The Blame Game
A coalition of armed forces from the U.S., England and France, launched precision, military strikes in Syria, after they alleged that the regime of Syria dictator, Bashar al-Assad, used chemical weapons containing chlorine gas against citizens and insurgents during an attack in the country a week ago. The chemical attack, which killed 40 and injured some 500 people, mostly women and children, occurred in Douma, located about 10 miles east of Damascus. According to U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, no follow-up attacks are presently planned, as long as Assad doesn’t repeat his use of chemical weapons.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine General Joseph Dunford said that the coordinated strike targeted three main chemical weapons facilities, which were hit by missiles from both the sea and aircraft. Syrian officials claim that Syrian air defenses downed one-third of the missiles, later changing it to about two-thirds. Russia said that all of the missiles aimed at four key Syrian air bases were shot down. The Syrian government said that they had a heads-up from Russia and the targeted sites were evacuated days before the strike.
According to French President, Emmanuel Macron, the goal of the military operation was to target Syria’s “clandestine chemical arsenal”. British Prime Minister, Theresa May, said that she “authorized British armed forces to conduct coordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use.” In his statement to the nation, President Trump said: “The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons…. The evil and the despicable [chemical] attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead.” While condemning Russia and Iran for their continued support of the Assad regime, Trump added, “The nations of the world can be judged by the friends that they keep [and that] Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or continue with civilized nations.”
Russia, who was not notified about the coordinated, planned strike, said that such action was an insult against Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and that there would be consequences. Putin denounced the strike as an “act of aggression” that will make the humanitarian crisis in Syria much worse. But, he added that “Russia in the most serious way condemns the attack on Syria where Russian military servicemen help the legitimate government to fight terrorism”. What an incredible statement of support of a government that uses chemical weapons to control any opposition to its oppressive rule. Adding to the fake news that has permeated the media of late, Putin stated that the alleged chemical attack in Douma, which prompted the coordinated strike on Syria, was false and that the Russian military experts found no trace of chemical residue in Douma.
Russia called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, while at the same time saying that it would consider supplying Syria and “other countries” with S-300 surface-to-air defense missile systems.
And where are the Syrians in all of this? After the attack on the chemical weapons factories and airfields, the Syrians who support Assad took to the streets of Damascus and protested against the military strike, waving flags of Syria, Iran and Russia, calling out: “Oh Trump you are a monkey. Oh Trump you are an animal”. Assad contacted his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, and told him that the strikes only increased Syria’s resolve to “fight and crush terrorism in every inch” of the country. Rouhani, for his part, told Assad that Iran would continue to stand by Syria.
As for Israel, it believes that the US-led strikes against Syrian targets were justified, because of the “murderous actions” of Assad’s government. Yoav Galant, a member of the Security Cabinet and a former IDF General, tweeted: “The use of chemical weapons crosses a red line that humanity can no longer tolerate.” Israel has been accused of being responsible for an attack upon an Iranian drone base in Syria, which killed 14 military personnel, half of them Iranians.
Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of the Hezbollah in Lebanon, stated in a televised speech (he doesn’t show himself in public for fear of being assassinated) following the attack upon the Iranian base in Syria, that they (Israel) “have committed a great folly and have put themselves into a direct fight with Iran.” Tehran blames Israel for the attack on the Iranian base. Deputy Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said the air strike against the Iranian drone base constituted an assault “on both Syria and Iran that has consequences which I do not know the limit of now.”
What’s the result of the US-led strikes against Syrian targets? Each side claims what it wants to believe is the correct result. Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Russia all believe that the consolidated attack failed to accomplish its purpose. The countries that were part of the military coalition and Israel all claim that the attack was a warning against further use of chemical weapons and that it severely weakened Assad’s ability to access those weapons.
In reality, however, almost nothing has changed. There has been some damage to facilities in Syria, but Assad remains in power. True, the military strike was not intended to interfere with the 7-year civil war, which continues. But, Assad has scientists and chemists at his disposal who are experts at making chemical weapons. If one chemical factory was destroyed, another can easily be built to replace it and Assad can quickly replenish its stocks. It is doubtful that Assad will be deterred from using chemical weapons again in the near future. Despite a September 2013 agreement between Russia and the Obama administration for Moscow to remove chemical weapons stockpiles out of the Assad regime’s control, over 50 reportrs of deadly attacks using chemical weapons were reported in Syria during 2016 and the first 3 months of this year. As long as the continuation of Assad’s regime is not seriously threatened, he will continue to do what he wants, particularly as long as he has the backing of Shiite Iran and, more particularly, the backing of Russia. If the coalition forces limited their attack to very specific chemical weapons plants, it could well be because they did not want to act in such a way that would necessitate Russia’s active military involvement against the allied forces. The major players in the Syrian theatre today are the two superpowers, the U.S. and Russia. All the rest are pawns!
A note about absurdity: Despite its use of chemical weapons, Syria has been appointed to preside of the U.N.’s annual Conference on Disarmament to take place in Geneva. Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of the NGO UN Watch, said this past Monday: “Having the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad preside over global chemical and nuclear weapons disarmament will be like putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter.” He urged the U.S. and the E.U., along with other democracies, to walk out of Conference during the four weeks that the Syrian representative serves as the Conference president.
The March of Return Campaign in Gaza
With the war in Syria now in its 7th year, and despite the regular use of chemical weapons against the insurgents and the civilian population in Syria, the focus of world attention remains on the events between the so-called “Palestinians” in Gaza and the Hamas-organized “March of Return” and Israel’s response to it.
We should not be deceived by the claim of the Hamas terror organization that the March of Return is just a series of peaceful demonstrations. Yesterday (Friday) marked the third week of demonstrations at the fence separating Gaza from Israeli settlements in the south. As with the first two weeks, violence was part and parcel of these alleged “peaceful protests”, the goal of which was clearly expressed by Hamas spokesman, Hazem Qassem, prior to the demonstrations of last week, who said that the “struggle [will continue] until they [the “Palestinians”] achieve their freedom and restore all their lands”, adding that their “right to all of the soil of ‘Palestine’ was absolute and clear” – a statement without historical or legal foundation. These protests are disguised violent, terrorist demonstrations, during the course of which some terrorists tried to breach the fence and were shot and killed or wounded by the Israel Defense Forces.
Realistically, the leadership of Hamas does not expect that it will be able successfully breach the fence and march towards Jerusalem. But, each week that its actions continue brings with it a degree of psychological success from an international media point of view. Hamas uses civilians in its protests, with armed terrorists in its midst. The terrorists stir up the crowd and urge them on towards the fence. They burn tires to provide cover for Hamas terrorists to cross over the fence and try to kill Israelis. The demonstrators hurl stones, or fire bombs, or shoot at the Israeli soldiers, who defend the border area, with resultant deaths or injuries on the “Palestinian” side. The international, leftist media eats this up, resulting in widescale condemnation of Israel for acting militarily against what the media hypes as “peaceful demonstrations”. Hamas, who had been sidelined in the media for an extended period, is now flexing its muscles and trying to take advantage of the renewed media interest in Gaza and the “Palestinians”. By re-focusing attention on the Israeli-“Palestinian” conflict, the leadership of Hamas is making every effort to divert attention from the multitude of internal problems that it is now facing (massive unemployment by its population, energy crisis, decreasing finances and split with the “Palestinian” Authority based in Samaria, among others). The easiest way to avoid being the focus of these problems is to draw Israel into another media fiasco.
However, what the media fails to understand is that the Gaza Strip is a powder keg with a short fuse attached to it, which could blow up with the smallest spark. But, if the situation in Gaza erupts into another war, the participants will include our neighbors in Syria and Lebanon, along with other players in the region. All of the sides recognize that the next Middle East War will be a mess and include many players and no one is looking to cause it to explode at this time – no one, that is, except Iran, whose war rhetoric is reaching the point of no return. All the while, Hamas is building up its militia and preparing for another military conflict with Israel. And the border protests are just what the “Palestinian” doctor has ordered.
The success in garnering international media attention once again is the shot in the arm that the Hamas leadership was looking for. It was more psychologial than military. It brought about the need for widepsread deployment of Israeli troops along the Gaza border, forcing it to confront a multitude of civilians, some of which were casualties in the anything-other-than-peaceful-demonstrations by the “Palestinians” along the border fence for the past three Fridays, including today. And, public opinion, particularly those abroad, who are influenced by the media, naturally leans in favor of civilians, as opposed to a strong military force.
While the protests usually are set to take place on Fridays, there will be additional protests on Tuesday, April 17th, to mark Prisoners’ Day, and again on May 15th, which coincides with Israel’s 70th anniversary of its Day of Independence, referred to by “Palestinians” as “Nakba” or day of catastrophe. It will also coincide with the planned move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This will be followed by the Moslem month of Ramadan and is expected to be accompanied by violent protests during this entire period.
During Hamas’s recent campaign during the past three Fridays, Israeli Arab members of Knesset, most notably Ahmad Tibi and Hanan Zouabi, have been urging Arabs in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah and elsewhere, to participate in mass violent protests in those areas, in acts of solidarity with the Gaza demonstrators. If Hamas does not succeed in mobilizing support in the above cities, as well as in other, Arab-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, it will not be able to achieve its goals and will suffer yet another, humiliating defeat at the hands of Israel. Hamas has its work cut out for it. Ever since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, residents in those areas have taken on the posture of being bystanders, rather than active participants in acts against Israel. The previous “successes” that had been achieved during and following the intifada of 1987 and the ongoing terrorism since then that continued into the early years of 2000, was due, in large measure, to the fact that both areas, Gaza on the one hand and Judea and Samaria on the other, rose up in terrorism and violence at the same time. That “cooperation” ceased when Hamas took over the rule in Gaza in 2007. The same is true in recent years with “lone intifada” actions, which were committed primarily by residents of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, while Hamas and Gaza remained out of the picture. Much of this is due to the political divisions that have prevented the “Palestinians” from acting in unity. May it be that their divisions will remain and not be resolved and that the Gazan demonstrations will fail for lack of participants.
The “Palestinians” want for all of the refugees who voluntarily left Israel prior to the beginning of the War of Independence, and all of their descendants, who today number in the millions, to be able to return to Israel. This would be accompanied by their demand for soveriegnty over East Jerusalem, the “Old City’, Judea and Samaria, and Gaza. No Israeli government in its right mind would allow such demands to be met, as it would result in Jews in Israel becoming a minority and Israel and Israel then being democratically voted out of existence by its Arab population. Whatever “successes” Hamas may ultimately achieve with its March of Return, they will not include the ultimate goal of returning over 5 million descendants of Arabs who left Israel prior to the War of Independence. God promises to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a people and a land. The enemy of our souls says he will kill our people and take our land. Who do you think has the final word here?
An interesting side-note on the burning of tires by the “Palestinians”, which created a health and ecological hazard. Muhammad Hamdan, a spokesman for the “Palestinian” Authority Transportation Ministry, stated that “We have been informed by the Israeli side that imports of tires have been halted until further notice, [adding] There is no doubt stopping tire imports will have a negative effect on “Palestinians” in Gaza especially considering there is shortage of them there.” Hamdan said:“We are going to exert all efforts so that Israel reverses its decision.” Some things are so outrageously ridiculous that to comment on them will only detract from the laughter.
Holocaust Remembrance Day
I usually have comments about this particular day of the year, which is always a difficult time for me. This year, my daughter, Hannah (Hanni), wrote a brief blog about it and I respectfully refer you to it. https://asweetsavor.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/and-the-world-remains-silent/
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Have a simply great week. Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.