Syria’s most prominent jihadist organization, the Nusra Front, is creating a base for al-Qaida in the heart of the Middle East from which waves of terrorism and radical subversion will likely ripple out and threaten regional and global security.
This is according to a report issued this week by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center near Tel Aviv.
A team of researchers from the center spent a year composing the 150-page document, which charts in remarkable detail the rise of the Nusra Front as well as its structure, leadership, size, scope of operations, ideological goals and growing geographic spheres of influence.
Dr. Reuven Erlich, the head of the center, told The Jerusalem Post there was no doubt that the Nusra Front posed a significant strategic threat. He emphasized the quick pace of its growth in Syria and compared this to the time it took al-Qaida to become entrenched in Afghanistan in the 1980s and ’90s.
“What took 10 years to happen in Afghanistan occurred in Syria within a year or two,” said Erlich, a reserve colonel who served in a range of capacities in IDF Military Intelligence. “Syria is in heart of Middle East and in the backyard of Europe, and borders Israel. Geo-politically, it’s more central than Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This makes the threat potential very high.”
He cautioned that Syria would soon begin exporting terrorism.
“If we compare this to a plague, at the moment we’re looking at the incubation phase in the body,” added Erlich, who also lectures at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. “But after incubation it will spread – to the region and then to the whole world.”
The Salafi jihadist network known as the Nusra Front is the official al-Qaida branch in Syria. It is seeking the overthrow of the Assad regime and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in a greater Syria defined as Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories, the report noted.
The Nusra Front is already one of the most prominent rebel organizations in Syria due to its operational capabilities and influence among the population, it stresses.
The Nusra Front plans to target Israel from the Syrian Golan, the researchers said, adding that the organization “can be expected to establish an operative terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights, a continuation of military infrastructure it is currently constructing in Deraa,” the southwestern city where the anti-Assad uprising began in 2011.
On the Russian air base, Russian air force chief Lt. Gen. Vladimir Bondarev announced in June that the air base for Su-27 jets in Belarus would be opened near the city of Lida, near the border with Poland and Lithuania.
It will be Russia’s first military base in Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and along with it the Warsaw Pact, in 1991. Moscow currently has military bases in Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Thursday, Sept.26, will go down in Israel’s history as the day it lost its freedom to use force either against the Iranian nuclear threat hanging over its head or Syria’s chemical capacity – at least, so long as Barack Obama is president of the United States. During that time, the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah axis, backed by active weapons of mass destruction, is safe to grow and do its worst.
Ovations for the disarming strains of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani’s serenade to the West and plaudits for the pragmatism of its Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif flowed out of every window of UN Center in New York this week.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who took part in the highest-level face to face encounter with an Iranian counterpart in more than 30 years...he backpedaled. Permission for international inspectors to visit the Fordo underground enrichment facility would suffice for the easing of sanctions starting in three months’ time.
To Tehran, Kerry therefore held out the promise of a short deadline for starting to wind sanctions down - this coming December.
Tehran’s primary objective is therefore within reach, the easing for sanctions without having to rescind any part of its nuclear aspirations - called “nuclear rights” in Iranian parlance.
The message relayed to Tehran from both wings of UN headquarters was that it was fully shielded henceforth by a Russian veto and US complaisance against the oft-vaunted “credible military option” waved by Washington. Iran and its close ally, the Syrian ruler Assad, were both now safe from military retribution – from the United States and Israel alike – and could develop or even use their weapons of mass destruction with impunity.
Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was on the spot, could do little but repeat his government’s demands of Tehran to anyone who would listen, shouted down by the flood of conciliation pouring out for the new Iranian president. There was no escaping the conclusion that the Netanyahu government’s policy – if that is what it could be called - for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran is in tatters.
Iran, instead of facing world pressure to disarm its nuclear program, managed to turn the spotlight on Israel, requiring the world to denuclearize the entire Middle East and force Israel to join the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.