Surprise! Excellent article from NY Times on Israeli air strike into Syrian anti aircraft weapon caravan

Israeli Airstrike in Syria Targets Arms Convoy, U.S. Says

http://israel-commentary.org/?p=5818

By ISABEL KERSHNER and MICHAEL R. GORDON

The New York Times
January 30, 2013

JERUSALEM — Israeli warplanes carried out a strike deep inside Syrian territory on Wednesday, American officials reported, saying they believed the target was a convoy carrying sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry on the outskirts of Damascus that was intended for the Hezbollah Shiite militia in Lebanon.

The American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Israel had notified the United States about the attack, which the Syrian government condemned as an act of “arrogance and aggression.” Israel’s move demonstrated its determination to ensure that Hezbollah — its arch foe in the north — is unable to take advantage of the chaos in Syria to bolster its arsenal significantly.

The predawn strike was the first time in more than five years that Israel’s air force had attacked a target in Syria. While there was no expectation that the beleaguered Assad government had an interest in retaliating, the strike raised concerns that the Syrian civil war had continued to spread beyond its border.

In a statement, the Syrian military denied that a convoy had been struck. It said the attack had hit a scientific research facility in the Damascus suburbs that was used to improve Syria’s defenses, and called the attack “a flagrant breach of Syrian sovereignty and airspace.”

Israeli officials would not confirm the airstrike, a common tactic here. But it came after days of intense security consultations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the possible movement of chemical and other weapons around Syria, and warnings that Jerusalem would take action to thwart any possible transfers to Hezbollah.

Thousands of Israelis have crowded gas-mask distribution centers over the last two days. On Sunday, Israel deployed its Iron Dome missile defense system in the north, near Haifa, which was heavily bombed during the 2006 war with Lebanon.

Syria and Israel are technically in a state of war but have long maintained an uneasy peace along their decades-old armistice line. Israel has mostly watched warily and tried to stay out of Syria’s raging civil war, fearful of provoking a wider confrontation with Iran and Hezbollah. In November, however, after several mortars fell on Israel’s side of the border, its tanks struck a Syrian artillery unit.

Several analysts said that despite the increased tensions, they thought the likelihood of retaliation for the airstrike was relatively low.

“It is necessary and correct to prepare for deterioration — that scenario exists,” Danny Yatom, a former chief of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, told Ynet, a news Web site. “But in my assessment, there will not be a reaction, because neither Hezbollah nor the Syrians have an interest in retaliating.”

Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, “is deep in his own troubles,” Mr. Yatom said, “and Hezbollah is making a great effort to assist him, in parallel with its efforts to obtain weapons, so they won’t want to broaden the circle of fighting.”

In the United States, the State Department and Defense Department would not comment on reports of the strike.

The episode illustrated how the escalating violence in Syria, which has already killed more than 60,000, is drawing in neighboring states and threatening to destabilize the region further.

Iran has firmly allied itself with Mr. Assad, sending personnel from its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Quds Force to Syria and ferrying military equipment to Syria through Iraqi airspace.

Hezbollah, which plays a decisive role in Lebanese politics and has supported Mr. Assad during the uprising by providing training and logistical support to his forces, has long relied on Syria as both a source of weapons and a conduit for weapons flowing from Iran. Some analysts think Hezbollah may be trying to stock up on weapons in case Mr. Assad falls and is replaced by a leadership that is hostile to the militia.

One American official said the trucks targeted on Wednesday were believed to have been carrying sophisticated SA-17 antiaircraft weapons. Hezbollah’s possession of such weapons would be a serious worry for the Israeli government, said Matthew Levitt, a former intelligence official who is at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Israel is able to fly reconnaissance flights over Lebanon with impunity right now,” Mr. Levitt said. “This could cut into its ability to conduct aerial intelligence. The passing along of weapons to Hezbollah by the regime is a real concern.”

While some analysts said the Assad government might be providing the weapons to Hezbollah as a reward for its support, others were skeptical that Syria would relinquish such a sophisticated system.

Hezbollah has boasted that it has replenished and increased its weapons stocks since the 2006 war with Israel. During that war, Israeli bombardments destroyed some of its arms, and other missiles were used in a barrage that killed Israelis as far south as Haifa and that drove residents of northern Israel into shelters.

May G-d Bless US Representative Ileana Ros Lehtinen

To protect Israel at the U.N., money talks.

BY ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
The Miami Herald, August 27, 2011

The recent onslaught of violent attacks against Israel reminds us of the growing threats facing the Jewish state. But even as extremists from Gaza fire rockets and mortars at civilians in southern Israel and cause death and destruction, we must not forget about another danger facing Israel: a unilateral campaign by Palestinian leaders to secure recognition from individual foreign governments and from the United Nations for a self-declared Palestinian “State.” This anti-Israel, anti-peace scheme must be stopped.

Abu Mazen’s Palestinian leadership has announced that they will seek recognition from the United Nations in September. They will likely turn first to the U.N. Security Council, where the United States holds a veto and should use it, although the Obama administration has yet to pledge that it will.

The next step would be the General Assembly, which has an automatic anti-Israel, anti-American majority made up largely of member states that are not democratic and other governments that repeatedly vote with rogue regimes and against Israel and the United States.

The General Assembly cannot grant membership to a “Palestinian state” without the approval of the Security Council, but the General Assembly can grant the present Palestinian observer the upgraded U.N. status of “non-member state observer,” which is the same status granted to Vatican City. Other U.N. agencies and programs could also grant membership or other upgraded status to Ramallah.

Such U.N. actions would severely undermine opportunities for a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians. They would provide implicit recognition and legitimacy to a self-declared “state” and reward and reinforce the unilateral, rejectionist policies of the Palestinian leadership.

Restarting bilateral negotiations would become even more difficult. Ramallah could seize on the U.N.’s actions to escalate its efforts to demonize and isolate Israel internationally, including through seeking an International Criminal Court investigation in order to undermine Israel’s right to defend itself from attacks by violent extremist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah — including the very attacks that have killed several Israelis and wounded many others in recent days.

If the U.N. were to act in support of this unilateral Palestinian scheme, it would deal a blow not only to Israel and to the cause of peace, but to the U.N. itself. The U.N.’s obsession with castigating Israel — from the Human Rights Council and the Goldstone Report and the Durban conferences to the multitude of U.N. bodies created for the sole purpose of condemning Israel — has eliminated the U.N.’s credibility to aid in achieving peace and security in the Middle East.

The U.N.’s most infamous anti-Israel act came in 1975, when the General Assembly voted to declare that “Zionism is racism.” Over 35 years later and 20 years after the General Assembly repealed that resolution, the U.N. is still rightly discredited by that hateful act. Next month, if the U.N. again sides with Palestinian rejectionism and against Israel and peace, it will be “Zionism is racism” all over again. The U.N., not Israel, will lose whatever remaining legitimacy it holds, and it may never be able to recover.

Fortunately, we are not helpless in the face of this dangerous challenge. There is a historical precedent for how to stop it. In 1989, Yasser Arafat’s PLO also pushed for membership for a “Palestinian state” in UN entities. The PLO’s strategy looked unstoppable until the George H.W. Bush administration made clear that the U.S. would cut off funding to any UN entity that upgraded the status of the Palestinian observer mission in any way. The UN was forced to choose between isolating Israel and receiving U.S. contributions, and they chose the latter. The PLO’s unilateral campaign was stopped in its tracks.

This example demonstrates a simple but needed lesson: At the UN, money talks, and smart withholding of money works.

With Arafat’s successors up to the same tricks today, the U.S. response must be as strong. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has consistently refused to use our strongest leverage — our financial contributions — to advance U.S. interests at the UN. If the executive branch will not demonstrate leadership on this issue, Congress must fill the void.

I will soon introduce the United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act,which will reflect the executive branch’s previous successful policies by cutting off U.S. contributions to any UN entity that grants membership or any other upgraded status to the Palestinian observer mission. This legislation will also leverage U.S. taxpayer dollars to make sure they do not fund biased or wasteful UN activities, and to achieve other much-needed reforms that will make the UN more transparent, accountable, objective, and effective.

It is time to use all our leverage to stop this unilateral Palestinian scheme — for the sake of our ally Israel and all free democracies, for the sake of peace and security, and for the sake of achieving a UN that upholds its founding principles.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

It is far past time we understood Syria and what happened in Lebanon

(And, for Obama to demand that Israel give up the Golan to pacify Syria and thus destroy itself, only testifies to Obama’s obvious goals)

THE LEVANTINE CRUCIBLE

BY MICHAEL J. TOTTEN

ENCOUNTER, 360 pages

Redacted from a more detailed review by SOHRAB AHMARI
Commentary Magazine, June 2111

2. Plus Rep. Ros Lehtinen action in Congress yesterday!

MODERN terrorist attacks, Regis Debray has argued, are “manifestos written in other people’s blood.” In the winter of 2005, one such manifesto was inscribed in the blood of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 20 of his associates. (Hariri was assassinated on 14 February 2005 when explosives equivalent to around 1000 kg of TNT were detonated as his motorcade drove past the St. George Hotel in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.) Its drafters were bent on subjugating Lebanon to the will of their Syrian and Iranian paymasters.

More important, they sought to prevent Hariri from moving his compatriots beyond the failed ideologies that had defined Lebanon for more than a generation. But rather than cower in fear and submit, a majority of the Lebanese— usually notorious for their sectarian fractiousness— united around the March 14 movement, calling for political freedom and the withdrawal of Syria’s occupation force from their country.

In The Road to Fatima Gate, Michael J. Totten offers a masterful account of this Cedar Revolution, as it came to be known, and its
tragic aftermath. He ends up far more clear-sighted than the many analysts who claim objectivity but share neither his love of the region and its inhabitants nor his concern for its future. Totten’s Lebanon is a Mideast crucible, foretelling the promise—and peril—of the democratic uprisings that would rock the region in 2009 and then again last winter.

First, the promise In Lebanon, it was represented by more than one million people who—in what was then an unprecedented sight in the Arab world—peacefully took to the streets of Beirut in response to Harari’s assassination. Beyond their specific demands, the young leaders of the March 14 movement were determined to radically alter the very nature of Lebanese politics. “We want to rebuild our country,” one tells Totten. ” We stand not only for freedom and independence, but also national unity and a new, modern, common, tolerant Lebanese identity.”

The remarkable realignment of political attitudes among Lebanon’s sectarian elites could not be credited solely to March 14’s moral accomplishments. It also reflected a long-term shift in the balance of power in Lebanese society-and the growing menace of the Iranian backed Shia terrorist organization Hezbollah.

Totten makes his way into Hezbollah’s squalid, backward stronghold in the dahiyeh (suburb) of Haret Hreik, among other Hezbollah-controlled areas. What he finds “looked, alternately, like a slum of Tehran or Damascus.” Here, Lebanese Shia are kept dependent on Hezbollah’s welfare system, force-fed a steady diet of anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda, and taught to seek “martyrdom” rather than help rebuild Lebanon.

…The mullahs’ foothold in the Levant allows them to wage jihad against Israel at minimal cost to the Islamic Republic. As Totten leams, Hezbollah’s method of launching thousands of blind rockets at Israeli border towns, while cheap and crude, is nevertheless unimaginably cruel. Indeed, the most terrifying firsthand experience he relates is of covering northern Israel during Hezbollah’s rocket campaign. “When you’re under fire from above,” he writes, “the sky feels like a gigantic malevolent eyeball.” Of course, when Israel retaliates, as it did in the July 2006 war, Lebanon foots the bill for Iranian aggression and adventurism.

Israel’s 2006 excursion into Lebanon produced, at best, mixed results. The IDF rattled Hezbollah’s leadership, but failed to folly
dismantle the organization’s terror infrastructure. As soon as hostilities ceased, Iran began replenishing Hezbollah’s rocket stockpiles. Then, in 2008, a cornered Hezbollah lashed out northward, placing the March 14 movement in its crosshairs.

Nasrallah sought to accomplish by brute force what he could not in the realm of con sensual politics, and he succeeded. Hezbollah snipers—aided by the fascist thugs of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party—conquered Beirut once more. In the process, they permanently disrupted Lebanon’s carefully balanced sectarian power-sharing structure.

Totten frequently quotes the Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt to the effect that the solution to his country’s troubles lies in Tehran. It
is appropriate, then, that Totten’s narrative of modem Lebanon’s failed quest for freedom should end not in Beirut, but in the Persian capital.

In 2009, the angel of history seemed poised to vindicate Beirut’s defeated liberals in Tehran, the very heart of the Shia empire of “resistance.” Alas, the angel’s vengeful wrath could not overcome the mullahs’ limitless brutality. Last winter, it took flight from Tehran to Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, where the self-immolation of a fruit vendor led to the fall of a rotten autocracy. From there, it traveled to Cairo, Benghazi, Manama, Sanaa, Daraa, and so on. The outcome of each of these uprisings hangs in the balance.

Their future in the Middle East is neither guaranteed nor immune from the region’s underlying geopolitical realities. It is never enough, then, for liberals to merely compose manifestos with beautiful watchwords like “compromise” and “consent” when their opponents write theirs in blood.

SOHRAB AHMARI is coeditor of “Re-Orient”
Palgrave Macmillan’s forthcoming anthology of essays by young Mideast reformers.

2. Ros-Lehtinen Calls for Lebanon Aid Cutoff

by IPT News • Jun 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is calling for a cutoff of all U.S. aid to Lebanon’s new government, which is dominated by allies of the Hizballah terror organization.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati – appointed head of a caretaker government in January after Hizballah toppled the moderate government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri – announced the formation of a government in which Hizballah and its allies hold 18 of the 30 positions. Hizballah brought down the government in an effort to derail an investigation of the February 2005 murder of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The Shiite radical group is suspected of involvement in the slaying.

“The U.S. should immediately cut off assistance to the Lebanese government as long as any violent extremist group designated by the U.S. as foreign terror organizations participates in it,” Ros-Lehtinen said Monday. She warned that Hizballah and its allies “will control the Lebanese government and likely benefit from the years of U.S. assistance, including to the Lebanese military.”

Read more at: http://www.investigativeproject.org/2974/ros-lehtinen-calls-for-lebanon-aid-cutoff