April 16, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Provides U.S. with Information for Syria Attack (IRNA-Iran)
    According to the pan-Arab satellite television channel Al Mayadeen, based in Beirut, the U.S., the UK and France received information from Israel prior to their strike against Syria early Saturday.
    See also U.S. Warned Israel of Syrian Strikes in Advance - Luis Sanchez (The Hill)
    The U.S. notified Israel on Friday before it carried out missile strikes on Syrian targets, an Israeli official told Reuters. A U.S. embassy spokesperson confirmed the official's comment.

Iranian-Controlled Syrian Militia Declares Jihad against U.S. Forces in Syria - Amir Toumaj and Romany Shaker (Long War Journal)
    The Baqir Brigade, a Syrian militia led by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), declared jihad on April 6 to drive U.S. and allied forces out of Syria.
    The brigade published a statement declaring "the onset of the military and jihadist" action "against the American occupation and its allies in Syria," and vowing to "liberate every single inch of the precious homeland" from American and Turkish troops.
    The IRGC and Hizbullah have years of experience in directing insurgencies against conventionally-superior adversaries including the U.S. and Israel.

Despite Tensions over Syria Attack, Israel's Line to the Kremlin Remains Open - Noa Landau (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's ambassador to Russia was called in for a "conversation" after strikes on the Syrian T-4 air base last week, a symbolic move meant to telegraph Moscow's displeasure with Israeli activities in its sphere of influence.
    But a number of figures who are familiar with Israeli-Russian ties say the diplomatic and military communications have continued - consistent, stable and practical - even after the attack.
    They do describe the situation as more "sensitive" or "tense" than in the past, but there is no real diplomatic crisis.

Jordan Authorities Stop Gaza Solidarity March in Amman - Leith Juneidi and Mehmet Nuri Ucar (Anadolu-Turkey)
    Jordanian security forces in Amman dispersed a Friday demonstration held in solidarity with ongoing Palestinian protests along Gaza's border with Israel.
    Following Friday prayers, Jordanians set out from the Al-Hussein Mosque intending to march towards the city's central Al-Nahl Square, but before reaching the square, the protesters were persuaded by Jordanian security forces to call off the march.

Four Palestinian Militants Dead in Accidental Gaza Blast (Reuters)
    Palestinian Islamic Jihad said four of its members were killed in an accidental blast in Gaza on Saturday.
    The group said it was "mourning its fighters who were martyred during preparations," terms it usually employs to refer to casualties caused by the accidental detonation of weapons or explosives used in attacks against Israel.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S., Britain and France Strike Syria's Chemical Weapons Program - Helene Cooper and Ben Hubbard
    Planes and ships from the U.S., Britain and France launched more than 100 missiles at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs on Saturday before dawn, in what Defense Department officials said was part of an effort to deter future chemical attacks on civilians.
        The U.S. is "locked and loaded" to strike again if Assad renews his use of chemical weapons, U.S. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Saturday. "We are confident that we have crippled Syria's chemical weapons program. We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will."  (New York Times)
        See also Israel Supports U.S. Action against Chemical Weapons in Syria
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "Israel fully supports President Trump's decision to act against the use of chemical weapons in Syria....The important international message of the attack is zero tolerance for the use of non-conventional weapons."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Coalition Launched 105 Weapons against Syria, with None Intercepted, U.S. Says - Aaron Mehta and Tara Copp
    Russian air defense systems made no attempt to intercept the American, British and French ordnance that rained down on a trio of Syrian regime targets, the Pentagon said Saturday. While Russian news outlets claimed that 70% of coalition weapons were shot down by Syrian or Russian air defenses, the Russian systems did not attempt to intercept the incoming weaponry, and the Syrian system launched 40 surface-to-air missiles after the last coalition weapon hit its target, according to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie. None of the allied air assets entered Syrian airspace, due to the stand-off weaponry used. (Defense News)
        See also Inside Trump's Decision to Bomb Syria - Philip Rucker (Washington Post)
        See also UK: The Use of Chemical Weapons Cannot Be Allowed to Go Unchallenged (UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas Attack Tunnel from Gaza Exposed, Neutralized - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF has exposed and neutralized a "high quality" Hamas terror tunnel encroaching 20 meters into Israeli territory opposite Kfar Aza, the army said Sunday. The tunnel was filled with cement. It was the 8th tunnel discovered and destroyed in the past few months. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman described the tunnel as "the longest and deepest exposed thus far. Millions of dollars were invested in its excavation, money that would have been better served mitigating the plight of residents but has now sunk into the sand."  (Ynet News)
  • Gaza's Mass Protests Are Failing to Make an Impact - Seth J. Frantzman
    The Friday "March of Return" protests that Hamas launched on March 30 at the Gaza border saw their lowest turnout in three weeks and the smallest number of casualties in clashes with Israeli forces, with one Palestinian killed and 528 reported injured on Friday. The proportion of those injured by live fire has declined by half, indicating a major reduction in the size of the protests. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted that "from week to week there are fewer riots on our border with Gaza. Our resolve is well understood from the other side."
        The number of protesters who gather each Friday has decreased from 20,000 or more in the first week to 17,000 the second week, and to 10,000 this past Friday. There have been almost no mass protests in the West Bank to coincide with the Gaza clashes. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Says Downed Iranian Drone Was Armed and Heading for Attack - Yaniv Kubovich and Amos Harel
    The Iranian drone that was downed by the Israeli air force after it infiltrated Israeli airspace in February was armed with explosives and on its way to carry out an attack, the Israeli military said Friday. The drone was operated by the Iranian air force from a command center at Syria's T-4 air base, which Israel then targeted. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Attack Drone Revelation Shows Grave, Immediate Iranian Threat to Israel - David Horovitz
    At the T-4 base in Syria, military sources indicated Friday, Iran has been building a fully functional air base of its own in every respect, with only the fighter planes missing. It was the center of Iran's attack drone operations. It had surface-to-air missile defense systems and all manner of other protections. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel - Thomas L. Friedman
    Israel and Iran seem to be heading for a High Noon shootout in Syria over Iran's attempts to turn Syria into a forward air base against Israel, something Israel is vowing to never let happen. Israeli Army spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said Friday that the Iranian drone shot down on Feb. 10 "was carrying explosives." It suggests that Iranian forces may have been trying to launch an actual military strike on Israel from an air base in Syria, not just reconnaissance.
        "This is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel - not by proxy," a senior Israeli military source told me. This certainly helps to explain why Israeli jets launched a missile raid on the Iranian drone's T-4 home base last Monday.
        Senior Israeli defense officials have let it be known that if the Iranians were to strike back at Israeli targets, Israel may use the opportunity to make a massive counterstrike on Iran's entire military infrastructure in Syria. These defense officials say there is zero chance Israel will let Iran establish a massive missile threat in Syria like Hizbullah has established in Lebanon. (New York Times)
  • Assad Is More Dangerous than ISIS - Yoni Ben Menachem
    The American-French-British attack on chemical weapons factories in Syria avoided strikes against the symbols of the Syrian regime. It also didn't strike at the Syrian army.
        Assad receives protection from both Iran and Russia, and in exchange he allows them to have a military presence inside Syria. This is his "insurance policy." Yet Israel is not prepared to accept Iran's entrenching itself in Syria, the purpose of which is to open an additional front against Israel in the Golan Heights. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Why Israel's Precautions at the Gaza Border Are Necessary - Liel Leibovitz
    Scores of Palestinians, many of them violent, have marched on the Israeli-Gazan border fence on several occasions during the past few weeks, attempting to violate it and enter Israeli territory. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said, "the protests will continue until the Palestinians return to the lands they were expelled from 70 years ago," which also happens to mean the destruction of the Jewish state.
        A sovereign nation, Israel, having withdrawn from a territory, Gaza, 13 years ago, awakens one morning to attacks by the emissaries of the terrorist organization that has since taken over and which declares that its wish is to cross the border and that its goal is obliteration. Under these circumstances, extreme precautions aren't just permissible; they're necessary. (Tablet)

  • Saturday's coalition attack on Syria sent a message to President Assad - and others such as the Iranians, North Koreans and Hizbullah - that they cannot do "whatever they want," former Israel National Security Council head Yaakov Nagel said Sunday.
  • Nagel said the message that Assad cannot use chemical weapons is an important one from an Israeli perspective, because if he "won't get the clear message that he cannot use chemical weapons, then maybe he will mistakenly think he can use them in other places."
  • France and Britain taking part in the U.S.-led operation, Nagel said, was important because it sent the message that the U.S. was not acting alone and in isolation.
  • Noting Israel's release on Friday of information that the Iranian drone shot down in February after penetrating Israeli airspace was carrying explosives, Nagel said, "They cannot hide what they are doing in our area, we know exactly what they are doing. And this is the reason we made this public - so no one will be surprised if Israel will continue to act."
  • Nagel maintained the Russians understand it is in their interest that the Iranians don't establish a permanent military presence in Syria. However, understanding this and acting to prevent it are two different things.
  • Nevertheless, Nagel said he did not think the Russians would limit Israel's freedom of action in Syrian skies. "We have a new neighbor in this playground - Russia. We don't want to clash with them, and they don't want to clash with us. This is why we continue ongoing talks with them, to make sure there are no miscalculations."
  • Nagel said Israel is aiming to make sure that Putin understands "that if he wants quiet in this area [Syria], he should make sure the Iranians are not there. Because if the Iranians will be there, it will not be a quiet area."