tribe who have formed militias in response to violence by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and heavily-armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen."
Egypt: Although the military said it was suicide, a young Christian conscript "was in fact killed by his commanding officer," says a report. Matthew Samir Habib, 22, was pronounced dead on March 14. The military told his father, Samir, that Matthew had shot himself — apparently twice. According to a relative:
"Matthew told us many times before that the colonel in his military unit, Ayman Mohamad Ahmed El Kabeer, was always persecuting and insulting him because of his religious identity. Matthew, however, was patient and endured it all. His friends from the same unit told us that there had been a quarrel between Colonel El Kabeer and him on the day of the incident, when he had objected to something the colonel said."
Habib is the latest of about nine Christian soldiers to be murdered in recent times by Muslim officers and soldiers on account of their faith.
Iraq: A few days after gunmen shot Samir Younis, 28, a Christian father of two, four other men broke into the house of Hisham al-Maskouny, a Christian doctor, and stabbed him to death on March 10. When his wife and her mother tried to intervene, they too were slaughtered. Although the home was looted, local Christians say they were targeted because of their religious identity. Discussing these murders, Father Biyos Qasha said, "This means that there is no place for Christians. We are seen as a lamb to be killed at any time." Others in Baghdad voiced the same sentiment: "As a Christian, life is good so long as you don't have enemies," said one resident. "(Also you shouldn't) bring attention to yourself... I feel depressed because of what happened for Hisham and his family, even (though) it is something that has happened so often since 2003, but it still makes me sad."
Somalia: Orphans whose Christian parents are killed for their faith are growing in number and in need of care, said the pastor of an underground church.
"Last year we lost a Christian family killed by the Al Shabaab, and the number of children rose from 30 to 35. The Al Shabaab are now hunting down the children in Mogadishu, and we have moved the care center to a bit safer location.... The children look devastated and malnourished, so we as a secret church do appeal to our brothers and sisters in the free world to consider extending a hand to these persecuted children."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Turkey: A report briefly notes that on March 6, a man in his forties opened fire on the Saint Maria Catholic Church in Trabzon. It was just the latest in several attacks on the church. Less than a month earlier, a makeshift bomb was thrown at the church's garden; in 2016 Muslims crying "Allahu Akbar" vandalized the church, using sledgehammers among other objects; in 2011 the church was targeted and threatened for its visible cross, and in 2006 its priest was slaughtered during an armed attack.
Indonesia: Less than a month after a radicalized student stormed a church and started hacking at its worshippers and statues with a machete, six unknown persons firebombed St. Zechariah Church shortly after midnight on March 8. According to the report:
"...a group of six vandals blew a hole through the wall of the church, consecrated just last March 4 by Msgr. Sudarso. The strangers then destroyed a statue of the Virgin and stacked some chairs setting them on fire. The noise woke the faithful who live nearby. They rushed to extinguish the flames, while the thugs fled from the place of worship."
Pakistan: On March 8, around 15 armed Muslims, led by local strongman Muhammad Sharif, stormed the King Jesus Church during Sunday service; they terrorized and beat the worshippers and injured at least seven. According to the pastor:
"Some of our church elders were trying to install a flex signboard in connection with the upcoming Easter festival on the wall in front of the church but they were stopped by Sharif's sons. Sharif is a local tough who has previously grabbed a piece of the Christian cemetery in our colony and built a cattle shed on the graves.... Suspicions also arose when these Muslim youths started hanging out near the church during service timings and began teasing our girls."
Things came to a head when Sharif's sons accosted some elders for trying to post a Christian sign on church property. "The elders tried to reason with the youths," said the pastor, "but it seems that the Muslims intentionally wanted to pick a fight with us. The Muslims snatched the church's sign and tore it into pieces." When "one of our church elders told the Muslims that they had desecrated biblical verses inscribed on the flex sign," they retorted "We are bigger than your Jesus." It was then that the Muslim youth stormed the church compound and beat the worshippers.
"Some of them whipped out their weapons and opened fire on the church members, who ran to save themselves. I immediately telephoned the police and headed out to try and defuse the situation. However, I was also beaten up, my service robe torn and my mobile phone smashed to the ground. I think we were fortunate that none of us suffered a fatal bullet injury during the clash."
In a separate incident, on Sunday, March 18, an armed Muslim mob attacked another Christian church for having a banner related to Easter hanging outside the building. Seven Christians were left needing medical attention. According to the pastor:
"I was conducting a worship service when [a group of men, including a government official], equipped with firearms, barged into the church. As soon as they entered, [two of them] forcibly took down gospel verses written on banners, while shouting abusive words, tore them into pieces and then denigrated them by throwing them down."
Finally, on the pretext of a land dispute, a Muslim mob beat five Christians for trying to build a wall to protect their church. According to the pastor of Pakistan Gospel Assemblies Church:
"Our church elder, George Masih, who was 70, was overseeing masons and laborers who were constructing the wall. We were praying [inside the church] when we heard shouting and yelling, and, when we rushed outside, we saw about 20 men, armed with clubs and axes, [who] were beating Masih and others... Then our women tried to intervene but they too were beaten and their clothes were torn."
Algeria: Three more churches were shut down. First, local authorities in Oran closed two churches "amidst growing pressure on Christians in the Maghreb country," says a March 1 report. "The two churches ... were sealed off by police on Tuesday, 27 February." A separate report from March 22 says that the "village church in Azagher, near the town of Akbou, was forced to stop all activities on 2 March. The church had been running for over six years..... The church is the fourth forced to close in the past four months." Commenting on this uptick of church closures, an advocacy group said that they were part of a "coordinated campaign of intensified action against churches by the governing authorities."
In a different event, two Christian brothers were fined $900 each for transporting more than 50 Bibles in their car. The brothers said the Bibles were for church use but authorities insisted that they were meant for evangelizing.
Egypt: Muslims blocked the legalization of yet another church, this time in the village of al-Tout. According to the report:
"The small 10-year old church of the Holy Virgin, which serves some 400 Coptic villagers, was built as a village house in the midst of a collection of some 70 Copts' houses, and was used for worship even though it had never been licensed as a church. This was a very common situation in Egypt: Copts resorted to worshipping in unlicensed churches owing to the dire need of the growing population and the near-impossibility of obtaining license to build a church."
Then a celebrated law dedicated to easing restrictions on churches passed in 2016, and the al-Toud church was among the very first churches to be inspected by a committee for approval. But then "village Muslims got wind of the matter," says the report.
"Egged on by calls broadcast through mosque microphones in the village, thousands of them held angry demonstrations against there being a church in the village. Screaming 'Allahu Akbar' ('Allah is the Greatest') and angry slogans against the church, they attacked the Copts' houses with stones and rushed to hastily build a wall blocking access to the street leading to the church and, in the process, placing the Copts' homes under siege. When the committee members arrived, they were forced away under the pretext that there was no church in that place."
If any measure of peace between Muslims and Christians is to prevail, no church can exist in the village, local Muslims said, adding, "The only houses of worship that can ever be built in this village are Muslim places of worship for Allah."
A separate report offers more general information, including why the "decision to legalize 53 churches did little to impress Egypt's Christian minority. One of the reasons is that they are just a fraction of the unlicensed churches in Egypt..." Also, reason, according to a human rights activist:
"The Christians are afraid to pray at hundreds of churches ... because they know that the prayers will incite the radicals and cause bloodshed. There is total frustration among Christians because of the failure of the government to legalize the churches."
The report adds that, "although the population of the Christian minority is estimated at 9 million ... there are only 6,000 churches in the country. Many Christians must travel long distances to reach a church." And although the majority of Christians live in the more rural parts of southern Egypt, about 150 villages there "do not have access to a church at all and most of Egypt's churches are concentrated in Cairo, Giza province and Alexandria."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom and Dignity
Indonesia: Two Christians were publicly flogged in front of a mosque for playing a children's game said to violate Islamic law. According to the report:
"The game [unspecified] is seen by authorities in the conservative Muslim province [of Banda Aceh] as 'gambling' and therefore it violates Islamic Sharia law. Some 300 people jeered and held up their mobile phones to record when Dahlan Silitonga, 61, and Tjia Nyuk Hwa, 45, were flogged six and seven times respectively. The pair had been arrested along with a third man for playing a game at a children's entertainment complex that lets users exchange coins for prizes or vouchers, including cash. They were among five people—including a couple whipped two dozen times each for showing affection in public—receiving between six and 24 lashes with a rattan stick."
Nigeria: After kidnapping 110 school girls in Dapchi, the Islamic jihadi organization, Boko Haram, ended up releasing them all, except for one Christian girl, Liya, because she refused to convert to Islam. According to her father, "they said she is a Christian and that is why they cannot release her. They said if she wants to be released" she must "become a Muslim and she said she will never become a Muslim." After all the other girls were released and returned to their parents, he described the mood in Dapchi as one of "jubilation," whereas "I am very sad but I am also jubilating too because my daughter did not denounce Christ."
Egypt: Magdy Farag Samir, 49, a Christian teacher, was arrested on March 14 and charged with "contempt for religion" — more colloquially known as the blasphemy law — three months after he administered a multiple choice test revolving around prophet Muhammad. This outraged some Muslim students and parents. "Many Copts are being charged with contempt of religion and jailed for nothing...because the revolution dropped the Muslim Brotherhood but left their ideology unchanged," explained a local human rights activist in the context of this case. "Egypt's law of contempt of religion only applies to one side — Islam. Crimes of contempt in Egypt only refer to contempt of Islam."
Uganda: A Muslim family attacked a male family member with boiling oil for becoming Christian. A week earlier, on Sunday March 4, Gobera Bashir, 27, had accompanied a friend to church in a different village; during service he accepted Christ and a pastor gave him a Bible, adding, "Be cautious when reading the Bible, since your family is a Muslim family." Four days later his young sister walked into his room while he was reading the Bible. "Why are you reading the Bible? You know our family only reads the Koran," she said. He replied that he was merely trying to gain knowledge, but word soon spread that he was in possession of a Bible. On March 10, around 9:30 pm, a group of people began knocking on the door of his home. When he refused to answer, they broke in. "As they entered the house, they found me in the sitting room and began tying my arms and legs with robes and shouting, 'Shame! Shame! You are bringing a bad omen to the family with your bad Christian religion. Our family is a Muslim family.'"
Although the men were masked, he determined that some, including his uncle, were related to him. "There and then," continues Gobera "one of them poured a hot liquid from a thermos flask on me, and then they dragged me out of the house" to a nearby swamp. "As they pulled me, I felt a lot of pain and screamed for help as one of the attackers blocked my mouth, and there I lost consciousness. I only gained consciousness around midnight." A nearby Christian family took him in. He received medical treatment at a health center for four days. Burns covered 40% of his body. Most were on his legs and buttocks, caused when his persecutors forced him to sit on the scorching oil.
Saudi Arabia: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a statement on March 24 saying that it "is disappointed to find inflammatory content in Saudi textbooks that was previously thought to have been removed." A study conducted by the commission "uncovered content promoting violence and hatred toward religious minorities and others."
"While the Saudi government has been engaged in textbook reform for the last 15 years, the presence of these passages makes clear how little progress has been made and highlights an immediate need for the Saudi government to more seriously address this issue, as well as the exportation of these textbooks internationally, as a part of its ambitious reform process."
Previous studies have found that Saudi school textbooks regularly dehumanize non-Muslims, Christians and Jews chief among them.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslim extremists is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.
Why foreign nationals should beware of traveling to Iran
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/September 23/18
At these critical times, foreign nationals ought to be extremely cautious about traveling to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Some foreign governments have prudently begun to warn their citizens. For example, the British Foreign Office has recently warned all UK-Iranian dual nationals not to travel to Iran. Its statement declared: “There is a risk that British nationals, and a higher risk that British/Iranian dual nationals, could be arbitrarily detained in Iran. All British nationals should consider carefully the risks of traveling to Iran.”
While some may view such a move as unprecedented, it is without adoubt a significant blow to the so-called moderate administration of Hassan Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.
One of the promises of the Iranian president and the loyalists of his political party, the Moderation and Development Party, has been to improve diplomatic relationships with the rest of the world, specifically European countries. Iranian leaders have also been boasting that the EU is on the side of Tehran after the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly labeled as the Iran nuclear deal, and imposed sanctions on Tehran.
Rouhani also famously pledged to improve the nation’s tourism industry and attract more tourists in order to enhance the country’s economy. In fact, the president encouraged foreign citizens to come to Tehran and frequently put significant emphasis on the intersection between the private sector, tourism and foreign nations. He wrote on Twitter: “Our approach to develop #tourism sector is to develop ground for private sector. We welcome Iranian investors, both home and abroad.”
Foreign nationals ought to be extremely cautious about traveling to Iran as the regime is desperate for more hostages to exploit for political, geostrategic and financial gain.
It is important to point out that the UK has wisely realized the danger that its citizens can face in case they travel to Iran, in spite of the fact that the UK has an embassy in Tehran and in spite of the fact that the UK and the Iranian government have diplomatic ties at this moment.
The British government has become extremely frustrated with the Iranian regime’s treatment of British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Zaghari-Ratcliffe — a project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation — was with her infant daughter when the Islamic Republic confiscated their passports. She has since been imprisoned for more than two years on trumped-up charges such as orchestrating a “soft overthrow” and “spreading propaganda against the state.”
Despite the fact that the UK has increased trade with Iran (up 153 percent in the 12 months to March 20), reopened its embassy in Tehran and strengthened its ties with Iran in the last few years, specifically after the nuclear deal, the Iranian authorities have not changed their policy of hostage-taking.
In fact, the number of foreign nationals imprisoned in Iran has increased in the few years since the West enhanced its political and economic ties with the Islamic Republic. The US State Department has also acknowledged the increasing threat against Americans since the deal was reached, stating in a travel warning: “Iran has continued to harass, arrest, and detain US citizens, in particular dual nationals.”
The Iranian regime seeks to achieve several objectives by targeting foreign citizens and taking them hostage. One objective is to use hostages as political pawns and leverage against other governments. This has been the policy of the theocratic establishment since the revolution in 1979, starting with the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, which led to 52 Americans being held hostage for 444 days. The regime released them when it had achieved its political and ideological objectives.
Another objective is to pressure other governments into granting Tehran more economic concessions. For example, in the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Tehran attempted to pressure the UK government into paying off $530 million of debt. The Iranian regime also secretly received $400 million in cash from the Obama administration when it swapped four Iranian-Americans for seven Iranian prisoners in the US.
The regime is also trying to keep Iranian society insulated from exposure to the West, since Iran’s ruling clerics oppose and resent any cultural, political or social influence linked to the West. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has frequently warned that the biggest threat to Iran is the infiltration of Western culture and ideology. This is because he and the senior cadres of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fear that the Western culture and lifestyle will further push Iran’s youths into rising up against the regime.
In a nutshell, foreign nationals ought to be extremely cautious about traveling to the Islamic Republic, particularly at this critical time. Hostage taking is a core pillar of the ruling mullahs’ foreign policy and the regime’s revolutionary ideology. The theocratic establishment is desperate for more foreign hostages in order to exploit them as political, geostrategic and financial pawns. The UN should take Iran’s hostage-taking policy seriously and hold the Iranian authorities accountable.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
The Iranian regime must really be desperate to bet on Kerry’s help
Khairallah Khairallah/The Arab Weekly/September 23/18
John Kerry’s grasp of Middle East issues has been limited from the start. What he says in his new book, “Every Day is Extra,” about the personality of Syrian President Bashar Assad shows he may have been exposed to facts of the region but did not necessarily seize their significance.
Before he took over from Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in US President Barack Obama’s second term, Kerry was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He writes in his book of how Assad looked him straight in the eye and denied the existence of a nuclear reactor in Deir ez-Zor, which Israeli warplanes destroyed in September 2007. Kerry knew the details of the operation and concluded that Assad was a liar.
After the assassination of Rafik Hariri in Beirut in 2005, Kerry and his wife were guests of Assad in Damascus. Kerry helped rehabilitate the Syrian regime on the international scene without raising the slightest question about its role in the horrible bombing in Beirut. Likewise in the Iranian case, Kerry could not see that the problem with Iran lies more in its expansionist project than with its nuclear programme.
Kerry was a key player in setting US foreign policy objectives after 2012. He had outlined the big points for a deal with Iran since his time on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and he used Oman’s mediation to negotiate the deal with Iran.
Why didn’t he lift a finger to redress Obama’s misguided position in the summer of 2013 when the US president refused to officially react to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons in its war against the Syrian population in Ghouta?
Every day we see a new page of that Iranian programme taking shape in Lebanon or Syria or Iraq or Yemen. Kerry couldn’t have missed that programme because it was no mystery that Iran has been targeting Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. The 1996 terrorist bombing in Khobar was planned in Damascus and was obvious proof of Iran’s expansionism. Wasn’t that proof enough for Kerry?
In his book, Kerry said that he still meets with Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He said he counselled patience because things are going to change in the United States and that matters will return to their normal course.
What we understand from his words is that the United States will be backtracking on its decision to exit the nuclear deal with Iran. US President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, reacted quickly and described Kerry’s meeting with Zarif as “unseemly and unprecedented” behaviour from a former secretary of state.
In other words, Kerry was “actively undermining” US policy towards Iran and basically hurting the United States. Whether as chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee or as secretary of state, Kerry behaved strangely in a manner that tells us that he was essentially unfit for all those heavy responsibilities.What we know now is that Kerry doesn’t really know what he wants except to defend a legacy that has proven to be a disaster on more than one front. This legacy includes the nuclear deal with Iran, considered by Obama as the major achievement of his presidency.
Why Kerry wants to hold on to the disaster left by Obama is a big mystery. The man is pretending to possess a profound knowledge of the Middle East while he remains a prisoner of a set of shallow ideas that had guided the Obama administration’s policies in the region.
One such an idea is that Iran is playing a positive role in the region. I guess nobody could see at the time that the only difference between the Islamic State and Iran-backed militias in the region was that the former is Sunni and the latter are Shias.
Whether Kerry maintains relations with Zarif or not is not the problem. The main issue is that remains captive of Zarif’s deceptive games.
It remains to be seen whether a real change will now take place in Washington but what we have seen of the US policy towards Iran is rather reassuring. What is less reassuring are the US positions in Iraq is that Mohammed al-Halbousi’s recent victory in the election for the speaker of the Iraqi parliament represents a major disappointment for Iraqis who were counting on the United States and its envoy Brett McGurk to do something about Iran’s hold on Iraqi affairs. Halbousi is Iran’s man and McGurk was left looking like an amateur.
In any case, the US economic sanctions against Iran are beginning to bear fruit. Iran’s frenzy to unabashedly continue to impose its will on the Iraqis belies its desperate need to show that it holds enough cards in the region and that it is ready for a showdown.
The second wave of sanctions, coming in November, will show two things: how far Iraq is willing to go in its showdown with the United States and whether America is serious about wiping out Iran’s expansionist project.
Tehran must be forced to understand that it is not accepted as a regional player in any shape or form. Its desperate bet on Kerry reflects the extent of its political bankruptcy.
Written By Khairallah Khairallah
Trump administration raises alarm about Iran’s missile programme
Thomas Frank/The Arab Weekly/September 23/18
WASHINGTON - A top US diplomat warned that Iran’s “lawless pursuit of ballistic missiles” is endangering the Middle East and countries as far away as Western Europe, which Tehran could target if it continues developing its missile programme.
The discovery of Iran-made missiles in Saudi Arabia — fired by Houthi rebels from neighbouring Yemen — illustrates the danger of Iran’s programme to develop short-, medium- and long-range ballistic missiles, Brian Hook, US State Department special envoy for Iran, said in a speech September 19.
“When you look at the number of [Iranian] missiles launched from Yemen to inside Saudi Arabia, this is truly a threat to international peace and security. This is very dangerous work that they’re doing,” Hook said.
Hook’s warnings come less than three weeks after reports that Iran transferred short-range ballistic missiles to its Shia proxies in Iraq and that satellite photos revealed an Iranian missile-production facility in western Syria. Iran’s Foreign Ministry denied transferring missiles to Iraq.
Hook’s speech was part of a campaign by the administration of US President Donald Trump to draw attention to Iran’s missile programme, which has been overshadowed by Iran’s nuclear programme. The efforts to develop missiles and nuclear weapons are tightly linked, Hook said, noting that the ballistic missiles under development could be used to carry nuclear weapons to Western Europe.
“Enhancements in ballistic systems often go hand-in-hand with nuclear development. Ballistic missiles are the most likely way Iran would deliver a nuclear weapon. They must be addressed together with Iranian nuclear weapons,” Hook said.
A ballistic missile has a high, arcing trajectory, falls to the ground unpowered and can travel thousands of miles. Ballistic missiles have a greater range but less accuracy than cruise missiles, which are self-propelled for almost their entire flight.
Hook noted that Iran has said it was trying to develop a long-range, precision-guided cruise missile and recently unveiled two short-range ballistic missiles that could hit targets 500-700km away. The exclusion of Iran’s missile programme from the nuclear accord negotiated in 2015 drew criticism from some US officials and lawmakers at the time and was a major reason that Trump withdrew from the deal in May.
Former US President Barack Obama and his European partners at the time said it would be impossible to get Iran to agree to curb both its nuclear and missile programme.
Iran’s compliance with the nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), “somehow became a seal of approval that Iran was fine in all the other categories” of Iranian malfeasance, such as exporting terrorism and destabilising the Middle East, Hook said.
The JCPOA was accompanied by a UN Security Council resolution that weakened prohibitions on Iran’s missile programme that had been contained in an earlier resolution.
“The reality that UN member states ignore at their peril is that Iran has continued to develop and test ballistic missiles. Iran’s pace of missiles did not diminish after the Iran [nuclear] deal was implemented in January 2016. They’ve conducted multiple ballistic missile launches since then,” Hook said.
Hook said the State Department was working with allies in the Middle East and Europe to constrain Iran’s missile programme. After his speech at a Washington think-tank, Hook avoided answering a question from the audience about whether the United States would allow China and India to continue to import Iranian oil if those countries helped put pressure on Iran over its missile programme. Hook spoke generally about the reinstatement of US sanctions but said nothing about possible waivers to certain countries.
The United States intends to reinstate sanctions on Iranian oil exports in early November and Hook said the goal was “to get imports of Iran oil to zero.” China and India are major importers of Iranian oil. China has said it intended to continue to buy Iranian crude, a move that could draw US sanctions. India reduced its purchases of Iranian oil and is asking the United States for a waiver from sanctions so it can continue some imports.
Written By Thomas Frank
*Thomas Frank is a correspondent in Washington.
Starry-eyed Putin between fact and fantasy on Syria
Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/September 23/ 2018
As preparations underway for yet another international conference on Syria, Russia and the apologists in the West are also trying to change the narrative on the war-torn nation.
The narrative they suggest has four central themes. The first is that the seven-year-old war is over with the defeat of “terrorists” linked to Al-Qaeda and the terrorist ISIS. The second theme is that we witness a total victory by Russia which must now be acknowledged as the arbiter of Syria’s destiny. The third theme is that Bashar al-Assad, still the country’s nominal president, ought to be considered as a relevant interlocutor. The fourth theme is that the international community must now dig deep in its pockets to finance an ambitious reconstruction project in a country that has lost some 70 percent of its infrastructure. The problem with this narrative as peddled by Moscow is that its three themes do not fit together. Let’s start with the claim that the war is over. If that is the case how come Russia is actually enlarging its military footprint on Syrian soil? And that is not to mention that a Turkish military build-up that, if anything, has intensified in recent weeks. As for the United States, another foreign power with a military presence in Syria, President Donald Trump has just decreed that US forces should remain there until the full withdrawal by Iran and its mercenary allies.
However, for its part, Iran, although no longer building up its military presence, isn’t withdrawing either. It is, in fact, building new facilities and logistic networks for what could be a long-term stay, albeit in a location far from Syria’s most populated areas.
As for the supposedly defeated “terrorists,” it is true that they are no longer initiating major operations against Assad’s forces and its Russian and Iranian masters.
However, there are indications that the hydra supposedly slain by Vladimir Putin is far from dead and buried. Idlib, where a deal between Russia and Turkey has stopped a much-vaunted “cleansing” operation, an estimated 80,000 “terrorists” are still present and ready for action. In several other regions, notably Dera’a and the Homs-Hama axis, the same “terrorists” have simply decided to merge with the local population, that is to say, their own people, and lie low while they examine their options. Actual fighting is never more than one part of a war, a complex reality with numerous ingredients including political, cultural, religious and economic. In fact, a war is never over with one side claiming victory, even if such a claim be grounded in reality. A war is over when one side admits defeat, implicitly adopting to a new status quo.
Today, however, that is not the case in Syria which remains in a state of war between a large number of its people, not to say the majority and the minority elite that controls some organs of state with Russian and Iranian backing.
Then there is the claim that thanks to its “victory”, Russia must now have the final word on Syria. If that is the case, what is the need for any international conference? Shouldn’t Putin treat Syria as a new version of Chechnya and decide who should rule in Damascus as he chose the rulers in Grozny? Seasoned Machiavellians may even argue that it would be better to leave Syria all to Putin in the manner of a poisoned gift.
The last word
The claim that Assad is still relevant contradicts the claim that Russia must have the last word. The claim that Assad heads any sort of government anywhere in Syria, perhaps outside an enclave in Damascus, is but a fiction. In fact, the problem is that Syria has been turned into an ungoverned territory much like Somalia and large chunks of Democratic Congo. The challenge is to help Syria create a new government structure not to cling to the ghost of the dead one. Anyone with a proper understanding of Syria today would know that the person of Bashar al-Assad is a barrier to the revival of a nation-state in that unhappy land. Even within the shrinking space still dominated by Assad, there are forces that realize that it is no longer possible to prolong his personal rule. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those forces were to turn against Assad and offer his head as a price for securing a say in shaping some future power structure in Damascus. The final theme of the Russian narrative regarding the reconstruction phase is also problematic. How could any such program be launched without first deciding who rules the country and on what terms? On its own, even with Iran making a contribution, Russia does not have the economic resources and the technological means needed to rebuild a new Syria on the debris of the old one. But even if the needed resources were somehow provided as if by magic, the manpower needed to establish a minimum of security across the country would be lacking. Assad’s minority cannot field the estimated 500,000 men needed to seize, cleanse and control all of Syria in a manner effective and durable enough to permit serious reconstruction projects. Is Putin in a position to deploy such a huge force? I doubt it.
In the absence of an authority capable of exercising effective control over territory, it is highly unlikely that Western powers, that are capable of investments on such a scale, would consider dipping into their pockets as Putin demands.
More than seven years of tragedy has not solved Syria’s central problem which is the rejection by a majority of its people of Bashar al-Assad and his isolated clique. As a result of Russian intervention, Assad’s opponents have failed to solve that problem by getting rid of him. At the same time, even with Russian backing, Assad has failed to solve that problem by making himself acceptable to his people. Thus, the only relevant topic in any future international conference could be how to arrange an end to the Assad episode through a power-sharing scheme between his minority base and the majority of the Syrian people. Starry-eyed Putin needs to return to the drawing board in search of a project based on fact, not fantasy.
High time Iran’s terror activities in Europe are stopped
Hossein Abedini/Al Arabiya/September 23/ 2018
In retaliation to the recent nationwide uprisings in Iran, the Iranian regime continuously conspires to commit terrorist activities against its opponents in Europe. They see the ever-growing popular protests as a real threat to their stranglehold of the country.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians in defiance of severe state repercussions attend protests regularly in over 140 cities calling for the overthrow of the Iranian regime. These protests are in response to nearly 40 years of oppression, human rights violations, and corruption that has left millions of Iranians in economic despair. The Iranian regime’s high-ranking officials have recognized the people’s alternative, the democratic coalition of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) of which the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) is a member, as key organizers of these protests who act at the behest of the will of the Iranian people.
As such, Iran’s primary focus is to eradicate the NCRI and PMOI who are based in Europe. The Iranian regime holds no prejudice as to who they target and how, including supporters, as shown in their recent terrorist attempt in Paris on June 30, 2018, at an NCRI-organized Free Iran Gathering. Their targets included all in attendance such as European MPs, American dignitaries and tens of thousands of Iranians who are also European citizens. On September 12, 2018, the NCRI in a press conference in London exposed Iran’s terrorist plans and activities in Europe. They identified key members within their chain of command, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Hassan Rouhani who hold key roles. Further, Iranian embassies across Europe were identified as terrorist hubs that spy on Iranian dissidents and human rights activists and carry out orders instructed by Tehran.
The NCRI called for urgent action from European governments to prevent Iran from committing terrorism. The Iranian regime is feeling the effects of its unpopularity and now is in a desperate, weakened state, preparing to commit further terrible atrocities so as to hold on to power. Their fear of the organized Resistance, the NCRI, and its growing support supersedes their fear of retaliation by European countries as a result of decade-long appeasement policies.
Recent terror plots in Tirana and Paris
Since the Mullah’s hijacked the 1979 Iranian revolution, the regime has based their policies around terrorism so as to impose fear on a nation, cause instability in the region, and eliminate any opponents.Although a large proportion of their terrorist activities have been based in the Middle East, there have been several operations in Europe such as the assassination of Kazem Rajavi, a renowned human rights activist in Geneva, Switzerland, in April 1990. Today, Iran has stepped up its operations in Europe. In March 2018, in Tirana, Albania, Iranian agents attempted to inflict causalities on Iranian political refugees who were in the midst of celebrating the Persian New Year. Two Iranian personnel under the guise of journalists were detained in relation to this foiled terrorist attack, which was confirmed by the US State Department and the Albanian government.
Similarly, in June 2018 Iranian personnel attempted a terrorist attack on a gathering in Paris, France. In addition to tens of thousands of European citizens, nearly 600 parliamentarians and dignitaries from 70 countries around the world were in attendance - including cross-party delegation of members of parliament from the UK and American dignitaries such as Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran called for urgent action from European governments to prevent Iran from committing terrorism. The Iranian regime is feeling the effects of its unpopularity and now is in a desperate, weakened state, preparing to commit further terrible atrocities so as to hold on to power. Their fear of the organized Resistance, the NCRI, and its growing support supersedes their fear of retaliation by European countries as a result of decade-long appeasement policies
An Iranian ‘diplomat’ in Vienna was arrested in Germany as being responsible for handing over bombs to the two perpetrators in Luxembourg who wished to attack the gathering in France. With the help of German, French and Belgium authorities – the attack was foiled hours before and perpetrators detained.
Most recently, in the United States, two Iranian operatives were arrested on charges of spying and collecting information to carry out a possible terrorist attack. This current new wave of terrorist activities by the Iranian regime should be of high concern to all governments.
Terrorism chain of command
In January 2018, according to information from within Iran, the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) headed by Hassan Rouhani took the decision to carry out the Paris terrorist operation. Other members of the SNSC, include Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Commander of the Quds Force Qassem Soleimani. This plan was later taken to Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader, for final approval.
After the Supreme Leader’s approval, the operation was assigned to a department within Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence Services (MOIS) named Organization of Foreign Intelligence and Movements. This department is responsible for terrorist operations and espionage outside of Iran, including Europe, and is headed by Reza Amiri Moghaddam, a top security official. Moghaddam was directly involved in instructing the Iranian ‘diplomat’ in Vienna, Assadollah Assadi, to execute the Paris operation.
Assadi used the Iranian embassy in Vienna to instruct a sleeper cell of terrorists in Belgium to carry out the attack. He was involved in personally handing over the bombs to the perpetrators, and has been detained since the terrorist plot was foiled, according to statement by Belgian and German authorities.
Role of Iran’s embassies in Europe
In addition to collecting intelligence, Iranian embassies are used to provide logistics support to terrorists including weapons, explosives and money. In some instances, assailants have used the embassies to hide after an operation.
With around 30 embassies dotted across Europe, the Iranian regime has created a network to operate effectively in every location. By investigating and closing these embassies, Iran’s threat in Europe can be halted at its source.
Stopping Iran’s terrorist activities
The Mullahs believe the only solution to stopping their overthrow is to strike blows to the organized alternative to its reign and focuses on terrorism and propaganda to do so. For decades, Europe has taken the policy of appeasement in relations with Iran, and the regime intends to use this relationship as an advantage to operate across Europe. Resorting to tactics of terrorism, means that a policy of appeasement and continued diplomatic relations by European governments with Iran is illegitimate and a safety concern for innocent European citizens. Silence to the fact that Iran has plotted attacks in Europe, is tantamount to giving the green flag to the regime in Tehran to continue such terrible activities. We should not allow the Iranian regime, in its phase of demise, to threaten the lives of Iranian refugees, activists and opponents.
Therefore, certain urgent and imperative measures should be taken to halt Iran’s activities: Firstly, without any political considerations or favors, Iran’s terrorists must be prosecuted in European courts instead of extradition to Iran. With regards to the detained terrorists behind the Paris 2018 attack, they must be tried in Belgium where they were detained. Secondly, Western governments should arrest, try and expel any Iranian intelligence ministry spies and agents and finally all European countries including UK must shut down and investigate with immediate effect Iran’s centers, and hidden sleeper cells in Europe.
What if Iran transforms into a civil state?
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/September 23/ 2018
The world today is the world of civil states, where peoples’ interests, security and comfort form the basis for the acceptance and rejection. Iran is the perfect example of a revolutionary religious state where clerics sit on the throne of power as was the case in Europe during the dark Middle Ages. The question is: What if Iran becomes a civil state governed by secular not religious norms and whose decisions are defined by the interests of the Iranians?
Everything would change. The priority for spending would be on development and for providing services in all fields, not for serving religious ideology, especially that Iran always been a touristic country as it has many ancient monuments and tourist-attractions that can make tourism revenues exceed that of oil and gas. In addition, this sector could create job opportunities and reduce the present problem of unemployment which is worsening every year. Moreover, foreign capitals will flow into the country and investments will grow, particularly from the capitals of Gulf countries.
Those who visited Iran during the Shah’s time, before the clerics seized power understand what I am talking about. Clerics however do not care about people and their development as much as they care about the ideology they promote and work to spread abroad as this is their top priority.
A civil regime in Iran would spend on development and provide services across all fields, rather than serving a religious ideolog
The “martyr” and he who sacrifices himself and his wealth to spread this ideology is the good citizen who is appreciated and looked after by the governing authority. As for those who work on constructing and building in any field other than spreading ideology is neither respected nor appreciated.
That’s why I am certain that if Iran becomes a civil state that is ruled by those who pay attention to issues of this world and that if Iran becomes open to the world and if clerics return to their mosques and hawzas (seminaries), the first winner will be the Iranian citizen who has been exhausted by the theocratic state that tampered with his capabilities and made Iran, despite all its potential which is not enjoyed by many countries, an underdeveloped country where social epidemics in all their forms spread. Iran is as a result suffering in spite of its great history and the capability of its people to make their nation an important, stable and prosperous country by all standards.
Thus, on the basis of “healing may come from suffering,” the first party to benefit from Iran’s present economic siege and from restraining its religious leaders who have wasted its wealth are Iran’s people themselves first, then the neighboring countries which have suffered from Tehran’s constant interference in their internal affairs. The solution might be painful and harsh but getting rid of the religious regime is a sublime goal which all forms of pain and cruelty are licensed for in order to achieve.
The lies of Russia’s report on Israeli culpability for plane fiasco
رون بن ياشيا من يديعوت احرونوت: كاذيب التقرير الروسي حول مسؤولية إسرائيل عن اسقاط الطائرة الروسية في سوريا
Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/September 23/18
Op-ed: The Russian Defense Ministry has now heaped full blame on Israel for the fact that Syria downed a Russian spy plane while trying to repel an IAF attack. A closer analysis of the report reveals a string of lies and half-truths to cover up for the incompetence and blunders made by Russian and Syrian operators of their own air defenses.
The most striking thing about the report produced by the Russian Defense Ministry about Syria’s downing of the Russian spy plane in Latakia last week which has been blamed on Israel is the fact that it ignores the findings of the investigation conducted in Israel that were presented by the IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin and Israeli intelligence officials who accompanied him to Moscow in a bid to lower the ensuing tension.
Israel, in an almost unprecedented move, sent its IAF commander with authorized and detailed documentation to Moscow which was intended not only to shed light on what transpired, but also on the events leading up to it.Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov
Norkin met in Moscow with senior Russian officials, including his Russian counterpart and yet the Russian report that was published on Sunday which stuck by its original claim that Israel bore sole responsibility for the incident made no mention of a single Israeli claim. The report didn’t even try to refute Israel’s claims or to make counterclaims against the information the Russians had been provided just days earlier. Even more surprising is that the Russian Defense Ministry simply repeated, word for word, with no change whatsoever, the version of events that were published mere hours after the incident.
The report seems as though absolutely no attempt to clarify matters was made by the Israeli side. There is not even a mention of Norkin. Apart from blaming Israel, the report, which promised a minute-by-minute evaluation, contains almost no new facts on the matter. Moreover, there are all kinds of additional claims that are intended to demonstrate just how ungrateful Israel apparently is to the charitable Russians who are trying to protect it and are only repaid in bad faith. rom reading the report by the Defense Ministry which was initiated by Russian media which marches to the Kremlin’s beat, it is not difficult to discern that its findings are intended, more or less, to achieve several goals. It is worth examining them one by one.
Firstly, it is intended to fabricate excuses to the Russian public about the failures of its forces deployed in Syria on the night of the incident. These failures and shortfalls in the overall aerial situation are what contributed to the plane being shot down no less that the Syrian air defenses who pulled the trigger and launched and SAS missile at the Ilyushin Il-20.
The Defense Ministry did not include in its report any warning or threat of retaliation and this is a good sign. In this story the Russian Defense Ministry is the “baddy” which is seeking a get out of jail free card at Israel’s expense in Syria. Putin is seeking to create an image in which he is the good cop who wants to safeguard good relations with Israel and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But the Defense Ministry knows that it can’t go too far and make threats against Israel upon which it is unable to deliver.
The proof that the Russian officers in the Khmeimim Air Base did not read the battle correctly is the fact that the first message they sent to the Defense Ministry in Moscow is that they registered missile launches from French frigate in Mediterranean at the Syrian army targets in Latakia. They also falsely reported that certain targets, for instance power plant in Latakia, were hit. Another blunder was that the Russians did not provide its Syrian allies with the electronic signals which identifies their planes as Russian.
The Russian officers who operate jointly with the Syrian air defenses failed to properly supervise the anti-aircraft fire and the radar screens while the Syrian operators pressed the launch button. The Russian officers were there and they can surely recognize Russian planes but for a reason that is not clear, a mistake was made or someone failed in their professional responsibility. The claim that Israeli jets used the Russian plane as a shield against the Syrian air defense systems is merely a ploy to cover up this failure.
Another reason for the report can be attributed to the power struggles being waged between various security officials in the Russian Defense Ministry and Putin’s offices. This incident is an opportunity for Defense Ministry officials, a large number of whom identify with the Russian regime, to lash out at Israel in order to make it easier for Russian industries to supply weapons to its allies in the Middle East. But the main thing, as mentioned, is Russian public opinion and ensuring that no encouragement is given to the opposition elements to the Kremlin.
The second reason for the unfounded accusations against Israel is to solicit new compromises from the country regarding the situation in Syria. It can be assumed that the Russians will try to use the crisis against Israel to limit the freedom over Syria’s skies which it has been granted by Moscow through new agreements. This will then be presented as an achievement to the regime in Damascus and Tehran who will then “owe” them.
How believable is the report by the Russians? What is clear it that the Defense Ministry has not pointed out the simple fact that the Syrian air defenses were the ones that shot the plane down. It was not Israel. The scathing report attempts to create the impression that the State of Israel is exclusively responsible for bringing the plane down which is why it does not mention this simple truth and why it doesn’t mention the responsibility of Hezbollah and Iran for this tragic situation who themselves have tried to use the Russian military presence as a shield against Israeli attacks.
This string of facts which are ignored in the report cast a significant doubt on its validity, but also on the fact that the Kremlin does not want to overstep the mark with Israel. This is also a positive thing for us. While they want to squeeze out of this crisis as much as they can, the Russians will not go too far in directly confronting Israel.
Unpacking the Russian claims
The first claim: The Israelis gave less than a minute’s notice before the attack on Latakia and did not provide the location of their planes or the list of targets.
The recording that was brought to Russia by Norkin proves that a warning was delivered to the Russian coordination room in the Khmeimim Air Base located south of Latakia. It proves that a lot more than one minute was given before the strike. Israel was not obligated to provide the location of its planes or the list of targets because such information would have exposed the fighter jets to danger and revealed the Israeli modus operandi to the Russians and the Syrians. It may have enabled the Syrians to intercept the rockets fired by the Israelis at the weapons depots.
It was also not necessary for the Russians to know since the targets were 25 kilometers at least from the area where Russian military personnel are located. They had no reason to know where the Israeli jets were. At the same time, they had no Russian plane or any Russian vessel in the area where Israeli planes were operating. The Russians sought to obtain these details because they wanted to know how Israel’s intelligence and air force functions. But this information that they are suddenly demanding was not needed to prevent a clash. In the past, Israel has not been using the coordination agreements to provide Russia with the locations of its jets and the list of targets.
The second claim: The Israeli F-16 that approached the coast of Latakia and the Russian spy plane as it was about to land in the Khmeimim Air Base.
This is an outright lie. This absolutely never happened and it was proven by Norkin to the Russians using photographic evidence. The actual truth is that all the Israeli planes were, at the same time, already in Israeli airspace at the time of the plane’s downing. The Syrian air defense, under Russian supervision, shot at the Russian plane that was the only target that the Russians and the Syrians saw on their radar.
In their attempt to make excuses for this fact, it is now being argued by the Russian Defense Ministry that the Israelis used radar-jamming systems to hide their actual whereabouts. Even if we assume that coordination was there and the Israelis scrambled the radars, how is it possible that the Russians could have reported in such detail that Israeli F-16s approached the Syrian coast and the air base and that the Russian spy plane, when the IAF aircraft’s whereabouts were supposed to have been hidden from the Russians by the aforementioned radar-jamming device.
The simple fact is that the Israeli planes which attacked the targets in Latakia were not there when the downing of the plane took place. The claim is purely intended to cover up the failure and incompetence of the Syrians and the Russians. The claim is intended to hide the ignominious facts from the Russian public.
The third claim: The Russian Defense Ministry claims that the Russian coordination personnel at Khmeimim Air Base has given 310 notifications to Israel about Russian and Syrian planes approaching its airspace in order to prevent accidental confrontations.
Israel, the ministry claims, has only given 25 warnings in the last 1-and-a-half years even though it has launched 200 strikes on Syrian soil. These facts are true, but the Russians have failed to mention the “friction prevention mechanism” and that when there are no Russian planes or Russian interests near where Israel is attacking, there has been no need to avoid a confrontation. That is why there was not even any need to inform the Russian coordination personnel.
The hundreds of Russian warnings, on the other hand, were given because of hundreds of attacks launched by Russian planes and drones in southern Syria to assist President Assad near the Israeli border. Israel has not intervened in the Syrian-Russian operations in the south of the war-torn country and Russia has had an interest in not flying dangerously close to our border to avoid any damage to their own planes.
The forth claim: The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed that the heads of the IDF do not appreciate the relationship and security cooperation with Moscow which supposedly helped to prevent firing of stray mortar shells from Syria into Israeli territory, and that the fact the Russians allowed the UN peace force to operate in the area.
This claim is also false seeing as the Russians were willing to do all of that in return for an Israeli and American promise that neither Israel nor the US would intervene once Assad recaptures the Syrian Golan Heights. These were explicit understandings that the Russians wanted more than Israel needed them. This is how they got southern Syria on a silver platter. The fifth claim: The Russian Defense Ministry claims it managed to keep Iranian forces operating in Syria 140 kilometers from Israel’s northern border.
This is also only partially true. Some of these Iranian militias really left the area and went to fight in Idlib, but some of them are located around the city of Damascus, only 40 kilometers from the Israeli border.
The sixth claim: The Russian Defense Ministry said that its people helped to preserve sites holy for the Jewish religion as well as Jewish graves in the city of Aleppo, and that Russian soldiers risked their lives in search of remains of Israeli soldiers who were killed in battles of the past.
The incident took place in an area held by ISIS until they surrendered to the Syrian regime which took control of the camp.
They need us as much as we need them
Of the six claims presented by the Russian Defense Ministry, only one and a half are partially true and it can be easily proven. However, it can be assumed that Israel, the IDF, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, will not try to publicly embarrass the Russians with actual facts.
The Israeli government and the defense establishment will ignore the Russian lies and the insulting refusal to take into consideration the investigation findings presented to them by the IAF chief, in the hope that this will calm the situation, and it will be possible to fully resume the security coordination with the Russians.
However, it is clear that Israel will now have to reconsider when it approves an operation in Syrian territory and when it refrains. This fact will not go unnoticed by the Iranians who will try to conceal weapons and equipment it transfers to Hezbollah in areas populated by Russian military forces, knowing that Israel will most likely refrain from attacking such areas in the near future as to not aggravate the crisis with Russia.
Nevertheless, if there will not be any other exceptional events, it can be assumed that things will return to the way they were before the downing of the Russian plane. In any event, Israel will not allow Iranian entrenched in Syria and will not allow Hezbollah to acquire high-quality weapons, because for Israel it is an existential threat, as emphasized by Defense Minister Lieberman recently.
This means that both Israel and Russia will have to improve coordination and deconflict the situation in order to prevent future crises. We must not forget that when it comes to Syria—the Russians need us almost as much as we need them.
פרסום ראשון: 09.23.18, 23:17